Over 47 years in political office, Joe Biden has stood on multiple sides of key immigration issues. He once believed that hiring an illegal alien nanny was “a big deal,” promised not to let sanctuary cities “ignore” immigration laws, and said a border wall was needed to keep drugs from Mexico out of the United States. But where the H-1B visa program is concerned, Biden has remained blind to the anecdotal and empirical evidence offered by critics on the left and the right that it harms American workers, lowers wages, and has become akin to “modern day slavery” and “indentured servitude.”
A recently-released agenda tailored for Indian-Americans, one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups, is a warning of the potential that it would be an “H-1B”-iden administration. Seemingly ignorant to the reality that millions of Americans are still unemployed, in need of vocational re-training, or graduating into a job market that is severely-constricted in most industries, Biden wants to inject the program with steroids.
His proposal would:
- Increase the number of permanent, work-based immigration visas
- Exempt from any immigration caps recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields
- Eliminate limits on employment-based green cards by country, thereby allowing China and India to disproportionately benefit.
Biden already promised during a June digital town hall hosted by NBC News to overturn President Trump’s order to temporarily pause H-1B visas through 2020. He justified his support by stating that “the people who came here on the [H-1B] visas built this country.”
Since he was in his 17th year in the U.S. Senate when Congress created the visa program in 1990, Biden knows his claim was absurd. But he also knows, having been in elected office for the majority of the program’s life, how corporations and outsourcing firms have weaponized foreign worker visas for the benefit of their bottom line and to the detriment of American and immigrant workers alike.
Consider a handful of studies and news reports published since the program was created that have highlighted its failings.
- In 2004, Siemens fired experienced tech workers and forced them to retrain their foreign replacements.
- A video was released in 2007 showing immigration lawyers from a Pittsburgh-area law firm discussing how companies run ads seeking American workers even though they intend on hiring H-1B visa holders – even those far less qualified than American applicants.
- A 2008 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report found fraud existed in 20 percent of all H-1B applications.
- When Biden was vice president, Disney was enveloped in the best-known H-1B scandal that resulted in thousands of Americans being fired and forced to retrain their foreign replacements.
In addition, Biden knew early in the second Obama term, that there was a glut, not a shortage, of American STEM graduates and those close to Biden knew that even before then.
“The [H-1B] looks to me like an inelegant solution to what I don’t even know is a problem. Inelegant because there’s no labor market test. The evidence is that it creates downward wage pressure,” said Jared Bernstein, a then-former senior economic adviser to Vice President Biden. His comments were made at a 2012 event marking the release of a Brookings Institution report favorable to the H-1B visa.
And that those H-1B visa holders who allegedly “built this country” were not all that they were cracked up to be, as noted in a 2013 Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis that contradicted the assertion that foreign workers strengthen America’s own high-skilled workforce. The study found that using multiple measures, “former foreign students have talent lesser than, or equal to, their American peers,” and that high-skilled foreign worker programs contribute to “an internal brain drain” in the United States.
In 2016, three researchers from Notre Dame University, the University of California at Berkeley and the Obama Treasury Department respectively authored a critical paper that showed how the program had veered from its intent. They discovered by comparing two firms – one that used H-1B visas and one that did not – that U.S. workers did not benefit from having foreign co-workers. In fact, “New H-1Bs substantially and statistically significantly crowd out median employment of other workers.”
Biden’s blindness to the H-1B con should make every voter question his sincerity when he says he will reform the program before expanding it. He has had 30 years to support numerous reform efforts, to increase funding to minority STEM education, to redirect government’s focus to worker retraining or any number of policies that would benefit hard-working Americans. He chose not to – again and again and again.