President Trump plans to sign an order known as “Buy American, Hire American” in Wisconsin on Tuesday which will alter the visa program that brings in highly-skilled workers from overseas.
In an effort to prevent immigration fraud and abuse, the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State will propose new rules and suggest changes to ensure that H-1B visas go to the “most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.”
In its current form, the H-1B program undercuts American workers by bringing in cheaper labor, according to the president, and some tech companies use the program to hire large numbers of workers and drive down wages.
The new order will enforce requirements that certain federally-funded construction and transportation projects must use American-made products, according to officials, who noted that the commerce secretary will close loopholes in the enforcement of existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.
Furthermore, any waivers which are not benefiting the United States will be “renegotiated or revoked.”
In one debate during his campaign, Trump called for an end to the H-1B visa program, saying, “It’s very bad for our workers and it’s unfair for our workers. And, we should end it.”
Changes to the program could be administrative or legislative, said officials, adding that there may be higher fees for the visas, changes to the wage scale for the program, or other initiatives.
Each year, approximately 85,000 H-1B visas are distributed by lottery. Claiming that the United States has a shortage of skilled technology workers, technology companies say they rely on the H-1B program.
Critics of the program say that staffing companies use the visas to import foreigners — especially from India — who will work for lower wages than Americans. Then the staffing companies sell their services to corporate clients who use them to outsource tech jobs. Examples of this practice include employers such as Walt Disney World and the University of California – San Francisco, which have both laid off their tech employees and replaced them with H-1B visa holders. It was reported that Disney even asked its American workers to train their foreign replacements if they wanted to receive their severance packages.
Claiming a shortage of skilled American workers, tech industry leaders say that the H-1B program is essential to keeping foreign students in the U.S. after getting degrees in high-tech specialties.
Several bills to overhaul the visa program are currently under consideration by Congress, including one which would require companies to first make a good-faith effort to hire Americans, another which would give the Labor Department more power to investigate and sanction H-1B abuses, and a third designed to give “the best and brightest” foreign students studying in the U.S. priority in getting H-1B visas.
Trump is planning to sign the order at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, Trump picked Snap-on because it’s “a company that builds American-made tools with American workers.”
Founded in Wisconsin in 1920, Snap-on’s eight manufacturing sites in North America produce hand and power tools, diagnostics software, information and management systems, and shop equipment for use in a variety of industries, including agriculture, the military and aviation. Snap-on has 11,000 employees worldwide.
Dennis Michael Lynch and Harlan Hill will focus on the H-1B visa issue tonight on “The Truth” at 8:30 p.m. ET exclusively here on the DML website.
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