Federal contractors will no longer be able to fire high-skilled American workers to hire cheaper outsourced labor through through H-1B visas, according to an executive order issued Monday by President Donald Trump.
Trump’s order requires federal agencies to audit contractors to assess whether competitive jobs are being taken away from Americans, a statement from the White House said.
The White House criticized the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority, which announced in June that the agency would lay off more than 60 information technology workers.
“President Trump’s actions will help combat employers’ misuse of H-1B visas, which were never intended to replace qualified American workers with low-cost foreign labor,” a statement from the White House said.
At a meeting with U.S. tech workers Monday, Trump called the layoffs “disastrous and heartless” and criticized Jeff Lyash’s decision to outsource the employees. Trump threatened to remove Lyash and board members of the power authority, Bloomberg reported. Lyash later backtracked on the plan and said he had a “willingness to reverse course,” Trump said later.
In February 2019, the Tennessee Valley Authority voted to shutter two coal plants that Trump wanted to save.
The administration also said it has “initiated reforms to the H-1B program to prioritize high-wage workers and close loopholes to ensure American workers are not displaced by low cost foreign labor.”
In June, Trump signed another executive order suspending temporary work visas, including H-1B visas, as well as H-4, L and most J visas as well as some H-2B visas with an exception for food processing workers. The order cited safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigration authorities criticized the order as “counterproductive.”
As many as 70 percent of the H-1B visas go to people from India, Outlook India reported. But not all H-1B visa holders are replacing U.S. workers, especially in the medical field.
Restrictions on H-1B visas have led to foreign-born doctors and medical staff being unable to volunteer to move to coronavirus hotspots, the American Medical Association said in a statement.
“The AMA has urged immigration authorities to extend visas for foreign national physicians lawfully practicing in the U.S. and for the departments of state and homeland security to expedite visa processing to ensure that non-U.S. citizen international medical graduates can enter the country to begin their residency training programs,” the association said.
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