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Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts cautioned in a letter Wednesday that the senators should maintain visas reserved for foreign brothers, sisters and married children of U.S. citizens.
"This is very troubling," Hirono and Warren wrote. "Different types of family members can play an important role in each other’s lives, and for some Americans a brother or sister is the only family they have."
The expansion of the H1B program would follow years of criticism and allegations of abuse. Though it was long viewed as a model program intended to help bring much-needed and highly trained engineers and other professionals to fill gaps in the U.S. workforce, critics have begun to refer to it as the "outsourcing visa."
These critics say that companies commonly use the visa to bring employees from India to work in the United States for up to three years, train them and then return them to India to continue the same work, often for a U.S. company buying the services from a contractor.
A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 54 percent of H1B workers were hired at the lowest of four wage levels.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime critic of the H1B program, this week reintroduced legislation he and Durbin have sponsored that seeks to rein in what they see as abuses - suggesting that lawmakers will seek to influence the tech-backed measures in the bipartisan agreement when it begins to move through Congress later this spring.
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