Im­mi­gra­tion fraud, abuse tip line light­ing up

The Signal - - OPINION - Joe GUZZARDI Joe Guzzardi is a Pro­gres­sives for Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form an­a­lyst who has writ­ten about im­mi­gra­tion for more than 30 years.

Sud­denly, emails are pour­ing in! On April 3, 2017, U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS) es­tab­lished an in­ter­net hot­line to in­spire in­di­vid­u­als to re­port H-1B abuses and fraud.

The Fraud De­tec­tion and Na­tion­als Se­cu­rity Direc­torate (FDNS) en­cour­aged Amer­i­can work­ers and over­seas H-1B visa hold­ers to come for­ward with any tips they may have that re­late to ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the hir­ing process or in job as­sign­ments. USCIS also pledged to in­crease its ef­forts through a “more tar­geted ap­proach” to en­sure that Amer­i­can tech work­ers are in­ter­viewed for job open­ings. Ac­cord­ing to a USCIS rep­re­sen­ta­tive dur­ing his in­ter­view with Newsweek, a plethora of H-1B abuses have caused “too many Amer­i­can work­ers who are as qual­i­fied [as visa hold­ers], willing, and de­serv­ing to work in these fields [to be] ig­nored or un­fairly dis­ad­van­taged.”

Through May 21, USCIS had re­ceived about 5,000 calls from tip­sters, an en­cour­ag­ing start but likely not re­flec­tive of the H-1B fraud’s mag­ni­tude. H-1B fraud de­tec­tion is an in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s dream job – noth­ing but lowhang­ing fruit.

The long­est stand­ing, big­gest fraud is em­ploy­ers’ claim that not enough Amer­i­can tech work­ers are avail­able and that, there­fore, they’re forced to re­cruit abroad. USCIS can be­gin its probe at tech com­pa­nies that have booted Amer­i­cans out the back door, and im­me­di­ately es­corted in H-1Bs through the front door. A brief in­ter­lude dur­ing the re­volv­ing door process in­cludes manda­tory train­ing from the out­go­ing to the in­com­ing, re­ferred to as “knowl­edge trans­fer.”

Al­though tech em­ploy­ers like to ref­er­ence a 500,000 jobs short­age, they are ac­tu­ally pro­lific job-cut­ters. Chal­lenger Gray & Christ­mas Inc., a job-search firm that com­piles data on work­force re­duc­tions, found that tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have cut more than 413,000 jobs since 2012, in­clud­ing more than 96,000 in 2016. Wall Street an­tic­i­pates that the lay­offs will con­tinue for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Em­ploy­ers disin­gen­u­ously ar­gue that they’re im­port­ing what they like to call the “best and bright­est.” But, the visa hold­ers aren’t paid as if they’re the best and bright­est. In his writ­ten tes­ti­mony sub­mit­ted to the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary, AFLCIO Pres­i­dent Richard Trumka wrote: “Ac­cord­ing to a Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice anal­y­sis of La­bor De­part­ment data, 54 per­cent of H-1B visas are cer­ti­fied at the Level 1 wage (17th per­centile wage) and 29 per­cent are cer­ti­fied at Level 2 wage (33rd per­centile wage).” Trumka con­cluded that both Level 1 and Level 2 wages are be­low the lo­cal av­er­age, and there­fore, 83 per­cent of H-1B visas are cer­ti­fied be­low the lo­cal av­er­age wage for their oc­cu­pa­tion.

The ul­ti­mate be­trayal: even the La­bor De­part­ment has sunk to em­ploy­ing cheaper la­bor H-1B visa work­ers. A Politico story found that the visa re­newal ap­pli­ca­tions of two sys­tems an­a­lysts sched­uled to work at the La­bor De­part­ment’s D.C. head­quar­ters listed an­nual wages of $61,714 to $65,000. But af­ter it an­a­lyzed the Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics mean wages for the pro­fes­sion, Politico learned that in the D.C. area, the mean wage is $96,680.

Since Congress cre­ated the H-1B visa as part of the Im­mi­gra­tion Act of 1990, em­ploy­ers’ fraud and abuse have been com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors that have helped dis­placed hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­can tech spe­cial­ists. The fed­eral govern­ment doesn’t pro­vide H-1B em­ploy­ment sta­tis­tics, but Gold­man Sachs es­ti­mates that about 1 mil­lion H-1Bs have em­ploy­ment au­tho­riza­tion doc­u­ments and hold col­legelevel jobs.

The tip line is a good start, but will need vig­or­ous fol­low up to send un­scrupu­lous em­ploy­ers the mes­sage that H-1B visa fraud and abuse could re­sult in crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, hefty fines and pos­si­ble jail terms.

The long­est stand­ing, big­gest fraud is em­ploy­ers’ claim that not enough Amer­i­can tech work­ers are avail­able.

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