Senators Demand Investigation Into Alleged Guest Worker Visa Abuses

A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL) called on top Obama administration officials to launch an investigation into the alleged abuse of a visa program to lay off and replace American workers with cheaper foreign workers.

“We are concerned about recent information that has come to light regarding the abuse of the H-1B visa program by Southern California Edison (SCE) and other employers to replace large numbers of American workers. We urge you to investigate this matter,” the senators wrote in a letter Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

The push for an investigation comes following massive layoffs at Southern California Edison and subsequent replacements with H1-B visa holders.

“Southern California Edison ought to be the tipping point that finally compels Washington to take needed actions to protect American workers,” Sessions said Thursday. “There is no ‘shortage’ of talented Americans, only a shortage of officials willing to protect them.”

Joining Sessions and Durbin in the call for an investigation are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), David Vitter (R-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), James Inhofe (R-OK) — an ideologically diverse group with different immigration stances.

“A number of U.S. employers, including some large, well-known, publicly-traded corporations, have reportedly laid off thousands of American workers and replaced them with H-1B visa holders,” they wrote in their Thursday letter. “To add insult to injury, many of the replaced American employees report that they have been forced to train the foreign workers who are taking their jobs.”

According to the senators, the practice appears to be most prevalent in the information technology sector, where 65 percent of H1-B visas approved last year were in computer-related fields.

“Though such reports of H-1B-driven layoffs have been circulating for years, their frequency seems to have increased dramatically in the past year alone” they write.

The practice, they note, often involved the laying off of American workers who are then replaced by contractors that employ H1-B visa holders, a scheme the lawmakers argue “raises several questions” about possible discrimination, the applications for such visas, possible fraud, and the possible manipulation of other visa programs.

“We respectfully request that you investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers to ascertain whether SCE or any other U.S. companies that have engaged in this practice, or the IT consulting companies supplying those companies with H-1B workers, have violated the law. Additionally, please notify us of any obstacles in existing law to conducting such an investigation,” the letter reads.

The call for an investigation follows Tuesday’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announcement that it had already hit its annual congressionally mandated H1-B visa cap.

The announcement comes as, according to Sessions’ office, 11 million Americans with STEM degrees do not currently hold jobs in those fields. Each year the U.S. graduates twice the number of STEM students as find jobs — meanwhile the vast majority of entry-level IT hiring goes to foreign guest workers.

Read the letter:

“Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretaries Johnson and Perez:

We are concerned about recent information that has come to light regarding the abuse of the H-1B visa program by Southern California Edison (SCE) and other employers to replace large numbers of American workers. We urge you to investigate this matter.

A number of U.S. employers, including some large, well-known, publicly-traded corporations, have reportedly laid off thousands of American workers and replaced them with H-1B visa holders. To add insult to injury, many of the replaced American employees report that they have been forced to train the foreign workers who are taking their jobs. This troubling practice seems to be particularly concentrated in the information technology (IT) sector, which is not surprising given that sixty five percent of H-1B petitions approved in FY 2014 were for workers in computer-related occupations. Though such reports of H-1B-driven layoffs have been circulating for years, their frequency seems to have increased dramatically in the past year alone. 

In many cases it appears that the H-1B workers are not employees of the U.S. company laying off American workers, but instead are contractors employed by foreign-owned IT consulting companies. This increasingly popular business practice by U.S. companies and foreign-owned IT outsourcing firms raises several questions. For example, have the U.S. companies that have laid off American workers and replaced them with H-1B workers and/or the IT consulting contractors the companies retained engaged in prohibited citizenship status discrimination against U.S. citizens? Did the Labor Condition Applications certified by the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the petitions approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for each H-1B visa holder who replaced a U.S. worker at these companies accurately reflect the scope and location of their work? Did such labor condition applications or visa petitions show any evidence of misrepresentation or fraud by the employer-petitioners? Did the employer-petitioners maintain a true employer-employee relationship with the H-1B workers after they were placed at the U.S. client company? While media reports indicate that the H-1B visa program is the principal visa program at issue in the layoffs, were other visa programs, such as the L-1B or the B-1, also used to displace American workers at U.S. companies?

We respectfully request that you investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers to ascertain whether SCE or any other U.S. companies that have engaged in this practice, or the IT consulting companies supplying those companies with H-1B workers, have violated the law. Additionally, please notify us of any obstacles in existing law to conducting such an investigation.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Comment count on this article reflects comments made on Breitbart.com and Facebook. Visit Breitbart's Facebook Page.