A bipartisan group of senators urged the Obama administration Thursday to investigate reports that businesses are using a visa program to replace American workers with cheap foreign labor.
The unlikely coalition, led by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor and Department of Justice, asking them to investigate businesses, such as Southern California Edison, suspected of abusing work visa programs to avoid paying relatively high wages to American workers.
SCE has reportedly been laying off hundreds of American workers and replacing them with foreign workers who hold an H-1B visa and are willing to work for lower wages. Some American employees are basically forced to train their foreign replacements.
“Though such reports of H-1B-driven layoffs have been circulating for years, their frequency seems to have increased dramatically in the past year alone,” the senators wrote in the letter. (RELATED: Obama Announces Unilateral Action To Bring In More Guest Workers)
They ask whether these businesses are illegally discriminating against American workers based on their citizenship status, whether the applications submitted by foreign workers who replace American workers accurately describe where and what kind of work they will do, whether there is there any evidence of fraud or misrepresentation on the part of the applicant or business, and wether other guest worker programs are similarly abused.
“We respectfully request that you investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers to ascertain whether SCE or any other U.S. companies that have engaged in this practice, or the IT consulting companies supplying those companies with H-1B workers, have violated the law,” they add.
Republican Chuck Grassley, David Vitter, Bill Cassidy, and Jim Inhofe joined Democrats Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill and Bernie Sanders in signing the letter, along with Sessions and Durbin.
“The U.S. is graduating twice as many STEM students each year as find jobs in those fields, yet the H-1B program continues to provide IT companies with a large annual supply of lower-wage guest workers to hire in place of more qualified Americans,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday. “There is no ‘shortage’ of talented Americans, only a shortage of officials willing to protect them.”
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