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Job Displacement

Some who support immigration of any sort, including the illegal kind, say that it is not true that immigrants take American jobs. They maintain that immigrants perform "jobs Americans won't do" — work that is dangerous, unpleasant or just plain hard. The list of "jobs Americans won't do" used to consist of just agricultural labor, ditch digging and washing dishes. However, as immigrants expand into other work categories, those jobs now include gardening, carpentry, roofing and even computer programming. Of course, the idea that there are "jobs Americans won't do" is a myth put out by businesses that want an endless supply of cheap labor, and the press uncritically repeats the lie. The fact is when wages become depressed by an immigrant-flooded labor pool, Americans can no longer survive on the shrunken incomes. Immigration functions as a subsidy to business, because industry gets cheap labor and the taxpayers must pay the collateral costs.

As the economy struggles, we wonder why open borders, talk of amnesty and H-1b high-tech employment visas remain. If it was ever true that America needed extra workers during the boom of the late 1990s, it certainly does not now. A news story in early November 2002 in the San Francisco Chronicle observed how many high-tech workers were applying for seasonal retail jobs. A week later, the same paper questioned the accuracy of unemployment figures, in particular noting that employment in the Silicon Valley was officially 7.9 percent while the office vacancy rate in San Jose was 23 percent — an unlikely pair of figures, to say the least.

The Washington Post reported (12/1/02) that half of new workers in the decade of the 1990s were immigrants. This figure is stunning when considered with the new immigrants share of labor force growth in previous decades, i.e., 27 percent in the 1980s and 10 percent in the 1970s. American workers are not unaware of the problem: a pre-911 Zogby poll found that 60 percent of Democratic union households believed that amnesty for illegal aliens was a bad idea.

In the early 1990s, proponents of NAFTA and other globalization schemes said that it was no problem to lose all of America's manufacturing industries to cheap-wage countries, because American workers would all be retrained to do the new high-tech jobs. Now those jobs are increasingly being sent overseas —"outsourcing" is the new euphemism. In fact, a Boston Globe story (12/25/02) noted that "employers will move about 3.3 million white-collar service jobs and $136 billion in wages overseas in the next 15 years." Furthermore, H-1b workers willing to work for less in order to get a green card are still being hired to replace American workers, despite that practice being theoretically illegal. In some cases, Americans are required to train their replacements or lose out on severance packages. Hundreds of thousands of American technology workers are unemployed, yet the H-1B visa plan is still active. Another visa category which even Business Week called "A Mainframe-Sized Visa Loophole" is the L-1, designed for intracompany transfers by multinational corporations.

What are Americans supposed to do to make a living? How will formerly middle class people, now unemployed, be able to pay their mortgages and send their kids to college? And does anyone believe we can remain a First-World nation with everyone flipping burgers? America cannot continue to hemorrhage its tax base in the short-term pursuit of cheap labor without the economy bleeding to death.

Voices from the frontlines — the unemployment office — show continued redistribution of jobs from Americans to immigrants.

karen Rothstein •   Karen Rothstein was looking for a job as a restaurant cook in November 2002 when the economy of the San Francisco Bay Area was continuing to lose jobs. The San Francisco Chronicle used Ms. Rothstein as a centerpiece for an article about how 300,000 Californians would not get an extension on their unemployment benefits. When contacted by IHC, she agreed that so many illegal aliens in the country were making it "much tougher" for people like her to find work. "We can't feed our own people," she said, but the government allows still more immigrants to pour in to find non-existent jobs. Employers "are looking for cheap help" and prefer young men over a 59-year-old American woman like herself.

•   John Snipes is a union carpenter in the Atlanta area and posted his views and experience on job displacement on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution forum. He has lost work to illegals willing to work for less, and also notes the loss in tax revenue from aliens who claim enough deductions to have no withholding.

•   Dante Vignaroli, Time to unionize
A mature programmer is angry and feeling betrayed by a government-sponsored system that puts people like him out of work and replaces them with foreign information technology workers — holders of the despised H-1b visa. After decades in the field during which he kept himself current with technology, he was passed over for training so some cheap foreign worker could fill that slot. He concludes that IT workers need to get serious, organize and fight back.

•   Carpenter William Ennis is mentioned in passing in this article to show how exploited illegal aliens are. However, it is he who was forced out of his formerly good-paying job as house framer. "I started out making $800 to $1,200 a week here for a 40-hour week," he said. "It got to where I was having to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, just to make $600 a week. And that's just in the past three or four years. The wage has gone down that bad."

•   Sun visa complaint gets new hearing
Guy Santiglia is one of many thousands of Americans who was laid off from his job so that a cheaper H-1b foreign worker could take his place. Unlike those thousands, Santiglia has taken the step of suing Sun Microsystems for violating the law regarding the hiring of foreign workers.

•   Darren Drago, a Long Island union member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, remarks pointedly about how the influx of immigrant workers has served primarily to keep wages down.

•   Frank's Depression
From $100 grand annually to minimum wage — how the dot commers have fallen. This personal vignette shows the financial damage and loss to self-esteem that occurs with extreme and rapid job loss: "You start to think, 'Is there something wrong with me? Am I suddenly stupid? Did my brain fall out?'" And while it is true that many thousands of jobs just disappeared when the dot-com bubble burst, there are still H-1B visa-holding foreigners still being admitted to take those few IT positions that remain.

Weiss •   Unemployed in San Francisco
It's come to this in January 2003 — a fellow advertising himself with a sandwich board in the financial district of a major city. Chuck Weiss is an eminently employable person with a variety of experience, but the California downturn is more brutal than many who have jobs care to admit. Here's a follow-up story about Chuck Weiss and the response the original story got.

Reporter Alan Saracevic noted, "The outpouring of support and interest in Weiss' story tells me that our unemployment situation is much darker and deeper than the statistics show. The specter of being out of work dominates the lives of thousands in the Bay Area. Thousands more live in fear of the ax. I don't care what the gross domestic product says, this economy is recessed. And its workers are depressed."

•   Illegal Aliens: a Growing Problem for Working Americans
Drywaller Joseph Pozdolski describes how illegal aliens have been sheetrocking in the busy homebuilding industry in his area. As a skilled tradesman, he should have plenty of work, but he does not.

Camilla Yost •   Consultant copes in 'tin can'
Since Camilla Yost was laid off in June 2001 from her $70,000 job as an independent computer consultant for GTE Technical Services in Tampa, she has had to sell her four-bedroom home and move into a cramped trailer — that's the "tin can" in the title. She drives a 1992 Buick with 145,000 miles on it, has filed for bankruptcy and gets food stamps. Yost has been a mainframe computer programmer for 32 years, but her job searches have come up dry. She has even applied to work at a call center and to drive a bus, but nothing. She has tried to keep at it, though the stress of not finding a job is telling.

•   A crime against Americans
Software engineer Rey David of Livermore describes the scam of H-1B workers from India still being imported by the thousands as Americans are being laid off. In addition, he notes how Indian-owned companies hire nearly all Indians and only interview Americans to make the appearance of complying with the law.

Larry Schenone and family •   No Job, but Lots of Work
Larry Schenone has been out of work for more than a year even though he is a mechanical engineer with a master's degree in business. At 47, he is not exactly over the hill. Just a year ago, he was pulling in $100 thousand at a St. Louis defense contractor. But Scherone and thousands like him have been hit by the double whammy of massive outsourcing of American engineering jobs to cheap-wage havens like India and the continued influx of foreign technical workers under the H-1B visa program.

Terry Anderson •   African-Americans drowning in wave of illegal immigration
Long-time resident of South Central Los Angeles (and host of his own radio show) Terry Anderson writes about how massive immigration has transformed his community for the worse, going so far as to call it an invasion. "The immigration situation is really hard on our young people," he says, describing how a kid applying for a job flipping burgers at McDonald's needs to speak Spanish these days in his area. Wages have been driven down by flooded labor markets in an unsurprising example of supply and demand. Blue collar, white collar — it makes no difference when there are too many workers. (More about Terry on the Community page.)

Mike Emmons •   Where did the jobs go?
The jobs went to H-1B visa immigrants, while Americans were put out of work to make way for the cheaper Indians. Mike Emmons, at the left, was made to train his replacements for his job in central Florida. If he was not cooperative, then the company's severance package would not be forthcoming. Like other workers in his group, he is feeling cheated and is angry at Congress, remarking, "Every night I go to bed and think about what our Congress has done to Americans. I go to bed and I just lay there and think, my God, they turned on us like this." Contrary to popular opinion, companies can and do shamelessly replace American workers with foreigners because there are no real safeguards. The link includes video from the companion local television news segment.

Glenn Connell •   The H-1B Controversy
Glenn Connell is lucky to be a renaissance man: not only does he have advanced degrees in computer science and physics, but he is also a good carpenter. Now he is constructing in his carpentry shop out of wood instead of code. Even when he offered to halve the rates of his independent software company he couldn't find work. At least he has carpentry to fall back on, unlike many in his position of being unemployed in the information technology field. Interestingly, the H-1B workers in this article have jobs in technology in the US and the American does not. Furthermore, the Nashua Telegraph article observes that there may be 5,000 H-1B workers in New Hampshire — a remarkable number for a state not known for technology and one with a tiny population.

Gene Nelson •   Gene Nelson is not an unusual sort of person these days — he is a biophysicist, has a PhD and is unemployed. He was one of several tech people demonstrating in Dallas in February 2003 against the H-1B visa program that has been so brutal to American workers. In August 1999, Nelson testified before a Congressional committee about H-1B visas and how they were a disaster for American information technology professionals and terrible for the nation in the long run. This story examines how Nelson lost his job but cheaper younger foreigners are still employed at the company. (But like many articles, it states that "rules prohibit companies from using the program to replace U.S. workers." — UNTRUE.)
    Thinking long term, if tech jobs are unavailable to Americans, young people will no longer prepare for those careers: do we want foreigners running information technology with a high national security component?