The one thing every public relations firm in America seems to have in common is my email address. Daily, my inbox is crammed with solicitations to interview doctors, lawyers, authors, professors, used car salesmen, and just about anyone else looking for attention.
Normally, these solicitations are immediately relegated to my spam file. But occasionally one catches my eye, like the one I received this morning from a PR representative pitching an interview with the CEO of a company called Envoy Global. According to its website, Envoy Global helps companies with the process of “sponsoring and managing work visas in the United States and overseas,” and promises clients “the easiest immigration experience for you and your employees.”
What Envoy Global and, presumably, many of its clients are worried about is the Trump administration’s efforts to clamp down on longstanding abuses in the H-1B visa program. Established in 1990, the H-1B program was intended to provide U.S. companies access to people with rare talent or exceptional skills that could not be easily replicated by other workers. In practice, however, as a Pew Research report noted, “By far the most common H-1B occupation that does not require a bachelor’s degree is ‘computer systems analyst,’ with 94 percent of such jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree.”
“It’s no secret that tensions are at an all-time high for immigrants – especially high-skilled foreign nationals. Denial of H-1B visas has risen threefold in the past four years,” frets the PR pitch. “As the U.S denies H-1B visas more than ever before for new and existing employees, how can employers help ease their foreign talent’s anxiety?” (Boldface emphasis, courtesy of the PR firm.)
I do not want to minimize the stress and anxiety that the uncertainty over whether an H-1B renewal application might be denied has on the workers seeking to stay here. These foreign workers are just trying to do what is best for themselves and their families, and they are not the ones who created the fraud-ridden system that the administration is trying to clean up.
Rather, it is the idea that corporate America is launching a PR campaign to tug at the heartstrings of the American public that is offensive. They’re suddenly worried about the psyches of their H-1B workers? Were the corporate bigwigs at Disney concerned about how their decision to force 250 American workers to train their H-1B replacements before canning them might affect the morale of others in the company (much less the 250 workers who got pink slips)? Or the countless other examples of the stress and anxiety inflicted on American workers who work at companies that have engaged in similar behavior?
Sadly, for American workers who have been laid-off, or who have been denied opportunities to advance their careers because of systematic abuse of the H-1B program, there were no PR firms and CEOs pitching “specific tools employers can be armed with to help their high-skilled” American workers “to ensure they stay engaged and feel safe in their workplace.” Of course, nothing would give skilled American workers a sense of security quite like the assurance that they’re not going to get kicked out of their jobs because management has decided to bring in H-1B workers to replace them.