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Debugging Indian Computer Programmers 1248

The H1-B visa program allows many thousands of non-American technical workers (about half a million at the moment) to hold jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the U.S. -- jobs which are seemingly difficult to fill from the American labor pool for a variety of reasons, and which are eagerly filled by employers who find that qualified, talented people come from countries all over the world. N. Sivakumar's first-person account of being an Indian programmer working for companies in several U.S. states over the past decade illustrates a side of the H1-B system that doesn't get talked about much: the experience of skilled, highly educated workers taking jobs in an environment that offers, besides welcome employment, various levels of hostility and resentment. Read on for my review of his book, Debugging Indian Computer Programmers: Dude, Did I Steal Your Job?
Debugging Indian Computer Programmers: Dude, Did I Steal Your Job?
author N. Sivakumar
pages 189
publisher Divine Tree
rating 6
reviewer timothy
ISBN 0975514008
summary The other side of the H1-B system; the mixed experiences and positive effects of Indian immigrant programmers

Life as an immigrant programmer is full of culture shocks both minor and major (would you know the first time around how to dress when flying from Bombay to Pittsburgh via Los Angeles, in winter?), and much of the book is devoted to outlining some of the shocks that Indian programmers face, even in immigrant-happy America. Buying a car to rely on for daily transport -- on American highways, no less -- is just one of the things many programmers like Sivakumar have to face shortly after arriving; he explains that one of the reasons certain makes of car (chiefly Japanese) are popular among newly arrived H1-B workers is that their expected resale value is high. When your employment is at the mercy of a short-term visa, and the cooperation of a sponsoring company, similar logic informs all kinds of decisions.

The "Did I steal your job?" in the title is the real question raised by this book: Sivakumar rallies evidence that the answer is a resounding No. Despite the vitriol raised by H1-B visa holders (and the H1-B program itself), he argues that the immigrant workers drawing ire from many Americans (who see the immigrants as encroaching unfairly on "their" jobs) not only contribute real money -- billions of dollars -- to the U.S. economy, but are one of the reasons that the U.S. high-tech industry is as successful as it is and has been.

He asks pointedly "[W]hy do some modern Americans (of course, a small percentage) want only those immigrant programmers and IT workers who came during recent times to go back home, yet tend to forget that their parents or grandparents were immigrants too?"

Sivakumar's argument has three pillars. First, that high-tech immigrants (including H1-B holders) are one of the key ingredients in the continuing success of many American companies. These aren't foreign workers who simply happen to land jobs in the U.S.; each H1-B visa holder has at least 16 years (often more) of formal education, and an American company sponsoring his or her application. (That education usually comes "free" to U.S. taxpayers, he notes, not at the expense of public school budgets or student loan subsidies.) Sivakumar contrasts both the generous immigrant policies and world-leading software industry of the U.S. with the policies and software industries of Europe, which tend to be more restrictive and less successful, respectively.

The second part of his argument is that H1-B immigrants, though motivated by a desire to improve their own lives, end up contributing disproportionately to the U.S. economy -- something Americans should be happy about, not resentful. Indian programmers in particular end up spending much of their salary on necessary (and less necessary) material goods both for their personal use and as socially obligated gifts to family members, increasing the retail take of U.S. companies from AT&T to the local car dealer.

More significantly, H1-B workers, as legal immigrants to the U.S., have the dubious privilege of paying the same taxes as other Americans (and more than most), with a far smaller chance of reaping their benefits. Most are single, and send no children to the U.S. schools they help underwrite, and most will never collect on the Social Security system or medical-care systems their payroll taxes help prop up.

Third, Sivakumar points out that Indian immigrants are often among the inventive and entrepreneurial class which provides jobs in the first place, citing -- besides a litany of Indian company founders and inventors -- a Berkeley study showing that in the boom years of the 1990s, "ethnic Chinese and Indian immigrants started nearly 25% of the high-tech start-ups in [Silicon] Valley." That's nearly 3000 companies, employing on the order of 100,000 people. The market capitalization of Indian-founded or -run U.S.-based companies is nearly half a trillion dollars. Job creation is an economic complex that requires funding and expertise, and Indian and other immigrants contribute to -- not subtract from -- the creation of jobs for other Americans.

Sivakumar is polite, almost apologetic at times -- and more optimistic than some of the things he's experienced as a hired-gun programmer might lead you to expect. Though he maintains that the book is not an autobiography, many of the experiences in it are things he himself encountered; some of them are funny, others either frightening or simply sad. In particular, he makes note of one place that programmers and other tech workers are likely to run into "racially abusive" hostility -- namely, Internet message boards. As he puts it,

"You meet these people every day of your life, and they probably would smile at you at your workplace or even would greet you. They show their real face in those discussion forums. These online discussion forums are great tools for those who want to hide themselves from the public but would like to spew their venom."

Given the hostility faced online and (less often) in real life, sometimes Sivakumar's politeness goes what struck me as too far; I was surprised to read his conciliatory advice to Indians treated suspiciously on the basis of their skin color or accent in the panic-prone modern America to "please accept it," rather than to bristle. That might be pragmatic and sensible advice, but America will be a better place when it's unnecessary.

This book makes no pretense of being an authoritative work on cultural differences, but Sivakumar does delve into a few of the gaps between American and Indian aesthetics, habits, and mores. Sexually explicit entertainment is far more accessible in the U.S. than in much of the world, and in India in particular; he labels the usually short-lived exploration by some new immigrants of the seedier side of American entertainment "The X-Rated Movie Syndrome." On a different note, vegetarian food isn't easy to find in company cafeterias, which means for many Indian programmers one of many small barriers to acceptance by their coworkers, because they can't simply order off the menu at a company cafeteria.

Even trivial aspects of daily life are sometimes imbued with cultural meaning: after being advised by a friend to "walk smart" (that is, confidently, not quietly or humbly) along company corridors, he writes "It sounded true to me, and I was prepared for my next American adventure. 'Alright, I am going to walk straight and smart as of tomorrow!' I tried recently only to have my colleagues comment that I walk like President Bush."

Despite a casual style and sometimes distracting use of jargon ("Dude" is funnier in the title than when it appears several times in the text), the content of Debugging is serious. Sivakumar and other immigrant programmers are not abstractions or hypotheticals: they're designing processors, programming systems of all scales, and bringing the results of high-end education worldwide to places like Palo Alto, New York and Austin. They're also facing an anti-immigrant backlash that ranges from merely spiteful (the usual) to actually violent (thankfully uncommon). Sivakumar's experience in the U.S. isn't wholly negative -- he's quick to point out otherwise -- but includes cavalier treatment from co-workers and landlords, and even harassment from a flag-waving driver gesturing obscenely (and blocking his car) on the streets of New Jersey. That's the sort of experience most light-skinned, native-born Americans are lucky not to face on a daily basis.

Losing friends and neighbors to the terror attacks of 2001 isn't something that happened only to American citizens, and Sivakumar was touched by both; five residents of his New Jersey apartment complex were killed by those attacks, along with the wife of a friend. In this and other aspects of life in America, he justifiably considers himself a part of the U.S. high-tech economy, not a mere visitor, and uses the second person when talking about the American software industry specifically. If you're an American by birth, realize that Sivakumar is an American by choice (even if he has ties and loyalties to both India and Sri Lanka besides), whatever his visa status says.

This is also a funny book, in parts -- in particular, Sivakumar's experiences ordering lunch in an American company cafeteria made me laugh. (Pronouncing "milk" with an emphasis on the "l" rather than the "i" is a matter of spoken convention, after all, not a rule of nature -- but a short "i" will get you a carton of milk faster in an American company cafeteria). The author's graceful levity is welcome, and it helps to defuse the natural anger I felt at some of the odious treatment he describes.

The writing is understandable throughout, but Sivakumar is clearly a programmer writing, rather than a writer who happens to also be a programmer; much of the text is awkwardly phrased, and dotted with avoidable errors in spelling or diction. (One that stuck out: in more than one place, the name of fellow H1-B immigrant Linus Torvalds is rendered "Linus Travolds.") The chronology of Sivakumar's own story is not always clear, either; he mentions offhandedly at one point early on that "[b]y the way, my wife had come from India and joined me by then"; a clearer timeline would help in unifying the anecdotes which make up much of the book.

Sivakumar is also guilty in places of wielding the same kind of broad brush he sees being used to paint Indian programmers; he provides cultural sketches of several other groups that may be meant merely as casual observations rather than any sort of final word, but end up doing the same disservice as any other stereotype. (Of his first trip through customs, he says "That was the first time I ever talked to an African American. I never understood their accent even in the movies." This kind of glib generalization doesn't advance the cause of the book; often "they" are hard to characterize so blithely, no matter which "they" is at issue.)

However, take these complaints with a grain of salt: it would be easy to concentrate on the less-than-smooth delivery -- it just wouldn't be smart. If you let the presentation distract you too much from the content, you'll miss what the book's about, which is that "there is another side to the H1-B factor." While the book has some distracting flaws, they don't subtract from its logical conclusion: immigrant programmers in the U.S. are simply human beings trying to better themselves in what's supposed to be a free society, and adding immensely to U.S. prosperity -- and they're doing so despite hostility on several fronts. If you want to understand the not-so-simple phenomenon of Indian programmers in America, don't overlook that message.

You can purchase Debugging Indian Computer Programmers: Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? directly from Divine Tree. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Debugging Indian Computer Programmers

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  • Immigrants (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexo ( 9335 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:35PM (#11110617) Journal

    > He asks pointedly "[W]hy do some modern Americans (of course, a small
    > percentage) want only those immigrant programmers and IT workers who came
    > during recent times to go back home, yet tend to forget that their parents or
    > grandparents were immigrants too?"

    Because nobody resents new immigrants like old immigrants.

    Oh, there are exceptions of course but unfortunately they seem to prove the rule.

    (my first first post posted)
    • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:43PM (#11110693) Homepage Journal

      I remember, not too long after 9/11, reading an interview with a kid (19 years old, something like that) who was arrested as part of a mob that vandalized a mosque. The reporter asked him why he did it, and he replied, "I'm a real American. I hate Arabs and I always have."

      What was striking about this was that the kid's last name was "Mc" something. Apparently his family never bothered to tell him the stories about the reception his ancestors got when they first stepped off the boat ...
      • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MooseByte ( 751829 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:57PM (#11110837)

        "after 9/11, reading an interview with a kid (19 years old, something like that) who was arrested as part of a mob that vandalized a mosque."

        Better still, when Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds in the bombing of the federal building in OK, where were the mobs running around threatening white males of Christian background?

        "Real" American? Unless your family was hunting buffalo here thousands of years ago, you're just a newbie tourist.


        Cthulhu holiday songs [], for the gift that keeps on loathing.

        • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:03PM (#11110896) Homepage Journal
          Or more specifically, white males of Irish background -- who were, in fact, until within living memory, stereotyped as drunk, violent, stupid, and Not Like Us. Looks like they shook that stereotype just in time. There was a religious aspect, as well, of course; Catholicism was regarded with suspicion by "real", i.e. Protestant, Americans throughout much of the 19th c. and well into the 20th. There were anti-Catholic/anti-Irish riots, exclusionary laws, the whole nine yards. Now that Irishness and Catholicism are no longer considered foreign ... hey! Look at that Arab terrorist / job-stealing Indian / ____ ____ over there! The names change; the attitudes don't.
        • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Interesting)

          by servognome ( 738846 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:16PM (#11111030)
          Better still, when Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds in the bombing of the federal building in OK, where were the mobs running around threatening white males of Christian background?
          There was anger and increased vigilance against those in American "militias." Lots of specials about "who these militia men are, with the media portraying them all as rednecks from the south or midwest who carry a rifle with them at all times, live in the woods, and have a shed with a military arsenal, and who want to overthrow the goverment. Of course the media also tried to extend these stereotypes to all libertarians, since most of these "militia men" had libertarian beliefs.
          Want an example of religious backlash? After the Waco incident there were tons of expose on religious cults and the threat they represent. The media trying to scare Americans that somewhere in the backwoods there are dozen of compounds of armed cultists led by psychotic religious zealots. Meanwhile there are many "cults" who just differ with mainstream christian beliefs.
          "Real" American? Unless your family was hunting buffalo here thousands of years ago, you're just a newbie tourist.
          I believe native americans immigrated too, just thousands of years earlier across the land bridge. There are no "real" americans
          • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MooseByte ( 751829 )

            "After the Waco incident there were tons of expose on religious cults and the threat they represent."

            Yeah, lots of exposure in the media. But did mobs vandalize their places of worship? Did members become victims of hate crimes? Or those that merely looked like sect members?

            In Phoenix, AZ a Sikh was gunned down after 9/11. Hate crime. [] When arrested he shouted, "I'm a damn American all the way! I'm an American! Arrest me! Let those terrorists run wild!" Ignoring the absurdity that all Arabs/Muslims ar

            • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Insightful)

              by servognome ( 738846 )
              I'm not denying your point or condoning any level of hateful prejudice, but clearly militias and Christian splinter groups did not suffer in any way similar to what the brown-skinned Middle- and Near-Eastern ethnic groups have endured since 9/11.
              I agree they did not suffer near as much as those from the middle east did, mostly because by their nature they seperated themselves from society. A punk will desecrate a holy place down the street with a paintcan, but won't drive 100 miles into the woods to do t
          • Re:Immigrants (Score:4, Interesting)

            by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @10:42PM (#11112258)
            "Meanwhile there are many "cults" who just differ with mainstream christian beliefs."

            I think the only difference between "cult" and "mainstream" is the number of warm bodies in the particular denomination and how much economic and political power they have. Koresh in Waco had followers in the dozens so he was a cult. I'm pretty sure Mormons would be called a cult if you looked at their organization objectively were there not millions of them, if they didn't pretty much own a state and weren't politicly and economicly powerful. Their history and the Book of Mormon is to say the least "interesting". South Park has a pretty good parody of it. Many are still polygamists to this day often with rather young girls, which was a key factor in the persecution of Koresh. I think most Mormons would be polygamists had banning it not been a condition of statehood. If you think about it Joseph Smith set up a pretty nice lifestyle for himself. Mormons have made the jump from cult to mainstream at this point thanks to success.

            I'm pretty sure if Jesus were to come back today he would most probably be persecuted as a cultists and if he were to start preaching the same message today he preached 2000 years ago most "mainstream" Christians would probably crucify him one way or another, assuming he didn't start lobbing miracles left and right. Most modern Christians don't seem to really understand or agree with most of the things he actually said and did. The New Testament as nearly as I can tell is just empty text they listen to and maybe even memorize without ever actually taking to heart and without actually practicing the other 6 days of the week.
            • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )
              I think the only difference between "cult" and "mainstream" is the number of warm bodies in the particular denomination and how much economic and political power they have.

              I'd have to disagree with that. I think the difference between "mainstream" and "cult" is the amount of control the organization has over the lives of its members.

              For example, I'm a Southern Baptist. When I do something that goes against the Southern Baptist Convention's definition of acceptable behavior, then I answer to God - not

          • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Informative)

            by ratamacue ( 593855 )
            most of these "militia men" had libertarian beliefs

            A true libertarian does not believe that anyone (including himself, including government) should posesses the "right" to initiate force as a means to an end. The moment he chose to adopt the principle of force, and abandon the principle of voluntary association, was the moment he stopped being a libertarian.

            Libertarianism is founded on peaceful, voluntary interaction. There is nothing peaceful or voluntary about what happened there.

      • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Interesting)

        The kid was wrong but honestly, a lot of people said a lot of messed up stuff "not too long after 9/11". This isn't striking, it's surprisingly common regardless of what his last name started with.

        To a rather large portion of the United States the Arab world is defined by the relative handful of times anything in it got their attention. That would go something like "Arab oil embargo, Iranian hostage crisis, Lebanon Marine barracks bombing, Gulf War I, World Trade Center bombing, 9/11, and Gulf War II."
    • Re:Immigrants (Score:4, Insightful)

      by buffer-overflowed ( 588867 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:45PM (#11110717) Journal
      H1-B Visa holders aren't immigrants though. I wish that they were.
      • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Informative)

        Yes and no. H1-B can be converted to L1-A. It just takes effort on the part of the employer.
    • Repeat after me (Score:2, Informative)

      by Augusto ( 12068 )
      > Because nobody resents new immigrants like old immigrants.

      Repeat after me; H1-B != immigration
    • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pilot-programmer ( 822406 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:00PM (#11110867)
      Most people I know really don't resent immigration - they and I only resent immigration when unemployment is an issue. Some economists are forecasting economic problems for the US in about 10 years when the baby boom generation starts retiring en masse, but I have never met anybody who thinks we should restrict immigration when the immigrants will be necessary to the economy. I have friends working at companies that hire a lot of H-1B workers, and they tell me the Indians are straight out of school. But these companies will not consider any Americans without a great deal of experience, setting a double standard for Americans and Indians. To unemployed programmers - people who were laid off and had to train their H-1B replacements or new graduates who are told the only new graduates who are qualified come from other countries - it really doesn't matter how much money foreign tech workers spend while here. It just matters that the foreigner can spend money and the unemployed programmer has no money to spend. Disagree? Try losing your job, spending about a year being told you are underqualified in the computer industry and overqualified in other fields, and see how you feel when companies that will not consider you tell Congress they need more foreign tech workers.
      • Re:Immigrants (Score:4, Informative)

        by nikster ( 462799 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @02:00AM (#11113440) Homepage
        Sorry, but i have to call Bull**** on this one.

        I symphathize with all unemployed Americans who are actively looking for a job - being unemployed is terrible. However, don't take it out on the immigrants - if you are competing with an H1-B applicant as a U.S. citizen, you have huge advantages. I will just outline the two biggest:

        1) It's a big, big hassle for a company to go through the H1-B process. It takes time and money, and dealing with lawyers. On top of that, you are uncertain if it will work. If a company can avoid that, they will.

        2) An employee on H1-B is required to receive the "median" salary for his / her profession. I know because i was affected - on my first job 7 years ago, my employer had to increase my salary in order to meet the criteria (to something like $54k which was not too shabby back then).
        Whereas, had i been an american, they could - and would - have just paid me less money.

        => if you want to be dumping prices, you can only do it with U.S. citizen employess. Ironic, but true.
      • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Interesting)

        Hmm. I work at a company that hires quite a few H-1B workers. Some from places as far away as Canada. Many are from India, Pakistan, France, and the UK. A couple are from Australia.

        The one thing I can say with certainty is that not one of them "stole" the job they have. They may have been better qualified than the other applicants, but that certainly isn't their fault. Most of them (not all, mind you, but most) are amazingly good at what they do. Even the ones I consider pretty sub-par were still the best
        • Re:Immigrants (Score:3, Interesting)

          by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 )
          My experience with H1B's has been the opposite. They've seldom been real world qualified. They lacked experience, and their edcuation was questionable. One guy had a Phd in Database Design, but his code had the worst defect rate of anyone in the company. He used exceptions as goto's for crying out loud.

          That's not to say i've never met a qualified H1B, I have.

          My problem with the H1B program is when similarly or better qualified citizens are laid off in favor of H1B replacements. Don't say it doesn't h
  • by BalorTFL ( 766196 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:37PM (#11110627)
    ...aren't most people compaining more about tech jobs being outsourced for $10/hr to programmers living in countries like India, rather than the Indian workers coming to the U.S. and earning a more typical salary?
    • No, first it was the H1B visa holders, then it was outsourcing.
    • by dirgotronix ( 576521 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:59PM (#11110859) Homepage
      Define what you mean by a 'typical' salary?

      I'm a web developer specialising in e-commerce (php/mysql/asp/etc, not wysiwyg) in a small (15 person) firm, and /I/ make $10/hour, and I'm white and was born in Los Angeles. Do you really think that what you're doing is worth much more than that?

      If you want to make more money, do something that /isn't/ a widely-known skill, that most high school kids have already taken courses on. Go clean bathrooms for a few years.

      Basic economics, people. Too much supply, very little demand. Go for what's cheapest.
      • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:08PM (#11110943)

        you're getting screwed, buddy. I pay my maid more than that!

        • He getting screwed. I friend of mine make $25/hour pulling fiber-optic cable as part of a network installation crew. Your employer doesn't realize that by paying you that low, you are going to jump ship the first chance you get, and take your knowledge of web development with you.

          I have to admit that I haven't seen php/mysql in any of the large businesses I've worked in. What I have seen is Apache/IIS/Oracle/MS SQL Server and java server pages/asp for the dynamic pages. Maybe it's your skills with 'free'/'
        • $10/hr?
          you're getting screwed, buddy. I pay my maid more than that!

          Hell, my 13 yr. old daughter gets that much for babysitting!
      • $10/hour is pretty bad. Back when I was unemployed, I found plenty of similar offers for programming work. Usually such wages are indicative of company that either doesn't need/want highly skilled workers.

        A local church offered me $12/hour to do IT work. The woman I spoke to was apologetic for the low wage, but she said there'd be fresh cookies and lemonade.

        Day laborers get $15/hour around here.

        A couple of friends of mine made $20/hour cleaning houses when they couldn't find programming work.

        I c
  • India. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:37PM (#11110630)
    There's a hell of a lot to know about India.
    One detail that many Americans don't really understand, is that there are essentially three careers that are considered to be more desirable than all others: Doctor, Engineer, and Computer Programmer. In some circles, you are not successful if you are not, or don't have a son, in one of these professions. This concept is as foreign to Americans as the idea of arranged marriage (which is still very much alive among Indians, even those living and working in the US!).

    There is a good reason India happens to be the place where the computer programming jobs go! In the US, it's looked at as something significantly less important than being one of the three top careers.
  • Got to agree... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:38PM (#11110649) Homepage
    I'm getting a little tired of the "stole my job" complaints. All jobs are determined by the same market forces as everything else. If your job isn't in demand, you can do one of two things:

    1.) Work for less (not a promising prospect).
    2.) Change your job.

    Sure it sucks to do the second, especially if you put a lot of time and energy into it, but if you're smart you can mold your experience to a new occupation.

    Take my current job: network administration. Fairly simple task. The more I've read and the more people I've talked to, these kind of jobs are next to be outsourced. IT is going to become a "utility".

    So what do I do? I'm currently studying for an MBA. I'm talking to people: "What does it take to become an IT manager? How about a director?" All the "maintenance" jobs in the world can move overseas, but you still need people back at home making the decisions. I'll become one of those.
    • Re:Got to agree... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:13PM (#11111002) Homepage
      All the "maintenance" jobs in the world can move overseas, but you still need people back at home making the decisions. I'll become one of those.
      (Emphasis added)

      When the primary workforce moves to Inda, China, South Korea, or somewhere else, middle management will move with it. What do you think, that the plant that put your last car together in Mexico left its middle management in Detroit?

      And following similar logic, once you have very little middle-management here, director level posistions will migrate as well. The boards will remain here, of course, but the rest of the company will be in India.

      I hope your MBA can get you to a boardroom in the next 5 years. Otherwise you might as well stop with the MBA now and start flipping burgers. After all, jobs are determined by the same market forces as everything else, and there is definitely not a shortage of obesity.
    • by Whyaduck ( 140952 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:27PM (#11111135)
      It seems that in the U.S. different jobs are subject to different market forces dependent on the political clout that an industry has relative to labor in the industry. The H1-B program was created specifically to address what was, at one time, a shortage of talent. By most accounts that shortage no longer exists. Today the program has the effect of slowing wage growth in the field (or in some cases depressing wages).

      My own problem with the H1-B program isn't that it allows foreign competition into the U.S. labor market; the problem is that software engineers have been singled out among other professions. Additionally, the program is not reciprocal. Do the countries that H1-B's come from have similarly generous guest worker programs? Not that I know of. Also, by depressing salaries in the American software industry and making jobs more competitive to get, fewer Americans are going into the software field.

      Again, the problem isn't that competition from foreign workers is inherently unfair; the problem is that a particular profession has essentially been targeted for an across the board salary cut through legislation.

    • Re:Got to agree... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vellmont ( 569020 )
      And I'm getting a little tired of the "market forces determine everything". Duh, we all know that. The difference is the "market" isn't some mystical thing unaffected by laws. The whole reason we allow H1-B visas is for employers who can't find someone to do the job they're offering.

      When we allow all these H1-B visas while there's already a glut of programmers that only drives down salaries and makes more people unemployed. That's good for corporations, but terrible for programmers/admins. And guess
  • by raehl ( 609729 )
    The argument of the book seems to be that H1-B's are good for the economy because they pay taxes and buy stuff.

    What that argument misses entirely is that if we had an unemployed US citizen in that same job, they would ALSO pay the SAME taxes and buy stuff, and NOT send money to a foreign country. "Because the immigrant came to the US, they had to buy a car!" So? Because the immigrant stole an American's job, that American couldn't buy a car! There is no net gain (and perhaps a net loss) to US Citizens
    • > What that argument misses entirely is that if we had an unemployed US citizen in that same job, they would ALSO pay the SAME taxes and buy stuff, and NOT send money to a foreign country.

      True -- but that, plus your next point...

      > the economy works better if we have the people who are best at doing a job do those jobs. If we can take the best and the brightest from other countries and have them work in our companies and produce better product for us, we should steal every single one of them we can

    • by bwoodring ( 101515 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:57PM (#11110835)
      The problem with that argument is the assumption that US companies are hiring immigrants because they are more skilled or brighter. Realistically, the only reason most of them are hired is because they are cheap. So what we're really doing it devaluing IT work in the US.
    • That immigrant usually has a rather good education, paid for by the Indian government, that didn't cost the US a dime. But you reap most of the benefits.

    • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:07PM (#11110929)
      Say it with me: "My job does not belong to me." Try it again: "My job does not belong to me." Understand? A "job" belongs to the employer who offers it. He is free to give it to whomever he wants. Foreign workers cannot "steal" your job, because it was never yours to begin with.

      This is how capitalism works. Either deal with it, or move to a non-capitalist country.
      • See my journal entry two back. America was NEVER meant to be a capitalist country- Jefferson and the other federalists considered corporations to be as dangerous as nobility, perhaps more. What we are living in under capitalism, is not what America was meant to be.
  • > Debugging Indian Computer Programmers


    My name is JOHN and I am understand you are having trouble with Debugging Indian Computer Programmers.

    Please to reboot your Windows.

    If this has not resolved your trouble with Debugging Indian Computer Programmers, please reply to this email addressing trouble ticket sid=133066, and we will be glad to helping you.

    Thank you for your business,

  • Back in the dot com days, I worked for an internet porn company that got the bright idea of outsourcing a bunch of work to Russia. Turned out that it didn't work to well but they still wrote a bunch of code for us. Now, for all you people who talk about Perl being difficult to read, try this: I had to debug Perl code written in Russian.
  • by monopole ( 44023 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:50PM (#11110761)
    My experience is that the Hostility to the H1B program is not directed towards the visa holders but towards the corporations using the program. The H1B program is used by corporations the way they use scabs and outsourcing, to drive down wages and job security by using a desparate population. The worst aspect of the H1B program is that it is not an imigration program but nearly a form of indentured servitude. The visa holder is often at the mercy of the sponsor, not free to switch jobs easily, and facing deportation once his visa expires. This may be used by corporations to hold down wages and dissent.
    I'm very happy to see immigration of skilled workers as citizens, but I'm not happy to see the exploitation of guest workers as H1Bs.
    • I don't know enough about the program to refute you, but my girlfriend is on the H1-B program and her situation is quite different. She (alone) makes about 150% of the average household income in the area where she works, but she's highly educated in polymer chemistry and works in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it was hard to get an American to leave a large technical school and live 2 hours from any decent sized small town.

      I couldn't say much about the indentured servant aspect either, but with her c

    • The worst aspect of the H1B program is that it is not an imigration program but nearly a form of indentured servitude.

      EXACTLY. If these people have the kind of skill to be necessary in the US work force, let them imigrate. Let them become Americans. Forcing them into these indentured servitute rolls and then putting them next to highly educated free Americans pisses us off. We should be pissed of FOR these people though, not AT them. H1B is an abomination. It's a way for a company to wield dramatic
    • The worst aspect of the H1B program is that it is not an imigration program but nearly a form of indentured servitude. The visa holder is often at the mercy of the sponsor, not free to switch jobs easily, and facing deportation once his visa expires. This may be used by corporations to hold down wages and dissent.

      That's funny - I'm a US citizen working in the US in the software industry, and my wages and dissent are held down by the threat of immigrants (H1B or other) and outsourcing. Of course, when so

  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:51PM (#11110769)
    As a light-skinned native-born American [and New Jersey native] let me just say that such driving and gesturing spans everyone!

  • Debugging? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:51PM (#11110774) Homepage Journal
    Why should debugging Indian programmers be any different than the standard methods [] for any programmer?
  • by dukenuke123 ( 836354 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:53PM (#11110793)
    I am in the same situation as the author. And sometimes a few things get on my nerves like nothing else. America is not the friendliest of nations as far as social life goes, its not like India where you know all your neighbors, and your social life (and social life does not mean hanging out in bars) makes you never feel lonely. Every programmer that comes to the USA goes through days when he/she feels that it is a curse to be so good. If it wasnt so, if I wasnt good at this, I could have so easily stayed back home and worked in anything. Its a misconception to think India does not have non-outsourced jobs. I came here because I was interested in technology, and I wanted to learn. I wouldnt mind living on $ 10/hr as long as I could afford to. We come here and try to understand the customs and accents and various other things about Americans (I know, I came to your country, not the other way, so I have to do the extra work). I had a bus-driver asking me what kind of education I had and from which filthy country I came from, when I asked him about a bus stop, and found out that I was on the wrong bus, and he had to take the bus to the side and let me get out (this was 3 weeks into my US adventure). Now, he may have been tired (although it was early morning) or maybe he didnt get laid the earlier night.. but its still not cool. I must add that these things are isolated incidents, and dont generally represent America. The idea is to forget trying to blame someone else for taking anything away from you.. that person has had so much taken away from him as well.
    • by jnik ( 1733 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:06PM (#11110922)
      I had a bus-driver asking me what kind of education I had and from which filthy country I came from, when I asked him about a bus stop, and found out that I was on the wrong bus, and he had to take the bus to the side and let me get out

      Don't worry too much; the regulars get the same sort of abuse (although not necessarily with the racist trappings). There's also a strong anti-bus stigma among the population at large: riding the train is trendy and cosmopolitan; riding the bus is ghetto. This trickles down to the operator's attitude.

    • I had a bus-driver asking me what kind of education I had and from which filthy country I came from, when I asked him about a bus stop, and found out that I was on the wrong bus, and he had to take the bus to the side and let me get out (this was 3 weeks into my US adventure).

      Welcome to A-freaking-merica.

      You have described the encounters that life-long American citizens have with other life-long American citizens, encounters that people from small towns have with people from large cities, encounters that women have when surrounded by men, encounters that poorly dressed people have around the rich, and encounters that the rich have when surrounded by the poor.

      I'm sorry you had a rough time, but here's yet another custom to learn about America - we're jackasses, we like being jackasses, and we don't care if you figure out that we're jackasses. Our cultural identity is based on cowboys and conquest and cut-throat capitalism - don't be shocked when we're not the most friendly people you meet.

      I'm not trying to be harsh. I, for one, value the contributions that H1-B workers bring to America and am thankful that this country is an importer of educated workers. That said, I don't know how someone could form an opinion that we're a bunch of nice people. We can hardly stand ourselves, let alone people who are legitimately outsiders.

  • He's right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:53PM (#11110800)
    I was surprised to read his conciliatory advice to Indians treated suspiciously on the basis of their skin color or accent in the panic-prone modern America to "please accept it," rather than to bristle. That might be pragmatic and sensible advice, but America will be a better place when it's unnecessary.

    No, he's right, because at that point, he's talking to the Indians. They can either accept it, resent it, or leave, because unfortunately, that's the way it is.

    But the reviewer is also right. America will be a better place when racism is gone. Talking to the Americans, I say, "Racism is morally wrong. It is harmful both to recipient and to the racist. Knock that *%^&* off!"

    • Re:He's right (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shihar ( 153932 )
      The US is generally a friendlier nation to immigrants then most countries because we have such a history of it. Of course, compared to most countries, that doesn't say much. US gets hit with waves of immigration from specific locations. It used to be that having a 'Mc' or "O'" in your name caused you to get shit on during the flood of Irish immigration. Now Irish ancestry is something everyone and their dog seems to claim every St. Patrick's day (myself included) with pride.

      I have a feeling that Indian
  • Dude (Score:2, Funny)

    by P2Powah! ( 839435 )
    Indian : Dude, did I steal your job? American : Yeah, but it sucked anyways.
  • Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:55PM (#11110817)
    Everytime the subject of jobs comes up, and people whine and complain about not being able to find a job, they leave out the fact that they can't find a job where they currently live. Then they get all defensive about wanting to keep living where they currently are, and go on moaning about the supposed "bad job market" in the US.

    While it may be true that there aren't jobs in their area, there ARE jobs other places in the US, if they're really serious about jobs. And I'm not saying to move out to the middle of no-where to some one-horse town with no other tech in sight.... I'm saying look around there are a lot more jobs out there than people think.
    • Re:Jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wk633 ( 442820 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:11PM (#11110980)
      In '99 there were lots of companies happy to candidates accross the country for a job interview, let alone provide relocation.

      Now there are very few companies willing to even interview someone who isn't local.

      Sure, if you have the capital to pick up and move to another city with lots of jobs, and live there without a job until you get one, great. Not everyone has that kind of mobility.

      p.s. It's a lot easier if you're single!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My company has fired 66% (~60000 let go) of the staff, yet we have brought in Indian contractors to do the same work. They stay for a few months to learn the work and then go back to India where the corporate masters can get away with paying them much lower wages.

    I don't resent them. I resent the assholes I work for. I expect eventually I too will be replaced. So it is hard to be cheerful while training my future replacements.

    Ironically many of those permanent employees my company has laid off where India
  • by NewOrleansNed ( 836441 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:56PM (#11110828)

    ... don't need to. The fact of the matter is that with the job boom in India, they get on-the-job training on positions that have been outsourced. Once they reach a level of expertise, they come here to take the jobs that have yet to be outsourced.

    These jobs could have been filled by US citizens, but the fact of the matter is that employers don't want to spend the money to train them. What you end up with is a large group of unemployed CS grads with a lot of theoretical knowledge but no practical experience, and that will put you on the fast track for a manager's position at McDonalds.

    I used to be a headhunter until recently (long story... graduated during the tech bust), and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the inclusion of H1s in this marketplace has lowered the standards of production and has lowered the wages and rates that American citizens can expect. Many managers have complained to me about the poorly documented crap that they have gotten from H1 shops, only to balk when they hear what the going rates are for American labor.

  • Just read Yahoo newsgroups once in a while. Its mostly teenage punks who think crass racial jokes are funny to mix with current events.

    And neo-nazis became popular when working class people started losing their job. Blame another race.

    Nice thing about Slashdot is there is sane moderation. In yahoo, the majority of posters are crass and moderate up drivel, especially politically motivated posters. Sane moderation leads positive conversations. Insane moderation means you need to trod through each
  • by 10000000000000000000 ( 809085 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:58PM (#11110854)
    just my two cents, but what the heck is wrong with people?

    Humans are Humans! We are almost all exactly the same! in fact, the "races" of human don't even fit the biological definition [] of race! It's a social contstruct.

    Culture, well, that's different. Cultures are macro and micro - and at times it seems that there are larger cultural gulfs between city blocks then country borders.

    Guess my "race", please.
    After all, you slashdotters all look the same to me.
    Mostly like ASCII.
  • by BuddieFox ( 771947 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:01PM (#11110875)
    Immigration of people who can support themselves is an inherently good thing for all western countries considering the demographic bomb we are sitting on. Most western countries including the US, even though Europes situation is considerably worse have birthrates that will barely sustain the current population without immigration, this leads to an "inverted" demographical pyramid were very few young people will have to support very many old people out of the workforce. That is, if we dont get immigrants that can help even out the numbers! Consider the following, what happens when: * large portions of the population starts to take money out of the markets through their retirement funds to actually live on the money? Markets will plumet and capital for both mature companies and startups will be harder to raise. * What happens when there are more retired people who pay no or very little in tax, instead of many young people who pay taxes? How do you support basic infrastructure in that case? I could go on.. The point being: western countries should embrace and welcome every immigrant that wants to come to their country to work and make a life, its probably the only thing that will save our economies 30 years from now..
    • On a more basic level, even if Social Security taxes, 401K contributions and the like were increased to the level that retirement planners would like us, it wouldn't help much. If everyone started saving huge portions of their paychecks, the money not spent on current goods and services would reduce the demand for goods and services, causing economic contraction. This would cause many financial assets to whither away in real value. Money invested in companies to make things and provide services will have li
    • Most western countries including the US, even though Europes situation is considerably worse have birthrates that will barely sustain the current population without immigration,...

      Europe has always previously generated many more people than were needed. Now they aren't.
      Previously Europeans dealt with the excess number of people by periodically having giant wars that killed hundreds of thousands. Now there is a European Community and having giant wars within the community to kill the excess populat
  • Acceptable racism? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:06PM (#11110920) Journal
    As a former H1-B worker who returned home 2 years ago, I think the resentment has a lot to do with skin colour and being Indian.

    How can I tell? Well, I never once faced any resentment at all, despite all the vitriol pointed at Indian immigrants.

    But then again, I don't have dark skin and most people think I'm American until I speak. You see it all the time in Slashdot - it seems like it's OK to be racist towards Indians for "taking our jobs".
  • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:11PM (#11110987)
    ... I have to say that I largely agree with the culture shock that comes with moving to another country. Even for me, it was more different than I thought it would be. For one thing, I could never figure out how people knew I was Canadian simply when I talked (which I did eventually find out and for which I actually talk more in an American accent now). Things like auto and life insurance can be complicated because of the lack of insurance experience and medical history, respectively. It sucks to have to pay higher rates if you're from overseas because you have no insurance driving record.

    Having worked mostly in Silicon Valley, I would say that the cultural environment is more conducive to immigrants there than other places. One Chinese fellow I knew, for example, never truly felt welcome when he worked in Texas but did say that the people there were generally nice. If you're from India or China, there are tons of resources and tons of community and social opportunities for you. YMMV in other places but big cities around big tech centers aren't typically a problem.

    Probably the biggest problem that I had when I was in the United States is getting your green card. For those not in the know, the green card process requires that you remain with the same employer in the same type of position and move no further than 50 miles away from where your H-1B was approved. Then you wait and wait. You wait for state and federal labor certification, and then you actually apply for your green card after your priority date comes up (a date which is used to gate applications from countries with high immigrant volumes but from which Canadians are exempted). If you're laid off, fired, moved to another job function, or move, you have to start the process all over again. It takes 2-4 years, and in some cases people have their paperwork lost by the INS/BCIS and you are screwed at the end of your term and have to leave. Immediately. No wait periods.

    To me, that's the biggest problem with the system. If you want people, have them stay. Facing a constant end game hurts folks economically, socially, mentally and otherwise. Stories of people leaving their leased cars at SFO and SJC and going back because they had no choice were very sad. Even worse, what does one do with the money they earned? In my case, because of the huge run-up in the Canadian dollar, all my money is "trapped" down there. Do I wait for the US dollar to rise back up to regular levels, or do I bring it back and hope it doesn't come back? That money could've also been spent in the United States, but gets spent outside. Not that beneficial for the US economy if you ask me.

    Most of these issues would be addressed if people were simply granted conditional green cards at the time of their entry. A certified criminal background check and health check prior to border entry would allow them to stay without having to worry about the employer doing whatever they want to the employee and throwing them out at the end. That's not technically done today, and it would be smart for security and other reasons. The other aspect is to have the system funded by the immigrants themselves, i.e. you come in and you pay for the BCIS to process your application for $5k or $10k, rather than rely on tax money to fund a severely underfunded immigration processing system. If you're that important to be given a special visa to come in, then come in. Stay. Don't throw the person out later on. If these suggestions are ever implemented, you will see a big difference in the way that immigrant employees are treated and in the way they approach their work. Remove the threat and stress of leaving, and you'll have productive members of society, IT/Engineering workers or otherwise.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:14PM (#11111020) Homepage
    Once they become leads or managers they favor other Indian programmers. If you're under lead who also has a couple Indian reports, in 80% of the cases it's time for you to move on, because your career growth is over.

    It's cultural, and it's unfortunate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:17PM (#11111039)
    I'm a former H1b worker, back in Europe (for a couple of years now) after nearly six years in Silicon Valley. I think I gave pretty good value for money. The chinese and indian guys I worked with gave excellent value for money - we (our faceless US corp) had the cream of the crop from their universities. China and India still teach their people that it's a noble, worthwhile profession to be an engineer, to actually *make* things. Europe does so, but less and less each year. The US has largely forgotten. Our US employees came in two distinct types: the startup guys, brilliant brilliant people, and a legion of corporate numskulls. Americans aren't stupid at all, but the educational and career system turns most smart Americans away from science, technology, engineering, and other truly wealth-creating activities, and ever more into service economy positions. Only last week I heard a Reith Lecture by James Dyson (he of the vacuum cleaner), decrying a similar decline in British education and commerce. US companies hire H1b employees not because there isn't an American who can (theoretically) do the job, but because pretty much all the Americans who are smart and motivated enough to do the job are trained, or motivated, to do something else entirely. It's more than a shame, it's more than a national disgrace. The politicians and business leaders and educationalists who allowed such a condition to come to pass are traitors of the very worst sort, and should immediately be hanged.

    You should set a target: the US graduates 200,000 more engineers and scientists in six years than it did this year, or every member of congress is executed. Hanged. Badly. Slowly.

    Now don't get me wrong, I had a whale of a time in the US. I was treated very well, well paid (none of this $70K shit), and generally had a productive, exciting time; but most of my productive co-workers were Chinese and Indian guys, smart and genuinely enthused about what we were making and who our product would help. Crappy english, sure, some of them - and some of them, particularly the Indians, better english speakers than native me (or is that I?). All the time I, and all these smart foreigners worked in the US, Slashdot, Congress and other crapass "thinkers" (ahem) slandered us. They said we were dumb, they said we were uneducated, or spoke bad english, they said we'd work for slave labo[u]r rates, they said (frankly) we were inferior. And all the time the US trade gap grew and grew, more and more skilled jobs moved to India and China, more and more the US economy slipped into a whole from which it seems determined never to emerge.

    Let's face it. The average H1B worker moved away from his family, from everything he knew to work in the US, to maintain an ecomomy whose own managers seemed determined to outsource it, to be slandered and deprecated by third-rate journalists and racist politicians. Sure, he made more money than he'd make in Bangalore or Shanghai, but the difference is less and less (particularly compared with the cost of living in the Research Triangle or the Silicon Valley) each year. Now that the tech recession has come for everyone he's probably moved back to Shanghai or Bangalore (unwelcome, filthy terrist foreigned slanty-eyed bastard that he is, in the US). Whose economy do you thing he's helping? Into whose business do his smarts flow?

    The US economy (and to a marginally lesser extent the EU economy too) holds a gun to its own head. Both have squandered the promise of the new economy. Foreign workers are one less, not one more, bullet in the revolver.

    With engineering and science, at it highest levels, moved east - what do the US and Europe actually _make_? Can you really expect to run two of the world's largest economic blocks on missles, movies, and life insurance?

    • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @10:09PM (#11112015) Homepage

      There would be more Americans taking up jobs in engineering and programming if there were good paying job prospects. Part of the problem is that these fields have become so widespread that employers no longer can know the people they are hiring, and instead are hiring bodies. When your job becomes just a number on a CFO's spreadsheet, then you get no respect. And only those willing to do the work for the least get the job.

      So yes, there are fewer and fewer Americans and Europeans going into these fields. College enrollment in these majors for some big schools is down 30% in the last 2 or 3 years. The impact of this is that the unemployment percentage in these fields, which runs about 2 to 3 times that of the population as a whole, is not rising as fast as the rate the jobs continue to vanish.

      It's the American employers that no longer want to hire the people that make the technology. If they did, then the unemployment would vanish, and those of us doing the work would be screaming for more H-1B's so we can get a few weekends off. Instead, employers are more interested in hiring sales people. Only sales people climb to the top in most corporations, so that means there is essentially no understanding, and no respect, at the top corporate levels, for the creation of technology. All they know about is how to make sales pitches, close deals, and cook the books to hide the profits. That, and hire the cheapest and the fewest people in all the grunt roles they can.

      The people in, and from, India and China and other places are just trying to do better for themselves. You can't blame them for that. The real problem is not them. No, the real problem is the top executives, venture capitalists, intitutional investors, and stock brokers, who are pushing business to the brink of destruction.

  • by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:22PM (#11111090) Journal
    Now that ~is~ an odd misspelling.

    But you know, every day in North America someone either mispronounces or misspells Linus Travolta.

  • by GOD_ALMIGHTY ( 17678 ) <> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:44PM (#11111291) Homepage
    It seems as if the thrust of the book is about the treatment of individual immigrants and their experiences. It addresses, what sounds to me like, the standard xenophobic and racist reactions you get from (for lack of a better term) assholes. While this is certainly interesting, what I am more interested in is the debate over policy WRT immigration. I have never held against anyone who was trying to better themselves, immigrated to this country or took what opportunity came along. I have always maintained that I'd do the same thing if I was in their shoes.

    That being said, there is a larger issue here. At what rate can this country absorb immigrants of various economic and educational levels? I realize that some people like to believe that since we have always been a nation of immigrants, we should not restrict new immigration, as it is unfair to those who want to come now.

    That's fine and dandy, but there is a practical limitation on immigration. First of all, if the US can get educated workers while India foots the bill for their education, what incentive is there in US society to create an educated domestic workforce? If this country does not have the educated workforce needed to innovate, how will these industries remain competitive as places like India and China increase the capabilities of their domestic infrastructure?

    This nation isn't some social darwinist's or anarcho-capitalist's wet dream of an experiment, it's a nation built on a set of principles regarding the defense of rights and the freedom to exercise those rights. The defense of rights requires wealth, in other words, democracy and freedom are expensive. The best way to insure optimum levels of freedom and the ability of citizens to defend their rights is through good-paying jobs. Much as a recent study showed that the most effective (and largest dollar amount) foreign aid was foreign workers who sent money home, the best way to maintain the principles of this country is to insure that anyone willing to work can find a good-paying job. And I better not see those utterly rediculous unemployment numbers, job growth isn't anywhere near handling the issue of underemployment in the US.

    While I wouldn't hold the author in any sense accountable for taking someone else's job (wouldn't you do the same?), I do hold our political leaders accountable for creating a system that puts US citizens in line behind another country's citizens. That is what happens if visa programs are too open or if wage arbitration through outsourcing is allowed to happen. You can claim that it's simply a matter of economics, that we must compete with people who don't pay for the same defense of rights that we do in the US, but that's illogical. I don't hold an idea that we should simply subsidize uncompetitive workforces or business practices, but the rapid changes in our modern economy can easily produce income volatility for the average family that was unheard of 50 years ago. Communities and families don't handle change nearly as easily as multi-national corporations. So what are the choices? Do we create a welfare state that "smoothes out" the rough edges of a global economy? Do we export only the tools to create wealth and severely restrict the import of people?

    Take the same set of arguments and apply them to illegal immigration. Wouldn't a more expensive labor force for menial tasks provide a larger incentive to automate those tasks? Wouldn't that automation and innovation also help to create good-paying jobs? Isn't automation the most sustainable growth? The largest danger I see from guest worker programs, visa programs and illegal immigration is the creation of second-class citizens. That is a danger to the principles and long-term stability of this nation.

    I might pose this question to the author: What would he do if he still resided in India and saw that the Indian government was putting the interests of US citizens ahead of Indian citizens and the bulk of any benefit from the arrangement was going to the wealthiest of Indians?

    After all, won't the offspring of anyone immigrating to this country face these same problems as any native US citizen would?
  • by Helmholtz Coil ( 581131 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @08:58PM (#11111413) Journal

    As somebody on the H1-B going to get his green card tomorrow morning, I feel like I should throw my $.02 Canadian in.

    Others in this thread posted that H1-B != immigrant, and they're right to say so. But the H1-B visa lets you have "dual intent," which is when you're here not as an immigrant but allowed to pursue immigrant status. That's the main reason I switched from the NAFTA TN-1 visa, which doesn't allow this. So while technically your status says you aren't an immigrant, you can still have every intention of immigrating under the H1-B program.

    I don't send the money I make out of the country, not unless you count me paying off my old car in Canada, now thankfully done, or making payments on my student loans. Other than that what I make stays in this country: paying others, investing, etc. I think I have to pay all the same fees a "normal" person does: Social Security, Medicare, income tax, and all that good stuff. Even when I bought a retirement present for the old man, it was from an American retailer and shipped back to the old country.

    I like to think I contribute something to the country and the people that have been so good to me over the past 5+ years I've been here. I've had more than a couple of offers to go back home, some more lucrative than what I have here, but here I feel like I'm doing some good.

    Anyway that's enough out of me. To any and all Americans reading, let me just add...thanks for the opportunity. Nice place you have here. :)

  • by Mr_Icon ( 124425 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @09:57PM (#11111939) Homepage

    So, try this with me. I'm Russian by origin, and I have lived in the US for the past 10 years. I look like your average white American, I speak with no accent, and largely as a direct result of that I experience no discrimination in my daily life.

    That breaks whenever I have to deal with the authorities with regards to my H1-B and related paperwork, because I am very quickly and rudely reminded that I am apparently a "second-rate human" simply by virtue of having been born in a different country. I have to stand in long lines in order to be able to get a visa simply to re-enter the country after I've visited my aging parents, I have to go through humiliating "look straight into the camera" and "place your thumb squarely on the glass" procedures upon arriving in the US, and if a promotion opportunity comes up, I have to turn it down since it's too much of a pain in the ass to modify my job status. If I'm ever arrested for whatever reason, even if I just happened to be at a wrong place at the wrong time, I do not qualify for a free lawyer (even though I pay all the same taxes), and it's a crime for me to be in posession of a firearm even if I live in a neighborhood where armed robbery is routine. Oh, and I can be deported if I do not carry my passport with me at all times, or if I fail to notify the authorities of a change of address when I change apartments.

    This makes me wonder -- we all get indignant when a government somewhere discriminates based on race or religion. Apartheid was boycotted for discriminating against blacks, and when some country somewhere makes Christianity illegal, everyone goes running for the nearest soapbox. However, everyone expects their government to discriminate against someone who just happens to have been born outside the imaginary political borders of their fiefdom, unless they go through the meaningless procedure of raising a hand and reciting the pledge after finding a desperate enough partner for a quick green-card marriage.

    What's the moral justification in that? Why is it wrong to discriminate based on the color of skin, but perfectly fine based on the birthplace? I realize that there are political reasons to do this, but it amazes me that so few people have any moral trouble denying the same rights that they have to someone who happened to grow up in a different geographical spot than they did.

    Think about it.

    • by chadjg ( 615827 )
      Maybe I don't understand, but I have a hard time thinking of an oath of allegiance as meaningless procedure. There is plenty to dislike in our society, enough to give a rational foreigner pause, but I think the oath should be taken seriously. Maybe that would ean saying "No, Your Honor, I don't swear it." That's ok too. Anything less is an insulting fraud.
      • Maybe I don't understand, but I have a hard time thinking of an oath of allegiance as meaningless procedure.

        It is meaningless because refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag does not strip the citizen of the United States of their citizenship. If I have to agree to the pledge in order to become a citizen, then a citizen needs to stop being one whenever they start disagreeing with the pledge.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser