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High-Tech’s Sketchy Claims for More Foreign Workers

Why do Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Oracle want to hire foreign high-tech workers instead of qualified U.S. workers? They won’t admit it, but it is because they can—and do—pay them less. That’s why they are pushing so hard for a series of amendments from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that would remove provisions in the immigration bill under consideration that give qualified U.S. workers the first shot at those high-tech jobs.


Not only do they want to shut the door on U.S. workers, they want to be allowed to import even more low-wage/high-tech workers under what is known as the H1B visa program. The Hatch amendments are expected to be debated next week when the Senate Judiciary Committee continues its markup of the bill.

The lobbyist army the high-tech industry has set upon the Senate claims there is such a shortage of qualified workers in what is known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations, that the H1B flood gates must be opened.

Two things. First, that still doesn’t answer why they want to shut out whatever qualified U.S. workers are available. And second, and most importantly, it’s just not true.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that the United States has “more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.”

If there was a shortage of workers, supply and demand dictates wages would rise. But high-tech pay has been stagnant for several years while the number of H1B foreign high-tech/IT workers has dramatically increased. At the same time, U.S. IT grads and workers are being shut out or are finding better job prospects in other fields. Could that be because, as the Washington Post reports, the H1B workers are being paid some 20% less than U.S. workers doing similar jobs? Seems like a pretty clear connection.

Read the full EPI report.


Here’s another sketchy H1B claim from the high-tech lobby. They say they need to recruit even more of the “best and the brightest” talent from around the world to spur innovation. The big thinkers and top-of-the-food-chain geniuses. Well, why are 54% of high-tech visas, according to 2010 figures from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), going to entry-level jobs? Those jobs are described by the GAO as requiring “basic understanding of duties and performing routine tasks requiring limited judgment.”        

At the same time, just 6% of H1B visa holders were at the top of the pay grade, where you would expect to find “the best and the brightest.”

There’s another reason—hard as it may be to believe—that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and all the other super computer tycoons and their companies say they need the Hatch amendments that leave U.S. workers on the wrong side of the office door. It would be, they say, just "too hard" to let the U.S. workers know about the job openings. That’s an LOL moment as Ana Avendaño, assistant to the president and director of immigration and community action at the AFL-CIO, tweeted yesterday during the Judiciary Committee markup.    

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