Innovation Hub: How Immigrants Fuel Innovation

Immigration policy reform is a hot-button issue right now, but it’s affecting the innovation economy in unexpected ways.

U.S. companies are having a hard time recruiting enough skilled workers to fill all their high-level science, tech, and engineering positions. I discussed the issue with Stanford Law School professor Dan Siciliano and Silicon Valley Leadership Group VP Emily Lam.

[This interview has been edited and condensed. For the full conversation, visit]

Kara Miller: It feels like a lot of Silicon Valley is comprised of immigrants or the children of immigrants. Is that true?

Dan Siciliano: A little more than half of all startups in the Bay Area were founded with a team that included someone without a green card, or who had recently gotten their green card. If those immigrants suddenly didn’t come, a substantial portion of successful companies in Silicon Valley would not exist.

KM: Does the fight over America’s limited H-1B visas handicap our economy?

Emily Lam: Think about a baseball team and their recruitment. If they said, “we only want American baseball players,” who would we be limiting our talent to? Whether somebody comes from the United States or the Dominican Republic, it doesn’t matter. If you have an idea, if you have great work ethic, our companies want to be able to recruit you from anywhere around the world.

KM: Do foreign-born workers drive down the salaries of people who are born in America?

DS: The preponderance of evidence suggests that no, they do not drive down the wages. In fact, since they tend to be very high-skilled, they’re the catalyst that allows for expansion and growth that, in turn, creates a positive feedback loop that allows for the hiring of more engineers and non-engineers.

KM: Are we facing a time when other countries are trying to get the best people to go elsewhere?

DS: Smaller countries have observed that the United States did a masterful job of having the best and brightest from throughout the world come to the U.S. and become even better educated, and then keeping them. And it drove our economy, and gave us huge advantages.

KM: What are we seeing, in terms of specific recruiting programs?

EM: In Chile, they have a program where they’ll give an entrepreneur forty thousand dollars, free office space, and a visa to bring a startup there. We are rolling out the red tape, and they are rolling out the red carpet. And right next to San Francisco Airport, the Canadian government put up a huge billboard sign that said, “Have visa problems? Pivot to Canada!” Right next to our airport.

Mikaela Lefrak contributed to this report.

Kara Miller is the host of “Innovation Hub,” a national radio program that features the thinkers, researchers, and visionaries who are crafting the future. She is based at WGBH Radio in Boston. Follow @IHubRadio

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10 responses to “Innovation Hub: How Immigrants Fuel Innovation”

  1. Moder Chod says:

    what a bunch of lying b/s crap this is. Kara Miller is full of it. We don’t need any more H1B’s, we need paid shills like Kara Miller to shut her mouth

  2. Glob Design says:

    More cheap labor lies from the business lobby in the US and jealous Asians who all want our jobs because they can’t build enough toilets back home.

    Stop the lies. American jobs belong to Americans first IT’S THE LAW:


    • Ho Ho says:

      @Globdesign, you sad angry old man, your story almost writes itself. You are a fat entitled arrogant middle-aged prick, your wife probably took you to the cleaners, and now bitter/angry at everyone. You now lie on your lazy obese ass, swigging beer and blaming “Indians” for your woes, while wallowing in a sea of self-pity.
      Wallow on, You poor prick, wallow-on.

    • ShawnMck says:

      Keep it up Glob Design. You are a true warrior!

  3. Glob Design says:

    Companies ruined or almost ruined by imported Indian labor

    Adaptec – Indian CEO Subramanian Sundaresh fired.

    AIG (signed outsourcing deal in 2007 in Europe with Accenture Indian frauds, collapsed in 2009)

    AirBus (Qantas plane plunged 650 feet injuring passengers when its computer system written by India disengaged the auto-pilot).

    Apple – R&D CLOSED in India in 2006.

    Apple – Indian national and former Goldman Sachs board
    member Rajat Gupta charged with leaking Intel and Apple secrets over the

    Australia’s National Australia Bank (Outsourced jobs to India in 2007, nationwide ATM and account failure in late 2010).

    Barclays Bank – UK executive management was corrupted by
    Shriti Vadera, the Indian-origin economist. His advice led Barclay’s
    CEO and other execs to rig Libor interest rates.

    Bell Labs (Arun Netravalli took over, closed, turned into a shopping mall)

    Boeing Dreamliner ES software (written by HCL, banned by FAA)

    Bristol-Myers-Squibb (Trade Secrets and documents stolen in U.S. by Indian national guest worker)

    Caymas – Startup run by Indian CEO, French director of
    dev, Chinese tech lead. Closed after 5 years of sucking VC out of

    Caterpillar misses earnings a mere 4 months after outsourcing to India, Inc.

    Circuit City – Outsourced all IT to Indian-run IBM and went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

    Cisco – destroyed by Indian labor, laid off 55,000 in 2012, going down the drain.

    ComAir crew system run by 100% Indian IT workers caused
    the 12/25/05 U.S. airport shutdown when they used a short int instead of
    a long int

    Computer Associates – Former CEO Sanjay Kumar, an Indian national, sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for accounting fraud.

    Deloitte – 2010 – this Indian-packed consulting company
    is being sued under RICO fraud charges by Marin Country, California for a


    Dell – call center (closed in India)

    Delta call centers (closed in India)

    Duke University – Massive scientific fraud by Indian national Dr. Anil Potti discovered in 2012.

    Enron, WorldCom, Qwest, and Tyco all hired large numbers of foreign workers from India before their scandals.

    Fannie Mae – Hired large numbers of Indians, had to be bailed out. Indian logic bomb creator found guilty and sent to prison.

    Goldman Sachs – Kunil Shah, VP & Managing Director – GS had to be bailed out by US taxpayers for $550 BILLION.

    GM – Was booming in 2006, signed $300 million outsourcing deal with Wipro that same year, went bankrupt 3 years later

    HP – Got out of the PC hardware business in 2011 and
    can’t compete with Apple’s tablets. HP was taken over by Indians and
    Chinese in 2001.

    So much for ‘Asian’ talent!

    HSBC ATMs (software taken over by Indians, failed in 2006)

    IBM bill collecting system for Austin, TX failed in 2012 written by Indians at IBM

    Intel Whitefield processor project (cancelled, Indian staff canned)

    Intel – Trade secret stolen by Indian national Biswamohan Pani in 2012.

    JetStar Airways computer failure brings down
    Christchurch airport on 9/17/11. JetStar is owned by Quantas – which is
    know to have outsourced

    to India, Inc.

    JP Morgan – Outsourced subsidiary & IT integration to India in 2009 for $400 million, lost $2 billion in 2012.

    Kodak: Outsourced to India in 2006, filed for bankruptcy in Jan, 2012.

    Lehman (Jasjit Bhattal ruined the company. Spectramind software bought by Wipro, ruined, trashed by Indian programmers)

    London Olympics 2012 Security – Botched by India’s G4S

    Medicare – Defrauded by Indian national doctor Arun Sharma & wife in the U.S.

    Microsoft – Employs over 35,000 H-1Bs. Stock used to be $100. Today it’s lucky to be over $25. Not to mention that Vista thing.

    MIPS – Taken over by Indian national Sandeep Vij in 2010, being sold off in 2012.

    MIT Media Lab Asia (canceled)

    MyNines – A startup founded and run by Indian national
    Apar Kothari went belly up after throwing millions of America’s VC $
    down the drain.

    Nomura Securities – (In 2011 “struggling to compete on
    the world stage”). No wonder because Jasjit Bhattal formerly of failed
    Lehman ran it.

    See Lehman above.

    PeopleSoft (Taken over by Indians in 2000, collapsed).

    PepsiCo – Slides from #1 to #3 during Indian CEO Indra Nooyi’ watch.

    Polycom – Former senior executive Sunil Bhalla charged with insider trading.

    Qantas – See AirBus above

    Quark (Alukah Kamar CEO, fired, lost 60% of its customers to Adobe because Indian-written QuarkExpress 6 was a failure)

    Reebok – Massive fraud and theft in India second in size only to Satyam fraud

    Rolls Royce (Sent aircraft engine work to India in 2006,
    engines delayed for Boeing 787, and failed on at least 2 Quantas planes
    in 2010, cost

    Rolls $500m).

    SAP – Same as Deloitte above in 2010.

    Singapore airlines (IT functions taken over in 2009 by TCS, website trashed in August, 2011)

    Skype (Madhu Yarlagadda fired)

    State of Indiana $867 million FAILED IBM project, IBM being sued

    State of New York – Hired Indian-infested CSC in 1998 to
    build a new system, was 33 months late and $166 million over budget, a

    overrun of 47 percent. And then the system failed. So
    much for “they can do it better, cheaper, faster”. CSC also holds the
    sole contract for

    NC’s Medicaid system redesign. That project is hundreds
    of millions over budget and years late. India, Inc. is taking its time
    to maximize the

    amount it can grift out of America.

    State of Texas failed IBM project.

    Sun Micro (Taken over by Indian and Chinese workers in 2001, collapsed, had to be sold off to Oracle).

    UK’s NHS outsourced numerous jobs including health records to India in mid-2000 resulting in $26 billion over budget.

    Union Bank of California – Cancelled Finacle project run by India’s InfoSys in 2011.

    United – call center (closed in India)

    US Navy F-18 jet crashes into Virginia apartment building on 4/6/12 after outsourcing F-18 work to India’s Tata.

    Victorian Order of Nurses, Canada (Payroll system screwed up by SAP/IBM in mid-2011)

    Virgin Atlantic (software written in India caused cloud IT failure)

    World Bank (Indian fraudsters BANNED for 3 years because they stole data).

  4. idic5 says:

    THe article acts like H-1bs are EXCLUSIVELY over the top brilliant guru google geniuses; that indeed is the kind of person/talent that the visa is designed for. But in fact the large majority of H-1bs are pedestrian in talent and certainly no more talented than what the corporations can get in the USA. The reason they use them is NOT to get the next google, but because these folks are a captive labor force without effective means to up and quit if conditions are not right or if compensation sucks – in short, an employer’s dream labor force.

  5. jakeleone says:

    There are recent disturbing reports about how the H-1b is actually used.

    For example, we don’t know how many H-1b workers actually bought the opportunity to get to head of the line in the H-1b process and for hiring consideration. Or paid off their recruiters with a huge loan and bondage agreements, essentially how many H-1b workers are actually victims of Human Trafficking, and are ILLEGALLY indebted to their recruiters or Offshore Outsourcing company?

    It appears that U.S. head-hunters working in India are particularly corrupt, and it could well be the case that by increasing the number of H-1b visas we will simply be feeding organized crime in India.

    The administration is making move to destroy LCA records, a move that will interfere with any ability to get a handle on this. And I am worried that this is part of a bigger cover-up to hide the discriminatory and illegal hiring practices of Indian companies that have also contracted with our Federal Government.

    We do know that H-1b is mostly used by Indian Offshore Outsourcing companies, and that any increase in the number of H-1b visas will simply feed the process of removing jobs from the United States. Offshore Outsourcing companies stuffing the H-1b request box each year, is the reason why we run out of H-1b visas.

    We need to fix that first, so that our legitamite tech companies can begin to hire qualified candidates, from where ever they actually are, not just from companies that monopolize the H-1b system by taking every slot, and then essentially bringing in benched workers.

    The Offshore Outsourcing companies do not even try to hire U.S. citizens. In recent court documents an InfoSys senior manager tells a U.S. recruiter that “Americans don’t know (expletive)”. When that recruiter attempted to present the resumes of several qualified U.S. citizens, that the recruiter had already reviewed. The recruiter was then directed to only consider resumes of people from India, for jobs on U.S. soil.

    How can we allow companies with such openly discriminatory and racist hiring practices contract with our Federal Government and use our H-1b visa system to discriminate against workers in the United States, for jobs on U.S. soil?????

    And if Offshore Outsourcing companies were barred from using our Visa systems (a move that is entirely reasonable given the nature of their business – to destroy jobs and opportunity in the United States, and also that their racist hiring practices have been exposed in court), we would never have seen a year, since inception, where we ran out of H-1b visas.

    The only thing holding back the U.S. tech economy is that we allow companies that use bribes and corruption to grab most of the H-1b visas we issue each year. Companies that sell their positions to the highest bidder, without regard to finding the best candidates for a job are the kind of companies that bring tech companies down. Further how can we, in good conscience, allow such a system to facilitate human trafficking from India?

    The H-1b system is a National Disgrace.