Bracero Programmers (was Re: unobserved skill

John K. Taber jktaber at
Thu Oct 15 16:44:44 PDT 1998

James Baird wrote:
> >
> >Oops, I misunderstood what you meant here, Rakesh. My apologies.
> >However, I think that this is still not a good example. First of all,
> >the salaries that highly qualified foreign engineers and programmers
> get
> >through the H-1 program, in my experience, are essentially the same as
> >those of Americans of similar experience. If you have any evidence to
> >the contrary, I'd be _very_ interested in taking a look at it.
> >
> I used to work for a consulting company where I was the only American
> engineer (at least in the networking department). They moved me out to
> San Francisco, and it was only after I got here that I realized that
> they paid a fraction of what I could get elsewhere. I left - and I
> found out that this place specialized in importing "indentured
> servants", paying them below market rates, and hiring them out for a
> tidy profit. That's just one company, but I've got to believe it goes
> on elsewhere.

I'm going to add to this. In the early 80s I worked for a certain large computer company. The chief designer was an Indian, Nitin (not his real name) who was our technical leader and management's advisor. We got along pretty good, and one day when I was in his office, he got an outside phone call. He talked in his native language (Bombay, I forget the language but I don't think it's Urdu) with somebody, for quite some time. If it's possible for an Indian's face to whiten with distress, his did.

He told me what the call was about. It was a countryman who had been imported like a bracero for the Tandy Corp. He lived in an apartment building owned by Tandy, and more like an army barracks than anything else, and absolutely without a phone. Somehow, he managed to slip away with great risk to himself, and called Nitin for help.

He was paid something like $9,000/yr and was held a virtual prisoner. Any attempt on his part to get out from under detected by Tandy, and he would have been fired. That would trigger the INS to deport him because he was here on a work visa.

Nitin is a leader in the local Indian community (my reason for the false name -- he could be identified from his real name), and I believe from what he told me, that he was able to help his countryman escape servitude.

Bracero programming has been going on for a long time, folks.

-- I've been able to string more words into fewer ideas than anybody I know, and I'm continuing to do that.

- Alan Greenspan to the Senate Budget Committee, Sept 23, 1998

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