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CEO DATELINE – Business groups cautious about Trump’s proposed worker visa review

April 19, 2017
By Walt Williams

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President Donald Trump has ordered a review of a program allowing skilled foreign workers to take jobs in the U.S., and while many business groups welcomed the proposal, they also cautioned the administration that U.S. companies need foreign talent to thrive.

Trump signed an executive order Tuesday requiring a review of the H-1B visa program. The order is part of the administration’s “buy American and hire American” campaign to encourage U.S. businesses to hire more domestic workers.

However, many U.S. businesses rely on skilled foreign workers, particularly in technology sectors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that, while providing Americans the skills they need to compete in today’s workforce should be a priority, it would be a mistake to “close the door” to high-skilled workers from other countries.

“The H-1B program plays an important role in addressing this need, but it can be improved,” said Neil Bradley, senior vice president and chief policy officer for the Chamber.

Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro said Trump has rightfully brought attention to abuses in the visa program. He called for a “new approach to skilled immigration—one based on merit and not a random lottery, an idea shared by President Trump.”

“There is bipartisan support to crack down on abusers who are outsourcing American jobs, but Congress must also advance meaningful reforms that recognize the critical role highly skilled foreign workers play in growing our economy, creating American jobs and maintaining our nation's competitiveness,” Shapiro said.

The Society for Human Resource Management said it has long advocated for immigration policies that support the development of the U.S. workforce. But the group added that any recommendations stemming from the order ensure employers have access to highly skilled talent.

“Foreign talent complements the U.S. workforce, and U.S. employers competing in a global market need access to the best talent worldwide,” said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of SHRM affiliate Council for Global Immigration.