H1-B Primer for Reporters

Marguerite Telford, Center for Immigration Studies, July 1, 2015

Mass firings of Americans replaced by foreign workers at Disney and Southern California Edison have finally shined a spotlight on the H-1B visa program. The Center for Immigration Studies has published a brief overview for reporters looking into this guestworker program.

CIS Fellow John Miano, an attorney and former software developer, lays out the basic function of theH-1B program and how industry lobbyists have shaped it so both Americans and H1-B workers are negatively impacted. The overly complicated program has been designed “to be abused with impunity,” with any investigation based on patterns of abuse requiring the personal approval of the secretary of Labor.

Those not having a thorough understanding of the details of the program assert that employers are finding “loopholes” and abusing the program’s intent. On the contrary, Miano shows how the program is designed to replace Americans with cheap foreign workers and to allow employers to pay the foreign workers extremely low wages.

View the entire article here.

Miano discounts the “best and brightest” myth about these workers: “H-1B workers are ‘highly skilled’ when industry wants more of them, but those very same workers become low-skilled when determining what they have to be paid”

The employer determines the prevailing wage, using nearly any source he chooses, establishing what are often “absurdly low wages.” No requirement exists that the employer pay the foreign worker at his skill level, which is why 52 percent of H1-B workers at classified by their employers in the lowest skill level, commanding a wage in the 17th percentile for their occupation and location, while only 6 percent are at the highest skill level, commanding a wage at the 67th percentile. What’s more, the DOL only has seven days to approve the employer’s application certifying the prevailing wage, and the agency cannot, by statute, review their decision later.

Miano notes that “if the H1-B program excluded aliens paid less than the actual prevailing wage, the quota would not come close to being reached.”

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