Time is short to the expiration of President Trump’s Executive Order that suspended some immigration, and expansionists are pulling out all the stops. At stake is employment-based visas’ short-term future, specifically whether the White House will permit this year’s annual 85,000 allotment of foreign-born H-1–workers to enter.
A recent Forbes story written by immigration advocate Stuart Anderson claims that since the tech sector unemployment rate is low and declining – 2.8 percent in April versus 3 percent in January -the Trump administration would be remiss to include the employment-based H-1–visa as part of a suspension strategy. To make his point, Anderson selectively chose data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey that supports his perspective.
But the bigger picture that Anderson ignored is the most important one. Employment statistics vary from month to month; employers lay off U.S. tech workers, but retain cheaper imported workers. But the addition of 85,000 H-1–visa holders will represent a permanent fixture in the labor market, because the H-1–is a dual-intent visa, meaning that holders can enter the U.S. on temporary status while simultaneously seeking lawful permanent residency. In other words, the new H-1–visa holders aren’t going home.
If tech employers are truly stretched thin, their first consideration should be to tap into the hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers displaced by H-1–visa holders. The list of corporations that use the H-1–visa to exile U.S. workers to the sidelines, after forcing those fired Americans to train their foreign-born replacements, is longer than Wilt Chamberlain’s arm. Among them are nationally known names like Disney, Apple, Facebook, Starbucks, Uber and Walmart.
A newcomer to the list is the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which announced earlier this month that it would outsource 20 percent of its highly skilled, American-born technology workforce to Capgemini, CGI and Accenture, companies headquartered in France, Canada and Ireland, respectively.
At least 120 workers learned they will lose their jobs later this summer, and the TVA informed the local labor union that eventually another 100 jobs will be outsourced. Last month, affected workers were advised that they too would be required to train their replacements, a procedure deceptively labeled “knowledge transfer.”
The TVA is a federally owned corporate agency originally designed to bring jobs to the impoverished Tennessee Valley during the Great Depression. Although TVA employees are unionized, they still can’t escape the foreign worker displacement scourge. Similar public utility displacement programs played out in California when Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric fired their U.S. tech workers, and either outsourced their jobs or imported H-1–workers.
Originally, Congress created the H-1–visa program to complement the U.S. workforce. Instead, loopholes encourage abuses, paving the way for employers to bump Americans and deny opportunities to recent college graduates.
A relatively new displacement vehicle that creates roadblocks for young Americans is the never-congressionally approved Optional Practical Training Program. Initiated by the Bush 43 administration, and kept through President Trump’s three-plus White House years, OPT allows a maximum three years of employment to alien U.S. college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. OPT provides generous tax subsidies to employers and has mushroomed into a huge foreign-born worker bonanza. More than 1.5 million OPT STEM workers hold jobs that should go to Americans.
Despite what elitists, globalists, immigration lobbyists and the American Immigration Lawyers Association claim with their misleading reports and cherry-picked statistics, no intellectually sound argument that favors more H-1–visas, or more of any employment-based visas, can be made.
The ball is in Trump’s court. He can either fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to “forever end” the H-1–visa or allow himself to be ridden roughshod over by anti-American worker advocates that include his son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner.
Last year, more than 900,000 new temporary work visas were issued, and more than 1.8 million work permits were granted or renewed. That’s a total of 2.7 million overseas workers entering an economy that today has more than 36 million unemployed. Among those 2.7 million were nearly 190,000 in the professional category, mostly H-1Bs. They joined approximately 500,000 settled H-1–workers.
American workers always deserve to come ahead of imported labor. Today, with the nation in the grip of the most painful economy since Herbert Hoover’s presidency, American employment must be the nation’s top priority.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at, [email protected]