Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (H.R. 170).
Chairman Goodlatte: Some of you may have seen the “60 Minutes” episode a few months ago titled “You’re Fired.” It reported that:
Many businesses use the [H-1B temporary visa] program [for foreign professional workers] as intended, but we discovered more and more are taking advantage of loopholes in the law to fire American workers and replace them with younger, cheaper [ones]. But before the American workers walk out the door they often face the humiliating prospect of having to train the people taking their jobs. Last October . . . a senior telecom engineer at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center . . . was called to a meeting at the university with about 80 of his IT co-workers. [He says that he was told that] “We are sorry to inform you that . . . you’ll no longer have a job. We’re going to outsource your position to [a] company in India.” [He] was told he could stay on the job [and] get paid for four more months . . . if he trained his replacement. [He said that] “It feels like not only am I digging [my] grave, but I’m getting ready to stab myself in the gut and fall in the grave.”
Oftentimes, unscrupulous employers intending to use the H-1B program to facilitate laying-off American workers don’t hire H-1B workers directly. Instead, they contract for such workers from staffing companies that assist their clients in replacing American workers and often even send the work overseas.
Reports of these kinds of abuses of the H-1B program have a long history. In fact, a quarter century ago, “60 Minutes” aired a very similar story. Lesley Stahl reported that:
When any American company needs programmers, the body shops can often deliver [H-1B] employees all the way from Bombay for rates that are so cheap, Americans just across town can’t compete.
This Committee came to similar conclusions two decades ago and passed Lamar Smith’s reform bill that led to the current requirements that “H-1B dependent” companies must 1) promise to recruit for American workers before seeking H-1Bs and offer jobs to qualified Americans who apply and 2) not lay-off American workers and replace them with H-1Bs.
However, the version of the bill that eventually became law waived the recruitment and no lay-off requirements for H-1B dependent companies if they hired H-1B workers with advanced degrees or paid them at least $60,000.
However, the $60,000 figure has never been adjusted for inflation. In 1998, a $60,000 salary exceeded the average salary for information technology professionals — for example, the average wage for computer engineers was $59,850. However, the average salary for computer and information research scientists is now $116,320, and 90% make more than $64,950. Thus, the $60,000 salary floor now represents little more than half of the average wage in these occupations and the vast majority of American workers make far more.
Further, the majority of H-1B workers now have advanced degrees, some of dubious quality.
Thus, few H-1B dependent companies actually abide by the recruitment and no lay-off attestations that Congress designed to curtail their abuse of the program.
Furthermore, under current law, the lay-off protection only protects an American worker for a period ending 90 days after their employer files an H-1B petition, but even that protection has been rendered meaningless. For a number of years now, the 85,000 annual allotment of H-1B visas has been exhausted in the first week visas become available. Thus, since employers can file petitions six months before the start of a fiscal year, they all file in April of the previous year. No H-1B worker subject to the cap actually starts work until long after the lay-off protection has expired.
I want to congratulate Mr. Issa on his commitment to reinvigorate the Immigration and Nationality Act’s protections for American workers. And I want to thank Ms. Lofgren for working constructively with Mr. Issa and me on the amendment in the nature of a substitute. We will discuss the amendment further when Mr. Issa offers it, but at this point, let me just say that it will dramatically strengthen protections for American workers against H-1B-enabled lay-offs, will prevent H-1B dependent employers from undercutting the wages of American workers, and will give the Administration the ability to vigorously enforce these protections. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.