Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order to ensure that the Federal government lives by a very simple rule: Hire American.Reuters

In a massive blow to Indian IT professionals eyeing the job market in the United States, President Donald Trump on Monday (August 3) signed an executive order barring federal agencies dismissing US citizens or green card holders and from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers -- mainly those on H-1B visa -- from hiring.

The executive order Trump signed increases scrutiny of federal contractors' use of H-1B visas to bring in temporary foreign labour from India or China for high-skilled jobs rather than relying on American workers.

This comes a month after the Donald Trump administration on June 23 suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year. The new restrictions took effect from June 24.

The H1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The coronavirus recession has thrown lakhs of Americans out of work, with uncertain prospects for a recovery given continued surges in virus case counts in many states.

'Hire American'

Speaking to media persons on Monday, Trump said, "Today, I am signing an executive order to ensure that the Federal government lives by a very simple rule: Hire American".

Trump told reporters that his administration will not tolerate the firing of hardworking Americans in the pursuit of cheap foreign labour.

"As we speak, we're finalising the H-1B regulation so that no American workers be replaced ever again. H-1B should be used for top highly paid talent to create American jobs, not as inexpensive labour programmes and destroy American job," said the president who was surrounded across the Cabinet Room table with individuals campaigning against job outsourcing.

The executive order requires all federal agencies to complete an internal audit and assess whether they are in compliance with the requirement that only US citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service. As a result, the Department of Labour will also finalise guidlines to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers' job sites to displace Americans workers.

The President has also fired the chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, criticizing the federal-owned corporation for hiring foreign workers.

Trump threatened to remove other board members

Trump told reporters at the White House that he was formally removing chair Skip Thompson and another member of the board, and he threatened to remove other board members if they continue.

The order followed the TVA's announcement that it would outsource 20 per cent of its technology jobs to companies based in foreign countries. TVA's action could cause more than 200 highly skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to foreign workers hired on temporary work visas, according to the White House.

Trump also said the TVA board must immediately hire a new chief executive officer who "puts the interests of Americans first." According to Trump, the CEO, Jeff Lyash, earns $8 million a year.

"The new CEO must be paid no more than $500,000 a year," Trump said. "We want the TVA to take action on this immediately. ... Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: 'You're fired.'"

The White House tweeted that immediately after President Trump's remarks, the CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority signaled willingness to reverse a terrible decision that would have ousted 200+ highly skilled American workers and replaced them with lower-wage foreign workers.

Mike Pence
Mike Pence.

Further Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the order, telling workers gathered at the White House that, "We're not just solving your problem. What the President's committing to today is to end the abuse of our worker visa program, once and for all."

(With agency inputs)