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Disney's IT layoffs fuel Trump, Rubio H-1B attacks at debate

Patrick Thibodeau | March 14, 2016
Republicans, unlike the Democrats, are talking about the controversial visa program.

On the GOP side, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said little about the visa program at Thursday's debate in Miami. But he didn't have to. In last week's debate he said that "abuse of the H-1B program has been rampant."

Cruz, as well as Trump, have issued platforms calling for H-1B visa program reforms.

The Disney IT layoffs prompted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to introduce legislation seeking program restrictions. Rubio has not offered any legislation, even though the job cuts took place in his home state.

At a recent Trump rally, one former Disney IT worker who took the stage, Dena Moore, said she trained a visa-holding replacement and was critical of Rubio. "What a great disappointment Marco Rubio is," she said.

At Thursday's debate, Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan asked Rubio about Disney, and said that "some of the Americans even had to train their own replacements."

"You support increasing the H-1B visa program that made it possible to bring in these foreign workers. Doesn't this program take jobs away from Americans?" asked Dinan.

"If it's being abused the way Disney did," said Rubio. "It is illegal now under that program to use it to replace American workers. Under that program, you have to prove not only that you're not replacing Americans, but that you've tried to hire Americans."

In reality, the H-1B program does allow firms to easily replace U.S. workers, thanks to program loopholes. The employers bring in contractors that rely heavily of visa workers. These IT services firms are required make a good faith effort to hire U.S. workers, but not if the H-1B worker is paid at least $60,000 or has a master's degree.

Rubio, in the debate, acknowledged the problem with contractors, citing India-based firms, in particular.

"What I argue is that no consulting business such as that should be allowed to hoard up all these visas," said Rubio, adding that visas "should only be available for companies to use to directly hire workers and that we should be stricter in how we enforce it."


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