Hire American

Posted by Charles M Cooper on Friday, February 6, 2009

The issue of guest worker visas came to the fore again when Microsoft, one of the most vocal proponents of the H-1B visa, announced that they would lay-off 5,000 workers. That led Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to worry over how many Americans would lose their jobs as opposed to how many foreign guest workers would, which led him to publicly call on Microsoft to prioritize American workers over foreign guest workers as the company downsizes.


That, of course, has led to questions about the legality of firing H-1B workers first, but it has also led to a trio of more important questions: Does a guest worker program that allows for the import of foreign workers make any sense when companies large and small are shedding employees? Don’t American workers face enough competition with the addition of foreign workers? Should the US Government, which should be in the business of supporting American workers, be permitting foreign workers to come in and take American jobs?


The Latest H-1B Controversy

The idea of the H-1B visa is that when a company has a specific need, and they cannot find an American to fill that need, they can look overseas. The visa allows these talented people to come to the US and work for their sponsoring company for up to six years before going home or renewing their visa. It seems like a reasonable program to help US companies compete by bringing in fresh talent they cannot find at home. The problem is that the reality, as so often happens with government programs, is far different from the concept.


According to Ira Mehlman, media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, H-1B visas rarely go to exceptional talent, as intended by the framers of the law. They are often used by “body shops,” firms that provide contract labor to other companies. “H-1B visas are not being used as they were intended,” said Mehlman.


That would be a separate issue until we look at our bailed-out financial sector. A recent AP story showed that bailed out banks, those that received the highest amounts of taxpayer money, were firing thousands of people while, at the same time, applying for thousands of H-1B visas. Americans get the boot, foreign workers get the work. In response, Grassley and Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, introduced an amendment to the stimulus plan that would bar banks that have received a taxpayer bailout from the U.S. Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve from hiring H-1B guest workers for a year.


In light of this, it is appropriate to examine all aspects of the guest worker program. One would think that protecting home-grown Americans from losing their livelihoods in much the same way that other governments protect their people would be something we could all agree on. One would be wrong.


Pro H-1B: Servicing The Tech Sector

Mehlman may be right when he discusses “body shops,” but the folks hiring foreign expertise in the Tech Sector, especially companies like India-based Infosys Technologies, which provide outsourcing services for American tech firms, see moves like Grassley’s as just another form of protectionism. In a recent statement, Infosys said:


In a globalized world, corporate decisions should be based on economic realities rather than on political considerations. The US has succeeded in the past due to its openness and free trade both in products and services. Any changes which could bring artificial restrictions on free movement of goods and people will be a huge setback to the globalization process.


As for Microsoft, their response noted the special problems that guest workers would face by losing their jobs and said of the layoffs that:


We made the difficult decisions on which jobs would be eliminated based on a detailed assessment of our current and future business opportunities. The initial reductions we announced affect employees in a number of business units, and a significant number of the affected employees are foreign citizens working in this country on a visa.


It is a nice response, but it really does not answer Senator Grassley, except to say that everyone is vulnerable to the axe. Intel, Oracle, IBM and Accenture have all refused comment but all are heavy sponsors of guest workers.


The Bottom Line

These are questions that do demand answers. The folks at Infosys speak of the globalization process, and if that was the point, they might have an argument. Unfortunately, globalization is not the point, putting Americans back to work, however, is the point and legal impediments to accomplishing that should be removed. One would not expect China to favor imported American employees over displaced Chinese workers, or Germany to turn its back on unemployed Germans for the sake of transplanted Italian workers. Why is that acceptable here in the US?


That is the emotional argument and however correct it may be, that is not going to win this. What will is the fact that Mehlman is right, the guest worker visa law is being misused and should be amended so that this misuse is no longer possible. Limiting the visas to skilled or professional people and forcing American firms to actively look for Americans to fill their positions before looking overseas would help a great deal. It would not close the door, at least not entirely, and it would make sure that American candidates have a chance at American jobs before anyone else does. The law should also make sure that American jobs are the last ones cut when it is lay-off time. After all, isn’t it time for America to focus on taking care of Americans?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to our free newsletter to receive future articles and information delivered directly to your email inbox.

Charles M Cooper

Charles Cooper is the Web Editor for America’s Best Companies. He came to ABC with nearly twenty years of business and technology writing and editorial experience. In addition to ABC, Charles has been tapped to be a freelance business writer with the upcoming American edition of The China Daily, has served as a writer for HowStuffWorks.com and LovetoKnow.com and as senior editor for Gear Technology magazine. Contact Charles.

Tags: small business, economy, recession, guest workers, h-1b visa

Related Articles

Reader Comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 10:44 AM
Hector says:

That is a pretty one sided view of the issue.
1.) The H1-B visa has a quota of 50k a year with 150k applicants.
2.) All top schools are funded by international students who pay twice or triple the tutition that US citizens do. Atleast half of all Ivy league students are foreign students. Now, if bright people come from other countries why on earth would you train them and then send them away if they want to stay here and help america evolve.
3.) Its is increasingly difficult as a foreigner to legally seek employment in the united states. Being in an interview and telling the potential employer that they have to foot thousands of dollars in goverment and state fee's for them to employ you is not very compelling.
4.) People who have work visa's are under additional pressure to perform above-par to keep their job, because it can change their lives completly if they get fired. aka they would have to leave the country after making thousands of dollars in fee's to stay in the US.
5.) Please look at what jobs americans are losing first before you generalize. Just because 500 000 facotry workers in Indiana are layed off who put cars together and their union demands $75 hourly wages and the best benifits, dosent mean a H1-B visa holder who is a top performing programmer at microsoft who makes $18 dollars and hour is taking that factory workers job.
6.) Why on earth are you going after skilled workers ? Everybody that qualifies for a H1-B visa has a certain skill set and is educated. Yet you want to get rid of them ? Versus the illegal aliens who are a huge strain on the economy and dont pay taxes ? who majority are not educated ?

It is ridiculous that you try to blame foreign skilled workers for the demise when they are the solve reason for your countries success. In WW2 all the German engineers came to america bringing their skill with them (Albert Einstein - German - A-Bomb / etc..).

Maybe its the lazyness and the sense of entitlement that really has americans losing their jobs?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 11:11 AM
supporter of hector says:

One sided article... and close minded..

VERY WELL SAID HECTOR!!! kudos to you

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:00 PM
James Mason says:

Scary dude, they really need to do something here!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:07 PM
FPM says:

Things are great ! I used to be a homeless rodeo clown but now I am a world class magician !

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:35 PM
Hello says:

Protectionism is never good...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM
Frank says:

"Limiting the visas to skilled or professional people and forcing American firms to actively look for Americans to fill their positions before looking overseas would help a great deal." - How would this help overseas workers? Wouldn't it limit their options?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:55 PM
vvr says:

Your argument is completely flawed and one-sided. The view of all H1-B's not skilled is completely skewed, the problem with failed H1's are the incompetent hiring managers. Most American companies make a chunk of their revenue from overseas and this attitude would trigger wide repercussions in the global job market.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 1:39 PM
Buckel says:

This is freaky. We need to fix it!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 2:05 PM
Nevil says:

Not all workers are created equal. Many of IT external IT contractors are skilled in specialized labor which cannot be ignored. Yes, large banks are firing thosands of IT workers but continue to have to file for specialized IT talent (developers, data-warehousing experts, engineers) because the existing IT staff is not capable of meeting demand which exists.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 2:26 PM
Suchislife says:

what I find interesting is that there are now opportunities for a lot of people in Africa while the us is going through a down turn; IBM even told workers to take up jobs in Nigeria; here six figure jobs too

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 2:29 PM
Suchislife says:

ibm certainly takes the cake on this one


Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 2:45 PM
Shae Ham says:

I cannot support this position, because it is no different from import tariffs. Import tariffs are detrimental to the industries they "protect". How are job tariffs any different?

These workers are just as human as any other. They have knowledge and expertise for sale. We should not force companies to pay higher prices for knowledge and expertise, just because we want to put some more Americans to work. The reason we should not force them, is the same as the reason we should not have steel tariffs: consumer prices will increase (globally), which offsets the gains of more workers.

Someday I hope I, as a citizen of the world, will be able to go to China, Japan, UK, Australia, or any other country on the planet, and work. Put my skills to use, without all this crud about VISAs and permissions. That would be the mark or a true Global people.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 3:34 PM
xubean says:

I don't what more to add to this than what Hector said. He pretty much summed it all up. I think there's more evidence that you're being narrow minded here :

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 5:18 PM
JayZ says:

Right on. Don't listen to the H1-B zealots. I have worked in the technology sector for over 15 years and I know for a fact that, while certainly skilled, they rarely posses skills that Americans lack. The entire use of H1-B's in my industry is to get cheap, easy to replace, skilled workers who never enjoy the same cultural status as their American counterparts. It is sad, but true.

I have never and will never hire anyone who is H1-B because I have never found a lack of skilled American citizens.

BTW: WTF is talking about illegal immigrants here? Maybe it is just me, but even living in California I have never been approached for a skilled labor job by an illegal.

Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 2:08 AM
David says:

American consumers spend millions of dollars annually shopping online. Now with Amerisy, online shoppers can rest assured their money is staying within our nations borders to support local businesses and help boost our economy.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:25 PM
debug says:

Instead of blaming American education for not preparing students properly, and for not encouraging minorities and women to enter the engineering field, why not look at the real reason students no longer want to enter this field—no job prospects. With American engineers and computer programmers no longer able to compete against a huge influx of cheaper imported labor via H-1B and L-1 work visas, and with many more high-tech jobs going "offshore," it's simple economics. Students do not want to invest many thousands of dollars studying in a field for which there are no job prospects.

Me and my IT colleagues lost our programming jobs when our company imported programmers and made the Americans train them in order to receive severance. The company posted LCA sheets as required by law, and thus, we learned that the visiting programmers are earning about half of their American counterparts. Whenever I contact my elected representatives, the Dept. of Labor and the Dept. of Commerce about this, their shoddy excuse is that Americans aren't educated enough or prepared enough or smart enough to do high tech. But I'm not surprised. That's what the corporations and the media tell them.

1) These are Temporary (Guest) Worker Visas and NOT IMMIGRANT VISAS
2) They are paid the same wage as Americans, they are paid about 12,000 or more less
than their American counterparts
3) They are just average programmers and in fact some of them are incompetent
4) There is no labor shortage with millions of highly skilled Americans and Permanent Residents unemployed.
Hire local it's the American thing to do.

Greedy Companies use them to replace Americans with:

1) Cheap Foreign workers - These companies don't want to pay the prevailing wage.
2) Younger Foreign Workers - Those over 35 are discriminated because of their age.

Hire Americans and Permanent Residents. Help America.
Yet another sellout of the American worker, just so a few executives can make a few more million.

Hiring or continuing to employ an H1B worker (or any other VISA) in the US in our current time of crisis is un-American.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM
manualabor says:

If these guest workers are so fuc*ing great, why do corporations make the ir American
workers train their replacements.
Just connect the DOTS.....heads

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM
EricSmith says:

“If we don’t act now this menace called desi consultants will grow into a big mafia powerful enough to suck the blood of genuine employment seekers in the US”


Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 2:51 PM
Steve says:

I have a question for you Charles, if that IS your real name. Does it really effect the economy negatively if I buy a Japanese car?

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 3:17 PM
Charles says:

Yes, Steve, it is my real name. As for your Japanese car question, it has nothing to do with the article but I will take a crack at it.

Plenty of Japanese cars are made by American workers and so, if you buy one you are probably supporting a fellow American. You are also sending money to a foreign company, but a lot of that comes back in the form of wages and benefits, marketing and sales dollars, so if you are having a negative impact, it is negligible.

Now, next time, do try to stay on-topic. Thanks.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 9:47 PM
Tunnel Rat says:

Hire some Americans, and get rid of the guest workers from that backwards sub-continent.

What, everybody in I.T. has to be Hindu or of Indian decent? Americans invented the software industry, but suddenly we’re an inferior race that needs to be purged out of I.T.?

The ethnic cleansing of Americans out of the global I.T. industry will end, starting now. We will not be slaves to India, Inc. and their collaborators in corporate I.T.

We don’t need any guest workers with H-1Bs or L-1s in I.T. anymore and getting rid of guest workers in the industry will create one million jobs for Americans and add revenues to local economies. Most guest workers live frugally in close quarters and send their money home.

I’ve seen my bill rate go from $80/hr to around $50, and I’m not a COBOL programmer — I have cutting edge .NET skills and have no problem getting work. It’s just that I have to compete with an indentured servant from Mumbai/New Dehli/Bangalor/[pick one] who is living out of a suitcase.

And if these imports are so good, why do we have to train them? The only people that will need training are the I.T. executives that have been trafficking in this hi-tech slave trade and throw Americans under the bus daily in favor of these guest workers.

By training, I mean training to live in a wheelchair. American I.T. workers have had enough of this garbage, and there are millions that have been displaced in a rather sordid manner by American I.T. managers.

Time to get a bodyguard, Mr./Mrs. CIO/CTO.

Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 4:11 AM
REO says:

Yes we should give preference to local people first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 12:14 PM
jj says:

In yet another example of the damage the H-1B has done to the nation Arizona State University posted a notice that they will be hiring a postdoctoral biophysicist on an H-1B visa. The H-1B worker will be paid just over $39k/yr (before taxes) for 3 years and will receive full benefits such as health insurance.

If a PhD in science can only get you $39,000 a year the days of American technological leadership are over. The H-1B program was design to reduce American wages. It is time to end the

Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 2:38 AM
charlesbrooks says:

Affiliate Marketing is a performance based sales technique used by companies to expand their reach into the internet at low costs. This commission based program allows affiliate marketers to place ads on their websites or other advertising efforts such as email distribution in exchange for payment of a small commission when a sale results.


Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:45 AM
adi says:

Jaz Y is really funny. Although, I am not from technology background, which Jax y is , he/she should know the innovations taking place in the last few years in technology are all by skilled workers from foreign frms. Google, ebay, and countless other firms were started by foreigners. Not sure without these firm, you would have ever discovered this web site to type your comments. Appreciate how foreigners help you to lead.

Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 11:50 PM
Dennis Walker says:

I wanted to ask what internet company I can switch to that hires Americans

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 5:32 AM
JR says:

I am an Occupational Therapist. My salary is ultimately paid by the taxpayers through the Medicare tax. I have recently been replaced by a H-1 foreigner. The reason my supervisor at Health Facilities Rehab (Sikeston, MO) gave me was that "She is cheaper."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 12:04 AM
ray ban sunglasses says:

Well done!

I have never read something like this.

Great stuff!

I am really interested in this topic.

Is it real or not?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:07 AM
tiffany jewelry says:

Well done!

I have never read something like this.

Great stuff!

I am really interested in this topic.

Is it real or not?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:08 AM
tiffany and co says:

I love it!

last year, I wrote about the same thing.

could you write more about it?

Brilliantly put.

That makes sense.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:09 AM
tiffany and company says:

Well done!

I have never read something like this.

Great stuff!

I am really interested in this topic.

Is it real or not?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:09 AM
tiffany rings says:

Excellent idea!

I know someone like you!

You are the best!

I need to retweet this to my twitter.

I need to share this on my facebook.

You are the few people who wrote something about that, I like it.

Your post is great, I have some common ideas with you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:10 AM
tiffany necklaces says:

Well done!

I have never read something like this.

Great stuff!

I am really interested in this topic.

Is it real or not?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:11 AM
ugg classic cardy boot says:

Oh man, thank you for writing this.

That's good.

I hope you don't mind me linking you so that this information spreads more.

it's good to know someone has an idea about what's going on.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:11 AM
ugg cardy boots says:

I love it!

last year, I wrote about the same thing.

could you write more about it?

Brilliantly put.

That makes sense.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:12 AM
ugg bailey button says:

I love it!

last year, I wrote about the same thing.

could you write more about it?

Brilliantly put.

That makes sense.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:12 AM
ugg bailey says:

Well done!

I have never read something like this.

Great stuff!

I am really interested in this topic.

Is it real or not?

Join Free Today

Signup for our free email newsletter. View a preview.

Subscribe via RSS

What is RSS? Watch this video to find out.

Most Popular Articles

Email:    Password: | Register | Help