Politics

Rubio Talks Tough On H-1Bs, But Sponsors Law Expanding The Program

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio left out some important facts when he spoke in Thursday’s GOP debate against “abuses” of the H-1B visa program Disney used to displace American workers, such as his initial silence on the layoffs and his current sponsorship of a bill to dramatically expand the program.

When news broke in 2015 that Disney had laid off hundreds of Rubio’s constituents and forced them to train their foreign replacements on H-1B visas, the senior senator from Florida, Democrat [crscore]Bill Nelson[/crscore], quickly called for a federal investigation. But Rubio was silent on the story for months.

An attorney for two of the displaced workers said Rubio is “the enemy to all American workers” in a Friday statement on their behalf emailed to The Daily Caller News Foundation. They have endorsed Donald Trump for president.

“Marco Rubio is the senator for Florida and not once did he reach out to me, the attorney for many of the displaced Disney workers, or, as far as I am aware, any of the displaced Disney workers, about the atrocity that happened to them and which was publicized around the world,” Sara Blackwell said in the joint statement with the laid off workers, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore.

Rubio was and is currently sponsoring a bill known as I-Squared that would dramatically expand the H-1B visa program he now says Disney “abused.” Disney CEO Bob Iger has endorsed the bill, and Rubio’s backers include H-1B lobbying giants, such as Oracle CEO and billionaire Larry Ellison. (RELATED: Zuckerberg Ally On Americans Losing Jobs To Foreign Labor: ‘This Is What This Whole Country Is Built On)

Two months after TheDCNF reported the Disney layoffs, a spokeswoman for Rubio’s Senate office said he’s “concerned” about the reports, and that those who abuse the program should face consequences. He reiterated that sentiment Thursday night, as he had in previous debates.

“If a company is caught abusing that process [displacing American workers], they should never be allowed to use it again,” Rubio said, characterizing Disney-style layoffs as abuses that could be fixed by enforcing the law on H-1Bs as it stands.

“It is illegal now, it is a violation of the law now to use that program to replace Americans,” he added. “And if a company is caught doing that, whether it be Disney or anyone else, they should be barred from using the program in the future.”

Rubio was correct in saying Disney did not directly displace the workers it laid off, but instead hired an H-1B-reliant contractor to replace the workers. He called that a “loophole” that needs to be fixed, although he is not sponsoring legislation that would fix the loophole, and the I-Squared bill he is sponsoring would dramatically expand the program without any new worker protections.

A key point about the law he left out is that only businesses classified as H-1B dependent are required to recruit American workers first, and not to displace current American workers. “The H-1B employer is not required to recruit U.S. workers, unless it is H-1B dependent,” a Department of Labor fact sheet on the program states.

Businesses are considered H-1B dependent only if a certain percentage of their workforce are H-1B visa-holders. For a business with more than 50 full-time employees, such as Disney, to be considered H-1B dependent, at least 15 percent of their employees would have to hold H-1B visas.

Disney publicly identifies itself as a non-H-1B dependent business, meaning it could legally hire H-1B workers without recruiting American workers or to directly replace an American worker.

Rubio is calling for companies who “abuse” the program Disney-style to be barred from using the program in the future, although what Disney did is perfectly legal, and says contractors should not be allowed to “hoard” the H-1B workers. “What I argue is that visas should only be available for companies to use to directly hire workers,” he said Thursday. “And that we should be stricter in how we enforce it.”

But Rubio did not join Nelson in calling for an investigation of the Disney layoffs, and continues to sponsor a bill that would increase businesses ability to “abuse” the program they say is necessary because there is a shortage of American STEM workers.

Nearly 75 percent of Americans with STEM degrees are not working in STEM fields, according to Census data, and only 3.8 million Americans with STEM degrees actually hold STEM jobs.

A spokesman for Rubio’s Senate office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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