It’s Time to Terminate the H1-B Visa Program
President Trump’s recent decision to suspend legal immigration into the United States as a result of the COVID-19 crisis should be applauded as a first step toward addressing America’s out-of-control legal immigration system. However, does the President’s action go far enough? Does it do enough to protect American workers and American jobs at a time when the virus has tanked the economy and sent over 26 million Americans into unemployment lines?
For years now, the United States has taken in more legal immigrants each year than every other nation in the world combined. That’s more than one million annually. What has been the impact of such a high level of immigration unprecedented since the wave of Irish, Italian, German and Jewish immigrants flooded our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?
First of all, we know wages in this country have been virtually stagnant since 1998 and have only started to rise slightly since President Trump took office. We know that is indisputable that high levels of immigration suppress wages. Libertarian theorists may like to challenge this fact, but it is true. And, it is simply a matter of basic economics. When the supply of something rises, its price falls and vice versa. When the supply of labor rises, its price – meaning wages — drops. It is no coincidence that wages and living standards for working Americans increased dramatically – except for the period of the Great Depression – when immigration levels were essentially frozen between 1924 and 1965. Employers had to pay more because the labor supply was tight.
Unfortunately, the final version of the President’s proclamation did not address the issue of temporary foreign workers in the United States and the notorious H1-B Visa program. It is believed the original version sought to suspend these temporary visas as well, but that aggressive lobbying by the cheap labor lobby of Corporate America succeeded in having it omitted in the final decree. This is a gaping omission.
The H1B Visa program is an enemy of working and middle-class Americans. It is the program through which hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from India, Communist China, Vietnam and other nations are imported into the United States to take jobs in high-tech, health care, and other industries that should go to American workers. Every year more than 100,000 such foreign workers are brought here and allowed to stay for up to six years. It is estimated that there are at least 650,000 such workers in this country at any given time. And, in 2018 alone, U.S. businesses and corporations tried to outsource as many as 420,000 jobs through the program. Between 2007 and 2017, it is estimated that 2.7 million Americans lost their jobs to so-called “temporary” foreign workers.
According to Joe Guzzardi of Progressives for Immigration Reform:
The H1-B scam has gone on long enough. Over the last three decades, the H1-B has displaced tens of thousands of experienced U.S. tech workers and has created financial and emotional heartache for Americans who have lost their jobs to younger, less-skilled but cheaper-to-employ workers.
Guzzardi cites several prominent Silicon Valley companies who “phase out” older employees for younger, cheaper workers from abroad, including Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, LinkedIn, and Tesla. Ron Hira of the Economic Policy Institute has written that the H1B Visa program and its L-1 cousin contain loopholes that “have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, who directly substitute for, rather than complement, workers already in the country. They are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to U.S. workers.” In 2019, we learned of AT&T’s plans to lay off thousands of workers while making them train their foreign replacements. Many of these workers have been with the company for more than a decade and won’t be offered severance or early retirement.
India has greatly benefited from the H-1B Visa program, at the expense of the United States. By rolling out the red carpet to Indian engineering students who then take the jobs of American IT workers and later return to India, we have enabled a massive high-tech boom in India. Displaced Americans are forced to take jobs in non-computer science careers, thus weakening our own home-grown high-tech industry. Exports of IT goods from the U.S. has declined steadily since 1995 while India has enjoyed a spectacular surge.
Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona has written to the President asking him to suspend all the temporary foreign worker Visa programs while we work ourselves through the current pandemic-induced economic cataclysm. He is right. Additionally, I would argue that even in a period of unparalleled prosperity, such schemes should not be permitted to displace American workers or used as a means by which corporations suppress wage levels. As I argued in one of my earliest OpEds, immigrant labor should be brought into the United States only under the strictest conditions, specifically verification that the jobs to be filled cannot under any circumstance be filled by the existing U.S. labor force and not as a way to hold down wages. Only where a genuine shortage of labor or where a perishable commodity exists, as in the agricultural economy for example, can these programs be justified.
President Trump’s Executive Order may be updated in sixty days. We should urge him to turn a deaf ear to the selfish appeals of the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce and instead listen to the cries of American fathers and mothers being crushed by the current shutdown. It’s time to terminate the H1-B program and its noxious cousins in their current form and time to put American workers first.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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