The President and a Senator Join the H-1B Controversy

By David North on February 2, 2012

Both Barack Obama and Mark Warner have won elections to the U.S. Senate, both are Democrats, both are graduates of Harvard Law, and both have figured in the H-1B controversy in recent weeks, the president more prominently than the Virginia senator.

While the president's statement during a video chat session that "industry tells me that they do not have enough highly-skilled engineers" was contradicted by data from his own Census Bureau, as CIS pointed out today, and was fairly widely reported, the senator's off-stage involvement in the program was not well known.

A month before the president's video encounter with the plucky Jennifer Wedel, Sen. Warner was off on one of those congressional overseas trips, this time to India. Unfortunately, it was no junket to the Taj Mahal and the beaches, for the senator, an earnest type and one-time cell-phone tycoon, was busily talking to Indian IT firms about the differential rates in denying H-1B visa applications by various U.S. consulates.

Warner's stated concern was not the extensive fraud found in this program, but that "the number of H-1B visa denied from India have been higher percentage than other countries," according to The Economic Times, which is approximately India's Wall Street Journal.

I suspect that the publication got Warner's point of view right, but scrambled the prose of the well-spoken senator.

The article said that these concerns were particularly significant in Hyderabad. That reminded me that many months ago I had read the confidential annual report of the U.S. Embassy in India on the issuance of nonimmigrant (temporary) visas; it was among the Wikileaks documents and I have long since lost the link.

Anyway, that report went into considerable detail about the prevalence of fraud among H-1B visa applications in India, noting that all the consulates experienced widespread inflation of credentials and resumes. It also recorded widely differing levels of different kinds of fraud at different locations. Hyderabad was high on the bad list.

Sen. Warner encountered those facts, but they came to him filtered through the eyes of the program's users, not through those of our diplomats. Having a member of the U.S. Senate pay attention to the work of a single small group of State Department people, in a single location, is both unusual and likely to have lasting (and non-positive) effect.

Maybe it would have been better if Sen. Warner had, in fact, spent that time on the beaches of the Indian Ocean.