02:18 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl

Editor's Note: H-1B Visa Debate: A Complex Argument

Maybe it's in the genes, maybe it's a learned behavior, I don't know, but I'll admit that I love to argue. I don't mean argument for argument's sake, but a nice, healthy debate always makes for great conversation at dinner with friends. Whether it's a discussion about a proposed new law, business ethics, the war on terrorism, or that lousy call against the Raiders in the NFL playoffs, a good debate can be exhilarating. I wholeheartedly believe, though, that there are good arguments and bad arguments. Bad ones are made up of spewing pointless statements, annoying whining, and hot heads. Good ones let each side learn something, give participants the opportunity to back up statements with facts, and leave everyone with their eyes opened a little bit wider and their brains stimulated.

This week's cover story deals with a sometimes-volatile subject--H-1B visas--that often provokes both baseless and productive arguments. It's a topic that many companies and employees are reluctant to discuss publicly. There are those who believe the program is taking good jobs away from Americans, particularly at a time when the job market is tight. Then there are those who feel it's a necessary and useful program, because it lets companies hire the most-skilled person available for a job, regardless of his or her nationality. There are those who think it's an easy way to find cheap labor, while others say it's anything but cheap to hire people under the program.

Beginning on p. 34, senior editor Diane Rezendes Khirallah explores the subject by recounting the experiences of a variety of people--business-technology managers, H-1B visa holders, vendors, IT association leaders, and government officials. We provide you with information about the program's history, evolution, and current status; an opportunity to cut through the rhetoric; and we expose the complexity of the subject. It's a tough situation for foreign workers, a tough situation for the companies that sponsor them, and a tough situation for unemployed workers desperately seeking jobs.

If you're still looking for a lively debate on this subject, I invite you to check out this month's issue of Optimize (, the publication recently launched by InformationWeek. In it you'll find a square-off between Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee and sponsor of a bill to reduce the number of H-1B visas.

Stephanie Stahl

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