U.S. tech companies need to import “top tier talent” so they can beat China’s aggressive companies, says a bait-and-switch message from ex-Google chief Eric Schmidt to the White House.
“The ability to attract and retain top-tier talent from around the world is the backbone of a trifecta where the best talent comes to the U.S., to work at the best institutions on the most cutting-edge intellectual property,” Schmidt said an op-ed for Barron’s magazine. “Our nation’s own National Security Strategy says it best: ‘The United States must continue to attract the innovative and the inventive, the brilliant and the bold.'”
But Schmidt used this “top tier” pitch as cover for his demand Presidnet Donald Trump allow many Fortune 500 companies and investors to import blocs of compliant labor via the white collar, visa worker pipelines.
“It is a typical bait and switch,” said John Miano, at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
For example, the 600,000 resident H-1B visa workers are portrayed by business groups and the establishment media as “high-skill workers,” he said, “But “they aren’t skilled workers [because] the purpose of the H-1B program is to replace ordinary American graduates — and it does that very well.”
The imported blocs of compliant and cheap college-graduate labor allow CEOs and their foreign-born managers to sideline the millions of American graduates who will argue with their bosses, take time off for their families, demand higher pay, and quit to create new companies.
Schmidt’s June op-ed was posted shortly after President Trump announced June 22 that he would shrink the inflow of H-1B visa workers so young American professionals can get a wide variety of entry-level tech-jobs.
For example, Schmidt’s rhetoric about the “top tier” migrants ignores the public data about the skill level of the resident population of visa workers.
That population includes at least 600,000 H-1Bs plus roughly 500,000 foreign workers who get work permits each year via universities and the government’s Optional Practical Training (CPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) pipelines.
The H-1B data shows the vast majority of imported workers are inexperienced graduates from low-quality Indian universities. These workers are not imported for cutting-edge research. They are hired by Fortune 500 companies to displace America’s outspoken and innovative professionals.
For example, in New York, 65 percent of the H-1Bs requests in 2017 were for recent graduates with Level I or Level II experience, according to federal data presented by SAITJ.org. Just six percent were for workers in the Level IV, or “fully competent” category. The 17 percent of workers without skill descriptions were to be paid just the Level II workers.
Even in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park, 51 percent of the H-1B requests in 2017 were for recent graduates with Level I or Level II experience, according to the 2017 federal data presented by SAITJ.org. Twenty-four percent of the visas were sought for experience Level III workers, and only 10 percent were sought for expert Level IV workers. The remaining 33 percent of unspecified H-1B workers were promised wages somewhere between Level III and Level IV skills.
Similarly, the low skill visa workers get the vast majority of the green cards that are sponsored by employers. The data at MyVisaJobs shows 67,512 requests for Level 1 visa-workers in 2019, but only 17,598 for Level IV visa-workers.
Similarly, the federal government provides work permits to roughly 500,000 foreign workers who are enrolled in U.S. colleges or have just graduated. Some of these OPT or CPT work permits go to Ph.D. graduates trying to get jobs in the United States. But the vast majority goes to people who have enrolled in or just graduated from masters’ degree courses in lower-tier colleges. For example, OPTnation.com describes itself as “Best OPT Jobs Portal for F1 International Students in USA,” and recently posted ads seeking an accountant in Maine and a “software engineer associate” in Austin, Texas.
The skill levels of OPT graduates are deliberately hidden by government agencies, says Miano. “There has been deliberate hiding of that information … We have no measure of [visa workers’] skills,” he said.
This huge number of visa workers also hides a growing population of illegal foreign graduates who use fraudulent documents and skill certificates to compete for gig work by subcontractors for cooperating Fortune 500 companies. The illegal population also includes people who overstay their work or student visas, or who work illegally while using a multiyear B-1/B2 visa which allows them to get in and out of the United States.
Other data shows that millions of American graduates earn technology or science degrees — and never get the chance to use those skills. “The nation graduates more than two times as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields,” concluded Hal Salzman, a public policy professor at Rutgers University.
Schmidt makes token concessions to the data that shows harm to Americans: “It’s fair to point out that some visa programs could be abused by companies seeking to exploit the system. The solution is to fix the system vulnerabilities, not stop the economic growth it fuels.”
But Schmidt’s primary response to the data was his rejection of any curbs on lower-skilled white-collar migration. He wrote:
immigration and diversity are not just issues about political convictions; from a purely pragmatic perspective, they are also economic, industrial, and foreign policy because they support our core competitive advantage in technology. Multiculturalism is a powerful core competency for our country, and we should be doing everything we can to reinforce it.
In this case, Schmidt’s “diversity … [and] multiculturalism” package imports large numbers of white-collar migrants who compete for a wide variety of college jobs, including the starter jobs needed by new U.S. graduates — and by underemployed Antifa protestors.
The painful impact of “diversity … [and] multiculturalism” on the nation is seen in growing political turmoil, deepening civic disagreement, the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and the spreading riots and destruction triggered by the police death of George Floyd.
Many corporations have rhetorically backed the protests — but are refusing to change their preference for foreign tech workers over Americans.
Polls show this corporate hiring policy is very unpopular. Many polls show that Americans want to welcome immigrants, but strongly oppose the award of jobs to migrants while Americans are unemployed.
In response, Trump decided June 22 to temporarily block some visa pipelines and to reform the H-1B program. The H-1B reform would allow companies to import “top tier” talent while barring companies from importing workers for the starter jobs needed by U.S. graduates. The reform will be blocked by business groups if Trump loses the reelection campaign.
Trump’s modest reform does not interfere with the J-1 visa inflow of the Chinese professionals who do play an outsized role in tech companies and the U.S. laboratories. These Chinese lab-workers are typically labeled as “students” to downplay their role as a cheap-labor substitute for skilled American graduates.
In mid-June, Schmidt told DefenseOne.com:
One of the things that we looked at was the role of Chinese students in American research. And for those of you who are shocked by this, I’m sorry but I’ll tell you the truth, that many of the top graduate students are foreign-born and typically Chinese. That’s partly because the really, really smart Chinese researchers would prefer to be here. They love America! And they love the freedoms…they want academic freedom.
But the foreign labor strategy touted by Schmidt is not working, according to Schmidt’s February op-ed in the New York Times.
Even with their existing huge inflow of visa-workers, Silicon Valley CEOs are losing their fundamental competition against Chinese companies, Schmidtt wrote:
Important trends are not in our favor. America’s lead in artificial intelligence, for example, is precarious. A.I. will open new frontiers in everything from biotechnology to banking, and it is also a Defense Department priority. Leading the world in A.I. is essential to growing our economy and protecting our security. A recent study considering more than 100 metrics finds that the United States is well ahead of China today but will fall behind in five to 10 years. China also has almost twice as many supercomputers and about 15 times as many deployed 5G base stations as the United States. If current trends continue, China’s overall investments in research and development are expected to surpass those of the United States within 10 years, around the same time its economy is projected to become larger than ours.
The fix is to double down on the existing failed foreign labor polices, according to Schmidt:
We should undertake major efforts to train up-and-coming scientists and engineers, and attract more global technology experts to the United States. A majority of computer scientists with graduate degrees working in America were born abroad, as were most current graduate students studying computer science in U.S. universities. They are a source of national strength. A vast majority want to stay and contribute to American innovation. We must make it easier for them to do so. There is no need to wait for comprehensive immigration reform: We can change the immigration process for highly skilled people now to reduce the red tape, backlogs and uncertainty that threaten to drive tech talent to other countries — including to our strategic competitors.
Schmidt’s role is complicated by his conflicting interests.
He touts his past leadership role in the technology sector — he is a former CEO of Google — to present himself as an expert on economic policy.
But he is also an investor who gains stock market wealth when immigrants boost consumption and shrink wages. For example, he is a paid up member of FWD.us, a D.C. advocacy group of wealthy West Coast investors who champion a cheap-labor economic strategy.
The reforms would force U.S. companies to recruit more U.S. professionals at higher wages. The higher wages would reduce profits and stock market values — and so help restore the lost wealth of the U.S. middle-class. The policy would also allow U.S. graduates to regain management positions and control of U.S.-based companies, including Google, which is now run by an Indian-born, former H-1B worker.
Moreover, Trump’s reforms will boost the workplace clout of U.S professionals, so helping them to get jobs and the experience they need to form their own companies — including companies that may sap value from Google, Microsoft, Apple, and other top-ranked firms.
Trump’s new incentives will encourage more Americans to get technology degrees, further decentralizing the power held by U.S. tech CEOs. In turn, those professionals will put more pressure on U.S. executives to develop innovative and higher-quality products instead of delivering immediate shareholder profits.
This is far more important than DACA:
Veritas shows Facebook has an HR memo discriminating against the golden children of America's professional class, b/c the VPs prefer #H1Bs.
I doubt professionals will let the tech-CEOs discard their sons & daughters.https://t.co/z2LMKTJgc9
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) June 18, 2020