Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at the Harvard Law School and executive-in-residence at Duke University, said today that the H-1B program is “wonderful for technology companies and employers. They have a captive audience.”I, for one, have a good friend who has been struggling mightily with his immigration status for over five years. He is a computer software expert, who now serves as VP of a technology company in New Jersey. Originally from South Africa, he has paid thousands of dollars to a number of lawyers trying to resolve his immigration status. He has done everything required of him, and still sits in limbo.
The H-1B, he explained, allows the sponsoring company to control employees, and often underpay them, as critics of the visa program contend.
Instead, Mr. Wadhwa said the United States should simply grant skilled immigrant workers permanent residence visas, so-called green cards. The new report says that more than 1 million skilled workers — scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers — are competing for 120,000 permanent residence visas each year. The surging backlog, the study adds, is starting to fuel a “reverse brain drain” as skilled workers return to their home country.
His original U.S. employer sponsored him for his visa, and for years, he was beholden to that company for his continued legal residence in the U.S. We would have lunch and I would gape at the pay and benefits gap between himself and many of his co-workers. But he was unable to negotiate a better package, because the company held his immigration status in its hands.
This is wrong.
It's bad enough that we must rely on our employers for our health insurance and our retirement benefits. Workers should not rely on their employer for their very presence and legal status in the U.S. It can only lead to a major imbalance as these workers are significantly restricted in their ability to negotiate raises and benefits, and the presence of these workers keeps pay and benefits lower for the many American citizens working by their side.
The current program is little more than a form of indentured servitude.
I, for one, support a major rethinking of our skilled visa program. I feel that if a high-tech company wants to sponsor someone for work, that person should be granted full, legal residency, unfettered from any link to the company. Perhaps this would make companies to reconsider the many qualified local candidates, and increase our retention of entrepreneurial, motivated new immigrants, on which the future stability of Social Security and Medicare depend.
[update] And in case you were wondering if immigration is truly a good thing. Immigration may help keep inflation low.
...the study finds that immigration can lower the prices of food, clothing, furniture, and appliances and have a significant moderating effect on inflation.