DHS Comforts the Comfortable with "Known Employer" Initiative

By David North on March 8, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security, under the guise of governmental efficiency, has made another move to comfort the most comfortable among us in its new "Known Employer" gambit.

It has chosen five (apparently) model employers and will make it much easier for them to hire foreign workers in the next year. If this pilot program works as planned it will be open to many more employers in the future.

Why not focus all of the executive and legal hours spent on this initiative instead on using them to figure out a model way to prevent exploitation of foreign and domestic workers among the, say, bottom 5 percent of the employers of alien workers?

The answer is that this allegedly Democratic administration is more interested in helping the 1 percent at the top of the economic pile make more money out of immigration than it is in helping either exploited foreign workers, or the American ones they displace. It prefers to ignore the afflicted while comforting fat-cat employers.

The Details. The elite (pilot) employers, and the number of H-1Bs they applied for in the years 2011-2014 are:

  • Citigroup, Inc.: 2,618;

  • Ernst & Young LLP, one of the big four accounting firms: 10,328;

  • Kiewit Corporation, a large construction firm with ties to Warren Buffet: 37;

  • Schaeffler Group USA, Inc., a German-owned manufacturing firm: 94; and

  • Siemens Corporation, founded some years ago in the Kingdom of Prussia, is in the health and engineering fields: 259.

These firms were presumably selected very carefully and are far from a random sample of the foreign-worker-using corporations. Four of them, all but Schaeffler, have a record of hiring significant numbers of green card holders as well as the H-1Bs. The average H-1B salary figures on Myvisajobs.com for 2015 were between $92,297 (E&Y) and $109,327 (Citi) for four of them, with Schaeffler again being the outlier at $73,629.

The immigration categories covered by the pilot plan include the rarely used (outside of academia) group of outstanding professors or researchers and the more common multi-national executives, both in the first of the employment-based green-card categories (EB-1). More significant numerically are nonimmigrant programs: the H-1B category for college grads; L-1A and L-1B, for managers and professionals working for multi-national firms; and TN, for Canadians and Mexican H-1B types under NAFTA.

The expedited handling of applications for all of these categories for the pilot firms will mean, among other things, according to DHS:

A USCIS officer will not need to review those approved employer eligibility requirements unless the facts have changed since the time USCIS made its predetermination or there are indications of fraud or material misrepresentation.

That's probably not an unreasonable posture, but it will simply make it easier, faster, and perhaps less expensive for the elite firms to hire foreign workers, all of which is the wrong emphasis as far as I am concerned.

Aussies, Chileans, and Singaporeans Discriminated Against. Meanwhile, in the administration's haste to help these elite U.S. employers it managed to issue a sloppy document that might easily be regarded as discriminating against some of the nation's best friends, people from Australia, Chile, and Singapore. Or the new edict might cast some doubts about the government's knowledge of its own immigration programs.

There are special rules handling the admission of H-1B-type aliens from these three countries, and special visa categories; with the Australians the visa code is E-3; and workers from Chile and Singapore are H-1B1s. Yet DHS's detailed paper on this subject says (our emphasis): "The following employment-based nonimmigrant classifications are the only ones included in the Known Employer program: H1-B, L-1A, L-1B, and TN."

In short, if one of the five employers wants to hire a skilled worker from one of these three countries, they will have to do it in the old-fashioned way.

John Kerry has enough on his plate without DHS dissing these three friendly nations.

Or maybe a correction is on the horizon.