Many of you may have learned that India has been hit quite hard with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. According to India’s health ministry data, the country’s tally has now surged past 21 million cases, boosted by a recent record 412,262 new infections. The number of people who have died due to COVID-19 in India has reached 230,168.
Seeing the rising infection numbers, along with news of new COVID variants, the Biden administration, though late to the game, imposed a travel ban on people traveling from India, effective May 4.
What’s happening in India is tragic, and I am glad that the United States finally responded by offering to help by deploying drug treatments, ventilators and oxygen supplies to the country.
But no sooner did Biden announce the India travel ban, then Indian news media went into full frenzy of how the travel ban would affect H-1B/L-1 visa workers. Remember, almost 75 percent of H-1B visas go to nationals from India, and many of these come directly via IT outsourcing firms. Headline after headline from India lined out how the travel ban would disrupt the plans of visa workers and aspiring international students, all of whom had their sights on moving to greener pastures. Elsewhere, NPR and The Guardian highlighted the “crisis.”
American tech workers harmed by the H-1B visa program signaled a sigh of relief once news of the India travel ban came to light. With the Biden administration suspending much of the last administration’s much-needed meaningful visa reforms, the travel ban offered a temporary ray of hope for these disfranchised workers.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a travel ban induced by a pandemic is the only hope American tech workers can look to for protecting their jobs. One tech worker I corresponded with is so frustrated with the government doing nothing to protect jobs from outsourcing that he’d just as soon see the whole economy crash so that everyone is affected.
Even in the face of so many currently unemployed due to the pandemic – and decades of displacement Americans have suffered because of destructive nonimmigrant worker visa programs – industries have begun the cry of “labor shortages.” It’s being reported that many Americans in low-skilled, low-paying jobs are not returning to work. Workers have found a better deal staying at home and receiving unemployment checks and checks from government stimulus spending bills.
While libertarians and businesses are quick to blame the government for this “shortage,” perhaps if employers paid higher wages to attract and retain workers, they would not be suffering from these so-called shortages. The one thing that the government can be blamed for is caving to employer demands by providing them with a cheap labor subsidy through visa workers. Why raise wages to attract American workers when you can rely on a government handout to import a foreign worker on a visa from a destitute country who essentially is indentured and can be paid less than an American worker?
USCIS has confirmed that it will suspend biometric requirements for certain I-539 applicants as of May 17, 2021, until May 17, 2023. This means that foreign workers on H-4, E-3 and L-2 work authorization/visas who wish to extend their work status will no longer be required to carry out the biometrics requirement.
This suspension comes after USCIS received more than 5,000 public comments from mostly Indian spouses of H-1B workers voicing their anger at how the Trump administration’s additional biometric requirements, along with COVID closing most offices that conduct the biometrics, created long delays of getting their work authorizations renewed. One of the Trump administration’s biggest failures was not phasing out and ending the H-4 EAD program, even when it was scheduled for the chopping block.
Can you Help?
Our good friend John Miano informed me of some unfortunate news about Kristen McCarty, president of WashTech, the union that is currently suing DHS to abolish the OPT program. Kristen’s husband suffered a heart attack and has been inundated with medical bills for his surgeries.
Kristen has fought for American workers for many years. If you can contribute to her fund to help ease the burden of these medical bills, I would greatly appreciate it. Here is the link to the fund: Kristen McCarty’s Fund.