Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the former Chief Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, told an audience at the Brookings Institution that there is no proof of a shortage of workers with high tech skills. “Show me the data,” he challenged industry officials.
Bernstein made these assertions during a Brookings sponsored debate with Vivek Wadhwa, a columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek and former IT executive. Mr. Wadhwa, argued in favor of allowing STEM employers to have unlimited access to foreign workers, with no regard for the qualified native workers who are being passed over for jobs. He is part of well-funded effort by the tech industry, which is very good as creating a vast echo chamber that reverberates with the call for more foreign workers.
But what Mr. Wadhwa cannot get around is the glaring fact that there is no shortage of qualified tech workers in the United States. Nor can they disguise the fact that the H-1B program is not bringing in the “best and brightest” from around the world. As FAIR points out, a foreign guest worker may be qualified to fill STEM jobs, but so too are many native workers who currently are either unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore, skilled guest workers programs are pushing American graduates into other fields, creating an “internal brain drain.”
Mr. Bernstein did a great job articulating what is wrong with the H-1B (and L-1) programs, and pointing out the fundamental flaws in U.S. immigration policy overall. Any candid observer who witnessed the discussion between the two men would have to say that Mr. Bernstein carried the day (it wasn’t even close), even if one disagreed with his conclusions. Mr. Bernstein displayed an understanding of the topic at hand and an appreciation for the difficulty of formulating immigration policy to best serve the needs of the American people. He was exceedingly gracious in the face of Mr. Wadhwa’s constant interruptions and insults.
For his part, Mr. Wadhwa insisted that employers claiming a labor shortage should be taken at their word and that evidence presented to the contrary should be dismissed as the work of “academic nut jobs.” He further claimed that any attempt to protect the interest of American workers is tantamount to communism; that California should be able to set its own immigration policy; and that critics of the H-1B program are anti-immigrant Nazis who routinely make threats upon his life. I assure you this is not a caricature of Mr. Wadwha’s performance, you can watch the video here (choose Panel 1 from the sidebar).
Mr. Wadwha is one of the leading “experts” promoting the interests of tech firms that clamor for greater access to foreign labor; and he illustrates perfectly the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of those who argue that position.