What’s in the new “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order?
On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American.” In the “Hire American” portion of the order, Trump announced he was directing DOL, DOJ, DHS, and DOS to review the current laws governing the H-1B program and suggest changes to prioritize the most skilled and highest paid positions. The President also indicated he was directing federal agencies to review all visa programs and take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse in order to protect U.S. workers.
Although it was signed with ceremonial flair, the Executive Order will have no immediate impact on H-1Bs. Many of the changes to the H-1B program contemplated by the Administration would require legislative action or rulemaking and would take time to go through the necessary processes.
Though additional measures to combat fraud could be implemented more quickly, documented instances of fraud in the H-1B and other temporary visa programs are actually quite low. Most employers that utilize the H-1B program do so honestly and because they need the skills and talent of a particular worker, and those who don’t can be rooted out by the current anti-fraud provisions and programs.
In addition, contrary to recent rhetoric, H-1B visas do not generally act as a mechanism to replace American workers. Instead, U.S. businesses use the H-1B to gain access to the sought-after skills of foreign professionals, many of whom graduate from U.S. universities, to complement the U.S. workforce. These foreign professional workers greatly benefit U.S. businesses, U.S. workers, and the economy.
H-1B visas do not drive down wages for American workers. In fact, some studies show a positive impact on overall wages. On average, H-1B workers actually earn higher wages than similarly employed U.S workers.
H-1B workers do not reduce U.S. employment rates; rather, they fill employment gaps and expand opportunities for all U.S. workers. Additionally, the unemployment rate for occupations that use H-1B visas is very low as compared to the national unemployment rate.
U.S. businesses do not seek H-1B workers in order to save money; the fees and costs associated with filing a successful petition are high enough that most employers use the H-1B because they cannot locate a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position.
Our immigration system is critical to all geographic and industry sectors, not just Silicon Valley. H-1B workers help transform state and local economies across the nation, from Boise, ID, to Raleigh, NC, Des Moines, IA, and Lincoln, NE. H-1B workers are vital to our healthcare system, and our manufacturing and energy industries.
For the good of our economy, our nation needs a system that better reflects the realities facing U.S. businesses today and provides flexibility and options, including an increase in permanent visas and H-1Bs.
Any reforms proposed by the Trump Administration as a result of this Executive Order must also ensure that our temporary worker programs, including the H-1B, remain viable tools for U.S. businesses seeking to build and maintain a globally competitive workforce.
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