Immigration and Jobs Myth #2: “American Workers won’t be Displaced”

Eyeglasses with newspaper and coffee cup

The rhetoric for more high-skilled visas is intensifying. In a Politico Magazine article, Vivek Wadhwa – a research director for engineering at Duke University – penned a blistering admonishment about the United States’ “crazy, upside-down immigration system,” which he believes is making no progress in securing high-skilled workers.

Hoping the President will use his pen and phone “to clarify policies that presently cause skilled workers to be treated like common criminals by immigration authorities,” Wadhwa claims more than one million skilled immigrants have been “held hostage to political wrangling” and are tired of being in “immigration limbo.” So tired – they are leaving, which in his opinion will be the downfall of America.

“The loser is the United States, because it is limiting its economic growth and creating its own competition,” said Wadhwa. “America’s economic prosperity and the human rights of millions are at stake.” [1]

Our country’s prosperity has been at stake for the last several years. Not because of fleeing immigrants who have high-skilled visas, but job-stifling policies implemented by an out-of-touch Administration. Obamacare, hailed to be a job creator prior to its passage, has turned America into a part-time working nation. If comprehensive immigration reform is passed, it will further bruise our struggling job market.

Of course, Democrats want you to believe the concern of Americans being replaced by less expensive, foreign labor is just plain folly. However, Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Ronil Hira, who has been studying high-skilled immigration policy for more than a decade, has a differing view.

“The H-1B program is already huge. USCIS doesn’t know how many H-1Bs are here but analysts estimate that there are approximately 650,000 here right now. On top of that we know that approximately 120,000 new H-1Bs arrive every year,” Hira stated during his testimony on the Gang of Eight bill last April. “It is having significant adverse impacts on the American workforce, job opportunities and wages.” [2]

Citing research by Professor Hal Salzman, Hira pointed out, “[A]pproximately one-third to one-half of new IT jobs were taken by guest workers on H-1B, L-1 and OPT. This is not because there aren’t enough Americans studying STEM fields. Salzman finds, ‘In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50% more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32% say it is because IT jobs are unavailable…’” [2]

Hira believes most of the jobs taken by H-1Bs are “ones that Americans can and should be filling,” proving the myth that American workers are not being displaced is just that – a myth.

“There have been a number of documented cases of American workers training their foreign replacements. I personally know American engineers, working at a major firm in Rochester, who are currently being “shadowed” by guest workers who will soon take over their jobs. The American engineers will be let go. Like many American engineers about to lose their jobs to guest workers, they are frustrated but scared.” [2]

According to the Rochester professor, the demand for H-1B visas is being spurred by the “desire for lower-cost workers,” not “a shortage of American talent.” He noted that “all of the top 10 H-1B employers in FY12 used the program principally to outsource American jobs to overseas locations,” highlighting “outsourcing firms received more than half of the H-1B visas issued in FY12.” [2]

In his concluding remarks, Hira – whose parents were immigrants from India – eloquently expressed what many of us feel. “We can and should encourage the best and brightest to come to the United States and settle here permanently. But our future critically depends on our homegrown talent, and while we should welcome foreign workers, we must do it without undermining American workers and students.” [2]

  • 2- Hira, Ronil. Testimony Given By Ronil Hira, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor of Public Policy
    Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY In A Hearing Before The Judiciary Committee
    U.S. Senate On “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744. 22 April 2013.