USCIS admits H-1B visas are being targeted

Critics cry foul as agency makes it clear that immigrant workers are not a priority

Ritu Jha

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agreed that the agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programs.

Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations at USCIS was cautious in an email response to indica about the recent news published in McClatchy that the Department of Homeland Security is considering new regulations to prevent H-1B visa extensions:

“We are not at liberty to discuss any part of the pre-decisional processes; however, all proposed rules publish in the federal register and USCIS posts all policy memoranda on our website,” he wrote.

According to Withington, USCIS is focused on ensuring the integrity of the immigration system and protecting the interests of US workers, and it is committed to reforming employment-based immigration programs to best help the American people.

But the McClatchy report said, “The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans.”

Since President Trump came to power he has been promoting the need to hire Americans and buy American products, targeting H-1B visa holders in particular. But there was a little hint of a ban on extensions on H-1B visas for those who apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card.

Attorney Navneet S. Chugh, managing partner and founder of Chugh, LLP, believes that, if executed, the new rules “would cause severe turmoil in the lives of hundreds of thousands and their families.”

It is estimated that over 500,000 Indians would be affected if these changes went into effect.

“These people have been contributing in a big way to American society. They have bought houses, their kids go to schools and they are decent, law-abiding, taxpaying people,” he said. “It is not fair for the United States to ask them to contribute in a big way and after they have contributed, ask them to leave.”

“Either don’t create a law that allows for H 1B extensions if a green card is pending or, once created, don’t take it away,” he said.”

Chugh said he does not believe the changes will become about.

“With the United States at near full employment I don’t know what purpose get served by sending hundreds of thousands of employed people back to their home countries, he said. “Who is going to replace them? Who is going to take their jobs?”

Chugh says if there was a line of Americans standing in the unemployment line waiting to take technology jobs than one could argue that this is good for America, but that’ was not the case.

“Seems to me that this new era of hire American and buy American will only make things worse for this country,” Chugh said.

More worried was Vivek Wadhwa, technology entrepreneur and a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Silicon Valley.

“The news from the Trump administration is clearly very worrisome for the H1B workers and bad for America,” he said, adding that it could cause chaos.

Wadhwa said there appeared to be an effort to force Indian workers to leave the US by creating every hurdle possible. But he believes India will have no reason to complain.

“This is going to set back America’s technology industry and provide a huge boost to India’s,” he said and added, “Already, there are hundreds of promising startups all over India that could be billion-dollar companies. Sending more talent home will be a gift to India.”

Reacting to the contentious report, the Hindu American Foundation expressed its strong objections.

According to a statement issued by Suhag Shukla, HAF’s executive director, and legal counsel, “This policy seems squarely aimed at Indians workers in the United States, who also happen to be mostly Hindu. It’s a baffling calculation. How would deporting hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, the very backbone of our STEM industries, in any way advance an ‘America First’ agenda?”

Shukla added, “With unemployment at record lows and severe shortages of labor to fill skilled technical positions, this proposal is certain to cripple the efficiency and growth of American businesses.”


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