H1B visa parley in US election 2016

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Immigration and visa has been repeatedly discussed in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The H1B visa process in particular has been brought up and debated on by the candidates from the very beginning of the race reflecting the concerns of middle-class Americans.

The H1B visa has always been part of campaign season debates and candidates have been judged on their views and future plans. But, its special significance in the 2016 election rests in some of the radical views that have been expressed resulting in changing voter attitudes. H1B visa norms directly affect the IT industry hence interests of businessmen are kept in mind when candidates talk about the visa. It can very well be said that the right words spoken on immigration can get a candidate elected.

Hillary Clinton
The Democratic party’s candidate has always voiced opinions in favour of H1B visa and how outsourcing benefits America. She has even talked of providing temporary work visa to foreign students pursuing higher studies in the country. However, she steered away from the controversial subject as her campaign for 2016 elections picked up.
It should be kept in mind that donors of the Clinton Foundation includes big names like Microsoft, Alphabet Inc., Infosys, Tata Consultancy Service, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Qualcomm, all of whom top the H1B visa sponsor list.

Donald Trump
The controversial candidate has not feared commenting up H1B visa unlike his counterpart Hillary Clinton. The businessman referred to H1B as a necessary evil but dismissed his statement later to say local workforce is important. He even clarified his stance after a Fox interview, “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. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

Congressman Darrell Isaa.
Congressman Darrell Isaa. Source: politico.com

The Republican candidate during the course of his campaigns has emulated views similar to the Issa Bill which was introduced in the U.S Congress on July, 2015 by Congressman Darrell Issa. The Bill intended to increase annual salary of H1B visa holders to $100,000 from $65,000 and charger higher application fee. However, it was pulled out of the U.S House Judiciary Committee later in the year.

Indo – American concerns

It is primarily the middle-class Americans who face the effect of foreign workers in their country. The temporary visa for onshore sourcing of foreign workers for both white and blue collared jobs is assumed to have driven down wages and raised profits for enterprises. Questions have also been raised over the quality of the special skill set possessed by H1B visa.

Protests against Disney's lay-offs in Orlando.
Protests against Disney’s lay-offs in Orlando. Source: overpassesforamerica.com

Being replaced by cheaper foreign work force has been one of the primary issues raised by American citizens against the H1B program. When Disney Orlando fired 250 employees on October, 2015 and replaced them with H1B holders, strong protests of ‘Boycott Disney’ was organized by the fired employees who were allegedly also asked to train their replacements.
In a similar incident, Southern California Edison fired 500 employees in February 2015 who were replaced by Infosys and Tata Consultancy Service workers.

Lowering the present quota of 85,000 H1B visas will reduce labour market flexibility in the country compelling firms to hire STEM workers offshore. On the other hand, increasing the quota will allow firms to hire onshore skilled foreign labour which might replace higher paid US staff.

Indians receive over 65% of H1B visas and are also the highest number of petitioners for it. Indian work force in the Silicon Valley has been valued as crucial. Thus, India’s concerns were raised when views of abolishing the H1B program were expressed during campaign season. It has been assumed that India raised concerns over its IT sector unofficially at the US India Trade Forum held in India on October this year.

India’s IT sector boom is partly dependant on outsourcing of services thus immigration reforms in the United States curtailing the number of H1B visas issued will serve a heavy blow for the Indian sector.


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