IEEE-USA commends Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), outgoing chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, for her recent letter questioning the effectiveness of workplace safeguards in the H-1B temporary guest worker program.
"The H-1B visa program was created to address the scarcity of qualified professionals and technical workers in the United States, but with safeguards to mitigate the potential harms to American workers and to protect foreign workers from exploitation," Collins wrote to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzales on 4 December. "The effectiveness of these safeguards, however, is in question."
"We applaud Sen. Collins for highlighting the abuse and misuse of H-1B visas, particularly in smaller states like Maine, and for seeking answers from leaders who oversee the program," IEEE-USA President Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr. said. "We're pleased that someone of her stature realizes that flaws in the H-1B program harm U.S. and H-1B workers, as well as the U.S. economy."
Wyndrum added, "While many of the H-1B problems must be fixed by Congress, the Labor Department has simply not done enough to address these concerns. We hope Sen. Collins' letter will spur the department to improve the integrity of a flawed and broken program. It has much more discretion than it has exercised to investigate obvious program misuse and abuse."
Collins' letter cited an in-depth investigative series by the Portland (Maine) Press Herald into the H-1B program's "problems and loopholes." One of the abuses the newspaper found was "some companies appear to file through Maine to receive its lower prevailing wage, and then ship the foreign worker off to a higher-wage areas, like New Jersey and Silicon Valley." The series is available at http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/immigration/.
IEEE-USA highlighted prevailing wage abuses with a Sept. 2006 news release, "Reports, Studies Shatter Myth that H-1B Visa Holders are Paid Same Wages as U.S. Citizens." See http://www.ieeeusa.org/communications/releases/2006/090606.asp.
In an Aug. 2006 release, "Government Reports Show Significant H-1B Wage Violations, Enforcement Mechanism Broken," IEEE-USA demonstrated how the Labor Department's limited investigative authority helps enable companies to pay H-1B holders below-market wages. See http://www.ieeeusa.org/communications/releases/2006/082306pr.asp.
"While some American businesses need access to foreign skilled laborers, we should not allow unscrupulous companies to circumvent the system," Collins wrote in her letter. "Their subversion of the law harms American technology workers, as well as legitimate firms whose high standards prevents them from exploiting the system's flaws. We must protect these workers and employers."
See Collins' letter to Secretary Chao at http://www.ieeeusa.org/policy/issues/H1bvisa/CollinsH1B.pdf.
IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 220,000 engineers, scientists and allied professionals who are U.S. members of the IEEE. IEEE-USA is part of the IEEE, the world's largest technical professional society with 360,000 members in 150 countries. See http://www.ieeeusa.org.