Marco Rubio’s signature immigration bill is drawing fire from conservatives who say it would allow more companies to go the route of Disney and replace their American employees with cheap foreign “guest workers” from India, China, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Rubio, R-Fla., is one of eight Republicans and four Democrats to co-sponsor the “I-Squared” bill in the U.S. Senate. It would triple the number of temporary guest workers allowed into the U.S. on the H1-B visa each year, from 65,000 to 195,000, while also allowing the visa holders to bring in family members.
The actual number of H1-B visas issued could be closer to 300,000 when including non-profit entities taking advantage of the legislation. The visa, which is good for six years, has been used by Disney, Southern California Edison, Cargill, Harley Davidson, Deloitte, Northeast Utilities, and other corporate giants to replace American tech workers with foreigners who will work for about one-third lower salaries.
Disney has replaced hundreds of its American IT workers this year with people from India and elsewhere, then forced the Americans to train their replacements or risk losing their severance packages. To add insult to injury, the company then reportedly placed the laid-off Americans on a “black list,” which forbids any Disney contractor from hiring them for up to a year.
The I-Squared bill has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Software Alliance and heavyweight execs from Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Google among others.
Rubio made a fundraising stop on June 9 to the home of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, seeking fresh cash for his presidential campaign.
“Oracle’s top dogs have repeatedly made clear they’re big backers of comprehensive immigration reform,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci. “So, while he (Rubio) is picking up the checks, will he have a real heart-to-heart with Larry on Silicon Valley and immigration reform?”
Over his political career Rubio has taken in $37,050 in campaign contributions from Microsoft alone, which is among the top 10 of his business donors, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Rubio is one of 14 Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the 2016 presidential race. Whether they like it or not, immigration continues to be a hot-button issue among voters.
Rubio is already viewed with suspicion by some on the conservative wing of the party, which remembers the last major immigration bill he helped write. That was Senate Bill 744, which supporters called “reform” but critics called “amnesty.” It passed the Senate in 2013 but died in the House.
Since that defeat, Rubio has avoided the issue of “reform” and focused his comments on border security. Now, two years later he is back with a new bill, I-Squared, that has the backing of the same coalition of lobbying groups — basically the U.S. tech industry and major corporations represented by the Chamber of Commerce.
At a time when American tech workers are being thrown out of their jobs, and those graduating college with technology or so-called “STEM” degrees can’t find work in STEM-related fields, Rubio’s I-Squared bill would expand the guest-worker program that many see as the culprit.
News broke June 26 that another Florida company, the St. Petersburg-based digital media firm Catalina Marketing, is employing the Disney strategy, using foreign workers to replace 50 of its IT workers and making the Americans train their foreign replacements.
In fact, at a time when presidential candidate Rubio is pushing for an expansion of the guest-worker visa program, Florida’s other senator, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is calling for an investigation into the program.
Even in the liberal state of California, the State Assembly this week adopted a resolution calling for a federal investigation of the H1-B visa program’s role in stealing American tech jobs.
Rubio, along with Jeb Bush, are the most vocal supporters of the guest-worker program in American politics today, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, where Cargill replaced 900 U.S. workers last year, is also on board with the program.
WND called and emailed Rubio’s campaign and Senate staffs requesting comment on his support for I-Squared and expansion of the guest-worker program. They did not respond.
Rubio did break his long silence on the issue last Friday, providing the following statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation with regard to Disney:
“Of course we’re concerned about these reports. If the program was misused, then people should be held accountable.”
Critics, such as public policy professor Ron Hira of Howard University and economics professor Hal Salzman of Rutgers, who together have done the most research on the guest-worker program, cite evidence that U.S. colleges and universities are already cranking out twice as many STEM graduates as needed. Their research shows that nearly half of STEM graduates can’t find a job in a STEM-related field. In short, there is no shortage of American tech workers, which is further borne out by the stagnant wages in the U.S. tech industry over the last 10 years, Salzman said.
Listen to Professor Salzman’s testimony before a congressional hearing on protecting American high-skilled jobs earlier this year.
Rubio and others have tried to paint Disney as an anomaly, a small number of firms that “misuse” the system, while they say the overall program will actually create jobs, not kill them.
But the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers said the I-Squared bill would “help destroy” the U.S. tech workforce with guest workers, Computer World magazine reported.
FloridaPolitics.com reported that Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina recently criticized the guest-worker program, saying it’s gone in a “different direction” since she headed up Hewlett Packard in the 1990s.
“It’s become an issue where it appears that some companies that are abusing that program and asking American workers to train H-1B visa replacements so they can lower wages. That’s a terrible thing,” she said. “I would never defend that. And so, for those companies that are abusing that program, shame on them.”
But that’s a false narrative, says John Miano, who authored a study on the H1-B visa program for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Miano, a fellow at CIS, a lawyer and a former software developer, maintains that companies are not “abusing,” “misusing” or “exploiting loopholes” in the H1-B guest-worker program. Rather, the program was designed by Congress to do exactly what it is accomplishing – the replacement of the American tech worker with cheap foreign “guest workers.”
Program working ‘just as designed by Congress’
“Everything is happening as designed,” Miano, author of a soon-to-be released book “Sold Out: How High-tech Billionaires and Bipartisan Beltway Crap Weasels are Screwing America’s Best and Brightest Workers,” told WND.
Miano said most media coverage, including many of the articles found in the financial press over the last decade, has consisted of what he calls “industry plant stories.”
“The tech lobby will make up some story about a foreign worker, he’s a brilliant person, you take him to the newspaper and say he created some website and now he can’t create the 100 jobs or whatever in America so he’s going home to do it in his country,” Miano explained. “They have the face right there ready for the photo and that’s how almost all the coverage for H1-B has been for the past 15 years or so. H1B workers don’t take American jobs they create jobs, that’s the myth they want to portray.”
No shortage of American tech talent
He said many “bogus studies” have been purchased with money flowing from the various tech industry groups and associations. Some studies have indicated that each H1-B visa creates six jobs.
“Their model depends upon the date range you select, so they pick a date range like 2000 to 2008 that gives the highest number of jobs,” Miano said. “If you pick a different range it will show each visa costs a certain number of jobs.”
As an engine capable of driving economic growth, Miano believes the H1B visa is essentially a sputtering Volkswagen being sold as a Lamborghini.
“This H1-B marketing program took off during the Y2K period, and then along came the dot-com bust and there was clearly no shortage, and the H1-Bs should have gone away completely,” he said. “Academicians put together these progression models that show absolutely anything they want it to. When you have poor matchings, a few changes in the data points can show shifts in whether you’re creating jobs or costing jobs. They have a whole army of people doing that. It’s research for hire. Every industry lobby group in existence is paying for these studies. There’s a long list of industry groups offering funding including Ford, the American immigration lawyers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
Creating a ‘captive’ labor force
The program also is not kind to the foreign worker Miano said.
“It basically is enslavement for the guest worker, because we’ve designed the system to tie the foreign worker to his employer,” he said.
H1-B guest-workers cannot offer their talents on the open market like other employees. They are committed to continue with the American company that hires them under the visa. If they quit to take a job with another U.S. company they can face up to $10,000 or more in fines and penalties.
“The system should be redesigned so that the employee can apply themselves but the employer doesn’t want that, they want it designed so they can fine these workers if they leave,” Miano said.
CEOs put pressure on Obama, Congress
The tech industry claims in article after article that they have jobs for which they can’t find enough talent to fill.
Oracle wrote Congress in 2013 pushing for a bill similar to I-Squared, called the Immigration Innovation Act at that time.
In a 2013 letter organized by TechNet, a lobbying network of technology CEOs, the executives wrote to President Obama and Congressional leadership to call for reforms to enable a more open and flexible U.S. immigration system to “embrace highly-skilled workers.”
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs requiring highly skilled individuals. Four high-tech companies alone – IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle – have combined 10,000 openings in the United States,” the letter stated.
What the letter doesn’t point out is that 10,000 jobs is a relative pin prick when compared to the 500,000 STEM graduates graduating from U.S. universities every year.
What they’re really saying is they can’t fill those 10,000 jobs at the price they want, Miano said, which he considers an insult to the American tech worker.