He’s finally done it - Donald Trump has signed an executive order on stricter enforcement and review of the H1B visa - popular in the technology industry to bring "highly skilled" foreign workers into the US, typically at a price advantage. How the "highly skilled" has been defined has been at the heart of rising anger with American 'victims' lashing out at how H1B bodyshops are gaming the system to import low grade, low paid toiling masses into their mainland.
After months of screw tightening measures, the H1B visa got hammered some more - this time by the US President Trump on a gorgeous, wind swept spring afternoon in Wisconsin as he ratcheted up his old campaign war cry of ‘Buy American, Hire American’ in front of a 500 strong gathering of workers and local stars, including the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, a Kenosha native. Trump won an upset victory against Hillary Clinton here in Wisconsin and this latest executive order comes at a difficult time for the White House unable to show much in terms of legislative overhaul and the sweeping 'Muslim ban' blocked by courts.
Although we will continue to hear pundits say that Trump's H1B move is all talk and the sheer complication involved in implementing real change is a mirage, fact is that the H1B has already been hammered even without this executive order. Since Trump took office in January this year, the H1B has come in for a three pronged attack from the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. H1B workers and the body shops that contract them out to clients in the US are sweating, this much is clear.
More from Firstpost on the H1B:
Speaking to workers at Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wisconsin which falls on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Trump made his most pointed remarks yet on the H1B, turning the knife in, showing he has done his homework and/ or been briefed in great detail by his innermost circle. Trump's dishevelled chief strategist Stephen Bannon, just the man who may have scribbled this sort of 'nationalist' headline grabber, marked attendance in WI.
Trump has put his official stamp on the “H1B lottery is bad” idea and going by how much has become tougher in the last few months for H1B workers even without Trump speaking on the topic, this is a clear indication that the H1B lottery system will be the next one for the meat cleaver.
“…we are going to enforce the Hire American rules that are designed to protect jobs and wages of workers in the United States. We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first. Does that make sense? Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay. This will stop. American workers have long called for reforms to end these visa abuses. And today, their calls are being answered for the first time. That includes taking the first steps to set in motion a long-overdue reform of H1B visas.
“Right now, H1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery -- and that's wrong. Instead, they should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans. No one can compete with American workers when they're given a fair and level playing field, which has not happened for decades.”
On the campaign trail and in his tough talking inaugural address, Trump promised an "America First" method. Less than 100 days into his Presidency and faced with rising anxiety among his voter base that he’s gone soft on the hard choices, Trump Wisconsin speech shows a certain hark back to the campaign in a bid to win back the base.
Remember that Trump is already collecting money for his 2020 run and no other President has done that so early into their first term. This is a base Trump won’t want to lose to even another Republican, forget about Democrats.
Already being flayed for ousting Stephen Bannon from his prized National Security Council, Trump’s H1B remarks will warm the heart of his hardcore voters faraway from the more hip New York and Washington D.C.
Indian nationals are the largest single group of recipients of the 65,000 H1B visas issued yearly to new applicants under a Congress mandated cap. Exemptions on the cap are available to up to 20,000 applicants who have a US master’s degree.
The actual number of Indian nationals working in the United States under the H1B programme is significantly higher, however, because H1B visas typically roll over in a three year plus three year cycle.
From the time George W. Bush signed into law the Immigration Act of 1990 which opened the H1B floodgates for Indians till 2016, never before has the H1B been in such sharp focus as it has been in the last 100 days. As it turns out, the H1B backlash is the one 'America First' campaign promise that Trump has delivered on for his vote base. Everything else - from Obamacare to tax reform is meeting a dumpster fire in Congress.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Apr 19, 2017 22:15:10 IST