Illegal immigration has long been the subject of heated debate in the United States.
Now President Donald Trump is making “legal immigration a scapegoat” with his sights set on the upcoming election, says Poorvi Chotani, managing partner of Law Quest, an immigration law firm with offices in the United States and India. .
“How can the United States recover more than 17 million jobs lost due to the pandemic by keeping just over half a million foreign workers for the rest of the year?” she told me.
Ms. Chotani primarily refers to the H-1B visa program that currently admits 85,000 immigrants each year, many of them for skilled jobs in the technology industry. On Tuesday, Trump suspended this and other work visas that allowed foreigners to work in the U.S. USA Until the end of 2020.
The measure will hit India hard.
Three-quarters of the H-1B visas issued each year still go to Indian-born workers, although the top seven Indian tech companies now only get 6% of total visas under this program.
Rise of the American Indians
“This is testimony to the skill set of Indian citizens. And it has little to do with immigration. The H-1B is about the temporary movement of highly skilled workers. It does not affect the net numbers of immigration,” Shivendra Singh, vice president of The development of world trade at Nasscom, the trade group for the Indian technology industry, says.
The H-1B visa program is also the reason for “the rise of American Indians to the highest educated and highest-earning group, immigrants or natives in the United States,” say the authors of The Other One Percent, a study. of Indians in the United States. .
The researchers based in the US The US, Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapoor, and Nirvikar Singh discovered that in the early 2010s, approximately 60% of the 100,000 people born in India entering the US. USA Each year through specialized pathways they were in the H-1B program. They were mainly employed in computer-related occupations.
Almost half a million H-1B visas issued between 2004 and 2012 were for Indians. Together with their dependents, they represented more than a quarter of the Indian-American population, which is currently around 3 million.
The new participants, the researchers noted, spoke different languages and lived in different places than previous Indian immigrants.
Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu speakers increased in size. Traditional American Indian groups in New York and Michigan were replaced by larger groups in California and New Jersey. In many ways, the qualified visa program led to the birth of a “new map of American Indians.”
The future begins to seem uncertain now.
Critics have long said that these visas have allowed Silicon Valley companies to outsource American jobs to lower-paid foreign employees. The share of Indian companies among the top ten visa recipients has decreased.
“For Indian companies there has been a downward trend because local hiring has increased and there have been changes in global delivery models and the nature of the domain experience,” Singh told me.
Close the skills gap
What puzzles Indians is the objective behind the Trump movement, which has already met with resistance from tech companies like Google.
Trump says the measure will create jobs for Americans suffering economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic.
But on the one hand, Indian experts say, Trump had been reducing legal immigration even when there were enough jobs. And at a time when the United States is really looking at millions of people out of work because of the pandemic, unemployment in computer occupations has really rejected from 3% in January to 2.5% in May. As of May 14, there were 625,000 computer occupation job openings in the United States.
“The numbers tell a completely different story. H-1B workers bridge a critical skills gap. And now they will become essential workers in the post-Covid recovery process across the board: cyber security, online education, research. of vaccines, etc. “says Mr. Singh.
Many in India believe Trump’s move is part of a plan to make permanent changes to immigration laws to discourage foreign workers.
Ms. Chotani believes that obtaining an H-1B visa will be more expensive for Indian companies: Employees pay up to $ 6,460 for each visa application. As a result, US tech companies. USA They will collect more of these visas, recruit graduates from American universities, and recruit directly from local and foreign companies.
These visas may be limited in the future only to highly paid, skilled foreign workers and exclude those engaged in low-cost, mid-level administrative services.
“Even this,” says Singh, “will lead to disruption because much of that work occurs with teams with senior supervisors who are immigrants with a team of local hires.”
The future of the H-1B visa program has always been difficult to predict and has been susceptible to anti-immigration pressures. Cornell Law Professor Steve Yale-Loehr told the New York Times that this was the “biggest crackdown on work visas I’ve seen in my 35 years of practice.”
It is unclear what will happen next. With the pandemic showing the world how to work remotely, will a post-Covid future see a drastic reduction in visas and more professionals working from home as companies reduce visa dependency? Will short-term “tech visas” facilitate relatively long ones like the H-1B?
“A review of the immigration system has been underway for a long time. Things have been pushed to the limit by upcoming US presidential polls. Everything is fueled by populism, exacerbated by the pandemic and rising unemployment.” says Ms Chotani.