If you like the illegal aliens now pouring across the borders of Arizona and points west to work as cheap labor for agribusiness, you’ll love the most recent measure concocted by the Republicrats to import even more foreign workers to take high-tech jobs from Americans. The migrants coming in under the so-called H-1B program are a bit better trained than the amigos crawling under the wire on the Rio Grande, but their long-term impact will be much the same.
The impact, of course, will be the displacement of American workers from the jobs they hold or have held. In the case of farm labor, it’s largely unskilled, no matter who does it, but when unskilled Americanos lose their jobs, they go on welfare and cost other Americanos — called taxpayers — money. When high-tech workers lose their jobs, they may very well wind up on welfare, but in the meantime, they’re sufficiently well-educated and sufficiently vocal to create a political issue.
There’s been comparatively little attention paid in the nation’s press to the latest proposal to increase H-1B workers yet again (the last time was in 1998), mainly because the leaders of both parties support the increase, and there’s little controversy about it — unless, of course, you happen to be one of the unlucky software experts whose job is being sold out from under him.
Since 1990, the H-1B program has imported more than 600,000 foreign workers whose skills, their corporate employers in high-tech firms claim, are “better” than those offered by their American counterparts. In other words, corporate employers claim American software engineers have fewer skills than foreign, usually Third World, workers.
That’s improbable on its face, but the big businesses that back the H-1B increases (200,000 new alien workers per year for the next three years) more likely want to dump their more highly-paid American workers and put lower-salaried Third Worlders on the payroll. The claim that Americans really don’t have the skills to do what foreign workers can do just doesn’t stand up.
One reason we know it doesn’t is that Norman Matloff, a computer scientist at the University of California at Davis, has conducted a massive study of high-tech firms’ hiring practices and found that they often don’t even bother to interview American job applicants. As described by immigration expert Wayne Lutton, editor of The Social Contract, a journal devoted to immigration issues, Professor Matloff “found that they (U.S. software firms) are receiving huge numbers of applications from qualified job seekers, but reject most of them without even an interview. Actually, hiring rates range from 1 percent to 2 percent.”
Or, as Professor Matloff himself writes, “There is no desperate shortage. The only ‘shortage’ is one of cheap labor. … If employers were desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants.”
One man who is desperate is Rob Sanchez, an American computer programmer whose job with a major high-tech company was ripped away from him more than a year ago so an H-1B visa holder could take it at a lower salary. But Sanchez, interviewed recently in the Industry Standard, a computer industry periodical, has found a new career as a crusader against the H-1B program. He now runs his own website exposing the threats the program represents. “H-1B is used to bring foreign indentured slaves here to replace YOU,” it warns.
Sanchez’ case merely dramatizes the issue and helps bring it home. It’s unlikely that either political party will pay much attention to him and other Americans like him, however. As the Wall Street Journal explained recently, the H-1B issue is a kind of metaphor for two new powerful political forces — the “New Economy” of advanced technology and its skills, on the one hand, and mass immigration, on the other. The Democrats want and expect to gain campaign money from the high-tech firms as well as votes from immigrants, while the Republicans, as the Journal put it quite bluntly, “are worried about appearing insensitive to immigrants and the poor as the 2000 elections approach.”
But the Republicans also never met a powerful corporation they didn’t like and weren’t willing to carry water for, and for most of them, importing more H-1B aliens and screwing more American workers out of their jobs is a no-brainer. The H-1B increase, in fact, is sponsored in both House and Senate by Republicans, and sports the endorsement of the Clinton administration as well. That ought to tell Americans like Sanchez that what needs to be replaced is not more American workers but the single political party that masquerades as two and pretends to protect Americans’ interests.