Durbin introduces visa reform bill
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation last week to reform two visa programs they say have harmed the prospects of American workers.
The H-1B visa program is meant to give employers a way to legally hire and bring in employees from outside the country for a limited time to do highly specialized jobs that would otherwise not be filled by American workers. Similarly, the L-1 visa program allows U.S. companies with offices and employees abroad to legally transfer those employees to their U.S. branches for up to seven years. Both programs have come under scrutiny for allowing companies to outsource hiring for open positions to foreign workers willing to work for less than domestic workers might be willing to.
“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system and must be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” Durbin said. “For years, foreign outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation. I thank Senator Grassley for partnering with me on this important bipartisan legislation.”
Durbin first introduced visa reform legislation in 2007. The new bill would require employers seeking help through H-1B visa holders to at least attempt to recruit American workers first. Companies would also be barred from staffing more than half of their staff with H-1B and L-1 visa holders if they have more than 50 employees.
The bill also includes several worker protections. L-1 workers would receive a minimum wage, and currently employed Americans could not be replaced by H-1B visa holders.
Grassley characterized the impact of visa program abuse as endemic and demanding attention.
“The H-1B visa program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment that cannot be filled by Americans,” Grassley said. “The abuse of the system is real, and media reports are validating what we have argued against for years, including the fact that Americans are training their replacements. There’s a sense of urgency here for Americans who are losing their jobs to lesser skilled workers who are coming in at lower wages on a visa program that has gotten away from its original intent. Reform of the H-1B visa program must be a priority.”