New Debate on H-1B IT Workers



Several readers took issue with the current state of the H-1B system.

A reader named "Tunnel Rat" says CIOs will pay the price for bringing in sub-par foreign workers. "We are no longer getting the best and brightest from abroad -- we are getting dull and the dumbest," Tunnel Rat writes.

"Nordonia" says companies hiring foreign workers ahead of U.S. IT pros should be penalized, but doesn't see that happening under the Obama administration.

"Pi_Anxiety" casts harsh judgment on the immigrant-labor system:

"Time and time again, the lobby and proponents of expanding the H-1B quota to bring more foreign workers into the United States have insisted that it is entirely the failings of our education system and therefore a lack of qualified workers exists here. They have "enslaved" H-1B laborers by creating a system that allows exploitation of this foreign workforce and have put continual downward pressure on a fair market wage system for the IT professionals here. That was the goal. It worked!"

Also, the Times finished it's package Sunday with this long piece on foreign workers in Silicon Valley. Good read.


The New York Times just stepped into one of the nastiest fights in the IT arena.

As part of a series on immigration, the paper posted a "debate" among six experts about foreign tech workers, many of whom hold H-1B visas.

Those experts brought up many of the issues our readers did in a long--sometimes angry--debate over the controversial visas. (And then there's this story of a foreign worker being deported.)

It's clear that most readers--especially unemployed IT pros--are strongly opposed to the H-1B program. But as more CIOs are faced to cut staff in the recession, it'll be interesting to hear if their perceptions are changing.

I expect that IT pros will continue to complain about some of the core negatives of foreign workers--shoddy work, language barriers, etc.--but are these tough times making those problems a little easier to swallow?

See also: H-1B Visas to Get More Scrutiny


9 Comments for "New Debate on H-1B IT Workers"

  • OriginalProgrammer August 04, 2009 11:18 am

    I would like to point out that it is not entirely true that employers hire Indians because they are cheap labor. You will now find that in many companies these Indians are hired into highly payed six-figure jobs and once employed they work at very leisurely pace and often respond to business users' request to perform project work by saying that they won't do it, because they "don't have enough resources." In the last few years many of the Indians got into positions of hiring managers and now they are hiring their compatriots regardless of skill level. I have seen some outrageous cases when an indian programmer is occupying a job but he has no idea how to do it, so he goes around asking other co-workers to help him. And yet when layoffs come, this guy is kept on the job while non-Indians with many years of experience are let go. So long as there are a handful of people that can do the job, the rest can just sit around and do nothing while senior management thinks that their operations are running well and keep staffing their IT and now many non-IT departments with Indians, even in this difficult economy. Many Indians are good at memorizing interview answers and concepts, but when it comes to getting the job done they have no original ideas. They overwhelm with vast numbers while having full support of the globalist senior executives at the American companies.

  • uncommoncents May 07, 2009 6:17 pm

    I thought I was going to be able to read one debate on any subject without hearing - "Obama did it." But nordoni's post spoiled all my good thoughts. How in the world we can place the H-1B debacle at Obama's doorstep is beyond me!!! Revisionist history is alive and well and living in nordoni´┐Ż™s head.

  • James Pulley April 15, 2009 9:17 am

    The original goal of the program is laudable, but the implementation has been tragic, especially when you look at the "prevailing market wage" conditions for the Visa holders. I work in software quality assurance, which has been pretty well decimated by H-1B labor. H-1B labor is defining the labor wage, not meeting the prevailing market wage. One of my colleagues described the situation thusly: HR posts a job requirement for a doctor who meets a particular credential set and who must work for $10 an hour. The only respondents to this post will be H-1B doctors, not U.S. citizen doctors. When the labor is evaluated for hiring, then the very uniform lowered skills of the $10 doctor is what is considered. If there was at least one $20 to $30 doctor in the pool, then those making the decision would have a richer perspective on the tradeoffs between price and efficiency. After all, if that $20 to $30 doctor is five times more efficient in locating the cause of illnesses, requires fewer visits for diagnoses and can see a higher number of patients, is the more expensive doctor not the better decision? All American labor is eliminated by virtue of pricing below what would have been the market wage were it not for the presence of the H-1B labor driving the wage down. What is left out of the picture, at least for software quality assurance, that for the vast majority of H-1B labor software QA is not viewed as a career position. It is an entry-level position suitable for a stopover on the way to becoming a developer or project manager. Software QA is where you send a developer for punishment. Efficiencies are not developed by the H-1B market participant, turnover is incredibly high. This is compared against career position software QA skills in the U.S. labor market, where efficiency is high. I work in a fairly specialized area of software QA -- performance testing and analysis -- arguably the last risk gate before deployment. A skilled individual in my area takes years to develop independent of the tools used to perform the tasks required for the job. A mature performance tester is seven to 10 times more efficient at core tasks than a struggling person new to software quality assurance while compensation is not nearly at the seven to 10 times multiple. I invite you to http://www.SQAForums.com to observe the level of skills that people are paying for in the H-1B and offshore outsource market. It's abysmal and it is displacing U.S. workers. In some cases it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy where U.S. workers don't even want to enter software quality assurance because of the depressed wage rates due to H-1B influence. Ultimately this all comes down to money; people are dollar motivated. If the H-1B participants were truly following the expressed intent of the legislation to bring in people who will enrich the pool of available skills with payment at the prevailing market wage for those skills, then we would not even be having this discussion. We would all be happy to see even more arrivals. But when the program participants are both defining a lowered skill level and a lowered wage, as is the case with software quality assurance market participants. This is both a slap in the face to the intent of the legislation and to the U.S. labor participants who must compete in what amounts to a labor black market.

  • Karthik April 14, 2009 7:16 pm

    TunnelRat: Your posting defies reason. Offshoring is a failure? Are you sure? Which weed do you smoke? If offshoring is a failure, then capitalist instincts should be moving back jobs to the U.S. anyway, so why all the ruckus for something that is naturally bound to happen? No one likes losing money hand over fist. In their blinkered thinking in the last few decades, Americans shunned the hard sciences (maths, comp sci), hurling negative epithets ("geek," "nerd," etc.) at those pursuing them. Well, reality bites back. Those very same "nerdy" jobs are disappearing to other geographies where it is considered sexy for a high school student to top his class in physics or mathematics. That's what you get when you get your priorities all wrong. Read Drucker -- pursue that which is difficult to master. There are really great American comp sci guys but they are all in product development in Silicon Valley or elsewhere. Business-as-usual IT systems developed for operations of American corporations do not make such extreme demands for an innovative mindset -- what innovation they need -- India has. (Thanks to educated professionals returning back to India due to the seven-year-long wait for the green card.) It's more of a skill quantity x at price point y kind of game to improve customer's time to market. Pure-American IT services firms lag on both x and y. I do agree with Marion that work visas should be equally accessible in other countries like India and the U.S. govt needs to be leaning on other countries to make that happen. - Karthik

  • Common Sense April 11, 2009 10:49 pm

    It is genocide to destroy a race by starving it of a way to survive. Americans of all races are discriminated against because Indians only hire Indians and Indian companies are the biggest users of H-1B. Since the H-1B program has an unwritten, hire-Indians-only policy -- which is a violation of every right Americans of all races fought for -- American businesses suffer. The EEOC is supposed to protect Americans against raced-based employment hiring, yet the EEOC seems oblivious to 90 to 100 percent Indian hires while Americans are weeded out prior to interviews based on our non-Indian sounding names. Who would have EVER thought that Americans would be discriminated against in America because of not being of Indian-descent?! Genocide is not a term usually used in America, but welcome to what "globalization" is really all about! Genocide on Americans should be fought at the "global" level. The Brits have already singled out India as the source of their financial collapse. America is also realizing that it pays more the Indians' twice billed labor that produces the work of a half of one American with skills. The genocide on Americans will soon end. If the market needs cheaper labor, wouldn't it make more sense to hire H-1Bs to fill CEO positions? That is where the real savings could be drawn.

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