The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor announced more immigration changes on Tuesday, increasing the difficulty of skilled foreign workers to acquire H-1B visas.
“We have entered an era in which economic security is an integral part of homeland security. Put simply, economic security is homeland security,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. “In response, we must do everything we can within the bounds of the law to make sure the American worker is put first.”
The DHS rule will limit the kinds of jobs or "specialty occupations" that H-1B visa holders can be hired for, while looking into third-party outsourcing firms that rely on hiring those workers.
The rule will also "require companies to make 'real' offers to 'real employees,' by closing loopholes and preventing the displacement of the American worker;" and it will "enhance DHS’s ability to enforce compliance through worksite inspections and monitor compliance before, during, and after an H1-B petition is approved," according to the news release.
Citing data, the agency said that more than 500,000 nonimmigrants on H-1B visas in the United States were "used to displace" American workers.
"The H-1B program was intended to allow employers to fill gaps in their workforce and remain competitive in the global economy, however it has now expanded far beyond that, often to the detriment of U.S. workers," Homeland Security said in a news release on Tuesday. "
"This has led to reduced wages in a number of industries in the U.S. labor market and the stagnation of wages in certain occupations," the agency said. "These latest efforts on H-1B visas are part of a larger Trump Administration goal to protect American workers."
The Department of Labor will also authorize a new rule on Thursday morning, and it will change how much employers are required to pay foreign workers if they hire them based on H-1B visas, which is a bid to pay workers more.
The new rules are "far and away, one of the most significant reforms made to the H-1B program in the past 20 years," deputy secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella told reporters.
“Companies that have used the H-1B program have been incentivized to avoid hiring Americans… so that they can replace them with cheaper foreign labor and that abuse will end with this new rule,” Ken Cuccinelli, DHS acting deputy secretary, told reporters on Tuesday. The DHS rule will affect more than a third of the new H-1B petitions.
The moves from the Labor Department and DHS are sure to be challenged in lawsuits.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats again cried foul, saying it was timed to benefit President Donald Trump's chances of reelection.
“This last-minute action is an obvious political ploy by the Trump Administration to cover up for the fact that President Trump broke his campaign promise to crack down on H-1B abuse on the first day of his Administration,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said in a statement
“President Trump never responded to my call three and a half years ago to use his executive power and protect workers from H-1B abuses,” Durbin added. “Instead, the Trump Administration has granted tens of thousands of H-1B visas to outsourcing companies that specialize in offshoring American jobs.”