Grassley Continues Work To Close H-1b And L Visa Loopholes
GRASSLEY CONTINUES WORK TO CLOSE H-1B AND L VISA LOOPHOLES
WASHINGTON -- Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin today continued their quest to ensure that American workers are protected, and that companies who bring in foreign workers are complying with the law.
The Senators today sent a letter to Emilio Gonzalez, the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking more questions about how the agency is addressing fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program.
Earlier this month, the Senators sent letters to the top 9 foreign-owned companies to determine the companies' usage of H-1B visas. Today's letter comes on the heels of responses received from several of the foreign companies.
"From the responses we've received thus far, it’s evident that American workers are in the minority at these companies. I expect Citizenship and Immigration Services to take a hard look at their recruiting methods to make sure they are complying with the law," Grassley said. "We cannot just increase the annual allocation of visas without understanding how companies are using them."
"We've begun to question how many companies are complying with H-1B visa requirements," Durbin said. "I look forward to hearing back from Director Gonzalez on what the government is doing to enforce the law."
At this time, Grassley and Durbin will not be releasing the information received from the companies.
Here is a copy of the letter to Gonzalez.
June 13, 2007
The Honorable Emilio T. Gonzalez
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20529
Dear Director Gonzalez:
Recently, we asked the foreign-based companies who obtain the most H-1B visas to answer questions regarding their workforce, wages, recruitment efforts, and usage of H-1B visas in the United States. Our letters were intended to learn more about how some companies are using the H-1B visa program. We remain concerned that the H-1B and L visa programs are facilitating the displacement of Americans by cheaper foreign workers. We continue our effort to understand how the H-1B and L visa programs are being used by U.S. and foreign-based companies, and therefore request that you provide details related to these programs.
Under current law, H-1B-dependent employers are required to attest that they have not displaced comparable workers in the United States before hiring a foreign worker. They must also make a good faith effort to recruit Americans first.
The responses to our letters to foreign-based H-1B users have led us to question how many companies are currently defined as H-1B-dependent, and if these employers who depend on H-1B visa holders are being adequately monitored for compliance with H-1B program requirements. While we understand that the Department of Labor has primary jurisdiction over H-1B dependent employers, we would like to understand your agency’s role in ensuring compliance with laws regarding displacement and recruitment.
We have also become concerned about the use of L visas by companies who also use large numbers of H-1B visas. Many companies are allowed to bring in L visa workers through a Ablanket petition,@ which is approved by USCIS. While the blanket petition is meant to simplify the process, we fear that some foreign workers may be approved for visas by the Department of State without proper oversight by USCIS, which has primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with L visa program requirements.
In order to better understand the nature of the L visa program, we need to have access to better statistics. We would like to know how many L visas are approved each year, and what companies use the program. We would also like to know more about the use of the blanket petition for L visa holders, and USCIS=s ability to monitor individual visa holders who are allowed entry into the United States on a blanket petition.
Finally, we are concerned about the level of fraud monitoring of the H-1B and L visa programs. While we understand that the Fraud Detection and National Security unit is analyzing and writing an assessment of the H-1B program, we are concerned that abuse of both programs is not being addressed adequately. Given that the immigration bill before the Senate includes a provision to allow USCIS to divert special funds to other operations, we would like to know how many dollars have been used specifically for H-1B and L fraud efforts. We also seek more details about how these investigations are being handled within the Department.
Given these concerns, we respectfully ask that the following answers be provided to us by Wednesday, June 20, 2007.
H-1B Dependent Employers
$ Please explain the process of identifying employers as H-1B dependent employers pursuant to INA Section 212(n)(3).
$ How many companies are defined by USCIS to be AH-1B dependent@ employers?
$ How are these H-1B dependent employers being monitored, if at all, by USCIS?
Blanket L Visa Petitions
$ How many L visas have been approved each year since 2000?
$ Please provide lists of companies that have used the L visa program for each of the two most recently available years, and how many visas each company has obtained in each year.
$ Since USCIS has primary jurisdiction over blanket petitions and visa policies, what role has been delegated to the Department of State and how is your agency ensuring that aliens under the blanket petition are being properly screened before entering the U.S.?
$ What role, if any, does USCIS play in monitoring the approval of L visas covered by blanket petitions?
$ Please provide an explanation of USCIS=s ability to track individual L visa holders who are allowed entry into the United States on visas covered by a blanket petition.
Investigations of Fraud and Abuse
$ Annually, what has been the total amount of funds deposited into the Fraud Prevention and Detection Account under INA Section 286(v) since it was established? Of this amount, what amount has been provided to the Department of Homeland Security under 286(v)(2)(B)?
$ How have the funds provided pursuant to 286(v)(2)(B) been used in FY2005, FY2006, and thus far in FY2007? How many funds have not been expended in a given year?
$ How does USCIS plan to spend the remaining funds left in FY2007?
$ How many total fraud and abuse referrals have been sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the last two years? How many of these referrals, to your knowledge, have been pursued? How many referrals, to your knowledge, are pending? Please provide any further details about specific cases or referrals to ICE that may be helpful to understanding the process within the Department.
$ Please provide examples of recent investigative referrals to ICE dealing with H-1B or L visas. Please explain any referrals in the last two years that have not been pursued or that have been closed, and provide information on how many are currently pending.
While we anticipate your concerns about providing such information to us by Wednesday, June 20th, we must stress the fact that the U.S. Senate is considering comprehensive legislation that would change immigration policies for years to come. The H-1B and L visa programs must be better understood before further action is taken on this bill. We appreciate your cooperation in providing us with input in the next week.
Please contact XXXXXXXX if you have any questions regarding this matter. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Charles E. Grassley Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator United States Senator
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