H-1B Visas Strangling American Workforce
An H-1B visa is a special visa granted to foreign nationals who wish to work in the United States. A company must show evidence that the position could not be filled by a US citizen. The total number of H-1B visas that may be filled each year is now tentatively capped at 85,000 but there are several ways to get around this. On the surface there doesn’t appear to be much to this and almost anyone would agree to the basic principle. However, there are several things wrong with this program that are becoming more and more apparent.
In practice, the H-1B visa program displaces American workers by giving incentives to companies to shun a local work force in favor of a foreign one without the hassle of relocating overseas. Typically, Americans with well-paying salaried jobs are replaced by foreign workers, mostly from South Asia, in the fields of IT, software engineering, programming/coding, technicians, or even the employees of theme parks like Disney. Over 250 employees of Disney World in Florida, mostly skilled technicians, were given pink slips and replaced by H-1B visa recipients flown in from India. The laid off employees were even instructed to train their replacements, foreign nationals, who would be taking over their positions, their uniforms, and their livelihoods. It is very fitting to juxtapose their storied position as America’s cultural representative with the reality of corporate treason. These are 250 skilled Americans with an American work ethic and families that rely on them to provide.
The number of well paying, dependable, jobs has been falling for decades because of outsourcing, entire jobs becoming obsolete, and now internal displacement by cheap workers shipping in from overseas. Without a course correction, the future for middle class Americans looks bleak as millions juggle two or three low paying jobs in order to maintain their middle class status. This is especially tough for millennials who have come into a hostile job market and are finding it difficult to get their foot in the door or gain experience while entry level positions are filled by foreigners and older workers.
Why are companies willing to kick Americans to the curb in order to fight over H-1B visa slots each year? Why would an American business reach across the globe to find replacements for their fellow citizens in jobs that Americans need in order to raise a family, buy a home, or live comfortably; all goals that are becoming astronomically hard for the current generation to attain and older generations to maintain.
All roads lead to the stock market. Major investors need the value of their shares to increase quarter after quarter, year after year. That is the entire point of owning shares in a company. If those shares are not increasing in value, thousands if not millions of people are losing money. CEOs need to be creative in how they increase their company’s value. The easiest way to do this, from a transient CEO’s point of view, is to increase profits by trimming expenses in time for quarterly reports. Unfortunately, this very often means mass layoffs and the closing or consolidation of locations which gives the appearance of a business that is expanding. Someone still has to do the work, however, and that is where H-1B visas come into play. By firing Americans and replacing them with far less expensive foreign workers, they can decrease payroll and still keep the lights on.
Corporations looking to hire foreign workers through the H-1B program have to juggle the pros and cons of firing locals who surely have the requisite skills and certification for a less expensive, often times inferior, alternative in a system rife with fraud. Fake certification, credentials, and even Skype interviews performed by a proxy are common in H-1B fraud. Americans working in the tech field know more than anyone that there is a serious problem with hiring thousands of foreign workers with sketchy credentials who may sometimes even cost one third of that of their American counterparts. There are countless highly skilled IT workers in the United States who are frustrated by the way well-paying jobs in their field have dissipated over the years because companies seldom fill posted positions in fields that were reliable positions for people before; this shouldn’t be the case with the IT field always expanding. They laugh at job openings that are posted which demand 10 years of experience in a program that has only existed for two years. This is one of the shameless methods these companies use in an attempt to prove that they cannot fill positions for skilled workers in the United States; an insidiously self-serving lie that’s been heard parroted by CEOs across the country and even the President of the United States, Barrack Obama. They simply post impossible prerequisites and then ignore everyone applying so that they may apply for cheap foreign labor.
Companies like Intel, who announced the firing of 12,000 employees in April of 2016, continue to apply for a record number of H-1B visas while shedding their domestic workforce. If they were actually interested in innovation, they would hire the best possible workers for the job. Instead, they want the cheapest workers who can do the bare minimum. In the short run, Intel cuts some costs in order to increase their share values. In the long run, Intel will eventually be competing with Indian companies staffed by former Intel employees that have run off with their technology for better paying jobs in their own country. After that, they will be struggling to sell their technology to a market squelched by demand death because the pool of consumers shrinks with every layoff, every displacement. Who knows, Intel may just decide to relocate overseas entirely with the use of another controversial American program but that is a story for another day.
When publicly traded corporations apply for H-1B visas, they are simply doing what a weak US congress has allowed them to do by lobbying for higher H-1B caps. There are countless public officials that have parroted the lie that the US has a shortage of skilled workers and these corporations are taking advantage of their naivety. They are getting away with what they can do legally because the US federal government is weak, bordering on anemic, when it comes to protecting American industries from exploitation. Without an understanding of the labor market, or the backbone to protect American jobs, we will continue to have problems with domestic workers being displaced by cheaper foreign alternatives. Awareness of this issue hasn’t hit fever pitch because people are largely unaware of it. It will be hard to get people to care until they have a pink slip in their own hand and a replacement they must train for three months to do their job. It’s critical for the future of this country to protect our industries and the jobs of our citizens.
Economic growth relies on Americans spending money or investing what they earn in property or entrepreneurial ventures. By taking hundreds of thousands of skilled workers out of the workforce where they must be underemployed in the service industry or unemployed taking benefits or relying on another bread winner, the economy is be suppressed from multiple directions. When companies favor a temporary foreign work force, they are making a commitment to send millions of dollars overseas in the form of worker’s remittances or to agencies specializing in pumping out H-1B workers. Those are homes not built, businesses not started, goods not bought, and children never born because we are losing American jobs and they are not being replaced by anything that can allow for the kind of expansion this economy desperately needs.