The Information Technology Industry Council, representing big tech, has filed a court brief arguing that employment authorization for spouses of H-1B workers comes with significant economic benefits.
(TNS) — A group representing major Silicon Valley technology companies and global outsourcing firms has filed a court brief arguing that employment authorization for spouses of H-1B workers — which the Trump administration has promised to revoke — leads to economic growth and creates about as many jobs as it takes away.
But a lawyer on the other side argues that the claimed benefits are irrelevant to the case at hand, and that the work permission lets employers keep foreign employees under their thumbs.
The Information Technology Industry Council, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, filed a brief supporting employment for H-4 visa holders in a legal case against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by former IT workers who claim they were replaced with foreign H-1B holders. The workers argue that Homeland Security lacks the legal authority to allow H-1B spouses to work.
Spouses of H-1B workers who are on track for a green card have been able to work since 2015. The former IT workers claim in their lawsuit that these wives and husbands — the vast majority are Indian women — compete against Americans for jobs, and that the employment authorization fails to protect American workers from foreign labor. The case was thrown out in 2016 but is now under appeal in federal court in Washington, D.C., leaving Homeland Security as the defendant of a federal rule it is currently seeking to scrap under President Donald Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order.
Now, the IT industry council, which represents companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Oracle, HP, and outsourcers Accenture, Cognizant and Tata, is arguing that giving work authorization to an estimated 91,000 spouses of H-1B holders “has had significant, positive effects on the U.S. economy as a whole.”
Recent economic analysis shows the work authorization has added $5.5 billion to $13 billion to the United States’ gross domestic product and about $2.4 billion in federal and state tax revenues, “all with a net neutral effect on the employment of other American workers,” according to the brief.
The H-4 visa has been drawn into the country’s tumultuous debates over immigration and the H-1B visa. The lottery-based H-1B, intended for jobs requiring specialized skills, allows major Silicon Valley tech companies to secure top global talent. But critics point to reported abuses by outsourcing companies, and argue that those firms and tech giants, use the visa to obtain cheaper foreign labor at the expense of Americans.
The Trump administration has pledged to strip work authorization from H-4 holders, but has several times delayed that action.
The brief, filed Monday, said that if the former IT workers’ “Save Jobs U.S.A.” lawsuit succeeds in getting the H-4 employment authorization declared illegal, “tens of thousands of individuals across the country would be forced from their jobs and left without means to afford their educational loans, their mortgages, or their families.”
About 5,500 to 8,200 positions currently held by H-4 holders would be filled by Americans if their work authorization were removed, the brief said. “Those gains would be almost exactly cancelled out by the destruction of the roughly 6,800 jobs created by H-4 spouses, 2 percent of whom own their own businesses, employing an average of five additional workers each,” according to the brief, which also argues that Homeland Security does have legal authority to allow employment for H-4 holders.
To the lawyer representing the former IT workers in the lawsuit, the brief’s claimed benefits from allowing H-4 holders to work have no bearing on the case.
“The question before the court is not whether the H-4 Rule has had a positive effect,” said John Miano. “The question is whether the rule is within (Homeland Security’s) authority. The part about how great the rule is is all irrelevant.”
Miano is a fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for reduced immigration. He argued that the entire purpose of the H-4 work authorization is to keep foreign citizens working “under the thumb of employers” that take advantage of restrictions on job changes under the H-1B program at a time when it can take years or even decades to get a green card.
The brief cites a paper that contradicts the lower court’s finding that there was no evidence H-4 workers would enter the computer job market, Miano said. According to the paper, updated this month, 66 percent of H-4 workers are employed in science, technology, math and engineering fields, “mostly in computer-related, engineering, or math or statistics jobs.”
©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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