Trump tapped the viral anger over H-1B use

A President Trump will be in a powerful position to restrict temporary visa use, raising alarms in Silicon Valley and India

By Patrick Thibodeau
Nov. 10, 2016

The OPT program allows STEM students on an F-1 visa to work in the U.S. for up to three years without an H-1B visa. Critics have called it a backdoor H-1B visa, and it could be changed by the president's signature.

Curbing the H-1B visa doesn't eliminate offshore outsourcing. Visa restrictions may complicate the ability of the IT services industry to work in the U.S., but they may have little impact on offshore outsourcing. Business models will adjust. The bigger problem facing Trump is making it more attractive for firms to keep the jobs in the U.S.

In dealing with Congress on the H-1B issue, Sessions will play a key role.

Sessions has drawn repeated attention to the use of H-1B workers to replace U.S. IT workers, and made it a mission to give "voice" to displaced workers. His committee reached out to affected workers at Southern California Edison and other companies and heard testimony from one displaced former IT employee at Disney.

Several years ago, Sessions delivered a message to his colleagues that may chill Silicon Valley in the wake of Trump's win.

"The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas -- such as the H-1B -- and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," Sessions wrote in a memo to fellow lawmakers in 2013.

Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton never once mentioned the H-1B issue in this campaign, but she saw the problem.

Clinton, in an interview with Vox, said that "everybody with six degrees of separation either knows or thinks they know someone who knows somebody who lost a job to an undocumented worker or to a worker brought over on a visa to do their job. There's just a lot of churn that suggests this is a real problem."

What Clinton described is the definition of viral, and she was right. For nearly 25 years, IT workers have been complaining of training their foreign replacements and the anger had indeed gone viral. Trump used that, Clinton did not.

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