June 25, 2008, - 10:56 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Yet another story that puts the lie to the claims about the “work Americans won’t do” and the Wall Street Journal’s whines that we need for H1-B visas for “skilled” foreigners.
It’s not news that law firms across America are specializing in advising and helping U.S. corporations to avoid hiring qualified Americans. Last year, I told you about a seminar hosted by the law firm of Cohen and Grigsby, in which they shamelessly engaged in exactly that. (Video reposted below.)
What is news is that the government–it appears–is finally doing something about it. Not Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but the Department of Labor.
It is now investigating the nation’s largest immigration law firm over allegations that it helped major U.S. corporations disqualify American job applicants and give thousands of high-paying positions to immigrants. (Obviously, the jobs become far less “high-paying” when they don’t go to Americans.)
The unprecedented Labor Department inquiry centers on Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy – a New York firm at the forefront of a political effort to ease hiring of skilled foreign workers.
The Labor Department is auditing all pending applications for legal immigrant workers the firm has filed on behalf of its corporate clients.
Fragomen’s prestigious client roster includes General Electric Co., IBM Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp. and Bank of America Corp., according to company publications and trade journals. The firm also represents The Associated Press on immigration issues.
The inquiry focuses on what advice the law firm gave its corporate clients. There was no indication the companies themselves are under scrutiny. [DS: Gee, why not?]
The Labor Department said that Fragomen may have improperly advised clients to contact a Fragomen attorney before hiring “apparently qualified” U.S. workers. The agency said lawyers can advise employers on how to follow the law in hiring immigrants but can’t dissuade them from deciding a U.S. worker is qualified.
The audit focuses on what is known as the permanent foreign labor certification, or PERM, process. Companies normally use it to permanently hire legal immigrants who have been working for them on temporary visas. It essentially allows companies to sponsor workers for green cards, the first step to U.S. citizenship.
Before applying, companies must recruit and try to find a qualified U.S. worker for the same job. If they do, they can’t hire the foreigner. . . .
With more than 200 attorneys, Fragomen is overwhelmingly the biggest player in an industry where firms with several dozen immigration attorneys are considered large firms.
In 2004, the last year the Labor Department made such information about law firms public, Fragomen lawyers filed more than 3,600 labor certifications – more than twice as many as its largest competitor.
The firm’s managing director has also said Fragomen represents about half of the Fortune 100 companies. Last year, Fortune 100 companies submitted more than 5,300 applications. The jobs listed in the applications pay an average of $80,000. And the largest group of applicants were from India.
Sadly, many law firms are engaging in this illicit advice and helping businesses take jobs away from Americans. Unless the government goes after both this law firm and all of the companies engaging in these practices, they will continue.
Video: The Law Firm of Cohen and Grigsby a/k/a “Dewey, ScrewAmerica, and Howe”:
Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. And in a sense that sounds funny. But it’s, uh, what were trying to do here.