H-1B video shocker: 'Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified ... U.S. worker'

Programmer group posts video of law firm's hiring advice on YouTube

The high-tech industry can tap big names, such as Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, to argue that the U.S. needs more foreign workers with IT skills. But opponents of the H-1B visa program have a weapon that may prove just as effective: YouTube.

The Programmers Guild, a professional organization in Summit, N.J., has posted a video (see below) on YouTube LLC's Web site featuring excerpts from a series of videos that had been posted previously by Pittsburgh-based law firm Cohen & Grigsby PC. The law firm's videos were recorded May 15 during a seminar and apparently were intended to provide free legal tips to hiring managers and other viewers.

But the video put together by the Programmers Guild is providing explosive material for H-1B critics.

In the video, a person identified as Lawrence Lebowitz, an attorney at Cohen & Grigsby, explains a method that can be used for hiring foreign workers under the U.S. government's Program Electronic Review Management process. PERM stipulates requirements for placing help-wanted ads to fill job vacancies, with the intent of either hiring U.S. workers or showing that no qualified Americans are available.

The YouTube video put together by the Programmers Guild.

However, Lebowitz focuses only on the latter in the video. "Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker," he said. "And that, in a sense, sounds funny, but it's what we are trying to do here."

He added that while "complying with the law fully," the objective is to get a prospective foreign worker a green card "and to get through the labor certification process." He and other panelists go on to explain the ways in which employers can legally reject applicants to meet that goal.

Lebowitz didn't answer calls to his office seeking comment on the matter, and a receptionist at Cohen & Grigsby referred calls to a public relations representative, who didn't return them.

The Programmers Guild has added subtitled commentary and some music to the video to help dramatize key points. For instance, in one subtitle, the text asks: "If there were a 'shortage of U.S. workers,' would employers need to hire these immigration attorneys to help them avoid finding qualified candidates?"

But John Miano, the group's founder and treasurer, said via e-mail that he wasn't surprised by what he saw. "There is nothing new here," he wrote. "We've known this has been going on for years. There have been printed accounts in the past, but the video makes the point much better."

Miano added that he hopes people take away the message that "worker protections in the [H-1B] law are a joke. Here we see how blatant people are about getting around them."

Last year, the Programmers Guild filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice against hundreds of IT employers that it claimed were discriminating against U.S. citizens and permanent residents by placing help wanted ads that specifically seek "H-1B only" visa holders or workers who have student or L-1 visas.

The YouTube video put together by the Programmers Guild.

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