PASCRELL INTRODUCES COMPREHENSIVE BIPARTISAN H-1B VISA REFORM PACKAGE
In response to widespread abuse of the H-1B visa program, and its negative impact on America's high-tech workforce, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) and Steve LaTourette (R-14-OH) today introduced the Defend the American Dream Act of 2007. Originally introduced by Rep. Pascrell in the 108th session of Congress, the legislation would ensure greater protections and opportunities for domestic and foreign workers by strengthening federal enforcement of the H-1B program.
"I am proud to introduce this legislation with bipartisan support and give Congress an opportunity to stand up for the domestic and foreign workers who have been exploited through misuse of the H-1B visa program," stated Pascrell. "The H-1B visa program has been reeling out of control for years. It has done severe damage to our high-tech workforce. It has cheated foreign workers from fair compensation and has compromised labor standards. The federal government has a responsibility to harness this program before it stifles more employment opportunities for thousands of highly educated American workers. The H-1B visa program has the potential to complement our tech sector, but it must be administered properly and with strict enforcement. The unfortunate reality in our high tech workforce is a far cry from what Congress signed up for in 1990, and I am determined to change it."
"It's about time we stood up for the American work force first and foremost," stated LaTourette. "This legislation does just that by ensuring that good high paying jobs are not outsourced to cheap imported foreign workers."
Specifically, the Defend the American Dream Act would:
Require that H-1B workers be paid the local prevailing or median wage for the occupational classification in the attended area of employment;
Require all employers to actively recruit American workers before they can apply for H-1B visa workers;
Require all employers who want to apply for H-1B visa workers to advertise a job availability for 30 days on the Department of Labor website;
Centralize H-1B program administration and enforcement by making the Secretary of Labor responsible for investigations and authorizes the Secretary to conduct audits to determine the level of employer compliance with the H-1B program;
Double civil penalties for employer noncompliance with H-1B program requirements;
Strengthen whistleblower protections for those who report violations of H-1B program requirements
The recently proposed Senate immigration bill proposes an increase in the cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 with some added protections. Though encouraged by the dialogue over H-1B enforcement, Pascrell expressed dismay over the Senate bill's proposed H-1B increase.
"As the immigration debate moves forward in Congress, I am committed to reforming the critically flawed H-1B program. The H-1B cap must not be raised until the Department of Labor can prove that it is exercising strong oversight and enforcement. The Defend the American Dream Act would initiate this enforcement, and until I see significant improvements in the program, I will oppose any proposed H-1B increase."
The Defend the American Dream Act has also been introduced with the bipartisan support of U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-03-CT) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-46-CA)