Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Congressional Testimony: Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers | Economic Policy Institute

I'm basically an old-fashioned class struggle sort.  I think that the famously pro-immigration policies of Microsoft, et al. is driven by the drive to lower labor costs.  Forty eight years ago! when I was in the Peace Corps travelling around India by train I met many young engineers who wanted to come to "America proper" because there wasn't work for them at home.  They are the core of the vulnerable, employer-dependent programming corps at many U.S. companies; doing the less skilled work of writing code - the grunt work of the industry. - gwc
Congressional Testimony: Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers | Economic Policy Institute
Testimony of EPI Research Associate and Associate Professor of Public Policy at Howard University Ron Hira before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers,” Dirksen Senate Office Building, March 17, 2015.
  1. The Intent of Our Immigration Law is to Protect American Workers – Instead Our Guestworker Programs Inflict Serious Harm on Them
Congress and multiple Administrations have inadvertently created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans. There are mainframe-sized loopholes built into the H-1B program’s design – the statutory law, regulations, administrative law, and policy guidance – and a complete disinterest on the part of multiple Administrations in enforcing the current rules, however weak they may be. Some of these loopholes are intentional, some are not, but they all add up to a system that encourages employers to exploit the H-1B program for cheap labor. Given the extraordinarily high profits involved in using guestworkers instead of Americans, it should surprise no one that many employers are taking advantage of this business model and lobbying to expand it.
In explaining the H-1B program rules the U.S. Department of Labor prominently and plainly states, “The Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) requires that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.”1
The clear intent of the law [8 U.S. Code §1182], is that hiring foreign workers will not harm American workers. Yet the H-1B program is most definitely harming American workers, harming them badly, and on a large scale. Most of the H-1B program is now being used to import cheaper foreign guestworkers, replacing American workers, and undercutting their wages. So, contrary to intent of the INA, the use of the program is indeed “adversely affecting American workers’ wages and working conditions.” The scale of this damage is large and its effects long lasting, adversely impacting: the careers of hundreds of thousands of American workers; future generations of students; and, America’s future capacity to innovate. This is not just adversely affecting a few workers. The H-1B program is very large with approximately 120,000 new workers admitted annually. Once admitted those workers can remain in the U.S. up to six years. While no one knows exactly how many H-1Bs are currently in the country, analysts estimate the stock of H-1B workers at 600,000.
There are hundreds of thousands of additional guestworkers admitted on L-1 and OPT visas, and they too are harming the job prospects of American workers. Because Congress never expected L-1 and OPT workers to be potential competition to American workers those programs have virtually no rules to protect American workers. That expectation was incorrect. As with the H-1B program, these guestworker visa programs are now being used too to replace and undercut American workers.
Congress needs to significantly overhaul these programs to protect American workers in order to meet the intent of the INA. And the Executive Branch needs to use its full authority to investigate and stamp out any violations that are occurring. Further, it needs to propose and promulgate new regulations and policy guidance to ensure compliance with its own statements about the INA.
Current protections in the H-1B program are seriously flawed. Skilled guestworker programs can serve important purposes: bringing in workers with unique or specialized skills; serving as a bridge to employment-based permanent immigration for specialized workers; and, offering practical training for foreign students. But those positive uses have been overwhelmed by the use of these programs for cheaper labor.

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