Opinion/Editorial: Limits on tech talent excessive | Editorial

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Slamming the brakes on H-1B programs is sold as protection for American workers seeking the same jobs. With COVID-19 devastating the economy and a jobless rate stuck at 7.9%, the Trump team is offering both a solution and a scapegoat. “America’s immigration laws should put American workers first,” said Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of labor who took part in presenting the plan.

That message has gone out from the early days of the administration. But a package of changes to halt H-1B visas announced in June and tied to the COVID outbreak were stopped by a federal court decision in San Francisco last week.

Now comes a new strategy. It involves an initiative that doesn’t need major review or public comment and could take effect quickly. That shortened schedule, though, will invite yet another court challenge that could stall the latest announcement.

Beyond legal gambits, there are undeniable problems. The tech guest workers in some instances are underpaid compared to U.S. employees pounding out code down the hall. Lining up foreign workers has led to a small group of personnel agencies that control the market. But the broad stroke plan detailed this week doesn’t just go after these instances. It goes after the entire H-1B program in a wholesale way.

Demonizing foreign workers is once again in this administration’s playbook. Yet there is a defensible need by the tech sector for these workers with a majority coming from India.

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