Discussing immigration Friday at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit in Orlando, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took a shot at the nearby Disney organization for its involvement in an embarrassing situation regarding foreign workers.
“Let’s not have an immigration policy that displaces Americans,” Huckabee said during the middle of his speech. “For example, under the H-1B process, it wasn’t long ago that Disney – yes, I know that I’m in Orlando, I know it’s the happiest place on Earth – but it wasn’t very happy for the Disney workers who were replaced by foreign workers under an H-1B visa because they were willing to work for a lot less money, and to add insult to injury, the Disney workers were required to train their foreign replacements, before they were ultimately shoved out the door. America can treat its people better than that!”
The incident he mentioned took place last fall, when about 250 Disney employees were told that they would be laid off, many of them told their jobs were transferred to immigrants – on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers – brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. During the next three months, The New York Times reported, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost.
Only 85,000 H-1B visas – designed so foreigners with specialty skills could fill job vacancies left by a domestic skills gap – are granted each year. But critics – including Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson – have complained that U.S. employers exploit loopholes in the system to hire cheaper labor from abroad at the expense of American workers. They also say there has been talk in Congress about scaling back the program.
In a Q&A period with reporters after his speech, Huckabee disagreed with the notion that the GOP is hurting itself with the intense recent rhetoric about immigration.
“I think the American people want to make sure that we have control of our borders,” he said. “A country without borders isn’t much of a country anymore, and so it’s not a matter of being more conservative, it’s a matter of being more practical and having more common sense to recognize you have to manage your borders. It’s not so much because you want to keep people out, it’s that you want to make sure that the people that you are allowing in are coming to help make your country better.”
He also disputed the notion that he was out of the running to win the nomination, despite his low poll numbers that have relegated him to the early “kiddie-table” debates. He repeated the well-documented fact that Herman Cain was leading the GOP presidential race at this time in 2011, as was Rudy Giuliani in 2007.