GOP Debate: Marco Rubio Touts Immigration Policy

During Wednesday’s GOP debate in Boulder, Colorado, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he believes companies that get caught “abusing” the H1-B visa program “should be permanently barred from ever using that program again.”

Rubio is behind legislation such as the I-Squared bill, which seeks to triple the number of H1-B visas in the nation. Critics content that the bill could hurt American STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers who are in some cases forced to train their cheaper foreign replacements.

“It sounds like you think Senator Sessions is wrong to believe there’s enough abuse in that program that we shouldn’t increase the number” of H1B visas, CNBC co-moderator John Harwood said.

“Well, I think those companies should be permanently barred from ever using those programs again and we should put strict standards in place to ensure that they’re not being abused like the prevailing wage requirement and like the advertisement requirement,” Rubio replied.

Rubio said he believed “reforms” should be added to the H1-B program: “[B]efore you hire anyone from abroad you should have to advertise that job for 180 days. You also have to prove that you’re going to pay these people more than you would pay someone else so that you’re not undercutting it by bringing in cheap labor,” Rubio said.

On average, the cost of hiring an H1-B visa worker is approximately $30,000 less annually than hiring an American-born or naturalized U.S. citizen in the same field.

In fact, matching the pay for foreign-born H1-B visa workers with American wages is not Rubio’s idea. It has been consistently suggested by Rubio’s opponents as a way to combat the rampant abuse of the program that he is seeking to triple in size.

Professors Ron Hira and Hal Salzman have testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest that Rubio’s bill will allow for employers to determine a STEM worker’s ability to fill a job based on skill alone.

This past July, Rubio doubled down in his efforts to push for more H-1B visa holders in the U.S., even after Microsoft’s announcement that it would terminate another 7,800 U.S. workers in order to replace them with cheaper labor—on top of the 18,000 it has already laid off.

There is a surplus, not a shortage, of skilled American workers–and not enough STEM jobs to accommodate them . Additionally, there are only half the number of STEM jobs available for the number of STEM graduates every year, and American graduates could be crowded out by H1-B visa holders due to the cost of hiring alone.

Rubio, who has been touted as America’s “tech savior,” has enjoyed support from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose Fwd.US lobbying group has stated that American workers were being laid off and replaced with foreign workers on H1B visas because they “don’t work hard enough” and that America needs more “unskilled” immigrants to enter the workforce.

Professor Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology, who is an expert in the field of high-skilled immigration, has said “Congress in conjunction with multiple Administrations have inadvertently created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans….The H-1B program is most definitely harming American workers, harming them badly, and on a large scale.”

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