Microsoft, Tech Firms Fight Rule Restricting Low-Income Immigrants

Major tech firms such as Twitter and Microsoft don’t want the U.S. government to restrict immigrants who might end up relying on public benefits.

The federal government’s “public charge” rule would determine whether immigrants are more likely to use public benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid; those who couldn’t satisfy 20 different factors for economic self-sufficiency would be denied entry. The rule has faced a number of courtroom challenges that so far have prevented it from going into effect. Now, a handful of tech companies have signed an amicus brief filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (PDF), putting their public weight behind rescinding the rule.    

Those companies argue that the rule will prevent them from hiring the talent they need. From the filing:

“American businesses depend upon an efficient immigration system to ensure that they have access to the talent that they need to grow and succeed. Although the American-citizen workforce is highly skilled, businesses sometimes benefit by hiring foreign nationals for certain positions, often sponsoring these workers for permanent residency. Immigration law has long recognized that, in such circumstances, businesses require pathways (such as H-1B and L-1 visas adjusted to 5 employment-based permanent residency) for foreign nationals to come to and remain in the United States to work… The Rule, however, would restrict American businesses’ ability to hire foreign-born workers, because, under the Rule, many skilled workers who would otherwise have been eligible for permanent residency would now be barred from receiving it.”

In other words, these companies feel that the rule is too broad: “Given the numerous and amorphous factors—and the unfettered discretion given to immigration officials—virtually any applicant could be found to have some basis for a denial.”

Indeed, at least one tech company that signed onto the filing has focused on an aspect that doesn’t involve salary, employment history, or even English proficiency. “Among our concerns with the rule is how it would negatively impact the immigration prospects of people with disabilities,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email to Recode, which is covering the case. “We believe that having a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities is essential to our mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Although this rule doesn’t seem to target the kinds of highly skilled immigrants that these companies claim to want to hire, there’s clearly substantial concern that the evaluation factors will still shut down all kinds of immigration applications.

The Trump administration is already squeezing a number of companies attempting to pull in immigrants from overseas, particularly when it comes to the H-1B visa. A recent analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data found that denial rates for H-1B petitions had shot up 24 percent through the third quarter of fiscal year 2019. While denial rates for tech companies didn’t increase all that much, “business services” and consulting firms (which supply workers on the H-1B visa to companies) definitely felt the pinch.

Here are denial rates for “conventional” tech firms. The anomalous spike in IBM denials is possibly attributable to its consulting/business-services line of business:

And here are the denial rates for consulting firms:

“At least 12 companies that provide professional or IT services to other U.S. companies, including Accenture, Capgemini and others, had denial rates over 30 percent through the first three quarters of FY 2019,” the report (PDF) added. “Most of these companies had denial rates between 2 percent and 7 percent as recently as FY 2015.”

It’s clear that, as the Trump administration attempts to tighten regulation, tech companies are pushing back. How all of this will resolve may ultimately hinge on a few court decisions.

18 Responses to “Microsoft, Tech Firms Fight Rule Restricting Low-Income Immigrants”

  1. “Among our concerns with the rule is how it would negatively impact the immigration prospects of people with disabilities,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email to Recode…”

    I’d be interested in seeing how many disabled people Microsoft currently has on their payroll and how many of those are US citizens and permanent residents.

    • ☝️Yeah. I’d also like to see how many American tech workers they employ who are over 50, black, female, and/or Hispanic. Can it be more obvious that SV & Seattle are fighting really hard to keep droves of lower cost, easy to control, ethically flexible, work-around-the-clock scape goats coming in every year? Accenture in particular excels at importing, using and abusing H1-B workers. There are PLENTY of very high skilled, educated Americans to fill their open jobs. They’re willfully committing the financial genocide of the American middle class. They want a two class, easy to control population.

      • I like the way that you put that ethically flexible, scape goats and all, realistically that is what happens, that is why they are so valuable.

        Personally, I feel it is insulting not to view Americans as highly skilled, when India only has one university in the top 100, they may have talent, but skill not so much. Notice how everyone went to Java, when they started hiring Indians, a much less powerful, but easier technology to master than the standard which was C++.

        Also, its pretty easy to wind up on Medicaid. My wife is from China with a PhD, and can’t find a job, so for a while even though, I work in the tech sector and supposedly am in high demand, it takes about six months to get a job, and the DC tech corridor is crazy expensive well in the mean time. Obamacare…

        You can look at the h1bdata.info, and there are lots of immigrants making less than 70K.

    • James Dean

      What “American workers” do you speak of?! You mean the loads of them that have art degrees and nothing to offer in the tech or science fields or those that don’t even have any qualifications? Both populations makes up a bulk of those “American workers” you think are not being hired and it’s not anybody else’s fault, certainly not the companies’ fault (unless in cases where there may be abuse of the visa program).

      • @James Dean – Data trumps anecdotes masquerading as data. Logic trumps cute little sound bites. Data from the Census Bureau confirmed that a stunning 3 in 4 Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in a STEM field—that’s a pool of more than 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications who lack STEM employment[1]. This is a constantly growing number: Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, a top national expert on STEM labor markets, estimates that “U.S. colleges produce twice the number of STEM graduates annually as find jobs in those fields.”[2] There is, in fact, a glut of STEM trained workers.

        [1] “Census Bureau Reports Majority of STEM College Graduates Do Not Work in STEM Occupations”, Release Number: CB14-130, July 10, 2014, US Census Bureau

        [2] “STEM Grads Are at a Loss”, September 15, 2014, U.S. News

  2. Wow, the nerve of these companies. We want you, the US and state governments, aka American taxpayers, to pay for our low-income workers in case we need them because we are not planning on paying them a decent salary. And, how many Americans over the age of 50 are these companies employing? It makes me wish my skillset wasn’t in Microsoft technologies but realistically, all these companies are the same.

    • Karl Nemo

      The low end of the IT field (i.e. Desktop Support) is swamped by H-1B’s who are doing the work many Americans could and would love to if they were hired instead of the imports. You don’t hear much from them, but they’ve been hurt badly by the H-1B programs, with already marginal salaries being threatened by the (barely competent) imports…who always seem to get hired once the imports infest the HR organs of the hiring company. Add age-ism and you’ve got a radioactive hot mess.

  3. If you see any manager or c suite jobs going to indians expect the workforce to turn indian as well. It is a corrupt system with money exchanged under the table. And it starts at a very top. Most, if not all, indian workforce will be unqualified indentured servants.

    • I would like to know exactly which countries do NOT have a ‘public charge’ concern with immigration. It simply makes sense that a country would try to prevent burdening its’ citizens with supporting new immigrants. We do not do a very good job of supporting new immigrants, a lot is left to religious groups, locals from the same country. At the same time we ARE charged with educating and some support of children of illegal immigrants and that has made a direct difference in property taxes of people where they live.
      Our immigration system is a mess and it is very frustrating to see any attempts to ease the burdens on the US taxpayer met with so much resistance by companies which have a vested interest in having the public purse support their badly paid employees.

  4. Michael Williams

    There is an easy way to fix this: pay them wages high enough to meet the standard set by other immigrants trying get green cards. There are already rules in place for those immigrating that they either have to make a minimum salary or be personally sponsored by someone who does and they are not allowed to receive any public assistance. Knew a someone who married a woman from Mexico and they had two kids. They were told he had to make over $30k for the three years she would have to wait to get permanent residency. Two and a half goes in, his company closed and he was out of work for a couple weeks. His total salary dropped to just below $30k that year because he was out of work for about three weeks and she got bumped despite them covering their own expenses from savings. They had to start all over again! Needless to say she was in tears because she knew people that were not here legally and getting public assistance. Yet, she was penalized because they did things the right way. Bottom line, if they sponsor the immigrants at a higher salary this is not an issue.

  5. My son has an Electrical Engineering degree from the U of Pittsburge and can’t even get an interview with this companies since they keep hiring H1Bs at cheap price. It is a game they play claiming they can’t find canidates who are Americans. Trump claims to be so pro American, lets see him prove it and get rid of the H1B programs which was farce to start with,

    • viorel dragnea

      The H1B are not hired only due to the smaller salaries. Even at good salaries, hiring managers will always hire only Indians. Companies that offer good salaries end up hiring only Indians.

      1. First one or two Indian H1Bs are hired.
      2. Then those create a “gang” and begin to help and support each other, pushing the best of them up to become manager.
      3. At the same time, the lay offs will hit almost only non-Indians, and the Indian employees will veto as much as they can hiring of non-Indians.
      4. Then that manager pulls up the others, and at the same time hire only other Indians.
      4. Slowly the whole company more and more “Indian”.

      In our area, about 50-60% of the hiring managers are Indians, the jobs in those teams are completely inaccessible to whites, blacks, latinos, other kinds of Asians. I know Americans who could not find jobs in software engineering for years, and I live in a very densely populated area. It is terrible, people are being pushed completely out of the job market, and many go bankrupt

      It is the Indian hiring manager who pretend that they can find no Americans, so that they can push their agendas. And do not believe a word they are saying, the Americans are always much better professionals than the Indians. They hire only Indians based only on culture and skin color.