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Indian, IT Lobbies Unite to Protect H1B Visa System

The American worker is yet again under attack as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met with President Donald Trump, with the expectation of expanding the multi-billion dollar Indian IT industry created by America’s H1B visa program.

Although the intent of our immigration laws is to protect American workers and attract highly talented scientists, engineers and other professionals, the H1B, and L-1 lottery-visa programs are inflicting serious harm on them. Employers are supposed to turn to these guest workers only when there’s a shortage of U.S. workers. These programs have massive flaws that enable any company to legally use the programs to import cheap workers to substitute for US workers. In stark contrast to popular misconceptions, employers do not have to recruit American workers before hiring on H1B or L-1 workers.

There is overwhelming evidence of systematic misuse, abuse, and corruption in both programs that enable any company to legally use them to import cheap workers to substitute for U.S. workers. Global outsourcing companies, primarily from India, have dominated the program for the last two decades. These companies have won tens of thousands of visas. In doing so, they have squeezed out highly talented American workers, as well as foreign students graduating from top American universities. Studies show that many employers hire H1B/L-1 visa workers not because they have rare talent and skills in short supply in the U.S., but rather because these workers are 40 to 50 percent cheaper than Americans. L-1 visas, which do not even have an annual cap or any wage rule, are even more profitable. In many cases, the L-1 workers are paid home-country wages ranging from $6,000 to $20,000 per year. Their family’s immigration to the U.S. is the primary benefit.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, many reputable news outlets have started to report on the problems in multinational corporations misuse of skilled immigration visa programs. The variety of literature that has surfaced reveals that Indian IT sector hubs like New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai host hundreds of firms that coordinate with their recruiting firms in the U.S. to form an ecosystem of immigration fraud and worker abuse.  

It has become harder for U.S. lawmakers to defend the visa program. As studies show, wages are depleting for tech jobs since H1B workers are often being paid home country wages. A UC San Diego study shows how H1B and L-1 workers not only drive American workers away from the tech sector but over the long period also deter Americans from pursuing careers in STEM fields.  Increasingly we see cases where multinational corporations use H1B or L-1 workers to work as liaisons to an offshore team and facilitate the process of complete offshoring of company operations. In effect, the U.S. skilled immigration programs help lower the cost of offshoring through H1B and L-1 programs. This amounts to the government directly subsidizing offshoring of American jobs through its lax H1-B policies.  

A spectacular example of this process is the recent case of Disney and Southern California Edison, where firms like Indian-owned Tata Consultancy and Cognizant first replaced American workers with H1B in bulk and then moved the entire operations offshore. The majority of these cases go unreported because American workers are forced to sign gag orders when they are replaced in order to receive their severance pay.

With political opposition against Modi’s communal politics mounting in India, Modi, along with multinational tech corporations, came together with Indian companies to push against changes to the work visas in place.

A multitude of American multi-national corporations and international companies — mostly from India — have assembled to prevent the remunerative trade of certainly skilled worker visas from being expunged by the Trump Administration.

Modi will be hosted for a White House dinner today by President Trump. This will be the first dinner to host a foreign leader under Trump’s administration.

The stakes are high for American workers and India. The IT sector of India not only constitutes almost 10 percent of Indian GDP, but the heavy immigration to US resulting from H1B outsourcing is also the heart of Indian soft power in the U.S.  According to economists, India’s $150 billion IT company, which mostly operates in America, is expected to more than quadruple in the next five to seven years, reaching nearly $1 trillion per year by 2025. This growth will result in a direct and equivalent loss to American workers and the economy. Even a slight difference in the H1B policy could equate to a loss of billions of dollars for India. This makes our alliance very one-sided. The U.S. has a $30 billion trade deficit with India, an increase of nearly 150 percent from 2006, created partially by the influx of H1B visas.

The Indian lobby efforts of late reflect the urgency of their situation. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, over the last two years an average of 400 multi-national corporations, including universities and all of which have benefitted from cheap skilled labor, have invested nearly $200 million towards lobbying Congress, with one of their main interests being skilled immigration. The Center’s database at Opensecret.org reveals that IT giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, along with outsourcing firms such as Accenture, Cognizant and Infosys, have a contributed well over $100 million in the last 18 months alone to lobby Congress.

In addition to direct lobbying, the Indian lobby and their multinational corporate allies have invested in indirect political influence through Indian diplomatic channels as well as indirect funding of super PACs.

Since President Trumps’ inauguration, the number of Indian diplomatic visits has doubled.   

Photo by Neon Tommy

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