Wright State mentioned in Senate testimony on H-1B visas

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The H1B temporary work visa program took center stage in a GOP Debate as candidates advocated for reform. I-Team reporter Josh Sweigart investigates. Look for the story later this week on MyDaytonDailyNews.com.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Editor’s note: The I-Team is investigating how the controversial H-1B visa program works in Ohio. Look for more coverage online and in print later this week.

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Wright State University was cited in recent testimony to a U.S. Senate subcommittee as an example for the need to reform the federal H-1B visa program.

Two experts who testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest on Feb. 25 referenced an ongoing federal criminal investigation into WSU’s use of the H-1B visa program.

An investigation by this newspaper found that Wright State was sponsoring H-1B temporary work visas for employees working for an IT staffing company called Web Yoga, in what experts say appeared to be a violation of program rules. Web Yoga's affiliation with WSU allowed the for-profit company benefits afforded to colleges and universities, including paying foreign workers lower wages and avoiding a federal cap on H-1B visas.

“No one knows how many more Wright States are out there since there is no regular auditing of the nature of these ‘affiliations,’ ” wrote Howard University Associate Professor Ron Hira in his submitted testimony to the committee.

“We do know that many other universities are very aggressively and creatively trying to exploit the university-affiliation loopholes to bypass the cap-and-wage rules.”

Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University, also referenced Wright State “using university H-1B exemptions to circumvent restrictions for industry.”

Hira said that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services appears poised to further loosen the rules being exploited by Wright State and other universities.

The City University of New York last month unveiled a plan to sponsor H-1B visas for 80 foreigners outside the federal cap, allowing those workers to create their own businesses. While the university touts this as a means to bring entrepreneurs to the country, others criticize it as “hacking” the immigration system.

“The concept is aimed at opening up the visa program to more foreign workers by using novel, and seemingly unlawful, interpretations of the law to shoehorn workers into existing cap-exempt categories and otherwise make H-1B visas available through cynical exploitation of loopholes in the law,” wrote U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a letter last month to the director of USCIS.

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