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Q&A: Author of Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? sounds off

N. Sivakumar says the H-1B visa program is sometimes abused

February 28, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - H-1B Salary Interactive ToolN. Sivakumar's book, Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers, is an engaging and challenging account of the author's experience as an H-1B worker in the U.S. The book takes on the controversial employment of foreign workers through the visa program and lays out a case for its use. In an interview with Computerworld, Sivakumar addressed some of those issues.
Your book title -- Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? -- is very in-your-face. What are you trying to accomplish with that? A lot of people think that people like me came here and stole the jobs. People really never talk about the benefits that H-1B visa holders brought to this economy. The book is about Indian programmers and the nature of the visa holders. I just want to capture everybody's attention by asking this bold question. It's about abuse from the other side -- abuse that nobody wants to talk about in public. This is a question for my colleagues, the programmers, who think that the H-1B visa holders and the immigrants who came here stole Americans' jobs.

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What abuse did you face? I never faced anything personally. My colleagues are great. But whenever I go online, I see a lot of hatred. That's what troubles me. Also, if you look at programs like CNN's Lou Dobbs, he never talks about the other side of the story. He never talks about the benefit these folks bring to the economy.
Opponents believe H-1B visa holders are being used to push down the wages of U.S. IT workers. What's your view? I agree with that. "Body shops" abuse H-1B visa users -- they bring in people for very low cost. But not all H-1Bs are abused. The majority are brought in to fill a gap. I came here as an electronic design automation (EDA) programmer; I do microprocessor design. H-1B workers definitely brought the salaries down, but they brought the right people in at the right time. The balancing of the salaries helped U.S. companies compete with their European counterparts.
Do major IT companies pay at reduced wages, or just the body shops? The body shops are the ones who pay low. When I was hired, I was paid exactly the salary I was promised.
If you were paid a wage comparable to what U.S. citizens and permanent residents get, then how do H-1B workers lower wages? Are the body shops responsible, or is it the increase in supply? It's the increase in supply generally. If you look at it, if there are only five EDA programmers in a city, they always have bargaining power. They will leave one company for another. They will negotiate good salaries.

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