Skip to comments.India-Born American Battles Visa Program
Posted on 09/27/2006 7:03:15 AM PDT by Incorrigible
India-Born American Battles Visa Program
BY PHILIP READ
[Montclair, NJ] -- Sona Shah didn't need flow charts or fancy diagrams to make her point during a U.S. Senate subcommittee briefing earlier this year.
She just needed her cell phone.
First, she dialed the number listed in a "Help Wanted" ad for a computer programmer. Then she let everyone listen to the ensuing conversation.
"I said, `Hi. I'm an American citizen. I'm looking for a job,"' Shah recalled. "They said, `No, that job's been set aside for an H-1B employee."'
The staffers at the legislative briefing were stunned. "There were audible gasps," Shah said.
That is the kind of tactic the 34-year-old Montclair, N.J., woman has used in her crusade to reform the H-1B visa classification, which she says U.S. employers have used to turn Indian immigrants into underpaid indentured servants -- and to deny American citizens jobs.
"You have to stand up for the rights of both sets of workers as long as there's this degradation," said Shah, who was born in India but raised in the United States. "We love India. We want to see India prosper, but we don't want to see it happen at the expense of the American middle class."
Supporters of the visa program say it is people like Shah who stand in the way of progress, denying American universities, high-tech companies and others the best brains needed to keep the U.S. economy humming.
H-1B is reserved for temporary workers who come into the country to fill specialty occupations at the request of a U.S. employer, with about half of the 65,000 visas issued annually going to people in the computer industry.
"There are an estimated 10 million people in the domestic IT work force," said Jeff Lande, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America. "So maybe 30,000 of those come from H1-B. It's a drop in the bucket."
Shah is not alone in her criticism, however, and has joined what has become a key battle in the nation's immigration wars over the past decade.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., who has authored legislation titled "Defend the American Dream" to reform the H-1B program, sides with Shah.
Pascrell's bill would require companies hiring H-1B workers to give Americans a first shot at those jobs. It would establish mandatory wage-auditing to make sure guest workers are being fairly compensated. And it would increase the fee a company pays for an H-1B visa to $4,500, from $1,500, and decrease the length of the stay the visa allows from three to six years.
It would also allow workers to sue their employers for everything from sexual harassment to unsafe working conditions.
The debate over highly skilled foreign workers exploded in the 1990s, with big business successfully lobbying Congress to increase the number of visas granted each year to a high of 195,000. The increases fueled the rapid growth of information technology, but the numbers crept back down after the high-tech bubble burst in 2000.
The computer industry has argued it desperately needs to import workers to keep pace with other countries challenging its high-tech dominance.
But critics say the flood of foreign workers drives down salaries, turns foreign workers into indentured servants and puts Americans out of work. Pascrell said many of his congressional colleagues have ignored his calls for reform, and he has a hunch why.
"Follow the money," Pascrell said. "They're going to wheel and deal. And who's going to get hurt? The American worker."
Shah says she was one of them -- a well-educated American citizen whose job was outsourced to a foreign worker here on a visa.
She said she had been hired as a "token American" data programmer at Wilco Systems, a subsidiary of Automatic Data Processing, or ADP, based in Roseland, N.J. Wilco sold financial software and provided pay-as-you-go programmers to install it.
Early in 1996, she said, she witnessed an influx of foreign workers, largely from India, her native country. Shah left Wilco in 1998 and became the chief litigant in a lawsuit against the company on behalf of American and foreign workers alike.
"A vice president at Wilco once said, `If Immigration were to see what we've got here, they'd shut us down,"' Shah, now 34, said in congressional testimony in 2004. "He was wrong. Immigration didn't care. To this day, there has been no investigation."
Wilco Systems' defense attorney in the lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court eight years ago, declined to respond to Shah's allegations.
"At this time, the company does not wish to make any comment," said Jonathan Meyers, an attorney with Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman in Roseland.
Shah, meanwhile, has taken her case to Capitol Hill, where she has become a one-woman show. She carries a hefty legal folder, its accordion-like sides fully extended to fit a stack of documents, and a collection of business cards she's collected from legislative staffers as she makes the rounds, telling her story to anyone who will listen.
Shah's employment record has been spotty, at best, since she left Wilco. Despite her credentials -- she has a mechanical engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. -- she has lost her job to corporate outsourcing more than once, she said.
"It's done to line the profits of the corporate boards of these companies," Shah said.
Lande, of the Information Technology Association, said her case sounds unfortunate but, in all likelihood, is unrelated to immigrant workers.
"Any time a displaced worker loses a job, that is a serious occurrence," he said. "But you have to look at all the factors. Did the person keep their skill sets current? Is the company pursuing new market strategies? When you drill down, immigrants are factors in very few cases."
Sept. 25, 2006(Philip Read is a staff writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purposes only.
Also note that ADP was created and run by... Senator Frank Lautenberg!
Though I will admit that Indian run staffing firms in New Jersey are notorious for turning away US citizens, there are plenty of staffing firms that need Americans for security clearance issues. There are of course plenty of IT positions for American citizens but instead of going that route, I see that she's decided to grind her axe. That's OK too. In fact, given her Indian heritage, it makes for an excellent drama and I think Pascrell senses that as well!
Can't imagine why I was thinking of you while posting this article A.Pole!
Well the IT market has turned around in the last 3 years, from when it was abominable, but she does have a valid and important point.
Job discrimination bump
This is a lie.
So, a totally qualified American citizen for the job stands in the way of "progress"
Such a bold faced lie even I had to laugh!
My understanding is that a company can not obtain an H1B until they have demonstrated that they have searched for 6 months to fill the position with a U.S. citizen.
The most common way to get around that is to interview and dismiss all U.S. applicants as "unqualified."
Whats the current limit per year & term of the average H1B? I figure there's got to be at least a half million at any given time, MOST in IT.
Huh? Shouldn't that be " and decrease the length of the stay the visa allows to three from six years.
Yep, welcome to the club. IT isn't the only place this happens either. It is happening across the engineering, accounting and medical fields as well. Only large government contracting companies don't do this and they usually sub out to the smaller companies that do.
I noticed that as well and was going to correct it while posting.
But heck, why do newspapers have editors if they can't even catch this type of mistake!
That is not the case. The employer simply has to post the salary for the position internally in order to demonstrate that the prevailing wage is being provided. There is no need to prove there are no available U.S. workers.
The 6 month search to prove there are no U.S. workers is for an employment based green card and falls under the older recruitment process. Permanent immigration now goes through this thing called PERM. This is essentially a randomly audited reqruitment process with companies being more on an honor system than before. That being said, unless you have PhD or a Masters degree, an alien of extraordinary ability or a priority worker, there is a several year wait for employment based green cards. Those run out faster than the H1Bs do now.
Globalists and other capitalists who lack allegiance to the US are united in circumventing our immigration laws any way they can. H1, L1, Mexican border -- all the same thing.
And it is disgusting how even "conservative" republicans are on the wrong side of this. Try calling the office of most of them about H1 and L1 issues. You will not be treated well by the 21 year old punks who man the phones.
There are currently 65K H1B's per year, but the number was 195K per year. The visa is for 3 years, and renewable to 6. So theoretically, there would be at least 390K but with people under the old quota system, half a million H1Bs in total is not an unreasonable estimate. The spouse and minor children of H1Bs can also come into the country and go to school, but they cannot work. If an H1B has a permanent residency application pending, then the H1B can be extended past 6 years in 1 year increments until the green card is either issued or denied. There is no numerical limit on H1B's for people working at universities and non-profit research labs. The $1000 retraining fee is not applied to H1Bs working for non-profits or charities (yes, there are such H1B's).
The L1s are very differnt from H1Bs. Those are for intercompany transfers. Since most large companies are multinational, they need to be able to move key people areound the globe. The L1 is also a form of reciprocity for U.S. citizens who are transfered to other countries to work. A chunk of the U.S. economy is stimulated on insourcing by foreign companies. There is a lot more insourcing than there is outsourcing.
You can also get all the raw data from the Department of Labor's website:
"Lande, of the Information Technology Association, said...
Is the company pursuing new market strategies?......"
This was the line that got to me. Putting Americans out of work as a "market statagy".
I think a lot of the driver is that the federal government treats its IT workers so badly that it is forced to resort to foreign workers just to keep operating.
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