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Lawmakers Request Investigation Into YouTube Video

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Lamar Smith ask the Labor Department to look into a video they say documents H-1B abuse by companies.

Sen, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, both proponents of immigration reform, requested Thursday that the U.S. Department of Labor investigate a law firm that published a YouTube video showing attorneys advising clients on how to avoid hiring U.S. workers.

InformationWeek obtained a copy of a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, dated Thursday, about video from a May 15 seminar on immigration law posted by the firm of Cohen & Grigsby. The video exposes "the blatant disregard for American workers and deliberate attempt to bring in cheaper foreign workers through the H-1B program. ... We seek your assistance in this particular case by reviewing the video and investigating the law firm's unethical procedures and advice to clients," the lawmakers write.

The letter also cites concern over how much effort Chao's department has put forth in monitoring fraud of the H-1B visa program. Details requested included amount of money earmarked for fraud monitoring, how much has been used, how the remaining amount will be spent, the number of complaints about the H-1B program received, and how many investigations into these complaints have been open and closed.

In a separate letter to Cohen & Grigsby, the politicians thank the law firm for providing video that documents abuse of loopholes in immigration law. They request that the firm provide them with the number of H-1B visa holders who have been petitioned for or hired by the firm in the past five years and add that they would "also appreciate knowing" the number and names of clients assisted by the firm in bringing in H-1B workers.

While the lawmakers write extensively about H-1B visa abuse and fraud in their letters, the Grigsby & Cohen video was about expediting the labor certification process for getting a green card for a permanent job. The labor certification process isn't required for H-1B visas. However, some employers start the labor certification process toward green cards for foreign nationals while they're working here on H-1B visas.

In the video, originally posted by the firm for its clients on YouTube, an attorney is shown advising seminar attendees on how to meet the minimum requirements of advertising a job to U.S. candidates so that a foreign worker can more easily be hired. Federal law requires that an employer prove there are no qualified U.S. citizens for a permanent job before offered to a noncitizen.

A panel of lawyers is shown discussing an electronic labor certification process known as Program Electronic Review Management. PERM requires that an employer post a job in at least three places and allow 30 days for job candidates to respond and for the employer to review resumés. If no interested and qualified U.S. workers respond, an employer can instantly and electronically apply for a foreign worker's labor certification.

In the video, attorney Jennifer Pack advises attendees that posting the job at an employer's Web site and with a local newspaper is usually enough to fill the minimum requirement, if the newspaper also posts the job online.

Another attorney, Lawrence Lebowitz, adds, "We're going to try to find a place [to advertise] where we are complying with the law and hoping, and likely, not to find qualified and interested worker applicants." Earlier, Pack mentions less desirable methods that are more likely to pull in qualified and interested workers, including job fairs, online job sites like Monster.com, campus recruitments, and job placement firms.

Lebowitz refused a request for an interview about the video. The firm removed the video from YouTube on Monday afternoon after the Programmers Guild, an organization of IT professionals critical of U.S. immigration policies, lambasted it. But the Programmers Guild made its own copy of the video before it was removed and continues to run it on YouTube.

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