RSC Chair Jim Banks Introduces Bill to Protect American Tech Workers
FAIR Take | December 2021
Representative Jim Banks (R-Ind.), head of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), introduced a new bill that aims to hold big tech accountable for its use of our immigration system to displace American workers in favor of cheap foreign labor. The bill – the American Tech Workforce Act – would install needed reforms to our immigration system and change how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allocates H-1B visas, among other things.
It is well-known that large corporations utilize the H-1B skilled nonimmigrant visa program to hire temporary foreign guestworkers instead of American citizens. Facebook recently settled a lawsuit with the Justice Department over its discrimination against American workers. Disney fired scores of employees and forced them to train their foreign replacements. Even the University of California engaged in such tactics, having fired a number of full-time Americans before replacing them with H-1B visa holders. These unfortunate incidents occur because it costs less money to hire an H-1B worker than it does to hire a full-time American in the same role. Research from the Economic Policy Institute also found that a majority of H-1B employers use the program to pay migrant workers well below market wages.
The Trump administration tried to address the H-1B program’s many flaws through federal rulemaking, but the Biden administration quickly moved to delay those rules from going into effect. The Banks bill looks to solidify many of those Trump-era changes.
The bill would create a wage floor for H-1B applications so that employers must pay H-1B workers either $110,000 or above the annual wage last paid to an American worker in the same role – whichever is higher. This would ensure that H-1B workers cannot undercut American roles and displace American workers.
In that same vein, the bill creates a marketplace where USCIS awards visa applicants based on the highest bidder, rather than through the random lottery currently used. Both of these actions will increase the cost of hiring foreign H-1B workers instead of American citizens. The bill also addresses corporations that contract H-1B workers through third-party body shops by limiting the validity period of such visas.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the bill eliminates the disastrous Optional Practical Training (OPT) program within the F-1 student visa category. FAIR has long opposed the OPT program because it allows employers to hire F-1 students for up to three years without paying any payroll taxes on that foreigner’s wages. This is an egregious program that harms American college graduates.
RJ Hauman, FAIR’s Director of Government Relations and Communications, signaled support for the Banks bill because it is closely aligned with previous recommendations:
The American Tech Workforce Act includes several key recommendations outlined in FAIR’s Immigration Reform Blueprint for the American Worker and we are thrilled to support it. The bill corrects some glaring flaws in the H-1B program, which has had a severely detrimental effect on the job opportunities and wages of American workers. It also ends Optional Practical Training (OPT), a program that allows Big Tech companies to hire foreign students over American students after they graduate. Remember, immigration policymaking should not be solely focused on border security, but also protecting American workers from unfair competition. Congressman Jim Banks understands this and we commend him for his leadership on the immigration issue.
The bill faces long odds of becoming law in the 117th Congress given the current makeup of both the House and Senate. However, should Rep. Banks’ party take control of the House after the midterms, the American Tech Workforce Act could be an excellent starting point for immigration reform and could attract some bipartisan support from Democrats weary of Big Tech’s displacement of American workers.