The H1-B immigration visa is a sticky issue. I of course support immigration and I have no problem with an immigration program targeting highly skilled workers, although I see no reason that they should have preference over the world’s tired and poor either. But when you have outsourcing companies working with Disney and other huge corporations to cut American jobs directly in order to import cheaper labor and then make the American labor train the new workers, well, that’s a huge huge problem.
Even after Leo Perrero was laid off a year ago from his technology job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. — and spent his final months there training a temporary immigrant from India to do his work — he still hoped to find a new position in the vast entertainment company.
But Mr. Perrero discovered that despite his high performance ratings, he and most of the other 250 tech workers Disney dismissed would not be rehired for at least a year, and probably never.
Now he and Dena Moore, another American laid off by Disney at that time, have filed lawsuits in federal court in Tampa, Fla., against Disney and two global consulting companies, HCL and Cognizant, which brought in foreign workers who replaced them. They claim the companies colluded to break the law by using temporary H-1B visas to bring in immigrant workers, knowing that Americans would be displaced.
“I don’t have to be angry or cause drama,” said Ms. Moore, 53, who had worked at Disney for 10 years. “But they are just doing things to save a buck, and it’s making Americans poor.”
Ms. Moore had also trained her replacement. After she was laid off, she applied for more than 150 other jobs at Disney. She did not get one.
Responding to the frustration of American workers, Congress in December renewed and increased a fee on outsourcing companies that it had allowed to lapse. Larger companies employing many H-1B workers in the United States will pay an extra fee of $4,000 for each new H-1B visa — up from $2,000 — and another $4,000 to move an H-1B immigrant who is already in the country to a new employer.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat who has been openly critical of Disney’s layoffs, offered a bill to reduce the H-1B quota by 15,000 visas a year to 70,000. The issue came up in the presidential race, as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate, introduced a bill with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a Republican hard-liner on immigration, to sharply increase the minimum wage for H-1B workers to $110,000 a year, to discourage outsourcing companies from using the workers to lower wages.
Cruz and Sessions are terrible people. Racism may well be their motive. And $110,000 is too much for an H1-B minimum wage. However, there does need to be curbs on bringing in individual workers with the direct intent of laying off specific American workers. It’s simply inhuman to force people to train their own replacements. The H1-B program helps build a diverse and successful America. In principle, I support it. But between the gaming of the system by big outsourcing corporations and the widespread use of it not to find needed workers but as another way to get a nice quarterly profit report by Disney and other companies, reforms are indeed needed. Well-trained workers from India do have a place in the United States. But this is a bridge too far.