During President Trump’s visit to India, the host country’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said during a media briefing that the H-1B visa was discussed. Shringla said: “From our side, the issue of H-1B visa was raised. It was pointed that Indian professionals contribute significantly to the development of high-tech sector in the United States.” President Trump didn’t take the bait, but instead repeatedly said that the U.S. has and wants to continue to have a strong relationship with India.
But back in the U.S., the India lobby is pressing relentlessly for the Senate to pass the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, S. 386, a bill that would prioritize Indian applicants for H-1B visas above all other nations. In closed door negotiations between Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the amended S. 386 proposal would remove the country caps, a provision that limits the total visas that can be issued to immigrants from any given country at 7 percent of the total number of visas.
S.386 would also put the current resident Indian H-1B workers and their family members, several hundred thousand people in the aggregate, on a fast-track to Green Cards and U.S. citizenship. Further, S. 386 would create a new legal status wherein foreign national workers would, once their employers file an I-140 request, give employment-based visa holders citizenship benefits while they wait, possibly for years, for their official Green Cards. Durbin sits on the Senate India Caucus.
As President Trump said, the U.S. wants to maintain a solid relationship with India, but that shouldn’t mean giving away American jobs to Indian nationals. But the India lobby is, despite representing only about 1 percent of the U.S. population, powerful and determined to expand its influence.
The relentless displacement of U.S. tech workers is nothing short of criminal. In his analysis of U.S. Census data, R. Davis, a displaced Silicon Valley software developer, found that in 2018 only one in four U.S.-born programmers worked in Santa Clara, Calif., down from four in five in 1980. Other dramatic declines in job participation among U.S.-born tech workers registered in Hudson County, N.J., Forsyth County, Ga., Mecklenburg County, N.C. and dozens more counties from coast to coast.
Experts calculate that unchecked employment-based visa programs, many numerically unlimited, have resulted in an existing 750,000 H-1B population, plus about 100,000 H-4 spousal visas that the Obama administration gave work permission to through an executive order.
Overall, U.S. companies have imported roughly 1.5 million visa workers via the H-1B, L-1, H-4, the Optional Practical Training program, TN NAFTA professionals, J-1 and the B-1, a temporary business visitor visa but often fraudulently used for full-time employment. In other words, at least 1.5 million jobs that should go to Americans have been given to foreign nationals so that corporations can profit from the cheap labor they represent. Included among the passed-over Americans are recent university graduates, many who have gone deeply in debt to earn their diplomas.
No shortage of American tech workers exists. Only about a third of U.S. science, technology, engineering and math graduates find jobs in their chosen field. Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research for the liberal Economic Policy Institute, said that “the vast majority of companies are using the H-1B to either hire the best and brightest and vastly underpay them, or to just hire younger workers for entry-level jobs.” The Government Accountability Office confirmed that about 80 percent of visa workers are paid less than the occupational mean.
Costa touched on an important point about how the H-1B displaces Americans – ageism. In its H-1B story, The New York Times correctly concluded that American employees face salary pressure “from newcomers [H-1Bs] who will work for less” while older employees who earn higher salaries “risk losing their jobs entirely.” About 75 percent of H-1B petitions filed between 2007 and 2017 were for workers age 34 or younger.
President Trump needs to enforce his once-promising but now mostly neglected “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. The H-1B visa should be severely limited or, better yet, eliminated. Jobs in the continental U.S. should go to qualified Americans, and not to foreign nationals.