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Sept 17 2009: a work in progress

The Spirit of 1776

"If America so much as considers making a stocking or a horseshoe nail, she shall feel the full weight of British might." - Lord Chatham, 1766

As I see it, the major obstacle to ending the damage wrought on Americans by the H1B program is Americans themselves, especially the estimated 500,000 American techies who have been displaced. Frankly, I'm not sure why.

Certainly, American immigration law is against us; all the big-money corporate lobbies in Washington are against us; our utterly corrupt, money-sucking political system is against us; huge subsidies by foreign governments of programs targeting American IT are against us; the entire apparatus of the immigration law industry is against us and, of course, half-a-million job-stealing H1Bs in America are against us.

But so what. The American people have suffered worse odds and triumphed in the past. Why have they become so dispirited by the H1B invasion of the last 10 years ? For dispirited they are - based on what I am seeing, I can reach no other conclusion.

Signs of the Times

One indicator is the relative inactivity of the few anti-H1B organizations. They seem to have sprung up in 2000-2002 and then gone dormant about 2004-5.

A more substantial indication is the message activity in the Google H1B Class Action Group. Notice that the message counts peak in mid-2004, show pluck through 2005 and then peter out in 2006, settling to about one third of the 2004 average. Is this a telling statistic ?

American Workers Unite and Smash the H1B Program ... maybe

With the possible exception of the the Programmers Guild, has there ever been a serious effort to organize Americans in the fight to end H1B abuse ?

It seems to me that many efforts have gotten sidetracked into the immigration/anti-immigration debate, missing the point entirely. Anti-H1B is Pro-Job: Pro-H1B is Anti-Job. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs !!! Keep saying over and over again. Immigration reform is a distracting side issue. Don't get sucked into it.

I'm still not sure why Americans seem so unwilling to build effective organizations to regain their jobs. Maybe they are embarrassed to be in the position of supplicant for something they have earned by long years of study and hard work.

Maybe they are afraid of retaliation by hypothetical employers. I'm 58 years old, so I'm immune from employer retaliation. From a rule-based perspective, IF any on resume before 1990 THEN resume -> trash bin.

Maybe the impediment to building an effective anti-H1B organization is the strong tradition of independence and individuality that defines the American character. We are all frontiersmen and cowboys at heart, still stalking around the virgin wilderness, our jaws tight with defiance at any hint of subservience. The idea of organized collective job actions similar to that of trade unions with demonstrations and all that nonsense ... oh my god. Unthinkable !

But maybe not. I'm still not sure why. I'll keep chipping away at it.

Note Sept 20 2009: one little chip may be that the H1B problem is seen by many IT people ( myself included ) as somehow unique to the American IT industry. In fact, the multiple Hxx program(s) are very similar the H1B in their operation and intent - that is the dismantling a wide range of American industries by support and heavy subsidies from foreign governments. I may need to do a bit of rethinking on this subject - in unity is strength.


Eyes on the Prize

I've mentioned that making immigration reform part of the struggle against the H1B program is a diversion from the real mission of winning back hundreds of of thousands of American jobs lost to H1B workers. But perhaps focusing exclusively on H1B visas is making the job of regaining our jobs more difficult than it needs to be.

The most critical and central component of the H1B process is the Labor Condition Application ( LCA ). I think a successful organization to fight H1Bs should have three simple objectives, none directly impacting H1B visas themselves, but rather aimed directly to the source of the trouble, the LCA.

1 - Extend the requirements for a "good faith" effort to find qualified Americans from only H1B dependent employers to all H1B employers.

As the law stands, only a small percentage of H1B employers are required to search for Americans with those skills that are supposedly so difficult to find. All H1B employers should be required to make a "good faith" effort to place Americans in the IT positions currently earmarked for H1B workers.

2 - The LCA should be required to include a description of the specific skills being sought for the job.

Surprising, isn't it, that as the current LDA system is set up, employers aren't even required to specify the "specialized" skills for the job. Makes you wonder how the H1Bs are finding out what the employers are looking for - some sort of private communication one might hazard to guess. Let's change the law to make privileged communications to H1Bs about specific job requirements available to the American public too. They have nothing to hide, right ?

3 - Post the LCAs on a national job site for everyone to access.

Again, it's surprising that even the most undemanding requirements of the DOL are not being enforced ... or is it ? Probably not after considering the first two items. Very few H1B employers are complying with the existing requirement that they display LCAs to the American public - as things stand, H1B employers make you jump hoops or file a complaint at the DOL before you can get access.

I think these three changes would go a long way to fixing the system, if properly policed by the DOL. Americans then would be able to identify the skills required by the LCA and to present themselves as qualified candidates for the jobs currently being passed to H1Bs through the back door.

The hot-button issue of the annual number of H1B visas might well become a moot point. Qualified Americans would have an equal chance to get to the jobs as foreign workers, which is impossible as the system is currently structured. Returning the system to something like a level playing field would grant American IT workers the same opportunity to build their careers and their lives in America as H1B visa holders now enjoy.


If you still have any belief in our political system, you can try contacting Sen. Dick Durbin or Sen. Chuck Grassley, sponsors of the Durbin-Grassley Bill to get control over the H1B program.

Otherwise ... to be continued.


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