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calendar   Wednesday - May 31, 2006

More Senate Silliness

I’ve already made note here in other posts what a dastardly deed the Senate is up to with their version of an immigration bill. Padded with all kinds of fine print and trashy amendments, it is just getting worse and worse. If you look at the roll call votes, it’s the Democrats who are padding the bill and voting for all the “extra” clauses but quite a few Republicans are betraying us too.

It has just come to my attention that one of the carefully hidden amendments in the Senate bill strikes at my field. Things have already gotten to the point where in most IT shops you can’t walk to the bathroom without passing cubicle after cubicle of Chinese or Indian workers, most of them on H-1B visas. Break rooms at lunchtime are a veritable Tower of Babel with Chinese dialects and Indian dialects filling the air. Most of them speak English very poorly because they have only been in the country a short time and don’t plan on staying.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of them are very good people, highly intelligent and well-educated. The problem I have is that I know a large portion of them are seriously underpaid, as the article below states. I talked to some of the Java programmers in a shop I recently worked in and found out that they were making about 1/3 of the typical wage that American programmers make - and they were sharing five of them in an apartment to make ends meet.

I also know quite a few American programmers who are out of work and looking for a job. My advice to all of them lately has been ... get hired by a Department Of Defense contractor like Lockheed, SAIC, CACI, Unisys, Northrup-Grumann or any of several contractors who provide IT services to the DoD. Most of those jobs require a Secret clearance at a minimum which rules out foreign citizens and H-1B’s.

The reason for all this is simple ... greed and cheap software for consumers. Companies like Microsoft hire the cheap labor and then sell you Windows XP for $200 - and the bloody software is full of bugs and security flaws - not to mention hundreds of “undocumented features” as we call them. So they go to Washington and lobby the Senate, contribute big bucks to campaigns and the Senators comply with crap like this amendment to the Immigration Bill. As for the rest of us ... all we can do is bend over and grab our ankles ...

Senate Immigration Bill Raises H-1B Limit
Annual cap would increase from 65,000 to 115,000
May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON (COMPUTERWORLD-IDG News Service)

Flying mostly under the radar in a controversial immigration reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate last week was a provision that would raise the cap on the number of high-skilled foreign workers allowed into the U.S. Some technology companies praised the wide-ranging immigration bill, which passed the Senate Thursday, because it would raise the cap on the hotly debated H-1B program, often used by U.S. technology companies to hire foreign IT workers. The bill would increase the annual H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000, but many Republicans in the House of Representatives have criticized other provisions in the bill, saying it’s too soft on illegal immigration.

In passing the bill, the Senate took a “critical step forward in its important work to ensure that our nation remains the global leader in technology innovation,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.’s chairman and chief software architect, in a statement. Gates and other technology leaders have called for a higher cap on H-1B visas, saying many companies cannot find enough U.S. workers with specialized tech skills. The number of applications for H-1Bs for the federal government’s fiscal year 2006 hit the cap in August 2005, a month and a half before the fiscal year began.

But a group representing U.S. IT workers questioned the need for more H-1B visas. The program is full of abuses, with many companies not paying the required prevailing wage for H-1B workers, said Ron Hira, vice president for career activities at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA (IEEE-USA). “The program is basically broken and can be easily manipulated,” Hira said. “Until it’s fixed, it makes no sense to increase the cap.”

In 2005, the U.S Office of Management and Budget said the H-1B program is “vulnerable to fraud and abuse” because the U.S. Department of Labor has limited means to check the wages paid to H-1B workers, Hira noted. IEEE-USA has also said out-of-work U.S. IT workers should get the first shot at vacant tech jobs at U.S. companies.

But the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade group for technology vendors, praised the Senate for including the H-1B provisions in the larger immigration bill. The bill, which would allow illegal immigrants a way to gain U.S citizenship or legal status, is opposed by many Republican lawmakers, and its future is uncertain. Although the bill passed 62-36 in the Senate, a majority of the chamber’s Republicans opposed it.

The H-1B provisions could be a “bridge to compromise,” said Ralph Hellman, ITI’s senior vice president for government relations. Many Republicans support the H-1B increases, and those provisions could be part of a compromise package, he said. Hellman dismissed arguments that an H-1B increase isn’t needed. Opponents of the cap increase “don’t have a very strong standing in Congress,” he said. “Quite frankly, we don’t think they have the facts correct.”


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 05/31/2006 at 04:33 PM   
Filed Under: • Illegal-Aliens and ImmigrationPolitics •  
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