The past four years of arbitrary and malicious executive attacks on our immigration systems have highlighted how subject they are to the whims of ideologues and how divorced they are from the current humanitarian and economic realities of our country. This is highlighted by the most recent assault on our legal immigration process for obtaining the H-1B visa for professionals.
In 1990, Congress created numerical limits on the H-1B category which sufficed for a time until the growth of the tech sector and evolution in immigration trends over the past three decades created a deluge of requests for H-1B work visas. For about 15 years, a lottery system has been in place, so that H-1B petitions selected for adjudication are allocated at random. This system is not thoughtful, efficient or fair – but at least it seemed pretty impartial.
Impartiality has never been a desired thing for the Trump administration, though. We’ve seen time and again that a combination of anti-immigrant zeal and a desire to eradicate services and policies benefitting the less fortunate have been primary drivers of policy in the Trump era. This is reflected in the recent proposal to allocate H-1B visas based on salary. This is flawed for so many reasons:
First: The “prevailing wages” and the “wage levels” rarely align with the real world, in terms of wage trends, nor the vast difference between types of employers that range dramatically in size and nature. For example, I represented an engineer who worked for a small environmental nonprofit and the employer struggled to meet the wage requirements even though the offered wage made perfect sense with the nature of the position and organization.
Second: If we’re going to shake up the random lottery system, there are so many ways we could do so that would serve actual policy goals. For example, we could exempt all teachers. We could exempt all graduates of U.S. universities with STEM degrees. We could prioritize employers who are sponsoring the same employee who missed out on previous H-1B lottery cycles. We could focus on healthcare needs by region. There are so many great ideas out there, and a wage-based hierarchy is not one of them.
Lastly – and this is the rationale that speaks to my heart: How much a person is paid has no relationship with the value of the position to society. In fact, there’s often an inverse correlation, as we see teachers, social workers, and nonprofit employees sacrifice high wages in exchange for serving the community. The idea that we are going to hand out H-1Bs exclusively to investment bankers and high-paid elite jobs with the largest, wealthiest corporations and bypass these selfless immigrants and organizations is anathema to what I thought this country was about – or should be about, anyway.
For these reasons, I urge everyone to take a few minutes and submit a public comment opposing the H-1B rule. The template AILA provides makes it SO EASY to add in your own observations about this terrible rule. Every personalized comment with unique language in it has to be reviewed and considered by USCIS before this rule can be finalized. Take those few minutes on or before December 2nd and join me in telling the Trump administration that this rule is wrong, that it is damaging to our economy and antithetical to American values.
I’ll put this bluntly – the Trump administration has done their level best to weaponize the rulemaking process AGAINST immigration and against so many other issues I care about and you care about. By submitting a comment, you can do your part in part to slow the rulemaking process down, so that the Trump administration cannot finalize the rule before January 20, 2021.
For additional resources on this and other related H-1B rules, visit AILA’s Featured Issue page: DHS and DOL Rules Altering the H-1B Process and Prevailing Wage Levels. And for the latest information on business immigration, take a look at the Business Track of the Fall Conference on December 16.