Outraged over recent revelations that an American law firm is coaching employers on how to avoid hiring Americans in the United States, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is demanding that the Department of Labor investigate the law firm.
The release of a YouTube video showing attorneys for the Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grigsby law firm coaching employers on how to circumvent the law to obtain visas for foreign employees has sparked considerable outrage nationally, and Senator Grassley wants Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to examine the firm's tactics.
Specifically, the video shows attorneys for Cohen & Grigsby, one of the largest law firms in Pittsburgh, explaining at a conference on immigration how to obey laws that require Americans be given top priority for jobs while still ensuring foreigners are hired. The video shows Lawrence Lebowitz, the law firm's vice president of marketing telling an audience, "The goal here of course is to meet the requirements, number one, but also do so as inexpensively as possible, keeping in mind our goal. And our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker", back in May.
Senator Grassley, who's also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, additionally sent a letter to Cohen & Grigsby, demanding to know how many visa petitions have been filed by the firm in the past five years. He denounced the firm's tactics as discrimination.
Initially, Cohen & Grigsby placed footage from the conference on YouTube, but when the story broke, they pulled it. Alas, too late - the Programmers Guild, a group that opposes current immigration laws, captured the main video, edited it, added background music and uploaded its version to the video-sharing site. However, Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild, takes issue with the law rather than with the lawyers. "The attorneys aren't doing anything illegal. There is something wrong with the law", said Berry.
Click HERE to view the Programmers Guild's revised YouTube video.
Cohen & Grigsby said in a statement that it stood by the substance of the talk, but regretted "the choice of words that was used during a small segment of the seminar." The firm added that its statements had been "commandeered and misused".
Here is a copy of the letter Senator Grassley sent to Secretary Chao:
June 21, 2007
Cohen & Grigsby
11 Stanwix Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1319
To Whom It May Concern:
As members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, we have a responsibility to oversee and evaluate our country’s visa programs. We have become increasingly concerned about fraud and abuse of the H-1B program, and the impact of this program on American workers.
While many companies insist that they are not participating in fraud, many are finding loopholes around government rules and regulations in order to bring in cheaper foreign workers. These loopholes lead to abuse that ultimately displace qualified Americans. The abuse is evident thanks to a video produced by your firm during the Seventh Annual Immigration Law Update Seminar conducted in May 2007 in Pittsburgh.
In the video, Lawrence Lebowitz, director of marketing for your firm clearly states that an employer’s goal is “to meet the requirements…as inexpensively as possible, keeping in mind our goal. And our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. In a sense that sounds funny, but it’s what we’re trying to do here.” In fact, Mr. Lebowitz states that other members of his team will help employers bypass Americans. The video provides evidence of how your firm recommends employers accomplish this.
The spirit of the H-1B visa program was intended to bring temporary workers to our country to fill a void in the high tech sector, and to enhance the United States’ position in the global marketplace. The video made by your firm advises potential employers that they can fulfill Department of Labor PERM certification requirements by advertising the position in places where they will not find the most qualified applicants. Your firm asserts that an employer can advertise in regional publications with limited circulation, while internally listing the job for a foreign worker. We would like you to please explain how this practice does not constitute outright discrimination based on nationality and why your firm so blatantly promotes this type of behavior.
When applications are received, firm members Jennifer Pack and Jennifer Barton tell employers how they can disqualify U.S. applicants based on their resume or by personal interview when the resume lists all requirements of the job posting. Very qualified applicants are brought in for an interview for the sole purpose of finding a basis to disqualify them. Why does your firm undermine the recruitment effort by coaching potential employers to “find a legal basis to disqualify Americans” to hire a foreign worker?
In addition to explaining the video, we respectfully request that your firm provide us with the number of H-1B visa holders who have been petitioned for or hired by your firm in the past five years. We would also appreciate knowing exactly how many and the names of your clients who have been assisted by your firm to bring in H-1B workers.
The H-1B positions are available in limited quantity each year and the PERM certification process was created to fill positions where no qualified U.S. worker is available. Your firm’s video advises employers how to hire only foreign labor, while making it nearly impossible for a qualified American worker to get the job. We look forward to hearing from you on how such advice is ethical and does not undermine the programs by enticing fraud and misuse.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator
United States Representative
Both Senator Grassley and Representative Smith (R-TX) are longtime proponents of comprehensive immigration reform and staunch opponents of amnesty for illegals.
Also visit the Programmers Guild blog to find out how fake job ads are being used to weed out American applicants for many of these jobs.
Commentary: Senator Grassley's interest in and action on this issue is gratifying. Too bad more lawmakers weren't asked to co-sign the letter. In particular, as an Alaskan, I am outraged that neither Senators Ted Stevens or Lisa Murkowski, nor Representative Don Young got involved in this issue.
Kim Berry is correct in highlighting problems with the law. But to excuse the lack of patriotism on the part of the lawyers simply because "they are not doing anything illegal" is Talmudic-style legalism. The lawyers are coaching people on how to deliberately screw American citizens on American soil. If that is not playing the role of an accessory to treason before the fact, even only in concept, I don't know what is.