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E-Letter To The Philadelphia Inquirer and Bob Fernandez Re: "A Profitable Business: Tech-Worker Imports"

Your article, "A Profitable Business: Tech Worker Imports", better than any other that we have seen in some time, reveals how the world of the H-1B visa works. As your article demonstrates, there absolutely exists an "immigration/H-1B visa industry" that lends itself to abuse and the undermining of the resolution of America's unemployment crisis. And we have editorialized about how this problem uniquely affects the Black economy in "H-1B Visa and Black America's Immigration Dilemma"

Having lived in Central New Jersey for a period of time, I can tell you that the influx of individuals from South East Asia into that region, over the last 10 years, has been enormous and striking. Any one who lives in that part of New Jersey would have a difficult time buying the argument that the H-1B visa is needed to make up for America's shortage of high-tech workers. That is because many of us from that area know that the visas are not being used solely for people who are working in Silicon-Valley type firms.

As you wrote:

One reason for the Central Jersey concentration in H-1B visa holders is that old-line Northeast companies in finance, insurance and drugs have hired them. The second reason is Central Jersey's Indian business community, which has moved into body-shopping. Indian businessmen and businesswomen use contacts in their homeland to find candidates. They pay $3,000 to $6,000 to cover U.S. visa fees, to transport the visa holder to the United States, and to prepare the candidate for a job. That could include computer training.

Some body shops ask their H-1B workers to sign agreements saying they will stay with the company for a number of months, enabling the body shop to recoup its initial investment.

Federal lawmakers and businesses have portrayed H-1B workers as ready for high-tech employment when they arrive at the airport. But State Department officials found widespread fraud in one audit of H-1B applicants in the consular office in Chennai, India, which issues the most H-1B visas in the world. Applicants were claiming academic degrees they did not hold, the audit said.

The audit was limited in scope and quickly phased out for budgetary reasons, leading critics to charge that it revealed only a glimpse of a program riddled with applicants making false educational claims.

We have been distressed to see Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and others in America's corporate establishment speak in support of immigration as a solution for America's labor shortage. We especially find this to be problematic in light of the fact that Greenspan is largely responsible for a structural level of unemployment in America by slowing the economy down every time he hears that unemployment is decreasing.

There is such a better argument, we think, for doing what is necessary to dilligently seek qualified Americans in this country, or to educate and retrain US workers, in order to fill these jobs, as opposed to looking to foreign shores in order to hire new employees.

And thanks to your article, we can see how the program does not work as advertised. That is not to say that on the margin there are not firms who honestly use the H-1B visa to address emergency labor shortages. Of course many firms use the program properly and according to its original purpose.

However, the program, year after year, is sold in the United States Congress as a remedy for a short-term problem. But the short-term problem is beginning to look like it has grown into a long-term special interest subsidy as no firm steps have been taken by Corporate America or the US government to ensure that Americans are educated, retrained and sought after in order to address this country's alleged labor shortage.

In addition, we believe that the H-1B visa represents the continuation of America's tradition of preferring immigrants from some parts of the world while rejecting immigrants from other parts. We are disappointed to see how the US government's unjust immigration and naturalization policies are biased against those who come from the Western Hemisphere, particularly those from Haiti and Central America.

Instead of addressing a long-term need of the US economy some of us know that the H-1B visa is being used to subsidize immigration to America and the employment of citizens from other countries - filling jobs that could be filled by qualified or potentially qualified individuals who live in this country.

Hopefully US lawmakers will admit that this is the case and do something about it.

After all, charity and at least the opportunity to fill a job, should begin at home.


Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

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