On the campaign trail, Donald Trump pledged to crack down on companies that hire foreigners over Americans.
Now that he’s in the Oval Office, his administration is taking aim at some of the high-skilled visas that Silicon Valley seeks so it can hire foreign engineers.
Beginning Monday, the Department of Homeland Security promised greater scrutiny of the H-1B program, which began accepting applications for a lottery that will award visas in 2018. The government’s immigration enforcers plan to heighten their “site visits,” they said, to “determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers.”
The Justice Department, meanwhile, issued its own stern warning Monday. “The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers,” said Tom Wheeler, the acting assistant attorney general at the DOJ’s civil rights division.
Both swipes at the program come days after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy that rethinks the way the government awards H-1B visas to computer programmers. Now, companies must prove that the programmers they’re hoping to hire are doing special, complex jobs requiring unique technical expertise.
Taken together, the steps seem to point most directly and immediately at outsourcing companies like Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services. But it’s still sure to send a major chill down Silicon Valley’s spine, after an election season in which Trump and his allies took aim at the industry’s hiring practices.
In March 2016, Trump specifically promised to “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.” Others, like then-Senator Jeff Sessions — since tapped as the country’s attorney general — criticized the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for seeking to expand the program.
Many in the tech industry later expected Trump to issue an executive order clamping down on the H-1B program, a draft of which began circulating earlier this year. He never issued the directive, but DHS did suspend expedited processing for those visas, it announced in March.
“The Trump administration will be enforcing laws protecting American workers from discriminating hiring factors,” said press secretary Sean Spicer at his briefing Monday.