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Banks sought foreign workers amid layoffs

By cupcake ·
Banks sought foreign workers amid layoffs
By FRANK BASS and RITA BEAMISH
The Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. | Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as Americans were getting laid off, according to The Associated Press.

The dozen banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers during the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

As the economic collapse worsened last year ? with huge numbers of bank employees laid off ? the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP?s analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in the 2007 budget year to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.

The AP reviewed visa applications the banks filed with the Labor Department under the H-1B visa program, which allows temporary employment of foreign workers in specialized-skill and advanced-degree positions. Such visas are most often associated with high-tech workers.

It is unclear how many foreign workers the banks actually hired; the government does not release those details. The actual number is probably a fraction of the 21,800 foreign workers the banks sought to hire because the government grants only 85,000 such visas each year.

During the last three months of 2008, the largest banks that received taxpayer loans announced more than 100,000 layoffs. The number of foreign workers included among those laid off is unknown.

David Huber of Chicago is a computer networking engineer who has testified to Congress about losing out on a 2002 job with the former Bank One Corp. He learned later the bank applied to hire dozens of foreign visa holders for work he said he was qualified to do.

?American citizenship is being undermined working in our own country,? Huber said.

The use of visa workers by ailing banks angers U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

?In this time of very, very high unemployment ? and considering the help these banks are getting from the taxpayers, they?re playing the American taxpayer for a sucker,? Grassley said.

Grassley, with U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, is pushing for legislation to make employers recruit American workers first.

Nearly all the banks the AP contacted declined to comment.

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