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The Anti-American Visa
“Outsourcing Visa” May Hurt Even More than Reported

Just in time for a primary season that’s highly-charged over the issue of immigration, the H1-B visa is back in the news for facilitating layoffs of American workers. The visa allows companies to bring over tech workers on a visa that gives them no path to citizenship status and ties their presence in the U.S. to their job. This makes the H1-B workers cheaper and more pliable than U.S. workers; furthermore, H1-B workers in the U.S. are often used to pave the way to outright offshoring. We’ve covered H1-B layoffs before, especially before the saga of workers laid off at Disney. But it turns out that due to a legalism present in many contracts, there may be far more affected workers who are not speaking out. ComputerWorld reports:

The Disney severance package offered to them did not include a non-disparagement clause, making it easier for laid-off workers to speak out. This is in contrast to the severance offered to Northeast Utility workers.

The utility, now known as Eversource Energy and based in Connecticut and Massachusetts, laid off approximately 200 IT employees in 2014 after contracting with two India-based offshore outsourcing firms. The employees contacted local media and lawmakers to pressure the utility to abandon its outsourcing plan.

Some of the utility’s IT employees had to train their foreign replacements. Failure to do so meant loss of severance. But an idea emerged to show workers’ disdain for what was happening: Small American flags were placed in cubicles and along the hallway in silent protest — flags that disappeared as the workers were terminated.

Some workers feel that under the circumstances, silence is impossible:

[S]taying silent is difficult, especially after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) co-sponsored legislation in January 2015 that would hike the 65,000 H-1B base cap hike to as high as 195,000. The measure, known as the I-Squared Act, left some of the former utility IT employees incredulous. They were far from alone.

The 200,000-member engineering association, IEEE-USA, said the I-Squared bill would “help destroy” the IT workforce with a flood of lower paid foreign workers.

Eventually, Blumenthal’s staff did learn, confidentially, about the experiences of former Eversource IT workers.

In November, Blumenthal co-sponsored new H-1B legislation by longtime program critics, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), designed to prevent the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B visa holders.

Nonetheless, Blumenthal remains a co-sponsor of the I-Squared Act, which raised questions among those laid off about his intentions.

This issue has salience for the GOP primary. Sen. Marco Rubio is a leading proponent of the I-Squared Act. On the other hand, Grassley and Durbin’s reform effort comes alongside one by Sen. Jeff Sessions (who has been rumored to be on the verge of endorsing Donald Trump) and Sen. Ted Cruz, which would essentially create a whistleblower’s exception to non-disparagement provisions: you could speak out if you were complaining about H1-B layoffs.

There are many reasons to be supportive of legal U.S. immigration. But as we’ve written before, the H1-B is an ugly, crony-ist measure. It brings none of the benefits to the nation of legal immigration, while carrying many of the costs. Lawmakers may be tempted to look to it as a way to work-around a broken immigration system—but evidence suggests that it makes many problems worse: layoffs, lowered wages, and ultimately, offshoring (as well as unknown amount of visa-overstays.) Passing an expansion of it right now would be sure to exacerbate immigration tensions, to little gain—unless you own a business that uses H1-B workers.

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  • Ofer Imanuel

    In this country, H1B is one of the two ways to get quality immigrants (the other being people that came to study and stay initially on F1, and then H1B). As for outsourcing, you got it the other way around. H1B workers pay taxes here, and ultimately, if you let them, become U.S citizens. Outsourced jobs are in India, China and elsewhere. Taxes are being paid in India and China, not the U.S.
    As for being pliable, that is only partially true. People can do an H1B transfer, which is much simpler than getting the H1B to begin with.
    Seriously underpay someone, and he will transfer to your competitor.

    • Frustrated Entreprenuer

      With an H1B, you are forced to stay with the same employer. If you change employer, you go back to square one on the waiting list to get a green card. I view it as a form of indentured servitude.

  • Beauceron

    So?

    The elite want new demographics.

    Democrats want mass immigration of third worlders because it increases their vote count and will lead to their much sought after permanent majority. Republicans want it because their big business supporters want to keep wages low so their profits stay high.

    The American people, or what’s left of them, get raped.But the elite run everything, and so the elite gets what the elite wants.

    But not to worry. For all the flag waving and puffing out of our chests, we have become a weak, frighted group of people, terrified of even appearing to cause offense. So we will never stand up to them.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The politics of H1-B will be what they are. Ordinary workers would be better served to spend their energies getting rid of non-disparagement clauses and every other employer-side over-reach they have been increasingly enduring since 1980. The crap people have to sign under duress (for lack of having elected sensible “judicial law”) is astonishing.

    • Jim__L

      FG, this is a “gimme” issue here, one you probably even agree with — why in the world are you dismissing it (and therefore the people who are very concerned about it), only to climb up on your own hobbyhorse (which many of them likely agree with), in such a way that drives the two camps farther apart?

      H1Bs abuse workers. You know this. Just go with it.

  • Jim__L

    “Sen. Ted Cruz, … would essentially create a whistleblower’s exception to non-disparagement provisions”

    Good for him! Non-disparagement is blackmail anyway.

    • Lina Inverse

      That was only after he got religion a month or two ago and called for a “six month moratorium” on H-1B visa, prior to that he was promoting an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill that would have increased the annual quota 5 times, from 65,000 to 325,000. Strangely enough, the press release on his web site about that amendment disappeared at the same time. He has absolutely no credibility on the issue.

  • GSR

    Just lost my IT (asp.net/sql server) due to outsourcing at the end of last year.

    H-1B is nothing but a scam to lower salaries, nothing more. It’s purely for business owners to reduce labor expense.

    Plus, the H-1B is supposed to be a “non-immigrant” visa, yet a great number of H-1B holders get to the US and immediately put in for a “green card” (permanent residence), then sponsor their entire extended family.

    The American people don’t want to be flooded with Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists. Racist? Call it whatever you want. No other country would allow this invasion.

  • Humility

    Outsourcing all our jobs makes about as much sense as outsourcing our government.

  • JeanneDee

    The real problem here is the gradual closing of the IT professions to Americans. In departments, divisions, even some companies, the hiring managers are now immigrants who came in via an H1-B visa years ago, and are more comfortable hiring their co-nationals (Chinese or Indian programmers, respectively). Since new H1-Bs are cheaper and more biddable due to the hold the company has over them with their visa and residency status, this also makes sense to upper management… and gradually, fewer and few IT jobs are open to American workers.

    Twenty years ago, IT and computer science were hot prospects for any smart American wanting a good career, but this is no longer true despite the fact that there’s still a great need for these workers, because Federal government policy is to deliberately limit opportunities and advancement in these fields… but only for Americans.

    I could understand having everyone compete on a level playing field, and may the best win. I could also understand a country’s government favoring its own citizens. For a government to adopt policies to disadvantage its own citizens, however, strikes me as insane.

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