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Google's "Immigration Fixer" (bits.blogs.nytimes.com)
44 points by physcab 2421 days ago | 22 comments

When reading the comments of the users at the NYTimes article, there is another thing that pisses me off: all those xenophobic comments that say "send the foreigners home" etc. etc.

They forget that more than half of techonlogy companies had a foreign born founder. If these idiots had their way, probably many technology companies (which make about 17% of the US economy) wouldn't had existed today.

I am all about have good filters, to let the smart people (that there is a need for) in, and give them full rights of movement/freedom (no H-1B shackles), but just kicking people back home is a recipe for future economic malaise. And one of the senators that is raising a big ruckus is from Alabama! (I the bottom of the barrel in technological terms). I hope people stop listening to these populist voices, unless you want your country look more like Alabama.

It kinda looks like a version of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFG2P-toC6k


Dude, I hear you. But you need to recognize how much abuse and fraud there was and continues to be in these programs. I agree that there are some idiodic trolls out there, and they're easy enough to refute. But you should not equate all criticism (even very intense and angry criticism) of this program with this kind of "idiotic xenophobia".

First, a recent repot on the H1B visa showed that 6 of the top 10 users of this visa were Indian outsourcing companies - using the visa to cycle a worker through the US and then back to India. Of the remaining four in the top 10, two were US based outsourcing companies. According to Ron Hira, some of these companies were paying their "critical workers that couldn't be filled with Americans at any price" a $12/hr wage! I don't think it's fair to lump talented engineers with this sort of program, but this is the sort of thing that sounds almost designed to rouse populist anger. Here you have Microsoft and Google claiming that the cap is too low - but then you see that most of these visas are snapped up by non-US companies that are mainly interested in moving jobs offshore as quickly as possible. That screams for reform, but instead, the response was always to just lift the cap even higher.

People often point out that a high percentage of tech companies have one or more foreign born founder. Andy Grove and Sergey Brin are often mentioned. However, these folks didn't come to the United States on a work-related visa. The US takes over 1.2 million immigrants a year - and many of these folks become founders of tech companies. To me, this would imply that we don't need an H1B visa to keep the pipeline open - our existing immigration system is already bringing plenty of talented folks here.

We need reform, badly. I think it's very important that the US be open and welcoming to top talent from around the world. But I think we instituted a program that pretty much enabled employers in the US to fire ordinary US citizens and replace them with ordinary foreign nationals under the guise of bringing in "Best and brightest."

We need intelligent reform (which should not, in my opinion, amount to unlimited visas for anyone who wants one). But instead, we may throw the baby out with the bath water. This is what happens when the powers that be fail to reform an obviously broken system to the point where populist anger takes over.


That's incredible. Do you have some good articles that describe the problem? I've actually never heard the opposing viewpoints.


Here's a link to the original story on businessweek (the link is msnbc, but the original story was on businessweek)


The quote from Ron Hira was on an NPR dicussion program...



I've had to do this for a job before. Basically, the beauracracy requires that a position always be advertised even if they already have staff that can do it. I was hired by the company as a contractor at first. When a permanent position became available instead of just asking me if I wanted it I had to do a dog and pony show. My manager wanted to give me the job (it was my freaking job, just a different badge) but told me to type up a job post and be real specific. I walked down to HR and handed in the posting with my CV.

Stupid HR drones sent back five CVs and mine wasn't among them. I had to sit down and interview these poor guys without hinting we were wasting their time. And while everyone I interviewed could have done my job, the amount of time retraining would add more overhead


However the important distinction in your case is that you were doing it for internal beauracracy reasons. If you were doing it to get a work visa for someone the practices you describe would potentially be illegal.


This is a specific example of a vast industry: "compliance". Any corporation of a certain size has people on the payroll whose sole job is to make sure the company breaks the law as little as possible.

I would be interested in knowing how big this industry is.


The printout on Ms. Doyle’s desk includes names of five people who applied for the job. Ms. Doyle has determined none of them qualifies. (The desired candidate must have a Ph.D. in computer science, and specific technical skills in geo-location programming).

Appears then that another potential solution would be to create more American born PhD students in the relevant fields.

How can we do that? How long will it take? How much will it cost? What position has the power to put something like that together?


Why? What is difference does it make to you if some guy who was born in the US got the job, or some guy who was born in India got the job?

Really, this idea that people should prefer people who happen to be in their "own" "nation" is rediculous, nationalism is rediculous.


Why do we have any laws controlling immigration at all? Why can't anyone migrate and live/work anywhere they want and for any company they want, doing any kind of work they want? Why do nation states exist at all? Passports, visas, check points...

Why does any of that exist?


Everyone seems to be missing the point.

No American can get this job. Only the guy the company wants to get a visa/green card for.

In Texas, the jobs have to be advertised and this demonstrated to the Texas Workforce Commission.


Now is it just me, or is finding the person you want to hire, and then advertising for the position locally, getting the cart before the horse? Whadaya bet the advertisement is overly specific and tailored just for the guy they want to hire?


well, presumably, when you "found the person you wanted to hire" initially, you went through the the interview process and interviewed plenty of candidates. (In Google's case, probably both foreign and domestic).

This second check is more of a "okay, so let's double-check". And yes, of course the advertisement is overly specific- haven't you seen job ads recently? When ads usually have that long list of requirements, they are usually advertising for a green card. Someone who occasionally interacts with mySQL suddenly is a mySQL master and so forth.


Blame the immigration rules. It is actually harder to file for a GC, if the person is not already working there.

It works like this: 1. Company hires guy that is foreign. Some are coming from abroad (unfortunately some are coming from the "sweatshop" factories from india), while many, like myself, come young and were educated in the US, and are usually pretty good at what we do.

2. Foreign guy has max 6 years of staying in the country. He needs to get something done. He has already friends, maybe a gf/bf, maybe a house. He is fully integrated, and wants to get a GC, so he is not amymore a "second class human being". Company likes foreign guy, as he is very productive/good, whatever, so they file for GC>

3. In order for the Green Card process to go on, the company has to demonstrate that there are not americans that want the job. They will have to advertise in the news papers, and internally in the company for 60 days. If there are any suitable american employees, the process stops. The american guy doesn't get hired, (why would a company let go somebody that is already proved to be a good engineer?), but foreign guys application stops.

4. Most companies want to keep the foreign guy/girl. He/she is already proven, so they will try to make the position available as closely to mirror what the guy's experience is. There are clear limitations, as by law they can't request things that are unreasonable (like foreign languages, or experience/education that is not revelant for the work).

This is a clear example where the "Laws" are out of whack with the reality and needs of companies.

If there have been layoffs in the company for hte past 6months, it becomes even harder for the process to move forward.

Now, you can say, well there are plenty of US workers that just need a little retraining blah blah lbah.

Well, let me give you a clear example. I am a mobile engineer. Been working on the field for 6 years (since the first java phones came out). My official title is "Senior Software Engineer", but that doesn't really tell the story of the huge experience that I have accumulated this years, with trial and error.

Imagine a startup, advertises my job. A US person that has maybe few months of experience or no mobile experience at all,and his title is "Senior Software Engineer" doesn't necessary make him more qualified.

you can claim, well the company should take the time and "train him", as it is the patriotic duty to do it. I say bullshit. An early stage startup might not even survive wihout the product for the whole year that this guy needs the training. I'd rather have a startup hire somebody that can get product out, and be able to hire more people later, than hire somebody that doesn't know what they are doing, just because they happen to be American, and risk everybody's job.

Sorry, but that is very un-american.

If you want to just completely stop foreign talent, you are just Detroiting silicon valley. Technology companies will start looking exactly like govermernt/defense companies (where you have to be a us citizen to work, in most cases). Everything comes late, and over budget, and eventually, in a global economy, they will just die.


I wouldn't be too quick to judge defense contractors. I have friends that work at some. These guys do professionalism with a capital-P. You will hear of the occassional disaster story about a project but most (and there are tons) fly under the radar on time, on budget and to spec.

Please remember, a lot of smart people got burned after the dot-bomb. It's not like that sat around for a few years waiting for work to pick up on the internet. A lot of engineers went into defense, unlike the bay area, they pay in cold, hard cash. You rarely ever hear of a defense company going under.


"You rarely ever hear of a defense company going under." -- 1. There is no real competition. The taxpayers have been footing the bill all along. 2. The DoD just canceled a bunch of projects and one of the reasons are "Project have been systematically late and the budget has spiraled out of control". http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/04/gates_budget....

Think about it, ALL startups in the silicon valley, COMBINED (even with Facebook's 15 billion evaluation), are not worth not even 10% of the 530 billion dollars a year that is the defense budget.


That's hardly a fair comparison.

You're comparing the valuations of software startups with the entire operating budget of the military? You first need to discount salary, equipment, maintenance, etc, all costs not relating directly to software.

A more realistic comparison would be comparing the defense budget to the entire economic output of the bay area. Even then it's apples and oranges.


there is a lot of defense work in the bay area.

I know several smart people who could do my job working for defense companies.

But I make more money than most of them. Like most jobs, there is always a tradeoff between stability and money.


> Whadaya bet the advertisement is overly specific and tailored just for the guy they want to hire?

Seems like it would be foolhardy for it not to be..

Similarly, when I moved to the US on an L1-B, my company needed to claim that I had very specialist skills that couldn't be filled locally (which arguably I did). However the specific skills that they claimed I had were BS, period. It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.


The desired candidate must have a Ph.D. in computer science, and specific technical skills in geo-location programming

Sounds like an additional solution would be to make more American born PhD's in the technical fields.


Sure, but how? And why not both encourage our citizens to pursue advanced degrees and poach smart people from other countries? What's the downside?


That's what I was saying, "an additional solution"

How is you make college cheaper, you reward productivity, you forget no child left behind and start thinking about providing advanced opportunities for the gifted children.


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