Beware the plot to increase the H-1B visa program

Unemployment is still high, but cash-rich tech companies and their allies in Congress want to expand the number of H-1B visas. Don't let them

Tech unemployment is still murderously high, so it's no surprise that it took a nearly 10 months to hand out 65,000 H-1B petitions for 2011. That's the longest wait to fill the quota in about seven years, but that hasn't stopped anti-employee forces from hatching a scheme to allow an additional 55,000 graduates to stay in the country and push even more U.S. workers out the door.

What's more, a new survey of CFOs by accounting and consulting firm BDO USA points to a renewed wave of mergers and acquisitions in the software industry, a trend that always results in heavy job losses as workforces and information systems are consolidated.

[ The ugly truth: Why U.S. IT jobs aren't coming back. | Get solid advice on your tech career from Bob Lewis' Advice Line newsletter. ]

Off the Record submissions

I don't blame the foreign-born techies and graduate students who want to work here; after all, everyone dreams of a better life for themselves and their families. But the corporados and right-wing politicians behind the move to open the doors even wider aren't interested in the welfare of the deserving foreign-born.

Ultimately, they want to drive down everyone's pay and make the workforce even more docile and fearful than it is today. Indeed, it's well-known that many H-1B holders wind up working for wages that are significantly lower than those paid to American workers.

H-1B is riddled with flaws
At a time when some politicians want to build a Berlin-style wall across the border with Mexico, you'd think that at the very least, there would be a reasonably accurate system to account for the hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders still in the United States. Think again.

According to a recent report by the independent Government Accountability Office, the government doesn't know how many H-1B workers are in the country or how many stay after their visas expire. That's astonishing.

I certainly don't think those H-1B holders are here to harm anyone, but if the feds can't track the number of visas issued, there's a huge opportunity for abuse. "We are deeply troubled that DHS [Dept. of Homeland Security] has no idea how many H-1B visa holders are working in the United States at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed," said senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

That hasn't stopped antiworker forces from trying to raise the cap. Last year Congress considered a bill that would have created a new visa and expand the H-1B program. That bill died when the term of the previous Congress ended, but House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would pave the way for as many as 55,000 foreign graduate students at American universities to obtain a green card. Those students could stay here once they've found employment "in the sciences or medicine."

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