iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
A controversial H-1B visa program that was introduced during the Trump era is set to get changes as it has been receiving several negative criticisms.
On Thursday, December 9, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks introduced legislation called the American Tech Workforce Act today that would stop Big Tech’s exploitation of the United States’ immigration system to disadvantage American workers and drive down wages. The bill is part of a Republican Study Committee initiative to hold Big Tech accountable.
The program has been dogged by claims that Big Tech companies use it to import cheaper foreign tech workers to replace their more expensive American counterparts. Proponents of the program reject those claims and say that the program is used to fill gaps in the labor market.
“Big Tech is setting aside some of the most lucrative and valuable career opportunities in America and giving them exclusively to foreign guest workers. They’re cutting out Americans to save a few bucks. It’s domestic outsourcing. This shocking disregard for American workers and their role in our nation’s future is unpatriotic. We must fix Big Tech’s incentives, so they begin putting Americans first”, said Banks.
The bill, which has 11 co-sponsors, would set a wage floor for H-1B visa recipients equal to that being paid to American workers currently in the position, or $110,000 — whichever is higher. It would also give priority to employers offering higher wages, a move that the Republicans say would incentivize companies to offer higher wages in order to secure the limited visa spots.
Separately, it would also end the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows foreign nationals on student visas to work in the U.S. for up to three years if they have certain qualifications in STEM fields. Critics have said this has also given another path to companies to hire cheaper foreign workers over their American counterparts.
Finally, the legislation would also limit the ability of companies to partner with third-party companies to fill H-1B visa spots.
“Big Tech is setting aside some of the most lucrative and valuable career opportunities in America, and giving them exclusively to foreign guest workers,” Banks said in a statement. “They’re cutting Americans out to save a few bucks. It’s domestic outsourcing. This shocking disregard for American workers and their role in our nation’s future is unpatriotic. We must fix Big Tech’s incentives so they begin putting Americans first.”
The move represents the latest effort to crack down on alleged abuse in the program. The Trump administration published rules that would change the methodology of the “prevailing wage” and the definition of “specialty occupation” but they never went into effect.
Typically, companies can bring in up to 85,000 workers in a year under the program, and applicants come predominantly from India and China.
The H-1B visa program has been a key target of immigration hawks for years, and a push against the abuse of the program has coincided with an increased crackdown by Republicans on Big Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Facebook – who make up some of the top recipients of the program.
The Banks bill has picked up the support of groups that are hawkish on immigration, including the American Principles Project (APP), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA.
This bill is an opportunity for all Representatives to make clear that they stand with American workers,” she said.
The bill comes as immigration provisions are being debated in the Capitol as part of the Build Back Better Act (BBA), which is not supported by any Republicans.