Southern California Edison's replacement of IT workers with H-1B workers is getting attention from one U.S. lawmaker who is in a positon to influence immigration law.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), who heads the Senate's immigration subcommittee and has emerged as a strong critic of the H-1B visa, cited SCE's layoffs in a speech in the Senate on Thursday.
"Apparently, Southern California Edison — a power company rooted in the United States of America... [and] a quasi-almost-government entity under the regulatory powers of the State [is] terminating the employment of people who have been with them for a number of years," said Sessions.
The utility, Southern California's largest, is cutting about 500 IT workers, 100 of them through voluntary departures and others through layoffs. The layoffs have been happening in phases since August. A group was due to be laid off today, and another group is scheduled to go on March 6. The company says the layoffs will be completed by the end of the March.
SCE "is transitioning those positions to foreign employees who have come in under the H-1B visa program for the sole purpose of taking a job. They are not coming under the immigration policy where they would move from green card into permanent residence and into citizenship. They come solely for a limited period of time to take a job, and they work for less pay too often," said Sessions.
The layoffs began after SCE began transitioning some of its IT work to two India-based IT services firms, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.
Sessions, on the floor of the Senate, read parts of Computerworld's story about the workers — along with some of their quotes — while adding in his own observations.
Sessions criticized President Barack Obama's support for an increase in the H-1B cap, but some in his own party support an H-1B cap hike.
"What is in the interest of American workers at a time when we are laying off large numbers of workers — skilled and unskilled?" said Sessions. "Do we really need massive increases in foreign workers? Do we need to pass legislation that would double the number of guest workers that come into the country at this time? I think not."
Here is a partial transcript of Session's remarks from the Congressional Record:
"Here is a dramatic article in Computerworld about the big power company in California — Southern California Edison. What have they done recently? Information technology workers at Southern California Edison are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training their H-1B visa-holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs. The employees are upset and they say they can't understand how H-1B guest workers can be used to replace them since they are already doing the job now.
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