by Joe Guzzardi
June 15, 2011
California U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren is off and running again with another effort to subvert unemployed American workers.
Despite a 9 percent U.S. unemployment rate (12 percent in California), Lofgren plans to introduce a bill during the next several days that would create a new category of green cards which would be automatically issued to STEM graduates from U.S. research universities. Green cards would also automatically be given to so-called high-skilled immigrants that receive venture capital funding and foreign-born entrepreneurs who start companies that create jobs. Among the major supporters of Lofgren’s proposed bill are Oracle, Google and Intel who, coincidentally, are her major campaign funders.
Said Lofgren: “We need to look at immigration as a job-creating engine.”
For political cover, Lofgren suggests that her bill would create protections for American workers by prohibiting their displacement by an H-1B visa holder. But safety provisions for U.S. employees have been in H-1B language since the visa was first introduced nearly twenty years ago. Since then, millions of American engineers have lost their jobs.
Lofgren’s latest push for more employment visas, a concept which President Obama endorsed in his State of the Union address, tries to shift the argument over adding more workers into a depressed job market to the “innovations” immigrants may bring to American enterprise.
Researchers at the Urban Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, however, have found that the notion of there being a shortage of American students receiving degrees in science and technology is a common misconception.
If Lofgren’s proposed legislation passes, a shortage of American-born scientists and mathematicians might develop. As University of California Davis Professor Norm Matloff has repeatedly argued, every time a STEM-related visa is issued to a foreign-born worker, American students become less likely to enter the high tech field.
Professor Matloff refers to this pattern as “internal brain drain.” The H-1B program causes direct and indirect displacement of U.S. citizens, especially of those tech employees over age-35, while at the same time discouraging young people from going into a STEM field of study in the first place.
According to Professor Matloff the federal government, especially the National Science Foundation, a $7 billion agency created to “promote the progress of science,” is one of the leading culprits in creating America’s brain drain. In 1989 the NSF was at the vanguard of those pushing Congress to establish the H-1B program. An internal NSF paper advocated bringing in large numbers of foreign-born scientists and engineers for the explicit goal of holding down Ph.D. wages, a policy that would benefit major U.S. corporations. Moreover, the NSF explicitly predicted that an H-1B program might discourage domestic students because of the stagnant wages that it would create.
Under those circumstance, what would prompt a bright young American student to pursue a STEM degree if he knew that at best his income would be flat and at worst, his application would be passed over in favor of a cheaper, foreign-born worker?
During her 20-year Congressional career, Lofgren has been an outspoken advocate for more non-immigrant visas and unlimited caps on work-related visas like the H-1B.
Even if Lofgren finds a Republican co-sponsor, no certainty, the prospects for her controversial legislation are bleak. Congress, especially the House, is more concerned about protecting the few remaining American jobs rather than importing foreign-born workers.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]