Thousands of mostly Indian skilled workers with H-1B visas could be deported while they wait for their green cards to be granted under a proposal that President Donald Trump is reportedly considering.
The proposal is being drafted by Department of Homeland Security leaders and came from Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative he promised on the campaign trail, sources told McClatchy DC.
Trump administration officials are examining whether they can come up with a new interpretation of the “may grant” language in the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to block H-1B visa extensions. Thousands of immigrants, most of them Indian, currently can apply for H-1B visa extensions beyond the permitted two 3-year terms if they have green card applications in the system.
“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self-deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” a source who spoke with Homeland Security officials told McClatchy DC.
If the proposal passes, 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be forced to leave the U.S., according to IndiaToday.in.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work document that enables companies in the U.S. to employ foreign workers in fields that require technical and theoretical expertise.
Tech giants including Facebook as well as large corporations like Bank of America have asked the government to raise the annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas, arguing that they need more highly skilled foreign workers because the pool in the U.S. isn’t big enough. Meanwhile, H-1B critics say companies abuse the program and outsource work, leading many Americans to lose their jobs.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials, who work under Homeland Security, did not deny the proposal’s existence.
“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programs,” Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for USCIS, told McClatchy DC.
Although H-1B visas draw less attention than other immigration initiatives, such as the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the proposal falls in line with the president’s efforts to tighten regulations around who can enter and stay in the U.S.
If the Trump administration approves the proposal, deported immigrants will need to start their journey from square one.
“People whose green card is in process can go back to the U.S. once it is approved,” Alka Dhingra, general manager for IT staffing at TeamLease Services, told Quartz. “But that will take its own time and meanwhile they need to move, settle, and resettle again in terms of work and personal life both.”