We all know how nicely the Bush and Obama Administrations treated JPMorgan and the other big Wall Street banks.
But the fact that JPMorgan has a cushy relationship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may not be as well known.
In fact, JPMorgan and the international trade in workers might be called a "three-fer":
1) The firm has shipped thousands of what had been American jobs overseas, but despite this
2) It is paid millions a year by USCIS to handle applications from would-be foreign workers and other aliens seeking immigration benefits, and
3) It routinely gets more than 100 new H-1B workers, who displace American workers and lower the wages, generally, in the high-tech fields.
What I have done here is to link four separate matters in a way that the government, sadly, does not. The financial bailout, the firing of Americans to move jobs overseas, the contract with USCIS, and the H-1B decisions are all handled separately by parts of the government that do not want to see anything beyond the little piece of public policy that is their domain.
You might call it government-by-blinkers.
According to one calculation, JPMorgan received $94.7 billion in taxpayer funds through TARP and other bailout programs, some portion of which has been paid back. It was the government that gave JPMorgan control of the bankrupt Bear Stearns firm for a song; and it was the government that found itself in a situation where it could not – despite the bailouts – control the payment of enormous bonuses to the top brass.
As to shipping jobs overseas, perhaps the most outrageous example was when JPMorgan got the contract to help the State of Florida run its Food Stamp program. According to one news story, despite extensive unemployment in Florida, including, of course, Food Stamp users, JPMorgan decided that the 800-number call center for the program should be located in India. That's one of many instances in which similar activities have been sent overseas by the firm.
Meanwhile, one of the services provided by a wing of JPMorgan is the opening of incoming mail, reading it electronically, and then helping with the process of deciding what to do with the mail – deposit the checks, mail other checks, and format the incoming into packages for decision-makers. Within the USCIS context this involves the operation of "lockboxes"; these entities handle the first stages of a process when an alien or an employer applies for a benefit, like a green card, or permission to hire a foreign worker.
JPMorgan now operates all three of the USCIS lockboxes – in Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix – and the firm was selected to do this by the Department of Treasury, according to this USCIS document; just why Treasury is making procurement decisions for DHS was not explained. These are multi-million-dollar contracts, but just how many millions I do not know at the moment, though I have a question pending with USCIS on the subject.
Once upon a time applications for these benefits were received by government workers in government offices, often in the course of face-to-face meetings between the applicant and a federal worker. Often the clerk was helpful to the applicant; at other times the INS or USCIS worker would detect an improper application, and it would be withdrawn.
None of that happens anymore, and an illegal alien, such as a Haitian seeking temporary protected status (TPS) will rarely ever see a human being. A JPMorgan computer and, later, a distant adjudicator will make the decision with nary a word being spoken.
JPMorgan is also a major user of H-1B foreign workers; one list of the top 100 users shows the firm in 2009-2010 hiring 110 new H-1B workers, making them 59th in the nation. Just above them on the list is an old corporate cousin of theirs, Morgan Stanley and Co., with 114 new hires. Another H-1B listing, which includes both old and new hires, shows JPMorgan with 313 of them.
Thus while JPMorgan has many contacts with, and contracts with, the U.S. government, it does not seem to be missing any of the action on the immigration front.
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