Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Does Trump actually believe in these policies or does he just think that it will attract more votes from his “base”? It is already very difficult and expensive obtaining H1B visas, especially for Indian owned companies in the US. Overall immigration is good for America. It has become so difficult already that the current restrictions do more harm than good. Trump is also trying to influence immigration policy in future by nominating immigration hardliner Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
According to a report published by Bloomberg, Trump’s latest H1B visa reforms will leave America worse off. The report claims that the latest changes to the H1B visa program have ‘the potential to reduce the number of skilled foreign workers entering the US’, which is something the Trump administration is targeting.
However, the Bloomberg report argues that Trump’s goal ‘makes no sense.’ Should the reforms come into effect, they’re likely to hit businesses hard – especially smaller firms, while America’s healthcare system would also suffer. The report claims that reducing skilled migrant numbers will harm American workers overall.
This view comes following a recent study that found that immigrants create more jobs than Americans, highlighting the vital role that immigrants can play in the country’s economic recovery amid the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
H1B visa program modified
Trump has targeted the H1B visa program in particular for drastic reform, accusing firms of abusing the system and hiring cheap foreign labor at the expense of American workers. The program had already been modified earlier this year, but the latest reforms seek to redefine what a ‘speciality’ occupation is.
The redefining of speciality occupation will prevent firms from hiring overseas workers unless they have a degree specific to the job they’re applying for. This would make it impossible to recruit someone with an engineering degree, for instance, as a software programmer.
Meanwhile, to stop businesses undercutting US-level salaries, the Trump administration will increase the salary threshold of H1B visa holders. It’s reported that the highest skilled immigrants will have to be paid a salary in the 95th percentile of the prevailing wage for their occupation.
This represents a staggering rise from the 67th percentile under the current H1B visa rules. Furthermore, overseas workers recruited by IT placement firms will be limited to a stay of 12 months in the US, a rule that will affect tens of thousands of people, mostly from India.
Reduced H1B visa demand
The Trump administration is expecting the modifications to lessen the demand for H1B visas by around one-third, in what is being described as a ‘victory for American workers.’ However, the Bloomberg report argues the exact opposite, calling it a ‘defeat’ for the US workforce.
The report argues that two-thirds of America’s H1B visa holders work in ‘computer-related’ fields, a sector that is known to have a chronic labor shortage. Labor Department data shows that in the third quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate for computer programmers was 2.9%.
In contrast, the unemployment rate among the entire US workforce was 8.8%. Meanwhile, vacancies in the tech sector are up 4.7% since April 2020. The Bloomberg report claims that these job roles increase consumer demand and help companies to expand by filling critical roles.
The report puts it like this: “Skilled immigrants spur growth and help create jobs for American workers.”
Innovation and entrepreneurship deterred
According to the Bloomberg report, changes to the H1B visa rules will deter innovation and entrepreneurship among smaller firms by increasing the cost to hire foreign talent. The report argues that US tech startups rely on skilled immigrants to provide IT services, but the rule changes mean that more will outsource to workers based outside the US.
The report goes further in claiming that H1B visa changes will stifle the recruitment of healthcare workers, which in the middle of a pandemic could be catastrophic. Under the proposed H1B visa reforms, medical professionals would have to be paid a minimum of $208,000, irrespective of speciality or experience.
In the most deprived areas of the US, where clinics and hospitals are already severely under-funded, such salaries are near impossible to pay.
The Bloomberg report argues that the Trump administration has been callous in not putting the reforms before a public review, which would normally expose these flaws and allow them to be rectified before the changes came into effect.
In this instance, the Office of Management and Budget has issued waivers allowing the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to move forward without completing the usual review process.
Those opposed to the reforms are now urging the courts to block the reforms until they’ve at least undergone public comment.
Meanwhile, Congress is being urged to scrutinize the administration much more closely in an effort to ‘remind it that far-reaching changes to US immigration laws should be carried out through legislation, not executive force.’
US needs foreign talent
The Bloomberg report concludes that the US needs foreign talent to aid the country’s economic recovery. More immigration should be encouraged, not less the report argues.
The US needs a smarter immigration system that recognizes the contribution and value that immigrants add to America and this will advance the country in the interest of all Americans, the report states.
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