Senate Committee Warned: H-1B Visas Could Eliminate STEM Jobs for Americans

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Americans are being crowded out of their jobs and being replaced by H-1B workers, witnesses told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a Tuesday hearing.

One testimony came from American worker and whistleblower in the Infosys H-1B visa fraud case, Jay Palmer.

“This is all about money. That’s all it’s about,” Palmer said as he recalled watching “skilled Americans being fired because they earn too much. “You’re basically trading jobs away to make a little bit of profit for Southern California Edison,” Palmer explained. He ended up training his own replacement for a job he had been working in for 15 years.

The InfoSys case is the largest immigration visa fraud fine in U.S. history, at $34 million in damages paid. Yet, testimony from Professor Ron Hira, who is an expert in high-skill immigration policy at Howard University, revealed that the applied fine “did nothing to persuade the company to change its behavior.”

Hira noted that the fine was “a mere 0.4 percent of Infosys’ $8.2 billion in annual revenues. From the perspective of Infosys executives, the fine was a small addition to their cost of doing business.” He suggested InfoSys should have been blocked from being able to employ an H-1B program. “The technology industry has long offered the Trojan Horse of paying training fees in exchange more H-1Bs. This is fool’s gold for American workers. It is a lose-lose situation,” Hira pointed out.

A union official who interviewed with Breitbart News late last week explained corporate greed is behind the push to extend H-1B visas. Southern California Edison is a premier model of this perceived “war on the American worker.”

Some senators weren’t convinced.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said it was a “myth that the H-1B visa program takes jobs away from Americans,” a sentiment echoed by the majority of Democrats and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who argued during the hearing for an increase in immigration while praising the “I-Squared” high-tech visa bill (properly known as the Immigration Innovation bill).

Yet, the real “myth” is claims from tech leaders such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that their corporations need to import cheap foreign labor due to a lack of STEM graduates. Both the S. 744 SKILLS and I-Squared bills would usher in a greater number of foreign workers than there are jobs to fill in the United States, leaving up to 100 percent of new jobs vulnerable to being filled with an imported workforce.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) referred to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report which detailed “that 74 percent of those who have a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering and math — commonly referred to as STEM — are not employed in STEM occupations.” Sessions explained that “People aren’t commodities… We have no obligation to yield to the lust of big businesses.”

Hira said the media and policymakers are painting a false picture when they suggest that most employers search high and low for American workers before turning to guest workers.

“That is absolutely not true. It is not required by the law or the regulations and it’s not true in practice. We see this over and over again. The Southern California Edison case is just the most flagrant example of that but Disney, and many others, as well as companies like Deloitte — which is now hiring only H-1B workers to service the State of California unemployment insurance IT system,” the professor explained.

The numbers are sobering.

HP is in the process of laying off 55,000 workers, similar to the model SoCal Edison has employed. In fact, the Southern California Edison case is just one of several that have been plaguing the nation. Several weeks ago, Disney in Florida replaced 500 American workers with H-1B immigrants. Cargill in Minnesota, Harley Davidson in Wisconsin, and Northeast Utilities and Pfizer, both of which are in Connecticut, are also doing the same thing.

“I’m an Edison Employee. I’m a Harley Davidson employee. I’m displaced,” Palmer painfully expressed.

Joining Prof. Hira on the panel was Prof. Hal Salzman of Rutgers University. Salzman is also recognized as a top expert in this area.

Sessions released a statement following the testimony highlighting some of the facts presented by Hira and Salzman:

  • The current large supply of guest workers into the STEM labor market is displacing U.S. workers and depressing their wages;
  • American schools graduate twice as many students each year with STEM degrees as there are STEM jobs to fill;
  • The primary use of the H-1B and other IT-related guest worker programs is to either replace Americans workers at lower wages or to fill open jobs with workers at lower cost—it has nothing to do with trying to find the “best and brightest” In fact, our current guest worker and green card policies discourage and displace talented Americans from realizing their dreams; and
  • Increases in guest workers and university-based green cards in legislation such as the ‘Gang of Eight’ bill, I-Squared, and the SKILLS Act, would provide a large enough labor supply to allow tech companies to fill 100 percent of available jobs openings with foreign workers.

At one point during his testimony, attorney Benjamin Johnson, who is the Executive Director of the American Immigration Council and who is largely in support of an extension of the H-1B program, called for an end to per country visa caps, which is exactly what the high-tech industry wants. This move would provide an unlimited number of foreign workers from nations like India, China, and Malaysia to replace American IT workers.

Professor Salzman pointed out that the Gang of Eight, Skills Act, and I-Squared bills would each create a number of guest workers each year that would exceed the number of high-tech jobs created each year, potentially rendering it near-impossible for STEM graduates to find a job in the STEM field.

One of several recommendations as to how this immigrants for American workers swap could be handled was by requiring employers to pay an H-1B worker the same amount as an American worker; a suggestion echoed by Professor Hira who noted that the Indian government dubs the H-1B program as the “outsourcing visa.”

Professor Salzman pointed out that “there is an interesting confusion about ‘shortage,’ and I would have thought that our lawyer friends would have talked about that,” alluding to Johnson.

Salzman went on to clarify, “I have a shortage in finding terrific, top graduate students who are willing to work for minimum wage. And if you asked me, I would call that a shortage. But I have great graduate students [and] I’d pay them a little bit more.”

The Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security were reportedly invited to share their testimonies, but all three declined. Southern California Edison also declined an invitation to provide testimony.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz


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