IT experts and a displaced Disney worker who trained his foreign replacement criticized the H-1b visa program in testimony before Congress Thursday, just weeks ahead of a must-win Republican presidential primary for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who wants to dramatically expand the program.
“We know exactly what will happen if Congress and the Obama Administration fail to act — tens of thousands more American workers will be training their cheaper guestworker replacements,” Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University, said in testimony prepared for a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest.
The H-1b program allows businesses to hire tens of thousands of temporary guest workers in the IT industry each year. Its supporters, including Rubio and many prominent lawmakers, say businesses need access to these workers because there is a shortage of qualified American IT workers.
Rubio signed a bill known as I-Squared that would triple the number of temporary guest workers businesses can hire on H-1B visas, although the Disney layoffs happened in his state. Disney CEO Bob Eiger has endorsed the bill.
But Hira and other critics of the H-1b program contended Thursday companies are using the program to displace American workers with cheaper foreign workers, and that Disney-style layoffs are happening all over the country.
Like Disney, Southern California Edison, Fossil Group, and others have recently laid off swaths of IT workers, and then contracted with outsourcing firms that rely heavily on H-1b workers to replace them, in some cases forcing the laid off workers to train their foreign replacements.
Among a shocking review of evidences that there is no shortage of American IT workers, Rutgers University Professor Hal Salzman noted in his prepared testimony for Congress:
- Only about half of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates enter the STEM workforce each year.
- Only about a third of all STEM graduates are working in STEM jobs.
- The average number of workers businesses have laid off on average each year (176,000) since 2000 is more than double the number of H-1b visas handed out each year (74,000).
- The tech industry continues to spend nearly $15 million lobbying lawmakers in Washington each month.
- Legislation such as the I-Squared bill would allow businesses access to more guest workers each year than there are new tech jobs.
The evidence that claims of a shortage are questionable is “overwhelming,” Salzman concluded after referencing these and other evidences in his testimony.
“There should be a complete, unequivocal ban on replacing Americans with foreign workers,” John Miano, an attorney at the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, said in his prepared testimony. “There is no shortage of Americans (or any other nationality) with average or below average skill.”
Added Leo Perrero, one of the laid off Disney workers, in his testimony: “We now have American IT workers being displaced by both H-1B visa holders, who are physically being flown in from foreign countries, as well as the growing use of foreign remote offshore workers. We are seeing a massive drain on job opportunities here on our own soil.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is battling Rubio for the anti-Trump position in the primary, has also pushed for a dramatic expansion of the H-1b program, but is now calling for a suspension of the program.
Rubio was quiet on the issue after news of the Disney layoffs broke and maintains his support for the program, but is now calling for reforms to protect American workers. The I-Squared bill, however, does not include any of those protections he’s calling for.
Neither Rubio’s Senate office nor his campaign immediately responded to a request for comment.
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