The Programmers Guild Calls on Congress to include U.S. Worker Protections in the Pending SKIL Bill H-1b Visa Legislation

The current H-1b visa cap of 65,000 would never be reached if this guest-worker program were reformed to limit its use to those cases where no qualified U.S. workers are available and close the loopholes that legally permit the underpayment of market wages. Congressman Pascrell’s H.R. 4378 would provide those reforms.

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Sacramento, CA (PRWEB) October 10, 2006

The SKIL Bill (Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership - S.2611) was introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). Co-sponsors include senators George Allen (R-VA), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Trent Lott (R-MS). The SKIL Bill would create a floating H-1b cap that could flood nearly 1.5 million H-1b guest-workers into the U.S. tech job market over the next seven years.

Recent studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and IEEE demonstrate that the current H-1b program does not protect U.S. workers. “It is legal to sponsor H-1b workers even when qualified U.S. workers are available,” according to Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild.

For example, in nearly every month from January 2001 through March 2006 the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) sponsored H-1b guest-workers to fill civil engineering positions, even though there were qualified U.S. candidates reachable on civil service exam lists. As of September 27, 2006, there were 87 top-ranked candidates on the Caltrans "transportation engineer (civil)" list.

Caltrans public information officer David Anderson explains that "Caltrans establishes hiring practices and policies for all its managers. Hiring foreign nationals with H-1b visas is consistent with these policies and practices." Thus while Governor Schwarzenegger advocates for guest-worker programs "when there are not enough U.S. workers," the policy of the State of California is to sponsor H-1B guest-workers even when qualified U.S. workers are available.

Another problem with the current H-1B program is that it allows employers to pay H-1b workers wages that are substantially below market wages. The September 30, 2006 Detroit News article "Do Visas Hurt U.S. Workers" found that all of the top 10 users of H-1b workers in Michigan paid them wages $12,000 to $26,000 below industry average. A study by the Programmers Guild made similar findings.

A key proponent of expanding the H-1B program under the SKIL Bill is the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “It is not that law offices have trouble hiring technical staff, but rather that displacing U.S. workers represents a $100,000,000 industry for AILA,” according to Berry. Currently, AILA is providing boilerplate letters in support of the SKIL Bill and encouraging its members and their clients to send them to Congressmen.

“The H-1b guest-worker program is fundamentally flawed,” according to Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild. "Employers from state governments down to the smallest body shops hire H-1b workers in spite of a surplus of qualified U.S. workers, and pay them below market wages."

Another pending bill, Congressman Pascrell's H.R. 4378, the "Defend the American Dream Act of 2005" would remove the gaping loopholes which currently allow employers to underpay H-1Bs yet be in full compliance with the law. It would also require employers to first recruit U.S. citizens and permanent residents before they could sponsor H-1b workers. "If the provisions of the Pascrell bill were in effect, the current H-1B cap would be more than sufficient" according to Norm Matloff, Professor of Computer Science.

Accordingly, the Programmers Guild calls on Congress to implement the H-1b reforms in the Pascrell Bill as part of any other legislative changes to the H-1b quota.

“If the SKIL Bill passes without reforms to protect U.S. workers, 30% of U.S. tech workers may have their professions destroyed by a Congress that should be protecting the constitutional liberty interest of Americans to pursue their chosen profession,” according to Berry. “We fear that SKIL Bill passage will occur after hours as a Trojan horse by attaching it to a “must pass” omnibus appropriations bill, without any meaningful hearings on its consequences.”

ABOUT US

The Programmers Guild advocates for the interests of U.S. computer programmers and other tech workers. The Guild supports Congressman Pascrell’s H.R. 4378, which would amend H-1B legislation to require employers to first recruit U.S. workers, along with other protections. See http://www.programmersguild.org for more information.

REFERENCES

SKIL Bill – Bill to double the H-1B visa quota:

http://www.theorator.com/bills109/s2691.html
http://www.informationweek.com/management/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=192503648

SKIL Bill Sponsors

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX): (202) 224-2934 – formerly an attorney

Senator George Allen (R-VA): (202) 224-4024 – formerly an attorney

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO): (202) 224-5941 – formerly a Veterinarian

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT): (202) 224-5444 – formerly a management consultant

Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY): (202) 224-3424 – formerly a computer programmer

Senator Trent Lott (R-MS): (202) 224-6253 – formerly an attorney

Pascrell Bill – Would add U.S. worker protections to H-1B:

http://www.pascrell.house.gov/issues2.cfm?id=11398

AILA encouraging members to write congress in support of the SKIL Bill:

http://www.programmersguild.org/local/aila_h1b_advocacy_oct2006.html

9/30/2006 The Detroit News “Do visas hurt U.S. workers?”

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060930/BIZ/609300356/1011/BIZ02

Caltrans LCAs for H-1b workers:

http://www.programmersguild.org/docs/h1b_caltrans_history.html

Caltrans Media Affairs

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/paffairs/news/

IEEE-USA: “Reports, Studies Shatter Myth that H-1B Visa Holders

are Paid Same Wages as U.S. Citizens”

http://www.ieeeusa.org/communications/releases/2006/090606.asp

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