H-1B workers replacing Americans have minimal skills and little or no business knowledge, a whistleblower from Indian IT giant Infosys has said and asked lawmakers not to increase the number of much sought-after visas and plug in the loopholes in the immigration system.
Jay B Palmer, whose visa fraud case against Infosys had led to a USD 34 million visa fraud settlement — the largest in US history — alleged that no matter who is chosen, no matter what their skill set is, H-1B workers are coming to the US and they have to learn the needed skills once they get here.
“I cannot emphasize enough that the H-1B workers that are replacing the US workers have minimal skills and little to no business knowledge. The idea of knowledge transfer is absurd; Americans are training these people on how to do their job,” Palmer told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during a Congressional on immigration hearing yesterday.
“This is just cold hard facts. As statistics can validate, most of these workers have only a bachelor’s degree: how is this specialised talent?” he wondered.
Palmer alleged that companies such as Infosys continue to abuse the B1 and H1B visa laws as well as the income tax and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidelines.
“This is wide spread within the United States. Americans are being displaced at record numbers. Foreigners are working full-time jobs in the US without paying income taxes and are not qualified,” he said.
“In these difficult times, it is inconceivable that Infosys and other foreign companies are avoiding paying income taxes, abusing visa laws and then laughing and saying, ‘Law will follow business, Business will not follow law’. This quote is from Infosys’ Nandita Gurjar, who was the Global Head of Human resources,” he alleged in his testimony.
“I have read statements from NASSCOM stating that if the cap is not increased and with the current visa restrictions, the Indian economy would suffer. Let me ask the committee, what about our economy? H1B workers spend a minimal amount of money in the US and usually live eight people to a room. These are indentured servants and most of the time they have to give kickbacks to their offshore managers,” he said.
“What about the years and years of ignoring the laws. These companies maliciously do not hire Americans and look at ways to circumvent policy and law instead of working with it. Look at the stock and growth of these large foreign companies in a down environment — they are not suffering,” he said.
“However, they are still asking for more ‘handouts’ to increase their margin. Every company is out to make a profit, but when you knowingly defraud the system, it is concerning. I have witnessed outsourcing companies bring over H-1B workers that have been trained by American workers and then they replaced the American workers,” he said.
“Does this not violate the spirit of the H-1B laws? The only specialized talent these workers have is they will work for low wages. These are tasks that an existing worker could perform,” Palmer said. A top American Senator also opposed any move to increase the number of H-1B visas arguing that such a step would be detrimental to the interests of small companies and would benefit only large corporations.
“Increasing the supply of H-1B visas alone also won’t help smaller US companies who are already shut out of the program because the big corporations take thousands of visas each year,” Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a Congressional hearing on immigration.
“The number one user of H-1B visas is bringing in over 6,000 new workers each year. The top ten companies that use the H-1B programme swallow up over 50 per cent of the supply of available visas. Instead of just increasing the supply of visas, real reforms are needed,” he argued.
“Why we in Congress would simply increase the supply for foreign workers without adding more protections for American workers. Claims by US businesses that there just aren’t enough US workers willing and able to take these skilled jobs fall flat when we read stories about recent big layoffs in the tech industry,” he said.
“Bills have been introduced that seemingly ignore the plight of US workers. Some bills would increase the annual number of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000, or as high as 195,000 per year. This only makes the problem worse. It doesn’t close the loopholes or prevent abuse. It doesn’t make sure that American workers are put before foreign workers. It only increases the supply of cheaper foreign labour,” Grassley said.
Grassley alleged that over the years the program has become a government-assisted way for employers to bring in cheaper foreign labor, and now it appears these foreign workers take over rather than complement the US workforce.
Even though the annual H-1B cap is 65,000, the actual number of foreign workers coming in through the program is much more because of numerous exemptions.
For example, in Fiscal Year 2014, the agency in charge approved 315,857 H-1B petitions, he said.
Sharing concerns of Grassley, the Committee’s Ranking Member, Patrick Leahy, said he and many other Senators have heard consistently about the need for improvements to these programs to ensure that US companies can attract world-class talent and continue to lead on the global stage.
“We have also heard troubling stories of abuses that have caused the displacement of American workers. These visa programmes must be used to complement the US workforce, not displace it,” he said.