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Democratic Senator slams Trump for not acting on H-1B reform

Washington: A powerful Democratic Senator and a key proponent of H-1B visa reforms has slammed US President Donald Trump for not acting on his campaign promise of protecting American workers by cracking down on H-1B visa abuse.

The Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, who is also a Ranking Member of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, in a letter to Trump said the American people deserve an explanation for his decision not to pursue H-1B reforms on his first day in office.

“Commentators have pointed out that companies you own have sought to import at least 1,000 foreign guest workers while turning away hundreds of qualified American workers,” Durbin said.

“I note with concern that in recent weeks one of your largest campaign donors has promised that you will not crack down on H-1B abuses and instead will seek to increase the number of H-1B visas granted each year. Just last week, your spokesman Sean Spicer suggested H-1B visa reform is not a top priority for your administration,” he wrote.

“On Tuesday night, I listened in vain to your address to a Joint Session of Congress for any mention of H-1B visa reform to protect American workers. Instead, I heard more scaremongering about immigrants and immigration,” the Senator from Illinois said.

With the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announcing that it would start accepting H-1B petitions for the next fiscal from April 3, Durbin urged Trump to “act immediately” to prevent further harm to American workers.

“In early April, the government will conduct its annual lottery to decide which employers will receive Fiscal Year 2018 H-1B visas. So if you do not take action in the next few weeks, outsources will secure the right to import tens of thousands of low-wage foreign guest workers to replace American workers. This is in addition to hundreds of thousands

of H-1B workers who are already employed by outsourcing companies in the United States,” Durbin said.

Durbin urged Trump to use his authority as President to protect American workers from H-1B abuses. For example, the Departments of Justice, Labor, and Homeland Security should investigate the replacement of American workers by H-1B workers, he said.

“In April 2015, I led a bipartisan letter with then-Senator Sessions and eight other Senators requesting such an investigation. You also should immediately revamp the annual distribution of H-1B visas, which is currently done by random lottery, to instead prioritise the highest-paid workers and the best and brightest graduates of American schools,” he said.

“This would make it much more difficult for outsourcing companies to game the allocation of H-1B visas, which currently results in these companies obtaining tens of thousands of additional visas every year,” Durbin urged the US President.

Noting that the H-1B visa is commonly known as the “high-skilled immigration visa,” he said the reality is often very different.

Instead of sophisticated tech companies hiring top-notch computer engineers for top dollar, the biggest users of H-1B visas are outsourcing companies that use loopholes in the law to displace qualified American workers and offshore American jobs, he alleged.

“Recent media reports have documented the replacement of hundreds of American workers by H-1B visa holders across the country. In the most recent year for which data is available, the top 10 recipients of new H-1B visas were all outsourcing companies that specialise in offshoring American jobs,” he said.

Durbin reminded Trump that last year, he campaigned with American workers who were replaced by H-1B visa holders and pledged to end H-1B abuses, saying, “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor programme, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration programme. No exceptions,” Trump had said according to Durbin.

“As one step towards keeping your campaign promise, you should endorse bipartisan legislation to reform the H-1B visa programme that I have sponsored for more than a decade with Senator Chuck Grassley. Our legislation, which was cosponsored by your Attorney General, then-Senator Jeff Sessions, would end the use of the H-1B visa for outsourcing and require employers to hire American workers first, no exceptions,” he said.

PTI