"Reform by red tape" slowing H-1B sharply

Will Qualcomm be hamstrung by increased vetting of immigrant workers?

As H-1B reform bills, such as one sponsored by North County Representative Darrell Issa, work their way through Congress, the bureaucracy is slowing the process sharply.

For years, foreign technical workers have gotten visas to come to the United States through the H-1B program, which allows non-American citizens to work here for up to six years. However, abuses are running rampant: longtime American workers are told to train the H-1Bs for their jobs and then they are terminated.

As reported regularly in the Reader, engineers are complaining that large companies, including San Diego's Qualcomm, use H-1B as a method for lowering pay of everybody in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics jobs.

Now, "reform by red tape" is slowing H-1B, according to bloomberg.com. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this summer began challenging many H-1B applicants. The number of challenges to H-1B applicants, officially called "requests for further evidence," is up 44 percent this year, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Peter Roberts, an immigration lawyer, told Bloomberg that many of this year's challenges are "beyond ridiculous, trumped up requests — no pun intended — issued either without legal basis or making no sense from a common sense standpoint." (President Trump has taken many anti-immigrant stands.)

Frida Yu got law degrees in China and at Oxford, worked at a Hong Kong firm, got a master's in business administration in the U.S., and had joined a startup. Then he got two requests for further evidence and was ultimately turned down. He wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, saying "America is losing many very skilled workers because of its anti-immigrant sentiment.… [This] will also be a blow to the United States' competitiveness in the global economy."

Critics of H-1B say the reverse: if this visa process continues to lower engineers' salaries, fewer young people will go into the field and that will harm U.S. competitiveness.

News India wrote about Yu's piece in the New York Times. The India publication quoted Yu writing, "As I make plans to go back to China, I find myself wondering: 'If I am not qualified to stay in the United States, then who is?'"

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


The Economist, a well respected British publication of long standing, now seems to be liberal (today's definition) on social matters, but conservative about economic matters. As you might suspect, it opposed Brexit for a host of reasons. But one might ask where it stands on immigration, that is immigration into the UK. Well, it is all in favor of it, the more the better, and justifies its stand on the basis that immigrants into that nation are all a net gain to the economy. Forgive me, I'm not convinced that the immigration practiced in Britain is bringing in the best, and that they all make an outsize contribution to the economy there. Furthermore, I"m not accepting the idea that what might work for London applies here.

A couple times a week I'm in Mira Mesa, frequenting parks and the library, Every time I go there, I see plenty of Hindu-looking women with their kids using the facilities. I'm talking dozens or hundreds of them. Already a heavily Asian area from years past, it seems as if it is now being taken over by H-1B workers and their families. This is not a program of bringing in the best and brightest from offshore, but a near-invasion, sponsored by Qualcomm. That corporation has complained for years of a dearth of qualified applicants for its openings; hence they use the visa program. That's the claim. The reality is that the company refuses to interview hundreds of qualified applicants who are US citizens, and graduates of the local universities. Ironically, many of those who are never considered are products of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD. (The old man, Irwin, who founded Qualcomm gave millions to the school to get his name on it.) When Qualcomm finally breaks down and hires Americans, they are often hired as temps through an agency, receiving little or no fringe benefits.

That whole program is a racket, and whatever anyone (including myself) may think of Trump, if he dislikes the program, I support him for that. The best thing would be to abolish the H-1B program entirely, and then start from scratch to revisit the need for controlled immigration to fill jobs that would otherwise go begging.

Visduh: I have believed ever since I began covering H-1B -- about a decade ago -- that corporations are using this visa program to drive down pay of engineers, particularly American-born engineers. Best, Don Bauder

We need to have sensible H-1b visa reform. Requiring comparable pay for H-1b holder should be mandatory.

rshimizu12: Mandated comparable pay would certainly help. Issa's bill (which Scott Peters has joined) would raise the salaries of H-1Bs. That would thwart companies from bringing in H-1Bs for cheap labor to replace current employees. Of course, companies may find ways around the law. Best, Don Bauder

There is no shortage of qualified engineers or programmers. There IS a shortage of Americans that will work for wages that Indians and Chinese are satisfied with. This has been a fraud for decades.

This is the main reason WHY American wages have stagnated while the biggest tech firms have made record profits. Because they profit from exporting or insourcing high tech jobs to pad their bottom line.

So sick of this treason. I hope Qualcomm and all the other abusers a day of reckoning. Their greedy management comprised of lying executives and HR departments, turning their back on Americans need a severe correction. Personally, if there is a hell, I hope that is their destiny.

Ponzi: And throughout the time that H-1Bs were used, thus lowering the pay levels of American-born engineers (and discouraging American students to study engineering), top executive pay soared to ridiculous levels. Best, Don Bauder

If I remember correctly, Qualcomm was founded based on a patent developed at UCSD (probably by grad students). That patent was given to Jacobs to start his business. He made billions, but what did UCSD get? What did the taxpayer who paid for the research get? Well I guess UCSD got Jacobs School of Engineering, a few million bucks to get his name on a building. The taxpayers didn't get much; as far as I can tell all of Qualcomm sales are outside the US.

Why do universities & taxpayers pay for research and then give the patent to some private party?

Richard C. Atkinson, who headed UCSD, got a bundle of stock in Qualcomm and a seat on its board. What did he pay for those shares? Yes, taxpayers got little, although the advances were made on taxpayers' funds. Best, Don Bauder

Taxpayers have benefited greatly from the advances made at UCSD. Qualcomm employs roughly 50,000 people in San Diego. This has generated a huge amount of tax revenue. This is does not count all the other mobile phone companies and other jobs it has attracted.

rshimizu12: No one would argue that Qualcomm's presence has not boosted the local economy. That is why it is critically important to keep the jobs here if the company is taken over by Broadcom. Best, Don Bauder

swell: Atkinson, who headed the university, somehow got a big slug of Qualcomm stock and a seat on the board. Hmmmm. Best,Don Bauder

Atkinson, a guy with severely handicapped morals, eventually became the president of the UC. One of a number of people who held that job and proved to have no competence as an administrator, he was succeeded by another former UCSD chancellor, Dynes, who was equally inept. What is it with these sneaky and slippery types who end up heading UC campuses, and especially UCSD? Academia once was a haven for folks were utterly without avarice; now it seems that many of those who rise to administrative positions are in it only for the wealth they can attain. Sad.

Visduh: True. It used to be that college professors expected to be underpaid. They taught for the love of it. Now they have much better pay. Unfortunately, K-12 teachers still have to live with low salaries. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: The main reason that college costs have soared, and student debt has soared with them, is bloated administrations. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh is correct, they are loath to add more US citizens full time positions to their staff unless they have some rare and special skill (i.e. purple squirrel). For the rest of us, they use staffing agencies instead.

Once the H-1B visa is reformed. Contract (contingent) employment should be next. We need to reform contract labor law so we are treated equally when compared to the full time staff of a company.

Sadly, I see the future of Qualcomm in San Diego. They will slowly leave San Diego and move more engineering work to India. I think the profit motive, coupled with market pressure from competitors will guarantee this. Think of the scenario which played out when RCA, and Zenith left for overseas manufacturers in the 70's and 80's.

hwstar: I hope you are wrong. It's bad enough that Qualcomm has brought in so many H-1`Bs to lower engineering pay. If the company actually moves the engineering work to India, China, and other countries, San Diego will suffer.

Does anyone remember the early 1990s when General Dynamics, then the largest private sector employer, moved out? It was devastating. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Wilson: I can't share your enthusiasm for Trump, but the trimming back of H-1B is sound policy. Best, Don Bauder

Mike Murphy: The only way for some small businesses to survive is to put relatives on the payroll for low pay. Best, Don Bauder

good way to circumvent the normal immigration process

Murphyjunk: Hooray for nepotism! Best, Don Bauder

Robert Heath: It is inevitable that corporations will be inventing new ways to hold down engineer salaries. I wouldn't say H-1B is old hat yet, though. Best, Don Bauder

Don, it might be worth looking into just to get some numbers. But my understanding is that Qualcomm India employs over 50,000 "engineers." If spaghetti code is what they consider quality. Throw enough Jell-O at the wall and some will stick. In India they pay interns and newbies as low as $8.00 an hour.

Qualcomm is always hiring at it's India campuses and communist China. Those folks who supply North Korea with missile launchers and nuclear technology. But what the hay, as long as Walmart get's its container loads of crap from China, who cares where America jobs go or what threat their evil alliance with Kim Jong-un is.


Ponzi: Qualcomm has major operations in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi, according to your attached document. Bangalore is home to Qualcomm CDA Technologies and research and development teams. The Global Information Technology Center, along with engineering teams, are in Hyderabad. Then add in Qualcomm's H-1Bs from India. Stunning. Best, Don Bauder

Dave Congress: I agree that the purpose of H-1B is to import cheap labor, thus pushing down salaries of all engineers, particularly those born and educated in the U.S. I have been writing this for a very long time. Best, Don Bauder

Shashank Samrat: I don't know whether Democrats like Schumber deserve the blame for the current situation. As much as I have covered H-1B, i have read little about its birth. Best, Don Bauder

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader