With the economy improving and American jobs numbers up there is still plenty to talk about. You may have heard of the visa program H1-B. The program was passed to fill a gap in high tech computer fields. The program has a capped number of visas approved and was meant to bring highly skilled workers who couldn’t be obtained here at home to the work force. Usually the visas are for 3 years but there are cases where exemptions are made for 6-10 years. Seen as a positive program for companies who need highly skilled workers to improve their research or technology sectors and cannot find qualified workers in the states.
Today, the concern is that some companies who seek out cheaper labor and/or a means to train and educate a workforce and eventually move their operations offshore are abusing the program. These jobs are not highly skilled tech workers as intended but jobs that are already filled by Americans. In the late 90’s the requested applications had not reached the capped number allowed, which is 65,000. In 1998, a bill passed to raise the allowed number of applications to 115,000 with the intention to reduce the cap back to 65,000 in the coming years. The number only went up from there due to many loopholes and exemptions surrounding the program. According to Wikipedia, there were 124,326 approvals in 2014 and 191,531 continuing approvals for a total of 315,857 approved H1-B visa approvals for that year. According to laborimmigration.com, “Elements of the H-1B program that could serve as worker protections—such as the requirement to pay prevailing wages, the visa’s temporary status, and the cap itself— are weakened by several factors.” Several of these factors exist due to the lack of accountability and oversight within the program.
Some of the jobs that H1-B visas are approved for are jobs that do not require highly skilled education. More concerning is the abuse of the program. Cases of workers who were forced to train H1-B workers to do their jobs or give up the offered severance package. According to NPR’s interview with Ron Hira, “The top 10 recipients in [the] last fiscal year were all offshore-outsourcers. And they got 40,000 of the 85,000 visas — which is astonishing.” Foreign workers of the H1-B program should be paid comparable wages but many argue H1-B visa workers routinely do these jobs for lower pay. Put simply, this should not be a program that seeks cheaper labor for American jobs that are already occupied by the American worker. This abuse of the program is wrong and undermines American jobs and education now and for future generations to come.
To make H1-B a beneficial program to American jobs and foreign workers, there must be accountability and oversight. Loopholes must be closed to avoid those who misuse the program to undercut American workers. These are workers who are capable, knowledgeable and available in America. A program that allows foreign labor to occupy American jobs is not a program for America.