Cisco Laying Off 5,500 After Pushing For More H-1B Visas

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Update: In an evening press release, Cisco said it would be eliminating 5,500 jobs, rather than the 14,000 reported by CRN. That figure would still represent 7 percent of its global workforce.

Tech giant Cisco Systems, Inc. will be laying off a whopping 14,000 employees worldwide, representing nearly 20 percent of its global workforce.

The company has been a leader in calling for an increase in H-1B immigration visas that allow foreign workers to come into the U.S.

The massive layoffs were first announced by the tech website CRN, citing sources within the company. The huge job losses are rooted in the decline of Cisco’s hardware business, and its effort to transform into a software company. It would be just the latest wave of layoffs at the company, which previously fired 6,000 workers in 2014, 4,000 in 2013, and 6,500 in 2011.

Despite these repeated waves of terminations, Cisco executive chairman and former CEO John Chambers has been a major backer of tech industry efforts to have Congress boost the national quota of H-1B visas. H-1Bs allow companies to bring in skilled workers from foreign countries if they cannot fill a job using native talent. Critics, such as Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, have accused Silicon Valley of using H-1Bs to import lower-wage foreign labor and displace higher-paid U.S. workers. Cisco is currently the 28th-biggest user of H-1Bs in the country. (RELATED: Microsoft Lays Off Thousands While Demanding More H1-Bs)

Chambers was a public supporter of the I-Squared Act, which would triple the number of H-1Bs from 65,000 to over 195,000. In a 2015 interview, Chambers blamed wariness of H-1Bs on the ignorance of the American public.

“Part of the reason we’re not getting through is that it’s being held hostage to a larger immigration bill,” Chambers said. “[We have to ask,] How do we educate the American people, who I think are really crisp once you give them the facts on making the right decision.”

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