Obligation to Protect American Workers
After Microsoft announced it was laying off some 5,000 workers, Grassley promptly fired off a letter to Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer wanting to know if the company will be retaining H1-B workers
rather than similarly qualified American employees.
"My point is that during a layoff, companies should not be retaining H1-B or other work visa program employees over qualified American workers," Grassley wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to Microsoft. "Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American work force. I encourage Microsoft to ensure that Americans are given priority in job retention. Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times."
In October, a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services found that the H1-B program has more than a 20 percent violation rate. The fraud identified in the report included jobs not located where employers claimed, H1-B visa holders not being paid the prevailing wage, forged documents, fraudulent degrees and "shell businesses." Nevertheless, the tech industry, led by Microsoft, continues to seek an increase in the H1-B cap.
Even before the report was issued, Grassley, Durbin and Sanders were seeking reform of the H1-B visa program. A bill introduced by Grassley and Durbin would require employers to make a good faith effort to hire American workers first. Employers would also have to show that the H1-B worker would not displace an American worker.
The bill would require employers to advertise job openings on a Department of Labor Web site before submitting an H1-B application. In addition, the bill would give the Department of Labor a mandate to conduct random audits of any company that uses the H1-B program and would require annual audits of companies with more than 100 employees that have 15 percent or more of those workers on H1-B visas.
"This is about protecting the American worker," Grassley said in a statement accompanying the bill. "We're closing loopholes that employers have exploited by requiring them to be more transparent about their hiring, and we're ensuring more oversight of these visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse. A little sunshine will go a long way to help the American worker."