One of the top users of foreign workers imported via the H-1B visa program announced Tuesday it’s laying off about ten percent of its global workforce.
Tech giant Intel is laying off some 12,000 workers, although it’s one of the country’s 15 largest users of H-1Bs, which are temporary visas that allow companies to hire foreign workers for American tech jobs. The big-time layoffs come even as the company has called for hikes in the number of foreign workers it is able to hire using H-1B visas.
The chip-making giant said the mass firings are part of a “restructuring initiative” that will further its shift away from the PC business toward smart devices and cloud-based computing.
But the firings stand out in light of Intel’s lobbying to expand the H-1B visa program. In 2013, the company’s government affairs managers complained that Intel simply can’t find enough homegrown workers in technical fields to meet its needs. And in 2014, the company called for allowing the spouses and children of H-1B recipients to automatically qualify for work in the U.S. as well.
Critics accuse Intel and other tech companies of exploiting the visas to drive down labor costs in Silicon Valley, while depriving qualified U.S. workers of jobs. Notably, Intel was also a defendant in a class-action lawsuit that accused several major tech companies, including Apple and Google, of colluding to keep wages low. That suit was settled for over $400 million in 2015.
In 2015, Microsoft, HP, and Qualcomm all made big layoffs despite lobbying for an increase in H-1Bs. Intel itself also had a smaller layoff wave in 2015, which provoked a denunciation from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.
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