OK, so I'm not going to win a popularity contest. Most--though not all--of the feedback to my post suggesting that it was time to rethink the current annual limits on the H-1B non-immigrant visa was uniformly unimpressed. The responses ranged from depicting me as a clueless stooge for corporate interests to, well, just clueless.
Here's a sampling:
"Obviously you just don't get it. I am an American contract software engineer, graduated now 10 years ago, with a plan to start and run my own software company. The problem; since so many foreign workers are coming into the country, wages for my work have diminished, and I can not earn the necessary capital to start my own company, much less sustain it...and you spout off that we need more. Worthless."
"There is no shortage of tech workers in the U.S. There is, however, a shortage of tech workers willing to accept slave wages. You needn't go farther than the classifieds section of any newspaper to verify this. The good news is that most Americans are starting to see right through the lies put forth by corporate lapdogs such as yourself whose only interests are cheap foreign labor and the bottom line."
Or my personal favorite:
"And you are still a jackass..."
I expected something like this. We're in the midst of a deepening recession and people are understandably mad and afraid and they are going to vent. So it is that the H-1B program serves as a convenient scapegoat. But the argument that top notch foreign-born computer scientists-especially those graduating from American universities each year-qualifies as a high-tech lumpenproletariat is flawed.
I'm not talking about someone fitting boards at a computer assembly line or an IT support staffer. Those folks all play important roles in the economy. But they won't be the people who staff up the coming push in green energy. Nor will they be the ones snapped up by Google or Microsoft to do basic computer science research.
Unfortunately, U.S. universities aren't graduating the same numbers of engineers as they did a couple of decades ago. So what to do? I'm with John Doerr on this one. Part of the solution is to double the annual number of engineers coming out of American universities to 60,000. At the same time, he wants to supplement that number by finding ways to keep smart foreigners who study engineering in the U.S. in this country.
Here's what he had to say at Web 2.0 Summitheld last month.
"What we do is bring foreign nationals to the world's greatest universities. We train them, invest in them and make them go home," he said. "What kind of national strategy is that? So I would staple a green card to the diploma." If you have a better idea, let's hear it.
(Here's a video of his appearance)