Facebook and Infosys: Working hard to perpetuate H-1B hypocrisy

Silicon Valley is going all out to raise the cap on H-1B visas while at least half of Infosys's U.S employees are from overseas

Infosys, the giant Indian outsourcing firm that's the target of an ongoing federal investigation into visa fraud, has been hit with a suit claiming it discriminates against U.S.-born job applicants -- a contention that's long plagued it and other Indian outsourcing firms doing business in the United States.

Lawsuits by disgruntled former employees and unhappy job applicants are easy to file, but there's a lot of smoke around Infosys at a time when Silicon Valley is exerting serious muscle to double the cap on H-1B visas, which allow employers to temporarily hire workers holding at least an undergraduate degree for jobs that domestic workers can't fill. In the most recent case, an IT worker with 17 years of experience claims that she was not hired because Infosys discriminates against U.S. citizens. Infosys, she says, ignored her considerable experience and instead hired a less-experienced worker from Bangladesh who is here on an H-1B visa.

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"Infosys has engaged in a systemic pattern and practice of discriminating against individuals who are not of South Asian descent in hiring," the lawyer representing Brenda Koehler's lawyers wrote in court documents earlier this week. Koehler is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to allow a class-action lawsuit against Infosys, with "thousands" of potential plaintiffs in the case. Infosys strongly disputes her claim and says it is "an equal opportunity employer." This is an issue that won't go away, despite notable gains in employment in the IT industry.

Silicon Valley has attached itself to the crucial issue of immigration reform, making spurious claims about shortages of trained IT workers and graduates of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. On Monday, Facebook CEO and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg spoke at in San Francisco before a screening of "Documented," a new documentary that highlights the plight of young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, an obvious attempt to build his cred as a humanitarian. I wasn't at the screening, but I doubt that Zuckerberg mentioned that he and other billionaires are spending millions to lobby Congress on the H-1B issue.

Immigration is a nuanced issue. Real reform is needed, and opposition to it can be a cover for racism. I have no beef -- and neither should you -- with workers who want to come to the United States to improve their lives and the lives of their families. But the Silicon Valley billionaires pushing to open the gates aren't interested in that goal; they're motivated by a desire to hold down wages and working conditions by flooding the labor market with cheaper hires.

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