Washington : Acknowledging that there are problems with the guest worker visa program, the Trump administration has started enforcing tighter norms on issuance of H-1B visas, while suggesting that previous US administrations had been lax in the matter.
While the smackdown on alleged misuse of the H-1B program came from the White House podium, the Justice Department issued a stern statement cautioning employers petitioning for H-1B visas not to discriminate against American workers.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. ”U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.”
Separately, USCIS, the agency involved in the visa issuance, issued a notification tightening bureaucratic norms in deciding H1B petitions. The notification essentially calls for more evidence and paperwork from applicants to show that they are qualified for a particular job rather than merely presenting their degrees.
Although laws calling for such scrutiny have been in the statute for nearly two decades, current administration officials suggested they have been loosely interpreted and poorly enforced over the years, allowing rampant misuse by petitioners who are not really qualified or have the skill set to take up the jobs they are aiming for.
The Trump administration’s crackdown on the alleged misuse of the H-1B visas came on the opening day of the application season on April 3 when USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions for the upcoming fiscal year. Indian IT workers typically snag more than 50 percent of the 85,000 H-1B visas that are up for grabs, with petitions usually outnumbering the quota available by more than three to one.
On Monday, US postal workers serving zip codes where USCIS offices that accept H-1B petitions reported massive loads as lawyers for tech companies rush to petition for visas on behalf of thousands of workers from across the world, mainly from the tech sector.
The H-1B rush began even as nativist pressure groups, which contest the American tech companies’ claims that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the US and foreign workers are needed, began a fervid online campaign to stem the inflow for the year.
“April 3rd Sad day for America. 85,000 H-1B visa foreigners allowed to take American jobs,” one US campaigner wrote on social media. Another added: “Still waiting for H-1B reform. It is incredible what a stranglehold these H-1B shops have here. It is a farm of cheap labor inside USA.”
The Trump White House responded to the concerns, with Presidential spokesman Sean Spicer acknowledging from the daily briefing lectern that there were problems with the H-1B visa program and pledging that the administration would not allow misuse while fixing it. Spicer acknowledges that there are problems with the H-1B Visa program, Trump will enforce the laws on the books.
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