All the country's visas for high-skilled workers were snatched up in the first week yet again this year, the government reported Thursday, signaling that companies' voracious appetites for cheap foreign workers remains unabated despite intense criticism on the presidential campaign trail.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it received more than enough applications to claim the 85,000 visas available under the H-1B program this year and will once again hold a lottery to award the coveted permits.
Technology companies, desperate for the workers, said reaching the cap just days after the April 1 application period began should spur Congress to more than double the limit. They lamented the "absurdity" of leaving tens of thousands of willing workers without a path into the U.S.
But tech employees and those seeking stricter immigration limits say the H-1B program has become a chief way to undercut Americans' wages. They point to several high-profile cases in which U.S. workers were fired and, in some cases, even forced to train their foreign replacements.
"It's very disappointing for someone like me, an American who's been affected. And not only me, but hundreds here in Florida," said Leo Perrero, a former tech worker at Disney who trained his replacement and earlier this year filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Disney of colluding to displace Americans.
The fight has spilled into the presidential election, where Republican front-runner Donald Trump has vowed to do away with the program, saying the U.S. produces twice as many science and technology graduates as there are jobs to be filled.
"These American students are being passed over for lower-wage guest workers," said Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser to the Trump campaign. "Today's news is just more evidence that we need to reform our visa programs — especially the widely abused H-1B — to ensure that jobs and wages go to Americans first."
The H-1B program was designed to bring in high-skilled workers. The lawmakers who created it figured only those with unmatched skills would take advantage, so they didn't bother to build in wage protections, said John Miano, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and co-author, along with Michelle Malkin, of the book "Sold Out," which takes a critical look at how companies use H-1B visas.
Mr. Miano said the result is that American companies have spotted a way to reduce their costs by importing workers — primarily computer programmers from India. ... Read the full story by Stephen Dinan.