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The White Collar Sweatshop 97 February 6, 2017

Posted by geoff in News.

A list of 97 companies who are opposed to Trump’s immigration policy (and filed a legal brief against it) is running around the intertubes today.

The amicus brief, which argues that Trump’s immigration order is illegal, highlights the contributions of immigrants to the tech economy while stressing the immigration controls already in place. The companies argue that Trump’s order is discriminatory and will have a negative impact on American businesses. The brief states that Trump’s immigration policies will make it more difficult and expensive for companies to hire new employees from around the world, and will make it more difficult for companies to conduct business because of travel restrictions on their employees.

There’s not a shred of doubt whether immigrants can contribute to our technology and economy. Not a shred. But I’m pretty sure we won’t miss the exciting talent from the countries that the Obama administration identified as being problematic. Let’s look at the list:

  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Syria
  • Yemen
  • Sudan
  • Libya
  • Somalia

Yeah, I’m not feeling the sense of irreplaceable science & engineering talent here. Iran does have some decent scientists and engineers, but lets look at how many STEM types were actually recruited from these countries in FY2015:

Nation H1-B Visas F-1 Visas
Iraq 13 347
Iran 177 3241
Syria 33 333
Yemen 0 747
Sudan 9 255
Libya 22 763
Somalia 0 39
Total Banned 254 5725
World Total 172,748 644,233

So banning H1B visas for those 7 countries, even if it was a permanent ban (which of course it is not), would eliminate 0.15% of the STEM talent we import each year.

Looking at the student visas (the F-1 visas), it amounts to 0.9% of foreign students, who do tend to emphasize STEM educations. Still doesn’t amount to much impact on talent imported to the US. I should also mention that Iran’s F-1 visas tripled under the Obama administration, so the F-1 visa number is a bit inflated compared to the previous norm.

Since green card holders are not banned, and since the whole executive order amounts to 120 days, I’m not really understanding how these 97 companies feel that they’re impacted.

Even if the impact was much larger, the motivations of these companies are not particularly pure. They import foreign STEM talent to undercut better-paid American engineers and scientists. And as we heard in the July 2011 Congressional Hearings on high-skill immigration:

Here’s what Ronil Hira, an engineer and a professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, told the senators at that July hearing:

Contrary to some of the discussion here this morning, the STEM job market is mired in a jobs recession…with unemployment rates…two to three times what we would expect at full employment….Loopholes have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers with ordinary skills…to directly substitute for, rather than complement, American workers. The programs are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to American workers.

So what’s really going on here is that 97 companies are trying import technical talent at lower wages and work them like dogs. They are white collar sweatshops, deliberately and directly focused on replacing American talent.

Far from being the noble defenders of human rights, these companies are using a ridiculous premise – that they need this tiny amount of STEM talent to prosper – to try to justify their continued abuse of both immigrant and domestic labor.

The list is really a rogues’ gallery.


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