There aren’t a whole lot of Trump’s policies with which I have any agreement. The H1B program, however, is one that most certainly gets abused at the expense of American workers. Working in IT fields, I have seen a lot of questionable sponsorships. Questionable … well, if you don’t know the whole story (how long the company has been trying to hire a qualified citizen, or the entire scope of ‘qualified’), you may have a feeling that Americans are being overlooked in favor of cheaper foreign labor. But it’s just a feeling.
I have, however, seen outright fraud within the system. Well meaning fraud, but fraud just the same. The most egregious example was more than a decade ago. There was a Russian woman who worked on one of the internal help desks. Not quite the entry level “follow the online flow chart & read it to the caller” kind of help desks for which IT Support may be known … but a help desk just the same. She and half a dozen other people staffed the line. Because her visa sponsorship indicated that she had a unique skill set that the company could not staff with an American worker … well, someone questioned how such a uniquely skilled worker would have half a dozen American coworkers doing the exact same thing.
Now she was a very nice woman and I really hoped she got to stay in the country in spite of the visa irregularity being investigated … like she got reclassified into some other visa for people who just wanted to live here. Instead, the company created a new title and position for her. A higher profile position with more authority that paid more money … but, honestly, she still wasn’t doing anything I couldn’t have found dozens of other people in the area to do. It was data mining. Data mining that she had to learn how to perform once she took the position … and if the criterion was “someone who was capable of learning to generate reports from PC inventory data” the list of local, available, citizens who were perfectly qualified for the job. People who were OUT of work at the time and would have loved that made up job.
I never reported this visa fraud. It’s one thing to object to theoretical abuse of the system; it is quite another thing to get a person who you like deported. And there-in is the problem with reforming the H1B system … what do you do with the people who are already here under false pretenses? Like the Mexican restaurant owner who got deported a few weeks ago … that’s academically the right answer. But it ignores the human impact to the academic solution. Is it really the Right Thing to tear someone away from their community, from relationships they’ve had for a decade, from their home because they have violated the law?
But is it right to essentially reward them? To allow someone who had a fraudulent H1B first dibs on regular work visas at the expense of people who followed the proper process to get into the visa queue? To increase the regular work visa cap for the year to allow improper H1Bs to be converted? If I had a good answer, I’d have gotten myself hired on by DoJ or ICE. But there’s no way to both avoid personal grief while not rewarding the individual for not following the law.
I’m hoping Trump’s new initiative orders more stringent review of the claims being made on visa sponsorship forms. Maybe even something like the Patent office where individuals somewhat knowledgeable about the field determine the veracity of the claim. Leaving the current visa holders alone – at least until their visa comes up for renewal – is about the best compromise I could conceive.