Hundreds of Indian H-1B visa holders are being hired to replace highly paid information technology workers at Southern California Edison (SCE), the largest utility in Southern California, even though there is already a surplus of skilled U.S. IT workers.
In all, some 400 IT employees are expected to be laid off, potentially illegally, and replaced by less-skilled, but cheaper, H-1B visa holders from India, reported Computer World. The U.S. workers then often have to train their replacements. About 100 more employees are leaving voluntarily.
"They are bringing in people with a couple of years' experience to replace us and then we have to train them," one longtime IT worker told Computer World. "It's demoralizing and in a way I kind of felt betrayed by the company."
SCE has confirmed the layoffs along with the hiring of Infosys out of Bangalore, India, and Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, two of the largest H-1B users.
In 2012, before any layoffs at SCE, nearly 1,800 employees worked there, along with 1,500 contract workers.
A data analysis found that outsourcing to H-1B workers costs employers less, and the majority of those H-1B workers employed by offshore companies are less likely to become permanent residents.
Four SCE IT employees spoke with Computer World under the condition that their names not be used.
One of those employees said the H1-B program "was supposed to be for projects and jobs that American workers could not fill. But we're doing our job. It's not like they are bringing in these guys for new positions that nobody can fill."
"Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn't already performing."
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at Howard University, suggested that replacing U.S. workers with H-1B workers could even be against the law.
He pointed to a part of the application process, specifically Form 9035CP of the LCA, that requires an employer to attest to the following: "Working Conditions: The employer attests that H-1B, H-1B1 or E-3 foreign workers in the named occupation will not adversely affect the working conditions of workers similarly employed."
The Labor Department also requires that "the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed."
Hira believes that the SCE case is a clear example of where the hiring of the H-1B worker is "adversely affecting the wages and working conditions of American workers," he said. "There isn't a clearer cut case of adverse impacts - the American worker is losing his job to an H-1B."
And when these IT workers protest and complain about the H-1B workers, their protests are drowned out by the lobbying efforts of large tech companies calling for increased H-1B visas per year.
A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a bill in January that would actually increase the number of guest worker visas allocated to the tech industry.
Titled the Immigration Innovation Act, the bill is in response to lobbying efforts by Silicon Valley firms, who say that current laws prevent them from hiring enough high-skilled foreign computer science workers.
Current law limits the number of high-skilled foreign worker H-1B visas to 65,000 per year, but tech companies have long lobbied Congress to increase that number, and the newly introduced bill would raise it to 115,000, according to The Hill.
However, multiple studies have shown that there is already a surplus of qualified U.S. workers to fill these positions.
A Center for Immigration Studies report released in May 2014 found that from 2007-2012, employment in the science, technology, engineering and math fields "averaged only 105,000 jobs annually," while about 129,000 immigrants currently live in the U.S. and hold degrees in one of those fields, Breitbart reported.
CBS News reported in July of last year, citing statistics from an American Community Survey, that "only about half of engineering, computer, math and statistics majors in the U.S. had jobs in their chosen field."
Even President Barack Obama has expressed skepticism at tech companies that claim there is a shortage of American workers.
"I'm generally skeptical when you hear employers say, 'oh we just can't find any Americans to do the job,'" Obama said last December at an immigration event in Nashville. "A lot of times what they really mean is that it's a lot cheaper to potentially hire somebody who has just come here before they know better..."