WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Dave Brat (R-VA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) combined forces to introduce the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 Thursday. The proposed legislation seeks to close loopholes of the two visa programs in an effort to better reduce fraud and abuse of the system.

“We have skilled, high-tech professionals here in America. Many are unemployed and carrying the debt of advanced degrees. Some businesses, by ‘in-sourcing’ and exploiting foreign workers, are abusing the visa programs – undercutting our workforce to reap the rewards,” Rep. Pascrell said in a press release. “Abusing the visa system to get cheap labor hurts the American middle class and is something I cannot accept. The critical reforms in this bill will support American workers and create safeguards against the exploitation of visa workers.”

The H-1B program allows for employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens in specialty occupations temporarily. The program is intended to provide companies with specialized workers in instances where their skills or qualifications are not available among U.S. workers. Freshman Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley and whose parents are from India, said being the son of immigrants gives him a special perspective on the matter.

“This legislation will offer reforms that eliminate the abuse of the H1-B visa program. As the son of immigrants, I know that immigrants strengthen our nation and economy. But we cannot allow for companies to underpay foreign workers and use them to replace American workers,” Khanna said. “Instead, we need American companies to invest in our own workforce. The bill will prevent the exploitation of foreign workers while still recognizing the contributions immigrants make to our economy.”

The bill, according to a press release, would restore Congress’s original intent for the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by:

  • Requiring employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before bringing in foreign workers and prohibits employers from replacing American workers with H-1B and L-1 workers or giving preference to H-1B visa holders when they are filling open positions.

  • Modifying existing H-1B wage requirements, and establishes wage requirements for L-1 workers.

  • Prohibiting employers from outsourcing H-1B and L-1 visa holders to other sites unless the employer obtains a waiver which is available only in limited circumstances when the rights of American workers are protected.

  • Giving more authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate fraud and abuse in the H-1B and L-1 programs by requiring the two departments to audit employers and share information, ensuring visa petitions are more effectively scrutinized.

  • Prohibiting companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.

  • Creating a new H-1B visa allocation system that gives top priority to workers who have earned advanced science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions.

  • Increasing penalties on those who violate the law, and provides visa holders with a list of rights before they enter the U.S. to ensure they are better protected against mistreatment or underpayment of wages.