Eddie Rispone Relies on Controversial Program That Outsources Jobs to Foreign Workers

In 2016, Eddie Rispone’s company applied for three H1-B visas to hire cheaper workers for management jobs. At the time it made the applications, ISC had been in the middle of settlement negotiations with nearly 100 former employees, the majority of whom were Hispanic, who alleged they were not properly compensated for their work hours.

In February and March of 2016, ISC Constructors, LLC, the mega-million dollar electrical installation contractor founded and led by Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone and his brother Jerry, asked the U.S. Department of Labor for permission to hire three foreign citizens, each at a base salary of $56,000 a year, through the controversial H1-B visa system, according to public records uncovered by the Bayou Brief. At the time it made the applications, ISC had been in the middle of settlement negotiations with nearly 100 former employees, the majority of whom were Hispanic, who alleged they were not properly compensated for their work hours.

Ultimately, while all three applications were “certified,” Rispone’s company only obtained approval for one of the positions, which was titled Estimation and Projects Coordinator. Every year, the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts a lottery to dole out a maximum of 85,000 visas to businesses, ostensibly to ensure they can fill jobs requiring a specialized skill.

While companies must assert it will not pay visa holders less than it would otherwise pay an American citizen, critics of the H1-B system assert that it is routinely abused by employers as a way to essentially outsource otherwise high-paying jobs, particularly in STEM-related fields, and that, in some cases, it is a form of modern-day “indentured servitude.” If an employer fires someone with an H1-B visa, that person must immediately return to their home country.

Although the system had been conceived as a way of recruiting “the best and brightest” to America, it became the focus of national criticism in 2016 after it had been revealed Disney had been granted nearly 200 visas for IT employees at DisneyWorld. A growing body of academic scholarship on the system suggests it undermines the U.S. job market and drives down wages.

As he ramps up his campaign for governor and prepares to spend at least $5 million of his personal fortune on advertising, Rispone has placed federal immigration policy, over which governors have very little control, at the center of his message. He has parroted the incoherent promise of Donald Trump’s fantasy border wall that voters had been told Mexico would pay for; he has advanced the patently false claim that Gov. John Bel Edwards turned New Orleans into a “sanctuary city” (the city’s police department is under a consent decree with the federal Department of Justice, signed during the Jindal administration), and he has bemoaned the outsourcing of high-paying jobs.

Two years prior to applying for the three H1-B visas, Rispone predicted to an industry trade publication that he would soon be forced to recruit skilled labor from “other states” due to a construction boom.

“Rispone says recruitment will include contacting those who were born, raised and trained in Louisiana, but who left the state looking for other work during the economic downturn,” writes Daniel Groves of the Construction Labor Market Analyzer.

“We are reaching out to specific individuals to let them know that there is work, that wages are comparable, and that we need them back at home,” Rispone told Groves.

Notably, while ISC Constructors is headquartered in Baton Rouge, it has offices in both Beaumont and Houston, Texas, and at the time he made the comments, his company had been in the middle of three major class action lawsuits: Beck et al v. ISC Constructors, Dicken et al v. ISC Constructors, Aguirre v. ISC Constructors LLC, all of which alleged ISC violated the Fair Labor Standards Act against a total of 96 of their employees in Texas.

All three cases were settled in mediation, with ISC agreeing to settle for an undisclosed sum.

According to the terms of the H1-B certification Rispone’s company received, the three-year visa expires in only two weeks, on August 15, 2019. The available record does not provide any personally-identifying information about the employee, though as a prerequisite for qualification, the visa holder must have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and possess a specialized skill (usually in technology).

Rispone has never publicly explained why ISC could not hire a citizen of Louisiana for the $56,000 a year Estimation and Construction Project Coordinator job or revealed how much his company paid to settle allegations it underpaid employees in Texas.

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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar White, Jr. is an award-winning writer and the publisher and founder of the Bayou Brief, Louisiana’s only statewide news and culture publication. Born and raised on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria, he is a proud product of the Louisiana public education system and a graduate of Rice University in Houston and SMU’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas. Lamar has been writing about politics and public policy in Louisiana for twenty years, beginning as a weekly youth columnist for his hometown paper, the Town Talk. After earning his undergraduate degree in English and Religious Studies, Lamar moved back to Alexandria, where he launched a popular blogsite, CenLamar, and worked for five years as the Special Assistant to the Mayor. He exposed significant problems with Louisiana’s school voucher program, which resulted in a series of other investigations and ultimately in the removal of several schools from the program. He was the last person to argue online with Andrew Breitbart. He investigated and then broke the report that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise had once attended a white supremacist conference. He was the first to share a photograph of Bobby Jindal’s portrait in the state Capitol. He exposed U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s incomplete timesheets while the then-representative moonlighted as a physician. He earned headlines in Texas after the gubernatorial campaign of Greg Abbott falsely claimed he had been exploited as a “campaign prop” by Abbott’s opponent, Wendy Davis, and after exposing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign for relying on online “bot farms” to counter Beto O’Rourke, and he earned headlines in Mississippi after publishing videos of U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith making bizarre comments about public hangings and voter suppression tactics which were both perceived as racist. Lamar was the recipient of the 2011 Ashley Morris Award, given to the writer who best exemplifies the spirit of New Orleans, and in 2019, he was honored as one of Gambit’s Top 40 Under 40 and as the year’s Outstanding Millennial in Journalism at the annual Millennial Awards. He has been the subject of profiles in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Above the Law, and the Advocate and has appeared multiple times as a guest on CNN and MSNBC. Lamar currently lives in New Orleans with his two golden retrievers, Lucy Ana and Ruby Dog.