H-1B visas are now being used to simply bring in immigrants to replace Americans for less money. And as we see with cases like Disney, many are not only fired, but have to suffer the humiliation of training their replacements.
“The program has created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans,” stated Ronil Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and expert on H-1B visas.
As it currently stands there is a limit of 85,000 visas granted each year, but that could easily change as corporate giants continually press for increases in annual quotas, claiming that there aren’t enough Americans around with sufficient skill sets.
In 2013, those firms — including Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and HCL America, the company hired by Disney — were six of the top 10 companies granted H-1Bs, with each one receiving more than 1,000 visas.
H-1B immigrants work for less than American tech workers, Professor Hira said at a hearing in March of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because of weaknesses in wage regulations. The savings have been 25 percent to 49 percent in recent cases, he told lawmakers.
In a letter in April to top federal authorities in charge of immigration, a bipartisan group of senators called for an investigation of recent “H-1B-driven layoffs,” saying, “Their frequency seems to have increased dramatically in the past year alone.”
Last year, Southern California Edison began 540 technology layoffs while hiring two Indian outsourcing firms for much of the work. Three Americans who had lost jobs told Senate lawmakers that many of those being laid off had to teach immigrants to perform their functions.
In a statement, the utility said the layoffs were “a difficult business decision,” part of a plan “to focus on making significant, strategic changes that can benefit our customers.” It noted that some workers hired by the outsourcing firms were Americans.
Fossil, a fashion watchmaker, said it would lay off more than 100 technology employees in Texas this year, transferring the work to Infosys. The company is planning “knowledge sharing” between the laid-off employees and about 25 new Infosys workers, including immigrants, who will take jobs in Dallas. Fossil is outsourcing tech services “to be more current and nimble” and “reduce costs when possible,” it said in a statement.
Among 350 tech workers laid off in 2013 after a merger at Northeast Utilities, an East Coast power company, many had trained H-1B immigrants to do their jobs, several of those workers reported confidentially to lawmakers. They said that as part of their severance packages, they had to sign agreements not to criticize the company publicly.
In Orlando, Disney executives said the reorganization resulting in the layoffs was meant to allow technology operations to focus on producing more innovations. They said that over all, the company had a net gain of 70 tech jobs.