When discussing the H-1B visa, the automatic assumption among many is that it’s used for bringing high tech foreign national workers into the United States. And while that’s its most common use, the H-1B adversely impacts other Americans struggling to keep their jobs in the teaching profession.
Throughout the United States, teachers vulnerable to state and local budget cuts have routinely gotten pink slips. Nevertheless, despite the surplus of American teacher the firings create, the trend toward recruiting and hiring foreign born teachers has been well established for years.
Although it’s increasingly hard to be shocked by H-1B visa abuses, so rampant are they, a report from San Antonio is a stunner. Harmony Public Schools which serves about 17,000 students has a teaching staff that includes nearly 300 H-1B visa holders or approximately 16 percent of its instructors. Most of them are Turkish nationals. Harmony, made up of 36 different campuses, is a private charter school under the supervision of the Cosmos Foundation. [Harmony Schools Causing Discord, by Lindsey Kastner, San Antonio News-Express, January 4, 2012]
A review of Labor Department records from 2008-2010 shows that it certified 1,197 H-1B requests from Cosmos, more than twice the number for the Texas-based computer company Dell USA and about 70 percent of the approved requests for Apple. Cosmos also relies on H-1B Turkish nationals to fill administrative positions within the company, obviously jobs that Americans could easily do.
However, despite the massive numbers of H-1B requests from Cosmos which would indicate that filling teaching jobs is difficult, other Texas schools have had no trouble filling slots as they become available. Pascual Gonzales from the Bexar County Independent School District, enrollment 97,000, said:
“Staffing Northside schools has never really been a problem. “In the past there have been thousands of people applying for hundreds of jobs.”
When pressed to explain why Harmony is so H-1B dependent, Superintendent Soner Tarim offered a familiar refrain. According to Tarim, Texas has a shortage of qualified math and science teachers.
Even if Tarim were correct (and note that Gonzales who I cited above disagrees), what about laid off teachers from California of whom there are thousands? My former colleagues tell me that their unemployed teaching friends have grown desperate. California, I should add, is 5,000 miles closer to Texas than Turkey is.
Another more convenient option for Harmony would be to hire retired Texas teachers who, in this dicey economy, might welcome returning to the classroom.
Not only does employer’s increasing reliance on cheaper, more pliable H-1B visa holders hurt Americans, the policy of bringing foreign nationals to the United States has an adverse impact on the environment. One visa holder can bring his wife, minor children and eventually other family members. They’re consumers of scarce natural resources which, along with jobs, are another thing Americans can ill afford to lose.