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Lawyer Group Responds To Controversial YouTube Video

The American Immigration Lawyers Association advises employers to meet the legal requirements when hiring foreign nationals, even if the process is "far from perfect."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association released a statement Friday about practices employers must take before hiring foreign nationals following a controversial YouTube video.

The association is "dedicated to the rule of law and to the good faith application of our laws, and condemns the use of charade or manipulation to achieve regulatory compliance," begins the statement. "The association is committed to the highest standards of excellence and ethics in immigration practice and does its utmost to educate its members about these standards."

On Monday, InformationWeek reported that the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby posted video from a seminar on YouTube that shows attorneys advising clients on how to minimally advertise job postings to best avoid hearing from "qualified and interested" U.S. workers. Federal law requires that an employer make a permanent job posting available to qualified U.S. citizens before hiring a foreign national.

The firm later removed the video, but not before the Programmers Guild, a group of IT professionals critical of U.S. immigration policy, recorded and ran their own, edited version of it on YouTube.

In a statement released Friday, the firm said, "Cohen & Grigsby has a responsibility to ensure that our clients are both fully aware of and compliant with all of the relevant laws governing the employment of international workers. To that point, we stand by the substance of our recent Immigration Law Update Seminar. We regret the choice of words that was used during a small segment of the seminar. It is unfortunate that these statements have been commandeered and misused, which runs contrary to our intent."

Thursday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter to the firm asking for records of people their firm and its clients have hired using H-1B visas, and a letter to U.S. Department of Labor requesting an investigation into the firm's practices.

The association's letter states that to "protect U.S. workers from unfair employment practices and protect foreign workers from exploitation and abuse," employers seeking to hire foreign nationals for a permanent job should include the following steps in the labor certification process (which, by the way, is not a requirement for an H-1B visa):

  • Six different forms of recruitment, including print ads in widely-circulated Sunday newspapers and 30-day job postings with state labor agencies.
  • A requirement that the employer obtain confirmation of the prevailing wage for the position and offer and pay at least that wage.
  • Compliance records that include the employer's review of applicants for the position.
Meanwhile, the association seeks to reassure employers that it understands their pain. "The permanent labor certification process is far from perfect. Its requirements are mechanical, and generally do not reflect how employers ordinarily recruit for positions," the statement reads. "While imperfect, the labor certification requirements provide an important check and balance on employers who seek highly qualified workers to fill important positions in their companies."

The association also criticized a proposed point system being debated in Congress as part of immigration reform that would give immigrants preferential treatment based on such things as English fluency and education, and ultimately employers less flexibility in who they want to hire.

"An employer/employee relationship combined with a strong labor market test is the best protection for all workers, " the statement reads. "Reforms to our immigration system must preserve and protect this important nexus and vital worker protection. De-coupling the immigration process from any grounding in an employer relationship and establishing a 'point system' that would require no proof of a labor shortage in the occupation, as contemplated by the immigration bill currently pending in the U.S. Senate, is an invitation to a disastrous immigration policy."

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