I’ve been on an H1B a few times, and on visas generally, and I’m as white a guy as they come but I’m Canadian. What Tony says about the primary big-company defense of the current H1B situation is, I think, correct: A lot of these visas are being used to drive outsourcing that frankly just doesn’t work. It showed a lot of promise in say 2002, but the business model now is based less on “providing value for money” and much much more on “expand the contract and keep it open as long as possible.” The people hired by these big consultancies on H1Bs often do their best, and generally do their time as honorably as they can, but they’re underpaid and their employers are, as Tony alluded, not doing anyone any favors.
But the H1Bs that *aren’t* going to giant body shops are often clustered in specific areas of technology that, to be honest, you can’t generally get Americans interested in. In business intelligence and data warehousing, for example, there just aren’t enough native-born Americans of any age willing to do the work. (For whatever reason Americans seem to prefer to be two removes from the data.) You can’t run a modern corporation without a BI team, and you can’t run a modern BI team without H1Bs, and most of those H1Bs are South and East Asian people. That’s just a basic fact. There are many exceptions and I’ve worked with many smart and proficient Americans, but the vast majority of people in BI and DW are Asian people who, like me, want a shot at the American dream.
So I’m in total agreement that the H1B system needs to be reformed to ensure its not abused by big consultancies selling a fantasy with a loophole. The indentured servitude problem needs to be fixed. But without the H1B program technology work in American companies— specifically reporting, but elsewhere too— would grind to a halt. And that would be a disaster.