What is American?

A recent post by Brian Sommer noted that H-1B visa holders might be in for a rough ride in 2009 as the weakening economy invites calls for special preferences for the accidental citizens of the United States of America (I say "accidental," as most of us were bestowed our rights as citizens by accident of birth).

A recent post by Brian Sommer noted that H-1B visa holders might be in for a rough ride in 2009 as the weakening economy invites calls for special preferences for the accidental citizens of the United States of America (I say "accidental," as most of us were bestowed our rights as citizens by accident of birth). In fact, Sommer makes note of a demand by Charles Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, that upcoming layoffs at Microsoft affect H-1B visa holders disproportionately.

It's peculiar that such calls tend to come from politicians from states which lie the furthest it is possible to get from our nation's borders. Equally odd is that such statements are typical of today's crop of politicians from the party of Ronald Reagan, whose pro-trade credentials were rarely in doubt, and as the author of the last big amnesty given to illegal immigrants in this country, would look askance at such anti-business populist nonsense.

It's also odd that that so many computer professionals respond enthusiastically to such populist blather. Every time anyone writes about the H-1B program or foreign workers, the Talkbacks are littered with posts decrying the foreign workers who take "our" jobs away. That's odd, because most such professionals wouldn't even have jobs if globalization hadn't brought the cost of computers down to levels where practically everyone in the developed world has one. Lower prices make bigger markets for OUR services.

Think about it practically. Imagine if the government of Massachusetts decided to force MIT to accept exclusively residents of the state. What would happen to the quality of science conducted at MIT? It's not because citizens of Massachusetts are stupid. Rather, it's because Massachusetts is a drop in the bucket compared to the 6+ billion people who exist on this planet.

You find more gold if you sift a mountain than if you sift the pile of dirt you have in your backyard. The same applies to IT personnel.

Quite frankly, hiring and firing decisions should be based on how valuable a particular individual is to a company.

Anything less is un-American.

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