“Step up investigations, slow things down, and you can accomplish your policy goals without legislation,” said Hal Salzman, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University.
In response to the business leaders’ letter, the immigration service said in a statement on Thursday that the administration had been “relentlessly pursuing necessary immigration reforms that move towards a merit-based system.” It added that it handles all applications and petitions “fairly, efficiently, and effectively on a case-by-case basis.”
The H-1B program was created to provide a pathway for talented foreigners whose special skills were expected to strengthen the American economy. Today, the nation’s technology hubs are filled with H-1B alumni who have become entrepreneurs, executives, venture capitalists and, quite often, United States citizens.
In recent years, however, the visa program has been criticized because corporations, especially Indian technology outsourcing companies, have exploited legal loopholes in the H-1B regime to replace American workers and shift jobs out of the United States. The immigration service has said its increased scrutiny and enforcement actions were intended to strengthen “protections to combat H-1B abuses.”
But to the business leaders, the policies are vague and capricious, creating uncertainty for their workers and in company operations. For example, the group’s letter stated, “companies now do not know whether a work visa petition that was approved last month will be approved when the company submits the identical application to extend the employee’s status.”
A particular concern, the business leaders said, was that the immigration service was expected to revoke work eligibility for spouses of H-1B visa holders. The spouses, they said, are often highly skilled workers who have built careers in America.
“Revoking their U.S. work authorization,” the letter said, “will likely cause high-skilled immigrants to take their skills to competitors outside the United States.”