Jeff Sessions is sworn in to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to become US attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington, US January 10, 2017. Photograph: (Reuters)
Jeff Sessions characterised the Visa program that many Indians use to work in the US as an 'abuse', and pledged to aggressively investigate
US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the post of attorney general has assured lawmakers of taking steps towards pushing legislative measures to curb misuse of H-1B and L1 work visas significantly used by Indian IT professionals and allegedly replace American workers.
"It's simply wrong to think that we're in a totally open world and that any American with a job can be replaced if somebody in the world is willing to take a job for less pay," Senator Jeff Sessions told members of Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing for the position of US attorney general.
"We have borders. We have a commitment to our citizens and you have been a champion of that. I've been honoured to work with you on it," Sessions said in response to a question from Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the past both Sessions and Grassley have worked together to bring legislations on H-1B visas that badly hit Indian IT companies.
Sessions is a staunch conservative with a controversial history.
Yesterday, Sessions said in a senate hear that allegations that he harboured sympathies toward the Ku Klux Klan, a violent white supremacist organisation, were false. "I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology," Sessions said in his opening remarks. Protesters, some wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods, disrupted the hearing, shouting that Sessions was a racist and a bigot.
Former KKK leader David Duke has openly praised the appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Bannon, Flynn, Sessions -- Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) November 18, 2016
The Office of Special Counsel for immigration related unfair employment practices is an office within the Justice Department which would be headed by Sessions if he is confirmed by the US Senate. The Office enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
"While the office is designed to protect foreign nationals with employment visas from discrimination, it is also charged with ensuring that American workers are not discriminated against in the workplace. Many US workers advocate that the layoff of American workers and the replacement by cheaper, foreign, H-1B workers constitutes de facto nationality based discrimination against American workers," Grassley said.
"The Obama administration has failed to protect American workers here. Will you, this is my question, will you be more aggressive in investigating the abuses of these visa programmes?" he asked. "I believe this has been an abuse. And I have been pleased to support your legislation and some others too, that others have produced that I believe could be helpful. It needs to be addressed," Sessions said.
Describing Sessions as a vocal champion for American workers, Grassley said many American workers are being laid off and replaced by cheaper foreign labour imported through some of the US visa programmes.
Sessions, Grassley and Senator Dick Durbin in the past had co-sponsored a bill that would reform H-1B visa programmes by ensuring that qualified American workers are considered for high skilled job opportunities before those jobs can be offered to foreign nationals.
"It also prohibit a company from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50 per cent of their employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders," he said.