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Trump's nominee for Attorney General promises curbs on H1B visas, move to hit Indian IT professionals

US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the post of Attorney General has assured lawmakers of taking steps towards pushing legislative measures to curb misuse of H-1B and L1 work visas significantly used by Indian IT professionals and allegedly
India TV News Desk Washington January 12, 2017 13:05 IST
India TV News Desk

As the Donald Trump administration prepares for the President-elect's inauguration on January 20, the nominee for the post of Attorney General has promised to take suitable steps to end the misuse of H-1B and L1 work visas programmes by foreign IT professionals including Indians.

Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump's nominee for the post has assured lawmakers of pushing legislative measures to curb misuse of visas programmes significantly used by Indian IT professionals to allegedly replace American workers. 

"It's simply wrong to think that we're in a totally open world and that any American with a job can be replaced if somebody in the world is willing to take a job for less pay," Sessions told members of Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing for the position of US Attorney General. 

"We have borders. We have a commitment to our citizens and you have been a champion of that. I've been honoured to work with you on it," Sessions said in response to a question from Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

This comes a week after two Congressmen – Darrell Issa and Scott Peters – both from California, re-introduced a bill to modify the eligibility requirements for H-1B visa exemptions and limit the outsourcing of jobs.

The development is important because Tump’s had last month remarked that he will not allow Americans to be replaced by foreign workers, including Indians. Any change in the programme will definitely impact the Indian IT companies. The new bill among other things increase the minimum salary of H-1B Visa to USD 100,000 per annum and eliminate the Masters Degree exemption.

According to an estimate, in 2015, seven largest Indian IT companies got nearly 15,000 of the 85,000 H1B visas approved by the US, more than any other country.

In the past both Sessions and Grassley have worked together to bring legislations on H-1B visas that badly hit Indian IT companies. 

The Office of Special Counsel for immigration related unfair employment practices is an office within the Justice Department which would be headed by Sessions if he is confirmed by the US Senate. 

The Office enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. 

"While the office is designed to protect foreign nationals with employment visas from discrimination, it is also charged with ensuring that American workers are not discriminated against in the workplace. Many US workers advocate that the layoff of American workers and the replacement by cheaper, foreign, H-1B workers constitutes de facto nationality based discrimination against American workers," Grassley said. 

"The Obama administration has failed to protect American workers here. Will you, this is my question, will you be more aggressive in investigating the abuses of these visa programmes?" he asked. 

"I believe this has been an abuse. And I have been pleased to support your legislation and some others too, that others have produced that I believe could be helpful. It needs to be addressed," Sessions said. 

Describing Sessions as a vocal champion for American workers, Grassley said many American workers are being laid off and replaced by cheaper foreign labour imported through some of the US visa programmes. 

Sessions, Grassley and Senator Dick Durbin in the past had co-sponsored a bill that would reform H-1B visa programmes by ensuring that qualified American workers are considered for high skilled job opportunities before those jobs can be offered to foreign nationals. 

"It also prohibit a company from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50 per cent of their employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders," he said.