Dec 5, 2013
Watch Kimberly Dvorak’s San Diego 6 TV STEM segments: http://www.sandiego6.com/story/stem-and-immigration-reform-20130519 and http://www.sandiego6.com/story/zuckerberg-and-immigration-20131201
Facebook’s newly minted multi-billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, a product of U.S. schools including Harvard, has taken his newfound political clout to Capitol Hill in an effort to pressure Congress on immigration reform, specifically H-1B visas.
“The future of our economy is a knowledge economy. And that means getting the most talented people into this country is the most important thing that we can do to make sure that the companies of tomorrow are founded here,” he told ABC News.
The 29-year-old self-proclaimed social media phenom also quipped, “Young people are just smarter,” something he later apologized for. However, Zuckerberg also recognizes the profitably of hiring H-1B visa holders over American kids. Critics call it the immigration lottery, as most foreign students will work twice the hours for half the pay as their U.S. counterparts in order to gain legal status in America.
“I’m fundamentally an optimistic person, as an entrepreneur,” Zuckerberg says. “The vast majority of Americans want this to happen. People often talk about two parts of the issue. The high-skilled H1B visas for the high-tech companies and the full comprehensive immigration reform as if they are two different issues, but anyone who knows a dreamer knows that they’re not.”
Zuckerberg, along with other tech giants like Bill Gates would have Americans believe that there is a scarcity of high-skilled tech industry job applicants, however, 50 percent of Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) graduates will NOT find work in the high-tech sector.
Why? Nobel prized economist Milton Friedman said the U.S. government is stocking Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and others with much cheaper H-1B visa holders. “There is no doubt that the H-1B program is a benefit to their employers, enabling them to get workers at a lower wage, and to that extent, it is a (government) subsidy.”
High Tech Blues
Facebook’s new Political Action Committee FWD.us has support from the usual Silicon Valley executives at Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Instagram and Dropbox. The group has bipartisan support in DC that favors a massive expansion of H-1B visas. FWD.us even launched “a large national buy (ad campaign), targeting cable and online outlets across the country.”
Nevertheless, the ads say nothing about the side effects of the H-1B visa expansion. Numerous studies have cited the H-1B visas contribute to wage depression. Just ask Gene Nelson, a PhD who was asked to train his replacement, a twenty something, for $11 dollars per hour. John Miano from the Center for Immigration Studies confirmed Nelson’s dilemma. “I know a lot of others who have been H-1B’d.”
Oftentimes the result of the H-1B visa program is that 35+ and older workers are thrown away like yesterday’s newspaper. Nelson said the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill S744 would be a disaster for Americans. He compared the exhaustive legislation to ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill away from the fog of all this.” Nelson said Obamacare is proof that the government can’t afford another hastily passed mega bill.
More evidence of H-1B blues came from a study released last spring by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) during the heat of a national immigration debate. Rutgers’s University Professor Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn of American University and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University released an exhaustive paper on “Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market.” The report concluded that there was not a shortage of bright, qualified graduates capable of filling the high tech jobs.
The EPI study found that U.S. colleges provided ample qualified STEM grads. Some of the key findings included:
• Guestworkers may be filling as many as half of all new IT jobs each year
• IT workers earn the same today as they did, generally, 14 years ago
• Currently, only one of every two STEM college graduates is hired into a STEM job each year
• Policies that expand the supply of guestworkers will discourage U.S. students from going into STEM, and into IT in particular
“The debate over guestworker programs is largely based on anecdotal evidence and testimonials from employers, rather than solid evidence,” Salzman said. “Our examination shows that the STEM shortage in the United States is largely overblown. Guestworker programs are in need of reform, but any changes should make sure that guestworkers are not lower-paid substitutes for domestic workers.”
Recognizing the growing problem San Diego students face, UCSD’s K-16 program Director Edward Abeyta works directly with neighboring tech firms to prepare students with extra skills to increase their chances of landing coveted tech jobs. However, Abeyta concedes nearly 50 percent of UCSD STEM graduates will be unsuccessful in obtaining a STEM job after graduation.
It’s about the bottom line
According to Computerworld tech companies are “awash in cash, yet claim to need more foreign workers to stay on life support. If corporate profits are any measure, this line of reasoning falls squarely into the category of pure blather. The SP500 companies are sitting on a cash pile of $1.3 trillion.”
The past decade has been very kind to Apple. It is hailed as the world leader in electronic gadget innovation. According to Moody’s, Apple has accumulated a cash hoard of $147 billion, which equates to nearly 10 percent of all corporate cash held by nonfinancial companies. Google is a distant second with $56 billion cash on hand and Facebook rounds out the top three with $10 billion. All three-tech giants are lobbying Congress to lift the H-1B visa cap, something that could stymie American students for years to come.
With the help of political PACs, STEM employers use “dark money” (a term used by 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s donors who wish to remain anonymous), in a calculated effort to continue the flow of foreign workers. Rep. Zoe Lofgren told Computerworld that “the average wage for computer systems analysts in her district is $92,000, but the U.S. government prevailing wage rate for H-1B workers in the same job currently stands at $52,000, or $40,000 less. ‘Small wonder there’s a problem here, we can’t have people coming in and undercutting the American educated workforce.’”
One outspoken critic of the H-1B expansion is STEM professor Norm Matloff of UC Davis who says the program requires serious reform. “The phrase I use is ‘de facto indentured servant.’ Any H-1B worker is legally free to quit work and go to work for another employer at any time–but in various senses, they don’t dare do so. This is the case for H-1B workers being sponsored by their employers for green cards. (This equates to most of the foreign workers hired from U.S. university campuses.) The green card process is very lengthy, so the worker would not want to go to another employer and start the green card process all over again from scratch. In other words, they’re trapped.”
For those H-1Bs who are not being sponsored for green cards, many hope to be sponsored, according to Matloff. In many cases the employer will string them along, with the suggestion that the employer may sponsor the worker for a green card “later.”
Immigration lawyers are also willing participants and have publicly extolled the fact that green card sponsorees are immobile. For example recent comments by immigration attorney David Swaim, mentioned “the most important advantage of [green card sponsorship] is the fact that the employee is tied to a particular position with one company and must remain with the company in most cases for more than four years.”
Additional background into the relationship between William Gates, III, Microsoft Corporation, corrupt lobbyist Jack A. Abramoff, “Team Abramoff” and the controversial H-1B Visa, comes from an exposé paper written by Nelson, “The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit.” The report was updated in 2012, “How Record Immigration Levels Robbed American High-Tech Workers of $10 Trillion.”
Nelson contends that the adverse effect on wages and working conditions of the 37 million work visa admissions between 1975-2010 has been historically unprecedented. Nelson concludes that employer advocacy groups helped facilitate an estimated salary and benefit avoidance of $150,000.00 (per visa admission). The result has caused millions of Americans who were in the ranks of the middle class to move into the ranks of the poor. “Economic elites covet more foreign workers to boost their profits by an estimated $150,000.00 per visa admission,” Nelson finished.
In a November 2013 NPR interview, Anthony Carnevale of The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, tells host Michel Martin STEM practitioners rise into the ranks of management. Nelson disagrees wholeheartedly.
“It serves the purpose of luring young, impressionable people into STEM fields, where in reality, they are typically used for a few years, then they are ‘thrown away,’” he said. “The consequence of historically unprecedented STEM talent gluts – exacerbated by employer advocacy (and abuse of) controversial work visa programs such as H-1B relegates natives to the back of the line (For additional background, see “The STEM Crisis is a Myth” in the September, 2013 IEEE Spectrum).
For those interested in the “story behind the story,” note that the Gates Foundation gave $6,986,601 beginning in 2008 to Georgetown University to support postsecondary education. “I believe most of that money flowed to the Center on Education and the Workforce, which Anthony Carnevale directs,” Nelson said. “Also, the Gates Foundation provided grants totaling $6,213,737 since February, 2000 to National Public Radio. Do you think granting a total of over $13.2 million is validation of the saying; ‘Those who pay the piper call the tune?’”
The reality for a lot of grads is the last 5-10 years are on track to be the “new normal,” Matloff predicts. The H-1B crisis could reinvent a new middle class and Senate bill 744 “is” awful because it could uncap the H-1B visas. The “X-factor” here lies in the regulations that are typically written after the law is passed, think Obamacare.
Trying to change the focus from Obamacare, President Obama shifted his focus to comprehensive immigration reform. “It’s long past time to fix our broken immigration system,” President Obama said last week at the Betty Ong Recreation Center in San Francisco.
However critics of the H-1B program said students should heed this warning: “A report this past spring from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute ranked unemployment by majors: almost 15 percent of recent Information Systems graduates were without work, the highest of any major, compared to 7.9 percent for college graduates overall. Nearly 9 percent of computer science majors were unemployed, compared to 4.8 percent for nursing, for instance.” (See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2013/12/04/Obamas-Immigration-Sop-Silicon-Valley)
The Zuckerberg initiative begs the question as to why the same education system that produced billionaires, Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg, and from which the current H-1B visa applicants are culled is not adequate for hiring American students?
Email Kimberly: Kimberly.email@example.com
Link to story on San Diego 6 News: http://www.sandiego6.com/story/Kimberly_Dvorak-20130915
Past breaking news story: http://www.examiner.com/article/did-cia-and-state-department-run-illegal-arms-trafficking-benghazi-1
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