Obama on H-1b
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August 23, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Barack Obama responds to an interview question from Michael Arrington
MA: What is your position on H1B visas in general? Do you believe the number of H1B visas should be increased?

BO: Highly skilled immigrants have contributed significantly to our domestic technology industry. But we have a skills shortage, not a worker shortage. There are plenty of Americans who could be filling tech jobs given the proper training. I am committed to investing in communities and people who have not had an opportunity to work and participate in the Internet economy as anything other than consumers. Most H-1B new arrivals, for example, have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent abroad (42.5%). They are not all PhDs. We can and should produce more Americans with bachelor’s degrees that lead to jobs in technology. A report of the National Science Foundation (NSF) reveals that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans as a whole comprise more that 25% of the population but earn, as a whole, 16% of the bachelor degrees, 11% of the master’s degrees, and 5% of the doctorate degrees in science and engineering. We can do better than that and go a long way toward meeting industry’s need for skilled workers with Americans. Until we have achieved that, I will support a temporary increase in the H-1B visa program as a stopgap measure until we can reform our immigration system comprehensively. I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes improvement in our visa programs, including our legal permanent resident visa programs and temporary programs including the H-1B program, to attract some of the world’s most talented people to America. We should allow immigrants who earn their degrees in the U.S. to stay, work, and become Americans over time. As part of our comprehensive reform, we should examine our ability to replace a stopgap increase in the number of H1B visas with an increase in the number of permanent visas we issue to foreign skilled workers. I will also work to ensure immigrant workers are less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers.

I wonder if Obama has ever actually known a tech worker well? It is hard to meet such folks in places like Billionaires Row in San Francisco—or Law School.

Obama buying into the fairy tale that employers will have a preference for Americans if Americans have the training. He denies the entrenched ethnic nepotism in organizations that have foreign management. He is also in denial of just how US immigration policy works—with a public that wants less immigration—and that only begrudgingly accepts a government that restricts immigration to around 10% of the applicants.

When I was working at HP, a co-worker was told that he would only get funding for a project if he agreed to only hire H-1b workers from India. He had to threaten to resign to hire a Ph.D. from Harvard. Training is simply not the issue. US residency rights have value—and if companies don`t pay for that value when they use it, we will see enormous organizational attempts to extract corporate welfare in the form of immigration rights.

I find the idea that Obama is a "leftist" rather strange. Although Marx had some racist overtones, until the days of affirmative action in the US, there was a tendency of the left to support either meritocracy or programs with clear principles of equality(i.e. like Huey Long`s Share the Wealth).

Support of affirmative action has arguably been one of the major reasons why the traditional New Deal Coalition in the US broke down—and a major reason why every president since Carter has been far from progressive—and why the US has moved the last few decades towards greater concentration of wealth.

Traditionally, leftists supported Democracy. H-1b expansion was opposed from its onset by over 80% of the American public—and was a policy that was pretty much bought and paid for by corporate interests. I wonder what an old-left politician like Huey Long who actually put a strongly progressive platform in place in a difficult environment, would think of Obama`s catering to billionaires?