Florida has a history when it comes to the replacement of U.S. workers with foreign employees on temporary visas. It ought to be a familiar story to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who on Monday announced plans to run for the Republican presidential nomination.
In 2002 and 2003, IT workers at a Siemens unit in Lake Mary, Fla. had to train their temporary visa-holding replacements -- they had either an L-1 or H-1B visa through an India-based IT services firm. Mike Emmons was one of the affected IT employees who lost his job.
In September, 2002, Emmons wrote then-Governor Bush about it. "Management has their permanent employees training these Indians to take over their jobs," wrote Emmons, who wanted help. (The email is part of an email archive released by Bush covering his years as governor from 1999 to 2007.)
An aide to the governor told Emmons there was not much the state could do because visas were a federal matter. "Governor Bush has limited abilities to intervene," the aide wrote.
Emmons was urged to work with federal representatives. "Please know this is due to a lack of jurisdiction and not lack of support," the aide wrote.
But Bush does not come across as either supportive or sympathetic to displaced IT workers in a 2013 book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, written with Clint Bolick. The book argues that the current cap on H-1B visas -- a 65,000 base cap and a 20,000-visa cap for advanced degree holders -- is "hopelessly inadequate."
On the broader question of outsourcing, Bush and Bolick wrote: "At the same time as many Americans complain about companies that 'outsource' their labor needs, our immigration policies are driving away companies by making it impossible for them to meet their need for talent inside our borders -- at tremendous cost in the loss of highly paid jobs, tax revenues and economic growth and dynamism."
Bush was asked this week by a reporter to comment about firms using H-1B visa holders to displace U.S. workers. According to a report in BuzzFeed, this is what Bush said: "I've actually seen it on Fox, three or four times, this subject. I've been curious to know what the full story is.... Sometimes you see things in the news reports, you don't get the full picture. Maybe that's the case here."
Asked about Bush's comment, one Disney IT worker who had to train his replacement said that, based on the reactions to the layoffs at his former employer, "it would almost seem to be political suicide to not side with the American IT worker." (The worker asked not be identified.)
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