Banks Banned From Replacing Workers With Foreigners

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:27 PM EST

When the stimulus package hits President Obama's desk, it will include a provision banning bailed-out banks from replacing laid-off American workers with skilled foreigners.

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed the ban, which would last two years. Their proposal came a few weeks after the Associated Press reported banks that had received $150 billion in bailout money requested work visas for nearly 22,000 foreign workers during the last six years, a move Sanders called "absurd."

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Relative to the number of people the biggest banks have fired recently—more than 100,000—the number of Americans who will be affected by this ban will be very small. In 2008, those same banks only requested 4,100 of the H1-B visas the moratorium targets.

Right now, banks are the number-one target of populist ire in the country; for now it seems like Sanders and Grassley are using that sentiment to earn political capital, especially considering the small number of visas banks have requested recently. But if Congress's stimulus does rouse labor demand in the financial sector, the move won't just be populist posturing.

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