THE BLOG
09/30/2015 11:23 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2016

Are Foreign Workers and Foreign Students Stealing American Jobs?

This article is co-authored by James Otto, an attorney representing displaced American workers.

This is the second in a series of articles highlighting corporate practices of displacing American workers with cheaper and less skilled foreign workers and foreign students.

Now that the issue of unskilled foreign workers replacing skilled American workers has been unveiled through the H1B Guest worker program, the next logical question is to what extent is the practice employed and how prevalent is it with respect to the American workforce?

In the 1990's disgraced and later imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a poster child for outsized influence and the impact of money in our dysfunctional political system, effectively guided the introduction of statutory language that created a category of visas called "non-immigrant" visas which accelerated and incentivized American corporations to import un-skilled foreign workers. On behalf of his special interest clients, read large corporations wishing to scale back labor costs, Abramoff spent over $100-million lobbying for legislation allowing foreign workers and foreign students to displace American workers.

According to the U.S. Immigration Service a foreign student may use so-called job finding preferential treatment work permits which allow employers to pay foreign students less than the lawful pay scale. In addition, foreign students are allowed to use the preferential permits to obtain a "guest worker" preference visa that statutorily requires either a college degree or equivalent experience, and for the worker to be "highly-skilled" in the proposed professional occupation, two provisions which are routinely skirted and one would presume to be in violation of the law. So who exactly is turning a blind eye to these violations? Congress, the Executive Branch, the regulatory agencies? This is a situation screaming for investigation! It must also be noted that foreign students are not required to pay any federal taxes for the first five calendar years under the law governing F-1 status.

In 2015 the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued reports documenting that in excess of 9 million un-skilled foreign workers per year entered the country in 2013 and 2014. In 2014 the number was just shy of 10 million.

Between 2007 and 2014 the Department of State reports that yearly averages during that time period saw an influx of nearly 7.5 million foreign workers. Over the same period almost 60 million unskilled foreign workers replaced American workers. The Department of Homeland Security reports that between 2007 and 2013 an average of over 1.3 million foreign students entered the country. This is important because foreign students are allowed to replace American workers as well.

Together the average number of imported foreign workers and students for 2012 and 2013 amounts to 10.7 million on a yearly basis. What makes these numbers even more pronounced is the fact that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the size of the American workforce is roughly 157 million. It is conceivable that close to 40 percent of the American workforce over the past eight years is represented by imported foreign workers and students at the expense of American workers. And since there are approximately 62 million American workers who have dropped out of the work force because they either cannot find a job or are too discouraged to continue looking the coincidence of adding 60 million foreign workers and students to the workforce is mind numbing.

Additionally, Congress has set a cap on H1B guest worker visas at 65,000 per year, yet from 2004-2013 in 8 of the ten years during this period the number of H1B has exceeded 400,000 per year and over the ten-year period the cap has cumulatively been exceeded by some 514 percent. In 2012 the cap was exceeded by a whopping 660 percent.

Finally, contrary to the law imported foreign workers do not have "highly specialized knowledge." According to Professor Norman Matloff from the University of California at Davis, a leading authority on the issue,

the vast majority of H1B's, including those hired from U.S. universities, are ordinary people doing ordinary work, not the best and the brightest. On the contrary, the average quality of the H1B's is lower than that of the Americans.

He concludes by noting that the foreign workers are not doing work for which qualified Americans are unavailable.

So the logical question is what is the driving force behind abuses in the guest worker program? Is it simply greed and profit margin? Something more sinister? Where is the investigative process? The General Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, Congressional oversight committees, the Justice Department, regulatory agencies in the Departments of State, Labor, Homeland Security, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Immigration Service?

If these numbers are even close to accurate there needs to be an effort on behalf of our elected leaders and governmental institutions to look into the issue. Once again, this is not an anti-immigration issue but merely an issue of discriminatory treatment of American workers due to corporate greed or negligence on behalf of the government or worse yet influence peddling on behalf of well-healed campaign contributors serving special interests at the expense of the public interest.

It is potentially just one more example of why the degree of anger, frustration, and cynicism directed at our elected leaders and the institutions of government are first and foremost well-founded and legitimate but every bit as importantly contributing to the political dysfunction that is paralyzing our system of governance.