President Trump issued an Executive Order titled “Buy American and Hire American” on April 18, 2017. The stated purpose of the Executive Order was to protect the interests of the US workers and to ensure that H-1Bs are given to highly skilled workers and highest paid workers.

Just prior to the issuance of the above Executive Order, U. S. Department of Homeland Security, U. S. Department of Justice, and the U. S. Department of Labor issued the following policy memos intended to protect U. S. workers:

1. April 3, 2017 – USCIS issues a memo on enhanced site visits for fraud detection;
2. April 5, 2017 – USDOJ issues a terse memo asking US employers to NOT use the H-1B program to discriminate against US workers; and
3. April 5, 2017 – USDOL issues a memo on increasing investigations and work site enforcement.

While we do not question the intent of these memos and the Executive Order, we are troubled by the effect the current political climate has had in unleashing a wave of anti immigrant sentiment like never seen before. Tragically people have lost lives as with the murder of H-1B worker from India, Srinivas Kuchibotla in Kansas in the Spring. This anti India sentiment was yet again clearly evident in the July 26, 2017 USCIS call on “Buy American and Hire American.” GLF was aghast by the level of vitriol that was directed at Indian H-1B workers on this particular call. Caller after caller berated H-1B workers from India and India IT Consulting and there were very few voices of reason or moderation on the call. The loss of jobs and declining wages in America over the last 20 years is real but to blame all of that on Indian H-1B workers is unfair. It is real and true that there are loopholes in the H-1B program and they should be addressed and fixed; but to malign an entire industry and every Indian H-1B worker is wrong and un-American.

GLF wants to highlight and acknowledge the good associated with H-1B program. Unlike the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs that are never coming back, the H-1B program (while it has displaced some US workers), has not caused an exodus of jobs from the US. We have to accept the fact that US just does not have enough STEM graduates to fill all the technology job openings and H-1B program as such fills a vital gap in our economy while controlling costs. H-1B workers also come in to the workforce in technical areas where the skills are lacking locally. So, training and retooling of US workers is essential and in this context it is worth noting that H-1B petitions are accompanied by ACWIA fee of either $750 or $1500 depending on the size of the employer, and those funds need to be properly allocated for its intended purpose – which is training of US workers.

H-1B program has benefited large US companies immensely; for example FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google), and similar companies, have been the ultimate beneficiaries of these resources, even though they do not file the H-1B petitions themselves. H-1Bs have provided these technology companies the bandwidth to lower their cost structures and innovate. You would not have game changers like, Uber today without the contributions for H-1B workers. It is also important to recognize that CEOs of many American Blue Chip companies such as Microsoft (Satya Nadella), Google (Sundar Pichai), and Pepsi (Indira Nooyi) have presumably been the beneficiaries of the H-1B program. That is a powerful statement to the success of the H-1B program and to the American Meritocracy. Game changing companies like Amazon, Uber and Tesla; have used the H-1B program to innovate and create a whole host of new jobs that previously did not exist in the economy before. While some technology jobs may been lost to H-1B workers in the US, other entirely new sectors of economy have opened up.

At GLF, we support efforts to reform and strengthen the H-1B program but any reform efforts that do not acknowledge the positive contributions of the H-1B program will result in the proverbial “baby being thrown out with the bath water.”

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