The Corner

Politics & Policy

Marco Rubio Needs to Address His H-1B Visa Support

In August, I wrote about the use and abuse of the H-1B visa program. Employers in technology industries maintain that the visa program enables them to fill IT positions for which there are no qualified American workers. In fact, it’s often a way for them (illegally) to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. For example: In late 2014, Disney laid off 250 workers, replacing them with H-1B employees. Then, like some 400 workers laid off from Southern California Edison last year, the Disney employees were required to participate in a “knowledge transfer” — i.e., they were forced to train the foreign workers who took their jobs.

Two of those employees — Leo Perrero and David Powers — went on-camera last night with the ABC News affiliate in Sarasota, Fla., speaking publicly for the first time about their wholly unexpected termination from the not-so-Magical Kingdom:

Just months before the holidays and on the heels of a great performance review, no less, a VP invites David Powers and Leo Perrero into his office, both expecting pats on the back. Instead they hear the dreaded words: You are being laid off. . . .

For the past 10 years, both worked behind the scenes in the IT field, using high-tech data to ensure all points of sale — from tickets to resort stays — were seamless for visitors. Attaining some of the highest recognitions Disney could give, being let go was the last thing they expected.

“I’m in the room with about two-dozen people, and very shortly thereafter an executive delivers the news that all of our jobs are ending in 90 days, and that we have 90 days to train our replacements [or] we won’t get a bonus that we’ve been offered,” says Leo Perrero, a former app developer for Disney.

Adding insult to injury, a follow-up letter was provided describing the expectations and severance pay they’d receive if they adhered to Disney’s wishes for the following 90 days.

What reason, precisely, did Disney have for laying off employees who had previously received awards for the quality of their work? The $40,000-per-employee saved by swapping out American workers for Indian ones seems a pretty likely explanation.

The report rightly notes that Marco Rubio is an enthusiastic supporter of the H-1B program. His 2013 immigration bill would have increased the annual H-1B quota by 45,000 slots, “to fill jobs Americans can’t do.” (“Can’t”?) Although that effort failed, Rubio has resurrected the H-1B component with his “I-Squared” bill — and expanded it: The current bill would triple the number of H-1B visas to 195,000. Earlier this month, Wired magazine announced: “Marco Rubio Wants to Be the Tech Industry’s Savior.” Reporting on an address he gave to tech start-ups in New York City, Wired wrote: “Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have made visits to Silicon Valley. But it’s Rubio perhaps more than any other candidate who’s been telling them precisely what they want to hear, from his thoughts on deregulating the sharing economy to his stance on immigration.”

Support the tech industry he should. But there is little evidence that its progress is endangered, or even demonstrably retarded, by the state of the domestic STEM workforce. There is ample evidence that Silicon Valley is using the H-1B program simply to cut labor costs. That is why ten senators (five Republicans, four Democrats, and Bernie Sanders) have called on the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor to investigate the use of the H-1B visa program at Southern California Edison. Rubio’s Florida counterpart, Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), has called on DHS to investigate Disney on the same grounds.

Marco Rubio should be made to address his support for this program, and to address the experiences of persons such as Messrs. Perrero and Powers. How about tonight?

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