Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is just getting started on his campaign against the H-1B immigrant worker program, which brings skilled immigrants (mostly tech guys from India) to the US for work.
Grassley recently sent a letter to Microsoft (MSFT) saying the company has a “moral obligation” to put American jobs over those of H-1B workers in light of the thousands of layoffs at the company. (Microsoft had been a vocal advocate of expanding the H-1B program.)
Grassley plans to introduce tough new immigration legislation in the Senate this year. The India Times reports from Bangalore:
Two US senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley plan to reintroduce a stricter H-1B visa reform legislation this year, making it mandatory for outsourcing companies such as TCS, Wipro and Infosys to hire local American workers before seeking any H-1B visas for their Indian employees.
The move, if implemented, would drastically increase costs and make it difficult for the Indian IT companies to send employees onsite at a time of wrenching economic slowdown. The bill will also ask these companies to pay the prevailing wages to H-1B workers, making offshore outsourcing more attractive, and onshore resources costlier by 20-30%.
Wait a minute… did the India Times just report Indian H-1B firms admitted to them immigrant workers are paid 20-30% below prevailing wages?
Both sides in the H-1B debate have a point: If America gets rid of its foreign tech workers, just try to hire a competent, say, Oracle DBA. There are lots of skillsets where there just aren’t enough Americans to fill the slots, because our educational and work training institutions do a generally lousy job of getting US citizens certified on proprietary technical systems.
Which is why the H-1B program exists. But anyone with even a passing familiarity of how the H-1B program plays out in the real world knows that’s only part of the story — corporations absolutely use immigrant workers in every technical category regardless of whether there’s qualified Americans or not. Because yes, H-1Bs are 20-30% cheaper.
We’re not sure if we’re on board with Grassley, but we do hope reform comes to the H-1B program to address these issues. Currently the program is administered with the bureaucratic stupidity so typical of the US Federal Government. As the India Times notes, last year 163,000 applicants vied for about 65,000 H-1B slots. So how does USCIS decide who can come and who can’t? Random lottery.