CBS Atlanta News is exposing Georgia companies hiring foreign workers for jobs Americans desperately need.
Last year more than 13,000 foreigners were cleared for employment with Georgia companies. Those workers are brought into the United States to do high level high paying jobs.
These foreign workers are hired under the H1-B visa program. They are filling high tech computer and medical jobs, in some cases making six figure salaries. CBS Atlanta even received notices Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was seeking foreign workers for jobs paying up to $101,000 a year.
"I'm out of a job even thought I have two degrees and went to school for this," said job seeker Carol Terrell.
She is one of the thousands of Georgians on the unemployment line. Georgia's unemployment rate is currently at 9.7%.
"I am overqualified is what they say," she continued.
Terrell and other job seekers packed into the Department of Labor only to learn there were no jobs for them. At the same time tens of thousands of jobs being given to foreigners each year.
"I feel a little bit cheated, I feel a little stabbed in the back really," said David Smith, another job seeker said.
CBS Atlanta News has obtained a list of 65,000 H1-B visas cleared by the Department of Labor last year, including 13,031 positions right here in Georgia.
"As of right now there is no requirement that these companies try to hire an American first?" Reporter Wendy Saltzman asked Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates.
"There is no standardized procedure for that," Oates said.
Oates admitted the process doesn't require companies to post these jobs for Americans before they're approved for foreigners.
"If I were an unemployed worker sitting at home listening to this broadcast, as long as I was still unemployed and there was one foreign worker coming in and doing a job that I thought I was qualified for, I would be pretty upset," Oates said.
According to Oates, these jobs are in specialized areas where there's a shortage of high skilled American workers.
"We do have Americans who are currently out of work or trying to move up the career path who with the right training could qualify for these jobs," she continued.
CBS Atlanta News went to the top companies in Georgia to ask the Tough Questions.
"Why aren't you hiring American workers for these jobs?" Saltzman asked a manager at Smartsoft in Suwanee.
"I'm not sure, I'm not sure I can talk to you," the manager replied.
According to the Department of Labor, Smartsoft was approved for 586 visa applications nationwide in the last two years, filling jobs in the IT field making about $65,000 dollars a year.
"Do you advertise these jobs for American workers?" Saltzman asked.
"Yes. I should preferably have our attorney talk to you," the Smartsoft employee said.
"Do you know if they try to hire American workers before you'all hire foreign workers for these jobs?" Saltzman asked an employee at NITT Technology in Atlanta.
"How about we walk as we talk," she said, escorting Saltzman from their office.
NITT Technology was approved for 466 foreign positions, some making up to $100,000 dollars a year.
"Do you know if any effort is made to hire American workers first?" Saltzman asked the NITT employee.
"We do have American workers, if that is what you are wanting to know," she replied.
And Virtue Group, a software company in Alpharetta, was approved for about 200 foreign positions in the last two years.
"Can you tell me a little bit about what effort is made to hire American workers?" Saltzman asked the manager there.
"We have a process in place, but again I am not authorized to answer all the questions," the Virtue Group employee said.
So we took our Tough Questions to the Governor.
"What can we do to make sure that we keep those jobs American?" Saltzman asked Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
"We can make sure we have our own students and young people trained for those jobs. They have to have the skills that those industries require," he replied.
But Terrell said an education isn't the only problem.
"They just want to get someone for lower wages," Terrell said.
The real issue Terrell and other unemployed workers said is these American companies priorities.
"I think they should be looking for American's first," job seeker Christopher Rice said.
"I'd do whatever it takes, just give me a job, a good old American job," Terrell said.
Here is a list of the top ten companies in Georgia who've applied for H1-B visas. This data is from the Department of Labor website:
MANAGEMENT HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC. 979
SMARTSOFT INTERNATIONAL, INC. 586
EMORY UNIVERSITY 481
NIIT TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED 466
COMMUNITY REHABILITATION SERVICES INC 386
MANHATTAN ASSOCIATES, INC. 265
GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 225
GLOBAL TEACHERS RESEARCH & RESOURCES, INC 216
CODESOFT INTERNATIONAL, INC.195
VIRTUE GROUP, LLC 190
Number three on that list is Emory University. Two percent of their workforce is made up of foreigners, but they say they're specialty occupations, and don't represent a practice of preferring foreigners over U.S. workers.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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