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Opinion

The precarious status of H-1B visa holders in the US USA – analysis

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The President of the United States (United States), Donald Trump, recently signed a new presidential proclamation that imposed a 60-day ban on the issuance of green cards to certain immigrants. India’s information technology (IT) industry and hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders in the US The USA, a significant majority of whom are Indian citizens, breathed a sigh of relief: the proclamation did not eliminate the 65,000 H-1B visas for taxes by 2021.

However, H-1B workers, numbering more than half a million, are not yet out of the woods. They are unlikely to be, until the economy picks up or at least until all the ballots are counted after the presidential election on November 3.

Some kind of restrictions could be imposed even in a matter of weeks. In the proclamation, Trump directed the secretaries of work and national security to review various visa programs and recommend appropriate measures, “and ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of workers in the United States.”

Even if no additional measures are implemented, the H-1B community lives in fear of losing their jobs and the idea of ​​having to leave the country. If the economy does not change the situation, 20% to 25% of H-1B employees could lose their jobs, according to an estimate.

Even if the gradual reopening of the economy results in some kind of recovery, there is no doubt that the post-coronavirus pandemic terrain will be challenging for the Indian IT sector in the United States. With the health care infrastructure overwhelmed by the pandemic and the economy in the midst of a recession, the next presidential elections, which are less than six months away, will largely be fought on these two issues. And the jobs, 30 million of them missing, will be at the front and center of the campaign for both parties.

H-1B was a big target for Trump in 2016, who repeatedly criticized him during the presidential campaign. He once promised to “end the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program forever,” and make it “an absolute requirement for hiring Americans.”
workers first for each visa and immigration program ”without exception.

But once in power, Trump largely avoided talking about the H-1B program. The only major action he took was an executive order signed just three months after he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. That was the “Buy American and Hire American” order, which ordered federal agencies to “propose new rules and issue new guidelines” to “protect the interests of” American workers.

During the first three years of the Trump presidency, the US economy. USA It created more than 6.5 million jobs, weakening the argument that H-1B workers are depriving American citizens of jobs. But now, with more than 33 million jobs missing in less than three months, the voices of H-1B critics are echoing more than ever.

With his handling of the coronavirus pandemic significantly lowering his reelection prospects, one should not be surprised if Trump returns to his 2016 car during the campaign.

However, there is a big difference between then and now. In 2016, it was all rhetoric from an insurgent activist; now, as president, he has the tools to implement what he preached four years ago.

Meanwhile, H-1B workers and the Indian IT industry must pray for the best, but wait and be prepared for the worst.

Frank F Islam is an entrepreneur, civic leader, and thought leader based in Washington DC.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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