Jeremy Beck's picture

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  by  Jeremy Beck

Big U.S. tech firms received significantly more H-1B visas In fiscal year 2017 (which covers the end of the Obama administration and the first eight months of Trump's) than they did the year before, and that's bad news for American workers.

Foreign companies, particularly from India, are often scapegoated as the primary "abusers" of H-1B and other white collar guest worker programs but as UC Davis professor and H-1B watchdog Norm Matloff has often explained, the U.S. firms take advantage of the legal loopholes as well:

The two sectors are hiring different classes of people. I've made a car analogy on this in the past: The {foreign companies} are buying Toyota Corollas while the {U.S. companies} are buying Camrys - but both are getting a 20% discount on the classes of cars they are buying.And once again, the wages are not even the major point. A much bigger issue is loss of job opportunities for Americans. To suddenly lose one's career at age 35 or 40 is far worse than having to take somewhat lower wages. Both {sectors} are employing foreign workers in jobs that could be filled by Americans.

Take the case of Cisco. The U.S. technology company that was awarded $259 million in federal contracts last year alone was recently found by the Department of Labor to have "secured visas for foreign workers instead of hiring U.S. citizens for certain jobs and paid the visa holders at a lower rate than their American counterparts."

Chris Opfer, Porter Wells and Paige Smith of Bloomberg Law report:

The probe is one of several ongoing investigations into possible discrimination by federal contractors involving visa holders. The OFCCP considers preferences for or biases against workers in the country on visas a form of national origin discrimination, banned by an executive order first issued in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson.

Cisco has a history of working to avoid hiring U.S. workers. In 2007, as tech companies were lobbying Congress to double H-1B visas, a qualified American engineer responded to a Cisco job ad only to be put in touch with an immigration attorney, whose job was apparently to screen OUT Americans.

In 2014, when the tech lobby was once again on the verge of getting a major increase in H-1Bs passed by Congress, Cisco announced that it was laying off 6,000 workers. Nathan Donato-Weinstein and Sarah Drake reported for the Silicon Valley Business Journal:

The layoffs announced Wednesday are just the latest for the company. Cisco said it would lay off 4,000 workers in 2013; 1,300 in 2012; 6,500 in 2011; and 2,000 in 2009.

Facing intense grassroots opposition, the House never brought the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill to the floor.

In 2016, Cisco announced it was eliminating another 5,500 jobs.

More data will be needed to determine if the 2017 increase H-1B use among U.S. companies continues. H-1B denials increased by 41 percent in the last quarter of fiscal year 2017, according to a report from the National Foundation for American Policy.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Updated: Tue, Sep 11th 2018 @ 3:40pm EDT

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