Immigration Enforcement

Anger Grows in India over H1-B U.S. Visa Rules

With the economies in the U.S. and India both struggling and with unemployment rising, the outsourcing of American jobs to Indian workers has become an even more explosive issue. That’s leading business leaders, politicians, and ordinary citizens in both countries to focus on a controversial visa program, the H-1B, that allows a limited number of foreigners to work at U.S. companies for up to six years. Critics have long claimed the program allows high-paying software-writing and engineering jobs at companies and state governments to go to foreigners.

On Feb. 23, the H-1B critics got a new round of ammunition. Data released by the U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services showed that in 2008, for the second year running, many of these visas went to Indian IT services companies that were sending engineers to the U.S. temporarily to work. In effect, a visa that had been designed for U.S. corporations to remain competitive at a time of talent shortage had become a blessing for the U.S. operations of global Indian companies, allowing them to send engineers from India, rather than hiring locally.

The news comes at a time when many Indians already suspect the U.S. is trying to put a squeeze on the country’s successful outsourcing industry. Each year, the American government hands out 65,000 H-1B visas, and Indian engineers receive many of them. However, as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus package, Congress passed provisions to bar any U.S. company that receives bailout dollars from directly hiring workers on these H-1B visas.

Fueling India’s Diaspora

In India, there has been a swift outcry. “This is just irrational protectionism,” says Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission. “It makes no economic sense at all.”

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Lake Co. Illinois Criminal Alien program leads to 260 deportation cases

By identifying illegal aliens arrested in Lake County as soon as they come into the criminal justice system, the federal Criminal Alien Program has resulted in 260 deportation cases being opened since Sept. 1, Sheriff Mark Curran and other officials said Tuesday.

Administered by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security, CAP allows ICE to place a detainer on any illegal immigrant arrested for a felony offense.

The detainer places an indelible mark on an inmate’s paperwork that follows him or her through the system, and upon completion of the criminal proceedings against the inmate, results in their immediate transfer to ICE for deportation.

“The cost of illegal immigration to law enforcement and the criminal justice system is astronomical,” said Curran, who touted the program at the Lake County jail as proof of the results of local law enforcement cooperation with the federal government. “We are a nation of immigrants, but we are a nation of laws as well, and we are enforcing the law in Lake County.”

Curran said CAP is different from the ICE 287g program he has also applied to be a part of, because unlike 287g, his employees do not receive power to do any functions usually performed by ICE agents.

Gail Montenegro, public affairs officer for the six-state area covered by ICE’s Chicago office, said the CAP program resulted in the opening of 221,085 deportation cases last year, up from 164,296 in 2007.

Not all those targeted for deportation have left the country, she said, because ICE waits for jail or prison sentences imposed on convicted criminals to be served before removing them from the country.

In Lake County, Curran said roughly 20 percent of the jail population at any given time is made up of illegal aliens and that there are currently 152 foreign-born individuals in his custody.

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H-1B Visas Really Are Inherently Harmful — Here’s Why

Last week a New Jersey employer was indicted on charges of H-1B fraud. However, I almost never report on such incidents, as I regard them as irrelevant to the big H-1B picture. The central problems of H-1B and employment-based (EB) green cards involve fully legal abuse via loopholes in the law, as opposed to violations of the law, and the large household-name firms are just as culpable as the “bodyshops.” Indeed, the industry lobbyists love it when the feds crack down on violators of H-1B law, as it gives them a chance to distract Congress and the press from the real issues (the loopholes), and to distract attention away from the big-name firms. See a prior blog for an example of this.

The Sanders/Grassley amendment to the economic stimulus bill survived conference committee. Recall that the amendment extends to recipients of TARP bailout money the H-1B hiring restrictions that normally apply only to H-1B dependent employers. As I explained in previous posts, especially this one, the restrictions are rather mild. And they too have loopholes. Nevertheless, they will have some practical impact, and much more importantly, have major symbolic impact, as they are tacit admission by Congress that the H-1B visa program is fundamentally a Bad Thing.

In the past, Congress’ message–and I mean the word “message” literally, in the form of the politicians’ public statements and letters to constituents–is that H-1B is basically a Good Thing, remedying tech labor shortages and enabling the import of “the best and the brightest” from around the world. Members of Congress continued to make such statements in spite of the facts that:

  • Congress’ own study, commissioned as part of the 1998 legislation that nearly doubled the yearly H-1B cap, found that it could not confirm the industry’s claim of a shortage studies. None of the other studies then and since, including that of the Dept. of Commerce (but excluding industry-sponsored studies), found a shortage either.
  • Two congressionally-commissioned reports, as well as various academic studies, found that use of H-1Bs as cheap labor is commonplace. The GAO report also made the point that loopholes make it fully legal to pay H-1Bs less than comparable Americans.
  • It has been shown quantitatively in several different ways that only a small percentage of the H-1Bs are in the “best and brightest” league.
  • The YouTube video, made by a prominent law firm to show its prominent clients (i.e. mainstream firms rather than bodyshops) how to circumvent the EB green card law requiring employers to recruit Americans before sponsoring a foreign worker for a green card, was widely circulated by members of Congress.

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February 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

H-1B Amendment Survives Conference Committee

An H-1B-related amendment offered by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to the economic stimulus package has survived conference committee and was a part of the final bill signed by President Obama.  Entitled the “Employ American Workers Act,” the Sanders-Grassley Amendment seeks to limit entities that receive funds from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — established by last year’s $700 billion financial services sector bailout legislation — from displacing U.S. citizen workers. (CongressDaily, February 13, 2009).

The original text of the amendment as it was filed by Senators Sanders and Grassley would have barred any recipient of TARP funding from hiring any H-1B workers. (Congressional Record, S1590).  However, on the Senate floor, the Sanders Amendment was modified so that companies that receive TARP funding are not barred from hiring H-1B workers, but instead must follow the rules proscribed for so-called “H-1B Dependent Employers.”  (Congressional Record, S1669 & S1803).  These rules require employers who have significant numbers of H-1B employees (measured in proportion to the total workforce) to: (1) attest that they have made good-faith attempts to hire U.S. workers at prevailing wages (or industry-standard wages); (2) attest that their hiring of H-1B employees does not displace U.S. workers who have sought those same jobs; and (3) maintain paper records showing that they have complied with wage and other work condition standards.

The modified amendment was eventually adopted by voice vote. As modified, this language “isn’t as tough as what Senator Grassley originally proposed… [but instead the] modified amendment… makes TARP recipients jump through extra hoops before they can hire those foreign workers.”  (BusinessWeek, February 13, 2009).

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February 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Report finds fraud in 20% of H-1B applications

Federal investigators discovered fraud in more than 20 percent of applications they examined in which employers were requesting H-1B visas…

Seattle Times staff reporter

Federal investigators discovered fraud in more than 20 percent of applications they examined in which employers were requesting H-1B visas to hire foreign professionals in the U.S., a finding they called a “significant vulnerability.”

In a report released late last year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service cited one especially egregious case in which an employer petitioned for a business-development analyst position but later told investigators the worker would be doing laundry and maintaining washing machines.

The report’s findings appear to vindicate some critics of the H-1B program, who have said the hiring of foreign professionals hurts U.S. workers.

The immigration service promised procedural changes in the wake of the findings, but warned that the findings were not an indictment of the program overall.

“The H-1B program is immensely valuable, and most employers and workers who use it, use it properly,” spokeswoman Sharon Rummery said.

Investigators picked a random sample of 246 H-1B applications out of the 96,827 filed by employers between Oct. 1, 2005, and March 31, 2006. Holders of such visas must have at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent, and employers are required to pay them the prevailing wage.

But investigators found instances in which workers forged their employment and education credentials to obtain visas. No actual U.S. employer even existed in some cases.

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February 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

H1-B Visa Fraud Sparks Arrests Nationwide

An ongoing federal probe into H-1B visa fraud leads to 11 arrests and the indictment of IT services firm Vision Systems Group

The controversy over the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers is heating up once again. Federal agents detained 11 people in six states as part of a wide investigation into suspected visa fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Iowa announced on Feb. 12, a day after the arrests. Those arrested are accused of fraudulently representing themselves or other workers in immigration documents.

Besides the arrests, Vision Systems Group, an IT services firm based in South Plainfield, N.J., with a branch office in Coon Rapids, Iowa, was indicted on 10 federal counts, including conspiracy and mail fraud charges. The firm allegedly used fraudulent documents to bring H-1B visa workers into the U.S. The government is seeking the forfeiture of $7.4 million from Vision Systems that was gained through the alleged offenses. Five other technology companies, including Worldwide Software Services and Sana Systems in Clinton, Iowa, remain under investigation for document fraud, prosecutors said. “We are only at the tip of iceberg as to where this [investigation] leads,” said Matthew G. Whitaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. “We have a ways to go and more [fraud] to uncover.”

Representatives of Vision Systems, Worldwide Software, and Sana Systems could not be reached for comment after business hours on Feb. 12. Whitaker declined to identify the other three companies being investigated.

H-1B Program Under Scrutiny

The coordinated, nationwide enforcement effort began 18 months ago and continues, officials said. It is the first to specifically address fraud in the H-1B visa system, which critics say brings lower-cost tech workers into the U.S., displacing American workers.

As unemployment rises in the U.S., the H-1B program is drawing scrutiny for its potential effects on U.S. jobs. In October the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) released a report showing rampant fraud in the H-1B visa program. At the same time, critics say that outsourcing firms, including Infosys Technologies (INFY) and Wipro (WIT), use H-1B visas to replace U.S. employees with cheaper workers from abroad, often cycling overseas staff through U.S. training programs before sending them back home to perform such jobs.

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February 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Sen. Jeff Sessions Blasts Reid and Pelosi for Stripping E-Verify from Stimulus Package

Earlier today, Senator Jeff Sessions delivered a speech on the Senate floor attempting to add E-Verify back into the bill, citing studies from Heritage and the Center for Immigration Studies that said several hundred thousand stimulus jobs will go to illegal aliens. Sessions urged a floor vote, saying that E-Verify would more than likely pass a vote in the Senate. Sessions also mentioned that President Obama has already delayed the mandatory use of E-Verify for federal contractors not to mention that the program is set to expire on March 6 unless there’s a reauthorization. “Are we now seeing some serious movement to undermine one of the most effective programs ever to verify work eligibility?” Sessions asked on the floor. In a statement released earlier, he pointed to how the House Appropriations Committee unanimously agreed on two E-Verify amendments.

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February 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

High Rate of H-1B Visa Fraud

A report released Oct. 8 by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) reveals that 13% of petitions filed for H-1B visas on behalf of employers are fraudulent. Another 7% contain some sort of technical violations.

The study, released to members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, marks the first time the agency, part of the Homeland Security Dept., has documented systematic problems with the controversial program. Technology companies, in particular, have come to rely on the H-1B visa program to bring in skilled foreign workers to fill jobs that employers claim can’t be filled with U.S. candidates. Tech companies like Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google (GOOG) have pushed to get more visas, claiming that a shortage of skilled workers is hampering U.S. competitiveness. Microsoft Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates has twice testified in front of Congress on the issue.

Critics say H-1Bs help U.S. companies replace American workers with less costly foreign workers. “The report makes it clear that the H-1B program is rife with abuse and misuse,” says Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “It shows the desperate need for an auditing system.” However, both Presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), have said they support expanding the program.

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February 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment