Despite a wave of worker lawsuits – or perhaps because of them – a bipartisan push is on in Congress to lift the national caps on H-1B work visas.
HR 392, which would award still more of “tech visas” to South Asian countries, was attached to the Homeland Security funding bill that passed out of committee. The dubiously titled “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act” is one of the House’s most co-sponsored bills, with 329 Republican and Democratic lawmakers signing on.
Not coincidentally, the measure is supported by a long line of deep-pocketed, heavy-hitting lobbyists representing technology companies and overseas labor brokers.
While revealing a not-so-salutary side of bipartisanship, HR 392 goes to great lengths to benefit foreign workers – particularly those from India – over U.S. citizens.
Seven class-action lawsuits pending in U.S. courts accuse the top two H-1B brokers, both founded by Indian businessmen, of favoring tech workers from South Asia.
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. led the pack with 28,908 approved H-1B petitions last year. Tata Consultancy Services followed with 14,697. Tata recruited about 3,000 U.S. workers that year.
Daniel Kotchen, a partner with Kotchen & Low in Washington, D.C., said Tata “has a corporate preference to predominantly staff U.S. positions with South Asians, including visa holders from India.” Employees who aren’t South Asian aren’t given work to do and are fired at “strikingly disproportionate rates,” said the attorney who represents plaintiffs in the class-action cases.
Another lawsuit in California alleges that Infosys, another outsourcing giant, conspired with Apple to evade visa laws through the H-1B program.
Now comes HR 392, which would eliminate existing national caps and allow the H-1B “body shops” to dive even deeper into the South Asian labor pool.
“FAIR has long opposed lifting the per-country caps,” said government relations director RJ Hauman. “Without those caps in place, India will consume the lion’s share of the permanent skilled visas, creating a discriminatory system that favors a single foreign nation.”
What’s worse, he adds, “HR 392 shreds any pretense that H-1B is anything but a track for intending immigrants – not short-term foreign labor. No one promised [these Indian]temporary guest workers that they would ever have the chance to immigrate permanently.”
Unfortunately, the lame duck House appears bent on compounding the abuse and neglect of U.S. workers – whatever the courts decide.
Bob Dane is the executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).