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Drinks On Fifth: Vivek Wadhwa, Act III

We conclude our conversation with Vivek on the topic of H-1B visas, and how he believes they are the wrong approach to attracting and retaining skilled immigrants. Vivek shares a statistic that’s eye opening: Between 1995 and 2005, immigrant-started companies created more than 500,000 jobs and 52% of all Silicon Valley startups. With numbers that significant, Vivek contends that these immigrants shouldn’t be limited to work visas and constantly in danger of losing their job – and therefore their right to be in the US legally. Other countries such as Canada, Singapore and Chile have clearly figured out the value of skilled immigrants as entrepreneurs and have programs to draw them to those countries – complete with green cards.

(Watch: Part One | Part Two)

Enjoy the video interview below:

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-2 # Feb0zdou1 2010-07-23 15:37
I do think immigrant groups are great for the U.S. work force because their work ethics should shame some of us. I spoke with a coach of a college women's tennis team who said in sports, much of the best US college talent is foreign because young Americans have gotten lazier. Just sayin...
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0 # R. Lawson 2010-07-23 16:55
Quoting Celia Dyer:
I do think immigrant groups are great for the U.S. work force because their work ethics should shame some of us.


Just so I understand this - it is in the interest of American workers that we are shamed by foreign workers?

I didn't realize shame held such value.
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-1 # Feb0zdou1 2010-07-23 18:49
Yes, if American workers are shamed into setting higher standards for ourselves, shamed into being better parents who teach children the importance of hard work, then I think such shame is valuable to American workers. I'm using the term "shame" loosely and not with psychological undertones of morbid guilt.

That's not to say I think we "open the borders" to everyone who wants to come here. Nevertheless, I do think we should feel somewhat threatened, not get too comfortable and be spurred to work harder when we see how competitive the world is and how hard many foreigners will work to enjoy the privileges many Americans take for granted.
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0 # R. Lawson 2010-07-29 05:25
I guess I disagree mostly with your choice of words, not what you meant. I believe that we American can do better, and should strive for better. Morbid guilt as you put it isn't in order, but an honest retrospective is.

I don't believe Americans can ever be what we once were (say in the 60s in the race to the moon) unless we improve in math and sciences. I believe that television (or rather addiction to television) is the biggest detriment to the future of our nation because it is a distraction from gaining knowledge needed to advance as a society.

Although we are an information based society and have at our fingertips access to untold amounts of data, I don't believe we are a knowledge based society. The libraries are empty and the shopping malls are filled.

Because Americans work more hours than most other developed nations, I don't think it is fair to call us lazy (when it comes to work) however I believe many Americans are intellectually lazy.

As to the H-1b visa, you've got to be intellectually lazy to not see it for what it is: a favor to corporations. It isn't about filling shortages or attracting the most talented workers in the world. It is simply a program designed to give corporations the upper hand over workers. And it does that quite well.
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0 # Nithin 2010-07-27 16:23
The H1B will not go away, quite simply because it is free money for Social Security and Medicare.
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-1 # paintball gear 2010-07-28 01:20
This seems such a no-brainer. H1's raise our average IQ, entrepreneurial aptitude, and work ethic, thus our overall productivity and wealth as a country. It's like we have the chance to pick the best and brightest from other countries and bring them here. What's not to like?
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0 # GFRRTDEFF 2010-07-29 03:28
I'll attempt to play the sitcom version of Vivek based on our multiple conversations on the topic :-) He's the expert, but here it goes...

The issue with H1s is they're company-specific and only apply to someone while they're employed at that firm. There's no parallel path for citizenship, so in essence it creates a group of people who never really integrate into society. And technically, their visa expires immediately upon them losing that job. You can imagine how that could lead to depressed wages in a scenario where an unscrupulous employer understood they held all the power on whether someone remained in the US.

In countries like Canada and Chile, full green cards are part of the equation to retain skilled immigrants, so clearly they have a developing advantage – especially during our economic downturn.

Vivek's argument is H1s miss the entire point of retaining the best workers in the world. It gets them here, but falls short on creating fully productive citizens.
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0 # R. Lawson 2010-07-29 04:55
"The issue with H1s is they're company-specific and only apply to someone while they're employed at that firm."

For the most part, you are correct. Technically, the visas can be transferred, however that comes at some risk to the worker. The bottom line is that employers have the upper hand in the employer/employee relationship because of sponsorship requirements. That upper hand does not exist for immigrants who have working visas not tied to an employer, or a green card.

Vivek has a bias towards the interests of the corporation over the interests of the worker, in my view. I believe he appreciated the strong hand he had while dealing with his own H-1b workers. Who wouldn't want the upper hand in a business relationship? That strong hand happens to also harm American workers.

"Vivek's argument is H1s miss the entire point of retaining the best workers in the world. It gets them here, but falls short on creating fully productive citizens."

Agree on your first and last points, however the H-1b is more of a lottery. So although it attracts above average people (face it, anyone with a college degree is above average in this world), the order in which you apply is more important than who the best and brightest immigrant is. Junior level Java developers are considered no different than a heart surgeon with years of experience.
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