Lofgren said she is not an opponent of the H-1B program, "run properly," nor does she fault its original goal. But she said it sounds that "what the university is doing is a misuse of the program" similar to Disney and Southern California Edison, she said, "where they are not getting the best and the brightest, they are just basically using it as a way to cut American engineers, which they shouldn’t do."
Lofgren had been working with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on H-1B reform legislation. A key aspect of the proposal, primarily drafted by Lofgren, would distribute visas on a system based on the willingness of employers to pay.
But their joint effort didn't bear fruit and Issa introduced his own bill in July, the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 5801) with a narrow goal compared to what Lofgren sought.
Issa's bill raises the $60,000 salary threshold that creates an exemption for H-1B-dependent firms -- a designation for large visa users that are mostly IT services firms that offshore work -- from having to attest that they aren’t replacing U.S. workers. That salary level was set in 1998 with no provision for changing it. Issa's proposal would raise it to $100,000, and set a mechanism for hiking it over time.
Lofgren called Issa's bill “outrageous” and said it wouldn’t do a "damn thing" to stop outsourcing because engineering salaries are already more than $100,000.
"I tried to work with Issa for months -- in all honestly dealing with him is just chaos; it would take his staff weeks or months to get back to my staff -- they didn't know what they were doing," said Lofgren.
Asked for a response, Calvin Moore, Issa's spokesperson, said that Issa approached Lofgren about introducing a bill before the August recess, but she "told us the ‘the door was closed," he said, in an email. "So we moved ahead with the rest of our colleagues on a bill we could actually get done before the end of the year."
Moore defended the bill and said "it raises the exemption limits to be more in line with current American salaries in these positions to remove the incentive that has been abused to displace American workers."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.