Desperate to put his presidential campaign back on track even as America continues to be ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, US President Donald Trump is busy playing the populist card and whipping up anti-foreigner sentiment. More than a month after the Trump administration suspended H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas till the year-end, ostensibly to protect the interests of American workers, the President has now signed an executive order that will make federal agencies employ Americans and prevent them from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers. The much-sought-after H-1B, a non-immigrant visa, allows US companies to hire tens of thousands of IT professionals every year from countries such as India and China.
Trump’s latest order is based on the erroneous presumption that American workers are enough, whether or not they have the skill set possessed by foreigners. The Silicon Valley is a testament to the commendable work done by Indian techies in America over the decades. According to the Hurun Global Unicorn List, of the 61 unicorns (startups valued at over $1 billion each) founded by Indians, two-thirds are based outside India, mostly in America’s technology hub.
As the US strives to reduce its unemployment rate and create jobs, it can’t afford to shut the door on skilled workers from around the world. Isolationism can be detrimental to accomplishing the Herculean task of rebuilding American economy. Trump says he favours a merit-based immigration system, but at the same time, he is disinclined to ensure a level playing field. It’s no secret that job outsourcing has enabled American companies to overwhelm competitors around the globe, considerably cutting down operating costs and maximising profits. With the virus still out of control, the US doesn’t have the wherewithal to achieve a turnaround merely by generating jobs at home. ‘America First’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘Americans First’. The beleaguered superpower needs allies like India to get back on its feet. Increasing the curbs on workers and students from India is nothing but an economic and diplomatic own goal.