A Florida senator has called for on an investigation into potential misuses of a controversial visa program used by Walt Disney Co. and other companies that employ immigrants to fill engineering and tech positions.
The request by Sen. Bill Nelson followed a report by the New York Times this week that the Burbank entertainment and media company laid off 250 employees in Orlando last year and had them train inexpensive replacements brought in through the H-1B visa program.
The replacements were immigrants hired by an outsourcing company based in India, the Times reported.
Nelson sent a letter on Thursday to Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson asking the department to examine potential misuses in the visa program, the Times story said.
Disney had no comment on Nelson’s request.
The H-1B visa program allows up to 85,000 temporary visas for foreigners with engineering, computer and other advanced technical skills to fill jobs when companies cannot find American workers to fill the positions.
Technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have pressed to increase the number of visas issued, claiming there are not enough workers in the U.S. with the skills they need. But critics say it is a way for U.S. employers to hire workers at a wage rate less than what they would pay American workers.
In the case of Disney, the 250 employees at Walt Disney World monitored the computer systems tracking ticket sales, store purchases and hotel reservations. The Times spoke with some of the employees on condition of anonymity who told of having to train young Indian immigrants as their replacements.
Some of these former Disney employees described their replacements as having limited data skill and not fluent in English, the Times reported.
Disney’s actions are not the only ones drawing the attention of lawmakers.
Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin have asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the use of the H-1B program by Southern California Edison after the power utility last year laid off up to 540 workers and replaced them with Indian immigrants, the Times reported.
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