Labor Dept. probe of H-1B video sought

A U.S. senator is among those seeking an inquiry of the YouTube video

WASHINGTON -- That explosive H-1B YouTube video offering advice on how to hire foreign workers instead of Americans has gotten the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa), and Rep. Lamar Smith, (R-Texas), who called it evidence of abuse of the visa program. Both men want a federal investigation and are seeking answers from the law firm that posted the original video on YouTube.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Grassley and Smith characterized the video as "exposing the blatant disregard for American workers and deliberate attempt to bring in cheaper foreign workers through the H-1B program." They want the Labor secretary to review the video and investigate "the law firm's unethical procedures and advice to clients."

In the video, a person identified as Lawrence Lebowitz, an attorney at the firm Cohen & Grigsby PC in Pittsburgh, explains how U.S. companies can avoid hiring U.S. workers. "Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker," said Lebowitz in the video. "And that, in a sense, sounds funny, but it's what we are trying to do here."

Grassley and Smith also wrote Cohen & Grigsby, noting that "your firm's video advises employers how to hire only foreign labor, while making it nearly impossible for a qualified American worker to get the job.... While many companies insist that they are not participating in fraud, many are finding loopholes around government rules and regulations in order to bring in cheaper foreign workers. These loopholes lead to abuse that ultimately displace qualified Americans. The abuse is evident thanks to a video produced by your firm...."

They also noted that the video "advises potential employers that they can fulfill" Labor Department hiring requirements "by advertising the position in places where they will not find the most qualified applicants. Your firm asserts that an employer can advertise in regional publications with limited circulation, while internally listing the job for a foreign worker. We would like you to please explain how this practice does not constitute outright discrimination based on nationality and why your firm so blatantly promotes this type of behavior."

The law firm had taped a seminar on immigration law it held in May and then posted the video on YouTube, possibly for training purposes. The firm has not responded to repeated request for comment this week.

The two letters, dated today, were intially posted online at the University of California, Davis by Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science at the school and one of the longest standing critics of the H-1B program.

Matloff, in an e-mail, said, "this 'YouTube-Gate' incident should be an eye opener for people in the press and in Congress who have been taking the industry lobbyists at face value all these years."

The tape was brought to light by the Programmers Guild, a Summit, N.J.-based professional association after Guild President Kim Berry said he was alerted to it by activists. He made a copy of an excerpt, added in some subtitles to annotate the tape, mixed in some music for dramatic effect and posted the new version on YouTube. "My hope is that this proof on video will open some eyes to this sham," said Berry.

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