Congress is considering new immigration laws that would flood the U.S. with "guest workers" from the Middle East and Asia, a plan some are calling an open invitation for jihadists to walk right through America's front door.
Critics say lawmakers – including top Republican leaders – are playing with fire and could jeopardize national security with the proposals to double or even triple the number of H1B work visas.
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The legislation's potential impact on the American worker has been widely debated on Capitol Hill, with experts warning lawmakers at a Senate subcommittee hearing last week that the plan would eliminate certain technology and IT jobs for Americans. But, so far, little has been said about the risks to national security.
The bills' proponents in Washington and among Silicon Valley's technology centers say America is not producing enough university graduates with so-called STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math). Their argument, put forth most passionately by presidential contender Jeb Bush, is purely economic. By inducing more foreign STEM students to immigrate to the U.S. and by expanding the visa program for skilled workers, it will fuel growth and bolster the tax base, they say.
But that argument falls flat on critics of the two bills floating in Congress -- the so-called I-Squared bill in the Senate and the SKILLS Visa Act in the House.
They point to research from several think tanks that indicates, if anything, the U.S. has a glut of STEM graduates who are coming out of universities and not finding work in STEM fields. And by radically increasing the number of H1B visas issued, the United States will further increase the number of high-risk immigrants entering the country from Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan.
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Citizens of Muslim countries already have several paths into the United States – as refugees through the State Department's refugee resettlement program, as students attending U.S. universities, and as employees of an American company willing to sponsor them on an H1B (temporary) visa or a permanent green card. Once in the country, these immigrants are joined by thousands of their family members.
The H1B visa lasts for three years and can be renewed once for a total of six years. At this point, many H1B workers are able to obtain a permanent green card.
In total, about 100,000 new immigrants come to the United States from Islamic countries every year, according to Steve Camarotta, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Camarotta recently authored a study of the H1B guest-worker program and concluded there is no shortage of STEM workers in America.
"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," Camarotta said. "Only one-third of natives who have a STEM degree and hold a job do so in a STEM occupation."
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In fact, as Camarotta 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."
One of the most impassioned proponents of this strategy is Bush, the former Florida governor.
Bush, in an interview about a year ago 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.
"Border security should be based on the fact that coming here legally should be easier, with less cost and less risk than coming illegally," Bush said. "And in fact today in America for most people who want to come to our country, coming here illegally is the only way.
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"So if you want to have secured borders you also have to have an open legal system where aspiring people can come in. So, 'security first' misses that point. You could have greater border security if you had a guest-worker program, where people who can come and work and provide for their families can come and go, work in our fields, work in our hotels, take the jobs no one else wants."
He also argued for "higher-end type immigration" where H1B visas are "expanded" and "economically driven immigrants can come and go."
In the globalist dream world, corporations would shift workers from Bangkok to Birmingham or from Islamabad to Atlanta as easily as they would from New York to Chicago in a borderless, seamless system geared toward labor mobility, multiculturalism, and maximum hedging against wage inflation.
They overlook the fact that immigration is already at historic highs, with a record 41.3 million immigrants now living in the U.S. (both legal and illegal), making up 13.1 percent of all U.S. residents, the highest percentage in 93 years, according to the CIS study. As recently as 1980 that percentage was 6.2 percent. This historic influx has kept a lid on wages for the average American worker, including tech workers. Immigrants are also far less likely to come from Europe now than 40 years ago and more likely to come from Asia and the Middle East, the study found.
If there really was a shortage of "knowledge workers" as the globalists maintain, Camarrota asks how they would explain the fact that real wages for U.S. STEM workers, with the exception of oil-field engineers, have remained stagnant for more than a decade.
Congress paving way for TPP?
Of course that is exactly what the corporate elites want, is to keep wages low for both skilled and unskilled labor. These wage-deflating guest-worker programs are also being built into the TransPacific Partnership trade deal being secretly negotiated by the Obama administration with the support of both Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress.
The so-called labor mobility issue was also a key driver for the implementation of Common Core national education standards, which are more accurately seen as global educational standards supported by UNESCO. If every nation adopts the same basic standards for its schools, it becomes easier for CEOs to transfer what they call "human capital" around the globe.
It is no coincidence that Bush has been the loudest, most unapologetic advocate of Common Core within the Republican Party.
But the emergence of one neglected issue – national security – could be the pig on the parlor that disrupts the globalist agenda.
Since many of the guest workers flooding into U.S. firms and universities would come from countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, they could test the U.S. government's ability to screen out potential terrorists in a post-Arab Spring world in which radical Islam is blossoming.
The most troubling issue regarding this legislation, which has not been debated on Capitol Hill, would be to dramatically increase immigration from the Middle East, which is already at historic highs.
'Irresponsible and insane'
"They call it the I-Squared bill. That's appropriate to me because I would call it the Irresponsible and Insane bill," said Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies with the Center for Immigration Studies. "It's irresponsible on so many levels, both because of the destructive impact it would have on opportunities for American workers but also for the security risk it would bring."
Employment-based and student-based immigration is notoriously lax in screening for potential terrorists and terrorist sympathizers, Vaughn said.
Even the U.S. State Department's refugee resettlement program, which applies the most rigorous screening process of all the immigration programs, has botched dozens of cases over the past few years, accepting "refugees" who later turned out to be terrorists or were providing material support to terrorist organizations.
The FBI announced last month its newest "most wanted terrorist" is a naturalized Somali-American who entered the U.S. as a refugee and worked as a cab driver in the Washington, D.C., area. That was his day job. He spent the bulk of his evenings recruiting for al-Qaida and its affiliate, al-Shabab. The Boston bombers were radical Muslims who entered the U.S. as asylum-seeking refugees from war-torn Chechnya.
Compared to the refugee program, those entering the U.S. through the H1B visa program are only lightly screened.
"We know that the government agencies processing these applications are not equipped and do not make enough of an effort to screen out the risks," Vaughn said. "And now we're talking about more than doubling the numbers, so it will be guaranteed to become even more of a rubber-stamping than it already is."
Republican Senators Orin Hatch of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona are joined by Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Chris Coons of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in sponsoring the I-Squared bill. On the House side, the SKILLS Visa Act is sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and has more than 22 co-sponsors.
Vaughn said it’s a "myth" that America has a shortage of workers qualified to fill the jobs being created in Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle Park and other tech hotspots.
"That is borne out by a number of studies, and the best evidence of that is the fact that salaries have not been rising in these fields for a number of years," she said.
The SKILLS Visa Act would increase the annual cap on H1B temporary work visas from 65,000 to 115,000 annually, while also authorizing spouses of visa holders to work and giving a grace period to the visa holder allowing for the change of jobs.
The bill would also set aside 55,000 green cards each year for employers to hire foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The H1B program was designed to allow foreigners with special skills to fill jobs in the U.S. when there are not enough Americans to fill those jobs. Over time, businesses have found ways to evade its loosely worded restrictions, such as the requirement to first recruit Americans for the jobs and to pay foreign workers the "prevailing rate" of U.S. wages.
One lawmaker who is fighting the effort to expand the program is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
"People aren't commodities," Sessions said at a March 18 Senate subcommittee hearing on the program. "We have no obligation to yield to the demands of big businesses that want cheaper labor."
In his "Immigration Roadmap," written for the new Republican Congress, Sessions included a chapter titled "The Silicon Valley STEM Hoax."
"It is understandable why these corporations push for legislation that will flood the labor market and keep pay low; what is not understandable is why we would ever consider advancing legislation that provides jobs for the citizens of other countries at the expense of our own,” Sessions wrote to lawmakers. "Who do we work for?"
Ron Hira, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a professor of public policy at Howard University, told the Senate panel that the H1B guest-worker program has evolved into a highly profitable business model of bringing in cheaper H1B workers to replace American workers.
In explaining the H1B 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 H1B 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."
Watch clip of Professor Hira's testimony March 18 before Senate panel:
Hira laid out a series a "myths" used to propagate the "skilled labor shortage" narrative.
Myth No. 1: Employers must prove there are no qualified American workers before hiring an H1B. In fact there are no requirements to demonstrate there is any shortage of American workers before hiring H1B workers, Hira said. "The Southern California Edison story tells you that straight up. Not only are they not recruiting American workers they are directly replacing American workers. They're taking their jobs directly. They're even sitting in their cubicles. So there is no recruiting requirement and H1B workers are replacing Americans. And oftentimes employers are earmarking jobs directly for H1B workers."
Myth No. 2: H1B workers cannot be cheaper than Americans because employers must pay the prevailing wage. "The reality is, they can legally do this because of the way the prevailing wage rules are written. And we see this again in the Southern California Edison case," Hira said. "The American workers were being paid $110,000 a year. Their H1B replacements are being paid 70,000 a year. That's more than $40,000 in cost wage savings right there, a $20 million windfall for Southern California Edison, and they are not alone. It's Disney, it's Harley Davidson, it's Xerox, it's Northeast Utilities.
He said accounting giant Deloitte is now hiring exclusively H1B workers to service the state of California's unemployment insurance IT system.
Hewlett-Packard is laying off 55,000 workers in the U.S., replacing many of them with lower-cost H1B workers.
Tata and Infosys, the two outsourcing firms used in the SoCal Edison case, brought in 12,000 H1B workers in fiscal year 2013.
"That's 12,000 jobs that should have gone to Americans or should have stayed with Americans," Hira said. He said Cargill in Minnesota, Harley Davidson in Wisconsin and Pfizer in Connecticut are all following suit and exploiting the H1B loophole.
In the case of SoCal Edison and Northeast Utilities, the American workers were required to train their foreign replacements as a condition of their severance, Computerworld reported.
"If you create a profitable business model where you can substitute cheaper guest workers for Americans, many businesses will take advantage of that…regardless of what we might think of whether that's a good thing for America," Hira said.
"So this is a very widespread and massive problem," he said. "In fact the Indian government dubs the H1B program 'the outsourcing visa.'"
Joining Hira on the Senate panel was Professor Hal Salzman of Rutgers University and another expert on the H1B program.
"Based on our analysis we find the preponderance of evidence is fairly clear. That, A, the U.S. supply of top-performing graduates is large and far exceeds the hiring needs of STEM industries with only one of every two STEM graduates finding a STEM job," he told the panel. "The guest-worker supply is very large and it's highly concentrated in the IT industry, leading to both stagnant wages and job insecurity."
Vaughn said the guest-worker program also promotes a downward longterm spiral. The more foreign workers who fall into these tech jobs, the more that get promoted and then prefer to hire more foreign workers over Americans.
'Green cards for grads' scams run by colleges
Corruption at U.S. universities is also a problem.
Salzman said guest-worker policies provide incentives for universities to establish masters' degree programs that "almost exclusively recruit foreign students into lower-quality programs that provide easy entry into the U.S. labor market, fueling the oversupply of entry level STEM workers."
Salzman said the "green cards for grads" provisions embedded in the I-Squared, SKILLS Act and S.74 bills provide incentives for universities to provide masters programs that function as a sort of global services business, essentially offering a green card for the price of a graduate degree.
Salzman said expanding the guest worker program will only further encourage universities to see foreign students as a cash cow, at the expense of U.S. students.
"This will eventually lead state universities to close their doors to American students, just as the California state university system did when it recently declared its graduate programs were closed to state residents," he said. "In order to increase revenues it favored admissions to foreign students, which now make up 90 percent or more of some graduate programs."
Vaughn said it is the same members of Congress who back the guest-worker legislation every year.
"This is one of those perennial immigration expansion proposals that certain members of Congress keep bringing up," Vaughn told WND. "We have employers that want to have unlimited ability to bypass American workers and drive down wages overall."
Vaughn said there was a time, in the 1990s and the height of Y2K fears, when there was a legitimate shortage of skilled tech workers.
"My husband, who works in the tech industry, was able to shift jobs often and each time he got a substantial pay increase. That is not happening now," she said. "Employers are finding ways to exploit the guest-worker laws already on the books and students are getting discouraged because they don't see any good employment options. Universities are among the worst violators of exploiting low-wage foreign workers, sometimes using them to work on government grants. That's sort of an open secret in academia and the nonprofit world."
The system is also rife with fraud, she said. Up to 20 percent of the H1B system is marred by fraud, whether it be the integrity of the companies doing the hiring or questionable foreign elements being allowed into the country. "They've even found fake companies getting approved as H1B employers," Vaughn said.
"And there's nothing special about these workers," she added. "What we've found is these companies classify them as entry-level employees and trainees and so they're able to pay them much lower wages even though they are quite skilled at writing code and other skills. They're doing it by pretending these are new workers for the purpose of pay, then turning around and telling Congress they need these workers because Americans don’t have the advanced skills they need. So now it’s a major pipeline that has been established to replace American workers, who can do this work and have been doing it. It's a complete charade."
Importing terrorists 'with tech skills'
Washington policy makers like to argue that tech workers make unlikely terrorists. The argument seemed plausible. That was before ISIS. It has been proven that some of the world's most notorious terrorists are highly educated. That was underscored by the recent identification of the infamous "Jihadi John," who turned out to be a man from Britain in his late 20s with a computer science degree. He joined ISIS and became its most well-known terrorist, seen on many propaganda videos slicing off the heads of helpless Westerners. Scores of other ISIS terrorists use social media and specialized software programs to recruit new members while still others have demonstrated the special skill of hacking Western computer systems.
"People can come in on basis of their degree and then have a completely different goal when they get here," Vaughn said. "These (H1B) visas give you six years in the country."
Another problem not discussed at this week's Senate committee hearings is that of espionage – both government and corporate.
"The Chinese have taken this to an art form," Vaughn said. "They work on government contracts, technological development for the private sector, sensitive work, and it is then that proprietary information is stolen for the Chinese government or Chinese companies."
Vaughn said the government has cut back on fraud assessment in recent years.
"So we have no idea how much fraud is going on because fraud assessment is simply not a priority for this administration. It's not just the type of fraud where, OK, we're going to lie about the qualifications of this person we want to bring in so we can pay him less, but it's also completely fictitious companies."
So if the existing system encounters a doubling or tripling of H1B applicants without a comparable increase in screeners, the amount of fraud slipping by the government can only be expected to increase exponentially, she said.
"There are plenty of legit applicants and when there are so many the chances of fraud just skyrockets," Vaughn said. "So they've got to clean up the program first before they can talk about expanding it."