For the second time in two days, Indian Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has repeated his resolve to gut the current H-1B lottery system replacing it with merit based legal immigration if he wins the White House.
“It’s a lottery. Why on earth would you use a lottery when you could just use meritocratic admission instead, restore merit,” he said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
The 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur was responding to host Shannon Bream’s question about why he wanted to gut “the very system that you used in the past to hire high school foreign workers for the pharma company that built much of your wealth.”
“You’ve called it a form of indentured servitude that can only accrue to the benefit of the company. So why did the company you start use that 29 times in the last five years?” Bream asked referencing Ramaswamy’s interview with Politico a day earlier.
“I believe the energy system in this country and energy regulation needs drastic reform too. But I still use water and electricity and turn on the lights,” Ramaswamy responded.
“So the fact of the matter is I have an understanding of the regulatory apparatus because I have dealt with it as a CEO and an entrepreneur who’s built multiple companies. What I think is we need to replace the H-1B lottery system.
“That’s what people need to appreciate. It’s a lottery. Why on earth would you use a lottery when you could just use meritocratic admission instead, restore merit,” Ramaswamy said.
“There’s also lobbying based provisions where companies who sponsor somebody, that H-1B immigrant cannot work for a different company unless they actually have a whole bureaucratic process to go through,” he noted.
“We have to gut that system, restore meritocratic immigration, which is skills, not just tech skills, but all kinds of skills to match the needs we have in this country, but also civic commitments to this country,” Ramaswamy said.
“Take the citizenship test on the back end. I say move it to the front end even to get a visa,” he said.
“So yes, Shannon, I come from a place of understanding. And I’ve played within the rules that have been given to us by the government, but part of my job as US president is to reform those rules to help all Americans.
“And I won’t apologize for restoring merit,” said Ramaswamy. “And de-bureaucratizing that legal immigration process.
From 2018 through 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 29 applications for Ramaswamy’s former company, Roivant Sciences, to hire employees under H-1B visas, which allow US companies to employ foreign workers in tech and other specialized jobs, according to Politico.
“The lottery system needs to be replaced by actual meritocratic admission. It’s a form of indentured servitude that only accrues to the benefit of the company that sponsored an H-1B immigrant. I’ll gut it,” he told Politico, adding that the US needs to eliminate chain-based migration.
“The people who come as family members are not the meritocratic immigrants who make skills-based contributions to this country.”
When asked about the mismatch in Ramaswamy’spolicy stance and his past business practices, press secretary Tricia McLaughlin told Politico the role of a policymaker “is to do what’s right for a country overall: the system is broken and needs to be fixed.”
READ: White House asks Congress to revamp outdated H-1B visa program (August 29, 2023)
“Vivek believes that regulations overseeing the U.S. energy sector are badly broken, but he still uses water and electricity,” she said in a statement. “This is the same.”
In recent years Indian professionals have cornered over 70% of highly sought-after H-1B visas. For fiscal year 2021, US businesses submitted 780,884 applications for just 85,000 available slots, jumping by more than 60 percent.
Ramaswamy acknowledged his own experience with immigration during his opening remarks at the first Republican debate in Milwaukee.
“My parents came to this country with no money 40 years ago,” he said. “I have gone on to found multi billion-dollar companies.”
In the Fox News interview, Ramaswamy also pushed back on polls that show his rising unfavorability among voters, claiming “people are annoyed by my rise.”
“The reality is many people are annoyed by my rise and believe that a 38-year-old is too young to be US president.”
Bream referenced an opinion piece published in The New York Times last month, which wrote, “Of all the descriptors attached to Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old political tyro enjoying a bizarre surge in the Republican primary race for second place, the most common one seems to be annoying.”
Ramaswamy said his campaign has taken “intense criticism” over the last several weeks.
“This is part of the process, so I invite the open debate,” Ramaswamy continued, echoing his past comparison of himself to founding father Thomas Jefferson in discussions about his age.
“The fact of the matter is Thomas Jefferson was 33-years-old when he wrote the US Declaration of Independence,” Ramaswamy said. “He also invented the swivel chair while he was at it, by the way. And so, I think we need to revive that spirit.”
Bream also touched upon former President Trump’s commanding lead in a recent GOP primary poll by Fox News, which showed Trump securing 60% of the Republican primary vote, compared to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with 13% and Ramaswamy with 11%.
Asked about the point of his campaign as he and other Republican candidates struggle to catch up to Trump, Ramaswamy remained confident in his success.
“We came from 0.0 percent to where we are now. I think we’re on track to win this election,” Ramaswamy said.