The Trump tornado rages on. The former New York City and global real estate developer, reality television host, and founder of the Birther conspiracy movement, President Donald J. Trump not only raised some of the most contentious topics during his campaign, but is sprinting at them head-on with executive action in his first 100 days. Adjacent to the topic of immigration reform is that of documented labor using H1B visas.
Any steps that Donald Trump and his executive branch takes to make it less advantageous for US-based companies to bring in foreign talent and labor will win both applause and outrage.
However, in this debate, it is critical to understand why this is such a contentious issue and why any executive orders and legislation will need to be well-thought out, as they will have long and short term effects on the American economy.
The H1-B visa was created in 1990 by the Congressional bill,the American Immigration and Nationality Act. The argument made at the time by bill's sponsors and the Republican led house and senate was that the US had a shortage of specialized and skilled labor which would make American companies less competitive.
H1-B visas are in theory, are supposed to be used sparingly with a 65k visa cap and a required minimum salary of $65k. Moreover, H1-B workers pay in to America’s social security program as well as contribute $500 per year towards the retraining of American workers, a fee which accumulated to $1 billion dollars in programs.
Abuses of a Well-Intentioned Recruitment Tool
However, critics of the law have pointed out a number of abuses of the system.
Among the abuses listed are the outsourcing of labor to less expensive labor to firms outside the US, the suppression of wages wherein domestic workers on H1-B visas in some industries make on average $25,000 than their American counterparts and blatant fraud, with visa awardees being found in one study to be using inaccurate or falsified application information 21% of the time.
Both Republicans and Democrats have taken substantive steps towards reform of the visa program in the US Congress. President Donald Trump's new executive branch has announced a freeze on fast-tracked, premium H1-B visas beginning on April 3rd. This freeze could last for up to 6 months.
Meanwhile in the US Congress, Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin have introduced a new bill which seeks to prioritize H1-B visas to students educated in the United States, pushing back against internationally based outsourcing firms which are being charged with abusing the program.
What is clear is that the US benefits from having the best talent in the world. However more Americans and politicians are in favor or giving American citizens first dibs on jobs here. For this reason, we must find a way for corporations to respect the visa system and not abuse it.
Medvis Jackson is a curator at Kulchah, co-founder of #TheDigilogue and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts. He primarily covers startup, tech and small business ecosystems and resources.