Immigration Reform: Stand Down, IT Lobbyists!

May 20th, 2013 at 11:40 am

For all the numbers bouncing around the immigration reform debate—the Senate bill is 844 pages!; it will cost trillions!; 11 million undocumenteds will have a path to citizenship!–the most relevant number is 27%.  That’s the share of Gov Romney’s Latino vote and that’s the reason this much needed advance in public policy might just make it over the legislative goal line.

But if it is to do so, both sides will need to engage in an extremely careful balancing act.  Immigrant advocates need to embrace the realization that absent real border control and employer verification, there is no viable reform.  And to their credit, they’ve done so.

Those who’ve opposed immigration reform need to recognize that immigrants who are already here need to be wholly integrated into the labor markets and communities where they already work and live, and many former opponents have made this leap.

But one area where some in this debate continue to resist the needed balance is around the concerns of domestic workers and immigrants already here regarding competition from new immigrant flows, including guest workers.  I found this piece from today’s NYT to be a good example of the type of overreach that could tilt the delicate balance and scuttle the deal.

The piece describes ways in which the IT industry, which got a lot of what they wanted in the draft bill, now wants the bill amended in ways that would enable them to employ more guest workers with less oversight from new rules designed to protect domestic workers against unfair competition.

The industry achieved its main goals in the draft Senate bill: an easing of the green card process and an expansion of the number of skilled guest worker visas. That draft, though, includes language that it considers excessive regulatory oversight of when a company can hire a temporary foreign worker and lay off an existing American worker.

The bill significantly kicks up the number of guest-worker visas under the H-1B program and importantly, shifts the rules on permanent residency to focus more on the skills immigrants bring to the national table versus family connections.  Silicon Valley lobbyists have been lobbying for these sorts of changes for decades, and with this draft, they’ve been highly successful.  As one Congressional aide put it, “Overall, tech has gotten, by any metric, the best bill they’ve ever seen on this issue in terms of H-1Bs.”

So why are they risking upsetting the Apple [sic] cart instead of applauding from the sidelines?  Because, at the insistence of labor and other groups representing IT workers, the bill also includes safeguards against abusing the guest worker programs, replacing perfectly good domestic workers with cheaper immigrants, not offering prevailing wages, artificially boosting labor supply in the field, and seeding the “offshore-outsourcing” industry with guest workers.

Look folks, everybody’s not going to get everything they want here, and this part of the bill in particular—the guest worker part (which I like the least…what the h-e-double-toothpicks is a guest worker?!?!)—was the result of a very delicate set of negotiations between business and labor.  So stand down IT lobbyists, before you queer the damn deal!


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10 comments in reply to "Immigration Reform: Stand Down, IT Lobbyists!"

  1. mitakeet says:

    As a member of the IT community it is my experience that the ‘shortage’ of IT workers proclaimed by the high tech community is really a dearth of employees willing to work at the lower wages that the industry would rather pay. I will grant the industry that there is often an acute shortage of skilled people in some of the highly popular and quickly evolving specialties, but I believe that will _always_ be the case, and using that as an excuse to lower the prevailing rates by dumping cheaper overseas indentured labor in our market will do nothing to change that trend.

    While I do not know the specifics of the H-1B employment relationship, how it has been conveyed to me is that the guest workers are basically indentured servants that are blocked from switching jobs. If they make too much fuss they are summarily sent back home and replaced with someone else expected to be more compliant. A rather substantial distortion of the current market and while there may be regulations that can keep the worst of the abuse, I can guarantee that when comparison wages are being calculated for compensating these workers they won’t be using _my_ salary. If they are intent on increasing the supply of qualified workers and their complaint isn’t really about the wages (yea, right) then they should be paying the guest workers the same that I would get paid and thus there would be no wage depression (or any need for a guest worker to desire leaving due to wage issues).

  2. James says:

    Yes, they need to stop. As a software developer and not anti-immigration, the whole H-1B thing needs to go away.

    Lots of additional links in this, but the main point is that the tech industry proponents of H-1Bs are liars.

  3. save_the_rustbelt says:

    “queer the damn deal!”

    The political correctness police will be coming for you. 🙂

    Any information on the “they will pay back taxes” meme? It is impossible for lots of technical reasons no one wants to talk about, including a lack of paperwork and documents loaded with phony and stolen SSNs.

  4. Kevin Rica says:

    Why should we worry about preserving a bad, backroom Senate deal?

    First we need work out a deal based on an honest, fair, logical, and CONSISTENT analysis,

    Monday, the NY Times worries about the disparities in education,

    On Tuesday, the Times worries we don’t have enough “blue cards” for low-skilled workers to pick crops for next-to-nothing,

    Wednesday, the Times worries about growing income disparity,

    On Thursday, the Times worries our education system isn’t training enough skilled workers,

    Friday, the Times worries that we need more “blue cards” for low-wage workers,

    On Saturday, the Times (Jared) worries tha the economy isn’t creating enough jobs

    On Sunday, the Times worries we don’t have enough workers to maintain Social Security,

    And so it goes…

    But the Washington Post has a different agenda:

    On Monday, the Post worries the STEM graduates can’t find jobs,

    On Tuesday, the Post worries we need more “highly-skilled immigrants”

    And so it goes…

    Same thing for the leadership of the Democrat Party, except that:

    On Saturday Night, Nancy Pelosi worries that someone isn’t using a coaster,

    (tip of the hat to SNL):

    You don’t need all the “Apples” falling off this illogical Xmas tree: All the special interest goodies.

    The only compromise I see in this bill is if one special interest gets 50,000 new immigrants, another has to get another 50,000.

    The Tea Party isn’t demanding more immigration? Who is? Cut the Chamber of Commerce and the Ag Lobby out of it.

    If you want a compromise with Jeff Sessions, tell him for every illegal that you allow to stay, you will cut legal, unskilled, low-wage immigration by one.

    And then you ask these guys how to enforce the law and close the loopholes:

    The immigration debate needs less moderation and more logical consistency!

  5. smith says:

    Even the protections Hatch seeks to eliminate are hardly adequate. A good example is so-called job mobility.
    Having 60 days to find a job or be deported doesn’t exactly sound like a free labor market to me. Plus you still need sponsorship.

    Perhaps Democrats shouldn’t sell out labor, labor shouldn’t sell out labor, but instead Democrats and labor should look forward to the upcoming debate which will frame the 2014 election as a referendum on true immigration reform. Keep the provisions that turn workers into citizens and throw out the temporary work programs that distort labor markets with corporate welfare. New immigrants from everywhere should be welcomed and as free and have the same rights as the vast majority of European immigrants had 100 and 200 years ago.*

    Probably want to tie a monthly cap to the previous year’s numbers and current unemployment rate.

    *excepting the part about enslaving blacks and/or killing Native Americans for land.

  6. Fred Donaldson says:

    Long talks between the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO saw labor compromise far too much, and now even that step backward is threatened by Democrats enthralled with appeasing intractable folks like Sen. Hatch.

    A far better solution would have been for Labor to stand up for fewer visas and even more worker protection, but they showed their final offer and that has become just another negotiating point.

    Lowering wages for engineers will not increase the number of very smart folks taking extremely difficult five year courses, when they could go into any other professional field and make more money. Looks like we will end up with even fewer STEM geniuses and more lawyers advertising on TV for injury cases.

  7. Dave says:

    I’m wondering who is representing labor in this discussion? It can’t possibly be enough people, because labor is a huge, huge group of people. The SV leaders are a very small group of people who’s goal is, and has to be, maximizing profits.

    Any argument the corporate leaders make on this issue should be taken with a grain of salt. So why are our congresspeople so dumb (and perhaps the administration as well) as to believe the process they use to determine policy is a valid process at all?

  8. PeonInChief says:

    Every so often someone goes off script and says something honest. Our local paper had a discussion of the dearth of agricultural workers, arguing of course for indentured servitude (oops, guest workers). One of the growers noted that to get legal workers, he would have to pay $15 an hour, while the indentured servants (oops, guest workers) would only be paid $9.50.

    (An editor at the paper obviously figured out the problem and pulled that quote from the online version of the article.)

    • Dave says:

      Yes, precisely, I was going to call ‘guest workers’ indentured servants also. Guest workers are precisely indentured servants. It is an immoral method of hiring workers in every respect, but it is certainly a profitable way to do it.

  9. Kevin Rica says:

    It seems that Orrin Hatch is getting into the act and well give all the goodies to the companies in his home state, at the cost of the workers in his home state.

    We are seeing some feeble resistance from Dick Durbin (maybe the real Dick Durbin is inside is trying to resist his body snatcher).

    But have you noticed, the body-snatchers occasionally fight for a few more affluent workers, but they would never dream of taking up the cudgels for blue-collar workers? Won’t be Chuck Schumer showing any backbone. (Harry Truman could have carved a better Democrat out of a banana, or even Nancy Pelosi’s rib.)