Were Valley Immigrants Traded Like Property? Feds Wonder

Tech giants have long sought more work visas, saying they enrich immigrants. But a reported Justice Department investigation raises the possibility Google, Apple and Yahoo, among others, colluded to hold down wages.

The Washington Post's anonymous sources said the Feds are investigating whether the firms illegally negotiated "the recruiting and hiring of one another's employees," in violation of antitrust law.

Silicon Valley companies have been known to compete fiercely for top talent, including immigrant engineers. When Google hired computer scientist and former Carnegie Mellon professor Kai-Fu Lee away from Microsoft, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was famously said to have thrown a chair across the room in anger.

The upshot of competition for immigrant workers is higher wages. Free marketeers who advocate for more H1-B worker visas, like the American Enterprise Institute, should know that better than anyone.

Logically, then, if tech companies suppressed competition for H1-B visa holders, they were retarding immigrant income growth. By treating workers like so much property, they would have inhibited the very prosperity they claim to support.

Tech companies wouldn't talk to the Post about the investigation. But they should reverse that chance as soon as they can: The Valley's image as a center of immigrant wealth and opportunity is among its strongest political assets.

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