Jeh Johnson: DHS Lacks Legal Tools To Enforce H-1B Laws

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The Department of Homeland Security isn’t capable of enforcing the labor laws it’s investigating Disney, Southern California Edison and others for violating, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday.

DHS is working with the Department of Labor to investigate alleged abuses of the H-1b visa program, including at Southern California Edison and Disney, where hundreds of American workers were reportedly laid off and made to train their foreign replacements holding H-1b visas. (RELATED: Feds Expand H-1b Abuses As Calls For Action Intensify)

Asked by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries what consequences companies found to have violated labor laws related to the H-1b program might face, Johnson said DHS lacks the legal tools to respond.

“Well that’s actually something where I think Congress may be able to help up us,” Johnson replied. “It’s my understanding that we don’t have enough tools legally to deal with that kind of situation, assuming it occurs.”

“And so, what people have told me is that we could use some help from Congress to bolster our enforcement capabilities in a situation such as that one.”

Johnson was testifying in a DHS oversight hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee.

The H-1b visa program is supposed to help companies bring in high-skilled foreign workers for jobs Americans can’t fill, but companies such as SCE and Disney are allegedly using them to cut labor costs. (RELATED: Disney Blacklisted Displaced American Workers) 

Disney laid off more than 200 tech workers in January, after forcing some of them to train the foreign replacements brought in by a contractor, HCL America. Those unemployed workers were then allegedly blacklisted from gaining employment at other Disney-solicited contractors. (RELATED: Blacklist Update: Evidence Piles Up, Disney Maintains Denial)

Southern California EdisonFossil Group, and most recently Catalina Marketing have also hired outsourcing firms that rely heavily on H-1bs, and then laid off dozens or hundreds of tech workers, some of whom were expected to train their foreign replacements.

A bipartisan group of senators asked the Obama administration in April to launch an investigation into Southern California Edison, but were initially refused. Shortly after TheDCNF and The New York Times reported on the Disney layoffs, however, the DoL announced it would investigate SCE.

Following that announcement, the Department of Homeland Security responded to a request from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson for a more comprehensive investigation, saying it would work with DoL on a broader investigation of the H-1b visa program.

The investigation into Disney was spurred by official complaints from at least two of the workers laid off by Disney, alleging that HCL America and Disney violated federal labor law.

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