LIMA —A program that allows businesses to get visas and hire skilled foreign workers has its place, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said, but only if Americans are considered for those jobs first.
“When U.S. employers cannot find the technical workers essential to running their operations, businesses can recruit foreign workers to help fill the void created by a lack of American workers with those specific skills,” Brown said Tuesday during his weekly media conference call. “But we need to make sure that foreign workers are not being hired at the expense of Americans.”
Brown and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa have introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2013. It would mandate businesses first offer a position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking an H-1B visa for a skilled foreign worker.
The Senate’s original immigration proposal required employees to give American workers the first chance at a job opportunity before it could be filled by a visa holder. It said employees had to engage in specific steps to show they are pursuing American workers.
During the committee debate, the provision was modified so that employers now only have to take steps to recruit American workers before seeking a visa for a foreign worker. They will be required to recruit American workers but no longer have to give hiring preference to equally or better qualified American workers that apply.
Brown’s bill reinstates the original provision. It would now provide additional oversight of the H-1B visa program by requiring all employers to make a good-faith effort to hire an American worker, advertise an opening for at least 30 days before applying for an H-1B visa and offer all H-1B workers the prevailing wage.
The legislation would also authorize the Department of Labor to strengthen whistle-blower protections for the H-1B visa program.
Brown said the amendment would result in more Americans working in good-paying jobs. He said he is skeptical of companies that say they cannot find workers in the United States.
“I say they work a little harder and they should be giving preference to American workers who are equally skilled and trained,” he said.
Brown said the immigration legislation currently in the Senate clears a pathway for citizenship for people lacking proper documentation, secures borders by using better technology and focusing on enforcement, and creates an employment verification system that cracks down on employers who hire without proper documentation.
Nationally, 77 percent of voters support a common sense plan to fix immigration, Brown said. Sixty-two percent of Ohioans support the same.
“I think when this bill comes out of the Senate there will be enough pressure from business, from labor and community groups on the House of Representatives that they understand that they need to fix this,” he said. “And speaker [John] Boehner schedules it for floor vote, I have no doubt that it will pass.”Brown’s amendment calls to hire American workers first »