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Once Again, Confusion on "Good" and "Bad" H-1B Employers - April 28, 2016 matloff

Sorry for my lack of blog posts recently, just too busy for it. But I must comment on two interesting Computerworld articles today, both with female protagonists. The first wonders whether Ted Cruz’s choice of Carly Fiorina to be his VP will result in a clash between the two of them regarding H-1B. The other reports that the fabulous Jennifer Wedel is still active in her speaking out against the visa.

Cruz introduced the strongest bill to date reigning in H-1B, while Fiorina, as former CEO of HP, would strongly favor the visa program. But I see no clash at all. If Cruz wins the presidency, he will do exactly what Donald Trump did — backpedal, saying that the H-1Bs hired as foreign students at U.S. universities are the “good” H-1Bs, while those imported directly from abroad, via the “rent a programmer” firms such as Infosys, are the “bad” ones. Fiorina’s old firm hires from the U.S. campuses. Hence no conflict.

The Computerworld article points out that HP also does some offshoring, but I believe that that is mostly to HP outposts abroad, rather than going through Infosyses. So, Cruz and Fiorina would announce support for a bill clamping down on the Infosyses, with business as usual for firms like HP. This would be highly misleading, but this is the pattern we’ve seen repeatedly in proposals to “reform” H-1B.

By the way, I was quite impressed by Fiorina during the earlier primary debates. As a Democrat, I disagree with her on lots of topics, maybe most, but Cruz made a good choice in her, I believe.

And Darin Wedel seems to have made an even better choice with Jennifer as his spouse. As the article reminds us, Mrs. Wedel thrilled many of us in 2012 by asking President Obama point blank why he supported H-1B when many qualified engineers such as her husband had trouble finding tech work. The look on Obama’s face when she told him that her husband was a semiconductor engineer was priceless, as was his reply, “We’re told that people like your husband should be able to find work right away.”

Judging from Obama’s expression, I’m sure that he really believes it. And why shouldn’t he? That’s what people keep saying. Texas Instruments, which also hires foreign students from American campuses, is one of the “good” employers of H-1Bs, the claim goes, and even many critics of H-1B believe it. The fact that TI laid Darin Wedel off, but hired H-1Bs (including some whose jobs he could have done), should cause some cognitive dissonance. But no, this artificial distinction between the foreign student H-1Bs and the directly imported H-1Bs is so entrenched that they just don’t see that TI is equally culpable as the Infosyses.

The Computerworld article falls into that trap too:

Although Darin Wedel didn’t train a foreign replacement and was laid off with other workers, Jennifer Wedel says Texas Instruments was lobbying for increasing visa use prior to the layoffs, and she sees a connection.

Of course there is a connection. Wedel was laid off by a company that hires H-1Bs, some of whose jobs I am sure Wedel could have done. So what if he didn’t have to train them? Wedel is just as much a victim as are those laid off by Disney, SCE etc.

Again, there is no way to straighten out the H-1B mess unless people truly understand the nature of the problem.

By the way, in 2012 Computerworld thought that the Wedel incident would become an election campaign issue, which of course it did not. It did briefly become an issue this year, thanks to Trump, but it quickly faded. It never arose once during the Democratic debates, even though Sanders and Clinton disagree on H-1B.

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