By JOEL GEHRKE • 7/20/16 7:25 PM

CLEVELAND — Newly introduced House legislation attempts to prevent tech companies from replacing high-skilled American workers with foreign-born employees who will work for less money, a bipartisan effort that complements the complaints about visa program abuse that Donald Trump made a regular feature of his presidential campaign.

Tech companies attracted widespread criticism in the spring following reports that they are abusing the H-1B visa program, which is designed to allow high-skilled foreign workers to come to the United States if there is a labor shortage in the country. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., convened a hearing for a former Disney employee who was laid off and then was required to train his foreign successor.

The issue arose on the campaign trail and arguably helped Trump, who received Sessions' endorsement just days after that hearing and promised to reform the program.

"[T]aking American jobs, that's not the intent," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told the Washington Examiner during an interview at the Republican National Convention. "The intent is to bring in high-skilled workers for shortages that exist and by doing so actually expanding our economy."

The companies that Issa said misused the program include Southern California Edison, a San Diego based company, which laid off 400 employees and then outsourced IT work to foreign companies.

Issa's bill wouldn't cut the number of H-1B visas available each year, as Sessions might prefer. Instead, it aims to limit two exemptions that allowed such companies to get around the usual H-1B rules.

First, it stipulates that simply having a master's degree isn't sufficient for a worker to qualify for the H1-B visa. "We all understand that a master's degree sounds great, until you're getting it from a third-world university, then it becomes a loophole," he said.

Second, it says that companies will no longer get an exemption from the program limits by paying an employee $60,000 — the bill would raise that threshold to $100,000, thereby lessening the incentive for companies to replace Americans with H-1B visa workers. "It doesn't completely eliminate it, but it was a number that both Republicans and Democrats could agree on that dramatically changed the scales in favor of the American worker," Issa said.

All five House members from San Diego support the bill. "Innovators across San Diego rely on high-skilled visas to maintain a talented workforce," Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., said in a statement on Wednesday.

"To ensure these visas are available for those who need them, we need strong systems in place to prevent abuse and protect jobs for American workers," he said. "This commonsense fix updates our high-skilled visas to reduce abuse of the system and ensures a level playing field for American workers."