Skip to comments.Congress closes front door on transfer visas -- administration opens back door and all the windows
Posted on 06/02/2003 4:16:19 PM PDT by Mini-14
(Washington, D.C. June 2, 2003) Legislation pending before Congress to curb the abuses in the L-1 visa program may be rendered moot by executive agreements being concluded by the Bush Administration. According to The New York Times, the L-1 visa program, which allows companies to transfer employees from overseas branches or subsidiaries to company offices in the U.S., "are now routinely used by companies based in India and elsewhere to bring their workers into the United States and then contract them out to American companies - in many instances to be replacements for American workers."
Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) has introduced legislation that would prohibit this sort of intra-company transfers for the purpose of subcontracting employees to other firms in the U.S. But the bill would not halt the out-sourcing of work to a firm that hires only foreign L-1 visa workers. And, even if this legislation were enacted, agreements already concluded by the Bush Administration, and others being negotiated, would effectively negate the limited reforms of the Mica bill, contends the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
On May 6, President Bush signed the Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is not a treaty and therefore does not require Senate ratification. Included in the Singapore FTA are provisions dealing with intra-company transfer of employees. The language of the FTA states that: "A party shall not: (a) as a condition for temporary entry [of intra-company transferees] require labor certification tests or other procedures of similar effect; or (b) impose or maintain any numerical restriction relating to temporary entry."
In addition to the agreement with Singapore, the administration is expected to finalize a similar agreement with Chile within the next month. Other such pacts are currently being negotiated with a group of Central American nations.
"Even before Congress can get around to curbing the abuses of the L-1 visa program, the administration is already looking for ways around any limits that might be set on the number of low-wage high tech workers who can be brought into the country," charged Dan Stein, executive director of FAIR. "The administration is playing a game of political Three-Card Monty, and American workers are once again the marks."
The abuses of the L-1 program have drawn sharp criticism, as the number of such visas increased from 41,739 in 1999, to 57,700 in 2002, despite a slump in the high tech industry. Moreover, unlike the better-known H-1B program, which at least offers a few protections for U.S. workers and has a limit, L-1 transfers are not required to be paid the prevailing wage and there is currently no limit on the number of such workers who can enter.
"The language of the Singapore FTA, if it is replicated in trade agreements with other countries, will institutionalize the abuses that have been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere," Stein cautioned. "Control over employment-based visas will effectively be taken out of the hands to the peoples' elected representatives, and into the hands of corporate executives. Not only that, but in the future, the executives making decisions affecting the lives of millions of American workers are more likely to be in places like Singapore, Bangalore, and Lahore, than someplace like Baltimore.
"All pretense about protecting American workers - be they blue collar or white collar - is being abandoned in a shameless effort to get the cheapest workers possible to do any job that needs to be done in the United States," said Stein. "If workers begin to catch on to abuses in one program, then a new loophole is opened up to satisfy the demands of employers who do not want to pay American wages. From farms, to factories, to hotels, and now to laboratories, U.S. immigration policy has become about one thing, and one thing only: Cheap labor.
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