WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) on Friday introduced the American Jobs First Act, which they believe would ease the pressure on the U.S. labor force from foreign workers coming into the country.
According to Senator Sessions’ office, the legislation would “reform the H-1B visa program to stop abuse of the legal immigration system and ensure American workers are better served.”
H-1B visas are given to immigrants to come work in specialized fields, usually in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs. Sessions has long argued that there is a surplus, not a shortage, of American STEM workers, but large corporations push for more visas because they put downward pressure on wages. The United States Justice Department has also found that some companies are illegally using the visas to displace American workers.
“The mass layoff of American workers at Disney, Southern California Edison, and many other companies – who were then forced to train their foreign replacements – underscores that our political system has failed in its duty to protect our own people,” said Sen. Sessions. “The H-1B program is nowhere close to the program it is said to be. Far from filling ‘labor shortages’, it is being used to destroy existing jobs of American workers.
“This legislation would improve wage standards for the H-1B visa, block its use as a cheap labor program, and scrap the terribly abused foreign worker ‘training program’ which has become a backdoor method for replacing American workers,” he continued. “It would also eliminate the diversity lottery, which has become yet one more avenue for low-wage labor. In every sense, this bill is the exact opposite of the I-squared proposal which was written by and for industry interests, and which would further drive down wages for American workers. I hope the Senate and House will take up and pass the ‘American Jobs First Act,’ and send the message that real immigration reform answers to the American people, not the special interests.”
Cruz, who has made his immigration positions a primary focus of his time in the Senate and his presidential campaign,
said the bill will “make immigration work for the American people again.”
“The American Jobs First Act of 2015 is a necessary effort to repair the H-1B visa program to prevent it from displacing American workers,” said Sen. Cruz. “This legislation aligns the program with its original intent, does more to prevent employers from using the program to replace hard-working American men and women with cheaper foreign labor, and helps to create greater transparency of job needs and opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, so that unemployed Americans with the necessary skills can apply for these jobs.”
Key highlights of the bill, according to Senator Sessions’ office, include:
— Requiring H-1B employers who seek H-1B visas under the program to commit to paying the foreign workers they recruit either what an American worker who did identical or similar work made two years prior to the recruiting effort, or $110,000 (whichever is higher).
— Establishing a “layoff cool-off” period of two years (730 days), which would prevent an employer from bringing on an H-1B visa-based foreign worker within two years of an employee strike, an employer lockout, layoffs, furloughs, or other types of involuntary employee terminations other than for-cause dismissals.
— Strengthening internal (company) and external (public domain) transparency requirements, in order to ensure that both company employees and the job-seeking public are aware of the company’s H-1B visa application and potential job opportunities at the company.
— Requiring increased H-1B visa application transparency on the part of the Department of Labor, with real-time online updating of companies’ H-1B visa application submissions, the publication of certain application information (including the identities of the companies and employees who have submitted the applications), and additional reporting to Congress about program abusers.
— Preventing continued use of the non-statute-based Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program, and the creation and use of other similar programs, which have also been used to displace American workers under the guise of student training.