Trump Action Could Put Immigrant Spouses Like Me Out of Work

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Valli Raju has lived in the United States for 12 years.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Valli Raju has lived in the United States for more than a decade and currently works as a banking industry analyst.

When a United States pharmaceutical company offered my husband an information technology job in 2008, I was excited to join him in the United States with our 5-month-old daughter. As we boarded a plane from India, I felt like we were embarking on a great family adventure. But when I later learned that U.S. immigration law would forbid me from working, I realized our life here would be more complicated.

In India, I was the lead engineer for a U.S. electronics company, providing technical support to consumers. Becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom in New Jersey was a big change for me. At the time, my daughter and, later, my son were very young, so I was happy to stay home with them. After we moved to San Antonio, I needed to engage my professional side again, so I enrolled in the MBA program at Texas A&M.

While it was a bit worrisome to spend $30,000 on an education I wasn’t sure I could use, I loved learning about how businesses can streamline their systems and provide better service. It was a great relief in 2015 – shortly before my graduation – to find out that I would be able to work. That’s when U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services implemented the Employment Authorization Document (H-4 EAD) for H-4 visa holders like myself. It allowed spouses of high-skilled H-1B visa holders, like my husband, to work in the U.S. I was quickly hired as a banking industry analyst, and it has been a great pleasure to once again exercise my skills and expertise.

But I may soon be forced out of my career for a second time. In February, the Trump administration filed a draft proposal to rescind the H-4 EAD, an action that would drive me and 90,000 other H-1B spouses out of the labor force. If implemented, the rule change would not only suspend the careers of H-1B spouses, the majority of whom are women, it would also be harmful to U.S. employers, who recruit H-1B visa holders because they have essential skills that are in short supply in this country.

H-1B spouses like me also have valuable expertise. An analysis recently published in economic journal Regulation finds that, as a whole, we are highly educated and possess skills that are in demand by U.S. employers. Because our abilities and economic activity actually create employment for others, removing us from the workplace would not produce any new jobs. However, it could result in a $7.5 billion loss to the gross domestic product due to the loss in tax dollars and spending power from H-4 workers.

Research by New American Economy finds that immigrants in general are particularly likely to have expertise in the STEM fields, where U.S. employers face a severe shortage of qualified professionals. Here in Texas, there are 13 STEM jobs advertised online for every unemployed STEM worker.

An NAE analysis finds that immigrants are helping to fill STEM shortages. Currently foreign-born residents are 22 percent of the nation’s STEM workers, even though we are only 13 percent of the population. At the graduate level, those of us on temporary visas are nearly 27 percent of the STEM master’s degree holders and 37 percent of those with doctorate degrees.

Like so many of my peers, I have these skills and I want to continue using them. Without the ability to practice in my field, I will feel lost. I have invested so much time and energy in my career; I can’t imagine all that hard work going to waste. Losing my job would also create financial stress for my family. My husband and I waited to purchase our house in San Antonio until after I got my job because we wanted to make sure we had two incomes before committing to a mortgage.

Our desires are simple. We want to do the work we love and watch our children grow up here in San Antonio, knowing that if they work hard they can realize their dreams. We want to be an ordinary American family.

14 thoughts on “Trump Action Could Put Immigrant Spouses Like Me Out of Work

  1. “…our abilities and economic activity actually create employment for others, removing us from the workplace would not produce any new jobs.”

    How so? If your job was filled by an American then the total number of jobs created for Americans would be one more than you getting the job.

    • What we say in tech (high-skilled work force) is that our higher income supports other local jobs like a barista or teacher to name just two. I think she is saying her higher skilled job supports the local economy through her higher income. It’s not just about the job but what it economically supports.

    • She states clearly there are 13 STEM jobs for every 1 unemployed STEM worker. So without people like Valli Raju that deficit would continue hurting the country and the enconomy. She’s not taking American jobs, she’s skilled in jobs needing employees. That’s not her fault but the fault of the education system in America that doesn’t do enough to support higher education generally and thus STEM fields are forced to seek persons from other countries to fill the gaps.
      The $7.5B loss in GDP from those visa holders does hurt the economy.

      • Andrew, Dee,

        If her job had gone to an American that same number of jobs would have been created. The American education system produces all the skills needed. There is no shortage of Americans. Note that her job in India was customer support. Not exactly high tech. Also she went to school here and has little experience. Do you really think that the fact that a job held by a foreigner creates more stimulus to the economy than the same job held by an American? If her job created 13 addition jobs then the number of jobs created by an American in the same job would create 14 jobs.

  2. Another example of how Trump is dividing America. This division does not come without creating consequences for all. It is sad.

    • President Trump is looking out for US Citizens first. As he noted, Americans have dreams too. So, he’s not dividing America because guest workers are exactly that, guests. Rather, he is attempting to ensure that opportunity is available for Americans first, as he should.

  3. MS. RAJU, \
    YOUR BLAMING THE WRONG PERSON!!!!!!
    POTUS TRUMP DOES NOT MAKE THE LAWS OF USA RE: IMMIGRATION.
    FOCUS YOUR IRE AT US CONGRESS DEMOCRATS WHO DO NOT WANT TO SOLVE THE IMMIGRATION LAW PROBLEMS!!!!
    IMMIGRATION LAW NEEDS TO BE CHANGED AND REFORMED, WHICH POTUS TRUMP REPEATS OVER & OVER & OVER….HE NOR ANY OTHER POTUS CAN DO THAT IN AMERICA. AND NEITHER YOU NOR I WANT A DICTATORSHIP.
    SO I WILL PRAY FOR YOUR FAMILY AND YOU. IN THE MEANTIME, FOCUS YOUR IRE AT YOUR US CONGRESS REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK WHY DONT U PROPOSE AND WORK TO PASS CHANGES TO THE IMMIGRATION LAWS???

    • First off, no one takes a person who writes in caps and types multiple exclamation points seriously.
      But you’re incorrect when you state POTUS doesn’t make immigration law. Executive orders such as the Muslim ban are in effect laws created by POTUS that adversely impact immigration. Furthermore, Trump is attempting to rescind a means for spouses of persons working on H1 visas to obtain work while here. Why? A spouse adding money to the economy while their spouse works in a field needing employees due to a lack of skilled workers in America is a win win?
      Please reconsider the narrative you support and take more time to understand immigration policy.

      • “… due to a lack of skilled workers in America…”?

        I don’t think you are working in the category of STEM. There are plenty very well skilled and needing jobs.

  4. I will write the White House today, referencing this article and recommend converting the spousal H-4Bs to H1Bs for the same company and individual.

    Are Mr. & Ms. Raju seeking permanent residency or citizenship with the support of their companies? This should be a positive path in increasing citizen employment and reducing H#B visas.

  5. Are either the author or her husband applying for citizenship or to become permanent residents? Why not?

    If it is in the interest of companies to keep highly skilled immigrants in the country, they should be investing in supporting a more permanent workforce. Support immigrant employees in their efforts to stay permanently in the US. Temporary visas are not a long term solution.

    On the other hand, I have also read that companies rely on H-1B visas to afford highly skilled labor while paying lower wages. I’m not sure this behavior should be encouraged.

  6. Immigrant spouses are the most affected ones with Trump’s administration new policy. They also have to consider the highly skilled spouses because they also need a source of income for their family.

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