US, Indian business groups have decried rules that would hit Indian tech professionals.
Two leading Democrats have criticized Trump administrationâ€™s proposed new rules targeting H-1B visas used extensively by Indian tech professionals, while a top Republican senator has hailed the move saying it would curb abuse of the program.
Set to go into effect within 60 days, the new rules would narrow the definition of â€œspecialty occupationâ€ and shorten the length of H-1B visas for workers placed in third party sites from three years to one year.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, both Democrats, Thursday decried the move as â€œan attempt to score last minute political pointsâ€ before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
But Republican senator Chuck Grassley hailed the move â€œto address abuses in the high-skilled guest worker program that has been used to displace American workers with low-paid foreign labor.â€
US and Indian business groups have also criticized the new rules making it more difficult to hire skilled foreign workers saying they would only hurt American companies.
RELATED: New H-1B rule to make it more difficult to hire foreign workers (October 6, 2020)
The US Department of Homeland Security has claimed that narrowing the definition of â€œspecialty occupation,â€ as originally intended by Congress, would prevent companies from â€œgaming the system.â€
There are currently close to 600,000 foreign workers on H-1B visa in the US with Indian tech professionals cornering about two thirds of such visas in the last five years.
â€œWith less than 30 days to go before the election, the Trump Administrationâ€ proposed to â€œimplement the most sweeping changes to the H-1B visa program we have seen in decades,â€ Nadler said.
And it proposed to â€œdo so by skirting the normal notice and comment process required by the Administrative Procedure Act,â€ he noted.
â€œWhile this program can certainly benefit from reforms, our laws require that the public be provided with adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to comment before such reforms are implemented,â€ Nadler said.
â€œThis simply cannot be accomplished to the degree required through an interim final rule and the Administration knows this,â€ he added. â€œThis is clearly an attempt to score last minute political points.â€
RELATED: â€˜New H-1B rules would hurt American firmsâ€™ (October 7, 2020)
Lofgren said over the years, she had â€œintroduced several bills that would reform the H-1B program to prohibit sub-standard wages and ensure that unscrupulous employers donâ€™t abuse the system to the detriment of US workers.â€
â€œYet, while the system needs updating, changes this substantial must not be rushed through without adequate input from the public,â€ she added.
â€œCongress set forth very clear parameters when it created the H-1B programâ€, Lofgren said, â€œand the Administration has admitted that the new DHS rule will affect more than one-third of H-1B petitions that have been lawfully filed and approved for decades.â€
â€œAccordingly, as has been the case with so many of this Administrationâ€™s unlawful policies, I expect that this too will be quickly enjoined by the courts,â€ she said.
Grassley, however, applauded â€the actions taken by the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on widespread abuses within the H-1B guest worker program.â€
The Republican senator said he had â€œlong expressed concern that the H-1B program, as it currently operates, undermines the wages and job opportunities of American workers and contains inadequate protections for American and immigrant workers alike.â€
Grassley said he was happy that some of the changes made by these new rules closely align with the H-1B reforms he had advocated for over a decade as part of his bipartisan H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act (S. 3770).
â€œInstead of being used to fill legitimate gaps in the labor force, the H-1B program is often abused to simply replace American workers with cheap guest worker labor,â€ he said.
â€œThat abuse needs to stop, and I strongly support the efforts of the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to do something about it,â€ Grassley said.
The senator said the bipartisan H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, re-introduced by him earlier this year, â€œcontains provisions to crack down on some of the same abuses as those addressed in the Trump Administrationâ€™s new rules.â€