By Rob Sanchez
February 11, 2009
The last several days of debate on the Stimulus Bill haven’t been good for American labor. Last week President Obama warned that buying American would be a mistake, and the Senate capitulated by rejecting a “buy American” amendment to the Stimulus Bill requiring that American labor should be considered first before using offshore sources.
Then, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment to the Stimulus Bill that would include E-Verify, which was approved for the House version of the bill to prevent contractors from using illegal aliens instead of American workers. Putting E-Verify in the Stimulus Bill was necessitated when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she strongly supports E-Verify to confirm employees’ identities, and then promptly blocked it from being implemented on a national level.
About the only thing Americans had left to protect their jobs was Amendment SA306 by Senators Barnard Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). SA306 would prevent banks who are receiving TARP bailout money from hiring foreign workers using H-1B visas.
SA306 didn’t get approved by the Senate until late last week, but by then it was watered down so much it was essentially meaningless. The butchering of the amendment began no less than 24 hours after the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued a negative press release that accused SA306 of being fear-based; “protectionism” caused by “jingoistic divisiveness.” Soon after their nasty media attack AILA must have called out their emergency response team to accost the Senate with lobbyists. No time was wasted in modifying the amendment.
SA306 was gutted by a voice vote which means we will never know who participated in this travesty. At first glance the modified bill seems to be an improvement because the sunset provision was increased from 1 to 2 years. The real damage to the amendment is more subtle and difficult to capture.
The original version of SA306 is simply a declaration that banks who receive TARP bailout money will not be allowed to hire H-1B workers. The modified version contains a clause that was tacked onto the amendment using the word “unless.”
In this case “unless” is a mighty big word!
The modification lets banks off the hook for hiring H-1B workers by declaring that banks who receive TARP money are to be classified as “H-1B dependent.” H-1B dependency is a legal term that is used to describe companies that have more than 15% of their employees on H-1B visas. Since the percentage is calculated on total employees, and most people who work at banks are clerks, tellers, and other occupations that aren’t typically H-1B workers, it’s possible that there isn’t a single bank in the USA that is “H-1B dependent.” At first glance the modification appears to restrict banks; but all it does is to require them to jump through a few more hoops in order to hire H-1B workers. SA306 has become a free pass to hire more foreign workers and does nothing to save jobs for Americans.
For banks, hiring an H-1B workers will be slightly easier than sponsoring a foreigner for a permanent green card, which isn’t very difficult at all!
The modified version of SA306 is a smokescreen to confuse the public. One of those who was fooled is David Sirota, the big time political journalist that writes for, among others, The New York Times. He recently wrote a commentary titled “Senate Passes Amendment to Stop Outsourcing Subsidy.” Sirota totally confused the "Buy American" bill and SA306.
Even immigration experts got snookered by the subterfuge. Many analysts totally missed the significance of the dependency clause that was inserted into the amendment.
SA306 is unlikely to get past the Conference committee where the House and Senate will iron out their differences over the Stimulus Bill. Industry lobbyists from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AILA are doing everything they can to kill it. If the amendment gets approved it will give American workers a symbolic victory without saving jobs. Unfortunately, mortgages can’t be paid with checks from symbolic jobs.
Rob Sanchez is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).