The House Judiciary Committee passed Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) H.R. 170, the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, earlier this week. The bill passed by voice vote to little opposition in the highly divisive committee. That should tell you something -- it doesn't really do anything to protect American tech workers.
Rep. Issa claims that his bill would discourage tech companies from replacing American workers with cheaper foreign workers by increasing the minimum salary employers would be required to pay H-1B workers. But in tech companies where fewer than 20% of the employees are H-1B visa holders, the minimum salary requirement doesn't apply.
UC Davis computer science professor and H-1B expert Norm Matloff says Congress' divides H-1B employers into two groups -- the bad and the good. The bad employers are the outsourcing companies (Tata, Wipro) that have a large number of H-1B workers. The good employers (IBM, Google) fall below the 20% threshold. The Issa bill could help prevent the Tatas of the world from replacing American tech workers with foreign workers, but it does nothing to prevent larger and more diverse companies from hiring cheaper H-1B workers in place of Americans.
NumbersUSA grades most immigration bills that have an impact on overall immigration numbers. In our analysis of the bill, Rep. Issa's H.R. 170 wouldn't reduce the number of H-1B visas issued each year by the federal government. It doesn't raise the cap, either. Therefore, we chose not to grade the bill or mobilize activists against it.
However, the Issa bill is nothing more than a fig leaf, and Members of Congress shouldn't claim to have solved the H-1B issue or to have protected American workers by passing only this bill. More substantial Congressional action is desperately needed to protect America's high-skilled workers from unnecessary foreign workers.
Pres. Trump campaigned on the H-1B issue and earned the public endorsement of several tech workers who were laid off by Disney and others. His administration has taken a few steps to help these workers by adding more scrutiny to the H-1B application process and by establishing a hotline for workers to report employer abuses of the program. But they can do much more through the rule-making progress, like ending the Optional Training Program (OPT) for foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges or universities with a STEM degree, and by urging Congress to pass legislation that would do far more to protect American workers than Rep. Issa's H.R. 170.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Dec 1st 2017 @ 11:25am EST