The Economic Times
English EditionEnglish Editionहिन्दीગુજરાતી
| E-Paper
Search
+

    Will Trump's H-1B visa freeze really help American job seekers?

    Synopsis

    There is little credible evidence to suggest these travel bans have any positive impact on the US unemployment.

    Agencies
    That the Trump Administration is claiming that barring babies from getting visas helps US workers shows just how absurd this whole Proclamation is.
    By Greg Siskind

    During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Donald Trump shocked the public when he suggested that he would ban Muslims from entering the US. The remark was widely condemned even by members of his own party. Within a week of his inauguration in January 2017, Trump announced a broad ban on the entry of people from a number of countries in the Middle East. He used an obscure provision on the Immigration and Nationality Act called 212(f) which allows the President to bar the entry of groups of immigrants deemed to be detrimental to the interests of the United States.

    In the summer of 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States narrowly upheld the President’s use of 212(f) saying the President was entitled to more deference in foreign policy and agreeing that the President had provided documentation justifying his use of the provision (Trump argued that the targeted countries were, among other things, not cooperating with the US in intelligence sharing).

    Once Trump had his Muslim Ban upheld, he felt emboldened to use it in a number of other circumstances. Since the pandemic began, he’s banned multiple groups via proclamation. Two of those bans have collectively affected hundreds of thousands of people seeking immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The April 22nd ban stopped immigrant visas from being issued and the June 22nd ban targeted workers coming to the US in the H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1 visa categories. The justification – the US unemployment rate which has spiked to over 13% as companies across the US locked down in response to the pandemic.

    There is little credible evidence to suggest these travel bans have any positive impact on the US unemployment. Quite the opposite. It helps to first remember that for many of these visa categories, the government filing fees and attorney costs as well as prevailing wage requirements usually make it significantly more expensive to hire foreign workers than US workers. Which means employers use visa sponsorship to fill positions that generally can’t be filled by US workers.

    Employers have shown in the past that they are not going to let positions simply go unfilled or accept unqualified US workers to fill the gaps. They will instead turn to outsourcing. Microsoft is a good example. In 2007, in response to Congress failing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the company announced plans to open a 5,000 worker facility in Vancouver (which it, in fact, opened). In a blunt expression of their frustration over US immigration policy, the company stated "The Vancouver area is a global gateway with a diverse population, is close to Microsoft's corporate offices in Redmond, and allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.” And just this week, Microsoft announced plans to open a 4,000 worker campus in Uttar Pradesh, increasing its presence in India by more than 50%.

    For many workers, their employers have already had to conduct difficult labour market testing to show they are not bypassing minimally qualified US workers. That includes the H-2B program for seasonal and temporary workers. And it includes many H-1B workers who go through the PERM labour certification program in order to qualify for green cards.

    In some occupation categories covered in the ban, the shortages of workers are long-term and severe. Physicians are covered in the ban (with a limited exception for some hospital-based doctors treating Covid patients). This past week, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated the shortage of physicians in the US has grown worse as a result of Covid and will expand to a staggering 139,000 over the next 13 years. That’s a gap of more than 10% compared to the total supply of physicians in the US. More than a quarter of doctors in the US are already foreign-born so blocking their immigration not only prevents us from solving the shortage but will make it potentially much worse.

    The situation in IT is not much better. The US unemployment rate in January 2020 for computer occupations was 3%. In May 2020 that number actually decreased – to 2.8%. Given about half of H-1B visas go to tech sector employers, it’s hard to see how this order will do anything to help the vast majority of workers in the US who are in other sectors.

    And there is also the very serious possibility that the US could be inviting retaliation by other countries against the 8.7 million Americans that live outside the US. The US guaranteed to maintain the size of our H-1B quota and the availability of L-1 intracompany transfer visas when we signed the General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1995. Other countries would be well within their rights to seek to punish the US by similarly banning Americans – and, by extension, American companies.

    Finally, the tell that this ban isn’t really about helping US workers get jobs is the fact that it targets derivative spouses and children EVEN when the principal worker is not covered by the ban. That the Trump Administration is claiming that barring babies from getting visas helps US workers shows just how absurd this whole Proclamation is.


    The author is an immigration lawyer based in Memphis, Tennessee.
    (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

    17 Comments on this Story

    brad30 days ago
    i trained 2 h1s who never seen ibm console before. later discovered they my replacements. arguably h1 ban in place at the time, would not have happened. also, 74% of h1s goto 1 ctry, Indian is not the world. while in US, US citizens come 1st, h1 used as tool by US bus. to import and train indentured foreigners to replace legacy tech jobs.
    if h1 based on top 85k salaries, vs h1 lottery, maybe h1s will be paid better too and dis-incentive for bus. to import / train lo cost tech workers.
    Bbbb Aaaa38 days ago
    This is also Jumla. Donald Trump learnt from Howdi or vice verss. Meant for winning elections and nothing to do with helping the people. Same applies in India
    Jagdip Vaishnav42 days ago
    Best of Luck to Donald Trump
    The Economic Times