'Hire American': Trump signs executive order to restrict H1B visa use

Topics H-1B Visa | Donald Trump | Indian IT

The economic toll of the pandemic has undone the job gains of Trump's presidency and his administration has faced bipartisan criticism.
President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order restricting federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers, hurting Indian IT professionals who work in the US on the H-1B visa.

The move came over a month after the Trump administration in June 23 suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year. The new restrictions took effect from June 24.

"Today I am signing an executive order to ensure that the federal government lives by a very simple rule. Hire American," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House before signing the order against hiring H1B visa holders for federal contracts.

"As we speak, we're finalising the H-1B regulation so that no American workers be replaced ever again. H-1B should be used for top highly paid talent to create American jobs, not as inexpensive labour programmes and destroy American job," said the president who was surrounded across the Cabinet Room table with individuals campaigning against job outsourcing.

Prominent among them were Sara Blackwell, founder and president of Florida-based Protect US Workers organisation; Jonathan Hicks, a software engineer in the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Kevin Lynn, founder of Pennsylvania-based US Tech Workers.

The executive order requires all federal agencies to complete an internal audit and assess whether they are in compliance with the requirement that only US citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service. As a result, the Department of Labour will also finalise guidlines to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers' job sites to displace Americans workers.

'Americans losing jobs'

Trump's order follows the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) announcement that it will outsource 20 per cent of its technology jobs to companies based in foreign countries.

TVA's action could cause more than 200 highly-skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas, the president said.

Outsourcing hundreds of workers is especially detrimental in the middle of a pandemic, which has already cost millions of Americans their jobs, the White House said in a statement.

Given the current climate of rampant intellectual property theft, outsourcing IT jobs that involve sensitive information could pose a national security risk, it said.

The H1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

According to the White House, Trump's actions will help combat employers' misuse of H-1B visas, which were never intended to replace qualified American workers with low-cost foreign labour.

One of the participants present during the signing of the order told the president that as many as 70 per cent of the H-1B visa goes to people from India.

Trump said he favours a merit-based immigration system that brings in high-skilled people that creates jobs inside the US and not take jobs of Americans.

"Immigration will be very merit based, but it'll be, it'll be great for the worker. And it'll be great for people coming into our country, but coming into our country legally and loving the country and wanting to help our country as opposed to people coming in. And they don't like our country," Trump said.



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