Congress Defunds Job-Training Program for Americans Displaced by Foreign Labor | National Review

Congress Defunds Job-Training Program for Americans Displaced by Foreign Labor | National Review

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The $1.5 trillion omnibus funding bill that was released in the middle of the night on March 9 sailed through both chambers of Congress this week: On Wednesday, just hours after the bill was released to members, the House of Representatives voted to pass both the defense and the non-defense portions in two separate votes, by a margin of 361–69 and 260–171, respectively. The Senate passed the entire bill in one vote of 68 to 31 the next day. “Mr. Biden was expected to quickly sign the measure, which marked the first time since he took office and Democrats won unified control of Congress that they have been able to enact a spending bill that reflects their priorities, including investing in climate resilience, public assistance programs and unlocking aid for projects contained in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law,” the New York Times reported yesterday.

One little-noticed provision in the bill, mentioned briefly on page 974 of the 2,741-page package, is the defunding by $72 million of a job-training program for American workers who were displaced by the H-1B immigration-visa system. The job-program funding, originally made available by the Immigration and Nationality Act, reallocated some of the fees paid by immigrants employed in the U.S. on H-1B visas to “award grants to eligible entities to provide job training and related activities for workers to assist them in obtaining or upgrading employment in industries and economic sectors” that were importing large numbers of foreign workers. The bipartisan bill headed to Biden’s desk declared $72 million currently allocated to the program “hereby permanently rescinded” without further explanation.

Why? It’s not clear. Amid debates over defense funding, Covid relief, and other high-profile issues, no one in either chamber of Congress mentioned the provision at all. But that doesn’t mean this won’t have significant consequences for native-born American workers whose livelihoods are undercut by immigrant labor. The H-1B visa, which applies to “specialty occupations” — i.e., high-skilled labor that requires a college education or equivalent experience — is already a cruel system: It has proved enormously lucrative for large corporations seeking cheap labor, but it comes at the expense of American workers who have often spent decades developing technical skills for careers that the H-1B program now outsources to immigrant workers. 

This process has been infamously illustrated on numerous occasions by the humiliating ordeal of American workers being forced to train their H-1B replacements. In 2006, when the Bank of America laid off 100 or so U.S. tech workers, it conditioned their severance packages upon their training the Indian workers who were taking their positions. A similar scene unfolded at Disney in 2015, as the New York Times reported at the time:

The employees who kept the data systems humming in the vast Walt Disney fantasy fief did not suspect trouble when they were suddenly summoned to meetings with their boss.

While families rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and searched for Nemo on clamobiles in the theme parks, these workers monitored computers in industrial buildings nearby, making sure millions of Walt Disney World ticket sales, store purchases and hotel reservations went through without a hitch. Some were performing so well that they thought they had been called in for bonuses.

Instead, about 250 Disney employees were told in late October that they would be laid off. Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost.

“I just couldn’t believe they could fly people in to sit at our desks and take over our jobs exactly,” said one former worker, an American in his 40s who remains unemployed since his last day at Disney on Jan. 30. “It was so humiliating to train somebody else to take over your job. I still can’t grasp it.”

Congress is not only standing by this program; it’s adding insult to injury by defunding even the most meager of efforts to support the American workers it harms. 

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.