Freedom Folks

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When Smart People...


Yesterday I had a post that dealt with H1-B visas and their abuses by high-tech corporations. Allen left this in comments...
First- I totally love your blog. Second- I almost always completely agree with you on illegal immigration, etc. actually, always so far.

My one exception is this post. At least, coming from the University side of things, I've seen many a graduate student forced back to their own country because they couldn't get an H1 visa to stay here as a post-doctorate student while they applied for residency and other jobs. This is all legal immigration. I've seen at least 2 post doctoral researchers now, who would have loved to live here and become citizens or permanent residents leave for their respective countries solely because the Prof.'s funding ran out. These fellows were fantastic guys, truly interested in American culture and ideals, and in becoming citizens. They had advanced degrees and were working at one of the top universities in their field in the world. What do we do, we throw them back to their own country. High tech, smart, willing to pay taxes and be a part of the country, and we throw them back home. Is this truly the type of immigration we're talking about?

I'm all for our home-grown students (of which I am one) get all the breaks possible to make it in the tech-sector, and I agree that we are filling many jobs with external lower priced workers. But, I do want to interest the smart educated graduates in jobs here. The ones who choose to come in legally, be a part of the culture, and pay taxes etc., I'm more than happy to have here.

It's the uneducated poor who are most often criminals back home that come here illegally that I dearly want to stop. These types are nothing but a burden to our country. The students on H1 visas? Legal, tax-producing, smart, want to stay and build a life with a well-educated family... I'm fine with these fellows staying. And I hate to see 'em go home when a Prof. can't get enough money to keep them.

In fact, I'd say it's better we attract them then let them stay overseas. These are the students that our companies and students will directly have to compete against. If we play favors, affirmative action if you will for our students (who often are poor products of our poor education system), we will lose the high-tech sector. Much much better to have them become residents, pay taxes, increase the education in our country (rather than decrease it like the illegals do). Yes, I don't like the H1, but it's a stepping stone to residency that most people require. Especially students. When it can take 9 years to get a green-card, you need a stop-gap.

My feeling is we need 2 things to happen. 1) Secure our borders. 2) Speed up and simplify the worker/immigration policy... keep these students who are swift and want to be here.

Proper and educated immigration is good for our country.

Illegal immigration does no one any good.
This is an excellent comment and I definitely want to respond. There is a fundamental difference between the type of individual Allen is talking about here "These fellows were fantastic guys, truly interested in American culture and ideals, and in becoming citizens. They had advanced degrees and were working at one of the top universities in their field in the world" and illegal immigrants, no doubt about it.

I am very sympathetic to their situation, but, here's the problem as I see it and it has strong similarities to the scenario with illegal immigrants. Unlike with illegal immigration where you have two sets of bad guys, the company who hires and the illegal immigrants themselves (who may be wildly sympathetic, yet still crossing the border illegally with all the societal and economic problems that accrue), my complaint here is not with the immigrants themselves but how they are used by the corporations as a cudgel against their employees.

I think the situation is in many ways analogous to my feelings about guest worker programs. While there very well may be a need for a guest worker program every previous attempt has resulted in more illegal immigration and a lowering of wages to people in the affected industries. In this context I have absolutely no beef against these individuals themselves only against the way the companies use them to keep from paying fair wages to all their employees.

Another question that always needs to be asked of any immigration related issue: "is this the best thing for America?" In other words, while there may be many reasons why any prospective immigrants would be a good catch "High tech, smart, willing to pay taxes and be a part of the country" are all good reasons to want these individuals, but ultimately the question is do they make us stronger as a country? America's immigration policy should not be driven by whether or not someone is a 'good guy,' but rather whether that good guy is good for America as a whole.

To go back to the guest worker analogy, while there may very well be excellent reasons to have a guest worker program the past results of the actual programs themselves were at best problematic. Same thing here, while I have no problem per se with any of our H1-B visa holders as individuals I do have problems with the reason I think most companies want to import them.

If you note in my earlier piece I had nothing to say against the H1-B visa holders, that's because they are a pawn in all this. If they could come and not lower wages, or be used to throw Americans out of whole fields, then by all means, but is that the case?

And much like when I report on abuses against illegal aliens in this country let's not forget that there are quite a few reported instances of H1-B visa holders in essence being treated poorly by their sponsor (hence my comment in the original article about "high tech plantation owners").

I tend to believe rather strongly in the notion that if we actually need people to do jobs then we should invite them in the front door. Things such as the H1-B visa feel like dirty business to me, we need computer programmers? Fine, then let's get more people in here to do that job. What? You want to bring them in on a visa that ties them to your company so that if they complain you can just toss them out of the country?

Does that track for you?

Of course you'd have to prove to me that we need them in the first place. I trust the average business owner to look out for his or her bottom line, that is as it should be, however there should be another step in there somewhere of someone asking "but is this person actually needed?"

A final thought, not everybody gets to come. This is a hard truth that I think Americans struggle with. We would like for any person that wants to come to this country and seems like a decent sort to have the opportunity to do so, but is that realistic?

Another home truth of all immigration matters is the numbers. We can only allow X number of folks to move here (in a sane world X equals the number of folks we actually need, not what business wants). Immigration policy is always a matter of choices.

I agree with Allen that the individuals he mentions in his comment absolutely sound as if they would be an excellent addition to this nation, but it's ultimately not about them at all.

That's my opinion, now what's yours?

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