Federal indictments were served against tech executives in the Bay Area of California for scheming to bring foreign workers into the United States using fraudulent paperwork. Unsealed federal grand jury indictments name Jayavel Murugan, CEO of Dynasoft Synergy, and Syed Nawaz of Santa Clara as having filed false paperwork with the U.S. government in an effort to import foreign workers to then supply to American corporations. Dynasoft operates in the Bay Area and has an office in India.
The charges against the men include conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and 26 counts of visa fraud. Penalties for each charge range from two to 20 years in prison.
Murugan and Nawaz filed applications for H1-B visas, which grant temporary status to foreign workers in certain specialty occupations. The plan was to create a pool of tech workers to hire out to companies in the United States. Prosecutors charge that between 2010 and 2016 Dynasoft, co-founded by Murugan, advertised workers to Stanford University, Cisco, and Brocade, but these companies did not intend to hire the workers. To the government, Nawaz submitted fake “end-client letters” that gave the false impression that workers were on the job.
This is just one case of immigrant worker fraud. There is a vast amount of fraud leveled at our immigration system. Beyond obvious illegal fraud, the legal H1-B visa system itself is highly controversial and unpopular. Each year around 85,000 H1-B visas are sought by U.S. corporations, tech companies and foreign employment firms. Polls show that large numbers of Americans view the program as harmful, and a majority of Americans want the program reduced or kept at current levels.
According to Sara Blackwell, an attorney who represents American workers victimized by abuse of H1-B visas, fraud is widespread in the system. “Fraud is very rampant in the visa process,” she said. “The legitimate H-1B visa program is awful enough. I see fraud … I hear about it constantly. It’s very, very common.”
Those who object to the existence of the program altogether argue that all or most of those jobs going to foreign workers could be done by Americans. The appeal of hiring the H1-B workers for companies is that these foreigners will work longer hours for lower pay. The justification offered by the hiring companies is that they need the workers for their technical skills. According to Blackwell, “The big CEOs literally say that it’s cheap labor.”
A report by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, San Diego claims that, had the H1-B visa system never been introduced, there would be 11 percent higher job availability in computer science and 5 percent higher wages.
The New York Times reported that major companies such as IBM, Disney, Microsoft, and Facebook have petitioned the federal government to raise the cap on numbers of H1-B workers allowed into the country each year. This would have the effect of putting more Americans out of work. The same article also explains how large companies are gaming the H1-B lottery system, so that genuinely qualified workers with real skills are not able to be brought in by smaller companies. Meanwhile, large companies get their force of cheap labor.
There have been rumors of a coming Trump executive order on work visa reform, but so far it has not been forthcoming. It was a winning issue for Trump during the campaign, during which he included a promise to reform the H1-B visa system on his website.However, in one of the primary debates he displayed some confusion over the issue. American workers and patriots are hoping the President understands the importance of the issue and will deliver.
Steve Bannon, advisor to the President and former chief executive of Breitbart, which regularly runs articles critical of the H1-B visa system, surely has a grasp of the problem. As the Trump administration’s agenda rolls on, it is likely there will be action on H1-B visas, but the pressure from tech companies to expand the program should not be underestimated.
There have been horror stories of American workers being forced to train their foreign replacements. These Americans are not replaced because they lack the skills to do their jobs, but purely because the companies want to save money on labor, and the government allows them to do so through the H1-B visa system. This may be good for the company’s bottom line, but this humiliation of skilled American workers hurts our morale as a nation, and goes against the spirit of the “economic nationalism” championed by Steve Bannon and President Trump.
For lower skill jobs in tech, in cases when it makes sense to get an employee who doesn’t demand a high wage, it is still questionable whether importing foreigners is the best option. These jobs could just as easily be filled by talented high school graduates. These jobs are actually ideal for young aspiring tech workers who want experience. With a bit of on the job training, young Americans can do the work that these foreigners are being brought in to do. And for the more advanced work, it is absurd that there aren’t Americans equally or more qualified than people in India or Pakistan. If there really is a shortage of skilled labor, we should be considering training our own people over importing foreigners.
This is not to say that there is never a time to bring in a talented foreign worker. In some instances it could be genuinely beneficial to our economy and culture, but the numbers of visas needs to be cut and the fraud and abuse eliminated. The ultimate standard for evaluating any such program is the effect it has on the American worker and America as a whole.
Fraudsters such as Murugan and Nawaz need to be stopped and punished as a warning to others. It is encouraging to see one more immigration scam brought down by law enforcement.