The Center for Immigration Studies hosted a panel discussion focusing on the impact of immigration on skilled workers and the value of a foreign vs. domestic diploma. The starting point for conversation will be the recent report by independent policy analyst Jason Richwine which compared the skill levels of foreign-educated immigrants and native-born Americans.
Date: Friday, March 1, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.
Location: National Press Club, Murrow Room, 529 14th St NW, Washington, D.C.
Introduction and Moderator
Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Jason Richwine is an independent public policy analyst based in Washington D.C. and the author of the recent report, "Foreign-Educated Immigrants Are Less Skilled Than U.S. Degree Holders." In it, Richwine demonstrates that supposedly "high-skill" foreign-educated immigrants drastically under-perform native-born Americans with comparable degrees in various standardized exams.
Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated commentator and co-author of the 2015 book "Sold Out", which explores the effects of current immigration policies on American skilled workers. In the book, which she co-authored with CIS Fellow John Miano, she writes, "There is nothing special about the hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders flooding our workforce. Most are sponsored by companies that specialize in outsourcing of U.S. jobs."
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Krikorian, I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. And we are having this panel to talk specifically about a paper that we published and then more broadly about the issues that it touches on.
Jason Richwine, an independent policy analyst, has written a paper we published on the issue of the – of immigrants with foreign degrees as opposed to immigrants with degrees here. And the policy-related issue here is that there’s been a lot of talk about merit-based immigration, and one of the yardsticks that’s often discussed in determining whether someone has this kind of merit – not merit really in a general sense, but specifically a human capital issue – is their educational attainment. And the point of the paper, which Jason will go into, is that a degree from one place isn’t necessarily the same as a degree from another. And that’s not hard to believe. It’s kind of intuitively true, but there’s some data that he has found on this issue.
And then commenting on Jason’s paper and then more generally on this issue of skilled immigration, we are delighted to have Michelle Malkin, a columnist, author, who actually happens to be in town fortunately, and so it worked out very well. She is the co-author of “Sold Out,” which is a book on the whole issue of the various tech-related immigration visa programs, co-authored with John Miano, who’s a fellow at CIS.
And Jason will talk about the paper first and then Michelle will give us some of her comments.
JASON RICHWINE: Thank you, Mark.
It’s an honor to do a presentation for CIS. And I would say doubly an honor to do it beside Michelle Malkin, who I’ve followed for a long time. I think her first two books came out when I was in college, which was a long time ago. (Laughs.) Sorry. It was the first term of the George W. Bush administration.
So the topic today is high-skill immigration. And there’s been a lot of talk about it, as Mark said, about the merits of it. And oftentimes when you hear talk about it in the media, it’s sort of considered to be an unqualified good. And my task today is not to condemn high-skill immigration, but to sort of give you a large caveat.
So my own interest in this began with a paper actually written by Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler here at CIS. And I stole a couple of their charts, so I’ll use that to explain how I was sort of motivated to do this.
Oh, yes. So before I do that, I should talk about the title. That sign there is a “does not equal sign.” Highly educated immigrants does not equal highly skilled immigration and I’ll go into why that is.
But here’s how I got into the topic. So what Steve and Karen found is that the share of new immigrants with at least a bachelor’s degree has gone up considerably over time. So in 2007, about one out of three new immigrants had a bachelor’s degree, and that’s similar to natives who had 31 percent had a bachelor’s degree at that time. But since that time, there’s been a considerable change. You see a lot more new immigrants with bachelor’s degrees. It’s gone up so much actually that now about one in two have a bachelor’s degree. And natives have gone up as well, but they haven’t gone up nearly as much.
Now, you would think that that would mean that we’re going to see some major socioeconomic improvement among new immigrants because we know that education is one of the single-best predictors of socioeconomic success, at least among natives. But when Steve and Karen looked at this – and again, I stole this chart from them – they first looked at income. And this is the same time period right here that you saw on the last slide. And there’s really not much change here going on. You can see that both groups had their median income decline during the recession and then they both went up a little bit afterward, but certainly nothing spectacular here that jumps out at you saying that immigrants have really improved their economic lot. It looks really very ordinary.
OK. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
This is Medicaid use. Medicaid, of course, is the welfare program for medical care for the poor. And again, you would expect, because we have this surge in bachelor’s degrees among new immigrants, that we would see less Medicaid use or at least less relative Medicaid use, but we don’t. In fact, not only is Medicaid use up among recent immigrants over this time period, it’s up in an absolute sense and relative to natives. So they’re all going up.
So what’s going on here? So basically, my first thought was, OK, well, what kind of jobs are these new, you know, supposedly high-skilled immigrants getting? Are they getting high-skill jobs or are they getting low-skill jobs? So that’s the first thing I looked at.
And this table looks confusing, but it’s especially hard to read when you have that epileptic shock thing going on. (Laughter.) If you look at the bottom two rows, you can see that among all immigrants with a college degree, about 20 percent are in low-skill occupations. And that compares to natives with a college degree where you have just – I think that says 7 percent with a low-skill occupation. So a big difference even there just in terms of the raw gaps.
But what really interests me is the variation across region or nations of origin here. It sort of shows that a college degree in one country is simply not the same thing as a college degree from another. If you look at the top of the – of the chart there with Canada, you see that immigrants from Canada who have college degrees do quite well. Only 4 percent are in low-skill occupations. But look down at the bottom of the chart to someplace like the Caribbean. So you have – there’s actually a fair number of people from the Caribbean who have college degrees, but looks like over a third of them have a low-skill occupation. And by the same token, you can look at high-skill immigrants or people with high-skill jobs, and Canada, over three-quarters of Canadian immigrants with a college degree are in a high-skill job compared to around one-third at the bottom there in Latin America. So obviously, again, you see this big variation. And the idea that just a college – just having a college degree means a lot begins to, you know, appear to be untrue.
Another way I looked at this is I looked at a set of international test scores called the PIAAC, the P-I-A-A-C, the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Incidentally, I’m not sure that other people actually call it the PIAAC, but I’m going to call it that for our purposes. The PIAAC is three tests: literacy, numeracy and computer operations.
And the first thing I did was not to look at immigrants, but just to look across country. How do – how do people with college degrees do in different countries across the world. So that’s the next table here.
So to try to make this easier to interpret, I had the scores as percentiles on the American distribution. What does that mean? Well, look at the top there. Japan scored in the 62nd percentile. That means someone with a college degree in Japan – this is not immigrants, these are all within the country you’re looking at here – the average college graduate in Japan scores at the 62nd percentile of the American distribution of college graduates. So America’s at 50. Well, that’s a pretty big difference. That means clearly that the average Japanese college graduate is more skilled than the average American college graduate.
But what really is interesting to me is the bottom of this chart. You can see a tremendous variation here where the scores are really almost unbelievably low. Look at Spain there in the bottom right-hand corner. You see scoring at the 24th percentile. Obviously, a college degree means something different in Spain than it does in Germany or Japan or the United States. And again, if we were to have a high-skill immigration policy that just selected people by their education, then obviously we’re going to get a very wide range of skills.
Now, to get to the meat of the presentation here, which is the paper that came out this week, I shifted my focus just to the United States and compared natives and immigrants in the United States on these PIAAC tests. And it was pretty obvious from the start that a certain variable was a large determining factor here when it came to predicting immigrant scores. And I’ll get to that in a second, but first I’ll give you the main chart here.
This is the literacy test results. And again, we’re dealing with percentiles on the American distribution. So if you look at that second orange bar from the top there, it says natives with an advanced degree. And it says 77 percent, so it’s the 77th percentile. So native-born people with an advanced degree score at the 77th percentile of the American distribution. In other words, the average scores better than 77 percent of Americans.
And as you go down the chart on those orange bars, you can see that as educational attainment declines, so does the score, which is, you know, sort of common sense, getting to natives with just a high school diploma scoring at the 40th percentile which, of course, is below average, what you would expect for someone with just a high school diploma.
What’s really interesting, though, are those two bottom sections with the orange and blue bars. The orange bar means a U.S. degree, the blue bar means a foreign degree. So if we look at the section that says immigrants with a college or advanced degree, you can see that those who earned that degree in the U.S. scored at the 66th percentile, which is not bad. OK, it’s not as good as the corresponding number for natives at 74, but at least it is above average, right? But look at that blue bar, 42, 42nd percentile. Remember, this is a high-skill immigrant group, and yet they’re scoring about the same as natives with only a high school diploma.
This is a pattern that repeats itself on each of the three tests. This is numeracy. Now, immigrants do a bit better on numeracy than they do on literacy. But nevertheless, you see the same pattern that I mentioned. If you go down to the bottom there, you see something scary, you see 72 versus, what does that say, 58 for the immigrant college or advanced degree.
Now, to computer operations, again the same pattern. I call it computer operations, PIAAC calls it, what is it, problem-solving in technology-rich environments. That’s a fancy way of saying, you know, like, can you work with spreadsheets and email applications. And this is where the immigrant-native gap and also the immigrant-foreign versus U.S.-degree gap is particularly large. You can see, what does that say, 34th percentile for high-skill immigrants. And you might say, well, wait a minute, computer operations, that’s a learned skill, is that such a big deal? Yes, yes, it is. Most high-skill occupations are going to require computer ability and if you don’t have it that’s a sign that probably the skills you bring in are not what, you know, people have made them out to be.
Now, there’s another way of looking at this rather than percentiles if you just want to look at the percentages of each group that score what I call below basic. So in a literacy context, below basic is something like, you know, functional illiteracy. You know, you can still read, but you would have trouble operating completely independently in English. And you can see that among natives with at least a college degree, functional illiteracy is quite rare, right? You see those 2.4 percents there. But among immigrants, it’s considerably higher. And even college or advance-degree immigrants, when they’re foreign educated, have a fairly large percentage who are below basic. Again, this is not Einstein immigration if you are functionally illiterate in English.
Even numeracy, you can see that foreign-educated immigrants with only a college degree, about one out of five are below basic in numeracy.
Now, for computer operations, please, everyone just avert your eyes, it’s not a pretty sight. No one seems to be very good at computers, even a remarkably high percentage of natives do not have basic computer skills. But for immigrants, again, it’s even worse. You can get up to three-quarters or more of immigrants without basic computer skills, even though they have college or advanced degrees.
Now, you might be thinking during this whole talk that it’s not fair because all these tests are in English. I have two responses to that. The first one is to say, yes, it is, it is fair that they’re in English because English is obviously a key factor in what we think of as high-skill immigration. To have a high-skill job, you need to be able to speak English in almost all cases. If we have people with weak English skills, that again suggests that the high-skill immigration is not really what we think it is.
But more to the point, I mean, you might say, OK, fine, but shouldn’t we give them a little bit of time to learn? Maybe these are really smart people who are coming in and just need a little time. Well, what I did was I looked at immigrants who had arrived at least five years ago. So five years seems like a reasonable amount of time for a high-skill, advanced-degree person to learn English. But the results really don’t change very much at all, you really get the same results. And there’s a limit to how much I can cut up the data here because the sample size is not particularly large, but even when I did this with, you know, more than 10 years, again, we just weren’t seeing the kind of gains that you might expect.
Now, what does this all mean in terms of policy? Well, as I’ve been saying really sort of throughout the presentation, it means that high skill is not what we think of in reality when you hear talk about this in the newspapers and from advocacy organizations who say they want more H-1B visas or any other kind of high-skill immigration. Oftentimes, we think of that as Einsteins, we think of it as tremendously smart people who are coming in, they’re going to get a hundred different patents, they’re going to start a tech company that’s going to change the world. Well, OK, there are a few like that certainly; but nevertheless, the typical U.S.-educated, high-skill immigrant is really nothing special, they’re just run-of-the-mill college graduates. In fact, they’re a little less skilled than natives based on the results here.
And as for foreign-educated, high-skill immigrants, they’re less than special, OK? Their skills are around the area of natives with a high school diploma or, if we’re being generous, maybe some college. But again, Einsteins they are not and that’s an important lesson to take away from all of this.
Now, I already mentioned that, you know, you’ll hear sometimes people sort of tout the trend I mentioned at the very beginning of the presentation about more and more bachelor’s degrees for immigrants. And, you know, I’m not saying that’s a bad trend, but we have to take it with quite a large amount of salt, if that makes sense, because of that. So for people to say don’t worry, immigrants are becoming more high skill, even though we’re not even trying to make them more high skill, I have serious doubts.
This is also true of one program that I’ve actually seen defended on these grounds, the diversity lottery. As you know, the diversity lottery is literally a lottery where we choose immigrants at random from certain countries. There’s minimal requirements beyond just entering your name and being from a country that’s eligible. And this is not a high-skill immigration program by any means, obviously. We’re selecting people at random.
Nevertheless, I’ve seen the program defended on the grounds that, well, we’re not trying to get high-skill people, but it just turns out we get a lot of bachelor’s degrees anyway. I would be very skeptical of that, especially because most of these diversity lottery people are coming from third-world countries. The idea that a college education means the same there as it does here is very questionable.
Now, in terms of what might be done to improve the situation, probably there are many things. One potential example is using some kind of testing. You know, universities obviously use testing already or they use the SAT or the GRE. The military uses testing. The Cotton-Perdue bill, the RAISE Act, includes a provision for an English-language test, like, a real solid test of English literacy, and the better you do on it the more points you would get toward a potential green card. I think that’s a step in the right direction. I think we probably could go further in that regard potentially.
But that’s all I have, so I’ll turn it over to Michelle.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Jason.
MICHELLE MALKIN: Thanks. I’m here for a number of reasons. And some of you may know that I just came from CPAC – CPAC, which devoted a grand total, before I started blabbing, of 20 minutes to the most important existential policy issue in America. And my career over the last 25 years has been defined by immigration coverage first from a security standpoint with invasion in 2002 and then with growth and learning and perhaps a much later epiphany than many others who’ve been fighting these battles on the economic front with a book that I co-authored with a friend and writer and researcher here at the Center for Immigration Studies, John Miano, the former computer programmer turned labor lawyer. And those books were somewhat bookends for me.
And it’s interesting because in sort of the mainstream establishment of the conservative movement, the kind that has essentially ruled at CPAC for year after year after year, there’s been, in my mind, not as much progress in the kind of enlightenment that the Center for Immigration Studies is responsible for and has been.
And you hear it with this talking point, this platitude from many sort of defensive virtue signalers that, quote/unquote, “I’m against illegal immigration, but for legal immigration.” What? What does that mean? I mean, what numbers, how much and who?
And so the kind of work that Jason has done and produced with this study, as well as his past work, is incredibly important because asking the questions and trying to answer them is so necessary, especially in this environment where the donor class and the establishment Republican ruling class don’t want those questions asked.
I also find that over the last quarter century of speaking about these issues that there’s a very frustrating, bitter clinging to an idealized notion of how the immigration system used to work. And the nostalgia is misinforming people about how the system works. And that’s why John and I teamed up together to write “Sold Out.” The idea, for example, that these thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of people with H-1B visas are, quote/unquote, “the best and the brightest” simply isn’t borne out by the data.
And the data is the data. The data is not racist. The data is not xenophobic or discriminatory and it’s not picking and choosing. The data is the data. And the data show that, by and large, the vast majority of people with H-1B visas are journeymen and they are of average skill. They are not the best and brightest. They’re not starting world-shaking companies. They are not earning hundreds and thousands of patents that no American can secure and innovations that no American can come up with. And so the equation at the beginning that high-skilled – highly educated does not equate to highly skilled perfectly complements the work that John and I did in “Sold Out.”
And in terms of this nostalgia, I have two sort of personal points of interest here. You know, of course, the same kinds of forces on both the establishment left and right that don’t want us even here talking about this and have tried to marginalize and ostracized people who do want to get to the facts as hatemongers always like to remind me that I’m not white. Shocker! (Laughter.) You know, thank you for being my human mirrors. And they always like to remind me that my family did not come from America. Thank you, biographers, I was not aware of this fact. And then, based on my own interviews that I’ve done with C-SPAN when I – when I first published “Invasion,” they go ahead and regurgitate how my dad got here and how my mom got here.
And back in 1970 when my father, who was on the cutting edge of the field of neonatology, he had been sought out after and he was incredibly talented. He went to a Catholic university, got a rigorous academic education and had to pass many specialized tests in English in order to be able to come here, set foot in the first place and do research and work. And that’s not how it works anymore. And so the idea that we should have these specialized tests is actually nothing new. We used to have these kinds of things. And it certainly wasn’t novel for either of my parents that they didn’t merely have to have some rudimentary level of English literacy, they had – they had to show that they had mastered it before they even got here.
And yet, The Wall Street Journal editorial page types are still living back in some imaginary era when, you know, the kinds of hurdles and obstacles and merit tests that, you know, were once something that nobody considered offensive, were around, you know, they now don’t want anybody to talk about. I thought it was particularly interesting that when you broke out that the people who had arrived here more than five years ago still hadn’t. I don’t know how to explain that.
And then the other thing, of course, that we talked in “Sold Out” that I thought was interesting as well was the wide prevalence, especially in India, but in China as well, of diploma mills and the implications that that has for whatever metric the bureaucrats in the immigration and entrance system are using to determine what skill is.
John, of course – John Miano, my co-author – has focused a lot on OPT. We had a chapter in our book about the exploitation of the F-1 student visa program as well. And the, you know, the diploma mills are not just overseas, they are – they are here as well. And so when you’ve got people getting strip mall certificates, again, it just gets at this basic question of, what is skill and what is a quality education?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Michelle.
Since I’m paying through the nose for the microphone, I’ll ask the first question.
And I don’t know, I guess for either, but maybe, Michelle, you first. The president has, for all the talk about how he’s, you know, a notorious nativist, restrictionist, et cetera, even during the campaign, but most notably more recently he’s talked about increasing immigration. And I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on sort of where that’s coming from and what kind of, you know, political consequences it might have.
MS. MALKIN: I have no freaking clue, Mark. (Laughter.) Yeah, the line that really stuck in my craw during the State of the Union was it just seemed to come out of literally left field or Jared and Ivanka’s mouths into his ear whispered before he gave the speech about, what was it, that he wanted to have the highest amount –
MR. KRIKORIAN: The highest numbers of – yeah, highest levels ever or something, yeah.
MS. MALKIN: – or level of immigration. And I don’t know. The conventional wisdom is that whoever’s the last to talk to him is how his policy statements are crafted. And this is another reason why we need Jason’s and Mark’s and John Miano’s penetrating the inner sanctum of the White House or at least getting on the main stage at CPAC.
You know, even while we were writing “Sold Out,” you know, there was – there was a lot of ideological whiplash. At least on illegal immigration and border security he hasn’t wavered, even though, as we’ve tried to – tried to impress upon him that the wall is just half the battle. But he does seem to have – which I appreciate, given the – given the past occupiers of the office – at least some instinctive or emotional connection to American families that have been harmed, you know, from the – from the public safety and national security aspect of unfettered immigration. If only he would bring back the H-1B replaced American tech workers that also campaigned with him and bring them back to the White House the same way that the angel moms have a place at the table.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, if you have some thoughts, sure.
MR. RICHWINE: It seems, you know, from my perspective – you know, I’m somewhat ensconced in the Washington, D.C. bubble as well – that high-skill immigration sounds like something that would poll well. Yeah, high skills, everybody wants skills, don’t we? And, you know, it really doesn’t. And when you look at the polling, people are not generally enthusiastic about it.
And, you know, as Michelle said, President Trump has generally pretty well tapped in, at least instinctually – I mean, he’s not exactly a top political operator, but I think he has good instincts about what the average Joe is thinking. In this case, he’s really very off because the polls just don’t bear out what people inside this bubble seem to think about.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Interesting. Any questions? Yeah.
Q: You know – is this on? Yeah, OK. I was just going to say one possible explanation for some of your findings about, you know, the low scores and then when you try to control for length in the United States it doesn’t make any difference – the average immigrant in America has lived here for 20 years, the average college graduate, it’s something like 18 years. What you’re essentially getting is the test scores of someone who’s lived here for 18 years, on average.
And so that’s why when you control for length of residence, you’re not really getting anything. It’s because they’re not new arrivals. The low scores – immigrant high poverty or welfare use or struggling in English do not reflect the fact that a lot of immigrants are recent, a lot are, but there’s so many more who aren’t recent that that’s really what I think your data reflects. There’s a kind of a sense that, well, aren’t they all new arrivals? You know, that’s not the case. We know because the American Community Survey asks individual year of arrival and we have this enormous sample of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, so we actually know how long people have been here. And still, with those high average lengths of time, a lot of folks really do struggle.
MR. RICHWINE: I would say that people with foreign degrees probably have been here for a shorter time than people who have U.S. degrees. But nevertheless, I certainly take your point that most of these people have been here quite a long time. And, you know, when you – when you remove the people who have been here within five years, you know, you haven’t really changed your sample that much. I mean, that’s your point.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Any other questions?
I actually had another question. It’s sort of more an observation, I guess. I mean, I spent two years in a – at a university in a developing country, then Soviet-ruled Armenia, and all kinds of people just bribed their way into college and bribed their way to pass classes and bribed their way to get a diploma. And in fact it wasn’t even a bribe, it was almost like an unofficial requirement that you had to pay in order to be able to – you also had to pay to get your kid out of the nursery after you gave birth. (Laughter.) I mean, this is the way a lot of places work.
And so in a sense, I mean, it is interesting to look at what it is that’s driving it because people from the same places with U.S. diplomas don’t have the same issue, so it’s not even a – in other words, it’s not so much a nation-of-origin issue as it is the way the educational institutions themselves essentially function and screen people, at least that’s my guess. I mean, your data doesn’t specifically identify that, but –
MR. RICHWINE: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s probably right. I mean, when I was looking at the immigrants in low-skill jobs versus high-skill jobs, I remember thinking that, you know, one explanation might be, you know, for this diversity of success in the United States is just unfamiliarity with the – with the culture. But now we sort of have the test score data and I do think it is a real skill difference it’s reflecting.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, in the back, and then you, sir. Yeah.
Q: Hi. Have you done any research in universities looking at the STEM majors, which we’ve all been told as parents that that’s where your kids need to be and, you know, where that sits with all of this discussion on the high-skilled labor?
I did an interview with the dean of STEM at UC San Diego a couple of years ago and he said that their graduates in STEM have a lower – you know, they go out and they have a lower percentage of getting a job in their field, A, and B, they’re losing these jobs to H-1B visas because they’ll work for a lot cheaper than the kids who have a, you know, U.S.-paid-for college education. Have you done anything on that front? Because I think that parents would react to something like that.
MR. RICHWINE: Yeah. CIS has done a considerable amount of work on that. And I think the general finding has been that, you know, this idea of a labor shortage in STEM just is not borne out by the data if you look at employment trends or unemployment rates in that area. You don’t see this, you know, strange dearth of available STEM graduates. In fact, you, find lots of STEM graduates who are not working in STEM fields. So I do think that that is a bit overblown.
MS. MALKIN: It’s all – it’s all explained in “Sold Out.” (Laughter.) I mean, from the –
MR. KRIKORIAN: I think it’s still on Amazon.
MS. MALKIN: Yes. I mean, from the manufacturing of the fake STEM worker shortage crisis to begin with, the way that these national scientific foundation types cooked that up in the first place, and then, of course, you know, the talking out of both sides of their mouths of most of Silicon Valley, I mean, it’s all related.
Here you have this scare and hysteria from Silicon Valley that there aren’t enough skilled American students, that there’s something wrong with our education system. And that’s what, of course, led to the adoption of something like Common Core, when it’s the same Silicon Valley companies that are arguing for busting the H-1B caps and stabbing STEM graduates in the back.
Q: Let me just, like, add one little point here on this as well.
MS. MALKIN: Yeah.
Q: It’s, you know, they’re taking kids, they’re all going to the same universities. So you’re saying that native-borns are – I’m not saying this, but this is what the, you know, the elites are saying – that native-borns are just dumber than people that come here from other countries. And that’s in essence what they’re saying.
MS. MALKIN: No, I’m not saying that. That’s what they’re saying.
Q: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yes.
MR. RICHWINE: That’s contrary to the data.
Q: Well, I mean, but nobody’s reporting about that stuff.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And, sir, you had a question back there in the – yeah. There’s the mic. Thanks.
Q: Yeah. In response to that last question, one thing that a lot of people don’t know with the concentration of the discussion on the H-1B is that there are many other visas, one of them being the OPT.
MS. MALKIN: Yes.
Q: The OPT visa has gone, in the last 10 years, from roughly 30,000 students, which is the graduates of a medium-sized university, to more than 300,000 foreign students getting STEM jobs in the last year. So 30,000 to 300,000. So if your child is in college in a STEM program, it’s very likely that they will not get that technology job which will go to a foreign student. And one reason is that the State Department gives us a 10 percent reduction in taxes, they get a tax reduction, they don’t have to pay certain taxes for those graduates, for those employees. It’s little wonder that they preferentially hire foreign students over U.S. students.
One other comment. OK, so, you know –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Just to clarify that, these are people with U.S. degrees who are nonetheless given these essentially subsidized positions. So, I mean, this is, in a sense, almost the somewhat better part of the college graduate – immigrant college graduate population, but it’s still used to undermine the opportunities for American young people.
Q: Yeah, because that visa from 12 months where it was originally authorized, under George Bush it was extended to 26 months, and then under Obama it was extended to 39 months, both of those extensions being done by presidential fiat, not by statutory authority by Congress.
MS. MALKIN: And being challenged by John in court where they have been met with obstacles every step of the way in trying to get standing for American workers.
Q: You would think that if parents knew about this they would be shocked.
MS. MALKIN: Yes.
Q: But one of the –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Do you have a – do you have a question? There’s other people if you could –
Q: Thank you. I will cede the microphone to the next person.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. Yeah, thanks. OK.
Yeah, here, up here. Yeah, Jim had a question.
Q: Yeah. Jim McDonald is my name.
But a real small story. When I was working for USDA Forest Service some years ago, I was – for a while, I did the space management, preparation of offices for people coming in. So we had – there was a contractor group and I was to rearrange this office because there were going to be more people brought in. Well, as it turned out, I knew some of the people that worked there already. They were Americans. The guys being brought in were all Indians. I knew that because I talked to them as I was taking care of these office arrangements. And the deal was that the Americans – one of them did quit – they were going to be required to take a 20 percent pay cut, if they wanted to keep working they had to take a 20 percent pay cut. And then they brought in these Indian guys and so it was just right in my face.
So my impression in listening to some of this is that, basically, STEM is maybe perhaps, or at least within the computer realm – these guys that I was talking about were doing computer technology stuff – is maybe somewhat overrated as to what it takes to really be competitive in the field. Otherwise, you know, they’re bringing in kind of these wastrels and yet somehow I guess it works out. You hire enough of them and somehow you still get the stuff done. So is there something to my proffer that perhaps there just isn’t as much required to be a STEM person in practice as there might ought to be? Anyway, thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And just to the earlier comment, refer to it – Optional Practical Training is an entire chapter in Michelle’s book she co-authored.
MS. MALKIN: Yes.
MR. KRIKORIAN: L visa is one, foreign student visa, EB-5. In other words, there’s a whole variety of these programs that, as the book’s subtitle says, Beltway crap weasels are using to screw American workers.
And we’ve written actually a good deal on this Optional Practical Training program where foreign students aren’t students anymore, but they’re “students” in air quotes. It’s just one of the elements of immigration law across all different aspects, which is really based on lies. I mean, it’s Orwellian, the language in immigration law, and Optional Practical Training is one of them where you’re no longer a student, but you’re sort of a student and you’re not training, you’re working for three years for low wages and subsidized because you don’t have to pay payroll taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Was there – yes, sir?
Q: If you can speak to your point quickly. A lot of the stuff that these guys are doing is really just they’re gluing websites together with Python code. They’re rearranging pages on Facebook. I mean, none of this, you know, cutting-edge AI stuff.
MR. KRIKORIAN: So in America it could –
Q: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
MS. MALKIN: It is not O visa.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, right. Yeah, it’s not the – yeah.
MS. MALKIN: Right? And, you know, John points out, too, that, you know, on the one hand you have this rhetoric that the H-1B visa holders are the, quote/unquote, “best and the brightest.” But you have this skill-based prevailing wage system where once they have to define what the actual skill level is, most of them end up falling into the lowest skill level and then nearly all of them are at least at the lowest two skill levels. So, you know, that says everything you need to say.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, sure, quick.
Q: I provide software support for computer language for companies worldwide. And we see more and more of their employees being Indians. None of them are really outstanding, some of them are just terrible. I spent the last two weeks working with a company in Cleveland and talked to the director yesterday and kind of gently told him he was wasting his money. These guys knew nothing. I mean, really nothing. It’s kind of like me being an HVAC tech for $5 an hour; yeah, I’m cheap, but I’m no good.
MR. KRIKORIAN: The interesting thing, I think, is the political dynamic here.
You kind of referred to it a little bit, Jason.
Is that, you know, I mean, it’s changing a little now because you’re getting some younger congressmen. But frankly, a lot of these congressmen don’t even know how to turn their own computer on. (Laughter.) So when some lobbyist throws some, you know, language at them, they say C++ and Python, they’re, like, wow, this person must be really smart. And so you end up with a lot more deference on the part of congressmen to lobbyists in this issue than you might with regard to lobbyists for, I don’t know, agriculture or defense manufacturing, almost anything else, not because they all know about it, but because it doesn’t have a kind of mystique, especially for a lot of these older guys who are lawmakers.
I don’t know if that’ll change as, you know, average age or as some of the older guys come out and younger people move in, but I think that’s what’s driven a lot of it up to now.
MR. RICHWINE: I’d like to give congressmen the computer operations portion of the PIAAC test.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, there you go. Yeah, that’s right, give members of Congress these three tests and see how they do. (Laughter.)
Q: Hey, Jason? There is – a lot of congressmen – not enough – have talked about shifting away from family based to merit based. Have you seen any legislation that you like? Is Cotton’s reference to high skill, do you like that? Does he need to do more?
MR. RICHWINE: Oh, I mean, there’s no doubt that the Cotton-Perdue bill, the RAISE Act, is a major step in the right direction, I mean, primarily actually because it reduces family reunification, which I think doesn’t have the kind of benefits to America that other kinds of immigration might.
But, you know, on a point system, which is what it establishes, I’m a little more hesitant. I think it’s the right idea in principle, but how it’s executed obviously makes a big difference in whether it’s successful or not. I think that the thresholds they put there were maybe a little low still. But nevertheless, I like the idea of having the test. There’s an English language test. And, you know, when you hear politicians say, you know, in order to get this amnesty or get this program you just have to learn English and do that and you look at the fine print and it just says to learn English means you sign up for a course at one point and no one even checks to see if you attended – the idea of actually having an English test, we have a score and that converts to something that is meaningful in policy is at least getting the conversation going in the right direction.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, in the back.
Q: Thank you. For four years, I worked for a major academic equivalency firm in New York City that actually looked at these degrees. And I can tell you that most of the grades I saw were well-below Cs. And furthermore, I can tell you that these so-called professors who write the – write the essays do not see what they write. For the most part, it’s 22-year-olds who –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Who do the grading you mean, like TAs?
Q: Well, no, not even TAs. These are undergrads who have no experience in the field, who write basically form letters, which then professors authorize their signature for without seeing. For the most part, they just – they’re on staff. They get paid a couple thousand a month to sign things that they often never review. And I think if people knew how these degrees were being evaluated, they would also have a lot of questions.
MR. RICHWINE: Can you tell me just a little bit more about what you meant by academic equivalency?
Q: Yeah, absolutely. So when a candidate submits an H-1B or indeed an O application, they need to provide proof of their academic equivalency, so they’ll go to a middle man, like the company I worked for – which I won’t name, they’re a little litigious – (laughter) – and that company will equivalate the degree and look at it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Oh, I see. In other words, like, a foreign country will have a different name for the degree, that kind of thing.
Q: Right, exactly.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I see. OK.
Q: Exactly. And the way that these degrees are being evaluated by these middle men is typically without any standards because it’s a – it’s a profit-based industry. And the profit is quite large. So USCIS, for the most part, isn’t even looking at the base evidence, they’re getting information from profit-based middle men and it’s to the advantage of these profit-based middle men to push through people who truly are not qualified.
And standards for O have also fallen dramatically. People are starting to push through people who should be H-1Bs through O because they’re not looked at as much as they ought to be.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And that’s the visa that’s supposed to be for extraordinary ability.
MS. MALKIN: Geniuses.
Q: Oh, yes.
MS. MALKIN: Right. The genius visa. Yeah.
Q: I was – yes. I was speaking to a lawyer, an immigration lawyer, who in fact told me Os are now for everyone.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Geez. Unbelievable. (Laughter.)
If you had a –
MS. MALKIN: I actually have a question for you. So, I don’t know, can you pick a country – so how would you equivalate, or whatever the verb is – (laughter) – you know, a bachelor’s degree in math? Yeah.
Q: Sure, definitely. I mean, it would be a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in America. And, you know, they might have, you know, Ds, Fs. It’s not even brought up, the GPA is never mentioned. Often coursework isn’t even mentioned. They used to mention coursework four years ago, but standards have fallen, so now coursework is not even mentioned. And it’s all templated. So, for the most part, the data is not even accurate. And then professors will sign off on it without reviewing anything themselves, they’re just on payroll.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Interesting.
Q: And that’s industry standard.
MS. MALKIN: This should be on Tucker Carlson. Tucker Carlson.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, the – I actually had another question I guess for either one of you, maybe Michelle first.
A lot of the talk about moving away from family based, you know, limiting family to really nuclear family, there’s two ways you can do – two things you can do with that. One, what the RAISE Act does is just get rid of those categories and then change the way we pick the existing number of skilled immigrants. In other words, keeps the employment-base numbers the same, just picks them differently and reduces the family so it’s just the nuclear family.
The approach that a lot of the – there’s a lot of – very widespread among Republicans is to acknowledge the chain migration issue as a problem, but say all of those visas that were reduced should all go over to skilled immigration to increase the – in other words, to keep immigration the same, but just shift it. And so it seems to me that’s an important part of the debate and a way that the lobbyists for especially the tech companies are trying to coopt this concern about chain migration by using it to their advantage.
MS. MALKIN: Yeah. Bad. Bad, as if we haven’t had enough of those bad deals and compromises going back to 1986 and, you know, amnesty now enforcement later. Yeah.
MR. RICHWINE: I think there are a variety of reasons to be concerned about that kind of proposal. Some of them not even economic, maybe cultural about just having too many immigrants in general.
But what I would say is, if you really do want, if you’re convinced that it’s best to have that many high-skill immigrants, first what you need to do is figure out how to get high-skill immigrants because we haven’t figured that part out yet. (Laughter.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, right. Very good. So actually on that note, unless there’s other questions, we can wrap it up. Thanks everybody coming.
I think Jason and I are at least willing to be accosted afterwards. I don’t want to speak for Michelle, she may have to get somewhere.
Thank you to everybody on Facebook who’s been watching this.
And we have some noshable materials over in the section over here to the right. The people on Facebook cannot enjoy that. So if you would come in person, you would have been able to get something to eat.
So thank you everybody and hope to see you next time. (Applause.)