Byron York, Washington Examiner, March 19, 2015
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, believes passionately that the United States needs more skilled foreign workers. He has long advocated increasing the number of so-called H-1B visas, which allow those workers to come to the U.S. for several years and, in many cases, work for lower wages than current employees. Schmidt is frustrated that Congress hasn’t done as he and other tech moguls want.
“In the long list of stupid policies of the U.S. government, I think our attitude toward immigration has got to be near the top,” Schmidt said during an appearance this week at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Everyone actually agrees that there should be more H-1B visas in order to create more tech, more science, more analytical jobs. Everyone agrees, in both parties.”
The Eric Schmidt pleading for more foreign workers is the same Eric Schmidt who boasts of turning away thousands upon thousands of job seekers who apply for a few prized positions at Google. For example, at an appearance in Cleveland last October to promote his book, How Google Works, Schmidt explained that his company receives at least 1,000 applications for every job opening. “The good news is that we have computers to do the initial vetting,” Schmidt explained, according to an account in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Other tech leaders join Schmidt in calling for more foreign workers. Some companies are actually lobbying for more H-1Bs and laying off American staff at the same time. For example, last year Microsoft announced the layoff of 18,000 people at the very moment it was pushing Congress for more guest worker visas.
Given all that, there’s not quite the unanimous agreement on the need for more foreign workers that Schmidt claims. At a hearing this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a number of experts testified that the H-1B program, so sought-after by CEOs, is being abused to harm American workers.
Ron Hira, a Howard University professor and author of the book Outsourcing America, told the story of Southern California Edison, which recently got rid of 500 IT employees and replaced them with a smaller force of lower-paid workers brought in from overseas through the H-1B program. The original employees were making an average of about $110,000 a year, Hira testified; the replacements were brought to Southern California Edison by outsourcing firms that pay an average of between $65,000 and $75,000.
The hearing also featured Jay Palmer, a former Infosys project manager who blew the whistle on a case in which the big outsourcing firm paid $34 million in fines for worker visa violations. “I watched this on a daily basis,” Palmer told the Judiciary Committee. “I sat in the offices in meetings with companies that displaced American workers only because the Americans who had been there 15 or 20 years were being paid too much money.”