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H-1B visa: A bad idea

A reader writes that the H-1B visa is not used to supplement a U.S. work force lacking skilled workers, but is structured to displace them.


H-1B visa: A bad idea

In response to the Aug. 14 column by Mike Yamamoto, "So much for a colorblind meritocracy":

It is legal for companies to replace their American workers with indentured foreign workers under the H-1B visa program. Companies are not required to consider qualified Americans for job openings.

Because of the law, my American colleagues and I lost our jobs when American International Group, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, replaced us with foreign workers who we had to train to do our jobs or we'd lose severance benefits.

And again, because of the law, Dun & Bradstreet is now in the process of replacing its American workers with foreign workers. This has become so institutionalized that D&B sent a memo of the plan to its employees advising that they "consider them (the H-1Bs who will replace them) as team members and give them your full cooperation...Your continued commitment and dedication are necessary to ensure a smooth transition." They send this as the firm prepares to take the jobs away from these Americans.

The H-1B visa causes Americans to lose their jobs. It denies graduates opportunities. It causes the deterioration of wages. The U.S. Labor Department has reported that skilled graduating students exceed projected information-technology (IT) job openings, showing that the free market responds to labor demands. Displaced older IT workers have a double-digit unemployment rate. Minorities and women are very underrepresented. And now with the deteriorating economy and the dot-com meltdown, with hundreds of thousands of American high-tech workers losing their jobs, it is more important than ever to have companies hire our capable citizens first.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, data do not sustain a finding that there is a shortage of high-tech workers. And a State Department investigation revealed that 21 percent of H-1B applications are fraudulent and 45 percent of claimed job offers cannot be verified.

It is clear that the H-1B visa is not used to supplement a U.S. work force lacking skilled workers, but is structured to displace them at the whim of companies seeking lower costs at the expense of workers.

As technology continues to evolve, we cannot displace workers in lieu of planning. And we cannot have IT leaders bully us with their arrogance and threats to send jobs overseas.

As noted by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in the Congressional Record, "These are not highly specialized jobs. They do not require advanced degrees or years of training. American workers are the most productive workers in the world. It makes sense to demand that more of our workers be recruited and trained for these jobs."

Linda Kilcrease
American Engineering Association
Dover, N.J.