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Dear Editor:
I thank Justin for his comments and the questions he raised, which I will now address. The point made by Mr. Devaronkonda in the quote I cited concerned the green card process, not the H-1B visa directly. Note that that was my point as well, i.e. that the de facto indentured servant nature of the visa, at least for those who are being sponsored by their employers for green cards, stems from de facto immobility (even in terms of promotions) of the H-1B during the multi-year green card process. Concerning Justin's letter wondering why so much of the H-1B debate focuses on IT workers, the INS data show that more than half of H-1Bs are in that field. Moreover, that field has been the growth area for H-1Bs in recent years, and the IT industry has dominated the lobbying of Congress to expand the H-1B program. However, that doesn't mean that abuse is limited to that field, and I would particularly object to Justin's claim of a shortage of bilingual workers. There are plenty of naturalized citizens and LPRs with bilingual skills who would love to get many of the non-IT jobs now going to H-1Bs, again due to the exploitability of the latter. Continuing his earlier objection to the description of the H-1Bs as de facto indentured servants, Justin's letter counters that it is simply a "voluntary undertaking on both sides." But that was also true of the original (de jure) indentured servants of the 18th century. And again, whatever name ones gives it, the bottom line is that the employer has tremendous leverage over the workers, resulting in wage exploitation and other types of abuse. Justin's letter finds it contradictory that I decry the exploitation of the H-1Bs on the one hand, while on the other hand supporting the employment-based immigration of "the best and the brightest." His letter states that if the first of these harms individual citizens of the given H-1B-sending nation, the second harms that nation as a whole by slowing its technological development. But first of all, this is certainly not a contradiction in the legal sense; the law makes it illegal (though unfortunately commonplace) to underpay an H-1B but the law also encourages the immigration of top talents through various fast-track provisions. The governments of the immigrant-sending nations support the outmigration of their top talents, reasoning that it is actually a long-term investment for their nation, as the outmigrating stars often later help to develop their home countries after they have established themselves in the field in the US. The immigrating stars, for their part, point out that their home countries simply do not have the infrastructure, resources and so on to make much use of their talents; a Third World country cannot afford to do highly expensive "big science."

Norm Matloff