A group of business leaders and progressive mayors is hosting a closed-door meeting in Washington today, pushing for a big increase in the number of foreign “guest workers” allowed into the United States to fill skilled positions.
The lobbying group, Partnership for a New American Economy, includes CEOs from Disney, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Marriott International among others, along with liberal mayors and former mayors like Julian Castro of San Antonio, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Annise Parker of Houston and Michael Bloomberg of New York City.
A complete roster of PNAE’s membership rolls can be viewed on its website.
The main issue to be discussed at the secret meeting is how to gain passage of the I-Squared bill sitting in the U.S. Senate, co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Orin Hatch, R-Utah, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Chris Coons, D-Del., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
The I-Squared bill would more than double the number of H-1B work visas handed out to foreigners with a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field. The U.S. currently allows 65,000 of these visas per year but the corporate lobby is pushing Congress to up that number to at least 115,000 and possibly as high as 200,000, claiming there is a shortage of American tech workers with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math).
They say increasing the allotment of H1-B workers coming into the country from places like China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen and Saudi Arabia would jump-start economic growth.
Opponents of I-Squared say the entire argument of this lobbying group is built around a false narrative. Groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies and the Economic Policy Institute point to statistics that show roughly half of Americans who graduate with STEM degrees have been unable to find work in a STEM field because there is already a glut of STEM workers. This is underscored by another stark trend – the utter lack of wage increases among tech workers over the past 10 years.
WND reported in depth on the H1-B worker scam last month.
Secret meeting on Capitol Hill today
According to a brochure obtained by WND, Friday’s lobbying event is co-sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Business Roundtable, the Council for Global Immigration, FWD.us, HR Policy Association, Information Technology Industry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, National Venture Capital Association, Semiconductor Industry Association, Society of Human Resources Management, and TechNet.
The brochure says the lobbying “briefing,” which includes lunch, is “closed to the press.” It was slated to begin at 11 a.m. Friday in the Senate Visitor’s Center Room 212-10. The title of the event is: “Understanding and Improving the High-Skilled H-1B Visa Program.”
The companion to the Senate I-Squared bill is the SKILLS Visa Act in the House, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and co-sponsored by 22 congressmen.
Also included as part of the legislation is a measure to grant work permits to spouses of the H1-B visa holders.
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, recently authored a study of the H1B guest-worker program and concluded there is no shortage of STEM workers in America. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“In 2012, there were more than twice as many people with STEM degrees (immigrant and native) as there were STEM jobs — 5.3 million STEM jobs vs. 12.1 million with STEM degrees,” Camarota said. “Only one-third of natives who have a STEM degree and hold a job do so in a STEM occupation.”
In fact, as Camarota explains it, the “skilled-labor shortage” argument is little more than a con game waged on Congress and the American public by corporate interests seeking to further their goal of open borders or what they call “labor mobility.”
Among the most impassioned proponents of this strategy are Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, and Marco Rubio, the Florida senator. Both have announced they are running for president on the Republican ticket.
Bush, in an interview with Thane Rosenbaum, said America’s best chance to rejuvenate itself and get back on the path of sustained economic growth lies with increased immigration. He calls for unlimited growth in guest-worker visas and is critical of the “border security first” approach to immigration.
Rubio, while trying to paint himself as a hawk on “border security,” sources on Capitol Hill say he has been working behind the scenes to increase legal pathways into the country for more immigrants. The I-Squared bill is one example.
One source on Capitol Hill told WND that many congressmen are sold on the merits of such anti-American worker bills as I-Squared by their staffs. If they push these bills, staff members can look forward to a lucrative corporate job when they leave Capitol Hill.
In contrast, there is nothing to be gained by listening to experts such as professors Ron Hira of Howard University and Hal Salzman of Rutgers, both of whom testified at a Senate hearing last month on the H1-B program. They explained how the program started out with laudable goals of meeting real shortages in certain skilled positions. Those shortages have long since been solved, with universities churning out scores of STEM graduates, and now the program is being abused by corporate leaders who see the program as a way to further drive down wages. Some companies such as South California Edison and Northeastern Utilities have even had American workers train their own H1-B replacements.
In the SoCal Edison case, about 500 American workers earning $110,000 per year were replaced by foreign H1-B visa holders who will do the same job for $70,000.
Hira, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a professor of public policy at Howard University, told a Senate panel last month the H1-B guest-worker program has evolved into a highly profitable business model of bringing in cheaper H1-B workers to replace American workers.
In explaining the H1-B rules, he said the U.S. Department of Labor clearly states that the hiring of a foreign worker “will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.”
“That’s a direct quote from the website that describes the H1-B program to employers. The reality is, that in fact the intent of the law is not being met,” he said. “The recent replacement of 500 American IT workers at Southern California Edison shows that this intent is clearly not being met and that U.S. workers are clearly getting adverse effects in terms of their wages and working conditions.”
The corporations are able to get around the H1-B requirements of recruiting Americans first because rules are waived for jobs paying at least $60,000 or if the foreign worker has a master’s degree.
Watch clip of Professor Hira’s testimony March 18 before Senate panel:
Co-Chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy are:
- Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and billionaire founder of Bloomberg news.
- Steven A. Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team.
- J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott International.
- Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, one of the first cities to pass controversial “anti discrimination” laws that forbid businesses from saying or doing anything deemed discriminatory against the LGBT community. President Obama appointed him last year to head the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is the brother of Rep. Joachin Castro, D-Texas.
- Bob Iger, chairman, CEO of Walt Disney Co.
- Rupert Murdoch, chairman, founder of Newscorp, owner of Fox News network.
- Michael Nutter, Democrat mayor of Philadelphia.
- Jim McNerney, Chairman CEO of Boeing.
Another point of contention with the H1-B visa program is the security risk. Critics say workers coming in from Muslim countries with large radicalized populations such as Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are only lightly screened and may wish to harm Americans. The U.S. record of screening immigrants is not good, as scores of terrorists or terrorist sympathizers have slipped through in recent years, even in the State Department’s refugee resettlement program, which the government claims is the most highly scrutinized of all immigrant categories.
The employer-based immigration programs, including H1-B and L-1B visas, are basically “rubber stamped,” from a security standpoint, said Jessica Vaughn, director of policy research at Center for Immigration Studies.
The U.S. is currently allowing about 100,000 immigrants per year to enter from Islamic countries, including refugees and those on student visas and employer-based visas, according to the CIS study.
The H1-B visa is good for three years and can be renewed one time for a total of six years. It can eventually lead to a permanent green card.