US’s President-elect Donald Trump, who from his early campaign days has been a staunch supporter of strict immigration laws to restrict foreigners from entering the US, still, cannot make up his mind about what he actually wants. For Republicans, the current state of immigration was the prime campaign running issue which Trump supported by bringing out crazy theories like building a US-Mexico wall paid by Mexico of course, but when it comes to H-1B program let’s just say he’s more than inconsistent.
For anyone who is not acquainted with this program, H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows US employers to recruit and employ foreign labour in speciality occupations. These permits allow the professionals to stay and work in the USA for a specified period. In Trump’s early campaign days he talked about the H-1B visa program by saying:
“The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans — including immigrants themselves and their children — to earn a middle-class wage. … We need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed. Petitions for workers should be mailed to the unemployment office, not USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).”
But, when asked about the same program during a debate in October, he responded:
“I’m in favour of people coming into this country legally. And you know what? They can have it any way you want. You can call it visas, you can call it work permits, you can call it anything you want. … As far as the visas are concerned, if we need people, it’s fine. They have to come into this country legally. We have a country of borders. We have a country of laws. We have to obey the laws. It’s fine if they come in, but they have to come in legally.”
Later on, when he was confronted about the change in his views, he stated that his stance was changing and he was softening his views on the H-1B visas. As expected he later took a quick U-turn and said that he doesn’t support H-1B and vows to end it forever. Trump leading to the election day and also till the current date has adopted the abrupt removal policy, as many times after his promise to end the program, he praised it as well. So in conclusion, he has no idea whether he supports it or is against it, and has left it as a brain teaser for the analysts.
The tech industry gains the most advantage from this program as it helps them choose the specialised professionals from a vast pool of candidates. Tech giants like Google and Microsoft hire well paid and highly skilled foreign workers that are scarce, to gain a competitive edge in the volatile industry. The H-1B visas admit 65,000 employees and another 20,000 graduate student workers each year and tech industry lobbies to expand the program further.
The visas are allotted by a lottery once a year for the available seats of 85,000 workers, a cap set by the US immigration law. The critics of this program claim that it reduces the jobs for American employees and many companies abuse it for their personal gains. Of course, Trump took a vague swing at the law in the following words:
“I know the H-1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me. I’m a businessman. These are laws. These are regulations. These are rules. We’re allowed to do it. … I will take advantage of it; they’re the laws. But I’m the one that knows how to change it. Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me.”
The lack of clear approach of the next US president on this issue creates uncertainty among the industry. Though it is also possible that he may take a soft stance and bring on a few real changes to the law, but since Trump loves to change his every position, the tech industry needs to make a few backup plans just in case to safeguard and protect this program.