“American technology companies for years have relied on a steady stream of skilled engineers from overseas to help them create their products,” Nick Wingfield and Mike Isaac report for The New York Times. “Now many of those companies and their workers are girding for expected changes to immigration policy under President Trump that the companies say could hurt their ability to tap the technical talent they need to stay competitive.”

“The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program, through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States for companies like Microsoft, Google and Intel,” Wingfield and Isaac report. “The draft proposed a regulation to ‘restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs’ and to consider options for modifying the H-1B program to ‘ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.'”

“That language rattled some executives and lawyers representing technology companies because of its implication of sweeping changes,” Wingfield and Isaac report. “‘You’d be shocked at the number of people who are feeling fear, calling our firm alarmed based on what’s coming out,’ said Priya Alagiri, an immigration lawyer based in the Bay Area who has tech clients. ‘It’s not just the undocumented. Even people who are here on green cards, legally. Citizens. They’re scared.'”

MacDailyNews Take: An immigration lawyer who wants his business to continue unabated is worried. Shocker.

“The companies see skilled worker visas as a signature policy issue that they have fought to protect and expand,” Wingfield and Isaac report. “They fear Jeff Sessions, the nominee for attorney general, and others in the administration will take a more severe approach to immigration and sweep up H-1B visas into prohibitions on refugees and stronger border protection.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The following editorial was published by The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, June 16, 2016, prior to the U.S. Presidential election:

Visa Abuses Harm American Workers

There is no doubt that H-1B visas — temporary work permits for specially talented foreign professionals — are instead being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, recently became the latest large American company to use the visas in this way, following the lead of other employers, including Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), Disney, Toys “R” Us and New York Life.

The visas are supposed to be used only to hire college-educated foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialized knowledge,” and only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. But in many cases, laid-off American workers have been required to train their lower-paid replacements.

Lawmakers from both parties have denounced the visa abuse, but it is increasingly widespread, mainly because of loopholes in the law. For example, in most instances, companies that hire H-1B workers are not required to recruit Americans before hiring from overseas. Similarly, companies are able to skirt the rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing the actual hiring of those workers to Tata, Infosys and other temporary staffing firms, mostly based in India.

riticism of the visa process has been muted, and reform has moved slowly, partly because laid-off American workers — mostly tech employees replaced by Indian guest workers — have not loudly protested. Their reticence does not mean acceptance or even resignation. As explained in The Times on Sunday by Julia Preston, most of the displaced workers had to sign agreements prohibiting them from criticizing their former employers as a condition of receiving severance pay. The gag orders have largely silenced the laid-off employees, while allowing the employers to publicly defend their actions as legal, which is technically accurate, given the loopholes in the law.

The conversation, however, is changing. Fourteen former tech workers at Abbott, including one who forfeited a chunk of severance pay rather than sign a so-called nondisparagement agreement, have filed federal claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they were discriminated against because of their ages and American citizenship. Tech workers from Disney have filed federal lawsuits accusing the company and two global outsourcing firms of colluding to supplant Americans with H-1B workers. Former employees of Eversource Energy have also begun to challenge their severance-related gag orders by publicly discussing their dismissals and replacement by foreign workers on H-1B and other visas.

Congressional leaders of both parties have questioned the nondisparagement agreements. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate would revise visa laws to allow former employees to protest their layoffs. Beyond that, what Congress really needs to do is close the loopholes that allow H-1B abuses.

The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, June 16, 2016

SEE ALSO:
President Trump eyes an H-1B visa aimed at ‘best and brightest’ – January 27, 2017
Silicon Valley chiefs frozen out of President Trump’s White House – December 3, 2016
Silicon Valley uncertain after Donald Trump wins U.S. presidency – November 10, 2016
Silicon Valley donated 60 times more to Clinton than to Trump – November 7, 2016
99% of Silicon Valley’s political dollars are going to Hillary Clinton – October 25, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Silicon Valley throw big money at Clinton and pretty much bupkis at Trump – August 23, 2016
Donald Trump’s most unlikely supporter: Silicon Valley billionaire Pete Thiel – July 21, 2016
Tech investor Peter Thiel’s embrace of Donald Trump for U.S. President has Silicon Valley squirming – July 20, 2016
An open letter from Apple co-founder Woz, other techies on Donald Trump’s candidacy for U.S. President – July 14, 2016
Apple refuses to aid 2016 GOP presidential convention over Trump comments – June 18, 2016
Apple and Silicon Valley employees love Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump? Not so much – May 6, 2016
Trump: We’ll get Apple to manufacture ‘their damn computers and things’ in the U.S.A. – January 18, 2016