Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were getting laid off, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.
As the economic collapse worsened last year—with huge numbers of bank employees laid off —the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in the 2007 budget year to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.
During the last three months of 2008, the largest banks that received taxpayer loans announced more than 100,000 layoffs. The number of foreign workers included among those laid off is unknown. Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.
"The system provides you perfectly legal mechanisms to underpay the workers," said John Miano of Summit, N.J., a lawyer who has analyzed the wage data and started the Programmers Guild, an advocacy group that opposes the H-1B system.
David Huber of Chicago is a computer networking engineer who has testified to Congress about losing out on a 2002 job with the former Bank One Corp. He learned later the bank applied to hire dozens of foreign visa holders for work he said he was qualified to do. "American citizenship is being undermined working in our own country," Huber said in an AP interview.Beyond seeking approval for visas from the government, banks that accepted federal bailout money also enlisted uncounted foreign workers, often in technology jobs, through intermediary companies known as "body shops." Such businesses are the top recipients of the H-1B visas.
The use of visa workers by ailing banks angers Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "In this time of very, very high unemployment ... and considering the help these banks are getting from the taxpayers, they're playing the American taxpayer for a sucker," Grassley said in a telephone interview with AP.Add to Technorati Favorites