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H-1B: the voices behind the visa

Tracy Mayor | Nov. 17, 2010
This article is part of our special report on the 20th anniversary of the H-1B visa, which also includes first-person accounts from five IT workers who have been directly affected by the H-1B program and visual and interactive tools to help you analyze H-1B visa data.

America is the No. 1 country in the world. People who are in India are ready to do everything and anything to come into this country. If you go to another country, they say, "Oh, he worked in the United States." It is assumed you have very good skills.

Innovation will happen in other places, not in the United States, if we do not continue to get talent from the whole world. People come here for the great research facilities and the universities. They follow Bill Gates. If we lose them, we will lose a lot of talent.

America for me feels like a second birthplace. I feel I have a debt to this country. I perform social work. I volunteer. I add value to the society. If I go back to my country, the investment from me in the U.S. will be zero.

One time on a contract job, a guy said to me, "Why don't you go back to your country?" I said, "The day I cannot find a job or the government says 'We don't want you,' I will go."

Rob Sanchez

'The first to go will be the expensive Americans.'

I went to the University of Texas at El Paso, received a B.S. in electrical engineering, and worked for eight years at [a global communications corporation] in Scottsdale, Ariz., until I was laid off in 1988. There were huge cuts in defense spending, and more than 50% of the engineers at the company lost their jobs.

Then I put in five years at [a medical circuit manufacturer] as a test engineer before I moved on to [a large government contractor], helping design test equipment, firmware and software for a GUI interface.

I was working late one Friday night when I overheard some young engineers two cubicles away say an H-1B was coming in on Monday. I knew I was a dead man walking. The workforce there was very young, mostly under 30, and high-tech companies tend to hire young and fire old.

Sure enough, I got the axe, and the H-1B got my job. The type of job I was doing was fairly unique, but there's no question they could have found another American.

The second time, I was working alongside an H-1B holder from Russia at a small start-up in Phoenix that has since gone out of business. He was a real nice guy. We got along fine. Everybody knew the company operated on a shoestring -- they got me pretty cheap, because I was getting sort of desperate with all the layoffs in the industry and the corporate takeovers, but they got him cheaper.


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