Washington, DC—On January 5, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard(D), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, and Rep. Kevin Yoder(R), a member of the Caucus, sent a letter to President Trump urging his Administration to reject a proposal to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing. Soon after, along with mounting pressure from business, technology, and government leaders, the Trump Administration has reportedly backed off from the counterproductive proposal. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), and Kevin Yoder (KS-03), today released the following statement.
The United States grants 85,000 H-1B visas every year to highly skilled applicants, including roughly 70 percent for Indians, seeking employment and educational opportunities. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, more than half of privately-held companies worth $1 billion or more in the United States had at least one immigrant founder – with many having come to America on an H-1B visa, including the CEOs of both Microsoft and Google.
“H-1B visa holders, many of whom become small business owners and job creators, drive innovation and help build and strengthen our U.S. economy,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. “The Trump Administration’s decision to back off this counterproductive proposal is a positive step forward. While it remains a priority to invest in training and create a pipeline of skilled American workers, we must continue to leverage the talent and expertise of the hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders to fill the gaps in our domestic workforce.”
“I have seen personally how high-skilled immigrants have helped my community and so many others across the country by filling critical labor shortages in specific industries, preventing employers from fleeing overseas to fill them,” said Congressman Kevin Yoder, member of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.“Plus, many of these immigrants hope to eventually start their own businesses and create new jobs here in the United States. These are the people who have helped America grow and thrive as a nation of immigrants and we need to make sure our system continues to value those who are following our laws and doing the right thing.”
Alok Madasani, an H1B visa holder and survivor of last year’s shooting in Olathe, Kansas, said, “America has provided me and many hundreds of thousands of folks on H1-B an opportunity to further our careers after education. America also taught us that if you are determined and hard working and follow the established process, there are opportunities for everyone. There are folks who moved here decades ago and have kids going to school here, the place they call home. Every process can be improved continuously for maximum output and current H-1B process can also be improved but eliminating it on a whole affects much larger audience. I’m grateful the administration has reconsidered these changes to H-1B extensions for folks with pending green card applications and I appreciate Representatives Yoder and Gabbard’s efforts to help us and our families continue staying together here in USA and continue contributing to the society.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored H.R. 392, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, introduced by Congressman Yoder. This bipartisan legislation would remove the existing per-country cap on employment-based green cards and ensure all immigrants are treated equally regardless of their country of origin.
Indeed, the tech industry and some lawmakers were stunned last week to learn the administration was considering a measure that would prevent hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from keeping their H-1B visas while their green card applications were pending. The possible change, part of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative promised during the 2016 campaign, would reinterpret discretion given to the administration under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act.
Reps. Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, and Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, sent a letter to Trump, obtained by McClatchy, urging him “not to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing.”
“We strongly believe this action would be harmful to the American economy, credibility, and relations with India and the Indian-American community,” wrote Yoder and Gabbard on Friday. Both are members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned it would be “tremendously bad policy” to tell highly skilled people they are not welcome to stay in the United States.
And the Indian tech industry, backed up by the Indian government, quickly began to mobilize. Groups that represent Indian companies and workers — such as the National Association of Software and Services Companies, Immigration Voice and Compete America — started deploying lobbyists and other representatives at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to argue against possible regulatory changes that could prevent foreign tech industry workers from keeping their visas longer than six years, according to U.S. and India-based industry sources and worker advocates familiar with the plans.
“Nobody’s happy with it,” said an industry source. “Everyone’s trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and also trying to explain to the administration, if they’re thinking of doing this, it’s a horrible idea and these are the reasons why.”
Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and L. Francis Cissna, the director of the USCIS, have long worked to clamp down on the program. Before the White House, Miller worked for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama who during the 2016 campaign raised the idea of ending the H-1B program. (Sessions is now Trump’s attorney general.)
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