(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Camel’s Backbone Under The Tent Edition

The fable of the camel’s nose should be familiar to most of you. Twenty-four years ago, after the passage of the Brady bill that the NRA had protested as “the camel’s nose in the test,” the president of Handgun Control, Inc gleefully noted that “Today we would like to tell you what the rest of the camel looks like.”

President Trump’s efforts to curb abuse and overuse of the H1B visa program, a program that even the Huffington Post admits was designed to lower wages and keep Americans out of tech jobs, have provided a new metaphor, which I will call The Camel’s Backbone. Prior to Mr. Trump’s election, the media generally repeated the factoid that H1B visas are limited to 65,000 per year. You couldn’t find an American media source that would even hint at the real numbers behind H1B.

Now that Trump appears poised to significantly restrict the program, the gloves are off and we are seeing the whole camel, so to speak.


The Times of India reports that there are closer to 1.5 million Indians in the United States thanks to H1-B. A spokesperson for the Hindu American Society called H1B workers “the very backbone of our STEM industries (in America).”

But wait, there’s more.

Turns out that the H1B extensions by their very nature served as a path to citizenship. So there are also hundreds of thousands of foreign “high skills” workers who came to the United States and used H1B to become citizens.

Now we understand why the much-hyped “tech boom” seemed to be so ineffective at improving the economic situation of the American worker. Tech jobs were supposed to replace manufacturing and service jobs that were sent overseas — but it turns out that a couple million of these new jobs were simply handed to immigrants. And while we weren’t looking, the H1B and H1B “graduates” became the “backbone” of American tech. We are told that there aren’t enough Americans to fill these jobs — conveniently forgetting all the Americans who were told to train their Indian replacements.

We are also told that there aren’t enough young people getting tech degrees. I can’t blame them. Why rack up student loan debt for a job that will be filled by a foreign worker by the time you graduate? Right now you’d be a fool to take a degree in CompSci or any other similar discipline.

Not to worry, kids. The future holds all sorts of job opportunities for you. There’s manufacturing… no wait, that was sent to China. There’s service work… cancel that, it’s all being done by undocumented dreamer uber-citizens. Well, at least you can get a degree and work in tech… except there are 2.5 million people from another country in line ahead of you. Have you considered selling handmade jewelry on Etsy?

* * *

For R&T, I drove a Miata in the winter, explained why dealers hate enthusiasts, and ruminated over the Accord and Prelude.

At TTAC, I answered a question about Panthers and asked a question about your best-ever deal on a vehicle.

This week I should have a remarkable number of articles coming out, so check back soon before I, too, am replaced by a guest worker!

40 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Camel’s Backbone Under The Tent Edition”

  1. Disinterested-Observer

    The thing I find most galling about H1B visas, is that the bogus pop-up staffing companies qualify for SWMOB status. However you may feel about affirmative action, it was intended to right a historical wrong: the systematic exclusion of blacks (not FOB “African Americans, the grandchildren of slaves who made the Great Migration) from the economic life of the country. Why the fuck does a “white” person whose grandparents emigrated from Germany in 1947 owe anything to someone who stepped off a plane from Bangalore in 2014?

    Reply
  2. Paul M.

    Perhaps if American kids took math and sciences in college instead of business and liberal arts degrees, there wouldn’t be a need for H1B smart kids and quotas.

    Make no mistake, America needs and is desperate for these kids from china, Russia, Iran, India. old American COBOL programmers can’t fix the future no matter what protectionists think. We need and are desperate for science major kids.

    Regardless, build the wall because it’s Mexians we don’t need.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I don’t know about all of that.

      H1B is first and foremost about costs. Secondly, it’s about headcount. Most managers would rather have ten people earning $75k than five people earning $150k. Even if the five are more productive. The managers conclude, correctly, that having more headcount increases their prestige and boosts their career.

      My experience at Honda is probably relevant here. They had about fifty people across a few departments. They replaced them with an IBM service contract that gave them a shadow headcount of 300-plus people, mostly in India. It went great until the lines started hiccuping. Then they called all of us and asked us to come back.

      Reply
    • kvndoom

      H1B was supposed to fill the gap when there weren’t enough American workers to meet the workload. Instead it got twisted into a means to avoid using American labor in the first place.

      Just remember, the Indian tech workers are just as not guilty of the state of things as the illegal Mexicans who do shit work for below minimum wage. They are happy to get the scraps. The guilty parties are those who use that labor because of their “quarterly growth above all” mindset. That’s why my stance was and is “FUCK giving a tax break to any publicly traded company.”

      The hierarchy of obligations for any publicly traded company are as follows:

      Bracket One
      1) shareholders

      Bracket Two
      2) upper management / executives
      3) customers
      (these two spots are interchangeable depending on values of a particular company)






      Bracket (∞-1)
      4) employees

      Laborers are seen as a necessary but unwanted expense, not an asset, regardless of what the quarterly propaganda memos say (I mentally puke every time those emails go out where I work). When times get tough it’s an easier decision to lay off (and ruin) twenty people making $25,000 than one VP making $500,000 (who’s already a millionaire).

      So yeah, fuck the corporate tax cut. Not a single goddamn one of them deserved it.

      Reply
    • DrSmith

      Seriuosly, WTH Paul – who said “old” American programmers can’t learn new technology? I started out with punch cards and went to COBOL/JCL to HTML/SQL/CSS/ and now on to Java and Agile programming as well and Android and IOS mobile apps.

      To have this opinion you must not work in IT…the likely issue is the “old” Americans are not given a chance to be retrained; they succeed by learning on their own, because majority of companies will not spend $$$ to retrain. They’d rather call a temp/contract agency and hire contract workers fresh off the planes from India. The sick joke is that the first wave of Indians that started to come over in the late 90’s early 2000’s are finding out the hard way if they don’t keep up their skill, they are just as easily replaced as the natives.

      There is a reason the Apples of the world have such huge profit margins….it is not all just “killer” products and apps. More like 1/3 to 1/4 the payroll costs of older manufacturer & tech firms.

      Reply
  3. Stephen

    As a 55 year old tech worker, I hate the H1B visa with passion. Nothing like competing with a H1b when you are my age and want a job with decent benefits.

    There is another Hxx visa, where they bring in foreign workers to work at resorts. When I was in Estes Park last summer, all the workers were from eastern Europe. Why can’t we do the same for American kids from the economically depressed parts of our country? Let them spend the summer in a Colorado resort making a little money.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I think the dirty little secret of this business is that most of the jobs aren’t very hard — not in these days of “control panels” and tailored interfaces for everything. If you look behind the scenes at all the major-player rack-and-stack companies, they often use lightly-skilled people or unskilled people who are trained on the job to do things the Rackspace way or whatever.

      The problem, and it’s brought to the fore by the HuffPo article, is that the management class would rather have servile immigrants who are under the threat of having their visas revoked. It’s not about quality, it’s about control.

      Reply
      • hank chinaski

        Indentured servitude in the US. History repeats.

        Keep bringing in guest writers and you will replaced! I kid, of course.

        Reply
      • silentsod

        I took a course from Prof. Matloff at UCD so that was trippy to see he authored the article. In fact, I think we had to use a textbook he wrote and I should still have it around somewhere.

        Reply
  4. kvndoom

    The #1 thing that pissed me off about Obama was that he didn’t make an effort to destroy H1B. No leader in this nation, regardless of party, should have let that program become the abomination it is today.

    Reply
    • mrwiizrd

      Obama received more campaign donations from Wall Street than any presidential candidate in history (Hillary is #2). While I don’t doubt your frustration, to expect that he would have done anything of consequence to displease his masters is a pipe dream.

      Reply
  5. Michael B

    Jack, you must be trying to ditch your day job with all the ads on the site… maybe soon you’ll have the time to write us all a book or something! The ads really aren’t bad at all, and soliciting for more content seems to be working out so far. I’m enjoying the new topics and guest posts. Any chance the most recent one of mine I sent you is in the queue?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I think if you look at your email you’d see that I contacted you about twenty minutes before you posted! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Daniel J

    In 2015 there were roughly 150000 students graduating with degrees in Information Systems, Computer Science, and Engineering. That doesn’t include science majors such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Those numbers also don’t include Math majors.

    So fundamentally there really is no shortage in undergrad Stem degrees. One argument is that there aren’t enough students who come from elite schools like Stanford, Cal tech, or MIT. I say that is horse poo, as those students are not competing with H1Bs.

    Is there a shortage of Stem students who will take the pay H1Bs are willing to take? Sure.

    Reply
  7. zzrerer

    I live in neighboring country that’s bought into this shit as well. At the large devilcorp I work for, I’m surrounded by hard-working young people who took comp-sci in college and can’t get a computer-based job because of this fuckery*. Instead they’re doing shit like v-lookups in Excel for computer-illiterate executives. Shortage my ass. Half us poor fuckers who are forced to deal with the clueless foreign pricks end up doing the job ourselves anyway because most of them couldn’t deliver a parcel to their goddam granny. Oh, and also on-topic: they’re really fucking rapey.

    *profanities necessary in order to express the magnitude of outrage

    Reply
  8. Dave L

    Early in my sales career (biotech) I was a bit embarrassed about what I was doing especially in light of my educational background. As I grew in my role and responsibilities, I began to realize that I developed a skill set that will never be infiltrated by HB1Vs or anyone under 40.

    Reply
  9. Orenwolf

    Jack,

    After many, many years of trying, I have finally found a company willing to sponsor me for an H1-B this year. Wonderful timing as now they may well disappear right when I finally have a chance to move to the USA from Toronto. AND YES, I most certainly intend to acquire US citizenship in the process. So much for that, too.

    I’m not sure why the US government would rather continue to have my salary paid to a my Canadian holding company, to be spent in Canada, rather than let me move to the US and instead spend my money there, but it looks like the current US visa climate means the status quo of the last literal decade is poised to continue for me.

    *sigh*.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      To the contrary.

      If Trump turns off the cheap-labor tap from India, the H1-B will return to its intended function. Or they’ll have another visa that actually works as designed to supplant small gaps in labor forces as opposed to importing more than two million people in ten years.

      Reply
    • Kevin Jaeger

      Indeed, if the program operates properly it should greatly enhance the chances of qualified Canadians using it. Right now the bulk of the quota are vacuumed up by Indian companies like Infosys and Wipro with highly misleading, if not fraudulent, intents.

      It really should be in absolutely everyone’s interest to clean up this program and return it to its original intent. I don’t think the Trump admin will have much time for complaints from the likes of Wipro.

      As originally intended this program is fine. But like any government benefit its abuse needs to be policed.

      Reply
  10. Kevin Jaeger

    If I understand those numbers correctly the program is indeed limited to 65,000 NEW applicants while existing holders can renew (or extend) their visa. There is also a category for another 20,000 applicants with graduate degrees, which I think has been subject to less abuse.

    If I understand those numbers correctly those aren’t all new people entering every year. Anything in excess of 85,000 would be people already in the country extending their stay, presumably while they wait for a Green card approval. I’m pretty sure there has always been a path to a apply for a Green Card and citizenship through an H1-B visa. Unlike those who enter via NAFTA TN status, who cannot apply for any permanent status.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      That’s correct — but what the media parrots is that the H1-B program is “just 65,000 people per year”. Which is false. As you noted, it’s 65k to 85k NEW people per year. Each of whom can bring a spouse who can also work. Plus there are OPT and student visas that are abused. The Indian media sources have it pegged at 150,000 new Indians a year into the United States, with virtually none leaving, across more than a decade.

      Reply
      • Ark-med

        Sixty-five thousand new H1B visas every year, plus extensions after 3 years for another 3y, with option to apply for perm residency. Spouses get H4B dependant visas — fresh H4B’s are _not_ permitted to work “off the boat”.

        These H4B spouses may (legally) apply for employment authorization if either:
        1.) ≥6 years have passed with H1B extensions for the sponsoring spouse who’s applied for a green card but has been waiting in the years-long queue, OR,
        2.) H1B sponsoring spouse, in ≤ 6 years, has passed a certain approval stage in the green card process (usu. takes 4+ years for most Indian & Chinese H1B’s due to green card “country quotas”).

        Reply
        • Sonny Stitt

          Anyone working in tech has run into many, many unqualified H1B workers. That said, Ark-Med is correct in that the impact is worse than Some think but better thank Jack is trying to establish. Spouses aren’t allowed to work for years and in fact most of the workers are single men. In short there is no reason to inflate the disadvantages of H1B with phantom spouses that double the worker count. The impact isn’t great but it also isn’t exactly what Jack is trying to claim.

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I think you’d be surprised if you were on the ground in, say, Columbus, Ohio.

            Each and every Subway restaurant within, say, ten miles of my house has been purchased by H1Bs and their relatives. So when you walk into a Subway now the entire workforce is Indian, and they are all related. That’s a net transfer of… twenty stores… fifteen employees each… three hundred jobs to the families of H1Bs. Sure, jobs at Subway aren’t great but they are jobs.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            H1B workers bringing in family members to work at family owned businesses is pretty much how many earlier immigrant families get established here in the United States. I’m not thrilled with the abuse of H1B but I’d rather have immigrants running legitimate businesses employing family members than immigrants collecting welfare or working off the books.

          • statick89

            Spouses of those on H1B and student visas can also enter into informal wage arrangements outside of family members, such as getting paid under the table (in grad school one of my friend’s spouses worked under the table at a convenience store) or taking on other informal work. You find this quite a bit in metro Boston. It’s a pretty good deal for shady employers – the increase in workforce reduces wages for others seeking unskilled work, and employers are able to take advantage of these informal workers due to fears of deportation.

  11. Dirty Dingus McGee

    This H1B1 visa stuff is nothing new, but has accelerated in the last 10-20 years. In the 80’s, I was working at GE, under the direction of “Neutron” Jack Welsh (so nicknamed due to decimating people, but leaving buildings standing). As early as 1987, there were many engineers brought in from India, Pakistan and to some extent Asia. When I declined to take a transfer in 1989 when the division I worked out of was being closed, I later found that my former position was given to a newly minted engineer from India. I had no specialized knowledge, just a regular ME degree. I’m certain there were hundreds of American’s that would have moved to western Mass, for the chance to work for GE, even though it was a pretty pricey area to live. I only stayed in the corporate world for a few more years, before I tired of seeing folks brought in due to their willingness to work for peanuts(and the company got what they paid for for the most part).

    Reply
  12. Birju

    Im curious to see if he will turn off the cheap labor tap. If the Indian government throws some carrots in his face such as a huge defense purchase or cooperation in helping contain China’s rise he may be persuaded to look the other way.

    Reply
  13. Ben Johnson

    I’ll tell you how bad some of the H1B head shops are in Seattle… for two of them, we do their internal IT work even though they work for Microsoft customers as a Microsoft Gold Partners doing custom work for clueless mid-tier firms that are trying to get Sharepoint not to suck.

    I love the H1B workers – they’re good people looking out for their families. They’re treated like slaves because if they get uppity, they get sent back on the boat.

    Reply
  14. stingray65

    Diversity is our strength.
    No one is illegal.
    Americans just won’t do those dirty IT jobs anymore.

    and if you don’t fully agree, you are a deplorable, greedy, racist.

    Reply
  15. Will

    For my Yale MBA application, they require video responses to questions and one of them was the positive affects of Globalization and how it affects the environment, security and health. I chose to basically say those are abstract and said how it actually can hurt local economies and jobs. I’ll get penalized for that.

    Reply

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