I teach Chemical Engineering (ChE) at Clemson University, where I have been a professor for 28 years. I just finished teaching the largest Thermodynamics class of my career and this fall will have my largest ChE Laboratory ever. Why? It turns out that America’s students are starting to get it. They know that 53 percent of recent college graduates are under/unemployed, and they want a job, a good job. So all across the Carolinas and the country, college students are moving in droves into engineering. At Clemson, enrollment in engineering is up 60 percent in five years.
How’s the job market? Good – but not great. Our engineering students are getting offers, primarily because of baby-boomer retirements. But salary offers have been flat since the recession began. Groups as diverse as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the Economic Policy Institute have all expressed concern about an oversupply of high-tech workers, which is reflected in the wage stagnation.
But no worries – the Senate Gang of 8 has ridden to the “rescue” with S. 744, the immigration bill you’ve heard so much about, determined to find an immigration problem that needs a “solution.” The Gang, composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, has gotten together with corporate America to eliminate the “problem” of America’s college graduates being able to get jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
So what’s their plan? It’s hard to believe, but in this economy the Gangsters propose that every international student who earns a U.S. M.S. or Ph.D. in a STEM field be given an automatic work permit. But the Gangsters haven’t stopped there. They’ve piled on by making it so that a Ph.D. in any field also gets a lifetime work permit. And no general preference is given to hiring an equally qualified American. So much for encouraging America’s students to better themselves by going on to higher education.
Where’s the data that support the Gang of 8’s supposed high-tech labor shortage? No one but the Gangsters and corporate hacks can find it. Computer Science professor Norman Matloff, an expert on this issue, has been looking for a shortage for years and can’t find one. The EPI, the Wall Street Journal (April 23), and the New York Times (Feb. 7) can’t find one either. I’m clueless too; a recent Ph.D. of mine searched 1.5 years to find a low-paying post-doc position; another wants to switch jobs, but has had no luck. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 2.5 million STEM job openings for 2010-2020, yet the number of these degrees to be earned by U.S. citizens and permanent residents is projected to exceed that number by 1.5 million! Hardly a shortage.
Under the pretense of immigration reform, the high-tech industry is using S. 744 to push for unlimited numbers of workers, resulting in more unemployment and lower wages for all of America’s workers – regardless of their origin. This is not irrational behavior by the companies. If they get 10 quality applicants per job, great! They can pick and choose the perfect fit to their needs. It’s not their problem if the other nine end up underemployed or on welfare or even hating America because they were told we were the land of opportunity.
The bill is lathered up with giveaways such that 33 million permanent work permits will be given out to non-citizens over the next decade. That’s like giving all of Canada permission to move here and get a job over the next 10 years. It’s far more than the 24 million immigrants that came through Ellis Island during its entire 1890-1950 period. Our economy has been stumbling along, hardly creating the number of jobs needed to keep up with population growth. Twenty million Americans are unemployed. How do these guys sleep at night?
North Carolina’s senators have been quiet about their intentions on the immigration bill. Yet both sides consider their votes to be crucial. Call Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr this week and tell them to vote NO on cloture for S. 744. One can certainly make the argument that our immigration system needs fixing. But destroying America’s middle class and telling our students “Don’t bother working hard for your engineering degree; we’re going to replace you with someone who will do the job for less anyway” isn’t a solution.
Mark C. Thies is a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Clemson University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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