February 02, 2012

A lady recently asked Barack Obama why the government is issuing and extending H-1B visas—that is, guest-worker visas for any occupation “which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge,” to quote the State Department website. I posted my thoughts about this to NRO’s The Corner.

The lady’s husband, a semiconductor engineer, has been unemployed for three years, yet people in his field are being brought in on H-1Bs. She doesn’t think this makes any sense.

To judge from blogs and comment threads, it makes perfect sense to that mighty legion of persons who believe that the nation’s laws should strive to ensure that citizens enjoy no advantage whatsoever over non-citizens; or, to put it another way, that the nation’s citizenship should be worthless and the nation itself a fiction.

“Software firms are trading in their 35-year-olds for 25-year-olds as if they were aging matinée idols.”

Countering them were a few retrograde souls who had been laboring under the juvenile illusion that US citizens’ interests should enjoy primacy in the calculations of US policy-makers. These economic illiterates and romantic naïfs were joined by a disgruntled contingent of persons fired from good, well-paying jobs to make room for foreigners, who in some cases they’d had to train before leaving, such as this lady in Dan Rather’s report on the issue last summer.

Being long familiar with the H-1B issue, for reasons I’ll get to shortly, I was waiting to see what Prof. Norm Matloff has to say. Norm—a UC Davis Computer Science professor—is the nation’s leading authority on H-1B visas. He’s been tracking the issue for at least a decade, to my knowledge. His motives are, from the viewpoint of this small-government, race-realist conservative, unpalatable: He’s an old-line What-About-the-Workers? blank-slate lefty. He has the number on the H-1B business, though.

Norm says it’s fundamentally about age. Companies, especially software firms, want young workers. Young workers are cheaper, they’re more flexible, and they think faster. That’s what the H-1B does for the firms.


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