Most VDARE.com readers are aware of the H-1B visa program that employers use to replace Americans with cheap, foreign workers, mostly from India. The only thing that stands between H-1B and a complete disaster for American workers is the annual quota of 85,000 visas a year—plus unlimited to universities, for a total of about 130,000 a year. My estimate: about a third of H-1B recipients usually end up staying permanently (more illegally), Bu tit’s hard to say because (typically) the Federal government has failed to monitor the program.
The H-1B program is such a great scam for employers that demand has grown for the past five years. In 2017, employers made 199,000 H-1B applications for those 85,000 visas. But this was actually down from 236,000 in 2016, perhaps because of a “Trump Effect”—the fear that rules might actually be enforced under Trump. [H-1B visa applications decline for first time in 5 years, by Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNNTech, April 17, 2017]
USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] has to use a lottery to allocate the visas. And, needless to say, immigration lawyers and industry lobbyists have sought to remove the limits altogether, in bills like the so-called Gang of 8 “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” and the “Immigration Innovation” I-Squared Act, pushed by Senator Orrin Hatch among others. (CITE). They have all been defeated so far.
While there has been little tangible from the Trump Administration yet, clearly industry fears major changes coming to the H-1B cheap labor gravy train.
The Trump White House has directly criticized the program. During a press briefing at the White House this spring, a “Senior Administration Official” directly called out Tata, Infosys, and Cognizant for flooding the H-1B lottery. [Background Briefing on Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, April 17, 2017]
The stock prices for these largest users of H-1B visas were promptly sent “reeling”. [Infosys and TCS Face Work-Visa Woes, By Daniel Shane, Barrons, April 22, 2017]
To be fair to President Trump, he cannot do unilaterally what is necessary fully to address the H-1B mess—that requires Congress. However, there are a large number of things that he can do through Executive Action to crack down on abuse—for example, reducing the maximum term of an H-1B visa from six years to one year.
We don’t know what President Trump is actually considering. But we do have some guidance.
The H-1B section of the executive order was quite short and far from specific:
Sec. 5. Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to "Hire American." (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse. [Emphasis added]
Responses to President Trump’s actions on H-1B fell split between the glass-half-empty and the glass-half-full perspectives. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the IEEE-USA fall into the former category CITES. They focused on the Executive Order’s call to study the problem rather than directing the agencies to take specific steps.
The IEEE-USA’s response was particularly scathing.
“The administration doesn’t want people to notice that they didn’t do anything real,” said H-1B critic Russ Harrison, director of government relations for IEEE-USA, an organization of American tech workers. “The president was pretty clear he was going to do something about H-1B and he didn’t.”Professor Norm Matloff, a long-time H1-B critic and a brave if critical friend of VDARE.com, falls somewhere in the middle. He was concerned that the Indian companies are being blamed to the exclusion of American companies, such as Intel and Qualcomm, that abuse H-1B as well [The President’s Executive Order, NormSaysNo, April 19, 2017]
[H-1B visas targeted by Trump administration,, By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe, April 4, 2017]
Matloff specifically raised the issue that there has been no mention of the OPT guestworker program. OPT was created entirely though regulation and, stretching the term “student” past its breaking point, allows aliens to work on student visas for up to three years after they graduate.
Meanwhile, there was celebration in the glass-half-full camp. Donald Trump is the first president to even raise the issue of tackling H-1B abuse. Simply telling the agencies to do something is more positive action than any previous president has done on H-1B.
One H-1B critic was quoted on Trump’s action: “This is what we elected him for” [H-1B Experts on Trump’s Order: ‘This Is What We Elected Him For,’ by John Binder, Breitbart, April 18, 2017]
Another factor in the favor of the glass-half-full view: the president does not command the regulatory process like a drill sergeant. When a drill sergeant calls “To the rear—march!” the platoon instantly changes direction in unison. But when a president calls for visa reform, it requires sending in an army of lawyers to untangle many pages of regulations.
The Department of Homeland Security regulations governing H-1B are about 60 pages and many parts are highly technical. The Department of Labor’s H-1B regulations are twice as long. As Trump’s Executive Order indicates, control over H-1B is spread over three other departments: Justice, State, and Labor. The changes have to be coordinated among four departments. Then they have to go through the lengthy public notice-and-comment process.
But another bump in the road for employers in search of cheap foreign workers: USCIS suspended Premium Processing for H-1B visas during the April visa rush. In return for an extra $1,225 fee, USCIS would promise to make a decision on an H-1B petition within 15 days. Immigration lawyers figured out that premium processing was a good way to avoid scrutiny of petitions. About 60% of H-1B petitions included premium processing.
Do the math here. After USCIS does the lottery, it has over 50,000 petitions to process within 15 days. In past years, USCIS just got out the rubber stamp and an inkpad. That is going to stop this year—which has industry’s panties in a twist [U.S. Immigration Agency Will Lose Millions Because It Can’t Process Visas Fast Enough, by Marcelo Rochabrun, ProPublica, April 7, 2017
After the annual visa rush was over, USCIS resumed the availability of premium processing.
Still, there is only so much President Trump can do on his own—unless he decides to become an Obama-like dictator who ignores the immigration laws. Most of what needs to change in H-1B requires an act of Congress. And for a quarter-century, Congress has steadfastly refused to address any problems in H-1B. In fact, each time Congress has touched H-1B, it has only made its problems even worse.
Trump’s biggest problem: not the Democrats—but the buffoons in the Republican party. Where Obama could count on the support of the Democrats for his agenda, Republicans in Congress have been working to undermine Trump on H-1B.
Thus Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) represents a district in Southern California where many of his constituents were replaced by H-1B workers at Southern California Edison. [Darrell Issa: ‘Deeply Disturbing’ So. Cal. Edison Abusing H-1B Visas to Replace Americans with Guest Workers, By Tony Lee, Breitbart, February 7, 2015. In response, Congressman Issa introduced a bill he claims will “stop outsourcing of American jobs.”
Don’t believe it.
Congressman Issa represents everything Republican voters have come to expect from their party. His bill (H.R.170 - Protect and Grow American Jobs Act) does absolutely nothing at all. Rather than reforming H-1B, it is designed to hijack and emasculate H-1B reform. If the Republican leadership had passed this bill, they would have claimed to the voters that they did something “to fix” H-1B. Then they will go to their corporate masters and tell them they did nothing on H-1B, please give us cash.
The tech industry lined up behind Issa’s “reform” bill precisely because it does nothing. The Main Stream Media cheerleads:
Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has proposed a bill to raise the minimum salary for H-1B visa workers from $60,000 to $100,000, with automatic increases tied to inflation. Issa said that will protect US workers from being displaced by cheaper H-1B employees.
[Tech sector bracing for next move from Trump, on worker visas, by Curt Woodward, Boston Globe, January 13, 2017. Emphasis added]
There is no minimum salary for H-1B workers! But this has not stopped news outlets around the country from repeating this claim without doing any independent checking or reporting.
On the Senate side, the aging Orrin Hatch plans to reintroduce his I-Squared Act. The previous version of the bill would have effectively removed all limits on the number of H-1B visas disguised as “Market Based Caps.” But under Hatch’s bill, when the H-1B cap gets reached, the cap….automatically gets larger! [S.153 - I-Squared Act of 2015] This is a convoluted and dishonest way to remove the cap.
At the same time Sen. Hatch’s bill does not even pretend to do anything about abuse. Michelle Malkin and John Miano, in their book Sold Out, says American workers should call Hatch’s bill the “I’m Screwed Act.”
Sen. Hatch also says that he “can serve as a bridge between the President and Silicon Valley” [Orrin Hatch: I can be a bridge for H-1B visa reforms, by Orrin Hatch, East Bay Times, March 30, 2017] Translation: Hatch can introduce Trump to the same sources of bribe money that now own the Utah senator.
Nothing positive is going to happen without public participation. President Trump may have the best of intentions here. But the natural flow of gravity in Washington is to undermine positive change. You can be sure that the industry lobbyists and immigration lawyers are going to take part in the rulemaking process. The rest of the public needs to stand up and take part also: