The Obama administration this week rejected a request from Congress to investigate potential abuses in the country’s key guest-worker program for tech workers, insisting it would “be premature” to look into Southern California Edison’s use of the controversial H-1B visa to outsource jobs.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin, had asked for a probe after SCE employees testified they were booted from jobs and replaced with guest-workers.
Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said his agency takes such allegations seriously — but said there isn’t enough evidence for him to look into SCE right now.
“At this point it would be premature for USCIS to speculate as to whether Southern California Edison’s participation in the H-1B program has violated laws,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote. “If facts come to our attention that indicate violations have occurred, USCIS will take appropriate action to maintain the integrity of our programs.”
Mr. Durbin and Mr. Sessions were not pleased with the brush-off.
“We did not ask for speculation; we asked for an investigation,” they said in a joint statement.
They said if the problem is that the law doesn’t allow an investigation, then they should change the law. But they said Mr. Rodriguez didn’t even explain his reason for declining to probe SCE.
Tech workers at a number of companies have said they’ve seen their jobs cut, only to have their former employers turn around and hire foreign workers who are in the U.S. on H-1B visas, which are reserved for high-skilled employees. Software and technology companies are heavy users of H-1B visas.
SCE workers testified to Congress that not only did they lose jobs, but they had to train foreign workers who replaced them.
An SCE spokesman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.