I’ll begin by saying thank you to those who submitted statements to be read into the record for last week’s House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Immigration chaired by Silicon Valley’s sweetheart, Rep. Zoe Lofgren. The hearing titled “Oh, Canada! How Outdated US Immigration Policies Push Top Talent To Other Countries” was ultimately postponed to a future date. Apparently, the judiciary committee was working overtime that day, passing anti-trust legislation to break up Big Tech monopolies. Oh, the irony!
In preparation for the hearing, we researched the Canadian immigration system and I wrote about much of what we learned in last week’s PFIR newsletter. I won’t rehash that here, instead I’ll discuss the witnesses and the testimonies submitted in advance of the hearing.
As the party in control, Democrats pretty much run these hearings. They set the agenda and get to call the majority of witnesses. In this instance, they had three Democratic witnesses compared to one witness for the Republicans. Although outnumbered, the Republicans brought serious fire power in the form of Professor Ron Hira. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see him in action, but his written testimony in which he brilliantly exposed the flaws in our skill-based immigration system, is available.
The three Democratic witnesses were as expected, unapologetically in favor of expanding the number of foreign workers. Their testimonies were laced with the generic dribble we’ve seen all too often, and designed to evoke emotion and pull at the heart strings, all while greasing the skids for initiatives that will displace more American workers.
One of these witnesses was none other than beltway crapweasel, Stuart Anderson.
Mr. Anderson’s National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) perpetuates the myth that America can’t produce enough science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers. Thus, we need to look elsewhere to fill that void, and in particular, to India. How could we ever have gotten to the moon without India?!
In his opening paragraph, Anderson frets over the declining number of Indian students in the U.S. and the increasing number going to Canada. He draws the absurd conclusion that Canadian immigration policy rewards talent, and U.S. immigration policy discriminates against it. Excuse me!
Yes, the Canadian system is merit based, as would be the U.S. system, if our corporations wanted it. But they don’t.
What U.S. corporations want is a pipeline of cheap and exploitable labor and they get that with programs such as H-1B and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Fewer students with employment authorization documents mean less cheap labor for the IT firms Mr. Anderson schills for, so IT outsourcing firms operating in the U.S. rely on the in-sourcing of cheap labor and the OPT program that guarantees work authorizations after graduation. Over time, the OPT has become an even larger source of labor than the H-1B program and in 2017, Mother Jones’ “Inside The Growing Guest Worker Program Trapping Indian Students In Virtual Servitude”, exposed what’s really going on and how IT firms exploit the OPT and take advantage of desperate Indian students.
To describe all Indian international students as “highly-skilled” is deceptive. This is where we really must take a hard look at the data. There are advanced degrees, and then there are “advanced degrees.” Truth be told, most Indian students enrolled here are in low-ranked graduate programs that mainly function as diploma mills. With straight faces, these schools offer things like STEM MBAs, and in my opinion, they are rackets that make a bundle, and prey upon these international students.
One clear example of this is the University of Farmington scandal, a fake university set up in 2015 in Michigan by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations to expose student visa fraud. ICE caught on camera Indian students explicitly stating they sought admission for the sole purpose of procuring work permits and had no intention of attending classes.
It’s presumptive to conclude that the decline in Indian students coming to the U.S. and the increase in students going to Canada is indicative of a brain drain. For all we know, new avenues to game the Canadian immigration system may have opened. An article in the Vancouver Sun, “Indo-Canadians In Uproar Over Surge Of Foreign Students” would seem to indicate this phenomenon.
Moreover, Singapore and Australia started clamping down on work visas after noticing these programs were being exploited by Indian nationals. As expected, all of this was absent from Mr. Anderson’s testimony.
Mr. Anderson further stated that the unemployment rate for computer occupations has been lower since Covid hit, and deduced there are “more job openings that need filling.” This is deceptive testimony, as he’s cherry-picked the dates cited purely to fit his narrative.
This isn’t the first time Anderson has cherry picked. He did it in a Forbes column pushing back against President Trump’s executive order suspending guest worker visas. We debunked his analysis then, in a Twitter thread.
In his prepared statement, and to further support his narrative, he conveniently picked January 2020 when the unemployment rate was 3.0% and then compared it to May 2021 when the unemployment rate was 2.4%. From this he concluded it dropped, and more visa workers should be invited to fill those jobs.
What he purposefully omitted was a longer timeline demonstrating the unemployment rate rising. If we stretch the timeline to 2019, you‘ll see the unemployment rate was 2.0% and that was at a time when the Trump administration was more carefully scrutinizing H-1B renewals. So, between 2019 and May 2021, the unemployment rate for computer occupations rose from 2.0% to 2.4%.
Mr. Anderson also mentioned Madeline Zovodny. She is perhaps one of the best cherry pickers money can buy! In a past paper she claimed that for every hundred H-1B workers brought in, 262 U.S. tech worker jobs were created. H-1B critic, Prof. Norman Matloff at the University of California, Davis criticized her stating that “association is not causality“.
Next, Anderson claimed that Canada has a “more generous” work permit program for international students than the U.S. Now that’s a whopper!
Currently, if an international student in the U.S. graduates with a STEM degree, they’re allowed to work in the U.S. for up to three years. If they get a second STEM degree, they can qualify for another three-year STEM OPT work permit. That’s a total of six years! Furthermore, OPT workers are exempt from paying FICA taxes – more money in their pockets.
On the other hand, international students in Canada are granted work permits based on the time it took to complete their coursework or degree. If it took nine months, that’s how long their work permit lasts. If they got their advanced degree in two years, then they’d qualify for a three-year work permit, given only one time, and regardless of the number of degrees they pursue. Companies in the U.S. could conceivably sponsor the student here, on an OPT and H1B visa, which could lead to a green card given the dual intent nature of that visa. Which country is more generous?
Mr. Anderson then made the audacious claim that “there is no evidence that H-1B visa holders as a group are underpaid relative to native-born professionals.” If that’s the case, perhaps he can explain why time and time again, U.S. tech workers after receiving their pink slip, have been required to train their replacements.
Anderson ends his testimony declaring:
If not for Katalin Karikó, Noubar Afeyan, Stéphane Bancel, Albert Bourla and the other immigrants whose efforts led to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, how much more economic damage would America have suffered and how many more Americans would have lost their lives and those of their loved ones? Thank you.
With all his lionizing of Indian international students and their actual or potential contributions, none of the immigrants he names are Indian. Additionally, all were well credentialed prior to coming to the U.S. plus, they seemed to have no trouble immigrating here.
So, why didn’t they immigrate to Canada? Noubar Afeyan who Anderson rightly listed as one of the prominent immigrants whose efforts led to the Moderna vaccine, did in fact immigrate to the U.S. from Canada. Despite Mr. Anderson’s assertions, it appears we’re keeping the true highly skilled immigrants, after all. We’re just tired of suffering under immigration programs, practices, and policies that drive down wages, create job insecurity and ultimately displace American workers.
In closing, I wish you and yours a happy and safe 4th of July holiday weekend!