Visas for high-tech workers: Who pays?

Congratulations. Your Sept. 22 article "Senate grapples with high-tech 'labor gap' " is one of the few to examine the H-1B issue fairly. Most of the recent articles in the press have taken the disinformation of large corporate IT firms as fact.

The once well-intentioned H-1B program is now frought with abuse. Many companies are systematically replacing United States workers with cheap and temporary foreign labor.

As an employee of a computer consulting firm, I have seen the abuse first hand. Our company was told by several high-level managers at Fortune 500 corporations to consider US workers only if the positions could not be filled by H-1Bs.

This is not just a local phenomenon. I hear the same stories from colleagues around the US. Our government is slowly becoming a government for the corporations, not one for the people.

Mark Ketchum Canal Fulton, Ohio I was dismayed to read your editorial lamenting congressional action to grant more visas to foreign high-tech workers for the next three years ("Hiring foreign tech workers," Sept. 27).

As a lawyer dealing exclusively with immigration matters, I hear every day from American employers who would like to find an American worker but can't.

We are in a very tight employment market. Are you aware that our laws already require an employer to pay $500 to train American workers every time they get a temporary H-1B visa for a foreign worker? Did you know that employers are required to pay the prevailing wage to these foreign workers, and the same benefits they pay Americans?

Foreign workers are not "low wage" workers; in fact, the employers are paying hefty sums in legal fees and transportation to get them here.

People with these skills are welcome in many other countries. Congress is doing the right thing in making more H-1B visas available.

Elizabeth B. Leete Hartford, Conn.

Part of the popularity of the H-1B program among high-tech employers can be explained by the conditions of the visa.

The worker cannot change jobs until approved for permanent residence, a process that takes the over-burdened Immigration and Naturalization Service several years to complete.

In a field where keeping employees is a perpetual problem, this program allows employers to lock foreign workers into jobs for an extended period.

Reducing the time before H-1B visa holders become permanent residents, or allowing them to change jobs, would reduce the incentive for companies to prefer such visa holders to US residents or citizens.

Then we would see more clearly how many H-1B visas are really needed.

Allan Donsig Lincoln, Neb.

Alternative energy sources an old idea

Does anyone remember the big fuel shortage back when Nixon was president?

At that time, dire predictions were made that the world would run out of oil in a few years. Wise people warned it was essential that alternative energy sources be developed.

Whatever happened to that idea? Pressure from Big Oil and automakers effectively squashed it. Anyone (like Al Gore) who advocated such a "fanatical idea" was ridiculed.

Let's hope that the two Big Oil men (Bush and Cheney) don't get elected, or we will go on doing nothing to solve the problem.

Muriel McKean Sacramento, Calif.

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