Yoder and Gabbard’s Bipartisan Push Stops Proposal to Deport H-1B Visa Holders Seeking Permanent Residency
Washington, DC—On January 5th, Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS), lead sponsor of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, sent a letter to President Trump urging his Administration to reject a proposal to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing. Soon after, along with mounting pressure from business, technology, and government leaders, the Trump Administration has reportedly backed off from the counterproductive proposal.
The United States grants 85,000 H-1B visas every year to highly skilled applicants who are here legally, including roughly 70 percent for Indians, seeking employment and educational opportunities. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, more than half of privately-held companies worth $1 billion or more in the United States had at least one immigrant founder – with many having come to America on an H-1B visa, including the CEOs of both Microsoft and Google.
Yoder and Gabbard released the following statements today.
“I have seen personally how high-skilled immigrants have helped my community and so many others across the country by filling critical labor shortages in specific industries, preventing employers from fleeing overseas to fill them,” Representative Kevin Yoder said. “Plus, many of these immigrants hope to eventually start their own businesses and create new jobs here in the United States. These are the people who have helped America grow and thrive as a nation of immigrants and we need to make sure our system continues to value those who are following our laws and doing the right thing.”
“H-1B visa holders, many of whom become small business owners and job creators, drive innovation and help build and strengthen our U.S. economy,” Representative Tulsi Gabbard said. “The Trump Administration’s decision to back off this counterproductive proposal is a positive step forward. While it remains a priority to invest in training and create a pipeline of skilled American workers, we must continue to leverage the talent and expertise of the hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders to fill the gaps in our domestic workforce.”
“America has provided me and many hundreds of thousands of folks on H1-B an opportunity to further our careers after education,” Alok Madasani, an H1B visa holder and survivor of last year's shooting in Olathe, Kansas, said. “America also taught us that if you are determined and hardworking and follow the established process, there are opportunities for everyone. There are folks who moved here decades ago and have kids going to school here, the place they call home. Every process can be improved continuously for maximum output and current H-1B process can also be improved but eliminating it on a whole affects much larger audience. I’m grateful the administration has reconsidered these changes to H-1B extensions for folks with pending green card applications and I appreciate Representatives Yoder and Gabbard’s efforts to help us and our families continue staying together here in USA and continue contributing to the society.”
Representative Yoder is the lead sponsor of HR 392, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would remove the existing per-country cap on employment-based green cards. Currently, citizens from any particular nation are capped at receiving seven percent of the 140,000 green cards the United States distributes annually to high-skilled immigrant workers. The cap has created a massive backlog affecting somewhere between 230,000 and 2 million Indian workers in the United States causing them to wait anywhere between half a century and their entire lifetime to receive a green card. The bill would remove the arbitrary cap and create a first-come, first-serve system where all immigrants are treated equally without regard to their country of origin. Representative Gabbard is one of 302 cosponsors of the bill, the most-cosponsored legislation in the 115th Congress.
The text of the letter is reproduced below.
January 5, 2018
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump:
We are writing to you today regarding alarming reports about proposed changes to the H-1B visa program that could result in the deportation of H-1B visa holders residing in the U.S. who are awaiting application determinations for permanent residency. We strongly believe this action would be harmful to the American economy, credibility, and relations with India and the Indian-American community. As members of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we urge you not to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing.
The H-1B visa program is not designed to replace American workers with foreign workers, it is designed to augment the American workforce in specific areas where demand is high and gaps in skill sets exist. These visa holders are frequently from the medical, education, architecture, or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations, fields critical to American economic prosperity and security, where too often we have a shortage of qualified American applicants. H-1B visa holders are permitted to apply for permanent residency, but due to chronic application backlogs, their permanent residency status is frequently not determined until after their H-1B visas are set to expire. They must therefore rely on the granting of these extensions until their applications can be adjudicated. Removing this benefit will result in a tremendous loss of skilled labor that greatly benefits our economy.
Indian citizens have remained the top H-1B visa program recipients each year since the program began, and these visa holders and their host companies pay hundreds, and frequently thousands of dollars to the U.S. government to process visas. For the duration of their stay, they pay federal, state, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Their desire for permanent residency only improves the skilled, tax-paying American workforce and attracts business to the U.S. These participants are working with the American immigration system, not against it. They, their families, and the companies they work for should not be punished.
The unemployment rate is at a new low, 4.1%, on a steady and healthy decline since 2010. This commendable low includes significant employment gains in the industries that are augmented by the H-1B visa program participants. If it is correct that you plan on removing the ability to grant extensions to current H-1B visa holders with pending permanent residency application processing, it is unclear the intent as the U.S. currently maintains a healthy unemployment level, and many H-1B visa holders have gone on to start their own small businesses, contributing to our economy as job creators. Furthermore, the changes we need to bridge the skill gaps we currently have will take many years, during which time we will likely still need to rely on a robust H-1B system.
India is the world's largest democracy, and Indian workers in the U.S. bring with them the spirit of hard work and democracy that is vital to our country. The Indian-American population has a long and decorated history of contributions to the fabric of our country. India is also an increasingly important trade and security partner, on the front lines in the fight against global terrorism.
We urge clarification on the reports that you are contemplating the removal of extensions for H-1B visa holders living in the U.S., who are awaiting permanent residency visa processing. We strongly oppose this action. It is not realistic to expect H-1B visa holders, who are well invested in the American economy, including real estate markets, to return to their home country to await an answer regarding their permanent residency status only to restart their livelihoods from scratch once more. The potential of losing these skilled workers poses a serious risk to the American economy. We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.
Representative Kevin Yoder
Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Secretary of Labor
Department of Labor
Secretary of State
Department of State