Trump Plans to Overhaul Foreign Worker Visa Program to Encourage Hiring Americans

Cheryl Sanders
April 19, 2017

Trump's plan is to alter the H-1B system so it admits only workers who are among the most highly paid and/or skilled in their fields - a "total transformation", he says, from the current system in which successful applicants are chosen in a lottery.

Trump dealt another blow to the program Tuesday afternoon when he signed an executive order targeting the visas during a visit to the Snap-on Tools manufacturing headquarters in Kenosha, Wis.

Senator Chuck Grassley, an author of legislation to reform the H1B and L1 skilled work visa programs, said it is time to take action against the abuse of H1B visa system.

Trump says the order sends a "powerful signal to the world" that the USA will defend its workers, protect their jobs and put America first.

At a press briefing yesterday, representatives of the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, and State spoke to reporters about the executive order, on background (meaning we don't know the names of the representatives who spoke).

With the order, Trump is formally calling for the secretary of commerce and the US trade representative to assess "the impacts of all USA free trade agreements" as part of the new plan. "We also welcome efforts to root out abuse, better enforce the existing rules, and increase the salary requirements", ITIF President Robert D Atkinson said.

"Buy American sounds good and well-intentioned, but it will only help America if it is applied in a manner that reflects today's reality, rather than cut off our nose to spite our face, ITAPS Senior Vice President for Public Sector Trey Hodgkins said".

Some argue that technology companies abuse the H-1B visa program, seeking to acquire cheap labor.

"We welcome proposals to make the programme more effective".

Instead, the executive order acts as a way for Trump to yell at officials to do their damn jobs when it comes to such tasks as cracking down on H1-B visa fraud. Dubbed "Buy American, Hire American", the directive follows a series of recent Trump reversals on economic policies.

The trip brought Trump to the district of House Speaker Paul Ryan, but Ryan was out of the country on a congressional trip.

During his 21-minute address, Trump lamented the loss of American jobs to overseas companies, touted vocational schools and pledged a future with more products stamped with the words "Made in the United States of America".

The president stated his disapproval of the lottery program, which now determines who gets the highly-coveted visas.

"The net effect has been to crowd out American workers, and in some cases, to lead to the direct and indirect replacement of American workers with cheaper labor from overseas". Trump reversed himself on both positions in interviews last week. "But it also means employers can be at risk if they're not reviewing how competitive the salaries are for their foreign workers".

President Trump's promises were well-received by the crowd, including workers who said they hope the order will boost production.

Potential changes could be administrative or legislative and could include higher fees for the visas, changing the wage scale for the program or other initiatives.

In addition to addressing the visas issue, he also ordered a review of government procurement rules favouring American companies to see if they are actually benefiting, especially the USA steel industry.

But critics say the program has been hijacked by staffing companies that use the visas to import foreigners - often from India - who will work for less than Americans. The staffing companies then sell their services to corporate clients. Minnesota employers that use the most highly skilled foreign workers under the program are in the science and technology business. These, he said, "are now awarded in a totally random lottery, and that's wrong".

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