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IEEE-USA Seeks Crackdown On H-1B Abuses

The group wants the government to give the Labor Department the authority to investigate complaints and to enact an auditing program to make sure foreign workers aren't exploited.
WASHINGTON — The Labor Department should have broader authority to investigate employer abuses of a U.S. high-tech visa program, an engineering group said.

IEEE-USA said Wednesday (Aug. 23) that several government reports have documented employer abuses of the H-1B visa program. However, the Labor Department lacks the enforcement authority to investigate claims of abuse.

"Many H-1B holders are treated like indentured servants," IEEE-USA Vice President Ron Hira said in a statement. "Before Congress considers raising the H-1B cap, it should give the Labor Department broader enforcement authority to investigate claims of workplace and wage abuse."

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report cited by the group, penalties for payment of back wages to H-1B visa holders increased five-fold from 2000 to 2005 to $5.2 million for 604 workers.

Hira claimed the reports show that promised payments to H-1B holders are often much higher than actual wages. "Congress should enact an auditing system for the H-1B program to improve the program's integrity and ensure foreign workers are not exploited," Hira said.

High-tech groups have been lobbying Congress to raise the H-1B visa cap. This year's allotment of 65,000 visas was reached on May 26, according to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Stalled immigration legislation approved by the Senate in May would raise the annual H-1B visa cap to 115,000 per fiscal year.