|Dr. Norman Matloff|
Lawyer helps high-tech firms find, retain foreign workers
I am of course used to dishonesty among lobbyists, but many of the statements made by the lobbyist in the Q&A enclosed below are especially outrageous.
Here is a particularly egregious one:
A: The universities are offering the courses. But what's interesting is that the enrollment is not necessarily increasing among U.S. students. You are seeing a lot of foreign students still flocking to U.S. universities. This has been a consistent pattern among the computer industry lobbyists: First they lie about something, then are caught in the lie, and then replace it with another lie.
As many of you will recall, when the industry started its PR campaign in 1997 (there were other campaigns in the past too, of course), they kept saying that young Americans just aren't studying computer science anymore, that they have neither the interest nor the background to do so. Please note, this was a lie, not a misstatement made out of ignorance; ITAA president Harris Miller was told in early 1997 that this was false, and yet he kept saying it to the press and Congress after that. (See my "Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage" paper, Sec. 6.1, for the details.)
After I pointed out to enough people the data showing that CS enrollment was skyrocketing, Harris had to back off (though he still continued to play games with verb tenses on this matter). Now Reiff is saying, yes, CS enrollment is increasing, but the increase is due to foreign students. This is demonstrably false. Only 6% of Bachelor's degrees in CS go to foreign students, and this figure has held steady over the years. The proportion of foreign students is of course higher at the graduate level, but the context, implicit in the question here and explicit in ITAA literature, is for Bachelor's degrees.
Similarly, the lobbyists used to cry, "We can't get any applicants for our jobs!" (See for example the testimony to Congress by Ecutel CEO John Harrison.) Then I pointed out that industry firms, large and small, across the nation, are actually INUNDATED with applicants. So now Reiff says, OK, yes, the firms do get a lot of applicants, but that shouldn't count, because the applicants already are working as programmers. (This is apparently a standard "talking point" now used by the lobbyists; the NRC committee said at the Santa Clara meeting that they had been told this.)
In addition to the fact that Reiff offers no data to support her claim, it is an obfuscation of the real issue, which is that the firms reject the vast majority of their applicants without an interview. Even Reiff guesses here that 50% are rejected without an interview, and in fact the rate is even higher than that, much higher. If you talk to HR people (recall the "experiment" I urged the NRC committee members to perform) they will freely admit that they reject the VAST MAJORITY of their applicants without an interview. No employer would even have time to interview 50% of their applicants. Recall the John Otroba quote in my "Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage" paper from the the Washington Post, in which he says he only calls 1 in 12 of his applicants, and fewer than those get in-person interviews.So Reiff is obfuscating the issue. The issue is that employers are EXTREMELY PICKY in their hiring---a clear refutation of their claim to be "desperate" to hire.
It is interesting that Reiff says there are a lot of "older" H-1Bs who have math and physics degrees. Probably this was just an offhand remark on her part, not something she intended to be a main point, but for the record, it is not correct. The vast majority of H-1Bs are young. See for example data in the IT Workforce Data Project report on this (though it is not perfect data for various reasons). Reiff is correct in saying that retention of workers is a major concern to employers. I wish to point out again that this is a major reason why H-1Bs are so attractive to employers, due to the "indentured servant" situation. (I also have pointed out that if the employers were to abandon their insane obsession with specific skills, e.g. Java, then they would have much less of a retention problem, since workers possessing rare skills could not shop around for the highest bidder who wants that skill.)
The article follows below.
The Washington Times Business Times
Published in Washington, D.C. 5am -- November 29, 1999 www.washtimes.com
Lawyer helps high-tech firms find, retain foreign workers
By Timothy Burn
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The search for new pools of workers gets more frantic as the nation's unemployment rate continues to tighten. When human resources professionals lament their difficulty with finding workers, the talk often shifts to immigration. At the center of the issue is Laura Foote Reiff, a lawyer with Greenberg Traurig, a major national law firm that recently opened swanky new offices in Tysons Corner to cater to local high-tech firms. Mrs. Reiff is a rising lieutenant in the army of Dulles corridor companies battling for changes in immigration law.
Congress and the White House last year agreed to temporarily raise the cap on the number of skilled foreign nationals entering the country to work on temporary (H-1B) visas. High-tech executives, who have looked to countries such as India for employees with needed skills, say the changes were not enough.
Mrs. Reiff sits on just about every private-sector immigration committee between Reston and the House Rayburn Building. She says sparks will fly once again on business immigration when Congress returns from the holidays.
Question: What do you do for high-tech companies?
Q: Do you help companies find workers as well, or just sort
through the legal issues?
Q: Is there a certain profile of company that is interested in
non-immigrant work visas?
Q: There has been some skepticism of industry estimates of the
Q: Speaking of HR people, are their in-boxes empty of resumes,
or just filled with the wrong ones?
Q: Aren't HR folks getting a lot of resumes that aren't any
Q: What kinds of skills are H-1B candidates bringing to the
Q: Are the colleges starting to catch up with the demand for
Q: As you know, Congress enacted changes in the H-1B visas
program. How are those changes working out, and what happens next?
Q: So is there a move for further changes?
Q: The last H-1B bill was contentious but it managed to make it
through Congress. Do you expect the same level of debate next
Q: These H-1B visas are temporary, but high-tech hiring woes
aren't going away anytime soon. So what happens when these visas
Q: How often does that happen?
Q: Do high-tech companies benefit from the temporary nature of
these foreign guest workers?
Q: What do you think will happen next year in Congress
regarding immigration and workers shortages?
Copyright © 1999 News World Communications, Inc.