Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina admitted Wednesday she used the H-1b visa program to hire foreign workers while CEO at Hewlett-Packard, but rejected any comparison to Disney’s recently reported use of the program to displace American tech workers.
“Did we ask American workers to train foreign workers with H-1b visas so that we can pay them less and lay them off?” she said on the Howie Carr radio show Wednesday. “The answer is most definitely no.”
“I can’t remember exactly — it was a long time ago — how many [were brought in],” she added. “But there were some particular jobs where we needed particular sets of skills, where we were growing a particular business.”
Fiorina laid off more than 30,000 employees while CEO of HP between 1999 and 2005, when she was fired. “When you are doing tough but necessary things in tough times, not everyone is going to like that,” she recently told CNN, pointing to the ultimate result of the company surviving tough times and growing.
The H-1b visa program is intended to allow businesses to hire high-skilled foreign workers to fill jobs when they can’t find American workers. Most of the Republican presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio want to expand the program. (RELATED: As Floridians Are Displaced, Rubio Demands More Workers)
But some companies are apparently abusing the program to cut costs. Southern California Edison, Fossil Group and most recently Disney have laid off hundreds of tech workers and replaced them with foreign workers holding H-1bs. At Disney, the workers were reportedly forced to train their foreign replacements before leaving.
Asked to comment on the Disney layoffs, Fiorina called the move “a bad policy,” and said it demostrates a need to fix the country’s legal immigration system. (RELATED: Rubio, Jeb Silent On Disney Layoffs As Dem Demands Investigation)
“I don’t think that Disney’s practices engender much employee loyalty, and so if you’re building a company for the long haul, which I assume Disney continues to do, employee loyalty is really important,” she said. “So to me, just reading about this situation, it seems very short sighted on Disney’s part.”
“When you are asking American workers to give up their jobs and train those who are foreign so that you can pay them less — that’s a bad policy,” she added. “And I understand why people resent that policy.”
The big businesses clamoring for access to more foreign workers claim there is a shortage of American STEM workers. But nearly 75 percent of Americans with STEM degrees are not working in STEM Fields, according to Census data.
Fiorina was quick to defend the H-1b program when Carr confronted her with that data. “There is no reason for us to fear highly skilled immigrants who want to come to this country and stay here and live here and contribute to our nation,” she said. “After all, this is a nation built on immigration.” (RELATED: This Is The Only 2016 Candidate Expressly Committed To Reducing Legal Immigration)
“There is no reason to fear that, if every American has the opportunity to learn the skills, gain the skill, that they need to compete,” she continued. “And so we need to make sure that’s happening. I think the mismatch is when we are not adequately educating and training our own people, and yet bringing people in from other nations that have adequate training.”
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