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Recent college grads, doctoral candidates, and skilled professionals will find the already-rough job market much rougher if the immigration overhaul proposed in the Senate Wednesday (April 17) gets into law, says a new article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Consider the H-1B program, through which mid-level foreign tech workers enter the U.S. and take low-paid jobs, thus dropping the wage level for all engineers and scientists. The cap of 65,000 yearly would go up to 110,000. But the number will actually be higher than that, because an immigrant with an MD or PhD in math, science or engineering could bypass the H-1B system, says Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Foreign undergrads can get green cards without applying for the H-1B visa. About 343,000 foreign students now studying in the U.S. would be eligible for fast-track citizenship.

This is great for U.S. businesses, says the publication. (Qualcomm, one of the major employers of H-1Bs, has been pushing hard for loosening of the visa restrictions.) However, "if you're headed into the job market in the next couple of years, the changes are rather frightening. No matter how you slice it, you're likely to face more competition," says the magazine.

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Comments

Visduh April 19, 2013 @ 8:41 a.m.

Isn't it rather amazing that this was reported in Bloomberg BusinessWeek? Who'd a thunk it?

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 12:27 p.m.

Visduh: Bloomberg BusinessWeek is a reliable publication, in my judgment, although I admit i don't see it that often. Best, Don Bauder

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jnojr April 19, 2013 @ 9:45 a.m.

The last sentence is telling. "No matter how you slice it, you're likely to face more competition" If the only way you can get a certain salary is by limiting competition, then you're overpaid.

It's bizarre that the US handles immigration the exact opposite of most of the rest of the world. If you're educated and want to work and pay taxes and support yourself, we don't want you! If you're poor, illiterate, unskilled, and will be living a life of dependency and government assistance, come on in, we'll make room! Absolute insanity.

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ImJustABill April 19, 2013 @ 11:55 a.m.

In an ideal world I would agree with you but the world is far from ideal.

By your definition, almost everyone - including most of those in traditional middle to upper-middle class professions - are overpaid.

Certainly there are lots of trade organizations and laws largely intended to limited competition and increase compensation for lawyers, doctors, realtors, financial industry professionals, etc.

Proposals such as the one describe in the article are largely directed at lowering the labor cost (and hence the compensation of) one specific category of middle to upper-middle-class worker.

Let me know when they start ripping apart the AMA (limiting competion for medical pros), NAR (limiting competition for real estate transactions), ABA (limiting competion for lawyers), TBTF policies providing preferential treatment for certain financial firms, etc. etc. Then maybe it will be fair to talk about not limiting competion.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 12:33 p.m.

ImJustABill: H-1B doesn't apply to engineers only: it also applies to others in scientific and mathematic disciplines. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 12:31 p.m.

jnojr: I can see how you reach that conclusion. The reason I don't like the H-1B program is that it is based on a lie: that there is a shortage of American engineers. Also, because H-1B people are paid very poorly, the increase in their numbers tends to pull down the entire wage level of all engineers, both foreign and domestic. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard April 19, 2013 @ 8:42 p.m.

The bill should be combined with a higher minimum wage for these workers, to guarantee no employer will use the visas to bust wages, $20 an hour for laborers, $6000 monthly for engineers, something like that. Employers who really need workers can afford that sort of pay. Some are just trying to cheat workers out of a fair wage of course.

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ImJustABill April 19, 2013 @ 9:05 p.m.

Yes - the employers should be required to show they really can't find workers even at premium wages. If you can't find unskilled labor for $20/hr then maybe you can say you need extra workers.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 7:50 a.m.

ImJustABill: In theory, present law requires employers to make a search for Americans before hiring the H-1Bs. But if employers make such a search, it is generally a cursory one. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 20, 2013 @ 8:45 a.m.

Yes so I think in order to enforce these things in practice the employer should have to prove that they are paying well beyond standard wages. If you're not willing to pay someone at least $20/hr then I think it's hard to say that you're desperate for workers.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 10:14 a.m.

ImJustABill: Yes, but just try enforcing such a provision. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 20, 2013 @ 11:33 a.m.

Yeah the companies can always have the same kind of consultants to analyze wages that the sports team owners have when they analyze benefits of building stadia.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 6:43 p.m.

ImJustABill: Yes, the corporations not only have thoroughly dishonest consultants who tell them what they want to hear; they also have armies of lobbyists to buy off politicians. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 10:25 p.m.

Psycholizard: According to the law, U.S. employers are supposed to pay competitive wages to H-1Bers, but the law is ignored. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 10:18 a.m.

Psycholizard: Your analysis is exactly the reason I oppose H-1B. It IS a method of lowering the wage level of all engineers and scientists, thus permitting corporate costs to drop, profits to rise, the stock to go up, and CEOs' pay to go from obscenely outrageous to outrageously obscene. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 19, 2013 @ 9:11 p.m.

From what I've read about this bill, it seems to me the legislators really bent over backwards to cater to employers. Tons of work visas, nothing much about tougher sanctions for employers hiring illegals, e-verify required but a 5 YEAR adoption period, and even a special section of the bill for "employer protections" to make extra sure that employers aren't held responsible for any of the hiring laws they've been breaking.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 10:27 p.m.

ImJustABill: Absolutely, high tech companies such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, etc. descended on Washington with lobbyists with bags full of money. The employers got what they wanted. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 20, 2013 @ 8:50 a.m.

It seems like the "enforcement first" part of the bill is almost solely focussed at the border itself - more ICE agents, fences, etc. That will help prevent undocumented immigrants from coming into the country across the border but it will do little to prevent them from staying here once they get in. I think they should have E-Verify immediately required (how hard can it be in this day and age) and much stiffer penalties for employers who get caught.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 1:42 p.m.

ImJustABill: Of course there should be stiffer penalties for those who hire the undocumented workers. It has happened in San Diego. But that would not seem to be the politically expedient path. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 19, 2013 @ 9:17 p.m.

I searched my dentist on the internet and found that he hired two employees on H-1B visas. I filed for a H-1B visa permit because I can't find a gardner who will cut my grass for less than $30.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2013 @ 10:29 p.m.

Burwell: Do you have the lobbying clout of Qualcomm? Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK April 20, 2013 @ 7:28 a.m.

It will make it a breeze for any immigrant here ( legally) to bring in relatives using the USCIS processes.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 7:52 a.m.

Murphyjunk: That is one criticism of the bill. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard April 20, 2013 @ 12:12 p.m.

Employers cause the current immigration mess, giving them a place at the negotiating table truly rewards criminality, unlike amnesty, which shows mercy to people fleeing the gangsters running their home nations, immigrants who are not criminal, but are forced into illegal acts by hard conditions. First and foremost we must fight for the basic principle of equal protection under law, because of unbreakable economic laws of supply and demand, the workplace demonstrates how important this is. The employer sometimes argues that the worker isn't victimized when they freely work under illegal conditions. Fact is, every worker, and the whole economy is harmed when employers conspire to break laws. Foreigners need the protection of every workplace law. The insane border vigilance, if redirected thoughtfully to workplace rules, might end most of our immigration problems without any new laws.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 1:45 p.m.

Psycholizard: It's always argued that undocumented immigrants take jobs that Americans won't take. But I think that is probably not true. You are right: the employers should be punished. They are a root cause. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard April 20, 2013 @ 4:01 p.m.

When convenient, supply and demand arguments are ignored. Americans won't do the job at the current wages, but all these jobs were done by Americans once. They pay less now.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2013 @ 6:46 p.m.

Psycholizard: In this economy hungry Americans will pick crops, work in slaughterhouses, do dishes in restaurants for low wages. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi April 21, 2013 @ 8:34 p.m.

If the H-1B program allowed lawyers to immigrate, I would totally support it! In fact, I would really encourage a program that imported lawyers with ambitions to become American politicians. The sorry state of our politicians might improve is they had some foreign competition. I think discount law firms should open branches in Bangalore and other Asian metros and train bright students on American law. Then bring them over and have them pass the state bar of the state of their choice.

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Don Bauder April 21, 2013 @ 11:08 p.m.

Ponzi: You have a splendid idea: legal fees eat up more than 1% of GDP, or at least used to. Lawyers charge outrageous sums for work done by underpaid paralegals. Here is another idea: a law REQUIRING lawyers to emigrate. At least, it would not be as severe as Shakespeare's recommendation that first we kill all the lawyers. Best, Don Bauder

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Letter to the Editor Sept. 23, 2013 @ 8:57 a.m.

The H1-B visa program isn't the only reason American tech jobs are in peril. The entire employment system is broken. Everyone knows it but it is not being fixed. Tried and true methods for finding suitable employment have been replaced with what used to be marginal criteria. Many businesses won’t give a job seeker a moment’s notice unless one is a veteran, a minority, a previous corporate employee, or knows someone within the company. How did the exceptions become the rule? What used to be factors that tipped the scale at final choice now become the main factors.

Companies, or the employment agencies they sign up with, are inundated with countless resumes that clog the system. The unemployed mass-mail to jobs they should not be applying for in the hope that something gets through. Computers have made this too easy. Companies cannot have a staffed personnel office large enough to weed through the incoming deluge to find the worthy applicants. So they fight fire with fire by having their own software filters that search for keywords within the resume that match the requirements.

The unemployed respond by simply copying the ad into the resume. This means a separate resume of lies for each job applied for, leaving the real work history all but ignored. And simply playing along with this futile game doesn’t work either if one can’t pass the fringe filters of who-you-know. Now that the human is totally taken out of the equation, no one sees the experience and potential the candidate really has to offer.

The employment agencies add to the problem. San Diego has a wonderful collection of tech companies that need to hire the best and the brightest. To accomplish this, they mistakenly hire employment agencies to find those tech candidates with little communication involved in defining the real needs. For a technical position, the ad is often written by a non-tech person that grabbed a boiler-plate description from a Bing or Google search based on the job title. This often includes specific software knowledge, perhaps some professional certification, a high level of education, and familiarity with industry standards and practices including safety procedures. The agency is loath to understand what is actually necessary and modify the ad accordingly, leaving obscure requirements intact. Can you imagine chooising a great artist that way? Would the filters look for Italian origin, Photoshop skills, familiarity with the health and safety data sheets of the paints used, certified in wood frame construction, and has at least 6 years of higher education?

(continued in next comment)

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Letter to the Editor Sept. 23, 2013 @ 8:59 a.m.

Sadly, those pigeon-hole requirements don’t address the duties of the actual job. Is the person organized, works well with others, able to spot impending trouble and solves issues efficiently? Gone is the main ingredient of character. Is the person a leader, honest and trustworthy? Will interest in the betterment of the company come before self-interest? Is the person in the moment or thinks long-term? All the things that the filters look for can be trained into a person capable of learning. How can any person know (or even afford) the particular software knowledge for all the various ones that are out there? Should one study one thing with the hopes of getting matched to the company that happens to have that particular prerequisite? There still won’t be a match to all the other requirements that are in the ad. Companies really need to start thinking along the lines of continuous training for the workers by hiring people that are flexible-minded enough to adapt, rather than finding just the right person to put the round peg in the round hole.

Age is incorrectly factored in. Engineers don’t typically want to retire and their experience is proof they can adapt. What does one’s level of college education matter after being in the work force for 30 years? The stereotype of slowing down to the point of just wanting to tell old stories doesn’t represent all (and they are easy to spot in the hiring process anyway). Worse yet, the very people that should be weeded out play the game the best and succeed the most in getting hired. This lack of attention during the interview process lets them slip through. What seems to be good aggressive management behavior can come from the corporate psychopath, the narcissist, or the egotist that results in destructive contamination.

The problem is further compounded when businesses go “lean” and trim the workforce to the bone. Everyone is overworked and little attention is put into the hiring process. They offer fancy titles (Senior Specialist!) and yet compensate with less than the national average for pay. In the rare occasion where training is involved, they advertise the job as an internship position to get away with little pay and no benefits, while enjoying the labor of a technically experienced worker. They move on to the next person after the probationary or contract period is over.

(continued in next comment)

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Letter to the Editor Sept. 23, 2013 @ 8:59 a.m.

The employment agency is also guilty of mass mailings. For a tech post, they mistakenly think any technically trained person should be capable of handling any tech position. This can result in an Electronics Technician being offered an ad that is looking for an Optical Lens Polisher or a Systems Enclosure Packaging Engineer being offered a cardboard box CAD Designer job. So now the candidate’s in-basket is swamped with useless ads to weed through, including offers for far away posts, even when one does not wish to relocate. The deluge of useless input only increases with social media and networking.

The problem is amplified here in San Diego by having so many medical companies and military contractors. They are being crippled with their fanatical adherence to only hiring workers with previous experience in those fields; resulting in no new blood. They just hire an ever-aging workforce by stealing workers from each other. Those little filter boxes labeled FDA, ISO, DOD, Mil spec, and SolidWorks are keeping good people away. They are just regulations and software as flavor-of-the-month. Knowing those bits does not make one a good engineer. It is not impossible to simply offer a little training to a real tech worker to get an exceptional employee. They need to start thinking of people as software rather than hardware and fix the broken hiring system.

Signed, Out of work engineer and not alone. (Name withheld by request.)

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