Thursday, March 29, 2007

The State of American Software Employees

President Bush has recently echoed Greenspan's sentiments that the free market must have exceptions with one of them being that software developers, architects and engineers in this country must be constrained from making a fair market wage.

Here's ComputerWorld's coverage of Round 2: H-1B Battle: American engineers vs. President Bush! by Dino Perrotti.
It hurts to get slapped across the face by the most powerful man in the world, but American engineers are not down and out yet. At the very opening moment of round 2, President Bush comes out swinging; knocking down any argument American engineers and other high-skilled professionals might have against H-1B immigration laws.

The president fired the first salvo in the 2007 H-1B Battle, telling selected employees of Dupont that he feels strongly that America needs to raise the cap on H-1Bs. Here is the exact excerpt:


...As an aside, when I talked about the immigration bill last night, I also want you to know I understand that we need to make sure that when a smart person from overseas wants to come and work in DuPont, it's in our interests to allow him or her to do so. We've got to expand what's called H1B visas. I know the Senator and the Congressman understand that. I'm looking forward with Congress to do just that. It makes no sense, by the way -- I know, I'm getting off topic here -- (laughter) -- but I feel strongly about what I'm telling you. It makes no sense to say to a young scientist from India, you can't come to America to help this company develop technologies that help us deal with our problems. So we've got to change that, as well, change that mind set in Washington, D.C. I know we can work together on that.
The article goes on to warn students and citizens of what is at stake.
So far the conversation has been controlled by studies paid for by special interest groups representing technology companies.

What affects the engineers of today, affects the engineers of tomorrow. Today, American students who yearn to learn mathematics and science are discouraged to do so. Why should anyone study so hard for a career that is in dire jeopardy?

Over the last several years, university engineering enrollment has plummeted as engineering opportunities have dissipated. Anyone who feels that their children should be encouraged to study math and science should voice their concern over this issue.

There are also serious national security concerns. It is widely known that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are attempting to use loopholes in our immigration laws to slip in those who wish to do harm to our country. Mohamed Atta was here on a student visa. It does not take a writer from "24" to imagine how much damage engineers sponsored by terrorist organizations can do to this country. Most applicants are rubber-stamped completely by USCIS, and tracking over 900,000 visas is nearly impossible for Homeland Security. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), the outgoing chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security has raised serious concerns over the program. It's worth noting that nuclear bombs are created by nuclear engineers, biological weapons are created by biology and chemical engineers, triggering mechanisms are designed by electrical engineers, hacking is performed by software engineers, and methods used to demolish buildings are developed by civil engineers. If all of this seems too overwhelming, take heed, there is something the average citizen can do.

Most Americans are getting tired of watching our beloved democracy become a plutocracy and they are doing something about it, voting.

VOTE!

Voting is the most powerful tool that Americans have to influence politicians. For the last decade or so, getting votes meant raising campaign contributions. With those funds, politicians advertised themselves in the media (television, print, and billboards), the same as a breakfast cereal would be. So the more money they got, the more commercials they would play and the more votes they would get and so on. Through campaign contributions and soft money, corporate America slowly took control of American politics to the detriment of U.S. citizens. Once our representatives realize that their constituents feel strongly about the H-1B issue, they will begin to discuss the program openly and honestly on the floor and in committees. All that engineers can ask for is a fair fight.

Disclaimer: H-1B's best and brightest

When used properly H-1B visas can be very good for America. Americans are pro-immigration as long as they do not face massive layoffs as a result. At the beginning of the H-1B program, the engineers who came here were extremely bright, pro-American, and wanted to become assimilated citizens. The H-1B program is considered a guest-worker program but every visa holder wanted to become a full citizen if possible. These were mostly engineers with Masters degrees and Ph.D.s, many of whom have spent years teaching at American universities. They were welcomed and appreciated.

Currently, there are over 900,000 H-1B visa holders in the United States, the majority of whom are fresh B.S.E.E. graduates with average technical skills, and some with extremely below average social skills. It is in our best interest to accept those with advanced degrees such as Masters and Ph.D.s, those who've graduated at the top of their undergraduate classes and those who've demonstrated an ability to assimilate into American society. If this was the case, the current cap of 85,000 per year may even be difficult to reach.

This fight is NOT between American engineers and H-1B engineers. Tech companies have abused American engineers by replacing them with H-1B engineers, but they have also abused the very same H-1B visa holders. H-1Bs are paid less, asked to work free overtime, cannot easily change jobs, and have the constant Damoclean Sword of deportation if they get fired. In addition, law firms and job shops such as Wipro take large portions of their salary for doing paperwork. Plus there are many other visa loops they and their families have to jump through just to stay in America. With proper H-1B reform, the quality of life for H-1B holders should dramatically improve.

Scorecard

In case you're keeping score, Round 1 was won by the engineers and the middle-class when an increase to the H-1B cap was averted in the last moments of the 2006 session of congress. It was a hollow victory, however, because it turned out that the cap was not enforced for the last 2 years anyway, which effectively increased the cap by an additional 75,000 visas. In layman's terms, they won the round but the judges ruled against them.

Round 2 was easily won by the tech companies. Regardless of what Lou Dobbs exposes, the President has the ultimate pen-power of signing the immigration reform bill into law. If engineers cannot convince the president to change his views, all may be lost. There is little evidence of the President ever changing his mind, but members of Congress who are concerned about the next election, may take a closer look at it. So it's still anybody's battle to win.
If any of you give the slightest care about this country you will write your House representative to reject any riders attached to the bill calling for an increase in the minimum wage. Today a Kennedy/McCain rider is attached to a Senate bill that will open the floodgates to a new tsunami of cheap imported labor.

It won't stop until you tell them we've all had enough.



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