Point – Counterpoint: Greg Siskind v. Rob Sanchez On The Immigration Debate
Last week in my Openers I said we would print a letter exchange that resulted from recent comments I made criticizing an unbalanced CNN report on the H-1B cap debate. Below you will find my correspondence with Rob Sanchez, the publisher of the anti-H-1B visa website http://www.ZaZona.com. There is no censorship here and Mr. Sanchez's letter is printed in its entirety. The letters appear in chronological order. A transcription of Mr. Sanchez's message appears first, followed by my response.
May 28, 2003
Do you support abuse to the holder of H1-B or L1 visas.
Do you support making H1-B or L1 visa holders indent servants
Do you knowily [sic] support clients who lie about information needed to bring H1-B or L1 visa people into the US.
As an officer of the court, if you know of such issues it job to advice the court of such actions. If you are not aware of such action, I can provide you with hard proof of such actions, so you are aware of them and take legal steps to correct such action and protect the right of H1-B and L1 visa holder and put and end to such abuse.
I can go with more.
If the answer is no to any of the above, I need your help on stopping abuse, the practise [sic] of indent servants and lying on Federal forms.
Siskind is a prominent, and very rich, immigration attorney. http://www.visalaw.com/
Siskind takes pot shots at Lou Dobbs and FAIR in his latest bulletin. He whines that CNN didn't interview a shills to explain the virtues of H-1B. Perhaps Dobbs should give Siskind a chance to speak so the American public can see one of these rich immigration attorneys in action. I don't think he will fool anyone.
May 28, 2003
Wow, I'm honored that the anti-immigrant sites think my opinion is important enough to mention.
I got into business immigration law because I am a libertarian at heart. I don't think the government should tell American companies who they should hire, where they can locate, what goods and components they have to buy, etc. We're not like France where employers are told what to do by their government in just about every aspect of their business. We did not win the Cold War only to mimic the communist systems which ensured that everyone had a job (and everyone also starved). Fortunately, President Bush seems to agree.
By the way, the fact that Mr. Sanchez would seek to discredit me by saying I'm "rich" (how does he know what I earn?) is revealing. It is consistent with the anti-H-1B zealots general hostility to capitalism. I'd really like to hear more about how one can reconcile being for a free market system and also for telling employers which workers they have to hire.
May 29, 2003
Mr. Greg Siskind,
You are correct that we value your opinion on nonimmigrant visas. Your website is a valuable resource to learn how lawyers exploit the immigration system. I use some of your research on my own website and I get a lot of traffic from your website link from people who want to know the truth. I'm sure you get traffic from foreigners that accidentally wander into my site so it's a fair trade. You labeled my website "anti-H-1B" but that's a misnomer. I have nothing against H-1B visa holders, it's the program itself that I want abolished. You may want to update your page because my website is now called the "N.I.V. Information Center".
I think it's a good idea to know what the enemy is up to, so put me on your mailing list.
I'm not sure why you think I discredited you by describing you as a rich immigration lawyer. Being rich is admirable but of course only if the wealth was obtained by noble means. You made your wealth aiding companies to replace American workers with the cheap young blood of indentured foreign labor. You and the rest of your AILA ilk are sorry examples of how to get rich. I hope your kids don't emulate you.
Your contention that I'm hostile to capitalism illustrates your confusion about the rules of capitalism. The formation of the corporation or company is a right given to individuals by governments. Governments have an inherent right to control the conduct of those businesses. Companies are required to have a "license" to do business in the USA, which is granted, by an individual state. Conducting business without a license is illegal or unlawful behavior and is banned behavior.
Businesses are not free in any nation in the world to do whatever conduct it wants without accountability to the government entity.
Capitalism doesn't give you a license to get rich. Laissez-faire capitalism without restraints from national governments was severely discredited long ago as being brutal, inhumane, and immoral by major religions such as your own Jewish faith. Without restraints from nation states, economic systems are almost entirely outside democratic control, meaning that most people end up having almost no self-determination, vulnerable to the whims of the tiny few in the world who hold the power and the money. Capitalism and free-market systems have been wonderful advances for human kind, but only when they are fettered by democratic control by the people of nations.
H-1B and other NIVs are a socialist programs that attempt to equalize white-collar wages with that of the third world. The U.S. government allows immigration lawyers to import workers in order to artificially manipulate the supply, and therefore the price of workers. Don't fool yourself; you have learned to milk the cow of corporate socialism. You would probably be a web-based quickie-divorce attorney if it wasn't for the H-1B cash cow.
Milton Friedman, the high priest of libertarianism, said that H-1B is a corporate subsidy. Friedman would probably say that you are a hypocrite instead of a libertarian. In a true libertarian society, there would be free flows of people in and out of the country, and thus no need for immigration lawyers. The more complex immigration law is the more un-libertarian it is, and the more money you make. Libertarians are your worse enemy so be very careful about adopting them to your cause.
Greg, you are getting very rich, but don't kid yourself. You are not a capitalist or a libertarian. You are a crafty attorney that learned how to exploit a corrupt socialist immigration system for your own enrichment.
Rob Sanchez www.ZaZona.com
P.S. - I would like to use your comments in my next newsletter, with your permission of course. Their are several H-1Bs on my mailing list that might need your services once we get the yearly limit down to 65,000.
June 6, 2003
Dear Rob -
Not surprisingly, I disagree with nearly everything you have to say (with a couple of minor exceptions that I discuss below). I'll address your points one by one:
"I'm not sure why you think I discredited you by describing you as a rich immigration lawyer. Being rich is admirable but of course only if the wealth was obtained by noble means. You made your wealth aiding companies to replace American workers with the cheap young blood of indentured foreign labor. You and the rest of your AILA ilk are sorry examples of how to get rich. I hope your kids don't emulate you."
You have no idea what I charge for my services or at what income level I am. Perhaps it would surprise you if I told you that I am making a financial sacrifice practicing immigration law. I graduated from the University of Chicago Law School 13 years ago. Since this is one of the top law schools in the country, it should not surprise you that many of my classmates are partners at some of the most prestigious law firms in the country earning enormous salaries. Most of the immigration lawyers I know are in this practice area because they want to help people and find the work interesting. I started my practice working with a large law firm handling mergers and acquisitions. I left a secure practice and opened up a solo immigration practice after just four years because I felt immigration law was my calling. I believe immigrants make a net positive contribution to the economy and felt that working in this area was serving the country. I also have specific religious and cultural reasons for doing what I do (more on that below). My passion for this practice area is why I remain a lawyer today. I won't hide that I am interested in making a good living and I'm proud to be an entrepreneur thriving under our free market system.
As for my kids, I'm proud of what I do and would be thrilled if my children one day went into this same profession. One of the biggest thrills I had this year was having the opportunity to go to my child's school and talk to her class about my job.
"Your contention that I'm hostile to capitalism illustrates your confusion about the rules of capitalism. The formation of the corporation or company is a right given to individuals by governments. Governments have an inherent right to control the conduct of those businesses. Companies are required to have a "license" to do business in the USA, which is granted, by an individual state. Conducting business without a license is illegal or unlawful behavior and is banned behavior. Businesses are not free in any nation in the world to do whatever conduct it wants without accountability to the government entity."
Actually, you are the one confused about capitalism and liberty.
Capitalism's one basic rule is that market forces rule. Every time a government imposes limits on the free market, they are diluting capitalism. Libertarianism represents one end of the spectrum. Socialism is at the other. The more governments interfere in free markets, the further you move along the spectrum toward socialism. Certain limits are imposed on the market (even under libertarianism) such as regulating pollution or barring the export of weapons to terrorists. But what you advocate is protectionism for US labor markets. As a libertarian, I find this abhorrent. There is no national security justification for imposing domestic content rules in the labor market. We have been moving away from such rules for decades in terms of the amount of American-made content in goods produced in this country. Labor is another component of production just like raw materials.
By the way, licensing businesses is done in order to tax businesses. I personally think we should keep taxes and the regulation of business by the government to a minimum. You apparently think businesses are there to be punished.
America has the world's most successful economy because our markets are freer than in any other country. Just compare it to the economies of Europe. European companies are much more regulated than their American counterparts. And their historical rates of unemployment and their costs of living are much higher than in the US. Any economist worth their salt will confirm that freer economies thrive and overregulated economies lag. The goal of your organization is to protect American workers. But your willingness to impose more limits on American companies will only result in higher overall unemployment. You are cutting off your nose to spite your face.
"Capitalism doesn't give you a license to get rich. Laissez-faire capitalism without restraints from national governments was severely discredited long ago as being brutal, inhumane, and immoral by major religions such as your own Jewish faith. Without restraints from nation states, economic systems are almost entirely outside democratic control, meaning that most people end up having almost no self-determination, vulnerable to the whims of the tiny few in the world who hold the power and the money. Capitalism and free-market systems have been wonderful advances for human kind, but only when they are fettered by democratic control by the people of nations."
Actually, capitalism does give you a "license" to get rich. The dream of getting wealthy is what is at the heart of being an entrepreneur in this country. When a government takes away the incentive of getting rich, economies spiral downward. That is the reason why the Soviet Union fell. It is the reason why the entire country of North Korea is starving.
As for my Jewish faith, I am offended by your lecturing me on this subject and would suggest you stick to what you know. Immigration restrictionists like yourself had the influence to get this country to shut down its border in the 1920s. And that is why dozens of my family members and my wife's family members were unable to escape murder by the Nazis during the Holocaust simply because they were Jewish.
My great-grandparents were fortunate enough to escape the oppression of the czars and come to this country with the dream of living in freedom and providing a refuge from generations of poverty. They came to America because they wanted good jobs in a free country. Their siblings who decided to stay on and care for older relatives or simply to wait to earn more money lost their lives when it was too late to get a visa to come to this country after the Nazis came to power.
My wife's father and grandparents came to this country as refugees immediately after the war. In fact, they entered as some of the first refugees under the UN Refugee Convention which was passed in order to ensure that the world would never again close its borders like they did during the Holocaust. I consider my work to be important in order to ensure that we never go back to those awful days when we slammed our doors on those seeking the refuge of our shores or simply a better life in this country.
My family and I attend an Orthodox synagogue, we keep Kosher, my children attend a Jewish day school, and I am on the board of our community's Jewish Family Service as well as my synagogue. I don't need you lecturing me about being Jewish and being pro-immigration. My rabbi made a point of telling our synagogue's congregants from the alter during my wedding ceremony that he considered my work to be one of the most important jobs a Jew could have. The Torah tells us to "welcome the stranger" and most clergymen - Jewish or not - recognize this as G-d's commanding us to not only be tolerant toward immigration, but to aid people who have immigrated.
And, aside from the Holocaust, the Jewish people have suffered for thousands of years because of restrictions on their ability to live in peace where they liked. The exile in Egypt, the destruction of the First Temple and the scattering of the 12 Tribes of Israel, the rescue of the Jewish refugees in Babylonia by Queen Esther and the expulsion of the Jews of Spain are only a few examples of the wanderings of my people. We have survived as a people because whenever we have been expelled from a nation, another nation has opened its doors. Today, the country of Israel embodies this history. It has a Ministry of Absorption whose mission it is to ensure that new immigrants to the Jewish state are met with a hearty welcome and are given the support necessary to get off to a good start in their new country. Not exactly what we see in this country. Over the last twelve years, Israel has welcomed one million new immigrants. That is equivalent to our admitting 60 million people - roughly the population of France or the United Kingdom. In Israel, this is celebrated. You would never see groups advocating for lesser immigration. That would be a "shanda" - an embarrassment - to our people.
On a more contemporary note, the work visas you condemn are used by my children’s Jewish day school to bring in Hebrew and Judaic teachers from Israel. You may be surprised that this "greedy lawyer" handles these cases without charge. And I have yet to hear a protest from an American Jew complaining about these "foreigners" coming in to take jobs away a US worker.
You are also wrong in saying that Judaism is somehow hostile to the concept of free markets. Quite the opposite is true. A typical Jewish child will be taught that going into business is something of which he or she can be proud. And that same child will be taught that they have a personal obligation to ensure the welfare of those in their local and extended communities. This is borne out by the American Jewish historical experience. Jews disproportionately played a role in establishing this country's largest companies. And as a group, Jews donate more to charity than just about any other ethnic community in this country.
The lessen here is that rather than shutting down the country's borders to protect the economic well-being of the few, we should take responsibility as members of the community to help people in need. I mentioned above that I am on the board of my community's Jewish Family Service. One of the functions of our JFS is to assist people in need to obtain job training and to aid them in finding work. Members of our board get on the phone and call around to help people find jobs. Members of our community often hire someone referred by JFS hire even before there is a real need for a particular worker because helping someone in need is a "mitzvah" - a good deed.
President Bush has said - and I believe - that the answer to every social problem in this country is not always more government. Private charities can solve many problems and should be encouraged in doing so. Helping displaced H-1B workers is one more example where that is the case.
"H-1B and other NIVs are a socialist programs that attempt to equalize white-collar wages with that of the third world. The U.S. government allows immigration lawyers to import workers in order to artificially manipulate the supply, and therefore the price of workers. Don't fool yourself; you have learned to milk the cow of corporate socialism. You would probably be a web-based quickie-divorce attorney if it wasn't for the H-1B cash cow."
I actually agree with you that H-1Bs and other work visas are socialist programs. I would be happy to hang a "going out of business" sign in exchange for our country liberalizing our immigration laws. I think any limits on a company's ability to hire the workers of its choice are wrong. But if there are to be such rules - and, let's be honest in recognizing that they are not going anywhere - then I can at least play a useful role in helping companies navigate this highly regulated minefield. Unlike you and your "ilk" - you seem to like that term - I'm not afraid of open competition. I consider myself smart enough and resourceful enough to thrive in a free economy. Go ahead and put me out business by opening up immigration. I'll be the first to congratulate you on a job well done.
By the way, I'm surprised you would be against "web-based quickie-divorce attorneys." They are actually making life tough for the rich divorce attorneys out there "milking the divorce cash cow."
"Milton Friedman, the high priest of libertarianism, said that H-1B is a corporate subsidy. Friedman would probably say that you are a hypocrite instead of a libertarian. In a true libertarian society, there would be free flows of people in and out of the country, and thus no need for immigration lawyers. The more complex immigration law is the more un-libertarian it is, and the more money you make. Libertarians are your worse enemy so be very careful about adopting them to your cause."
Maybe you should do some more research on libertarianism. Libertarians almost uniformly favor open immigration - certainly more so than Democrats or Republicans. Check out the Libertarian Party's platform from the 2000 Presidential election which states the following:
"We welcome all refugees to our country. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference. We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally." (http://www.issues2000.org/Celeb/Libertarian_Party_Immigration.htm)
On the Libertarian Party's web site you can also find the definitive text explaining why Libertarians favor open immigration. Go to http://www.lp.org/issues/immigration.html to read more.
I tend to agree with Milton Friedman on most matters and when I researched his opinion recently on immigration I found I don't really disagree with him on this subject either (By the way, Friedman is a fellow University of Chicago graduate and I have admired his views since I attended U of C).
You are really taking him out of context. He is concerned about immigration because he is against the Welfare state and does not want immigrants to have access to such benefits. In a recent VDARE.com interview, he's quoted as saying "As long as you have a welfare state, I do not believe you can have a unilateral open immigration. I would like to see a world in which you could have open immigration." I personally would favor seeing immigrants restricted further from receiving welfare benefits (which, by the way, is consistent with the Libertarian Party's position). I think few people would be negatively affected by this and it might put to rest the false notion that immigrants come to the US to collect welfare (How ironic it is that the same people who complain about immigrants coming to collect Welfare will then complain that immigrants are coming to take jobs away from Americans!). Mr. Friedman also is unhappy with the H-1B program precisely because there are limits on visa numbers and he believes that the companies that get access to H-1B workers are getting an unfair subsidy since not all companies have such access. Get rid of the H-1B quota altogether and then ask Mr. Friedman what he thinks. I suspect his views will change.
I would also call your attention to someone who actually plays a more important role these days in ensuring that America thrives - Mr. Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Greenspan not only states that immigration is good for our economy. He goes so far as saying that immigration will be vital to our long term economic success as our population ages. Specifically, Greenspan told Congress recently
"Our open labor markets can adapt to the differing needs and abilities of our older population. Our capital markets can allow for the creation and rapid adoption of new labor-saving technologies, and our open society has been receptive to immigrants. All these factors put us in a good position to adjust to the [impacts] of an aging population."
Hardly an endorsement for shutting down immigration to this country.
Finally, I absolutely agree with you that it is hypocritical to argue in favor of capitalism and also favor complex immigration laws. That's why I don't. You will never see me argue that we need complex immigration laws for their own sake. I just think that they are a better alternative to no immigration at all. But given a choice, I would dramatically simplify the immigration system and open it up widely. I would simply impose background checks to keep out certain undesirables - terrorists, people with highly contagious dangerous diseases, hardened criminals, etc. Beyond that, the government should stay out. I'll find new work if need be and not blame the government or foreign workers for my troubles.
I tend to believe that by the time people get to the point of supporting an organization like yours, their opinions are already hardened, and I harbor no illusions that I will change any of your readers' minds. But I do at least want to explain that there are other ways to view the immigration question. I appreciate the opportunity to express the pro-immigration viewpoint - which is all I wanted CNN to do in the report that prompted this exchange. Open discussion should always be welcome in a free society!
Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.