The H-1B visa is pushing Americans out from tech - former Trump strategist
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon gestures as he speaks during a conference of Swiss weekly magazine Die Weltwoche in Zurich. Source: Reuters/Moritz Hager

Former White House strategist and conservative figure Steve Bannon blames Silicon Valley’s hiring of foreign talent as the reason behind working-classes Americans being pushed out of jobs from the tech industry hub.

In an interview with GQ, Bannon spoke about the H-1B visa programme, which allows US companies to employ foreign graduates in specialty occupations, as part of the problem causing working-class Americans from getting jobs in the tech industry.

Bannon is apparently unhappy that there are “so many” Asian and Indian executives in Silicon Valley, linking this to the existence of the H-1B visa programme.

“I have absolutely no problem with American citizens – if they’re American citizens – being heads of companies, regardless of their ethnicity,” he said.

“I have a big problem with foreign nationals coming into the country to be to be CEOs of companies.”

“We’re not going to solve the problems in this country economically until all classes and races get full access to high value-added technology jobs, we shouldn’t allow the rest of the world to come and compete for them.”

He continued with the need to protect American workers from the “the ravages of global wage competition”. Importing talent abroad, he says, is about Silicon Valley wanting to keep salaries low.

“And people say, ‘Oh, Bannon, you’re keeping out all the geniuses.’ Well, If they’re such geniuses, why is the average salary of an H1-B visa US$102,000? Is Isaac Newton getting US$102,000? Is Einstein getting US$102,000? It’s about suppressing wages. I understand why the companies want higher margins. Higher margins mean higher stock prices,” he said.

Breitbart notes that the H-1B visa allows a vast number of foreign workers to be imported into the US per year, and “quietly used” by companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook import a cheaper workforce for highly coveted jobs in the industry. In effect, the far-right American news site argues this displaces American from white-collar jobs.

It’s an opinion with support from the US President itself, who as Washington Post reported, has promised to “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labour programme” and make companies prioritise American job applicants — “no exceptions.”

Trump had campaigned on an “America First” ideology to bring back lost American jobs from overseas. Source: Shutterstock

Research from tech entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa, however, show Indians represented only six percent of Silicon Valley’s population by 2012, though nearly 16 percent of start-ups there had an Indian co-founder.

The H-1B visa scheme is far from perfect and further flaws in the country’s immigration policies exist.

The backlog Indian workers face when applying for a green card effectively keeps them in servitude towards their employers as they cannot change jobs in the middle of applying for a green card, or they have to re-start their applications, according to Immigration Voice president Aman Kapoor.

“If an employee is not going anywhere, the employer will not give salary increases,” he said to Washington Post. The result, he says, is that “American workers are discriminated against in the job market and immigrant workers are exploited.”  

Kapoor said the H-1B visa programme was marketed as a way to bring in “the best and the brightest” by employers and the federal government.

In reality, he said, “the current system is designed to maintain inequality.”

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