H1B visa rule change: US Congress members oppose Trump administration's plan, say it will 'tear families apart'

Some US lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticised the Trump administration's reported plan to curb H1B visa extensions that could result in self-deportation of an estimated 5,00,000-7,50,000 Indian Americans, saying the move would drain America of talent.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The proposal, which was part of president Donald Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" initiative that he vowed to launch on the campaign trail, is being drafted by Department of Homeland Security leaders, according to reports.

The H1B program offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers. But since taking office last January, the Trump administration has been cracking down on the scheme.

Influential Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said: "Imposing these draconian restrictions on H1B visa holders will tear families apart, drain our society of talent and expertise, and damage our relationship with an important partner, India.

"This proposal could lead to the deportation of an estimated 5,00,000 to 7,50,000 Indian H1B visa holders, many of whom are small business owners and job creators who are helping to build and strengthen our US economy. This brain drain will stifle innovation and decrease our ability to compete in the global 21st-century economy," Gabbard said.

In a statement, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) sounded alarm over the Trump administration’s proposal to deny extensions of H1B visas to green card applicants and leaving them with no choice but to return to the country of origin or be deported.

"It’s a baffling calculation. How would deporting hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, the very backbone of our STEM industries, in any way advance an 'America First' agenda?" Suhag Shukla asked.

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said while priority must continue to be improving advanced training for the domestic workforce, ending H1B visa extensions would kneecap American economy and encourage companies to further offshore jobs, instead of making those investments in the US.

"I hope the administration immediately rejects this proposal," he said.

An official statement from a US Chamber of Commerce spokesperson stated, "“It would tremendously be a bad policy to tell highly skilled individuals who are applying for permanent residency and have been working in the US for several years that they are no longer welcome. This policy would harm American business, our economy, and the country. Further, it is inconsistent with the goals of a more merit-based immigration system.”

Congressman Ro Khanna said the proposal was "anti-immigrant".

"My parents came here on green cards. So did @sundarpichai, @elonmusk, @satyanadella. Trump is saying to immigrants and their kids we don’t have a place in America. It's not just wrong. It's dumb. Mr President, would America really be greater without us?" he asked in a tweet.

According to Aman Kapoor of Immigration Voice, H1B extension change would be just wrong at every level.

"It will be a catastrophe of epic proportion for Indian-American community leading to mass exodus of close to 1.5 million people (around 7,50,000 primary applicants on H1B visa and another 7,50,000+ spouses and children)," he said.

Tsion Chudnovsky, an immigration and business lawyer in California said: "Given the dramatic effect this proposal could have on the technology industry, it doesn't seem likely it could garner enough support to be enacted as stated."

With inputs from PTI

Published Date: Jan 05, 2018 15:05 PM | Updated Date: Jan 06, 2018 15:10 PM

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