Politics

Sessions Teams Up With Florida’s Democratic Senator To Fix H-1Bs

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions introduced a bill this week to reform the H-1b program, following reports Disney and other companies are using the visas to cut costs at the expense of American workers.

The bill would lower the cap on H-1b visas from 85,000 new visas per year to 70,000, and require new visas to go to the companies offering guest workers the highest wage. Nelson and Sessions filed the bill following a number of reports of businesses laying off American workers and forcing them to train their foreign replacements on H-1b visas.

“By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified U.S. workers,” Nelson said in a statement announcing the bill.

Disney laid off hundreds of tech workers in January and allegedly blacklisted them from employment at other Disney-solicited contractors, all after forcing them to train their foreign replacements.

Nelson quickly asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the Disney reports, and teamed up with Sessions on the new bill in an effort to free up jobs for American workers and disincentivize businesses from using it to cut costs.

“There is a huge surplus of talented American labor being bypassed, displaced, or even forced to train their foreign replacements,” Sessions told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

Demand for the visas far exceeds the supply each year, which businesses attribute to a shortage of American STEM workers, but which critics see as evidence of the insatiable demand for cheap labor.

As it stands, businesses submit applications for the visas into a big pot and a lottery determines which companies get them. But the Nelson-Sessions bill would allocate the visas to businesses based on the wage they’re willing to pay the H-1b workers, rewarding those that offer to pay higher wages and making it much harder to pay a foreign worker less than a comparable American worker.

“The solution is elegant because it does away with the current convoluted and complex system of having the government calculate the ‘prevailing wage’ for each H-1B worker,” Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University who is an expert on offshoring, told TheDCNF. “The complexity in the current wage rules is the principal loophole employers exploit to bring in cheaper workers.”

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, Florida’s second senator, is a proponent of the program and is sponsoring a bill known as I-Squared that would triple the cap on H-1Bs. The bill has the backing of Disney and Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, who has fundraised for Rubio’s campaign.

The I-Squared bill does not include the worker protections Rubio now says he supports in light of continuing reports of American worker displacement. (RELATED: Rubio Breaks Silence On H-1B Abuses)

“The I-Squared bill will expand H-1B abuse,” Hira told TheDCNF. “The losers from I-Squared will be American workers and students who will be replaced, denied positions, and have their wages undercut,” he added.

In addition to Disney, Southern California EdisonFossil Group and Catalina Marketing have reportedly laid off American workers and forced them to train their foreign replacements.

Leo Perrero, one of the laid off Disney workers told TheDCNF he applauds the Nelson-Sessions bill. “The politicians need to listen to the displaced American workers — and all those talented Americans denied their dream career — not the lobbyists and special interests,” he said.

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