U.S. business leaders are pleading for more imported white-collar workers — but they are asking for fewer H-1B visa workers than they sought in 2015 and 2016.

In April, CEOs filed 201,011 H-1B requests to import foreign graduates for work in 2020. But that total is down 15 percent from the 236,000 petitions filed for 2016 workers — even though today’s unemployment numbers are at record lows amid the continued economic growth in President Donald Trump’s “Hire American” economy.

“The demand for H-1Bs is pretty static,” a top immigration lawyer admitted to In fact, the increase may be related to tighter enforcement of the H-1B rules, which gives companies an incentive to make extra requests, said California-based James Pack of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy. The 2019 request, for example, is only up 6 percent from the 190,098 petitions filed in 2018.

Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are allowed for business. Non-profit hospitals, universities and research centers, however, are exempt from the 85,000 cap and usually import 15,000 extra foreign graduates.

The tepid growth of the H-1B program from 2016 to 2019 contradicts fervent calls by business leaders for Trump to import more foreign graduates for good jobs that would otherwise be filled by well-paid American graduates, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He continued:

We don’t know the reason for the drop in H-1B requests, but it clearly suggests that the economy is growing dynamically without constant increases of H-1Bs. If the employers were so desperate for these workers, how is it possible they are not asking for more when the economy is booming?

But the slow 2019 growth of the program should not obscure its purpose of sidelining Americans in favor of hiring cheaper visa-workers, said Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University who has closely followed the H-1B program. He told Breitbart News:

The lure of cheap labor is still very high. Firms are willing to file applications because they make tremendous profits off hiring cheaper H-1B workers rather than US workers. The facts remain that US workers are still training their H-1B replacements. The Trump administration could and should be doing more, but Congress is mostly to blame for the H-1B fiasco.

During Trump’s tenure, salary growth for U.S. graduates has lagged behind wage growth for blue-collar workers.

Experts offered various theories for the minimal growth in the H-1B program, despite the CEO’s claims about a shortage of U.S. graduates. “There’s an enormous deficit in the number of jobs versus the number of candidates,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump March 6.

In contrast, U.S. tech workers say U.S. CEOs have farmed out much of the information-technology sector to Indian H-1Bs and migrants. This means the CEOs’ Indian managers and recruiters are under strong economic pressure from their Indian peers to justify the hiring of more Indians by making false claims about a supposed shortage of qualified Americans.

Pack said some of the corporate requests for H-1Bs are being pushed by foreign graduates who want to stay in the United States:

The continued demand for H-1B visas is the product of several factors, including the economy and the “constant pipeline of graduates” of U.S. colleges and universities who need visa sponsorship. And there’s a growing number of employers whose petitions weren’t selected in prior lotteries, whose petitions were denied, or that are having trouble obtaining other temporary visas for critical employees, he said.

“For a lot of people, they just don’t have an option” of not seeking an H-1B, he said.

Some supporters of the H-1B program blame the lackluster demand on tighter enforcement of the regulations. But Americans firms got few denials in comparison to the Indian firms which outsource American graduates’ jobs for U.S. CEOs and investors.

The apparently high rejection rate in the first part of 2019 was reported by a group which promotes the use of visa workers, the National Foundation for American Policy.  However, officials at the Department of Homeland Security say the denials are normally higher during the first quarter of each year, skewing the group’s results.

The director of NFAP, Stuart Anderson, worked for President George W. Bush’s Department of Homeland Security, after working for two Senators who strongly support visa worker programs: former Sen. Spencer Abraham and former Sen. Sam Brownback. Anderson, who also worked for the Cato Institute, declined to answer questions from Breitbart News.

But even without the first-quarter 2019 data, Anderson’s report shows that the rejection rate was under 10 percent during the administration of former President Barack Obama, which sharply favored the technology industry.

Under Trump, the rejection rate climbed to almost 25 percent in 2018, partly because of the increased supervision of Indian outsourcing firms which ask for a large share of the H-1B visas, usually for lower-skilled visa workers. For example, officials rejected one-third of the 4,590 H-1B visas or visa extensions sought by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.

In contrast, leading American firms seem to hire better-qualified H-1B workers, and to offer them higher pay.

The regulatory pressure may have deterred some  “sketchy” firms from asking for H-1B visas in 2019, so nudging down the overall number of requests, said Krikorian. “I would hazard a guess is that more careful enforcement is dissuading some of the least scrupulous H-1B users from applying for as many as they used to request,” he said.

The same process may be occurring with the OPT program, whose numbers are slated to be released in late April. The 2018 release of data about companies using the OPT program likely exposed at least one fraudulent firm and may deter others from using the program in 2019.

Nationwide, companies and non-profits import roughly 100,000 H-1B graduates each year. Overall, there are about 1 million H-1B workers in a wide variety of U.S. jobs. Roughly 350.000 of the H-1B workers are staying way beyond the six-year limit on H-1Bs because their employers have placed them in the waiting line for green cards.

Many of the foreign graduates manage to get into the H-1B program by first paying tuition at U.S. colleges so they can get into the “mini-H1B” program, the Optional Practical Training work-permit program. That OPT program gives a tax-break to U.S. companies to hire foreign graduates for up to three years. In 2017, 90,000 foreign technology-graduates had three-year work permits.

In fact, Democratic and GOP Senators are backing legislation that would bypass the H-1B caps and dramatically increase the incentives for Indian graduates to get into the alternative OPT program. The legislation, titled H.R. 1044 and S-386, would lift so-called “country caps” and allow up to 140,000 Indians per year to get citizenship via Americans employers, up from the current level of roughly 23,000.  The expanded OPT program would allow U.S. investors and Indian subcontractors to dramatically increase the outsourcing of U.S. healthcare and technology jobs.

The H-1B and OPT visa programs work alongside other visa-worker programs, such as the H4EAD, L-1, O-1, J-1, and TN programs. These programs boost the overall number of white-collar visa-workers in the United States up to at least 1.5 million.

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants, refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar guest workers, in addition to approximately 500,000 blue-collar visa workers, and also tolerates about eight million illegal workers and the inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants.

This federal policy of flooding the market with cheap white-collar graduates and blue-collar foreign labor is intended to boost economic growth for investors.

This policy works by shifting enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors, even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts children’s schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

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