Trump moves to limit federal agencies from outsourcing jobs to H-1B holders

Labor dept to prevent federal agencies from outsourcing jobs to foreign workers

uscis Representational image | Reuters

In a move that could affect H-1B holders working on federal government contracts in the United States, the White House on Monday announced that President Donald Trump is signing an executive order that will require all federal agencies to conduct an internal audit to prove that only American citizens are given appointments.

“President Donald J. Trump is taking action to prevent Americans from being displaced by foreign workers and offshore labor using Federal dollars. President Trump is signing an Executive Order to create a policy where Federal agencies will focus on United States labor in lucrative Federal contracts,” the White House said in a release.

“It would be unfair for Federal employers to replace perfectly qualified Americans with workers from other countries,” it said, adding that the order would require “all Federal agencies to complete an internal audit and assess whether they are in compliance with the requirement that only United States citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service.”

Under Executive Order 11935, signed in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford, “only United States citizens and nationals may be appointed to competitive service Federal jobs. In rare cases, agencies may hire certain non-citizens when there are no qualified U.S. citizens available, unless the appointment is prohibited by statute.”

Trump’s executive order would double down on this requirement, besides barring federal agencies from replacing US citizens or green card holders with foreign workers.

“The Department of Labor will also finalize guidance to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers’ job sites to displace Americans workers,” the release said, adding that the Executive Order would help prevent Federal agencies from "unfairly replacing American workers with low-cost foreign labor".

Trump’s move was influenced by the Tennessee River Valley Authority's (TVA) decision in June to lay off IT workers in order to outsource the work to foreign workers. The TVA, as reported by the Chattanooga Free Press, had moved to fire 62 workers as part of an earlier announce to outsource computer programming work being done at its Chattanooga computer center and its headquarters in Knoxville. The TVA said they had found "so many" replacement jobs for the affected workers and that the move was in line with "what other utilities and federal agencies" were doing.

According to the White House, the TVA were going to outsource “20 per cent” of technology jobs to companies based in foreign companies, causing over 200 “highly-skilled American tech workers” in Tennessee to lose their jobs to “low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas”.

Trump came to know about the plan after television ads decried the TVA’s move to outsource jobs and called for the president to act. The ads were paid for by US Tech Workers, a nonprofit “nonprofit representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program”.

On Monday, Trump also announced that he had fired the TVA chairman James Thompson, saying he had betrayed American workers. Trump also threatened to remove other board members if they keep hiring foreign labour.

The TVA is a federally owned corporation created in 1933 to provide flood control, electricity generation, fertiliser manufacturing and economic development to the Tennessee Valley, a region that was hard hit by the Great Depression.

The region covers most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky as well as small sections of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Trump said the TVA board must immediately hire a new chief executive officer that puts the interests of Americans first.

With inputs from agencies