- - Monday, June 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With another week, we have another example of the immigration system harming American workers. In this case, it’s the H1-B visa program, which grants up to 85,000 visas a year, ostensibly to help U.S. companies fill high-tech positions for which, purportedly, no American is suitably educated. These are jobs, companies like Microsoft and Facebook argue, that require such specialization in computer science that they rely on the importation of IT super-hero geniuses. Or something.

Well, not so fast. More and more American workers are finding they’re not only losing their jobs to H1-B visa holders, more often than not, these fired workers also have to endure the ignominy of training their replacements.

This, of course, is the opposite of what we’re told all the time about the importance of the H1-B visa scheme. We need to attract “the best and the brightest” from around the world to help us compete, as a Microsoft general counsel told National Public Radio (NPR) in 2013. Considering the fact that a record 92 million Americans are out of the workforce, one would think employing our own “best and brightest” might be a better place to start, let alone importing workers and condemning even more Americans to unending joblessness.

The latest case of the unfortunate, growing number of examples comes from “the Happiest Place on Earth” in Orlando, Fla. The New York Times reports about 250 data systems employees at Disney World were called into the boss’ office. They thought they were getting bonuses. What they really got was the shock of a lifetime.

“[A]bout 250 Disney employees were told in late October that they would be laid off. Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost,” according to the paper.

“‘I just couldn’t believe they could fly people in to sit at our desks and take over our jobs exactly,’ said one former worker, an American in his 40s who remains unemployed since his last day at Disney on Jan. 30. ‘It was so humiliating to train somebody else to take over your job. I still can’t grasp it,’  reported The New York Times.

The Disney case is not unique. In Los Angeles, more than 400 information technology employees at Southern California Edison learned they were being laid off and would have to train their H1-B visa replacements.

“‘They are bringing in people with a couple of years’ experience to replace us and then we have to train them,” said one longtime IT worker … . “Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn’t already performing,” he said, reported Computerworld magazine, which interviewed several of the laid-off employees.

In Columbia, Mo., local television station KMIZ reported last month that Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa was investigating allegations that IBM is engaging in the firing of American workers and replacing them with H1-B visa holders.

A local ABC affiliate in Sacramento, Calif., the state capital, is investigating just how many Americans have lost California state jobs to foreign HB-1 visa holders.

In response to The New York Times report on the Disney allegations, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate “potential misuses” of the program.

Answers are not hard to find. Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology spoke with NPR about the issue. “For the past decade, he’s been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas,” said the radio network.

“What these firms have done is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs [of] the Americans to then ship it back offshore,” Mr. Hira told NPR.

In the meantime, in April 10 senators asked the Department of Labor to investigate abuse of the program, but according to Computerworld, that request is “meeting resistance” at the department. The publication notes the department has suggested “in a letter to lawmakers, that an investigation may be fruitless because it is legal to replace U.S. workers with H-1B workers.”

Immigration proponents, such as Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and President Obama, constantly assure Americans that legalizing “undocumented workers” won’t have any negative impact at all on the security of American jobs. After all, they tell us, illegal aliens only do the jobs Americans won’t do.

Just like how HB-1 visa holders are coming here to do the jobs Americans can’t do. Which is technically true, I suppose. After all, you can’t do your job when you’ve been fired and have been replaced by an unskilled foreigner you had to train.

Tammy Bruce is a radio talk show host.

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