When I was around six until I was about twelve my Dad would occasionally take me along when he had to work on a Saturday.
I remember that it was loads of fun! He worked for a defense contractor, and then for a company peripherally involved with the oil pipeline business. I was allowed at first to hang out in his cubicle in the engineering lab. I devoured the stacks of “Naval Proceedings”.
With the Vietnam War in full swing, it was interesting reading for a kid. I was about 7 or so, when I got to take my first airplane trip! LaGuardia to Washington, DC. My dad had to give a presentation at the Pentagon, and I would get to stay with my best friend (who had recently moved away to Arlington, VA)…His dad was an unemployed plumbing supply salesman…read grey-area Government employee. They had gotten a St Bernard puppy, who was the hugest dog that I had ever seen!
After the “Proceedings” had been consumed, I graduated to the IEEE Journals…. Publications of the Electronics Engineers Association. It wasn’t long after I started looking at them that I noticed something that I couldn’t understand…the employment advertisements in the back of each magazine all seemed to be looking for people with PHDs and lots of experience for what seemed to me to be very little money.
I asked my Dad about that, he told me that it was simple. For a company to hire a foreign worker (for less money) all a company had to do was show that they advertised the job and had no suitable American applicants. So, they advertised for highly qualified people, with highly specialized skills, for a low wage rate, and were unable to attract suitable American candidates.
Although this was in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the practise was very much alive in the late 80’s.
My first wife was looking to accelerate her sister’s priority date with the Immigration Service. We spoke with an attorney who specialized in Immigration issues. He explained that it was actually quite simple. Given that I owned a small manufacturing company at the time, all I would need to do was craft a narrowly defined employee requirement that only my sister-in-law would fit. One centered around her skill-set…the narrower the better. He told me to advertise the job in 3 well circulated newspapers or trade journals for a few weeks and then petition the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) for an H1-B visa for my ideal employee who just happened to fit my requirements perfectly, whom I was simply unable to locate domestically, despite my documented best efforts.
On a more recent note…When my wife received her Green Card, we went to Social Security for an ID card. The Office waiting room was full of folks from Jamaica and West Africa, looking to get their Tax Id’s…they were temporary workers on an H2B visa working for Six Flags “Great Adventure” amusement park.
I didn’t know that a shortage of able-bodied College students seeking temporary work was so dire that it required importing foreign workers. Of course we all know that isn’t the case.
The most recent case of abuse was Disney bringing in I.T. workers from India on “temporary visas” then forcing existing employees to train them before they were fired for no other reason than the “guest workers” are willing to take less for doing the same job and Disney’s allowed to get away with it.
So, the next time you hear the tech industry bemoaning that they can’t find “qualified” American workers to fill open positions, you now know the truth.
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