On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13788, titled “Buy American and Hire American”.
To be clear: I very much support the idea of buying American products and hiring American citizens when possible. And, some portions of this executive order may result in our government purchasing more American-made products.
However, EO13788 includes a directive about immigration that, in my opinion, will lower the level of legal immigration from non-European countries. Specifically, I believe that, if the Trump administration makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to hire people with an H-1B visa to work within our country, then U.S. companies will simply employ people in other countries to work remotely, without the need for an H-1B visa. Doing so would:
- Have little to no negative effect on U.S. businesses that employ H-1B visa holders.
- Have a negative effect on businesses in the communities where H-1B visa holders work, since they would no longer be able to spend their paychecks in those communities.
- Result in lower LEGAL immigration levels by non-Europeans, in line with Steve Bannon, Rep. Steve King, and Richard Spencer‘s vision for a white ethno-state.
Who are these H-1B visa immigrants? In 2015, 80% of H-1B visa holders were from India or China (see source, page 8). Aliens from Europe and Canada made up less than 5% of H-1B visa recipients, which means changes to the H-1B visa program will overwhelming affect the levels of non-European immigration.
The language in EO13788 sounds good, asking departments within the executive branch to enforce our current laws and “…ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” In fact, the Department of Homeland Security began their H-1B visa reforms in late March 2017:
- Removing “computer programmer” from the list of occupations eligible for an H-1B visa.
- Instructing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “…to conduct increased site visits to regional centers and associated commercial enterprises to verify information provided in regional center applications and investor petitions…” (see source, page 19) to reduce fraud.
- Increasing fees for the H-1B visa program to cover the costs of these site visits and fraud detection efforts (see source, page 19).
Removing an occupation from the list and increasing program fees will both make it more difficult for people to receive an H-1B visa. More disturbing, perhaps, is the directive for increased site visits to detect fraud. Think of it – how will USCIS officials know when they visit an office that the company is defrauding the H-1B visa program? H-1B visa positions are usually high-skilled technical jobs. We might imagine a room full of cubicles, each with an employee and a computer. How could the USCIS fraud agent tell if an employee at a computer is really performing skilled technical work that could not be completed by a U.S. citizen? How will they assess this requirement? Or, are they really looking at the percentage of non-European people in the room? I’d be interested to see the USCIS handbook that details what to look for in a fraud investigation.