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10 U.S. senators seek investigation into H-1B-driven layoffs

Patrick Thibodeau | April 10, 2015
Southern California Edison IT layoffs cited by lawmakers.

"We respectfully request that you investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers to ascertain whether SCE or any other U.S. companies that have engaged in this practice, or the IT consulting companies supplying those companies with H-1B workers, have violated the law," the senators wrote.

"Hopefully, this letter will spur the long overdue process of a thorough examination of the H-1B and L-1 guestworker programs," said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University, who recently testified before the Judiciary Committee about the visa program.

"These programs have been widely abused to harm American workers," Hira said. "The Obama administration and prior administrations have made no effort to correct the injustices that the programs have inflicted on hundreds of thousands of American workers."

The political diversity of the letters' signers shows that this is "neither a partisan nor ideological issue," Hira said.

It's unclear what the DOJ and the Labor Department can do about the practice of replacing U.S. workers with foreign workers. The practice is embedded in the IT industry. Much of this new attention is due to Grassley's elevation as Judiciary Committee chairman and Sessions' role as head of the immigration subcommittee.

If the federal agencies say there are legal obstacles to investigating the SCE case, or the displacement of American workers generally, they "may provide at least an explanation for why it can't or won't investigate," which would be beneficial, said Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The EPI has asked the Labor Deptartment to investigate this practice.

"Even if the result of DOL's investigation just ends up being the knowledge that Congress needs to change the law to give DOL more enforcement authority to investigate in situations like these," Costa said, "that will still be a hugely important thing for Congress and the public to know."


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