Imported Workers Filling U.S. Jobs

Phil Marraffinni; computer programmer until workers from India took his job
Some two million U.S. jobs have gone by the wayside over the last two years. And at the same time, the number of foreigners granted special visas to work in the U.S. has risen.

Employers defend the practice. But pink-slipped Americans who've lost jobs to lower-paid replacements are calling it visa abuse.

Last year, Phil Marraffinni earned a salary of $100,000 as a computer programmer.

Today he is a handyman because he says workers imported from India took his job.

"They started bringing them in because, obviously, they would work for less money," he says.

And when the Indian programmers arrived at the First Data Corporation in Coral Springs, Florida, Marraffinni had to teach them the system -- effectively training the people who later replaced him.

"I had to give classes. And I wasn't the only one," he says.

An estimated 400,000 American high-tech workers have either lost their jobs -- or are working for less. While at the same time, 460,000 immigrants brought to America are working in jobs in computer related fields, reports CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

In fact, immigrants with high-tech skills are still being recruited and arrive in the U.S. on special visas. Workers with "specialized knowledge" receive the L1 or the H1-B visa -— supposedly for "highly skilled" workers. But the visas often go to unskilled workers, too.

Congress never intended for these visas to be used for low-wage competition. In fact, sponsoring companies are supposed to try to find qualified Americans to fill the jobs first.

First Data told CBS News the company "is not replacing employees with outsourced workers."

And that's true because Marraffinni, like tens of thousands of Americans, worked under a contract.

Marraffinni told CBS' Andrews a company called Cognizant took the contract his company used to have.

Cognizant Technology Solutions is a computer services company whose CEO Kumar Mahadeva freely admits to bringing in hundreds of workers from India and elsewhere under L1 and H1B visas -- and that, yes, sometimes this does cost American jobs.

"Sometimes clients do lay off staff. I'm not denying that," Mahdeva says.

But Mahadeva argues programming jobs are leaving America anyway and that the workers he sponsors are the cream of the high-tech crop.

"These visas really have helped the U.S. economy by bringing some of the best and the brightest," he says. "The people that Cognizant brings into the country have worked with our operations in India for many years and know our business."

Marraffinni says what's really being stripped from the economy is wealth. He never thought the prosperity once promised from computer software would go the way of textiles and steel.