A video in which an immigration law firm offers advice on avoiding hiring U.S. workers when a foreign worker is preferred for a position set off a firestorm of criticism last week, drawing the attention, and ire, of a U.S. senator and congressman, who call it a "blatant disregard for American workers."
In a letter sent June 21 to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, ask the Department of Labor to review the video and investigate the law firms "unethical procedures" and advice to clients.
"We are concerned that companies are abusing the H-1B program. The video explicitly shows how attorneys are aiding companies in this effort. … In addition, we are concerned about the level of fraud monitoring of the H-1B visa program by your Department," wrote Grassley and Smith.
Grassley and Smith go on to ask how the department is using its "Fraud Free" dollars, if theyve all been spent and how many complaints of fraud have been investigated.
The Programmers Guild, a tech industry interest group out of Summit, N.J., posted a video on YouTube June 16 featuring excerpts from a series of videos created by the Pittsburgh law firm Cohen & Grigsby. Recorded May 15 as part of a half-day seminar focused on "Hot Topics in Immigration Law," the videos were to provide free legal tips and practical solutions to hiring managers looking for overseas talent.
In the video, however, an individual identified as Lawrence Lebowitz, vice president and director of marketing for Cohen & Grigsby, explains how employers can hire foreign workers under the PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) process, which stipulates requirements for placing job ads to fill vacancies by either hiring U.S. workers or evidencing that no qualified ones are available.
"Our goal here, of course, is to meet the requirements No. 1, but also do so as inexpensively as possible … and our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker," explains Lebowitz to seminar attendees.
"Were complying with the law fully, but our objective is to get this person a green card, and to get through the labor certification process, so certainly we are not going to try to find the place where the applicants are going to be the most numerous; were going to try to find a place where, again, were complying with the law and hoping and likely not to find a qualified or interested worker applicant," continues Lebowitz.
In one week, the video was viewed by more than 127,000 individuals and picked up by countless media outlets, which were near-universally outraged by the anti-U.S. worker tone, as well as the enthusiastic use of loopholes, in the video. Lebowitz states that other members of his team will help employers bypass U.S. workers by advertising in a regional publication with limited circulation while internally listing the job as slotted for a foreign worker.
Grassley and Smith also wrote a letter to the law firm in question, asking them to defend the ethics behind bringing very qualified applicants in for an interview for the sole purpose of finding a basis to disqualify them.
"The H-1Bs positions are available in limited quality each year, and the PERM certification process was created to fill positions where no qualified U.S. worker is available. Your firms video advises employers how to hire only foreign labor, while making it nearly impossible for a qualified American to get the job," wrote Grassley and Smith.
Earlier this year, Grassley, along with Sen. Durbin, D-Ill., introduced a bill that puts the onus on employers interested in hiring an H-1B worker to prove that they have gone to lengths to ensure that the visa holder would not be displacing a prospective U.S. employee.