Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are among a group of 10 senators seeking answers about the apparent abuse of the H-1B guest worker program by corporations.
The program is apparently being misused to lay off thousands of Americans and, in some instances, corporations are adding insult to injury by forcing workers to train their replacements.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, the senators called for a probe into the hiring and firing practices of companies taking advantage of the H-1B visa program.
In addition to Sessions and Durbin, the other senators who signed the letter include Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, David Vitter, R-La., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and James Inhofe, R-Okla.
Among several questions the signatories have for the department heads is whether the companies involved with replacing American workers participated in illegal “citizen discrimination,” and whether these companies maintained an employer-employee relationship or used the H-1B program to hire contract employees at a lower rate.
The H-1B program is designed to bring in highly-skilled workers on a temporary basis to fill in a shortage in the American labor market. The visa holders can stay for up to six years, but must get paid the equivalent of American workers.
The senators cite Southern California Edison (SCE) as an example where hiring abuse using H-1B visas appears to be practiced. Former IT workers with the second largest utility company in the Golden State wrote testimonials to the senators about being fired and replaced with lower-paid guest workers, who they were forced to train.
As reported by Fox News:
“We had no choice in this,” one anonymous worker, who claimed to have been one of those let go from Southern California Edison, said. The worker described how, when the two vendors were picked – Infosys and TCS, both major Indian companies – SCE employees were told to “sit with, video chat or do whatever was needed to teach them our systems.”
One worker added, in a letter to the senators, “we would be fired and not receive a severance package” if they failed to train their replacements.
“Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn’t already performing,” another worker told Computer World.
SCE countered the complaints about replacing Americans with guest workers by stating that the company reduced its IT department by over 500 employees (from 1,400 to 860 workers), and of these, 97 percent are California residents and 3 percent are H-1B visa holders.
According to ComputerWorld, 65 percent of H-1B visa holders approved last year came from the computer-related fields.
A bi-partisan senate bill was introduced in January which would increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 per year to 195,000.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom