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02-12-2012, 10:16 AM #1
Senators Grassley/Durbin's H-1B Reform Proposal Closes Loophole Hurting U.S. Workers
February 10, 2012
Senators Grassley/Durbin’s H-1B Reform Proposal Closes Loophole Hurting U.S. Workers
Friday, February 10, 2012, 3:58 PM EST
Attention has been drawn to the controversial H-1B program in the wake of Jennifer Wedel’s question to President Obama concerning the issuance of H-1B visas while U.S. tech workers are jobless. According the Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Ron Hira, Sen. Charles Grassley’s H-1B reform proposal would close a loophole in the program that allows some businesses to forego recruiting U.S. workers.
Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) have sponsored legislation that will prohibit businesses with more 50 employees from having more than 50 percent of their workers hold either H-1B or L-1 visas, and requires employers to fill jobs with U.S. workers first.
Sen. Grassley recently sent the president a letter in which he focused on the president's response to Wedel - "the H1-B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field."
In the letter, Sen. Grassley said, "I have long believed that it's not unreasonable to ask businesses to first determine if there are qualified Americans to fill vacant positions. It seems you may agree with this premise."
Professor Hira said the president’s statement about reserving H-1B visas for companies that cannot find workers with particular skills is “a common-sense prescription for how the H-1B program should work." However, he says the H-1B program does not work that way.
According to U.S. Department of Labor, employers are not required to recruit any U.S. workers unless a company is considered H-1B dependent. A company is considered H-1B dependent if it has 51 or more full-time employees and at least 15 percent of those workers hold H-1B visas.
Professor Hira notes a strategic plan published five years ago by the U.S. Department of Labor, and since removed from its web site, said that "H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."
Professor Hira said, "If the President means what he says then he should support the common-sense bipartisan reforms that have been proposed by Senators Durbin and Grassley. It would ensure that the H-1B program actually meets the goals President Obama claims he wants for it."
Until President Barack Obama responded to a question about H-1B visas during an online forum last week, the administration had said little about the controversial program.
But that has changed, thanks to the question posed by Jennifer Wedel of Fort Worth, Texas.
Wedel wanted to know why the government continues to issue H-1B visas when many U.S. tech workers are jobless. Her husband, Darin Wedel, a semiconductor engineer, was laid off from his full-time job at Texas Instruments three years ago following a plant shutdown, she told Obama.
Obama's answers to Wedel's questions offered both insight and ammunition for Congressional reformers.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter Tuesday to chiding the president over some of his responses to Wedel's questions.
Grassley also said the online conversation encouraged him as well. For instance, Grassley zoomed in on the president's statement that "the H1-B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field."
Grassley indicated that the this view of the president aligns with his own feelings about the visa.
"I have long believed that it's not unreasonable to ask businesses to first determine if there are qualified Americans to fill vacant positions," Grassley wrote in his letter to Obama, "It seems you may agree with this premise."
Grassley, along with Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), has been championing legislation that will set a number of restrictions on the H-1B and the L-1 visa programs, such as prohibiting companies with more 50 employees from having over 50% of their workforce hold either H-1B or L-1 visas.
The proposal has alarmed offshore outsourcing companies who rely heavily on H-1B visas.
The effort by Grassley and Durbin would also require that employers first try to fill jobs with U.S. workers.
The White House has offered few specifics over the years about what changes it would like to see in the H-1B program. It has talked in policy papers about "strengthening" the program but has not explained what that entails.
In his letter, Grassley chided Obama over his assertion that someone with engineering skills should be able to get a high tech job swiftly. "Your response to Ms. Wedel leads me to believe that you don't understand the plight of many unemployed high-skill Americans," he wrote.
Obama's view that the H-1B visa should be reserved for those companies who say they cannot find workers with particular skills provides "a common-sense prescription for how the H-1B program should work," said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "But of course it doesn't."
Hira cites a U.S. Department of Labor strategic plan prepared about five year ago, but since been removed from the agency's Web site, that said: "H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."
Employers are not required to recruit U.S. workers unless a company is considered H-1B dependent, meaning it has reached a certain employment threshold, according to the Labor department. A company with 51 or more full-time workers, of whom 15% or more hold H-1B visas would be consider dependent.
"If the President means what he says then he should support the common-sense bipartisan reforms that have been proposed by Senators Durbin and Grassley. It would ensure that the H-1B program actually meets the goals President Obama claims he wants for it," said Hira.
"If the President is serious about insourcing American jobs then this is a change that can create hundreds of thousands of high-wage high-tech jobs for Americans without any cost to the taxpayer," he added.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld.
Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read more about gov't legislation/regulation in Computerworld's Gov't Legislation/Regulation Topic Center.
Obama's H-1B Answer in Forum May Haunt Him
Last edited by American-ized; 02-12-2012 at 11:10 AM.
02-12-2012, 01:27 PM #2
This country has millions of workers starving for jobs who are perfectly capable of being trained for advanced technology.
Where the government should be placing emphasis is on the great potential in unemployed Americans instead of employing and importing workers who have never set foot here.U.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!
02-12-2012, 04:37 PM #3
Watch out if Durbin is involved. His main interest is to benefit illegals."A Nation of sheep will beget a government of Wolves" -Edward R. Murrow