by Ashfaque Ismail

Resentment over migrant work visas, most prominent of them H1B, is not refusing to die down. And it was not likely to go away in the near future. The U.S. Tech Workers, a group advancing the causes of local job seekers, on June 18, 2020 reported a protest opposing the H-1B visa program. The group tweeted from @USTechWorkers handle pictures of protest sites in Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee on June 18, 2020. It said, “Happening right now: Employees at the Tennessee Valley Authority are gathering in Knoxville & Chattanooga to protest the outsourcing of Software Engineering jobs to H-1B visa dependent contracting companies. Many of these employees are having to train their foreign replacements.” Over the past few years the United States has been simmering with anti-H1B visa sentiments.

It has been holding talks on both for and against arguments that gained a different pitch altogether during 2016 campaigns for US Presidential elections. Majority of Americans now say migrant workers entering the United States were grabbing jobs from them. They were causing millions of Americans filing for unemployment benefits.

But do these ‘For’ arguments hold water and indeed come out as a reason for job losses for American people? Or are the ‘Against’ arguments spoiling the United States’ standing as the largest economy in the world? For the outside world the issue may not make much difference. But for Americans it has snowballed into a matter of life and death. Americans in their favor cite this example. They say 40 million of them have filed for unemployment benefits since March 2020. This has given them enough ammunition to take to the streets.

But have guest work visas really taken jobs away from American people? The answer may be a big ‘No’. Elon Musk can be cited as the best example if you want to see how some of the migrant individuals have transformed America’s corporate landscape. Musk who is Founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has faced a smear campaign raising doubts about his immigrant status. He has been alleged to have entered the United States without any legal documents on him. But those were charges that were never proved and in the meantime Musk scaled up the success ladder and apart from getting US citizenship he made billions for him.

He was in a way responsible for generating hundreds of jobs for American people through companies like Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal etc. Born in South Africa, Musk studied in the 1990s in the United States and abandoned his degree for entrepreneurship. Moving ahead, he learned rocketry and computer programming. And the rest is history. It is said around 70 percent of 85,000 H1B visas go to job seekers from India and China. India takes a lead in getting more visas for its job seekers dreaming to work in the United States. Google and Microsoft too have India born CEOs. Being at the helm of these companies is not a small feat. Similarly we can cite an example of Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo. These top bosses were contributing to American economy in a big way. These examples speak out that America looks for talent. It nurtures them. The purpose of giving these examples was not to side with one set of people in the ‘for and against’ debate. Its main motive has been to dig deeper and find out where the H1B debate was headed? So the debate over whether guest workers were stealing jobs from Americans or not continues.