Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
H-1B Visa: de Geus’ tragedy looms large
April 20th, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena
More fundamentally, why are there H-1B visas in the first place? Are there indeed too few American nationals with the training needed to push Silicon Valley’s tech agenda forward? And if those numbers are insufficient, why can’t the talent pool be augmented with off-shore workers laboring away in distant climes?
After all, distributed teams and remote computing have been a way-of-life for several decades here in the Digital Age. Remember all of the crowing at the dawn of the Era of the Distributed Team: Development would go on non-stop, 24×7. Wherever the sun is shining, designers are designing, was the received wisdom when it comes to global teams – and it continues to be.
So, why is it so important to bring people into the U.S. when they can work elsewhere, in their own locale – their efforts melded into the corporate whole via VPNs and/or crafty IT interventions that knit the project together seamlessly. All of that enhanced even further with the advent of The Cloud that Computes.
Of course, all glibness aside, this is not what the newly issued H-1B Executive Order is about. Looking beyond the political histrionics of the issue, the evidence clearly indicates there have been abuses in the system.
Stated in its simplest form: American workers working in high-tech in America are expected to deliver a good day’s work for a good day’s pay; abused H-1B foreign nationals working in high-tech in America are also expected to deliver a good day’s work, but ofttimes for far-less-than-a-good-day’s pay.
And since their permission to work here in the U.S. is granted through a visa linked to a particular employer, those foreign nationals do not have the freedom to bargain between employers for better pay or perks, or even conditions.
If they quit in protest of low pay or indentured-servant-like working conditions, they have to leave the country because the H-1B visa that allowed them to work for the one employer does not allow them to jump ship and work for another.
The Executive Order launching the review will surely trigger investigations of such abuse, although a lot of investigation has already taken place. [See below]
But, we’ve still not answered the fundamental question: Why H-1B visas at all? Are there too few American nationals with the training needed to push Silicon Valley’s tech agenda forward?
A discussion of the H-1B visa program in Wikipedia reads this way:
Perhaps it’s an examination of this more fundamental question that this week’s Executive Order will trigger.
It’s not the abused H-1B worker that’s the concern, it’s the need for H-1B workers in the first place. It’s the abused American worker that’s the concern.
Is Aart de Geus’ “tragedy” about a shortage of skilled workers should the H-1B program be curtailed?
Or is it about the impact on the bottom line for any high-tech organization that must hire appropriately skilled American nationals who arrive each day with the annoyingly legal wherewithal to exchange a good day’s work for a good day’s pay – and are willing and able to jump ship if they don’t get it.
Leaving the door open just enough for an H-1B employee to get the job.
This whole conversation takes on a special flavor in light of the specific skill-set needed to develop EDA tools. It would be a great to see the ESD Alliance host an evening panel addressing this issue:
What are the specific skills needed for EDA tools developers and are universities in the U.S. turning out the type of graduate that can offer those skills to a potential EDA employer?
Also from Wikipedia …