President Trump has touted "America First" from the start of his 2016 campaign, and since entering office, he’s built a remarkable record of "promises made, promises kept."
But there’s one promise that he’s been quiet about lately: eliminating the guest worker visa program.
On March 10, 2016 at the CNN Republican presidential debate, The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan brought up Disney’s decision in late 2014 to replace 250 tech workers with foreigners under the H-1B visa program. Disney even required the departing U.S. employees to train their replacements as a prerequisite to receiving severance benefits.
All four presidential hopefuls agreed that the H-1B visa program — which allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers during shortages of U.S. equivalents — should be placed on hold for a period if not tossed out altogether.
Then-candidate Trump agreed that the program is "very bad for business, it's very bad for our workers and it's unfair for our workers. We should end it."
He added that the program should at least be paused "for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see . . . where we are, where we stand, what's going on."
Trump made the displaced Disney IT workers his own cause in 2016, and it became a central plank to his campaign platform.
"The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay," he said in a statement posted to his campaign website.
"I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements."
Now that he’s in the White House, he hasn’t mentioned that promise.
Each year the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants 65,000 H-1B guest worker visas to foreign tech workers, plus an additional 20,000 to foreign professionals with advanced-level (masters and doctorate) degrees.
That’s 85,000 high-paying technical and professional positions per year that should go to U.S. employees — but don’t. This might suggest that there aren’t enough Americans to fill the demand.
However, in the school year 2017-18, 395,243 bachelor's degrees in STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) were awarded, and that number grows each year.
The fact that U.S. companies continue to ask for foreign guest STEM employees might suggest that even the annual influx of American graduates doesn’t meet the demand — but that’s not true either.
In a lengthy thread that author and columnist Michelle Malkin called "There Is No American Tech Worker Shortage," she listed a number of recent American IT worker layoffs by U.S. firms, including:
- Wayfair, an e-commerce company, pushed 550 US IT workers out this month
- Tripadvisor, an online travel agency, laid off 200
- LogMeIn, an online meeting place and IT tools firm, laid off 300 US workers
- Zume Pizza, VMWare, Shutterfly, Intel, Comcast, Xilinx, 23andMe, and NortonLifeLock (all Silicon Vally tech firms) will lay off more than 1,000 US tech workers
- AT&T is engaging in a massive layoff campaign as it outsources U.S. jobs to India.
- Macy's shut down its San Francisco tech office, laying off 831 U.S. workers
Those are just the first of a 51-tweet thread, ending with Expedia’s plans to lay off 3,000 tech workers.
Trump’s campaign promise wasn’t forgotten by Fox News host and Trump supporter Laura Ingraham, who called the president out during a one-on-one interview last month.
"You've done a lot. On the economy today we found out that — still added 146,000 jobs. Unemployment historically low at 3.5 percent. But we don't have a tight labor market. If we had a tight labor market we'd be seeing real increases in wages," she observed.
Bur she added her concern that the administration was considering adding yet more foreign workers and asked, "why shouldn't we have American graduates of colleges and universities taking those jobs?"
Trump replied that "We do, but we don't have enough of them."
The massive layoff of tens of thousands of U.S. tech employees refutes that claim.
U.S. companies typically take on foreign IT workers as independent contractors, rather than as employees, and in the process can:
- Pay below-market wages
- Avoid Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Compensation insurance costs
- Avoid offering employee benefits like medical, dental, and profit-sharing
- Avoid paying FICA and other withholding taxes
- Fire at will, without notice, and without repercussion.
This is all good for the corporate bottom line, but is devastating to the American workforce, which is among the most talented and highly trained in the world.
And it’s emphatically not "America First."
How about it, Mr. President? Can we make this the next "promise made, promise kept"?
America deserves it, and her employees are owed it.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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