Letters to the Editor
July 20, 2001
To attribute protests over the influx of H-1B workers to xenophobia is to misunderstand the nature and purpose of the visa (“Byting more than they can chew,” July 7). H-1B is not an immigrant visa; rather, it is a temporary visa designed by the U.S. Congress to help fill spot labor shortages only when employers are unable to find U.S. professionals. Those in the U.S. on H-1B visas are expected to return to their home countries. Although H-1B workers often feel entitled to attain permanent status they know — or should have known — that their stay is strictly temporary.
Unfortunately, in response to pressure from business, Congress extended this “temporary” program for up to six years and provided few protections for American workers and those with “green cards.” The last expansion of the H-1B program in October 2000 coincided with the dot.com industry laying off thousands of high-tech workers. Congress failed to require downsizing employers to favor U.S. workers over the “cheaper” guest worker. Now, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) plans to create a “grace period” of up to six months to allow those guest workers who have been laid-off to find a new job in the U.S. This will only exacerbate the effect of the H-1B program in depressing IT wages and encouraging the exploitation of foreign workers. Further, it is a disincentive for employers to provide training and skills upgrading in an industry where women and minorities are drastically underrepresented and the pay gap remains substantial.
Paul E. Almeida
Department for Professional Employees