Pascrell Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Trump Support for Visa Reform
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to President Donald Trump last week urging support for legislative action reforming visa programs to protect American workers and crack down on outsourcing companies which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs. The letter, in particular, hails the bipartisan H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 as a measure that addresses certain shortcomings in the visa programs, including deficiencies highlighted by President Trump in remarks last week. Signers of the letter include Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ), all sponsors of the bill.
“In your remarks in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you identified the issue with current law when it comes to 'allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay.' To address that issue, our legislation provides protections for American workers and visa holders and requires more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers,” the lawmakers wrote.
The H-1B visa program allows employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens in specialty occupations temporarily. The program is intended to provide companies with specialized workers in instances where their skills or qualifications are not available among U.S. workers. The L-1 visa program allows companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad to temporarily transfer certain foreign employees to the U.S. to work.
Foreign outsourcing companies are the top users of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. Some of these companies have been exploiting the H-1B and L-1 visas to displace qualified American workers and in some instances facilitate the eventual offshoring of American jobs.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 has the endorsement of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The full text of the letter is below (link to PDF).
July 27, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump:
We write because for far too long the H-1B visa has been abused by some corporations as a way to displace American workers with cheap foreign labor. We urge you to use your authority as President to the greatest extent possible to stop H-1B abuses, but we believe reform also must happen legislatively because of loopholes in the law. Accordingly, we introduced H.R.1303 and S.180, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, to close these loopholes and overhaul these visa programs to protect American workers and crack down on outsourcing companies which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs. This bipartisan bill will restore the H-1B visa program to its original intent, protect American workers, and preserve the limited H-1B visas for high-skilled foreign workers.
In your remarks in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you identified the issue with current law when it comes to “allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay.” To address that issue, our legislation provides protections for American workers and visa holders and requires more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers. Below are just a few examples of how our bill addresses the gaps in current law by:
- Requiring that employers make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before bringing in guest workers, and prohibiting employers from replacing American workers or giving preference to visa holders when they are filling open positions.
- Modifying existing H-1B wage requirements to ensure employers pay foreigners comparable wages in the area of employment. Current law allows the payment of below-market wages to H-1B workers across industries and geographic areas and even allows H-1B-dependent employers and employers who have previously willfully violated H-1B program requirements to avoid obligations to recruit U.S workers and not displace them simply by paying a $60,000 annual wage. Merely raising this wage floor to another arbitrary level will not prevent future abuse. Instead, our bill would end the “exempt” H-1B worker loophole and would peg H-1B salaries to current wage levels by requiring employers to pay the highest wage applicable to each occupation and geographic area from one of the following three categories:
1) The locally-determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment;
2) The median wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; and
3) The median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.
- Prohibiting the replacement of American workers with H-1B workers. Current law only requires that H-1B dependent employers and willful violators must certify that they tried to recruit U.S. workers first for a job they seek to offer to an H-1B worker. Our bill extends the recruitment requirement to all employers.
- Cracking down on employers who abuse the H-1B visa. Current law makes it easy for outsourcing companies to circumvent the intent of the H-1B visa by bringing in guest workers to displace American workers. Our bill prohibits the outsourcing or leasing of H-1B workers to other employers and prevents an employer with more than 50 employees in the U.S. from hiring additional H-1B workers if the employer’s U.S. workforce is more than 50% H-1B and L-1 workers.
- Changing the way H-1B visas are allocated to ensure that visas are allocated based on skills and wages. Allocating visas by lottery does not allow the government to determine how it awards the 85,000 visas and outsourcing companies are thus able to secure tens of thousands of H-1B visas annually to offshore American jobs. Our bill creates specific categories of H-1B workers to give preference in the allocation of visas based on education, training, and economic value. Further, our bill amends the law to provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with discretion to allocate H-1B visas within this framework in any manner or order the Secretary deems appropriate.
These are just a few of the many necessary modifications our bill would make to eliminate loopholes and provide more oversight of the H-1B program.
The immigration laws governing H-1B visas must be changed to ensure corporations will not abuse this visa program. We hope that you and your administration will review our proposed changes in the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act. We stand ready to work to make the reforms needed in order to protect American workers from being displaced.