At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said a bill designed to increase the number of H-1B visas "doesn’t close the [program’s] loopholes or prevent abuse. It doesn’t make sure that American workers are put before foreign workers. It only increases the supply of cheaper foreign labor."
S.153, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would dramatically increase H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to a shifting cap of 115,000 to 300,000. It also would enable companies to hire an unlimited number of workers with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which has the potential to turn some universities into diploma factories for foreign students. Currently, the first 20,000 H-1B applications for those with advanced STEM degrees are exempted.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the H-1B program is being abused to a "huge degree," The Hill reported. He cited the case of Southern California Edison, which sent hundreds of tech jobs overseas and hired H-1B workers to fill the jobs of laid off Americans. Some Americans were forced to train the H-1B workers or risk losing their pension.
Sen. Hatch pushed back saying, "I find it ironic, thought, that the same folks who fought the immigration reform last Congress are now arguing that our immigrant laws, particularly, as they relate to high-skilled workers are broken and encourage abuse. You can't have it both ways."
The technology industry, which has long supported increasing the H-1B cap, also disagreed. "It's a false choice that we can't protect American workers and create a better system that allows American companies to get access to the best talent in the world," said the president of FWD.us, a group Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg created to lobby for more foreign guest workers.
For several years now, Sen. Grassley has pushed for changes that close the program’s loopholes and require more oversight. He also wants to require companies to do more to recruit American workers before seeking H-1B workers.
Read more in The Hill.
Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:36pm EDT