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Visa Program for High-Tech Workers

June 07, 1998

Re "Loosen Quotas for High-Tech Immigrants," Column Right, June 2: Stephen Moore's call for increasing the quota for work visas granted to foreign computer programmers is far off the mark in every claim. Moore cites the large number of imported programmers in Silicon Valley as proof that even more of them are needed to fill new jobs. Yet he fails to mention that the number of work visas grew 10 times faster than the number of jobs in the industry during 1990-1995. Moore likewise omits mention of the reason underlying this trend: The imported programmers are paid between 15% and 30% less than their native counterparts.

A Department of Labor audit found the work visa program to be in a shambles. DOL also found that the vast majority of visa programmers were earning only $40,000 a year or so, in a field where top talent commands salaries approaching six figures.

More says that there are not enough programmers in the domestic labor market. But as an economist he certainly should know that a shortage would produce big wage hikes, not the mild 7% by which programmer salaries rose last year. He also ought to explain the 17% unemployment rate for programmers over 50.

NORMAN MATLOFF, Professor of Computer Science, UC Davis

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As a graduate of UC San Diego's computer engineering program (1992), and having earned four other college degrees, I think that I have acceptable qualifications for a job in the high-tech industry.

I spent over a year sending out about 250 resumes, however, and during that time received only one interview. I am 43 years old. It is very difficult for me to believe that there is really a labor shortage when I and others I know of my age have had such difficulty finding work.

Moore's commentary supporting a fourfold suggested increase in the H-1b program buys right into the hands of an industry intent on age discrimination. Please do your homework and discover how many unemployed Americans over age 40 who are otherwise quite qualified cannot find work in the high-tech industry.

BARD-ALAN FINLAN, San Marcos

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I think corporations think that the locals are incompetent and can get more compliant workers from overseas. If you are over 40, try just to get an interview with a major corporation in software, regardless of experience. There is definitely an age bias in the software industry, and many qualified U.S. workers are being shunned in favor of foreign engineers and programmers.

PAUL SHAFFER, Boise, Idaho

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