Washington: A top Indian-American Congressman has said that American lawmakers should make sure that the H-1B visa programme, popular among Indian techies, is not abused to undercut the US job market and attract the best and the brightest into the country.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. H-1B visa is the most sought after by Indian IT professionals.
"There are people who are now leading huge tech companies that started out on H-1B visas. They are creating jobs and they're creating innovation. We want to make sure that talent is coming to the US, because we know that most H-1B visas when you look at those studies are job creators. They are not job takers," said Congressman Ro Khanna who represents the Silicon Valley in the House of Representatives.
"But we want to make sure that it's being done with proper compensation. That they are not being underpaid that they're not that they're being paid a wage that is the prevailing wage," he said.
He was speaking at an event organised by the South Asia Centre of Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.
There are several legislative proposals pending in the US Congress - both in the House of Representatives and the Senate - in this regard, with Khanna himself being author of one of them.
"But the gist of it is we want to make sure that folks are coming on and H1-B visa are paid a high wage so that it's not undercutting the American market and people are not mistaking H-1B visa holders as something that benefits corporations and putting downward pressure on American wages. That they're really looking at it is a programme that's going to help get the best and brightest into the United States to create jobs in the US," Khanna said.
Responding to a question, Khanna said obviously it would be illegal to single out any company based on nationality or based on race or religion.
"I certainly don't believe in doing that. So the question is just about having a wage floor," he said.
"If it turns out that you know a lot of the tech companies Apple and Google and Facebook if you look at their filings their H-1B filings are paying about and USD 120,000- 130,000 on average. If other companies are doing that that's fine.
Indian-Americans, he said, have extraordinary contributions in Silicon Valley.
"I mean you've got people like Vinod Khosla, Sunder Pichai, at Google. I mean the list is endless in terms of individuals," he said.
Asserting that immigration strengthens America's economic competitiveness, he also said the recent move of the US President Donald Trump on issues related to this has tried to undermine the conception of America.
"I have always believed that our advantage is that we are a country that welcomes anyone to be American. That's not a Democratic idea that was Ronald Reagan's idea... This president in recent times has probably tried to undermine that conception of America more than any president certainly in my lifetime," Khanna said.
Immigration, he said, obviously strengthens this country.
"It strengthens it in terms of a lot of the innovation where I represent Silicon Valley. I think it would be hard pressed to argue that we would have Silicon Valley if it weren't for being a magnet for the best and brightest from around the world. It's one of the things that makes the value unique," he said.