FAIR’s latest research report, Jobs Americans Can’t Do: the Myth of a Skilled Worker Shortage, lays out just how dysfunctional our skilled guest worker programs have become. Industry executives in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics industries, collectively known as STEM, constantly call for more foreign guest workers. Their argument is that there is a shortage of skilled native-born STEM workers because U.S. universities are failing to produce an adequate supply of qualified graduates. This is demonstrably false. The truth is that there are many millions more graduates with STEM-related degrees than there are available jobs. This oversupply of STEM labor is so pronounced that no independent observer has found such a shortage.

Tech executives have long demanded the expansion of the H-1B program, not because there is a shortage of domestic workers but because foreign guest workers are willing to work for lower wages and are more easily exploited. Politicians in Washington, D.C. have been all too willing to accede to the demands of the tech industry, even though abuses in the H-1B program are readily apparent. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the federal government…

currently does not have the capability to determine the cumulative H-1B workforce, such that the effect on U.S. workers can be assessed. …Lack of information on the total H-1B workforce makes it impossible to understand the long-term impact of the program and leaves the program vulnerable to fraud and abuse — a known issue in this program.

Employers do not have to try to recruit and hire an American worker before petitioning to bring in an H-1B worker, but there are certain wage conditions and a nominal yearly cap. So, once the H-1B limit is reached, tech employers have increasingly turned to L-1 visa workers. An L-1 worker is an employee who has worked for a company overseas for at least a year who then transfers to that employer’s U.S. worksite. There are no wage or cap restrictions for L-1 workers, and the visa is good for 5-7 years. Spouses of L-1 workers also are granted work authorization. The best estimate of H-1B and L-1 workers in the U.S. is around 1 million, but the federal government cannot give an exact number because no one is bothering to count or track them!

Senators Durbin and Grassley have worked to reform skilled guest worker programs, but it has been a lonely fight. Too few politicians in D.C. are willing to stand up for the interests of American workers. There are, however, those who recognize the problem and are working to bring the abuses to light. Dan Rather did a superb reporting job highlighting the harm guest worker programs are having on STEM workers, particularly older workers. Bright Future Jobs is an organization dedicated to alerting the public to the false claims made by STEM companies, and to provide assistance to Americans who are looking for STEM jobs.