If The Unemployment Rate Is So High, Why Are Houston Companies Still Using Foreign Workers?

Unemployment in Texas has more than doubled since last year, causing one former oil-industry worker to ask: Why can companies continue to sponsor work visas for foreign workers?

"It's not like we're talking about people picking fruit in fields," Rick Everinghim, who designs refineries, along with petrochemical and nuclear plants, tells Hair Balls. "Guys in my field are specialized, some making about $200,000 a year, but we're starving out here."

Everingham, now living in his home state of Florida, estimates that for every 1,000 employees at an engineering firm, about 200 are here on a work visa.

Everinghim first came to Houston in the early 1990s to work for KBR. Most recently, up until about eight months ago, he was doing contract work for several different engineering firms in the Houston area, mainly in the petrochemical field.

"That industry fell apart, and all of a sudden, it was tough finding work," Everinghim says. "But [the companies] are still sponsoring work visas to different companies."

He continued, "Things were going really well there in Houston. It was fair wages. Then they bring in 100 people from Mumbai, and those guys don't negotiate."

After his contract in Houston was canceled, Everinghim took a job in Boston, but, about a month ago, the bosses came in and told the workers that they were being laid off and that day was their last on the job. He was recently talking to a man whose son-in-law was an engineer and could not find work.

"I liked the guys I worked with [from different countries]. One of my best friends when I was working in Houston was here on a visa from Mexico," Everinghim says. "But when we have unemployment like it is, sponsoring work visas for any American job just seems insane."

We called a couple of the firms that Everinghim worked for in Houston, but we haven't heard back.

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