Trump’s big immigration war may focus on visas: Reports say

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago after meeting with former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla.
Associated Press / Evan Vucci

With just a few days before he is sworn in as the next United States president on Jan. 20, Donald Trump’s big immigration war to deport Caribbean and other immigrants may focus on visas, according to reports.

In announcing his priorities for the first 100 days, Trump has vowed to direct the US Department of Labor to “investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker,” reported the Washington, D.C.-based McClatchyDC news network on Monday.

The network noted that Trump’s investigation of the alleged abuse of the visa programs was the first promise he made on immigration after the US Presidential Elections in November – “not building a border wall or deporting millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.”

“While it doesn’t generate the same headlines as building a massive wall, the visa issue is almost as explosive,” said McClatchyDC, pointing to critics of offshoring as saying that a US visa program that lets in foreign workers is often the first step to moving American jobs overseas.

The H-1B visa program issues work permits to as many as 85,000 foreign workers a year with “highly specialized knowledge” to fill jobs when qualified Americans can’t be found, said the network.

It added that tech giants, such as Facebook, and other corporate entities, like Bank of America and Caterpillar, “have long argued that the 85,000 annual cap is still too few and that they need to bring in more foreign tech workers because they can’t find enough highly-skilled American workers.”

But critics of the program say H-1B visas are increasingly being abused and that American workers are being laid off as US companies send work to outsourcing companies that employ thousands of H-1B workers, according to McClatchyDC.

However, it said the possibility that a Trump administration might target the H-1B visa program worries employers who depend on it.

“I, personally, am terrified for what the Trump administration could mean for H-1B visas and access to them,” Onyema Ezeh, an immigration attorney in Charlotte, N.C., who has spoken with local chief executive officers about the issue, told McClatchyDC. “The threat of the H-1B visas being limited is a real one, and one that would hurt companies. And that’s why they’re having sleepless nights at this point.”

But others say, according to the network, that the increasing dominance of the program by outsourcing firms shows its rife with abuse.

“Their allegation is that firms use the program to bring in workers who get trained on how the work is done, then return to their home country to train workers to do the work there,” the network said.

But Ronil Hira, a professor at Howard University in Washington, who studies visa programs, said the US government is allowing the H-1B program to be used to expedite the offshoring of high-wage tech jobs.

Hira said that of the 10 companies that received the most H-1B visas in 2014, eight specialized in outsourcing or provided outsourcing services.

“If we had done something about this 15 years ago, we would have saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs that have been offshored,” Hira said. “Globalization is going to happen, but we shouldn’t have government pushing jobs off-shore.”

Sara Blackwell, a lawyer for some of the employees hired by the Miami-based Caribbean cruise line, Carnival Corp., said time will tell if Trump follows through with his promises.

She, however, applauded the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, as US Attorney General, and other advisers, “who have been fighting the issue,” according to McClatchyDC.

It said Trump’s ascent to the US presidency has “set off a wave of fear among millions of immigrants in the United States illegally,” who are apprehensive that he will “follow through with promises to deport those here illegally.

“And he will have at his finger trips the identities and legal status of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who submitted their personal information to President Barack Obama following his executive orders to block their deportation,” said the network, referring to some experts, who claim that “Trump is politically obligated to deport them.”

The network noted that Trump never wavered from the hardline stance on immigration that he staked out when he first announced his candidacy for the US presidency.

The New York businessman pledged to deport the 11 million immigrants living in the US illegally, build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and reverse President Obama’s executive actions that have shielded hundreds of thousands of young Caribbean and other immigrants from deportation, saying that “they have to go,” according to McClatchyDC.

It pointed to experts, who say that, once sworn in on Jan. 20, Trump could immediately — and has vowed to — reverse or at least stop renewing deferred action applications for about 700,000 immigrants brought to the US illegally as children to remain and work temporarily in the United States.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Washington-based libertarian Cato Institute, said that information about the beneficiaries of the children’s program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, will soon be in the hands of the Trump administration.

“The DACA beneficiaries have been some of the most active and vocal advocates for immigration reform,” Nowrasteh said. “So, politically, he’d have quite an incentive to use that information to target these people for deportation.”

More from Around NYC