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Trump plan may impact up to 70,000 Koreans

Apr 21,2017
U.S. President Donald Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in Wisconsin on Tuesday local time, which will require the U.S. government to change regulations on visa programs, including the H-1B visa granted to highly skilled immigrants usually in fields of engineering, computer programming, accounting and medicine.

Many of the 70,000 Koreans studying in the United States apply for the H-1B after finishing their studies.

“We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first,” Trump told the audience at the Snap-on Tools Headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he signed the executive order. “Right now, the widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers… to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job, for sometimes less pay. This will stop.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded at a totally random lottery. And that’s wrong,” he said. “Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never ever be used to replace Americans.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65,000 foreigners with bachelors’ degrees, and an additional 20,000 foreigners holding advanced degrees, are granted the H-1B visas every year.

While the order will not immediately translate into a visible drop in the number of H-1B visas issued, it will require the Departments of State, Labor, Justice and Homeland Security to make revisions in their regulations to protect American workers.

There has been a general movement among government agencies to protect American workers more.

The U.S Department of Labor announced on April 4 plans to protect American workers in the job market due to the H-1B visas.

“In recent years, some employers have used the H-1B program to hire foreign workers despite American workers being qualified and available for work or even to replace American workers,” the department said in a press release. “The department fully supports the U.S. Department of Justice in cautioning employers who petition for H-1B visas not to discriminate against U.S. workers, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.”

The Labor Department said it will investigate H-1B program violators, revise a part of the visa application process to enhance its transparency and continue to work with stakeholders to further protect American workers, possibly with legislative changes.

Though it may be crushing news for immigrants who hope to realize their “American dream” in the country, Trump described the action as a way of “using every tool at our disposal to restore our American dream.”

Those affected the most may be the immigrants from India, as they made up nearly 70 percent of the recipients of H-1B visa in 2015, according to data from the State Department and Bureau of Consular Affairs cited by the New York Times. Those from China made up 12 percent, and the rest included immigrants from Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, Brazil, France, Britain and Germany. The “Buy American, Hire American” executive order will also put forward policies to protect American goods.

“This historic action declares that the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods,” Trump said. “It’s America first. You better believe it.”

BY MOON HYUN-KYUNG, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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