County Board Poised to Urge Reform of H-1B Requiring Employers to Seek US Talent First

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One of the nation's largest county government bodies is expected to vote on September 18, 2007, to open the H-1b visa-hiring program to US citizens and legal residents - in opposition to 13 governors who last week urged Congress to expand the program, without ever requiring employers to seek local talent for top-dollar, white-collar jobs.

One of the nation's largest county government bodies is expected to vote on September 18, 2007, to open the H-1b visa-hiring program to US citizens and legal residents - in opposition to 13 governors who last week urged Congress to expand the program, without ever requiring employers to seek local talent for top-dollar, white-collar jobs.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners (IL) will vote on a resolution co-sponsored by Commissioners Larry Suffredin and Roberto Maldonado to support U.S. Senate bill 1035 that would, for the first time, require employers to seek local talent before securing Department of Labor (DOL) permits to hire citizens from abroad. The bi-partisan bill pending in congress, "H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007", introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would overhaul these visa hiring programs by giving priority to American professionals and crack down on unscrupulous employers who deprive qualified Americans of jobs and then exploit citizens from abroad.

The resolution urges the United States Congress to pass the bill and urges President Bush to sign it. In addition, copies of the resolution will be sent to President George Bush, President of the Senate Richard Cheney, Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, Representative John Boehner, and Minority Leader of the House.

These members representing Cook County will also receive a copy of the resolution: Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL),Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Representative Jerry Costello (R-IL), Representative Melissa Bean (D-IL), Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), Representative William O. Lipinski (D-IL), Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL),Representative Jan Schakowsky(D-IL) Representative Jerry Weller (R-IL), and Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL).

Since the program's inception 17 years ago, employers have been legally permitted to bypass qualified and willing U.S. citizens and green-card holders (permanent legal U.S. residents) and even displace U.S. workers. According to the U.S. DOL's Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2006-2011 (pg. 35) : "...H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."

Board members will hear testimony Tuesday about the loss of 9,000 information technology (IT) jobs from the Chicago metropolitan area in 2006, along with testimony from displaced technical professionals. The County Board is expected to pass the resolution urging Congress to pass the Durbin-Grassley visa reform bill.

"As an Hispanic-American, I know too well the impact of being bypassed for good jobs," said Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, a co-sponsor. "Because of discrimination, my career as a public servant has been dedicated to expanding equality and opportunity for my constituents and my community."

"The H-1B and L-1 programs aren't fundamentally about immigration. These programs allow the exploitation and mistreatment of guest workers while denying U.S. workers and permanent legal residents the opportunity to compete for jobs. We should not allow companies to gain an unfair advantage with these programs and drive out small businesses. Finally, we should reform these programs so that companies don't outsource jobs using these programs."

Commissioner Larry Suffredin, introduced the resolution saying, "The purpose of the bill is to ensure that American-university trained computer experts are given an opportunity before we call in university-trained experts from overseas."

"I'm proud to be represented by a county board that understands that the heart of America is opportunity and the promise of America is to extend that opportunity to all of its citizens and legal residents - period," said Donna Conroy, former technology professional, who founded and directs a grassroots campaign to counteract claims that Americans are not qualified for science and technology jobs. Her organization, Brightfuturejobs.org, has long lobbied to reform the H-1B visa program so that U.S. citizens and green-card holders can compete for good-paying jobs.

"The H-1B visa-hiring program is a trap. It traps the US workforce by excluding them from job competition. It traps citizens from abroad into visa swindles and exploitation. It traps the American public into believing there is a shortage of technical talent, when in fact, both American and H-1B's technical professionals face continuing unemployment," said Conroy.

The H-1b visa program was signed into law in 1990. Congressional members were assured by technology industry lobbyists that this program would only be used when "no qualified Americans were available". Brightfuturejobs.org broke through the confusion and helped congressional members realize that the law never required companies to recruit Americans or legal residents before receiving government permits to hire citizens from abroad.

for more information contact:

Donna Conroy
http://www.brightfuturejobs.org
773-764-5865
773-678-0627 (cell)

Commissioner Roberto Maldonado
Kathleen Oskandy, Chief of Staff
312-603-6410

Commissioner Larry Suffredin
Mike Gwinn, Chief of Staff
312-603-6383

PROPOSED RESOLUTION

SPONSORED BY

THE HONORABLE LARRY SUFFREDIN AND ROBERTO MALDONADO
COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE H-1B AND L-1B VISA
FRAUD AND ABUSE PREVENTION ACT OF 2007

WHEREAS, the federal H-1B program was created to provide companies and universities access to foreign workers in areas determined to be a "specialty occupation" by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but, instead, has become abused by employers as a de-facto outsourcing program; and

WHEREAS, through the H-1B program, employers are not required to seek local talent, thus blocking local white collar workers, including administrative and professional positions, from competing for these job openings; and

WHEREAS, thousands of American white collar workers have been laid off and their jobs offered to H-1B visa holders, many in the technology sector, the backbone of the new information economy; and

WHEREAS, the Information Technology ("IT") sector has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs since the recession of 2001 and not only has failed to replace those jobs, but also continues to severely under-represent women and minorities; and

WHEREAS, more than half of the IT jobs filled under the FY 2005 H-1B program were designated as entry-level white collar positions; and

WHEREAS, the H-1B program further accelerates the race to the bottom for white collar workers by allowing employers to offer lower wages and impose other unfair labor practices by making the H-1B visa holder beholden to their employer and holding the threat of deportation over his or her head; and

WHEREAS, in Cook County, between 2001 and 2005 over 180,000 white collar jobs were put at risk, because of the H-1B program; and

WHEREAS, Senators Dick Durbin and Charles Grassley have introduced S. 1035, the H-1B and L-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007 to reform the H-1B hiring program by requiring employers to recruit from the US workforce first, attest that the H-1B visa holder will not displace an American worker and require that companies advertise job openings for 30 days on the Department of Labor website before resorting to the H-1B program;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Cook County Board of Commissioners does hereby support S. 1035 and urges the United States Congress to pass the measure and President Bush to sign it; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that suitable copies of the Resolution be delivered to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and all members of Congress representing Cook County.

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