American tech workers campaigned hard for President Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Often their efforts were behind the scenes, but tech workers were also visible in generating support for Donald Trump.
During the campaign, candidate Trump promised major changes to the H-1B visa program whose very purpose is to replace Americans with cheap foreign labor. A campaign press release stated:
The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.
With the 2020 election approaching, now is a good time to access what Trump has done to fulfill that promise.
The major accomplishment of the Trump administration is that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services actually verifies what is on the H-1B petitions.
Under previous administrations, H-1B approval had been a rubber-stamp operation that resulted in massive frauds.
The administration has also changed the order of the H-1B lotteries for the available visas. In the past, the open lottery for 65,000 visas took place before the lottery for the 20,000 visas reserved for former foreign students who had graduated from U.S. universities. Now, the U.S.-graduate lottery takes place first so that the former foreign students can enter both lotteries, giving them a much greater chance of getting a visa. This change is great for universities that want to promote immigration benefits for full-tuition-paying foreign students, but provides no benefit whatsoever for American workers.
There was an expectation that:
- The president would find that the displacement of Americans is contrary to the national interest and make a declaration that the admission of non-immigrant labor is contingent on non-displacement of American workers.
- The president would work with members of Congress to enact legislation to reform the H-1B program so that H-1B workers cannot replace Americans.
- The Trump administration would repudiate the Obama administration's claim of unlimited authority to permit alien employment through regulation and end guestworker programs created administratively without congressional approval (such as Optional Practical Training or OPT).
- The Department of Homeland Security would issue regulations shortening the duration of an H-1B visa to one term of three years.
- DHS and the Department of Labor would define "employment" to reflect its normal meaning to eliminate the practice of subcontracting H-1B workers to third parties.
- The DOL would address the H-1B prevailing wage rates to eliminate the ability for employers to pay H-1B workers extremely low wages.
- The Department of Justice would change the regulations governing immigration-related discrimination to conform to statutory intent.
But none of these things has taken place, and with the appointment of H-1B lobbyist Chad Wolf as acting secretary of Homeland Security it is unlikely that the administration will make progress on H-1B reform.
In the meantime, the replacement of Americans by H-1B workers continues unabated.
It looks like President Trump will put himself up for reelection without having fulfilled his campaign promise that "I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program."