“President Donald Trump’s clash with Silicon Valley over immigration is about to become even more contentious,” Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai report for Bloomberg Technology. “After the new president banned refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft and others railed against the move, saying it violated the country’s principles and risked disrupting its engine of innovation. Trump’s next steps could strike even closer to home: His administration has drafted an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs technology companies depend on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year. ”
“If implemented, the reforms could shift the way American companies like Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. recruit talent and force wholesale changes at Indian companies such as Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. Businesses would have to try to hire American first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid,” Elstrom and Rai report. “‘Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest,’ the draft proposal reads, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg. ‘Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold.'”
“There have been allegations the programs have been abused to bring in cheaper workers from overseas to fill jobs that otherwise may go to Americans. The top recipients of the H-1B visas are outsourcers, primarily from India, who run the technology departments of large corporations with largely imported staff,” Elstrom and Rai report. “The proposed Trump order is also aimed at bringing more transparency to the program. It calls for publishing reports with basic statistics on who uses the immigration programs within one month of the end of the government’s fiscal year. The Obama administration had scaled back the information available on the programs and required Freedom of Information Act requests for some data.”
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:
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.
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