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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Dear Editor:
I've been alternately amused and irritated by the debate beween immigration lawyer Greg Siskind and H-1B program critic Rob Sanchez, as well as the comments by various kibbitzers. As I am arguably the most prominent critic of the H-1B program, I'd like to make a couple of points. As a practicing Jew myself, I was surprised to see Siskind's Jewish faith become an issue, complete with Siskind's outrageous implication that the Talmud supports H-1B and his unwarranted hints that Sanchez is anti-Semitic. I teach my 11-year-old daughter that if there is one central theme in Judaism, it is a concern for justice. In that light, I would strongly support Siskind's implicit statement that the US and all wealthy countries should feature haven for refugees (including his example of the Jews of the 1930s) as an integral part of immigration policy. But Siskind makes a travesty of that concept when he draws an analogy with H-1B, which is a visa which typically renders its holders de facto indentured servants. How can Judaism possibly be twisted to justify de facto slavery, even if in this case it is a relatively "genteel" slavery? Even the pro-industry National Research Council report, commissioned by Congress and published in 2000, recognizes the indentured-servant nature of typical H-1Bs. (The 2000 legislation ameliorated this somewhat, but it is still a major problem.) That same NRC report also found that H-1Bs are indeed often paid less than comparable Americans. There are a number of other statistical studies showing this as well, and fundamental economic principles show it without even using data. This abuse of the H-1Bs is absolutely antithetical to the tenets of Judaism, and I am offended at Siskind's attempts to make such a justification.

Because of the Jewish tradition of sympathy for the poor, I can easily understand that Jewish immigration lawyers feel they are doing a mitzvah, i.e. a good deed, by helping engineers from Third World countries like India and China immigrate to the US Putting aside the fact that these engineers are typically not poor, i.e. they are from the better-off classes of society, my point here is that every time you think you are helping someone immigrate from India or China, keep in mind that you are hurting other immigrants from India or China. Two-thirds of my computer science students at the University of California, Davis are Asian-American. Most are of Chinese ethnicity, but there are also a number of Indian, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern heritage. The vast majority of them are US-born (or at least US-raised) children of immigrant parents. Those parents typically came to the US for one overriding purpose--to provide a better education and economic future for their children. I'm sorry to put it so bluntly, but you immigration lawyers are cutting those parents and their kids off at the knees. Due to the H-1B and L-1 programs, most of these students will never be able to have a technical career in computer science. And it's not just the new graduates. "J," for instance, is the son of Chinese immigrants. He did everything society and his education-conscious parents asked: Work hard in school, major in a "practical" field (electrical engineering/computer science), get a postgraduate degree, etc. He went to work for a major industry firm, and did outstanding work--awards, patents, etc. Yet he was laid off while the firm was hiring H-1Bs whose work J could have done. It is likely that he will never find technical work in engineering again. Please don't bother responding with the standard excuses. ("The number of H-1Bs is down, so the system is 'working'," "It's the fault of the Bush economy," "The real problem is offshoring," etc.) I've heard them all before, and refute them all in my writings. For example, see http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/Summary.pdf for a short, bulleted summary. See also http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/matloff.html for my bio if you wish to know "where I am coming from" on these issues. And by the way, note that I have no personal financial stake in the issues, in contrast to both Siskind and Sanchez, and to most readers of Immigration Daily. I would hope that that might give some of you some pause for thought.

Norm Matloff, Professor of Computer Science
University of California, Davis



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