Amidst a series of legislations seeking to curb H-1B visa abuse being introduced in the US Congress, a former CIA Director has told lawmakers that work- visas are "critically important" and if bright immigrants are denied entry then they could go to other countries like Canada.
"As the Congress takes up a discussion of the H-1B visa limit or not limit or raise the limit or whatever, this will be a big issue there as well. And getting that right is vitally important to certain sectors of our economy, in which we lead the world," Gen (rtd) David Petraeus told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.
"The IT revelation, manufacturing revolution, life sciences and so forth. So it's critically important," Petraeus said in response to a question on reported proposals of the Trump Administration on reforming the current provisions in the US visas.
"I know by the way, if you ever fly into Canada, you'll see signs up there that say — literally say, can't get an H-1B visa? Happy to have you.
"So there is competition, out there. There are other countries that will welcome the best and brightest of the world," he said.
"I still think that our beacon burns brightest. I think this is the place where people wanna go. Even those who criticise our country, typically fight to send their sons and daughters to our universities.
"So I think that's going to continue," Petraeus said.
He was responding to a question from Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.
"As a result of America's values, political pluralism, rule of law, a free and open society, we can recruit the best and the brightest from every corner of the planet, a strategic advantage that none of our competitors can match," Petraeus said.
At a separate Congressional hearing, Scott S Dahl, Inspector General, Office of Inspector General US Department Of Labour, said it is not surprising that OIG investigations have shown the H-1B programme to be susceptible to significant fraud and abuse, particularly by dishonest immigration attorneys, labour brokers, employers, and organised criminal enterprises.
"Our investigations have revealed schemes in which fraudulent applications were filed with DOL on behalf of individuals and fictitious companies, and unscrupulous businesses seeking to acquire foreign workers," he said.
DOL is statutorily required to certify H-1B applications unless it determines them to be "incomplete or obviously inaccurate".
"The victims are often exploited for economic gain. The fear of losing their job and deportation allows employers to force workers to work for far less than the appropriate prevailing wage, and to sometimes house these workers in inadequate conditions. This causes significant harm to US workers as the payment of proper prevailing wages is vital to ensuring that US workers are not displaced by foreign workers," Dahl said.