What a President Trump or a President Sanders Could Do

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have expressed a desire for genuine reform of the H-1B and related programs. Trump’s written platform is strong (though some of his statements leave some abiguities), and Sanders has spoken out against H-1B for years. Let’s fuse the two of them into a single President Trumpers, and ask what would he could actually accomplish in the foreign tech worker area.

It is a given that no matter how strongly President Trumpers would feel about the issue, Congress — doing the bidding of the powerful tech industry and its powerful allies — would fight him every step of the way. But there is actually much he could do on his own, through legitimate executive action.

The most obvious action would be rescind the Bush-Obama executive actions extending OPT, with the time reverting back to the original 12-month duration. An even bolder act would be to disband OPT entirely, though I wouldn’t recommend that unless meaningful H-1B reform were to be achieved. (I also would suggest grandfathering current OPT “students.”)

A less obvious, but very effective action would be to give the proper interpretation to the term H-1B dependent employer, which is defined to be any employer for whom at least 15% of the workforce consists of H-1Bs. The current interpretation is absurd, as it includes all of the employees in a firm, e.g. the receptionists, delivery people, janitors and so on — jobs that certainly don’t fit the H-1B statute’s definition of workers eligible for the visa, i.e. “speciality occupations for which a bachelor’s degree is normally required.” In other words, since the ostensible aim of the law’s defining an H-1B-dependent category is to protect American tech workers, the denominator on which that 15% threshhold is based should consist only of tech workers, i.e. the company’s engineering and technical workforce, not its general workforce. This would have a huge impact.

President Trumpers could also declare that the green card process will not allow employers to reject Americans on the basis of being “overqualified.” As I have often mentioned, one of the major reasons employers like H-1B and related programs is that they allow them to bypass qualified but older American applicants, hiring young foreign workers instead. This change to the green card process would be of substantial help here.

Most Americans are probably unaware of the fact that many foreign STEM students are supported by federal money in the form of being hired under the research grants held by their professors. President Trumpers could direct his major research funding agencies, such as the NSF, NIH and so on to give funding priority to professors who have a solid track record of hiring U.S. citizen and permanent-resident students and post docs.

Similarly, Trumpers could direct his funding agencies to give priority to universities that have higher-than-average proportions of domestic students in their STEM graduate programs. Needless to say, he would also threaten to reduce federal funding for universities that view foreign students as “revenue enhancement sources.” Trumpers could make similar policies for companies bidding for federal conracts.

So, President Trumpers, how about it?  And for that matter, you too, President Obama.


24 thoughts on “What a President Trump or a President Sanders Could Do

  1. OPT and H-1B are being used to bypass bright young American workers as well. The top US citizen grads in many STEM courses often go unemployed or underemployed for years on account of the employers insisting upon hiring new grads into “internship” positions (‘internships’ are not appropriate for new grads), or won’t hire because they believe top new grads might have a harder time accepting low pay grids that HR is highly incentivized to hire based upon (the ‘flight risk’ theory).

    OPT and H-1B can and should be deleted in their entirety until the labour market for graduates of all ages has been restored to health. The H-1B and OPT visas are severely damaging to US citizen (and Canadian and “first world”) tech talent across the board and of all ages.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In the interest of reducing comment volume, please see my fact-filled comment in response to Professor Norm Matloff’s “An Open Letter to the Laid-Off Disney Workers” once Professor Matloff has moderated my comment.

    I also note that the term “laid off” with regards to American citizens displaced by employer abuse of the H-1B Visa program is incorrect. A layoff implies that there is a likelihood of being rehired. In the case of the displaced Americans, the correct term is “Job Cut” as their rehire probability is vanishingly small.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent suggestions for executive orders!

    I’d like to suggest additionally that for all visas, especially for work visas, that the total number of man-years authorized by each visa be reported each year; the total number of years to retirement age of all persons given permanent residence should be summed to estimate the number of man-years authorized. These would provide an index as to the real impact of the various visa programs on American employment across a soup of visas (H-1B, L-1, E-3, F-1 OPT, etc.) of varying duration. Few people realize that only about half of H-1Bs are counted against any cap, that extensions aren’t counted against any cap, and that the current reporting system confounds 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year visas. I recall in 2007 — 17 years after creation of H-1B — a popular national political commentator once dismissed the impact of H-1B by saying that it was only ~50,000 workers, apparently unaware that the caps were not on the total number working on H-1B in a given year but only on H-1Bs granted to STEM workers in certain categories (mostly working for for-profit companies) that were not previously counted.

    I recall a nephew confused by two articles about a month apart on H-1B in “The Economist,” the first stating that only 65000 were issued each year and he second saying 85000. He asked which was correct. I responded that the true cap can be argued to be 65000 (under the primary clause), 85000 if the 20000 exemption from the cap is counted as well, or unlimited since H-1Bs for colleges and for non-profit or government-affiliated research institutions are cap-exempt. This is just another example of how misleading the terms are.

    The President should also rescind the current destruction of H-1B records after 5 years, which makes it more difficult to study the visas’ effects and is ironic in its minimal savings of mass storage in view of the incredible volume of information the government is currently collecting with unsettled authority.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Federal grants should prohibit payment for foreign travel to interview potential students and post docs. They should also prevent the awarding of a federal grant to anyone also a faculty member at a foreign university (yes I know of at least one who a foreign university claims as a full time faculty member and the individual admits to being an adjunct while receiving a $400,000 salary in 2013 -the last full year of data – from a major state university).

    Research abroad should be limited to essential and should be pre-approved by the agency and not used as a funded vacation with family and friends in the faculty members native country (yes, I have evidence of this as well with a different individual at the same university).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Foreign students have grown into a 27 billion a year industry. At some private educational institutions the number of foreigners is about 50%.
      Many colleges/universities have a special department to attract foreign students. At state universities/colleges the extra tuition is ‘found’ money.

      The parents of the foreign students fork over all that money because the study – with often OPT – opens the door into the US. And there is always a chance their son or daughter will find romance with a US citizen.

      You think universities/colleges are enthousiastic to give up this source of income ?


  5. I notice you did not mention President Rubinton. What would a Rubio or Clinton do? Or a Cruz? Or even a Romney, if he’s able to slide in on a brokered convention?

    Also, I’d like to see your analysis of the individual “Permanent Record” tracking system that Common Core is implementing, basically “cradle to workplace” tracking of each student. How would that affect U.S. tech employment prospects?


  6. “Most Americans are probably unaware of the fact that many foreign STEM students are supported by federal money in the form of being hired under the research grants held by their professors.” Super-true statement. Search LinkedIn for engineers with graduate degrees. Almost all will have a RA or a TA job.

    I would like to stress that research assistants do work that is related to their thesis or dissertation. They are not cleaning toilets, mowing the grass, etc. There is no need to pay them to do RA work. This work should be part of their education. The research grant should be used to pay for equipment and business expenses and not to fund a student’s education.

    In the past I have been harping about “gold collar” workers (physician, dentists, attorneys, pharmacists, MBA?). There appears to be very little financial assistant in the form of a paying job for these students. Why is this not true for engineering students? The best they can hope for is to get some government assistance AFTER getting their degree and racking up over $100,000 in education expenses. Government assistance comes in the way of working in the military or in an undeserved community for a couple of years. Many times the amount of help is limited ($50,000, for example).

    Given the choice of being accepted to a prestigious university with no job in a major city or a weaker school in the middle of nowhere but with a job (research assistant or teaching assistant) then many students will choose the latter to avoid debt. Engineering schools are using a RA or a TA job as a recruitment tool.


    • If RA’s are contributing to the legitimate body of research, then students should be paid as though they’re professional researchers, with perhaps only a minor discount for being involved with the public sector, as opposed to the private sector.

      The private sector pays its researchers in engineering and CS upper five-figure and low-6 figure pay packages. Why should RA’s accept dramatically lower than that?

      The big elephant in the room is that the entire sector has been decapitalized and de-professionalized. It should not be mandatory to submit to indentured servitude merely to obtain a graduate degree. In fact, graduate degrees used to be primarily granted to people who took temporary leaves from industry, while receiving most of their previous salary. Industry needs to support not only industrial research, but also the academic research agenda. Clearly not enough money is going into either, or it is being siphoned out of the universities and used for things like sports teams.


  7. What a prez could do:

    – Stop the permanent immigration of Immediate Relatives and Family Members at absurdum. That is a main reason why this country adds over One Million of people every year.
    And apparently also no one looked into what ACA means for this type of immigration ?)
    – Stop temporary immigration for work – and devise a better system for needed talent.
    – Stop the Diversity Lottery.
    – Stop the EB-5 visas.
    – Stop universities and colleges from bringing in large numbers of foreign students (simply because their parents have lotsa money). Do away wih OPT.

    – Keep better records of who comes in and who goes out. Currently there are no statistics about non-immigrant workers that left. (I think we have each been counted 3x – not a way to have the proper numbers so needed for the discussion.)

    – Entice visa and VWP/ESTA overstayers to leave within a year. Otherwise deport them and seize their assets.
    – Make E-verify mandatory for all employers and for private persons who have work done over $ 600 worth. Add stiff penalties for no-compliance.
    – Stop the jus soli system.
    – Make only US citizens eligible for subsidies, provisons, tax rebates/credits, etc.


      • Which of these things can a President Trump and perhaps with Sessions as head of Dept. of Labor be done?

        At the last debate in Miami, Trump said he’ll stop the H1B program for at least a year, probably 2 years until the problems are fixed. Trump/Sessions proposal or mandate would be: here’s a revised H1B program that serves both the interests of American workers and American business but not at the expense of American workers and the middle class – the other option is to shut down the H1B program. Take it or leave it.


  8. How did you like Tump’s answers last night at GOP debate regarding H1-b, H2-b and trade? I personally loved it. You put money like that out there for companies or anyone they’ll take it. It is a bad law and needs to be abolished.

    I also want to make a comment about your question regarding why Obama does not take the right side of this issue? Silicon Valley and CA in general are big establishment GOP/DNP donors and they own him. There are two rules in getting paid the donor/customer/boss is always right and the second rule is refer back to the first one!!!


  9. No idea how far a prez could go on executive action regarding these issues. But indeed I expressed my posting incorrectly (enticed by your heading). Most of these issues need to be addressed by Congress of course.

    Prez. candidates recently discovered the H-1B as a cause of problems. But this visa (mainly the use of it) is a symptom.
    So you can blame these workers, you can even do away with this visa, it will not make a real difference.
    Unless all US immigration regulation and the US educational system are both reformed.


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