H-1B 'Victim' Still Jobless Despite Obama's Help - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing

H-1B 'Victim' Still Jobless Despite Obama's Help

Semiconductor engineer whose wife forwarded resume to the President via Google+ says he can't accept out-of-state offers.

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Despite having the President of the United States as his personal headhunter, a tech worker who claims he lost his job because of the H-1B visa program remains unemployed.

Darin Wedel, of Fort Worth, was laid off from his job as a semiconductor engineer at Texas Instruments three years ago. Last month, Wedel's wife confronted President Obama during a live chat on a Google+ Hangout and said Wedel has been unable to find work ever since because the market is saturated with foreign tech pros working in the U.S. on H-1B visas.

"If your husband is in that field, then we should have his resume, and we should forward it to the companies who are telling me that they can't find enough engineers in this field," Obama responded. And it turns out that's exactly what the President, or his staffers, at least, did.

The White House's involvement landed Wedel a number of offers, including one from Intel, but he said he was unable to accept because none of the positions was in north Texas, where Wedel needs to remain because of a child custody arrangement. Wedel also reportedly turned down three other out-of-state offers, as well as one for a job in Austin.

"We had the head guy from Intel call us and basically said, 'If you move to New York, we’ll get you a job,'" Jennifer Wedel told NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth. "It kind of gets me teary-eyed because I wish we could."

[ Obama's 'insourcing' talk gets cool reception from business leaders. See Obama's Insourcing Call Falls On Deft Ears. ]

The H-1B program allocates 85,000 visas per year for foreign-born workers with degrees in high-skill areas such as engineering and programming. The visas are good for three years, and can be renewed for an additional three-year period.

Proponents of expanding the program, including tech giants such as Microsoft, say the influx of foreign tech talent is necessary to make up for what they say is a shortage of IT workers in the U.S. Critics like the Wedels say the program simply provides a means for companies to replace American workers with low-wage help from overseas.

Among those taking up the Wedels' cause following Jennifer's exchange with the President was U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). In a letter to the President last week, Grassley called for reforms in the H-1B program.

"Thousands of qualified Americans remain out of work while companies are incentivized to import foreign workers," Grassley wrote. "I’m concerned that you're hearing only one side of the story--from businesses who claim that there are better and brighter people abroad."

Grassley urged Obama to support bills, including those he's introduced in the past, that would require companies to demonstrate that there are no qualified Americans available for a position before filling it with an H-1B worker. "I hope you'll work with me to make changes to the H-1B visa program on behalf of all these Americans," Grassley said.

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User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2012 | 3:55:18 AM
re: H-1B 'Victim' Still Jobless Despite Obama's Help
It would have been surprising to me if President Obama's intercession helped Darin Wedel obtain new employment after he was displaced by an H-1B at Texas Instruments. I also appreciate how child custody agreements are a very real impediment to relocation. I held technology and telecommunications positions during the 13 years we lived there. My wife and I had to leave the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2006 because there are so many H-1B Visa holders in the region. Here's a news story from 2003 that is no longer available at the newspaper's website. Given the thousands of H-1B Visa holders that have been imported to the region since 2003, I believe the situation there is even worse than in 2003.


Posted on Wed, Jul. 23, 2003

Hunting the high-tech job
Survey shows lasting effects of layoffs
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Only 8.8 percent of the high-tech workers who have been laid off recently in North Texas have found new jobs in their area of expertise, an indication of how devastating the job losses have been in a once highly paid industry, according to a survey to be released today.

Laid-off tech workers went for an average of 10 1/2 months without work, and 68.5 percent of them said they had to dig deep into their savings to survive, according to the survey, which was conducted by University of Texas at Arlington assistant management professor Meg Virick and the Plano-based North Texas Technology Council.

"Almost 95 percent of the people that responded are still looking for jobs," Virick said. "That's scary to me. That's very disturbing." Even if people found jobs in the tech industry, they could not always find jobs at their former level, she said, and are still looking.

The tech council's executive director, Terry Traveland, said, "I know people that were vice presidents at Nortel and are now working for $10 an hour at Home Depot, and that is not out of the norm.

"I know another individual who is a manager at Braum's (Ice Cream Store) because that was the only job she could find, and she was pulling in a six-figure salary before that."

Tony Rossi, 59, of North Richland Hills was laid off from Corning Cable System in Keller in December and is still looking for a job. He said that he doesn't even bother to look in the high-tech industry anymore.

"If you're looking to stay in that business it's ridiculous," he said. "I think a lot of that industry is nonexistent."

Traveland said compiling the survey data took about a month longer than expected because the response was so overwhelming, another indication of how hard tech workers have been hit by the downturn in their industry. Traveland said surveys were e-mailed to the council's mailing list and were available on its Web site; 1,328 surveys were received, of which 1,256 could be used for analysis.

Though individual tech workers are suffering, Bud Weinstein, director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas in Denton, said he believes that the North Texas tech sector is well positioned for an eventual recovery.

"I think companies worldwide are going to look hard at the Dallas-Fort Worth area and see all of the assets that we have in that IT field, so we should do pretty well," he said.

He said that North Texas may have had a net loss of 100,000 jobs -- about 35,000 of them in high tech -- in three years but that the area still has a good work force and low cost of living.

"So far we seem to be weathering the storm pretty well," he said.

Virick said she will survey many of the participants again in November to see which job search techniques are working. And Traveland said her organization is contacting technology councils in Boston, Austin, Houston, northern Virginia and California to ask them to conduct similar surveys for an indication of how North Texas' situation compares with that in other high-tech hubs.

Virick said that although the layoffs have been painful, the highly educated and formerly well-paid tech workers generally had healthy savings accounts that helped them weather tough times. On average, they had 21 months worth of savings; only 7.6 percent moved to a smaller home, and only 3.1 percent filed for bankruptcy.

Many of them cut back discretionary spending: 84 percent said they cut down on eating out, and 79.2 percent said they reduced leisure travel.

Kathy Price, 58, of Grapevine said she had to cut back drastically on such luxuries when she was laid off from Marconi Communications, then based in Irving, in October.

"Last year when I was working we went to France," she said. "This year I haven't really gone on vacation."

Like most participants in the survey, Price formerly worked in the telecom industry. Like many others, she said being married softened the blow of unemployment because she and her husband still have some income and are covered by his company's health insurance.

Price said she also found part-time contract work from home, through networking.

"I've used everything. I've used the Internet. I've used a recruiter; I've used networking," she said. " I don't think you can rule anything out in this job environment."

ONLINE: UT-Arlington, www.uta.edu
North Texas Technology Council, www.nttc.ws
Patrick McGee, (817) 548-5476 [email protected]-telegram.com


- 2003 Star Telegram and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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