Dear President Trump,
My name is Riju Agrawal. My family immigrated to the U.S. from India 25 years ago. My parents represent the thousands of Indian immigrants who come to this country as skilled workers and eventually become U.S. citizens through the long and arduous process of naturalization. However, I write to you today not as an immigrant, but as an American. In October, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it would make it more difficult for H-1B visa holders to renew their visas, in line with your "Buy American, Hire American" executive order. I implore you to reconsider these changes to the H-1B visa program. They will hurt, rather than help, our country and our economy.
However, I write to you today not as an immigrant, but as an American.
You issued the executive order in April in response to ongoing concerns about the loss of American jobs to low-wage immigrant labor. Your administration argued that on average, H-1B workers are paid less than the median wages for the roles into which they are hired because the program has been exploited by firms like Infosys, Cognizant, and Tata Consultancy Services to outsource American jobs to cheaper Indian labor.
Your executive order suggests that you aim to protect the "economic interests" of American workers. But we can't protect the long-term economic interests of American workers by hobbling the fast-growing technology firms that are going to create high-skilled American jobs in the future.
Companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook represent the best of American innovation and ingenuity, and they're changing almost every dimension of our lives. These firms rely on foreign-born workers because of talent gaps in roles ranging from software engineering to management. By hiring foreign-born workers, the firms are able to grow more rapidly, which in turn helps create additional jobs for American workers. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg wondered publicly, "Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return?"
We can't protect the long-term economic interests of American workers by hobbling the fast-growing technology firms that are going to create high-skilled American jobs in the future.
Furthermore, restrictions to the H-1B visa program will render American companies less competitive than their foreign counterparts in China by increasing the cost of labor and hindering the transfer of ideas and knowledge. Making it difficult for American companies to find the highest-skilled and lowest-cost workers will only increase the cost of products that we all need and want. American workers are also American consumers!
Microsoft previously explained in a court motion that "Washington's technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program...Microsoft, which is headquartered in Washington, employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. Loss of highly skilled workers puts Washington companies at a competitive disadvantage with global competitors." If we prevent these companies from inviting a few thousand workers to the U.S., they will have no choice but to either move their factories to China because the domestic costs of labor are too high, or to increase the prices of their products. Neither move would benefit American workers or American consumers.
American workers are also American consumers!
In recent remarks, both you and Secretary of State Tillerson emphasized the importance of a renewed partnership between the U.S. and India, especially at a time when China is behaving "less responsibly" in the Indo-Pacific region.
However, having lived in India and worked in Indian government, I can assure you that India will not continue a partnership that it views as one-sided. Your administration's desire to amend the H-1B program and limit the ability of talented Indians to work and live in the United States will surely strain ties between the two countries. Your team has already heard multiple complaints on the H-1B issue from India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Minister of Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu. Damaging the U.S.'s partnership with India because of the H-1B issue is a short-sighted move that will come back to haunt us later as China's rise in Asia continues unchecked.
India will not continue a partnership that it views as one-sided.
President Trump, I know you understand the importance of the H-1B visa for the American economy. You've said yourself, "We need highly skilled people in this country...For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country." For this reason, I implore you to restore the fast-track review ("premium processing") of H-1B visa extension applications and to resist the urge to gut the H-1B program. Our American economy depends on it.
Your fellow American,
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