Media for Pete Bennett | Aired September 14, 2002 - 13:00 ET

Pete Bennett appearing on CNNNext in 2002

During 2001, Bennett was contracted to SBCGlobal beginning in June 2001 which ended abruptly just after 9/11 when his computer issued computer was wiped by a computer virus

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Pete Bennett - CNNnext 

Intel Plans for Future; Spy Planes Help U.S. Troops in Afghanistan; Old Wooden Pencil Gets New Competition

Aired September 14, 2002 - 13:00   ET source


HATTORI (voice-over): These days, computer programmer Pete Bennett is building boats for his kids instead of software.

PETE BENNETT, COMPUTER PROGRAMMER: Well, I was a cabinetmaker for 15 years.

HATTORI: But after more than a decade in high tech, this year Bennett has worked on just one software project so far, a victim of the economic slowdown and, he says, an immigration program that's making the job market even worst.

BENNETT: The American citizens are getting hurt. The H1-B workers are getting hurt. And something needs to be done to straighten this thing out -- and quit.

HATTORI: Bennett believes the federal H1-B visa program, which allows nearly 200,000 skilled workers a year into the U.S., is unnecessary and being abused.

HATTORI (on camera): Bottom line, are H1-B visa holders taking jobs that American citizens could be filling?

BENNETT: That's the general consensus among my peers, and myself.

HATTORI: He's not alone. An organization representing nearly 250,000 high-tech professionals has written to Congress. They want to know why Americans are getting laid off while workers from abroad continue to work. The H1-B program was supposed to give skilled overseas workers jobs when qualified Americans cannot be found. The visas were initially capped at 65,000 in 1998, but Congress upped it to 195,000 last year. HATTORI: In fact, perhaps because of the U.S. economic slump, H1-B applications are down dramatically, 48 percent fewer so far this year compared to last. But critics say the decline is not keeping pace with layoffs here in the U.S.

Norm Matloff is a professor at the University of California at Davis, who has studied hiring practices at high-tech companies.

NORM MATLOFF, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS: What Congress ought to do is just cancel the whole H1-B program. And in its place put a very small program with very strong protections, and without the loopholes they have now.

HATTORI: Loopholes that, critics say, for example, let companies hire H1-B visa workers at lesser paying positions than the jobs they actually perform.

MATLOFF: There is tailoring the job requirements, so that only the foreign national -- you know, that's the only person on the whole planet that would qualify because you've deliberately set it up that way.

HATTORI: Mahesh Nagaranjaiah, who heads up a Silicon Valley organization that counsels many H1-B visa holders says they're missing the bigger picture -- U.S. jobs are being exported anyway.

MAHESH MAGARAJAIAH, H1-B VISA ADVOCATE: I don't think American companies need to find loopholes in the H1-B programs, but they are sending work back to other countries like India, Russia, Israel, China, and other places, where the work can be done at a lot cheaper cost.

HATTORI: The industry also cites a dwindling pool of qualified graduates in U.S. schools.

HARRIS MILLER, INFORMATION TECH. ASSN. OF AMERICA: Half of all graduate students in the math and science programs are foreign students. When a company is looking for the best and brightest, particularly people with advanced degrees, master degrees and Ph.D.s, frequently, many of those candidates are born abroad.

BENNETT: You got any friends at Technical that have been laid off...

HATTORI: Still, that hasn't stopped Pete Bennett who takes his anti-H1-B campaign anywhere people will listen in hopes of saving any jobs he can.

BENNETT: These people are deserving American citizens, and they deserve the opportunity to be employed. And it's a tragedy the way the jobs have been manipulated.


HATTORI: Now you might get the idea that every software programmer in the world wants to work in Silicon Valley. But some of the high-tech workers and entrepreneurs who moved from Asia to California are heading home. Kristie Lu Stout reports on the two-way flow of talent across the Pacific.



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