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IEEE-USA wants Trump to end H-1B lottery

Patrick Thibodeau | Dec. 12, 2016
H-1B visas should go to firms that offer the highest wages, group says

The IEEE-USA also wants the Trump administration to push the DOJ to investigate what it claims is discrimination against U.S. workers by H-1B visa-using companies. Ten U.S. senators in 2015 asked the DOJ to investigate national origin discrimination in response to the layoff of IT workers at Southern California Edison, but no action has emerged.

The DOJ's Office of Special Counsel investigates discrimination complaints, but it's hard to get workers who have been laid off to make complaints in a timely fashion, "because they are afraid that if they file a complaint they will lose their severance pay," said Bruce Morrison, a lawyer and former Democratic congressman from Connecticut, who represents the IEEE-USA.

Nonetheless, "the new administration may bring a new willingness to pursue U.S. citizenship discrimination," Morrison said.

The U.S. distributes 85,000 H-1B visas through a lottery, with the odds of winning roughly one-in-three based on current demand. There were 236,000 visa petitions submitted this year.

Changing the lottery will represent "a dramatic resorting away from outsourcing and toward people who are really needed in the American economy and are being compensated commensurate with that need," Morrison said.

Another effort by the IEEE-USA will be to seek to close a 1998 legislative loophole that allows H-1B-dependent firms to replace U.S. workers provided that they pay at least $60,000 per year or employ workers with master's degrees.

The H-1B lottery has been under attack for some time. This includes a federal lawsuit filed last summer by two vendors that claimed they were denied visas for employees they wanted to hire because the lottery is tilted against small businesses.

The lawsuit claims the lottery is being abused by large H-1B users. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service "did not prohibit multiple filings by different employers on behalf of the same individual, or bar large companies from multiple filings through different business units," it says, in part. "This situation is unfair to small businesses, and is not the result intended by Congress when the statute was enacted," according to plaintiffs in the court case.

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) had proposed replacing the lottery with a wage-based priority system, but her efforts have stalled.


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