Illegal Immigration Is Not the Only Problem

For all the belated talk of illegal immigration turning America into a “third world nation,” legal immigration has its harmful consequences as well.  Imagine that your boss told you that an H1-B visa holder from Country X was going to take your job, and that you have to train your own replacement.  This is exactly what is happening to some American IT workers, whose tragic and infuriating story was told by Patrick Thibodeau of Computerworld

Thibodeau tells the story of “A.B.,” the fictitious initials of an American IT worker who was put through an ordeal that can be described only as humiliating.  A.B. had an IT job – one of the American jobs that are supposed to be stable and secure.  These are the jobs that we tell young Americans to seek out, so that they can escape the fate of the often unemployable humanities majors

As Thibodeau explains, A.B. and his colleagues slowly learned what their employer, with the assistance of the federal government’s immigration policy, had planned for them: 

The IT workers at this firm first learned of the offshore outsourcing threat through rumors. Later, the IT staff was called into an auditorium and heard directly from the CIO about the plan to replace them.

A.B. and his coworkers would soon find out they would have to train and instruct their replacements.  First they trained their replacements over the internet; then they worked one-on-one to facilitate their own workplace displacement.  Thibodeau describes how, in A.B.’s last month at work, A.B. saw an increasing number of H-1B visa workers occupy a growing number of offices.

The story deserves to be told, because it shows what life is like for people who must live with the consequences of our immigration policy.  For many “conservatives” and Republicans, immigration discourse is an opportunity to posture or peddle myths.  For many workers, like A.B., our immigration policy has altered their lives in ways they did not expect and certainly did not desire.  But our elites, many of whom have earned the title of “Dead Souls,” are safely isolated from the effects of their grandstanding.

For politicians from both parties, importing the disadvantaged is a winning approach.  Democrats get voters, and Republicans get an opportunity to pander.  The rest of the country is forced to bear the costs, then risk accusations or racism for daring to say that our sovereignty should be maintained.  The IT workers in Thibodeau’s Computerworld story are a reminder that illegal immigration is not the only source of instability and unwelcome change for American workers.

Before their ordeal, A.B. and his American (former) co-workers knew little about H-1B visas.  Thibodeau writes, “They didn't know that offshore outsourcing firms are the largest users of H-1B visas, or exactly how this visa facilitates IT job losses in the U.S.”

After learning how the H-1B program operates, A.B. said, "[W]e became angrier toward the U.S. government than we were with the people that were over here from India … because the government is allowing this.”

The fact that they lost their jobs as a result of conscious government policy was not lost on the displaced American workers:

A.B. talked about hopes for getting U.S. lawmakers to visit the company and count the number of Indian workers and the number of American workers. Efforts to arrange meetings with lawmakers were unsuccessful.

One lawmaker who supported increases in H1-B visas, however, did receive a clear message from his constituents recently.  Eric Cantor was one of the major supporters of an increase in the H1-B cap.  While it is impossible to determine exactly what role Cantor’s position on H-1B visas played in his defeat, there is little doubt that opponent Dave Brat’s victory was largely a result of conflict over immigration policy, with Cantor widely known as the amnesty advocate.

There is one final note about A.B.’s story that deserves notice.  Here is what A.B.’s coworkers did, when faced with the imminent loss of their livelihoods:

Before they lost their jobs, A.B.'s co-workers decided to made a subtle and symbolic protest over what was happening: As the H-1B visa workers gradually took over the offices once occupied by U.S. workers, one employee brought in a bunch of small American flags on sticks.

The flags were retrofitted so they could fit into the walls of the cubicles.

Those flags are a poignant reminder of the fundamental tolerance of Americans, even in the face of outrageous circumstances.  Perhaps this is a virtue that has been taken advantage of.  The flags represent the muted frustration of A.B. and his co-workers; some of the most important decisions about their lives were taken out of their hands, and their so-called leaders actively undermined the interests of the IT workers.  This is a frustration shared by a growing number of Americans. 

The best way to focus this frustration, in my opinion, is to do to politicians what politicians did to A.B. and his coworkers: get rid of them when they don’t accomplish your objectives, and give them no loyalty, for these politicians, at least, deserve none.  When more politicians know they are replaceable, perhaps then they will give more thought to what happens to the A.B.s of this country, who are the forgotten men and women who deserve our support.

Thibodeau ended his article by observing that, after the American workers were removed, “[t]he American flags have since been removed from the cubicle walls.”  I will leave it to the reader to determine whether that is symbolic of a larger trend.

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