President Donald Trump is preparing an executive order aimed at revamping the H-1b visa program to ensure tech companies make a good faith effort to hire American workers before importing foreign workers.
The stated purpose of the H-1b program is to allow companies to temporarily import high-skilled workers when they can’t find American workers willing or able to do the job, but critics contend its true purpose is to help big businesses cut costs by importing less expensive workers. In the past several years, Disney, Southern California Edison, Fossil Group and others have together fired hundreds of American tech workers and forced them to train their foreign replacements, many of whom were flown in specifically to take their jobs. (RELATED: Laid Off Disney Worker Takes On H-1b Myths)
A major overhaul to the program would have to happen through Congress, but Trump can make some changes via executive authority, and his administration is drafting an order, reports Bloomberg. Tech companies would have to prioritize American workers first under the draft order, and if they do import foreign workers, they would have to prioritize those who are the most skilled and highest paid. (RELATED: HP Dumps 30,000 American Workers While Lobbying For More H-1bs)
“Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest,” a draft reviewed by Bloomberg reads. “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.”
Nothing substantive has come of an investigation opened in 2015 by the Obama administration into abuses of the H-1b program, following a series of reports of companies firing American workers and forcing them to train their replacements. One of the workers laid off at Disney described the anger and humiliation he felt during the experience in a May, 2015, interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“It was just a complete shock that you could do that in this country,” he told TheDCNF, adding: “Twenty years of hard work, technical skill building, fostering relationships, a bachelor’s degree in IT, guided me to a coveted position as an IT engineer at Disney. And that was just wiped out.”
The U.S. currently allows 1 million immigrants and about 700,000 guest workers into the country annually. The Census Bureau recently projected the foreign-born population (legal and illegal immigrants) will hit 51 million by 2023 — the largest share of total population ever recorded in American history.
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