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Is Trump Going to Punt on H-1B Visa Reform?

At the end of January, Silicon Valley was up in arms that one of their pet means of keeping wages down, the H-1B visa program, appeared to be in Trump’s crosshairs. The president had issued an executive order calling for a review of all visa programs, with an eye to improving US employment and economic productivity. The new Administration had also circulated a draft calling for the head of Homeland Security to review work visa programs within 90 days. One of the idea featured in the document was that visas go to “the best and brightest” when the H-1B program uses a lottery that outsourcers like WiPro and Tata Consulting game effectively.

Even if the Administration had acted immediately, that 90 day timeframe now looks too leisurely. As Bloomberg describes tonight, H-1B visa applications are due at the beginning of April, so if the Trump Administration fails to implement its fixes by then, it’s at least a year before they’ll have any effect. Moreover, the lack of apparent momentum on this front does not bode well for meaningful changes.

The article describes how the program has moved almost entirely away from its original goals. One aim was to import workers when employers couldn’t find qualified Americans. The second was to cap the number of H-1B holders, since both the bill’s drafters and industry lobbyists wanted companies to bring in “talent” via green cards and help them become citizens, rather than rent them.

The result instead has been the creation of a large industry of foreign workers who largely work abroad. Not only do they undercut US wages and eliminate entry-level jobs, meaning the US is no longer developing its own tech professionals, but the fact that much of the work is done overseas also results in reduced taxes to states and municipalities.

And as Robert Cringley pointed out in 2015, the results aren’t good for the employers either:

Now let’s look at what this has meant for the U.S. computer industry.

First is the lemming effect where several businesses in an industry all follow the same bad management plan and collectively kill themselves…

The IT services lemming effect has companies promising things that can not be done and still make a profit. It is more important to book business at any price than it is to deliver what they promise. In their rush to sign more business the industry is collectively jumping off a cliff.

This mad rush to send more work offshore (to get costs better aligned) is an act of desperation. Everyone knows it isn’t working well. Everyone knows doing it is just going to make the service quality a lot worse. If you annoy your customer enough they will decide to leave.

The second issue is you can’t fix a problem by throwing more bodies at it. USA IT workers make about 10 times the pay and benefits that their counterparts make in India. I won’t suggest USA workers are 10 times better than anyone, they aren’t. However they are generally much more experienced and can often do important work much better and faster (and in the same time zone). The most effective organizations have a diverse workforce with a mix of people, skills, experience, etc. By working side by side these people learn from each other. They develop team building skills. In time the less experienced workers become highly effective experienced workers. The more layoffs, the more jobs sent off shore, the more these companies erode the effectiveness of their service. An IT services business is worthless if it does not have the skills and experience to do the job.

The third problem is how you treat people does matter. In high performing firms the work force is vested in the success of the business. They are prepared to put in the extra effort and extra hours needed to help the business — and they are compensated for the results. They produce value for the business. When you treat and pay people poorly you lose their ambition and desire to excel, you lose the performance of your work force. It can now be argued many workers in IT services are no longer providing any value to the business. This is not because they are bad workers. It is because they are being treated poorly. Firms like IBM and HP are treating both their customers and employees poorly. Their management decisions have consequences and are destroying their businesses.

Counter that reality with the size of the outsourcing business. Per Bloomberg:

Outsourcers, like India’s Wipro Ltd. and Cognizant Technology Solutions of the U.S., take over and manage the technology systems for corporations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

In the U.S., outsourcers bring staffers into the country on work visas, train them in the tech departments of leading corporations and then rotate them back to India where pay and living costs are lower. Outsourcing companies now get far more visas than traditional technology companies, according to data collected by Howard University’s Ron Hira through Freedom of Information Act requests. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. received 5,650 H-1Bs in 2014 while Amazon, the largest recipient in the latter group, got 877.

And yes, these visas do go primarily to foreign companies:

And the foreign outsourcers pay less that US tech companies using H-1B visas (who let us not kid ourselves, are primarily using these visas to lower costs):

The Bloomberg account points out that there are some things that Trump could do via executive order, but then refers back to the same draft discussion document that was widely reported on at the end of January, so there isn’t any evidence that Team Trump has made any progress on this issue. Senator Dick Durbin has reminded Trump of his vow to “end forever” how H-1B visas lower US wages. The story notes:

One option would be to change how the 85,000 visas each year are allocated among applicants. In recent years, the government has used a random lottery, which rewards companies like the outsourcers that submit the most applications. Instead, the government could give H-1Bs first to companies that pay workers the highest salaries or to those in traditional technology fields, rather than outsourcing.

With the Trump Administration short-staffed, rumored to be beset by infighting, and distracted by scandal management, it’s become an open question as to how many of Trump’s plans will get off the drawing board. And that’s before getting to his fickleness about content.

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81 comments

  1. Mike G

    I’m not surprised that Trump would flake out on his populist promises.
    He’s exactly the pro-corporatist right-wing authoritarian kleptocrat con artist I thought he would be.

    1. djrichard

      To be honest, I’m surprised. I’m still suspending disbelief though. What do I have to lose? LoL. And smh.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        With the Trump Administration short-staffed, rumored to be beset by infighting, and distracted by scandal management, it’s become an open question as to how many of Trump’s plans will get off the drawing board. And that’s before getting to his fickleness about content

        .

        1. infighting – he’s sending out his praetorian guard to agencies and departments. My hope is this is to monitor those Goldman guys.

        2. Scandal management – not much he can do. The media, the intelligence community and the MIC – they just keep on coming. No one, except Kucinich, is coming to help. Some ‘progressives’ even called for investigating Russia’s interference/meddling/invasion.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Trump is a Wharton BSchool grad who has been astonishingly uncurious about economics or apparently anything outside his narrow fields of interest. He said he identified more with Democrats and they did better on the economy in general that Republicans.

      http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/21/politics/donald-trump-election-democrat/

      However, as soon as he got the Republican nomination, he began taking up bog standard Republican positions on a lot of topics. Some of this I think was him simply not caring and doing what he needed to do to persuade Republicans that he really was a Republican. Another part, as a former Democratic state official observed, was Trump getting captured by corporate Republicans. And another is that he’d have a hard time being effective in DC regardless. We predicted he’d be Jimmy Carter cubed, who recall had been a state governor and thus knew how to deal with a legislature and manage a government bureaucracy but was still perceived to be a failure at the time by virtue of bringing in his own team and refusing to adapt to how DC worked, crossed with Silvio Berlusconi. That dynamic has been made even worse as Trump is being revealed to be a lousy manager, as in deliberately setting out to create infighting (as if there isn’t already enough of that regardless). So he’s struggling with mastering the basics of governing and not showing any ability to learn from his many mistakes

      1. dejavuagain

        Not Wharton B school.
        Wharton undergraduate BS in Business.
        And,I think he only attended Wharton for 2 of the 4 years – so is he is a half-educated as a Wharton undergrad.
        At the time, it was far easier to get into Wharton undergrad than UPenn proper or even Wharton Business School MBA.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I did not say he got an MBA. He did attend the Wharton School of Business. The statement is accurate as written. See:

          http://bigstory.ap.org/article/76a383d1b6e443a99831bf85a6d6cf3e/trump-and-wharton-complicated-relationship

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wharton-donald-trump_us_57b2371be4b0a8e15024e6b8

          And Wharton was founded as an undergraduate program, not a grad school (versus Harvard):

          In 1881, American entrepreneur and industrialist Joseph Wharton established the world’s first collegiate school of business at the University of Pennsylvania.

          https://www.wharton.upenn.edu/about-wharton/

          However, it appears that Trump was admitted to Penn but took many courses at the Bschool, and articles aren’t precise as to which school conferred his degree (most give the impression it was Wharton but the Washington Post begs to differ). So if your statement is accurate (it’s the reverse of what Google says re Wharton undergrad admissions), it’s actually pro Trump. Do you have a link either way?

      2. Science Officer Smirnoff

        Take this in the Norm Macdonald vein :

        “Know who did? HITLER.”

        1

        . . . Hitler’s leadership style was to give contradictory orders to his subordinates and to place them into positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped with those of others, to have “the stronger one [do] the job”.[12] In this way, Hitler fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his subordinates to consolidate and maximise his own power.[13]

        The process allowed more unscrupulous and ambitious Nazis to get away with implementing the more radical and extreme elements of Hitler’s ideology, such as antisemitism, and in doing so win political favour. It was protected by Joseph Goebbels’ effective propaganda machine, which portrayed Hitler as a heroic and infallible leader.[14] Further, the government was portrayed as a dedicated, dutiful and efficient outfit. Through successive Reichsstatthalter decrees, Germany’s states were effectively replaced by Nazi provinces called Gaue. . .

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_Nazi_Germany

        bonus extra credit

        2

        Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler reviewed by George Orwell

        . . . It is a sign of the speed at which events are moving that Hurst and Blackett’s unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf, published only a year ago, is edited from a pro-Hitler angle. The obvious intention of the translator’s preface and notes is to tone down the book’s ferocity and present Hitler in as kindly a light as possible. For at that date (early 1939) Hitler was still respectable. He had crushed the German labour movement, and for that the property-owning classes were willing to forgive him almost anything.

  2. Dead Dog

    We have the same ‘dithering’ in Australia (in the media and government) about the working visas we give to certain (Anglo) countries’ citizens and our ‘457’ visa program to allow employers to find skilled overseas workers where they have tried to employ locals.

    Both policies, plus immigration, increase the supply of workers and have depressed wages for everyone.

    The working visas mean that most of the front line hospitality roles here in Cairns are given to backpackers from Europe or Asia, rather than Australians – visitors are cheap and don’t complain.

    The 457 visas, like the H1B program, are a rort and no-one checks to see if you have actually tested the employment market for those low paid, high skill required jobs. So, for example, we get ‘cheap’ telecom wire joiners from Fiji employed directly, instead of investing in local training and employment.

    The corporate, business world is filled with scum suckers oblivious to the pain they cause to the poor and underemployed.

    On topic, some policy intentions (the difficult changes think ACA) take a long time to action. Trump is against a massive amount of inertia, particularly in DC, and entrenched interests which like the current arrangements (people with money), and much of the emotion is stirred up by the media to top his difficulties off.

    His intentions seem in the US workers’ interests here, but the corporations are going to keep bleating and may mean nothing changes.

  3. Ash

    Is he going to punt?

    I was amazed he even brought it up in the first place. I assumed that nothing would get done on that front.

  4. jimmy wang

    He would certainly win A LOT more votes (than the 85K) if he just straight up nixed the H1-B program. Techies blog, techies write your algorithms, techies read NC, techies are influential.

    1. jimmy wang

      That said, probably not enough to win tech-heavy WA and CA, as they swung so heavily for Hillz. So he may punt. If it came down to Bernie v. Trump, he may take action on this.

      1. TMoney

        May be not, but there are lot of people in flyover country like myself who have seen the H1-B scam played out locally. H1-B reform made me think that Trump populism might be real.

        1. Dirk77

          As Yves mentioned above, the danger with Trump, as with anyone of philosophical insecurity, was being captured by the establishment in DC. Also I gather Trump felt left out of the cool clique at the billionaire country club and might use the presidency to get in with them. Still, with HRC the alternative, why not give him a try. Sigh.

          Here is something better!

          1. Joey

            H1 reform has to be seen in the light of larger policy change that will be required. We will have to abandon desire to impose USD reserve currency if we want to take a more protective stance. Other countries will revert to bilateral trade which is being prevented by the USD being imposed as the transacting currency. Can’t have the cake and eat it too :(

            IMHO, this whole H1 reform issue is much ado about nothing (just populist election sloganeering). Will be tinkered in a small way (similar to illegal immigration issue from the South) and the administration will declare victory and move on.

            1. jrs

              yea theoretically we are eating the cake, but in reality only the 1% gets any. The whole western world may benefit on some level from imperialism (including Europe) but the citizens of the U.S. are most certainly not benefitting from the reserve currency. It should mean perhaps even more ability to run deficits to fund social spending etc. Should. We should be able to at least have the social welfare provisions of a Denmark with that advantage. Should.

              But in reality in this country it’s more and more austerity for everyone. Don’t expect the 99s to be happy about it as very little of the money is ever used for any cake they ever get to taste. Expect them instead to fight for their jobs as it’s all they have between them and destitution.

              1. Joey

                I agree with your frustration.

                The reality is that in the aggregate, the current trading arrangement is very beneficial to the US and was put in place from a position of strength by the US. But yes, the benefits of the arrangement is accruing mostly to the 1% as you put it. It is a income/wealth distribution problem that the Rest of the World can’t fix (and may not agree to more onerous terms) — may lead to trade wars and everyone loses.

                [BTW, you are wrong about not enough social spending. There is plenty of social spending — for example, the unnecessarily large defense spending is a form of social spending (no different from dig holes/fill holes) — design and manufacture of overpriced defense equipment leads to well paid jobs in defense contractors, etc..]

                1. reslez

                  Defense is “social” spending? I call BS. Defense spending is about feathering the nests of retired generals. It has a very poor ratio of job creation compared to any other type of government spending.

                  jrs is right. The 99% see a very narrow benefit from the dollar-as-reserve-currency. 40 years of declining wages means people just don’t buy the scare stories anymore. If other countries were less eager to export stuff to us maybe they’d stop gutting wages for their own workers in a self-destructive attempt to edge out competitors. The American system was built on high wages and high productivity. Today we have neither.

                    1. Joey

                      Yves, that is not a bug, it is a feature of the current economic arrangement :)

                      Reslez, defense spending is trickle down theory in action. Hence, I characterized it as social spending. If you are a government contractor, it feels damn good :)

                    2. oh

                      The US is like a drug pusher. The US$ (reserve currency) is the drug. Once we hook other countries on this drug, they’ll want more and more drugs (fiat $) in exchange for their products and if they stop consuming they’ll go into economic convulsions. They’ll swirl into the download spiral ever so fast until their economies die.

                2. JTFaraday

                  I hear you saying that if we play our cards right, we all get to be as dumb as Paul Ryan and the rest of his demographic cohort. So never mind the brain drain.

                  Good to know.

  5. Disturbed Voter

    Multi-national corporations were created by government fiat, just like national corporations were in the first place. Government has obsoleted itself with apparently non-partisan replacements. Go Rollerball, just get rid of 200+ national governments with 200+ large multi-national corporations. No need for corporate tax avoidance if there are no tax authorities.

    Then worker mobility/use can be limited by inter-corporate agreement and employee contract … the kind of serfdom that Silicon Valley uses locally to prevent employee-stealing. Then your valuable assets (aka people) have to work for you, as long as you want them to. Free market dogma is anarcho-capitalism … and Silicon Valley represents this dystopia better than any other place.

    With that political-economic evolution into mere economy, there is no need to arbitrage technical or other manpower. Even artificial discord between currencies would be obsolete, because there won’t be any currencies, just SNAP cards to keep the proles from starving.

    1. Synoia

      You need to be careful with your analogies.

      Corporation are more modeled after feudal barons at war. with absolutely no consideration of the long term – which in a feudal barony is “tend the land.”

      The Government, with all its faults, cannot be so single minded, because for the feudal baronies to pursue their business, then need the commons (roads, airports, docks, police, fire and rule of law).

      The alternative to lack of rule of law, is that the dispute resolution system degrades to feuds, and its expense is so great it destroys everything (see Dark Ages).

      I recommend you read Kornbluth’s “The Syndic”. As I remember, it was quite prescient about our current regime of neo-liberalism.

      Warning: I read it in the Summer of 1964 or 1965. My memory might not be as sharp as I would like to believe.

      1. PhilM

        Synoia, I hope you can flesh your idea out a bit more. The theme of the corporation as a fiefdom is something I float every once in a while, but have not applied myself to researching elsewhere. I’m sure I am just reinventing a set of wheels someone else has long since rolled away on. It’s just a brainstorming thing, not really a serious intellectual exercise; but it does help me think about how corporations behave, to compare them to the old ways.

        The really big corporations do seem to act like the major baronial holdings; they are immortal, based in productive capital, have stakeholders (the “peasantry”), and they have courtiers (lobbyists, trade groups). It seems possible to recast our world in terms of estates, as was done in the feudal and manorial systems: corporations are now the nobles, the first estate (those who collectively direct the sovereign); the media are the Church, the second estate (those who are privileged to manage the values of the people). The third estate (“those who work”) no longer have representation.

        If only the barons took fiduciary responsibility for their fiefs, as hereditary lords occasionally did, for the sake of their heirs. But so many behave like evil grand viziers, or like regents for infant, or incompetent, heirs (the shareholders)—the regents seek to take power for themselves, or failing that, to plunder the inheritance and run. It was interesting to watch the sovereign trying to encourage some fiduciary behavior after Enron (Sarbanes-Oxley), but that seems to be a dead letter, other than as another unrestrained bureaucratic imposition to work around.

  6. hidflect

    I’m assuming Trump’s wily handlers have long since worked out his sentiments and triggers to push-pull him across any policy terrain accordingly. e.g. He was probably too lazy and short of attention span to really work through the healthcare issue so a slightly tweaked Paul Ryan plan got signed off. For H1-B it would just need an emotive plea from a Silicon Valley executive or two to “open his eyes” and the door to Mumbai would remain ajar.

    I’ve worked with South Asians in IT for many years and their first instinct is to circle the wagons. embed themselves in, or gain control of, HR and then gently squeeze out the local hires. Any opposition is firmly shut down, with the race card played, if need be. No one really cares,

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Trump actually warned the Republicans on Twitter not to deal with Obamacare, that it would become even more unpopular (it did have negative net approval then) if they left it alone for now.

      Lambert has opined that Trump is either being a genius or really dumb. Ryan has been a huge opponent of his, and the Freedom Caucus is an impediment to getting anything done. Trump may be giving Ryan enough rope with which to hang himself, and when the Ryan bill fails (now looking dubious as to whether it will even get through the House), both he and the Freedom Caucus will take a hit. But yes, Trump’s position could just as well be the result of not wanting to get into the weeds, and if he isn’t careful, Trump could damaged by this. He hasn’t made clear that this bill is Ryan’s baby, and with the press calling it Trumpcare, Trump is being seen as responsible, and this in turn appears to be the driver of why Trump has taken a further dive in polls.

      1. JohnnyGL

        If he really is hanging Paul Ryan out to dry, he’s going to have to pivot, and hard, soon. The Dems won’t move one inch in any kind of left/populist direction, so there’s an opening for him to grab, if he wants it. Of course, he’s going to need to start firing people if he wants to pivot.

        I’m wondering if he (still?) grasps that he won the nomination as a complete REJECTION by the Republican base voters of the Republicans in Congress. It seems bizarre to completely let those same Republicans drive the bus when they’ve been disloyal and undermining him at every turn.

        On the other hand, I suppose he can say to Congress, “We tried it your way, it failed. Now we’re doing it my way.” But I don’t think Trump knows what he wants, really, at least on health care.

        Trump has been consistently dumb, but his edge is that he’s just slightly smarter than the political class that hate him and that lets him win over them. He did it again and again during the campaign.

        1. reslez

          It’s a blown opportunity on the same scale as Obama. Trump has all the cards in his hands, he’s just too dumb to play them. I don’t ascribe to the genius theory (nor the 11-dimensional chess theory…) because from Day 1, Trump was making speeches full of baloney about selling health insurance across state lines. As if that would make some kind of difference. He has no ideas, folks. He’s the 5th term of GWB.

          In fact, Trump is probably dumber than GWB (as was Obama). GWB mailed tax rebate checks to every American. He added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. He didn’t GAF about the deficit. Heck, maybe what Trump needs is his very own Cheney to tell him how to spend the government’s money and get Congressional Republicans on board. It looks like whoever serves that role for Trump shares the economic ideas of zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan. So, just like Obama, instead of infrastructure spending we get an austerity budget. Cuts as far as the eye can see and Trump’s voters are left in the cold. Sadly for Trump I think they’re going to notice in time for the next election.

          Imagine how much Trump will hate that: being branded as a failure as a President.

          2020 is going to be a pivotal primary for the Democrats. But the Dems love H1-Bs and outsourcers too so once again the American people have no friends in politics.

        2. dcrane

          If he really is hanging Paul Ryan out to dry, he’s going to have to pivot, and hard, soon. The Dems won’t move one inch in any kind of left/populist direction, so there’s an opening for him to grab, if he wants it

          Not sure I understand…if the Dems are not going to move to the left (even with Trump using the bully pulpit), how is Trump supposed to gain by moving there? I understand if we assume that a large bloc of Democrats would join Trump to pass (say) Medicare for all, but I fear that the Democrats as a whole have become so wedded to denying Trump any sort of victory that they would resist joining him even if he offered the Grail of healthcare to them. Much as the Tea Party supposedly had no interest in joining any Grand Bargains with Obama.

          I guess if he went there and Congress as a whole wouldn’t join, it nonetheless might still push his poll numbers up.

    2. Little doug

      Yes. This happened at Nortel Networks in Ottawa in their Wireless Cellular department. and then again at a subsequent telecommunications company I worked for. They have it down pat.

    3. RUKIdding

      I’ve worked with South Asians in IT for many years and their first instinct is to circle the wagons. embed themselves in, or gain control of, HR and then gently squeeze out the local hires. Any opposition is firmly shut down, with the race card played, if need be. No one really cares,

      This! Look I have many South Asian friends and have spent significant time in India. They’re great people, but it’s my experience that, when they come here, they do, as you say, “circle the wagons” and pretty much hire their own.

      When Trump first started talking about getting rid of H1(b)s (or limiting them), a lot of Indians talked about how they come here, create new businesses and create new jobs. My first thought was: That’s true, but you mostly ONLY hire other South Asians. I know this from direct personal experience. Anecdotal, but I’m aware of many firms in Silicon Valley and elsewhere staffed either only or mostly by South ASians (and not native born Americans of South Asian extraction, I might add).

      So I view this a big problem, but I’m totally not surprised that Trump is likely going to walk away from his big H1(b) promises.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        This pattern is cultural — I’ve spent lots of time with Indians and in India and the right “fit” is extremely important. Caste is part of it and American management culture is confusing, with a vague hierarchy.

        I think the big 3 Indian outsourcing companies should be banned from sending any workers to the US. Infosys especially flouts the law.

      2. nampa

        The Hindus ‘make’ jobs by scrapping clan money together to buy unprofitable businesses (see Bates Motel) in order to self-sponsor, at which point they are the beach head for the rest of the clan for chain immigration. It’s all a scam.
        We aren’t talking about the most creative people here.

  7. TG

    With respect, there are not 85,000 H1B visas per year. It’s closing in on 200,000 per year. Not including spouses who now also get to work.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1B_visa#H-1B_visas_issued_per_year

    That’s because there are many categories exempted from the caps, especially universities and corporations that have ‘partnerships’ with universities.

    This is something Trump could limit administratively – and it would be pretty hard even for our corporatist judges to declare that rigidly enforcing wage limits to some arbitrary levels was unconstitutional.

    Yes it does seem as if Trump’s populist pledges during the campaign were all hot air. Like Obama’s in 2008. So Sad.

    1. Vatch

      You are absolutely correct that it is closing in on 200,000 per year. It was 180,057 in 2016. See this document, which covers all non-immigrant visas, including J-1 (339,712) and L-1 (79,306) work visas. The B1/B2 tourist visas are also included, but those don’t take jobs away from U.S. citizens:

      https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/AnnualReports/FY2016AnnualReport/FY16AnnualReport-TableXVIB.pdf

      There’s all sorts of information at:

      https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/statistics/annual-reports/report-of-the-visa-office-2016.html

      1. craazyboy

        The not so obvious thing to understand is that this figure is newly issued visas. Most are good for multiyear periods, up to 7 years, I believe. So the number of workers here at any one time is multiples of the 200K figure.

        Also, the numbers peaked at 500K new issues back at the end of Y2K. The bottom fell out in 2000, then Congress didn’t ramp the allowable new issues down to 250K till 2003, after the deep IT recession somewhat subsided, or as some of my co-workers did, got a new career as car or furniture salesmen. The gubmint is here to help. Ouch!

        Also, the WTO needs to be fired.

        1. nampa

          There are many, many loopholes to that number. One gaping loophole is that academia and research organizations are not part of the cap—add about one million right there.

    2. Joey

      If you have not understood by now, election is a competition about which competing message resonates with gullible voters. Does not have any bearing on what the winner does after getting elected. Sorry to shatter any fondly held beliefs.

      1. Marina Bart

        I hate this obnoxious liberal framing. Did Brock send you, or you just mimicking the messaging of those paid to be obstructionist?

        Nobody who reads this site and comments with any seriousness is under the misconception that the government is anything other than deeply corrupted and broken. That’s readily apparent if you read the front pagers or the commentariat. So why are you puking that bile up here?

        How is that a useful thing to say? Its deeply cynical attitude is intended to reinforce a sense of helplessness in neoliberalism’s victims, so the criminals can continue looting without incurring additional resource costs.

        If you recognize that this is horrible, then drop the pose and work to change things.

        This past election demonstrates that voters are not that gullible. Yes, too many foolishly voted for Clinton. But most recognized that she was arsenic-riddled dog food, and refused to even stick their snouts in the bowl. It is not the voters’ fault that their only alternative to the known governmental evil was the game show host who was clobbering the known representatives of governmental harm.

        There are many things you can do to help pressure the ruling class to rule with more decency. Would you like assistance finding out what they are?

        1. PhilM

          Gosh that’s a nasty comment thread getting going. Despite my deep love of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’m going to respond to it in a tone more in accordance with the site moderators’ norms, which discourage personal venom.

          The “pressure” Marina Bart speaks of does not move the ruling class to rule with more decency. If members of the ruling class even bothered to read the embittered screeds that pose as “resistance” to whatever the grievance du jour is, some might be troubled at how certain types of unrest are being poorly managed. But most just snort derisively and return to their business, which is to work their wills on the people who matter in the world. There is no form of pressure from below, other than possibly mass abstention from the productive system (ie, a strike), that does not get translated into wealth or power for a member of the ruling class somewhere along the line.

          Whether voters are gullible or not, and whomever they vote for now, is as irrelevant as it has been since 1920. Joey is just as correct about that as Mencken was a century ago. The number of people who vote now is the measure of people who won’t acknowledge by their actions what they have said in their opinion polls: that they live in a functional tyranny.

          Voting, by now, hardly even serves to choose the tyrants, as that process has been mostly co-opted through party (i.e., racketeering) devices. Elections in this setting are just as they are in China, or Russia, or any other tyranny: not an expression of choice, not a flexing of the sinews of freedom to restrain the mechanisms of power, but merely a further insult, degrading the people who are fooled into voting. When the system gets a bit out of whack, as it did with Trump, that is nothing more than an HR blip, swiftly managed by co-optation at the imperial capital.

          Until taxation is again tied to representation, there will be no freedom. And that’s just one of the principles; the right to declare war is another one that has long since gone from the people. Having a jury that functioned as it was designed by the founders, a protection of the people against overweening laws, would also be a good thing; every conviction for marijuana possession would be gone from the record in most parts of the country.

          Going back again to the basics, which were known to the more civilized peoples of the eighteenth century, would give us the hope of a prayer.

  8. Steely Glint

    Under Obama the fee for a H1B visa was raised to $4000. Last I heard India was going to take the US to court under WTO laws, claiming the fee increase would harm one of their primary exports. So now our Visas are considered part of the free market. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, IT has its own niche, which is that overtime will not apply to IT workers, no matter their position or salary. I once asked Bernie, what it would take to change the act. His reply was that any change would have to come through the House, and good luck with that.

  9. Northeaster

    It’s even worse than most imagine. I’ve found H-1B’s for physical therapy, paralegals, food service workers, you know, high skilled jobs. I’ve sparred open with our local NPR station because they continue to cherry pick, meaning they pick one person out of thousands, that is the exception (i.e. Master’s, experienced, etc.) not the norm.

    The best part though covering this issue locally is the money involved. Pols trip over themselves to give tax breaks in the name of “creating jobs”, what they don’t say is the jobs are not for Americans. Only a small minority of politicians have been trying to help, but we eventually get shut down at the both state and federal levels. It’s all a vicious circle; cheap/disposable labor, tax breaks, campaign donations, and of course padding executive EPS benchmark incentives by firing Americans. Because, after a local, state, and nationwide search, skilled Americans cannot be found. Bullshit.

  10. twisted

    I find the politics of H1-B visas to be fascinating.

    You’d expect Silicon Valley, populated by high skilled, highly paid tech workers to strongly in favour of globalisation. Except, in my admittedly limited experience, they’re not because they are the ones eating the negative effects – it’s suddenly a very different proposition when it’s *their* jobs being outsourced.

    I’d be curious to see how Silicon Valley would shake out if President Trump, who they apparently hold in contempt, is the one who kills the H1-B program* and thus materially betters their lot.

    * I personally think it unlikely under President Trump but that’s still a far higher chance than under any other president, who wants donations from the Zuckerbergs, Ballmers and Pages of this world.

      1. jrs

        well that and keep their jobs and see others including those they know lose their health insurance (the ACHA) might not entirely make them jump for joy.

    1. Ernesto Lyon

      You need to divide out the working class from the managing class in SV.

      Experienced technical people tend to dislike the H1B program, as it undermines their wages, and their work environment.

      The management and non-technical classes (e.g. sales) don’t care because they are either seen as a cost reduction (by management), or hires that will never compete for their jobs(i.e. H1Bs aren’t going to take sales rep jobs).

      Young technical workers are too naive to understand the economics of the H1B and how it affects them. Once they figure out they’re teaching lower paid workers how to do their jobs, and that this has some real downside in the long run, in terms of keeping their skill and wage value, they tend to get tired of constantly having to teach foreigners American level IT skills so they can undermine their wages.

    2. ChrisPacific

      I used to be a defender of the H1-B program on those grounds, but I’ve since realized that it has very little to do with hiring qualified people from abroad (who could still be brought in via green card sponsorship even if H1-Bs were abolished) and everything to do with shifting the balance of power in the employment relationship. Because H1-Bs are absolutely dependent on their employer for their continued presence in the country (they can literally be deported within weeks if they lose their job) they are in a much weaker position than citizens or permanent residents, and are less likely to do a whole range of things like jump ship to avoid a bad situation, negotiate for a higher salary etc. (I’ve actually seen presentations created by placement firms for employers that quantify this). Once H1-Bs are a significant segment of the market, US workers are then forced to do the same in order to compete, which has the effect of depressing salaries and benefits and weakening worker rights/leverage across the board.

      In an “us vs. them” situation, you need to ask: what is the difference between them and us? Is it just xenophobia and racism, or is there more to it than that? In this case, there is most definitely more to it, since H1-Bs are quite literally employed under different legal terms, and that affects the market as a whole. A followup question is: could we turn “them” into “us” somehow, enlist them in the cause, and present a united front? The answer to that is no, because it would require the cooperation of the big tech companies under current law (you can’t get a green card based on employment without an employer to sponsor you for it) and there is no way they will ever do that on a large scale while they have the H1-B program available to them.

  11. DJG

    Currently outsourcing is much in vogue in publishing, especially for typesetting and for digitized books and websites. I recognize this result:

    “I won’t suggest USA workers are 10 times better than anyone, they aren’t. However they are generally much more experienced and can often do important work much better and faster (and in the same time zone). The most effective organizations have a diverse workforce with a mix of people, skills, experience, etc. By working side by side these people learn from each other.”

    When I am getting chapters in eighth proofs from my production editor, gently shaking his head, and the back office in India can’t get the basics right, we are wasting everyone’s time. (The old Linotype operators used to pull first proofs, and recognize a need for second proofs, but third proofs would have been considered a personal failure on their part. But what did they know after all those years of sniffing lead fumes from the “pigs”?)

    But this fad will go on for quite some time, because as Lambert points out regularly, it is “disruptive” and the customer has yet to see the decline in quality (see Yves’s continuing comments on crapification). Meanwhile, I’m off to remind the typesetters yet again that we really do use U.S. style punctuation…

    1. nampa

      Oh, we’ve seen poor services, but it’s hard to connect the dots if we don’t work there.
      Also, were else can we go–Market Choice is crap if you aren’t independently wealthy
      The CEOs of these corporations care not if their companies go out of business after they leave. They have their lifestyles to maintain.

  12. Jason Boxman

    In the JavaScript world, Eric Elliott is a huge proponent of mentoring junior developers and explains with first hand knowledge how beneficial this is to code quality. But this applies to all software languages.

    But you need junior developers for this to mentor.

  13. allan

    Trump winery seeks to hire more foreign workers [The Hill]

    A Trump-owned winery in Virginia has applied to hire more foreign workers to pick grapes after it was unable to find U.S. citizens for the job, The Daily Progress reported.

    Trump Vineyard Estates, owned by President Trump’s son Eric Trump, reportedly asked to hire 29 workers through the federal H-2A visa program. The winery, located near Charlottesville, had originally intended to hire six foreign workers in December, but applied for 23 more this year.

    According to the report, the winery attempted to hire American workers — in keeping with President Trump’s push for U.S. companies to “hire American” — but only received applications from outside the U.S.

    Instead, the winery now plans to use the H-2A program, which allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor. Such laborers are paid a rate of $10.72 an hour in Virginia.

    “Unable.”

    1. allan

      From the original story in the Charlottesville Daily Progress:

      … The employer must file an application with the Department of Labor stating that there are not sufficient workers in the U.S. who are able, willing, qualified and available to do the work. They must have initially attempted to find American citizens to fill these jobs.

      The employers also have to engage in “positive recruitment efforts,” which include placing a newspaper advertisement on two separate days — one of which must be a Sunday — in a paper serving the area where the workers will be used and in other multistate papers. …

      Imagine the mockery from the right (or Third Way, for that matter) that would result if the only effort
      someone receiving unemployment insurance made to find a job
      was “placing a newspaper advertisement on two separate days”.

      1. marym

        Imagine the mockery….

        https://news.vice.com/story/paul-ryan-proudly-unveils-new-law-that-allows-states-to-drug-test-people-on-unemployment

        Ryan touted the bill by posting a photo of himself on Twitter, smiling next to Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican from Texas who authored the bill rolling back Obama-era regulations on drug testing by employers. “Another one heads to Trump’s desk,” Ryan wrote. “This legislation allows states to have drug testing to receive federal unemployment benefits.”

    2. izziets

      Don’t forget the foreign workers he brings in to staff Mar-a-Lago:

      http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/18/news/economy/trump-maralago/

      But honestly, if you vote for a known conman and liar, should you be surprised when he cons and lies? It’s not like his business practices and lack of character were unknown prior to the election. People just voted for him anyway, like being voted President would suddenly turn him into someone “Presidential”. Now we’re stuck with a liar-in-chief, who is too lazy to learn what he doesn’t know, is too disinterested in his job to try and do it well, and who makes us a laughing stock around the world. I’ll be surprised if anyone will want to come here under any visa program, once he’s done “making America great again”.

      1. Vatch

        Yes, Trump is a liar and a con man, although I don’t blame people who voted for him, because his main opponent, Hillary Clinton, is also a liar. I do blame people who refuse to acknowledge Trump’s severe flaws now that he has become President. He is betraying his supporters and the American people in so many ways, and his likely failure to reform H-1B and L-1 visa abuses is a real part of his many betrayals.

        1. Joey

          You are being unnecessarily unkind. The outcome with Bernie or Hillary (or Suzie or Bob or Joe) would have been the same. All these trade policies are interleaved with other trade policies — can’t be changed unilaterally in isolation without destabilizing and bringing the whole global system down.

          1. Vatch

            Yes, the outcome with Hillary would have been the same. With Bernie, things could have been different, although we’ll never know for sure.

            But I have trouble believing that reducing the number of U.S. work visas by 250,000 per year is going to bring down the entire global system of 7.4 billion people. Or are you being satirical? I sometimes have trouble detecting sarcasm and satire. . . .

            1. Joey

              No, I was not being sarcastic.

              What I meant is that one thing leads to another — it leads to retaliatory measures by affected countries and could result in mutually harmful measures. Case in point is the potential for airline trade war opened up today with the Arab Airlines.

              1. Vatch

                So if the U.S. government actually does reduce the number of H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visas, and it becomes harder for U.S. citizens to get employment visas to India or China, I guess we’ll just have to live with that consequence.

                1. Joey

                  Emmm, no. I would guess others may retaliate where it hurts US corporations and US interests. Like making bilateral deals with Middle East oil companies by-passing the USD. If they can’t earn USD, they will attempt to purchase commodities in their own or other currencies or exchange finished goods for commodities, etc..

                  Global trade is a tangled web.

                  1. Vatch

                    Good! Then the U.S. might retaliate by actually imposing tariffs which encourage corporations to do some of their manufacturing in the U.S. instead of elsewhere. Everyone in the U.S. would win (except for the richest 0.01%, so none of this is likely to happen).

                    1. Joey

                      Emotional knee jerk reactions and off-the-cuff responses is not how diplomacy and trade policies/negotiations are conducted. Have to think thru second, third, fourth order impact/reaction, etc.

                      Don’t blame me for how things are – I am just an observer.

                    2. Vatch

                      I’m not blaming you.

                      But I have a question: if emotional knee jerk reactions aren’t how diplomacy is done, then why would the U.S. have to worry that foreign governments would retaliate if the U.S. reduced the allowable number of work visas?

                    1. akz

                      Geopolitical, Arms deals, military bases, naval patrols, etc the Indian ocean is a vital shipping lane. and then of course they can ban US GM foods. A big part of NAFTA was dumping US tax payer subsidized on Mexico in order to put Mexican farmers out of work, creating a desperate work force willing to work for penuts in the sweat shops that used to be good paying jobs in the US as well as making sure Mexico was dependent on US corps for food. If you control the food you got em by the balls.

    3. Harris

      Don’t forget the financial incentive. Trump saves $.82/hr (7.65% employer match on SS&FICA) by hiring H-2a employees over Americans.

      1. Vatch

        Are you sure about that? I thought that employers have to pay those taxes for every employee, even though some of the foreigners will never collect their benefits. But I really don’t know what the law is on this.

        Of course he does still save lots of money, since he’d have to pay U.S. citizens a higher wage for this type of work. As Allan pointed out: “Unable”.

        1. craazyboy

          He’s incorrect on that that. I heard straight from a SS admin person that both employee and employer halves are collected by SS (Medicare/Medicaid deduction too) and the admin person also said the SS program will send the resulting SS check anywhere in the world when the employee, US citizen or not, reaches retirement age..if they know they need to sign up.

          Medicare does not pay out outside the US – but that holds true for US citizens as well.

  14. NotSoSure

    H1B should be reformed in the same manner as the Singapore Self Employment Pass:
    1. Introduce a minimum salary to qualify.
    2. Non employer specific i.e. everyone is a free agent free to change employment without having the new company apply for a new visa.

    Instead the latest H1B change is to suspend Premium Processing i.e. let’s make sure these employees are beholden more than ever to their employers.

  15. RUKIdding

    I believe Trump was the first politician during the race to bring up the H1(b) visa issue, and then only he and Sanders talked about it. It was one of the few things that Trump talked about that made me listen to him sometimes. However, considering how much of a con-man he always has been, considering his own use of other types of work visas (forget the designation now) at Mar-El-Largo (where it’s highly unlikely that he couldn’t find US citizens to do the same work), considering how he’s used undocumented workers at his building projets… whyever would I trust him to follow through on a campagin promise like this?

    Ya gotta know that Silcon Valley Execs are putting Yuuuuuge pressure on him to relent on H1(b) visas, and no doubt, Trump is cutting Yuuuuuge DEALS that benefit… himself. I’m sure that lotsa payola is flying around, and it will duly land directly into some offshore account of Trump’s. This is the main reason why this man ran for POTUS – to get rich. Period. The end. Everything else is window dressing.

  16. Matthew G. Saroff

    I would suggest an auction, probably a dutch auction where the everyone who bid at the number that sells everything pays that, where companies with an actual need would bid more.

    I would also suggest a monthly limit, because timeliness is more important to companies with real needs, as opposed to the body shops.

  17. Sluggeaux

    It just needs to be pointed out to Trump that the H-1B bezzle was Obama’s signature grift. He was in San Jose just last week to pick up checks for “his Presidential Library” (aka Washington code for banked bribes) http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Obama-in-San-Jose-For-Private-Meeting-With-Tech-Leaders-416000263.html

    The former San Jose police chief, a friend of a friend, once told me that Obama showed-up at the San Jose Fairmont 3-4 times a year as a base for check-gathering forays into Silicon Valley — no public appearance, no need to listen to the little people. Even though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that 50% of U.S. STEM grads can’t find work in their field 3 years after graduation, Obama routinely certified those annual 100K+ H-1B visas from India. The S.F. Chron reported last year that there are a quarter-million Indian nationals stuffed into Silicon Valley, on top of the existing 1.9M population. It’s an infrastructure disaster — and most of those H-1B’s are here under clearly fraudulent credentials. http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Chasing-dreams-and-dollars-India-and-the-H-1B-7382822.php

    1. craazyboy

      Trump just announced it’s time to jump into his tax cut promises, so here comes “re-patriating” the offshore tax books to re-capture those India Dollars (hahaha – there is no such thing – they’ve been spent already on Bay Area yachts and yacht slip rent) for the ‘Merican Economy – and hopefully lead to productive and jawb creating endeavors. Prolly useful IoT gadgets.

      You heard it here first. In case you missed it when Bush did it in the early aughts.

  18. allan

    US has told us no major change in H1B regime: Indian govt [Indian Express]

    The US has conveyed to India there is no significant change in the H1B visa regime, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha. “I am glad to say that as regards the H1B visa for 2018, the US government has already notified their position and there is not any significant change from the existing regime,” Sitharaman said in response to questions from Ravindra Gaikwad and Shrirang Appa Barne (Shiv Sena), Prahlad Joshi (BJP) and Arpita Ghosh (TMC).

    “So, the fear that all of us were seeing through the media here about the H1B visa has, at least for the year 2018, not proven correct. “Also, the US administration has very clearly said they shall be dealing with illegal immigration and the H1B visa-related matter will be nuanced, but the priority at the moment seems to deal with the illegal immigration.” …

    “Nuanced”. Either this is just intended for internal consumption in India,
    or Trump has given Modi a heads up that it’s all for show.

  19. Dave

    I’m a 30+ year veteran of IT with a great amount of in-depth hands-on, high-demand knowledge and experience.

    I have been brought into several roles where I was told that I has to “Mentor and Train” either off-shore Indian, or local H-1B Indian workers. In one case I was told to “Train ‘Our Female’ employees. In all cases I have flatly refused and left the company.

    I would love to help young American IT workers – as long as it’s not another “Diversity” program meant to help everybody EXCEPT WHITE MEN.

    Sadly, our country has gone in a direction that this doesn’t seem possible because white men seem to be the enemy of america – and I refuse to accept that and will fight it to the end.

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