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Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, is taking Microsoft to task over its latest round of layoffs — saying that the company shouldn’t be seeking to bring in more foreign tech workers through the federal H-1B visa program at the same time it’s making job cuts.

“Microsoft has just announced it is laying off another 7,800 workers, on top of the 18,000 layoffs it has already announced. This means Microsoft has shed roughly 1/5th of its workforce in the past couple years,” said Sessions in a statement overnight. “And yet Microsoft, perhaps more than any other major U.S. company, has claimed it suffers from a shortage of American workers and must therefore import more H-1B foreign guest workers.”

We’ve contacted the company for its response. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the cuts yesterday as part of a restructuring of the Windows Phone business, dismantling large chunks of the company’s Nokia acquisition.

Sessions, chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, is echoing the sentiments of U.S. labor leaders who are critical of the H-1B program. Tech companies say it’s a matter of finding the workers with the right skills, while critics say they are taking advantage of cheap foreign labor to cut costs.

One issue with Sessions’ statement is that the latest cuts announced by the company are expected to hit workers primarily outside the U.S. The impact in the Seattle region also appears to be relatively minimal, compared to past layoffs by the company.

As noted by Sessions, Microsoft was among the signatories of a letter asserting that “there are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs requiring highly skilled individuals. Four high-tech companies alone – IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle – have combined 10,000 openings in the United States.”

Sessions responded, “As Microsoft’s layoffs show, there is a surplus—not a shortage—of skilled, talented, and qualified Americans seeking STEM employment. Each year, universities graduate twice as many students with STEM degrees as find STEM jobs.”

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