India’s president is linking the delivery of U.S.-purchased hydroxychloroquine medicine to his demand that President Donald Trump help India’s outsourcing workers stay past the expiration of their work visas, says a report in one of India’s leading newspapers.
The Hindustan Times reported on April 10:
The Indian government has asked the US to extend the validity of visas, including H-1B and other types of visas, held by Indian nationals who have been hit by the Covid-19-related economic slump, people familiar with developments said on Friday.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla took up the matter during his telephone conversation with US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun on Wednesday, when the two sides also discussed ways to enhance cooperation to counter the pandemic and ensure the availability of essential medicines [hydroxychloroquine] and equipment.
“We have been in touch with the US government, requesting them to extend the validity of visas of Indian nationals – H-1B and other types of visas – who are stranded in the US due to the pandemic,” said one of the people cited above, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are closely monitoring related developments,” the person added, without giving details.
The demand is a tough sell for Trump, who has yet to implement his March 2016 promise to end the H-1B visa’s role as a cheap-labor program for many Fortune 500 companies in the United States.
But India’s government and economy rely on the wealth earned by “Non-Resident Indians” in the United States — and the coronavirus crash is sending hundreds of thousands back home during the next several months.
Still, the departure of hundreds of thousands of India’s college graduate visa workers would be a huge gain for many swing-voting, middle class American voters in 2020 — and for the politicians who needed their votes.
U.S. visa worker rules include a superstructure of many clever and complex exceptions and loopholes, all of which are designed to help U.S.investors and CEOs freely hire and fire large blocs of cheap, male, Indian visa workers. The set of complex rules also allows executives to bypass the many workplace rules and anti-discrimination laws that Congress adopted to help all American professionals win the jobs and careers needed for a middle class life.
But the system-wide, virus-induced, sudden economic crash has overwhelmed the clever complexity by causing a semi-hidden avalanche of layoffs, and pay cuts — and the underlying laws and regulations say that laid off visa workers must go home in 60 days and prevent companies from keeping a reserve army of visa workers on reduced pay or reduced hours.
The joint U.S.-Indian outsourcing group, NASSCOM, has already asked the Department of Labor to help U.S. and Indian companies rewrite the basic wage and job promises made to hundreds of thousands of visa workers, including about 900,000 resident H-1B workers:
Govt data shows 1 million Indian contract-workers get white-collar jobs in tech, banking, health etc.
The Indian hiring ignores many EEOC laws & is expanding amid gov't & media silence.
It is a huge economic & career loss for US college grads.#S368 #H1B https://t.co/pqEW9yJ89c
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) February 17, 2020
Also, India’s Congress is demanding that Indian President Narendra Modi use his control over the hydroxychloroquine supply to protect the nation’s huge population of well-paid visa workers in the United States.
On April 10, India’s Economic Times reported:
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said after compromising the “India First” policy in the HCQ drug climb-down, the government is again failing to secure the safety and livelihood of Indians in the US.
“Time for the prime minister to ensure that our soft power of ‘Namaste Trump’ converts into fair treatment of H-1B visa holders in the US,” Surjewala said, noting that the US has put Americans on a temporary paid leave or allowed them to work for reduced hours in the wake of the pandemic.
But “the sword of H-1B visa job terminations” looms large over an estimated 75,000 Indians, with the United States giving them only a 60-day period to find a new job in case of a lay off, he said.
Trump called Modi on April 4 after India announced an export ban on the pills. “I called Prime Minister Modi of India this morning … and I said I’d appreciate it if they would release the amounts that we ordered,” Trump told reporters on April 4, adding:
They make large amounts of hydroxychloroquine — very large amounts, frankly. They had a hold [on exports], because, you know, they have 1.5. billion people, and they think a lot of it. And I said I’d appreciate it if they would release the amounts that we ordered
But we have already 29 million [dosesin stock]. That’s a big number. Twenty-nine million doses. And we’ve got millions of doses that are being made here and many millions of doses that are made elsewhere that are being shipped here, and it will be arriving…
But there’s a lot of very positive things happening with that. That’s a game changer if that’s the case. Obviously, we continue to work on the vaccines, but the vaccines have to be down the road by probably 14, 15, 16 months.
Two days later, Modi approved the export of many hydroxychloroquine pills.
On April 8, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla linked the offer of pills — “the availability of essential medicines” — to the H-1B visa issue, according to the Hindustan Times.
Trump cemented the deal by publicly thanking Modi on April 8, likely after the meeting between Shringla and Trump’s deputy, Biegun:
Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020
Officials have not said if Trump will help the Indian visa workers before America’s college graduates vote in November — or if he will take minor steps to provide a face-saving excuse for Modi.
But a growing network of U.S. graduate groups is pressuring Trump to implement his campaign promise to protect graduates from the outsourcing business. In March 2016, after much zig-zagging, Trump declared:
The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.
The establishment media have ignored the visa worker issue for years — and throughout the many long press conferences that Trump is holding at the White House.
Breitbart News has extensively covered the impact of the outsourcing program on American graduates:
Census data shows how huge numbers of American software graduates have been replaced by Indian & Chinese visa-workers in N.J., California, N.C., Georgia, N.Y., Texas, Virginia, Florida, and other states. Next: Healthcare professionals. @S386 https://t.co/qH9p4Ynd34
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) October 3, 2019
Many of the foreign workers are delivered in compliant blocs by Indian-run staffing companies. The deliveries are made via expensive contracts signed by many complacent U.S. business executives and by progressive H.R. managers who prefer not to hire free-speaking American professionals via individual interviews.
Many foreign workers get hired because U.S. managers know they will work in exchange for the government-funded deferred bonus of green cards and citizenship, while American candidates need to be paid in dollars that reduce profit margins.
This underground economy is made possible by Congress, corporations, and the establishment media, all of which ignore the routine violation of workplace laws, including the anti-discrimination laws that are designed to give diverse Americans fairness in hiring:
Health insurance execs discriminated against Americans by hiring more-costly Indian H-1Bs, says lawsuit.
The case spotlights the tech sector's preference for compliant Indian contractors over indep. US professionals.
So more H-1Bs = less tech innovationhttps://t.co/qoENwyO6X7
— Neil Munro (@NeilMunroDC) March 9, 2020