A Loophole for Busting High-tech Wages

Once again, we're offered a sterling example of the incredible ingenuity of big American corporations -- outfits that never cease to amaze with their clever ability to stiff their own employees.

Their latest ingenious gimmick is an obscure provision in our nation's immigration laws. It's called the L-1 Visa, and apparently the "L" stands for Loophole. It's certainly a big one, allowing such corporations as Cigna, General Electric, and Merrill Lynch, to import low-wage technology workers from India to replace their American employees.

The L-1 Visa was meant to allow U.S. corporations to transfer a few of their own foreign employees from an overseas branch into company offices here. But now, these corporations are driving an immigration truck right through this L-1 loophole, having already used it to bring some 325,000 computer engineers, programmers, and other high-tech employees from abroad, mostly from India.

Here's how the game is played: The foreign workers are hired wholesale by Indian-based recruitment firms that then ship them to their U.S. branches, claiming that they are L-1 transfers. Once here, these workers are contracted to American corporations. The gimmick is that, technically, the immigrants are still employed by the Indian firms - but the bottom line is that major U.S. corporations have been able to smuggle in foreign workers and pay them a third to a half less than the Americans they replace.

The L-1 Visa does not require that imported tech workers be paid the prevailing wage, nor is there a limit on how many can be brought in. Not only does this loophole allow Americans to be displaced, but it's also common for the corporations to require their American employees to train the foreign workers who will be given their jobs.

To help stop this wage-busting ripoff, Call Rep. John Mica: 202-225-4035.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.