White House Immigration Announcement – Overview and initial implications

Overview –

  • On Thursday, May 16th 2019, President Trump delivered a Rose Garden address at the White House on his vision to modernize America’s immigration system
  • The immigration reform proposal was developed by Jared Kushner, President’s advisor

President Trump’s speech reflects the framework that was developed by Kushner: it is light on specific details and the President said he was leaving it up to Congress to develop the specific legislative language

Implications –

  • There is no actual plan yet. The President mapped out a broad blueprint and called on Congress to fill in the details and write a specific piece of legislation
  • The blueprint focuses largely on “reforming” America’s permanent immigration system and moving away from being predominantly a family-based system to a merit-based point system
  • Criteria to qualify for the new “Build America” visas would include age, English proficiency, employment offer (gainful employment over a certain wage level), and education attainment/degree, and other criteria
  • Temporary non-immigrant visa programs, e.g., H-1B and L-1, are not included in, or directly impacted by, the framework. Those programs would remain as is
  • Per country caps on employment based visas would be eliminated. However, spouses and dependent children of the primary beneficiary would reportedly still count against the new employment-based green cards cap
  • Eliminating the per country cap would be a good thing, particularly for Indians, as it would free up additional Green Cards / Build America Visas
  • Moving from a family based system to a merit based system for permanent status would benefit the Indian IT Industry to the extent it sponsors people for immigrant status. However, it would be a negative for the larger group of Indian nationals that are sponsored based on family relationships

Initial reactions

  • The address and framework has been labelled a political effort
  • Both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress predict that the framework will not become law
  • The President even suggested this as well. His closing remarks said that if he could not get any traction now he will look to “get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the Presidency.”
  • The framework was rejected by key officials and outside groups on both liberal and conservatives. E.g., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham, who oversees immigration legislation and who is a strong ally of President Trump, said Kushner’s bill isn’t going to become law. “We all know you’re not going to pass this without dealing with the other aspects of immigration,” said Graham

In Summary

NASSCOM appreciates President Trump’s interest in immigration reform. The ability of the technology industry to access the talent that it needs is central to the US economic growth and competitiveness; particularly given the tremendous shortage of STEM talent and extremely low unemployment rate. This clearly acknowledges the skills gap and NASSCOM has consistently talked about hiring and upskilling locally and bridging the skills gap by bringing in temporary high skilled non-immigrant workers.

NASSCOM member companies employ >175,000 people across America and hire tens of thousands more each year. We train and help train thousands, if not tens of thousands, more. The industry also has invested billions in communities across the country. Still, despite the sector’s local hiring and training, the companies must occasionally augment their STEM talent needs with visa holders

NASSCOM certainly looks forward to continue to engage with relevant stakeholders and partners as these discussions continue.

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