There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with hiring “guest workers.” The problem with them comes in the way companies abuse the system to sub out American workers for cheaper foreign labor.
Now, the Trump administration has issued a new rule on H-1B visas that will go a long way toward ending that kind of abuse and making the system fairer for American workers.
H-1B visas are mainly used by Silicon Valley tech companies as a way to hire specialized tech workers that they say are in short supply in the U.S. That’s a debatable point. But every year, there’s a lottery for 85,000 H-1B visas.
The changes should allow for more oversight of the system and will protect Americans from being replaced by foreigners.
“We’re making good on President Trump’s promise that he made to the American people nearly four years ago, to restore the integrity to the immigration system, to protect Americans from those who seek to exploit our system for personal gain, and to never forget each and every hard-working American struggling to provide for his or her family,” Cuccinelli said in a call with reporters. “This rule will help us rebuild our economy and put Americans back to work.”
Big tech is very unhappy with the proposed reforms, believing they will make it more difficult to hire workers from other countries. But it will also true the system so that the visas go to those it was intended to help.
Under the Department of Labor rule, employers will need to pay H-1B holders higher wages, a move Trump administration officials said will discourage U.S. companies from turning to cheaper labor from abroad.
The DHS rule will redefine the “specialty occupations” H-1B visa holders can qualify for, requiring petitioners to prove they have a college degree in the specific field they are seeking to work in. The changes will also expand compliance enforcement and mandate that workers hired through a third-party firm be granted one-year work authorizations, instead of the current three-year period.
No one denies that some American companies use the program to replace American workers. But now, for the first time, someone is doing something about it.
“This rule the department is publishing this week is faraway one of the most significant reforms made to the H-1B program in the past 20 years,“ Pizzella said, emphasizing that the rule would still allow employers to use the program to fill gaps, while giving U.S. workers a “fair shake.”
Meanwhile, a rule from the Department of Homeland Security will narrow the definition of “specialty occupation,” allow the Department of Homeland Security to increase worksite compliance inspections before and after a H-1B petition, and require the petitioner’s employer to make the application directly — a move to stop companies from bringing in H-1B immigrants and then contracting them to other companies.
The H-1B program is not the only guest worker program. The H-2B program is supposed to be a “temporary non-agricultural worker program,” but is abused by employers in much the same way.
The desperation of visa holders, who typically come from Mexico to work in landscaping or construction, makes it unlikely they are able to stand up for basic workers’ rights or human rights. Proving the need for the workers, which is required by law, has become a sham. Safeguards such as showing that open positions are advertised for American workers are often ignored. When they are not, the wages offered are so low as to discourage applications from workers already in the United States.
The entire visa system in the U.S. needs reform. Changing the H-1B program is a good start. Another term and Trump could finish the job.