During the CNBC debate Wednesday night, Marco Rubio was challenged on his support for an immigration reform bill with a quote from Senate colleague Jeff Sessions.
Sessions, R-Ala., has been the most ardent opponent of Rubio’s “I-Squared” bill, which seeks to triple the number of H1B visas handed out to foreign tech workers from places like India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey and China.
Companies like Disney, Harley Davidson, Toys ‘R Us, Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities, Deloitte and a host of others are already using the H1B “guest worker” visa to replace American tech workers, so why does Rubio want to expand it?
CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla quoted Sessions saying “the tech industry uses this program to undercut hiring and wages for highly qualified Americans.”
Rubio responded saying, “Well, first of all, if a company gets caught doing that, they should never be able to use the program again. If you get caught abusing this program, you should never be able to use it again.”
Rubio said the U.S. needs to “add reforms, not just increase the numbers.”
“For example, before you hire anyone from abroad, you should have to advertise that job for 180 days,” he said. “You also have to prove that you’re going to pay these people more than you would pay someone else, so that you’re not undercutting it by bringing in cheap labor. But here’s the best solution of all. We need to get back to training people in this country to do the jobs of the 21st century. Why, for the life of me, I do not understand why did we stop doing vocational education in America, people that can work with their hands; people you can train to do this work while they’re still in high school so they can graduate ready to go work. But the best way to close this gap is to modernize higher education so Americans have the skills for those jobs. But in the interim, in the absence of that, what’s happening is some of these tech companies are taking those – those centers – to Canada because they can get people to go over there instead of here.”
According to Numbers USA, a close inspection of the facts reveals Rubio’s bill is devoid of most of the “reforms” he advocated at Wednesday night’s debate.
“It would be nice if all the protections suggested by Sen. Rubio were in the bill he is sponsoring … But that bill does not require higher prevailing wages or recruitment of U.S. workers,” writes Roy Beck of NumbersUSA.
The bill Rubio is sponsoring with Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and several Democrats including Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., does not require higher prevailing wages or recruitment of U.S. workers.
These are some of the same backers of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that Rubio and seven others helped push through the Senate in 2013, only to watch it stall out in the House.
The National Association of Electrical Engineers issued a statement saying Rubio’s bill would help destroy the U.S. tech workforce.
Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and a leading researcher on the issue, said the bill gives the tech industry “a huge increase in the supply of lower-cost foreign guest workers so they can undercut and replace American workers.”
Professor Hal Salzman of Rutgers has voiced similar concerns during congressional testimony, pointing out that the number of tech graduates coming out of U.S. universities exceeds the number of tech job openings by almost two to one (see video below).
An article in ComputerWorld by Patrick Thibodeau explains that Rubio’s bill increases the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 and eliminates the cap on people who earn an advanced degree in a STEM field (science, technology, education and math). The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2007 and 2012 nearly 776,000 H-1B visas were issued – an average of almost 130,000 per year.
Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at EPI, said the bill doesn’t include reforms such as higher prevailing wages and requirements to recruit U.S. workers. Nor does the bill limit the use of the H-1B visa by offshore outsourcing firms.
“This bill is basically a wish list for the tech industry,” Costa said.
“Rubio continues to perpetuate the myth advanced by the tech titans that Americans aren’t going into the tech fields,” Beck writes. “But there have been many reports in recent years of a glut of American tech workers resulting in a 9 percent decline in wages for new computer science grads.”
Beck said the CNBC debate surpassed any of the previous debates on the issue of immigration because it was the first debate to tackle the issue not just from the perspective of “illegal” immigration. The U.S. is bringing in 1 million legal immigrants per year, a historically high number that Beck and others are saying needs to be reduced to more manageable levels.
It was in an Oct. 19 Fox News interview with Megyn Kelly that Rubio said all of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were here on student visas and that “poor intelligence” was mainly responsible for that attack.
All but one of the 19 hijackers entered the U.S. legally on business or tourist visas. One had a student visa but didn’t attend class.
Some feel ‘betrayed’ by one-time boy wonder
Rubio rocketed onto the national scene in 2009 with heavy support from tea-party activists, but some of those conservatives felt betrayed and began to defect from his camp after he joined the Gang of Eight and sponsored immigration reform, which they regard as “amnesty” for 11 to 13 million illegals.
One of his enthusiastic supporters was Joyce Kaufman, who hosts a daily show on WFTL 850 AM in south Florida. After first supporting him, Kaufman denounced Rubio on her show and announced in June 2013 she was organizing protests against the politician she now calls a “pathological liar, a “fraud” and “The Amnesty Man,” as WND reported.
Kaufman told WND she’s not surprised by the senator’s turnaround on immigration, calling it “classic Rubio.”
“He will say whatever he thinks will win him a seat in the White House or wherever else he thinks he’s going,” Kaufman said.
“Marco Rubio has no principles. He has a wonderful story. We all love to hear about the Cuban immigrant family. And he’s so handsome and he has the wife and the perfect family,” Kaufman said.
“But he’s a liar. He’s a pathological liar. He stands for nothing; he couldn’t care less about border security.”
Despite the fact-based stretches that Rubio coughed up Wednesday night, he was seen by the establishment as one of the night’s biggest winners, primarily because of his deft take down of Jeb Bush in a combative exchange between the two Floridians over his poor Senate attendance record.
According to an article in Politico, Rubio’s performance in front of the bright lights “solidified his position as the establishment frontrunner.”
Bush donors were furious about the former governor’s debate tactics.
“Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” one of Bush’s donors told Politico. “No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that? The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”
Yet, Bush continued on the theme of Rubio’s poor Senate attendance record Thursday morning in an interview with Fox News.
If Beck is correct, maybe Bush should focus on Rubio’s immigration record instead. But that is unlikely to happen since both candidates share the same views on substantive issues such as the need for amnesty and more H1B guest workers coming to America.