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Monday, January 18, 2010

New Jersey & Free Speech

censorship The Oakland Journal: A New Jersey state judge, James Hurley, has made international news with his recent decision to shut down three websites dedicated to the debate on the H1-B visa situation in America. H1-B is a visa that allows companies in America to import workers from other countries to fill positions that cannot be filled by American workers. These jobs usually require a specialized skill, but the categories have become so all encompassing that to list them here would be impractical.

Many of the positions filled are in the technology industry, and increasingly the health industry, but all are normally considered higher paid positions. Critics of the program claim H-1B visas are used to bring in foreign workers and artificially keep wages lower. Claims of fraud were confirmed with a government report in 2008 that showed a 20 percent violation rate amongst employers exploiting the H-1B visa program.

The debate on the pros and cons of the H1-B visa program is ongoing in Congress as it decides whether to expand the program to allow for an additional 300,000 work visas. While part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would provide additional bureaucracy to assure compliance, congressional representatives are concerned with voter perception of allowing more workers into a country while unemployment steadily hovers at 10%. The alleged H1-B abuses by Apex Technology are aggravated by their promotion of off-shore outsourcing in which they promise ” …IT staff at a fraction of the cost of a US employee”.

The court decision by New Jersey’s James Hurley focused on Apex Technology which relies heavily on the H1-B program to import workers for placement in some of America’s largest corporations. Apex sued claiming the websites allowed defamatory posts to be published on: EndH1b.com and ItGrunt.com, and GuestWorkerFraud.com. Judge Hurley’s decision captured media attention because he chose to shut down entire websites rather than focus on the disputed claims. This has raised alarms of censorship and sets a precedent for websites such as Amazon.com, and numerous other websites hosting personal opinions, reviews and criticisms to be shut down. (one site remains active)

The action has labor rights activists, free speech activists, and even some beneficiaries of the H1-B visa program united in voicing opposition to the court decision. Many foreign workers hope for the opportunity to live and work in the United States, but they can often be subject to abuse in their places of employment. In what are sometimes described as H1-B “sweatshops”, workers can be dismissed with no reason and forced to leave the United State immediately. This, along with lower wages, are some of the problems faced by H1-B workers.

Free speech activists view the forced shutting down of the entire websites as a direct threat to the First Amendment, and a particular threat to the growth of online discussion groups and political debate. Labor activists claim abuses in the H1-B program are under reported, and while not addressing the veracity of the particular claims against Apex, they consider this over-reaching court decision a boon for companies seeking to skirt the laws.

H/T Eric Smith on FaceBook for link to article.

Tags: free speech, H1-B, New Jersey, NJ, visa To share the post, click on "Post Link." Please mention / link to Blogs for Borders. Thanks!

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