Congress Slated to Consider Bill that Harms American Workers in Lame Duck Session
FAIR Take | December 2022
House Democrats are bringing the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act (EAGLE Act) to the floor next week as part of their continued assault on American workers, even as the country faces skyrocketing inflation and an economy still recovering from COVID lockdowns.
Known as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act when it failed last Congress, the bill would eliminate per-country caps for employment green cards. In doing so, it would undermine country of origin diversity, further strengthening foreign workers’ place in the American labor force and doing nothing to prevent big business from continuing to displace Americans with “temporary” foreign workers.
The current employment-based green card system needs to be replaced by one that is merit-based, offers a reasonable number of green cards to highly qualified applicants, and preserves American workers’ wage growth. Instead, the EAGLE Act maintains the present dysfunctional system and would allow India and China to monopolize green card applications through the H-1B program.
As the Department of Homeland Security noted in 2020, “Data shows that the more than a half million H-1B nonimmigrants in the United States have been used to displace U.S. workers. This has led to reduced wages in a number of industries in the U.S. labor market and the stagnation of wages in certain occupations.” Removing per-country caps would only accelerate this, as Indian and Chinese tech workers make up the huge majority of H-1B recipients and the dual intent H-1B visa also allows for holders to apply for green cards.
Until recently, protecting American workers while ensuring specific industries access to highly-skilled foreign workers was a bipartisan goal, with the Commission on Immigration Reform (CIR) – formed by Congress in 1990 and chaired by civil rights icon Congresswoman Barbara Jordan – saying as much, while at the same time underscoring the urgent need to reform the legal immigration system.
And just last December, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute issued a report finding that corporations were exploiting H-1B workers to the tune of at least $95 million, with victims of that practice including, “U.S. workers who are either displaced or whose wages and working conditions degrade when employers are allowed to underpay skilled migrant workers with impunity.”
After slipping in carve-outs and concessions to appease special interest groups, the bill’s proponents, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), are trying to distance themselves from its troubled history and point to H-1B reform provisions that they claim are designed to protect American workers.
But the upshot of eliminating per-country caps would still be fast-tracking permanent residency for tech workers from India – and to a lesser degree China – pushing other countries’ green card applicants further down the list.
In brief, the bill is fundamentally premised on a false narrative that it will not harm American workers, is deeply unfair to those outside India and China, and would only reinforce the tech industry’s spiraling addiction to foreign workers.
Any H-1B reform effort must truly change the thoroughly flawed program or end it altogether and ensure that large corporations do not supplant American labor with cheap foreign alternatives, especially in this economy. And most importantly, Congress should focus its legal immigration reform efforts on the entire system, finally moving us toward a merit-based system.
The EAGLE ACT is just one more effort from a political class increasingly out of touch with the American people to import and exploit cheap foreign labor in service of corporate lobbyists and their donors.