The liberal group Center for American Progress (CAP) advocates restricting the use of H-1B visas by offshore outsourcing firms. Its recommendations are designed to get offshore firms to hire more U.S. workers and curb their ability to move jobs offshore.
That stance didn't stop one of the Center's board members, Carol Browner, from being appointed earlier this year as a director at Infosys, the Bangalore, India-based IT services firm that is one of the largest users of the H-1B visa.
Why would Browner, who served as an assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy from 2009 to 2011, take a position as an Infosys director? CAP backs policies that would hurt outsourcing industry firms such as Infosys that rely on large numbers temporary work visa.
Two years ago, CAP released a report with immigration policy recommendations for skilled workers that includes limiting H-1B use to 50% of a company's staff unless it pays employees more than 125% of the prevailing wage. It also wants to bar temporary work visas to foreign nationals whose job it is to "shadow" a U.S. worker in advance of moving a job offshore. Training your visa-holding replacement as a condition of severance is a soul-crushing event for an IT worker.
Browner joined the Infosys board in April at about the same time another director — Ann Fudge, a former chairwoman and CEO of marketing firm Young & Rubicam Brands — left. Browner and Fudge share one thing in common: They served in the Obama administration.
Why government connections matter
Infosys and other offshore firms need all the business and political connections they can get. These firms face the ongoing risk that Congress, through visa restrictions, will force them to hire more U.S. workers and raise their costs.
Approximately 90% of Infosys' U.S. employees use on an H-1B or L-1 visa, based on an estimate from its U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings and court records. Infosys isn't the only offshore firm reliant on these visas.
Among the top 20 H-1B-using firms, IT services companies accounted for about half of the 65,000 H-1B visas allowed by federal law. Another 20,000 visas are set aside for graduates of U.S. universities.
Browner's decision to serve on the Infosys board arguably undercuts CAP's credibility on offshoring outsourcing policy issues. The H-1B restrictions, especially the 50% limit on visa use advocated by CAP, are the same ones Infosys and other offshore firms cite as business risks in their SEC filings.
"If any of those provisions are signed into law," notes Infosys in a recent SEC filing, "our cost of doing business in the United States would increase and that may discourage customers from seeking our services."
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