Psst…Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell: Jump In, the Water’s Warm on H-1B Reform

Bold leadership is not a trait often associated with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which is largely why the establishment GOP leadership was marginalized in the last election. For years, they have known that the H-1B guest worker visa program was not merely passively broken, but was actively undermining American workers. Heck, they could have found that out just by watching 60 Minutes.

On Tuesday, President Trump used his executive authority to change the parts of the broken H-1B program that were within his constitutional power to fix. The Executive Order calls for ending the allocation of H-1B visas by lottery and suggests that those visas be allocated to the most-skilled or highest-paid foreign workers. In addition, it seeks to curtail foreign labor contractors from turning the H-1B program into a cash cow by snapping up the majority of visas available each year and then subcontracting workers to American businesses.

The president’s “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order turned out to be a no-brainer. Normally, any action on anything related to immigration evokes howls of protest from some interest group. That was not the case with regard to Trump’s H-1B changes. Groups that have fought for protections for American workers offered approval for the president. Those, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have advocated for greater access to foreign labor avoided direct criticism of the H-1B provisions of the Executive Order and instead obliquely reaffirmed their stance that it “would be a mistake to close the door on high-skilled workers from around the world.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been a sharp critic of the H-1B program, called the president’s Executive Order “a step in the right direction toward fulfilling the campaign promise of having an immigration system that serves the national interest.”, a mass immigration lobby group funded by Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley titans, offered guarded approval for the president’s effort to shove foreign labor contracting firms off the H-1B gravy train (although they did renew their demand for increases in H-1B visas). The AFL-CIO, which has been largely AWOL when it comes to protecting American workers against immigration policies that undermine their interests, saw the president’s move as a boost for American minorities seeking a foothold in science and technology.

Even leading Democrats in Washington limited their criticism of Trump’s ordered changes to the H-1B program by asserting that the president did not go far enough in protecting American workers. “We already know H-1B visa abuse displaces American workers. President Trump already missed a chance to deliver on his promise of bold action to put American workers first,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), ignoring the fact that President Obama, who was not shy about using executive policy directives to protect illegal aliens, did nothing to address the H-1B visa abuse Durbin laments.

Sen. Durbin is correct: President Trump’s actions do fall short of what is needed to protect the interests of American workers. That’s Congress’s job. The flawed, loophole-ridden H-1B program that allows for the displacement and wage depression of American workers was created by Congress and must be fixed by Congress. Based on the initial responses from business, labor, Democrats, and immigration reform advocacy groups like FAIR, there is very little reason why the risk-averse Republican leadership in Congress should not follow up the president’s executive order with legislative reforms that actually protect American workers while continuing to provide American companies access to guest workers who truly possess unique skills that will benefit our country.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar
    Charlie Beard on

    Unless all incumbent congressmen and women are thrown out of office in the next election, nothing is going to change or get better. I am a pessimist. I don’t believe the American voter will do the right thing. The “he’s a crook but he’s our crook” mentality always wins, it seems. The election of Trump gave me some hope, but I believe he is doing what he is told by entrenched politicians. It may have to come to people wild in the streets as in Venezuela for any kind of meaningful change. I don’t have much faith in that happening either. Witness the sheeple.

  2. avatar

    Having worked at a community collage as a technical assistant, I must question any H1b program. When the foreign students turned in any home work, lab reports and on and on, you could hold the papers up to a light and they were like carbon copies from all the foreign students. Yes, I know the students were here on a different program. BUT if you currently call a “help” center, there is seldom any help; call my grand kid. If the education system in any foreign country is so much better than ours, why do so many want an American degree. I say totally dump these programs, provide grants to deserving American HS grads (vocational education) and a lot of things will cure themselves. It will take time, but look how much time it took to get in this situation. MAGA

    • avatar

      I Had a Mexican Friend From the University of Washington

      He told me an engineering degree in Mexico was a complete joke compared to American educated….he was honest.

      Hades…..our American NW high school students developed the original Windows 95 and 98 for Microsoft, you know the high quality O/S S/W before foreign H-1B replacements headed to “weekly patches” and “virus S/W’ quality issues. My neighbor has a high school diploma and was a program manager at MSFT for 20 years….before they laid him off 8 months ago, replaced by foreign invaders with phony credentials as you put it.

      • avatar

        You got an uneducated Mexican citizen…..I have worked with those engineers form Guadalajara University… University no different form ours……

        • avatar

          “must not be ..”.I couldn’t make any sensible meaning of your statement. sorry about that.

    • avatar

      Define “Carbon copies”…… if you meant copying.. I can assure you they will not get hire….on the other hand///the lady Trump wanted to hire copy her PhD….so what is different? that is worse

  3. avatar

    Not only did Obama do nothing about this issue, he wanted even more visas handed out. And if Senator Durbin is so concerned about putting “American workers first”, how come he wants more foreigners allowed into this country based on family reunification rather than skills. That puts direct pressure on the wages of the working class. We’ve had 30 years of free trade and mass immigration and the only people who have gained are the wealthy. The old saying is that the proof is in the pudding, and an ever larger share of the pudding keeps going to those at the top and they are the very people who pushed for more immigration.

    The fact is we don’t need any more workers. Technology is already replacing many jobs. Durbin represents the failed state of Illinois which is drowning in a fiscal morass. Naturally a lot of people are fleeing to the red state of Indiana with it’s lower taxes and then they will proceed to vote for the same policies that sunk Illinois. Happening all over this country. You can’t fix stupid.

    • avatar

      Could you explain how this executive order will put in place or protect American workers….I read it…it does not/=.

      • avatar

        It basically says…..Hire American under the existing Laws……the existing Laws do need more than just enforcement but fine tuning……….to enforce them…improve them…..

        SO if you understand different give me an example

        • avatar

          It requires all departments to do assessments within strict time limits and develop strategies to make sure Americans are given preference within limits of existing law. He has to cross every T and dot every I because I’m sure he doesn’t want it to end up with lawsuits like the travel ban. Contrast that to Obama who ignored the subject while American tech workers were repeatedly forced to train their foreign replacements. Jeff Sessions was the biggest proponent in the Senate of cutting H1B visas and that is a big part of why he endorsed Trump early on. Compare that to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer who said last year “I want to increase the number of legitimate H1B but go after these abuses”. That does nothing but make the problem worse. We need cuts not increases.

          • avatar

            I did not find in the reading anywhere where we will be given the preference n the mechanism how? Did you?

          • avatar

            I already told you that he is giving time limits [60 to 150 days] to different departments and specific individuals to come up with standards to implement. You just don’t want to acknowledge that. He’s been in office 3 months and your pal Obama did nothing but ignore the problem for 8 years. Obama promised in 2008 he was going to renegotiate NAFTA and he never even proposed anything of the sort once in office. Trump has said he is going to start the process on renegotiation in two weeks. At the very least he is bringing attention to these problems. Obama never did, in eight years.

          • avatar

            Leland it seems you are not able to grasp what you read in depth and are able to correlate this to reality…….in a nutshell ,,,Buy American, Hire American with the same Laws NO CHANGE…..that is the executive order….so the same….you are so easy to manipulate,er

          • avatar
            OBUMMERLOVESU on

            Obama did all he could do but for the republicans in congress like sen majority leader and the freedom caucus ;who said they will never allow a black man to run the administration come what may. Obama only had a brief window of a year and half during wihch he passed the health carebill saving thousands of lives. wait till it is repealed tosee how many poor republicans die before next elections.Republicanparty is a racist party and it votes on racist principles. youcan’t escape that fact.