An Iowa information technology staffing company last week posted an ad that essentially told American citizens they need not apply.

The ad by American Technology Consulting, posted to the recruiting website ZipRecruiter, sought a java developer to work in San Diego. Initially, it stated “H1B Only,” a reference to the H-1B guest worker visa program for high-skilled workers. The company changed the ad and deleted reference to the H-1B visas, but critics said it likely violates the Civil Right Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of citizenship and national origin.

“It’s explicitly against the law,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “This isn’t some gray area. But it does tell you what this company is about.”

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Krikorian, who retweeted a screen shot of the original ad on Friday, said it should attract the attention of the Department of Justice to see if the company is complying with employment laws.

“It doesn’t matter that the ad doesn’t say that anymore,” he said.

Tara Jose, the president of American Technology Consulting, blamed the ad on a third-party vendor that improperly included the H-1B language. She said her company ordered the ad changed immediately and audited other advertisements in its name. From now on, she said, ATC will place its own ads directly.

“Being a U.S. citizen myself, I completely agree with you,” she said. “Once we became aware of it, it came down immediately. That’s not what we do at all … It’s unacceptable. It’s not what we do or how we work.”

Jose said her company has workers of a variety of backgrounds and does not turn away citizens seeking jobs. The company’s website has a slideshow presentation explaining how H-1B workers can transfer their visas from their current employers to ATC.

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John Miano, an employment law attorney who wrote a 2015 book about abuses in the immigration system, said most companies have been savvier about favoring guest workers from foreign countries.

“The fact is that this has been going on for a long time, but now it’s largely been driven underground because of all the attention,” he said. “The ads used to be a lot more common.”

The Justice Department announced in April that it would pursue companies that use the H-1B program to discriminate against Americans. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials also launched a website, [email protected], seeking tips on alleged violations.

This ad sought applicants for a java developer job, specifying H-1B visa holders only.
The ad later was changed, removing references to H-1B workers.

It is unclear how many, if any, investigations are underway. A spokesman for the Justice Department said the agency does not comment on pending cases.

Donna Conroy, director of the advocacy group Bright Future Jobs, said companies are not as blatant as they once were. Her group published a report in 2014 highlighting four help-wanted ads posted on an Indian job portal from October through December 2013 by Experis IT India, a subsidiary of Manpower Group. There were no comparable ads on U.S. job portals during that period, according to the report.

Conroy said her organization’s report worked — for a time. Then she started seeing them again until the Justice Department announced it would examine possible discrimination cases.

“Just after the executive order went out, I did notice they’re gone. Public pressure does work … If you call them on it, then they’ll behave.”

“Quietly, they were revising those ads,” she said. “Then they returned. Just after the executive order went out, I did notice they’re gone. Public pressure does work … If you call them on it, then they’ll behave.”

Sara Blackwell, who has represented a number of workers making claims against companies that use H-1B workers, said relying on guest workers does not just hurt U.S. citizens; it also hurts legal permanent residents with green cards.

“You are discriminating against foreigners in the United States as well,” she said.

Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, said when a company is advertising for H-1B workers en masse, the reason likely is a desire to keep wages down.

“It’s exclusively about cheap labor,” he said. “When you’re on that volume, that’s just about cheap labor.”

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Blackwell said there is another reason. Workers on H-1B visas offer employers more control since the companies sponsor the visas and can withdraw them, and guest workers cannot easily switch jobs.

Blackwell said it would be great if the Justice Department investigated firms. But she said companies have a great deal of leeway to bypass Americans in favor of guest workers.

“Most of the things that these companies are doing that are so horrible for American citizens and legal immigrants, it’s legal,” he said. “Most of this stuff is legal.”