Preserving diversity in skilled legal immigration is critical. Here's why. (Click Here)
Updated: Jul 13, 2019
One of the most enduring symbols of freedom and immigration opportunity is the Statue of Liberty. Standing majestically on Liberty Island in New York Harbor since 1886, this magnificent sculpture has represented a beacon of hope to people all over the world seeking to become citizens of the United States.
Recently, however, immigration has become a political incendiary flash point, inciting emotions on both sides of the issue. The subject of immigration itself has many complexities. In this blog, we will focus solely on recent legislation directed at skilled legal immigration and the issues surrounding it for House version H.R. 1044 and its Senate companion bill S.386.
When considering skilled legal immigration, the U.S. continues to have one of the most open immigration policies in the world. There is a veritable alphabet soup of various types of skilled U.S. work visas available. Among them, the H-1B visa is not only one of the most sought-after, but also one of the most controversial.
The H-1B visa was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on Nov. 20, 1990. The H-1B visa allows individuals to enter the United States and work temporarily for an employer in what is vaguely defined as a "specialty occupation”. A specialty occupation, according to regulations, is one requiring “theoretical and practical application” of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. (1)
Even though the H-1B visa is considered a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few temporary visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder could legally have an immigration intent (to apply for and subsequently obtain a U.S. Green Card) while still being a holder of the H-1B visa. (2)
H-1B visa recipients are selected through a random lottery, which, coupled with the vague definition of a “specialty occupation,” has led to vast abuses within the H-1B program. A lottery is required because H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 per year. Since its inception, this program has strayed greatly from its original intent to supplement U.S. workers’ skillsets. Instead, the H-1B program has been morphed and twisted into nothing more than a vehicle to undercut U.S. citizen wages and displace American jobs. U.S. citizens have suffered substantial job losses in lieu of H-1B workers who focus almost entirely on the Information Technology sector and favor one country alone — India.
Majority of H-1B workers are from India
India dominates H-1B program
The top outsourcing firms primarily bring temporary workers from India. American companies such as Microsoft, Google and Apple have drawn from a wider range of countries, including China and Canada, for their H-1B workers. But in 2014, 70 percent of the H-1B visas went to workers from India, according to the Department of Homeland Security. 3
Figure 1, Share of H1B workers from India, from 2005 to 2012 (3)
Source: NY Times
Indian workers accept the lowest salaries
H-1B workers at outsourcing firms often receive wages at or slightly above $60,000, below what skilled American technology professionals tend to earn. That means outsourcers can offer services to American companies at a lower cost, undercutting American workers.(4)
Figure 2, Wage Distribution for new H-1B workers in 2013 (4)
Source: NY Times
This U.S. worker displacement occurs every day under the false narrative and guise of a non-existent shortage of American workers. In reality, most of the H-1B workers brought into the U.S. to replace U.S. citizens from Indian-based IT firms are only moderately skilled, possessing only a bachelor’s degree from a foreign (usually Indian) school. These large IT firms flood the H-1B lottery with applications, making it difficult for foreign nationals with U.S. degrees or other non-Indian foreign nations, who are usually far more educated, to obtain sponsorship for an H-1B visa.
Additionally, this systemic and long-term H-1B abuse has resulted in a large "backlog" (waiting queue) of H-1B workers — mostly from India — who are awaiting their Green Card. While there are undoubtedly some truly deserving, skilled Indian workers in this Green Card "backlog," a much larger percentage of the Green Card queue is made up of low-skilled H-1B workers brought from India as cheap-labor substitutes for Big Tech companies.
H-1B recipients (mostly Indian) creep toward Green Cards
Figure 3, Top 100 Green Card Sponsors - 2019 Green Card Report
So what are bills H.R. 1044 and S.386?
Legislative bills H.R. 1044 and S.386 were proposed by House of Representatives and Senate members, respectively, in February 2019 to help “clear” the massive Green Card “backlog.” This legislation aims to eliminate the current 7 percent country caps for all employment-based Green Cards, essentially allowing India (predominantly) and China (to a lesser extent) to co-op the entire employment-based Green Card system.
Enacted in 1965 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart–Celler Act, the 7 percent country caps for employment-based Green Cards continue to be an important part of the “floodgates” for skilled legal immigration that safeguard diversity of skilled immigrants from all over the world. These 7 percent caps act as the crucial “circuit breakers” to ensure that highly skilled workers from around the world have an opportunity to work in the U.S. and can be represented in the skilled legal immigrant employment pool. The 7 percent country caps also serve to prevent one country from monopolizing available Green Cards.
If these bills become law, mostly one nation (India) will monopolize employment-based (EB) Green Cards for the next decade!
If these bills pass, say goodbye to ethnic diversity in skilled legal immigration
“If passed, this legislation would have the effect of giving almost all Green Cards exclusively to India for nearly a decade,” said former USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna about previous iterations of this legislation.
Lifting the 7 percent country caps through S 386 enables further discrimination against Americans because it rewards Indian outsourcing companies including Tata, Infosys and Cognizant that have been abusing the H-1B visa system for years, displacing American workers.
H.R. 1044/S. 386 legislation passing ALSO means that highly skilled immigrants from other countries around the world will NOT be able to obtain Green Cards for many years.
Why is it important to preserve diversity in skilled legal immigration?
As the quintessential melting pot, the U.S. was built on its ethnic diversity of immigrant populations. Taking a closer look at the Green Card backlog, we find a disturbing trend: Many of the employment immigrants from countries other than India have much greater skill sets and possess educations from better schools.
Striking difference in educational background and country of birth between IT outsourcing firms and other tech companies.
Figure 5 above clearly shows the preponderance of immigrant-based Green Card applications from IT outsourcing firms (even though Cognizant is supposedly U.S.-based) are mostly made up of Indian immigrants with only a bachelor’s degree from schools in India who are paid at the lowest scale. Google has a far greater diversity of ethnicities in its Green Card applications pool (Figure 5). The educational attainment of Google’s workforce also is far greater with the majority of immigrants holding a master’s degree from top-notch or Ivy League schools.
Since H.R. 1044 and S. 386 remove the 7 percent country caps, they rely on a First-Come, First-Serve (FCFS) system to distribute Green Cards to applicants. The problem with this FCFS system is that, in order to function at all, it first needs to clear the backlog of more than 600,000 Indians, most of whom are concentrated in the EB2 category.
With a finite number of employment- based Green Cards available each year (40,000 yearly cards for EB2 and 140,000 total), eliminating the current backlog would take more than a decade. At its core, the problem with this legislation is that it does not consider the fact that new employment-based Green Card petitions will keep adding up each year, thereby perpetually maintaining a new backlog.
The legislation (H.R. 1044/S. 386) will not solve any backlog issue and will create more problems. It serves only to redistribute a backlog from the country that initially created the problem (India) to all other countries. It will be extremely damaging to both U.S. Citizens and truly high-skilled foreign nationals. Removal of the 7 percent country caps will ONLY ensure that India would monopolize all available Green Cards for many years to come. The bills H.R. 1044/S. 386 are clearly not a solution.
Therefore, it is our position that legislative bill S. 386 should never pass.
Sources as noted above:
1, 2 Wikipedia, “H1B Visa”
3, 4 The New York Times, “How Outsourcing Companies are Gaming the Visa System”
DOWNLOAD our white paper positioning statement on why H.R. 1044/S. 386 should never pass
DOWNLOAD the Congressional Services Research Report, "Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-country Ceiling", Dec 2018