WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) -- A bill that will increase the number of temporary foreign workers allowed in the United States has been blasted as a way to take jobs away from U.S. workers.
The I-Squared bill, sponsored by Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, aims to increase the number of foreigners with advanced degrees allowed to work in the United States.
Proponents say it is a necessary measure, keeping U.S.-educated foreigners and their skills in the workforce and filling STEM positions that companies cannot otherwise fill. Opponents say loopholes in the law open up the possibility of abuse and corruption, essentially opening the job market to cheap foreign labor and onshore outsourcing.
The bill would increase the cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 workers each fiscal year to between 115,000 and 300,000.
Revisions to the H-1B visa cap are being criticized as a way to make it more difficult for U.S. workers to compete against foreign workers who come into the country with advanced degrees for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). H1B visas allow United States companies to employ temporary workers in specialty jobs, including STEM.
The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee heard arguments about the bill Tuesday. Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the bill "doesn't close the [program's] loopholes or prevent abuse. It doesn't make sure that American workers are put before foreign workers. It only increases the supply of cheaper foreign labor."
Adding fuel to the fire are the recent layoffs at Southern California Edison utility company to replace Information Technology employees with workers from India. Some 400 employees are being replaced with lower-cost foreign employees.
The bill, dubbed the Immigration Innovation ("I-Squared") bill, was introduced by Sens. Hatch, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., among others.
Flake saidhe has heard the new visa cap is welcome in the corporate world.
"They say they have jobs they advertise for that simply go unfilled," he said.