Written by Joe Guzzardi
Employment authorization for H-4 visa holders – H-1B visa spouses and their children under age 21 – may be determined soon. The decision to reverse work permission has been delayed several times since the Trump administration first proposed it in 2017.
In the last five years, more than 500,000 H-4 visas have been issued, mostly to women who are Indian nationals. For months now, President Trump has been sabre-rattling about ending H-4 employment authorization. And while the president’s opposition to these work permissions has been described in the media and by some in Congress as unfairly harsh, rescinding H-4 employment authorization would simply put the spouses back to the terms that they originally and voluntarily agreed to.
In the pre-Obama era, H-4s knew that their immigration agreement expressly denied them work authorization. They accepted the restriction, and willingly came to the U.S. But once here, they whined, and either reached out to immigration lawyers or were approached by immigration lawyers who anticipated huge pay days. An educated guess: the consensus among the H-4s, the lawyers and pro-immigration activists must have been that then-President Obama, who had a well-established anti-American worker track record, would be a soft touch.
And they were right. In 2015, the Obama administration approved work permission for H-4s. Note that the H-4 work authorization was not congressionally approved, and therefore can be revoked by President Trump or a future president.
In the meantime, two notoriously anti-American worker Bay Area Congresswomen, Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), reintroduced the “H-4 Employee Protection Act.” In her press release, Eshoo said, predictably and deceptively, that the H-4s “are accomplished and qualified individuals whose skills we’ll lose to other countries unless the administration finds a more sensible approach to immigration.”
The greater likelihood is that the H-4s are finding it tough to live in the Bay Area on a single income. On average, their skills are ordinary, and it’s highly improbable that they would leave the U.S. since most of their spouses are on a Green Card path, and their children enjoy taxpayer-funded public educations.
Undeniably true is that the H-4s compete with American workers in all employment categories. Unlike their H-1B spouses, their employers don’t control their visas. H-4s can work anywhere, and quit any time to take a better job.
A lot is at stake for American workers and for President Trump. U.S. workers are under siege from dozens of employment-based visas that allow foreign nationals to displace American workers. The H-1B is the most recognizable of these employment visas, and the H-4, if work authorization continues, is its illegitimate child.
As for President Trump, he campaigned and was elected on a pledge to “Buy American, Hire American,” yet promptly went about hiring subordinates for key immigration positions who opposed his agenda and subverted him at every turn. President Trump appointed as Department of Homeland Security Secretary the now-departed and completely unqualified George W. Bush apparatchik Kirstjen Nielsen.
In turn, Nielsen named as her Chief of Staff Chad Wolf, a former lobbyist for H-1B bucket shops that specialize in displacing U.S. tech workers. The Trump administration hasn’t rescinded a single Obama-era foreign worker, work authorization program, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. Keenly disappointed Trump voters recall that one of the candidate’s oft-repeated promises was to end DACA on “Day One.” More than 866 dayssince President Trump’s inauguration, DACA rolls on, unimpeded, with the House just passing an amnesty that would include DACAs.
Given past history, the probability that H-4 work permits will be revoked is slim, although one can always hope. To date, about 155,000 H-4s hold jobs that citizens are fully qualified to perform. Jobs for U.S. citizens must come first, and the nation’s collective best interests must be protected against cheap, low-wage foreign labor.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].