Expert Tells Senators Massively Increasing H-1B Guest-Worker Visas Would Send Message to Americans: ‘Your Job Is Up for Grabs’ by Foreigners

Southern California Edison
Southern California Public Radio KPCC 89.3

At Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on H-1B guest-worker visas, one of the country’s leading experts on the high-tech guest-worker program said that with proposed legislation like the Senate’s “I-Squared” bill that would triple the number of guest-worker visas, Congress’s message to any American worker making more than $60,000 year is: “your job is up for grabs.”

Howard University Public Policy Professor Ron Hira made those remarks after referencing the $60,000 wage floor for H-1B workers and saying that it was a myth that companies pay guest-workers prevailing wages and actively look first for Americans to fill jobs that are eventually given to H-1B guest-workers who are no better qualified or specialized than the American workers they are replacing.

Rutgers University Public Policy Professor Hal Salzman mentioned that the Senate’s “I-Squared” bill would allow 180,000 H-1b visas a year even though industry lobbyists said the tech industry needed 120,000. What that means, according to Salzman, is that it would proved the industry “enough guest-workers with 50% left in reserve,” which would allow the tech industry to essentially fill all new job openings with guest-workers with enough visas leftover to replace more American workers.

“In sum, current policies and the proposed changes in high skill guest-worker visas and immigration policies that increase the supply of guest-workers are likely to accelerate the already deteriorating labor force conditions and career prospects for STEM graduates and workers,” he testified.

Hira said that Southern California Edison’s abuse of the H-1B program “is flagrant but isn’t an isolated case.” He mentioned documented cases of Disney in Florida, Cargill in Minnesota, Harley Davidson in Wisconsin, Pfizer in Connecticut, and Xerox in Rochester all having gamed the H-1B program to displace American workers.

Jay Palmer, the Infosys whistleblower who eventually lost his job for exposing the company’s H-1B abuses, told lawmakers that he wanted to be the face of the displaced American worker and explained to Senators that Infosys brought in guest-workers who were not better qualified than the Americans who trained them before being replaced.

“I’m here today to talk a little bit about who can’t be here today and talk,” Palmer movingly said. “I am the displaced American worker who can’t speak out due to being harassed, blackballed or possibly sued… the one who was forced to sign a non-disparaging remarks agreement in order get a severance package.”

He added that, “I’m the employee that my company chose not to invest in in order to replace me with cheaper labor, cheaper labor that I had to train, train to do my job that I learned over the past 15 or 20 years. They call it knowledge transfer but we all know that’s all an illusion — it’s all about cheaper labor.”

He said he was the employee who pays his mortgage and taxes, helps his co-worker and shops locally and “now has nothing, who has lost their job and will possibly lose their home.” He said he is the “American worker who sent you to Washington and can also send you home.” He said he was the middle-class worker “who has been displaced by greed and illegal business schemes or fraud” and the “American worker who sent you to Washington and can also send you home.” He said he was also the future American worker in college with “no hope of the IT world because of cheap labor being brought in.” Palmer said the foreign guest-workers are “not skilled workers.” He said H-1b processing companies “bombard our system with H-1B applications and whoever gets them are sent over no matter their skill level.”

“Their skills were just not there,” he said. “That’s not specialized talent. That’s not the spirit of the H-1B program.”

Palmer called H-1B program “competitive firing” instead of “competitive hiring.”

“I Know it,” he said. “I watched it.”

Palmer mentioned that displaced workers do not want to suffer his fate and are all afraid to speak the truth. Since employers know that it is nearly impossible to prove that they are gaming the system without whistleblowers, most displaced workers must sign non-disparagement agreements. He also said that government agents know the abuses in the system, and their agencies do not want them to tell the truth to Senators.

“They can’t even talk about it — that’s why they are not even here today,” he said.

In addition, as Palmer noted, those who do speak out are subsequently blackballed by the industry. Palmer noted that since he has spoken out about the industry’s H-1B abuses, “nobody will touch me.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said Congress represents the American people and has no obligation to “yield to the lust of big businesses” who just want cheaper labor. He said Americans are “right and just” in asking that companies give preferences to Americans and legal immigrants already in the country in their hiring practices.



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