In the opening months of the 110th Congress, several proposals that would boost importation of H-1B “high-skill” nonimmigrant alien workers have been introduced. It seems that, unfortunately, too many of our Members of Congress fail to see that allowing the mass introduction of foreign workers into the U.S. workforce not only ensures that countless native-born programmers, engineers, and professors stay unemployed or underemployed, it also drives down their wages if they are actually able to find a job. In the same vein, unprincipled employers are allowed to take advantage of H-1B employees by paying them less than comparable native-born workers and by making them work under less-than-ideal conditions.
These open borders Members of Congress have put forth plans to not only deprive American workers of well-paying jobs and provide an unfair competitive advantage to corrupt businesses, but to discourage future generations of American students from undertaking careers in fields overrun with underpaid foreign workers. Most notable (or perhaps infamous) among these plans is Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) “Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership (SKIL) Act of 2007” (S. 1083), which would, among other things, increase the annual H-1B cap by 77 percent – and that’s just in the first year following enactment! If in any fiscal year the cap is met, the cap for the next year would be increased by an additional 20 percent. Under no circumstances could the cap be lowered, however. The SKIL Act also would expand existing exemptions to the cap by: (1) making all H-1Bs working for nonprofits exempt (currently, only those employed by research institutions are exempt); (2) exempting up to 20,000 foreign-educated H-1Bs per year and removing the 20,000-per-year limit on exempt U.S.-educated H-1Bs; and (3) extending a new exemption to H-1Bs awarded medical specialty certification based on U.S.-based post- training and experience. These revised exemptions would apply not just to visa applications and employers’ H-1B petitions filed after the SKIL Act is enacted, but to those pending upon enactment. As a result, the annual cap would become even more meaningless. (Click here to view all of the negative impacts the SKIL Act [not only the Senate bill, but its House companion as well, would have.) Sen. Cornyn, one of the senators who has worked most closely with the Bush administration to get a “comprehensive” immigration reform plan (i.e., mass amnesty) through the Senate, has not been content to just let the SKIL Act pass as a stand-alone measure. During the upper chamber’s floor debate regarding the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES] Act” (S. 761), a bill intended to enhance math, science, and technology education in this country, Sen. Cornyn attempted to insert the SKIL Act via the amendment process. Fortunately, this effort was rejected and the Texas Republican withdrew his amendment.
On the flip side, however, some Members of Congress understand that reform of this system must occur. For example, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are championing the “H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007” (S. 1035), which, if enacted, would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 (for nonimmigrant workers who are “intracompany transferees” or who have “specialized knowledge”) visa programs so that priority would be given to U.S. workers and close gaping loopholes in the law that unscrupulous employers have oft exploited by requiring to them to be more transparent about their hiring practices. If the Cornyn amendment to the America COMPETES Act had been adopted, Sens. Durbin and Grassley would have been ready for they introduced amendments of their own that would have incorporated their H-1B/L-1 reform plan to, at least, partially counter the effects Cornyn’s deleterious proposal if it had been adopted. In any case, we can be sure that Members of Congress who are open to the entreaties of the cheap labor lobby will continue to support legislation harmful to native- and foreign-born workers alike. It is imperative that you, our grassroots members, keep the pressure on these lawmakers by letting them know that supporting the wholesale giveaway of American jobs is an untenable position and will, ultimately, lead to their downfall at the polls.
Updated: Mon, May 19th 2008 @ 3:47pm EDT