Isn't It Better To Keep Smart Foreign Workers In The US Than Sending Them Home To Compete?

from the just-wondering dept

It’s amazing how short-sighted some people can be on the immigration question. Rep. Zoe Lofgren has a wonderful idea, suggesting that we make it much easier for skilled foreign workers to establish residency if they get a job in the US. It’s difficult to see why anyone would oppose this. Keeping those workers in the US, working for US companies, means that they’re contributing to the American economy. Sending them home only lets them compete against us, potentially harming the American economy. The argument most often brought up against such proposals, that it hurts American jobs, is easily shown to be false. It’s based on the incorrect assumption that jobs are a zero-sum game, and if a foreign-born worker takes a job, it means one fewer job for an American-born worker. Yet, if that foreign worker goes back to his home country and works for a company that takes down an American company, then we have a lot fewer jobs in the US, due to that worker going home. At the same time, if that foreign-born worker stays here, and while working for an American company, helps build up an industry, it will create many new jobs for both foreign and American-born workers.

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Comments on “Isn't It Better To Keep Smart Foreign Workers In The US Than Sending Them Home To Compete?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I agree, but with the world situation now, it may in fact become very difficult to get those good workers to actually stay. More and more of them are going back to their homeland because they want to and technology makes it possible for them to do so.

Also, as their country improves, it makes it that much more attractive for them to go home.

It really is a zero sum game, and if they leave, we will be on the losing side.

Michael Sherrin (profile) says:

Keep is simple smarty

I have a friend going back to school just to avoid getting deported. No company will sponsor her to stay because of the work it takes – they have to put an ad in the paper for the job proving no American could do the job. But this is taken several steps farther with the limited visas preventing people like in the tech sector who are desperately needed to fill jobs because there aren’t enough Americans to do them. It’s just another way we loose our competitive edge. Though being a web developer, it’s nice to be in such demand, but it also means the majority of any start-up’s focus is on recruiting and that’s wasted time.

Iron Chef says:

Zero Sum Game (#1)

Some time ago, I commented on this, and some other peculariarities of the H1B Visa program. I would think it makes sense to offer these folks and their immediate family, who are documented, and here legally, a path to citezenship that is easier than others.

I agree with Anon above. As it stands today, I believe the H1B Visa Program doesn’t properly facilitate conversion to citizenship, nor does it properly capture the skillsets which they are here performing or use that information to grow our the US economy.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

The US Immigration policy is broken...

On one hand, you have congressmen trying to “forgive” 12-20 million people who snuck into the country (a Federal Felony). These politicians salivate and pander to a potentially huge new voting block of under-priviledged (well you will think under-priviledged once the politicians get thru with their speeches).

On the other hand, anyone fool enough to prostrate themselves to the bureaucratic maze and marathon required to actually become a legal citizen of the US, it is too painful, too painful.

Any other country that suffered this same fate would have declared this an invasion.
France into Austria, Germany into Poland, Japan into China; any other time in history when a huge group moved into a foriegn land, it was called an Invasion.

I can write no more for I am too upset.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: The US Immigration policy is broken...

I don’t recall the natives inviting the Spaniards, French or the English to the North American continent. They just kind of sneaked onto the continent.

France into Austria, Germany into Poland, Japan into China; any other time in history when a huge group moved into a foriegn land, it was called an Invasion.

Except that invasions usually require some form of military support. I don’t see the Mexican government sending in troops into the US.

your retarded says:

Re: Re: The US Immigration seriously?

Why the f*** do you think Mexico is doing to stop the immigration of unskilled drug smuggling people that cross our borders hourly? I would bet that 60% of the money that illegals make in this country gets spent in the mexican economy. Hell, i’d bet that if we DID stop fence jumpers, we could potentially buy Mexico for pennies within 10 years.

Invasions, in the context of

“France into Austria, Germany into Poland, Japan into China; “

ARE in fact military invasions. but this is an economical invasion. what’s not to get about that?

Oh, and I’m not racist. I am predjudiced against anyone making MY country worse. Period!!!

Ferruccio Fortini (profile) says:

Re: The US Immigration policy is broken...

“France into Austria”…? The “latest” clash between these two powers was in 1859 in the War of Italian Independence. Austria had been occupying much of Northern Italy for generations; France intervened in alliance with those Northern Italians who had remained independent (Piedmont, essentially), defeated Austria, freed most of the Austrian-ruled lands, and allowed the formation of the Kingdom of Italy (the reigning family of the latter ceded Savoy, their ancestral lands, and Nice, to France as part of the bargain). Never heard THAT “called an invasion” (though I admit that, due to my ancestry, I’m more familiar with the Italian and French viewpoints on this, than with the Austrian one).

I’ve also not heard US sources call the conquests of Texas, California &c “an invasion” (though I do suspect the Mexicans, who used to own these lands, and the Native Americans, who owned them earlier, might well do so). Anyway, these were more-or-less organized movements based essentially on force of arms — the latter aspect is key to defining “an invasion” (nobody’s ever called the movement of huge groups of Africans into the Americas “an invasion”, as the Africans arrived unarmed and in fact under duress, while “invasion” means the incoming people fight to occupy lands against the previous occupiers).

I'm Not Impressed says:

Working in a software development department where half the developers are foreign workers; I constantly see very capable American’s, who would do very well in the position not given the chance; where they have the general skills for the position they might not have that exact specific one and they are overlooked. If the foreign workers did a bang up job at their projects I might otherwise have another opinion but I see them constantly falling short of certainly my expectations. And why my company continues to use and hire them is really beyond me. Obviously upper management has trouble gauging their effectiveness. Eventually I imagine a fair number of them will return home, versed in American business culture, US contacts and even more equipped to compete against American workers.

Anonymous of Course says:

Skilled worker shortage? That's not the point.

Sorry, in the majority of engineering fields
there is no shortage of skilled workers.
I thought Vivek Wadhwa pretty much killed
that myth.

This is one of the BS excuses that is rolled
out when justifying off-shoring. The fact is
that many H1B workers will work for less money.

That said, I think the US makes a huge mistake
in not granting H1B visa holders preference.
They are a valuable resource. I’ve worked with
engineers from Taiwan, Poland, France, China,
Tunisia, Jordan… and the majority of them
would be an asset to any company. Yet many
are forced to leave the US. It’s a foolish

Since I’m one of the people that would be in
competition with them you might wonder why I’m
not pleased that they’re forced to leave?

If the policy was biased towards letting them
stay, they would not be as likely to accept
work for lower pay. Also those that stay are
responsible for more start-up companies, like
the company where I’m currently employed.

Disgruntled American says:

You obviously

have never worked for a large company before. Most corporations these days are cutting staff and pushing more work out of their employees. In the manufacturing industry alone, most larger corporations are moving to “lean manufacturing” which is pretty self explainatory.

Competition is a good thing! Send them back to their countries to compete. This will bring the work ethic in this country to a higher level, and if it doesn’t, we deserve what we get. Let’s stop relying on other people to make us rich and let’s all get a little dirty.

But let’s put a Dem. in office and socialize everything…i guess that’s another discussion though.

Patrick says:


Poor Abu, Poor Sanji, Poor Chung Ho, gotta actually follow the rules….BS.

I don’t mind anyone wanting to better themselves but if you allow this rampant immigration its going to be “Poor Bob, Poor Alice and Poor USA.” This country is changing into Mexico North……engineering salaries are becoming so low that I can make more money mowing lawns…no wait I can’t do that either because Poor Paco is doing that….make companies responsible for hiring only U.S. citizens or legal foreign workers.
USA first and always.

WaitASecond says:

You are missing two points here

There are a couple of things you are missing here:

First off, a lot of that money will be going out of the country to wherever the family is. A lot of it will not stay in the US economy.

Secondly, just because the person has skills and takes them out of the country does NOT mean that the foreign company can effectively compete with the US.

Many companies that have outsourced work to India for example end up bringing the work back home because of the lack of legal accountability, lower quality of service, resentment of US customers to dealing with “foreigners” and having jobs shipped overseas etc.

And yes, those jobs do go away and yes it is a zero sum. Being a zero sum calculation is why the government reports the addition or elimination of jobs in the workplace and why the unemployed workers are counted when assessing the state of the economy.

You can argue all you want that “it is not a zero sum” but try and tell that to the families on unemployment facing forclosure of their homes because their job went overseas.

However there is one thing that expediting citizenship would help eliminate: treating H1B workers as indentured servants at substandard pay. If the foreign worker gets citizenship then the companies cannot hold their green card over their head and force them to accept substandard pay and benefits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You are missing two points here

“If the foreign worker gets citizenship then the companies cannot hold their green card over their head and force them to accept substandard pay and benefits.”

That’s the key issue. There isn’t really a shortage of American’s with the required skills but rather a shortage of companies willing to pay the prevailing wage for those skills. Companies have a ready, steady supply of cheaper labor they can exploit by holding the green card hostage.

Depressed Developer says:

Right and Wrong

Our immigration policy is broken. We keep out good, useful people from first world nations who would contribute and make our country strong.

At the same time, we allow in useless people (via the H1B program). In my field (programming, sysadmins, dbas), these people are not the best and brightest–but they are cheap. (As with any blanket statement, there have been a couple of notable exceptions.) Most managers can’t tell a good developer (or other high tech worker) from a bad, but they can tell cheap from not so cheap.

So you end up with lots of people doing 60-80 hours a week to actually generate 20 hours of useful work. What American programmer wants to work those hours or in that environment for pennies–especially when he is the one called on at 3am to fix the systems broken by the others?

Heck, my company stopped interviewing Americans 18 months ago. The H1Bs they hired mostly sit there surfing the net or get sent to training, since they can’t do any of the work.

There is no shortage of good programmers–there is a shortage of good programmers willing for work silly hours and be on call 24/7/366 (leap year) for pennies.

If you think I sound bad, you should talk to the French medical researcher I dated who will have spent thousands of dollars and years getting her green card.

Triatomic Tortoise says:

Re: Right and Wrong

You are blindfolded by your western prejudice. I deal with a lot of people – developers, managers, their managers, and can tell you are dead wrong! It is a mixed talent world. I don’t know which “first world” nation you came from (that country should ashamed to produce such prejudice), but it is level playing field.

Depressed Develoepr says:

Re: Re: Right and Wrong

I’m not blinded–I did say there were several notable exceptions. I’m simply reporting what I’ve seen and experienced. It sounds like you are blinded–automatically screaming racist or prejudice rather than thinking.

I’ve worked with plenty of really good foreign high tech workers when I lived in Asia. My theory is that the good foreign high tech workers (much like the good domestic high tech workers or the guy down below who is going back to Europe) don’t want to be treated like garbage here in the States.

Depressed Developer says:

Re: Re: Right and Wrong

Again, true and false. I’ve seen the same pattern at a lot of companies over the last 20 years. I used to be a consultant so I went to a lot of places in a lot of industries. That’s also the reason I’ve got resumes out. :p

At the same time, if H1B visas didn’t allow the companies to treat the visa holders like slaves by exempting them from most labor laws and pay them substandard wages, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Again, the good people don’t want to come over on an H1B, because, at least in the high tech field, they know how they’ll be treated. The ex I referred to said in the medical research field it is much better as the H1B visa is generally only used because it is the only way to get the people over here. (That is, unlike my current company, the research labs use it to bring over good people and treat them better than the law requires.)

And remember, at the same time, we are keeping out and making ineligible people who are good but want to be treated better.

Jman594 says:

I agree "engineering"

I think that hiring immigrants should be US companies’ last resort when all efforts of finding US workers have been exausted. Offering positions to aleins first drive down wages for those who have spent the time and money in US educational institutions (which is a hell of a lot of time and money).

It’s a bit circular in that no-one would want to spend the time and money to become educated just to make $30,000/yr. If we made it mandatory (and enforced) that companies had to hire US citizens ahead of aliens (with comparitive skill set), then we could all enjoy those benifits.

Now, I understand that some may think that this is short sighted in terms of overseas competition, but competition from other markets should dictate wages, not competition from an employee base.

Why do you think that everyone is so upset with Mexican immigration. It’s because they dilute the workforce which drives down wages. Because they will do work for far less than ANY American would.

International Man of Leisure says:

I am...

A “skilled” foreign worker who has been in the US for 15 years and has a green card. Know what? I’m leaving. US companies are treating their workers (domestic or foreign) like cattle these days and expect you to be grateful to have a job at all and happy to work 60hr weeks.

I’m moving back to Europe next month where I can do a nice 37 hour week without being considered a slacker and companies are grateful to *me* for wanting to work there and contribute.

Oh, and I can have a beer with my lunch without getting fired. 🙂

Good luck to those trying to make ends meet in the US economy. I think you may need it.

kamm says:

Re: Re: I am...

Most of the EU countries/cities (except London, of course), Jman594 and here’s your link for today:
For more specific offerings the big guns (e.g. Monsters) also have contry or city-based filtering. Ah and there’s no extra hours in most places, you only work 8 hours and no more.

I agree with International Man of Leisure and after a decade here I am also planning to move back to Europe in a year or two. It makes no sense to stay here anymore where you might pay lower sales tax but fairly similar income tax but associated living costs are simply ridiculous while the service you get is mediocre at best (healthcare, telecommunication etc) plus there’s the obvious sour mood in everyday life, thanks to 8 years rule of a former alcoholist slacker and his corporate buddies.
Did I mention what a pain in the butt to get a GC?
Ahh and did I mention I can make actually MORE MONEY IN EUROPE? Yes, more and enjoy the world’s first 10 best healthcare services instead of the 19th one and it’ll be covered by my taxes…?
Ahh and ELEMENTARY and HIGH SCHOOL education will be FAR SUPERIOR FOR MY KIDS over there. For free, mind you.

The other day I was having a drink with someone who recently moved here from a European capital and he said his taxes are the same except he has to spend more to maintain his living standards – he’s region vp of a giant multi – and while he likes NYC he ends up with less money after all and he won’t stay for long if it remains like this (he;s still adjusting.)

Seriously, this country looked a lot better when I came here a decade ago. Now it’s more pigheaded than ever, corporate policies took over every segment of the American life, people groan and moan while their ‘competetive, educated American students’ are actually lazy, arrogant sucker losers who are completely useless when they fall out of some never-heard “college” with some grossly overpaid worthless paper in their pocket. Paying so much for these BS schools is not their fault, it’s the corporate America’s setup but not utilizing their brain is their fault, yes.
This myth of ‘Americans are the best’ is a killer one: not only rural rednecks believe in this BS but also urban kids and the end result is all around us: most people around me – media company – are shockingly uneducated about anything outside of their daily scope. They are CLUELESS, have no chance against a well-educated European competitor if he comes here with decent level of spoken English. It’s funny because I can remember when it was vica versa: Europeans were more rigid and Americans were considered as much more flexible and creative workforce – not anymore. It’s not that Americans became fat and lazy – it’s that now they are stupid. They’ve been force-fed with this image of American superiority

I liked it here but something has changed. I’ve changed too, of course but USA did a lot too and not for the better, that’s for sure. It’s just opinion, one experience but I know at least 4-5 other couples – half of them are already GC holders – who will be moving to Europe within next 2-3 years.
Face it: America needs a major overhaul. Not because Europe is so much better – it is not – but to get back on track, to revive the creative spirit and most importantly to attrack educated people, not only potato-pickers. Uneducated population is good for Corporate America but eventually kills a country – hey, have you ever wondered how is it that wealth has doubled in America but it somehow stucked in the pocket of the super-rich, the highest 2% of America, that first time in your modern history it did not get redistributed…?
If so then get ready, it gets worse – if not, time to think about it, I think.

angry dude says:

Mikey strikes out again, as usual...

There is no f****** shortage of qualified workers in US, including MS and PH.D holders
The “shortage” myth is being propagated by the large tech corporations (and their little paid stooges like Mike Masnick) to raise the quota for H1B visas to bring in more and more cheap slaves from overseas…

In fact, many fresh CS and EE graduates from top US universities are having VERY diffucult time finding jobs, after accumulating more tnah 50-100K in student loans..
Not a good deal at all
This situation forces young americans out of science and tech and makes them pursue more traditional and lucrative careers like medicine and law..
Soon US will lose its technological advantage and become a third-world nation…

Then there won’t be any need for this shitty blog

Unemployed IT worker says:

What Happened to Supply and Demand?

My biggest issue working in a capitalist economy is that the bosses want their cake and to eat it too. If there is a shortage of workers, wages should go up, until there is balance between supply and demand. The problem we have at the moment is that the lack of supply is not forcing wages up and thereby attracting more people in to IT. Instead, lower paid resources are brought in from elsewhere to artificially reduce demand. This has the effect of keeping experienced, skilled workers (read more expensive) from getting the wages they should be getting, and impacting middle class Americans, by skewing the wages bell curve to the lower end of the scale.
The issue about these resources competing against us is specious. India creates far more IT workers than it can actually use internally. They already have all the IT workers they need to compete against us. Instead, the over-supply allows Indian companies (and their US collaborators) to import cheap labor. In addition, many of the IT workers here work for companies producing things that are not easily replicated elsewhere.
My biggest concern with all of the outsourcing is that it only produces a short-term improvement in cash flow. Once companies have to pay the Chinese (say) to fix the problems created by Indian workers (based on misunderstood requirements and contextual issues), the true cost of this “short-termism” will be become more apparent.

Moderate American (profile) says:

Racism has always been America's greatest disease

Ahh, and this is why the Bigots will lose in the end… Fear mongering and ignorance.

I happen to have a cousin who’s an engineer living in Japan… has been for many years. They’re a tough bunch, but aren’t afraid to pay for great employees. Ultimately this is why America’s economy sucks. We don’t fix the problem when our corporations send our jobs to other countries, but we bitch and moan when they hire a limited number of the best people from those countries. What morons we are.

It works MUCH better when WE hire from their best, and bring them here to pay our taxes and benefit OUR economy… the trivial amounts they send home… so what. We benefit more in the end. What we should REALLY crack down on is American companies that create entire service/manufactoring divisions in foreign countries to save a buck at the expense of THEIR supposed country!

We’re so freaking hypocritical its sickening. The get mad when farmers hire Mexican immigrants to come to this country and work for lower wages… supposedly they’re taking the lowest paying jobs away from Americans… that apparently don’t want them anyway… but who’s thinking about that…

But much of our economic woes are a direct results of the mass migration of higher paying tech/manufacturing jobs that American companies have been smuggling out of the country for the last 10 years. Oh, but at least the foreigners stayed in their own country…

dorpus says:

What if they don't want to stay anyway?

Every European I’ve ever met hated living here and constantly whined about how things are “better” back home. Indians are furious at the American practice of keeping pets or eating meat, Chinese want their right to yell in Chinese and smoke all the time. What good does it do anyone to have unhappy foreigners here?

Getefix (user link) says:


I’m an American programmer who was forced out of the country to look for work because of the import of all the cheap foreign programmers. I have a friend who works at M$ who says he loves importing programmers from former communist countries because you can basically beat them over the head and they won’t complain. After several dozen job interviews in the States I scraped bottom and sought employment at an Evangelical Christian college. Things were going great until they asked me where I was on my personal path to salvation and I couldn’t lie. So here I am working in Iceland. I don’t plan on returning to the country that sold off my future for pennies. Plus this place is packed to the rafters with hotties!

Peter says:

Re: Exile

I’m a programmer, and I’m dismayed by the dismal salary increases in my field. I make a pretty good living, but my company is letting more and more American born programmers go and replacing them with imported programmers who work for an astonishingly small amount of money. It’s utterly depressing.

I’ve been thinking of moving away from the USA — I can’t seem to escape from companies who want to replace workers for cheaper labor. On one hand, I don’t blame them. On the other hand, I do want to make a living.

Short sighted, smug, dumb assholes like Mike Masnick who are clearly shills for corporate America just prove the point. I’m sure Mike Masnick would be a great manager, cow-towing to upper management’s wishes to reduce salary costs.

I’ve been thinking of moving to Europe. Screw this country. It can’t even decide if evolution is a science or not. I want no part of it.

If you read this, how did you find your European job?

Pro says:

Dirt Floors

As many people have pointed out, many foriegners are willing to come here and work for a lot less – mostly because they are very content to get whatever they’re given. This drives technology salaries DOWN. People look at me like I’m an idiot for being in a tech field, which is funny because I used to be a genius. Now the smart people are in public service or peddling some sort of service or product. How can you compete financially with a fireman? – who goes and spends 3 nights at the station, gets a salary, the best health insurance, builds a PENSION – then comes home and runs a business like landscaping, where you earn the power to create all kinds of tax loopholes.

Bottom line is, go ahead and cheapen technology – but then don’t go and cry about how american kids aren’t going into math and science related fields. Why would they? You’d have to be an idiot.

jonnyq says:

Thesis sentence

“It’s amazing how short-sighted some people can be on the immigration question.”

I agree with the entire post, except that I don’t know where this sentence came from.

Do you have an example of people being short-sighted on “the immigration question”?

Our real problem I know of with immigrant workers is illegal immigrants. I could care less what legal immigrants are doing. Illegal immigrants will take jobs without paying taxes and sometimes not even being paid minimum wage – skewing competition in the legal job market. Also illegal immigrants often come alone to work and send money back home to their families, draining that money from the economy.

This post is about the employment of legal immigrants. I don’t see the problem, and if there is an “other side” to this particular issue, it’s not pointed out above or in the linked articke.

Patrick says:

Same old stuff

Industry is ALLOWED to import foreign workers by the FTC and INS, and I am sick of the BS that we are short of tech workers….not true, we have plenty of programmers, IT and engineers. I get so depressed when ABU from Calcutta Tech comes into the office at 4am leaves at 8pm, produces crappy work that I have to fix and is lauded by management as “Our kind of hard working employee.” You can bet your ass that if they paid ABU 75 dollars an hour instead of 30,000 per year management would maybe, just maybe look at his quality of work. HR is only putting butts in seats, if they have the right degree and will work for peanuts thats all that matters.

I say screw them all, I don’t care if India or Pakistan is a Crap Hole, I don’t care if their government is in chaos, they should not be allowed to lower the standards of hard working U.S. citizens. I know I sound like some Neo Con but dammit we have to cut off the gravy train or it going to lower your standard of living and your children’s standard of living. I can do my job better than most and I welcome any kind of competition, but paying 150,000 for an education and getting a 35,000 dollar job is just soooooo stupid.

And for all you guys that want to work in Europe, good luck. A resident visa that allows you to work in the EU for more that 90 days is damn hard to get unless your “Uniquely” qualified or an academic. They don’t want us cheap Americans coming over there and ruining their good thing.

Wise up people, we are giving up the store, we giving up our country…..for nothing.


Alimas says:

No, It Isn't.

Most of the nation’s we’re getting our cheap labor from are in desperate need of those skilled workers to contribute to their local companies in order to increase living standards in said nations. Many of said nation’s (Mexico for example) have existed as a source of cheap resources for our country for decades are in desperate need of local born development.
Is keeping them here a good idea?

Financially, it might seem so.
Morally, it is not.

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