The ripple effects of Trump's H-1B visa reform - Axios
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The ripple effects of Trump's H-1B visa reform

A draft of Trump's executive order viewed by Axios directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider ways to "make the process of H-1B allocation more efficient and ensure the beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest." That could mean replacing the current lottery system with one that prioritizes visas for jobs promising the highest salaries.

The salary range: According to Labor Department data, the largest users of H-1B visas — India-based IT services companies such as Tata Consultancy, Wipro and Infosys — tend to pay visa-holding staff lower salaries. Tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco tend to promise higher wages for the foreign engineers they hire with H-1Bs.

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Data caveat: When companies hire workers with an H-1B visa, they have to provide notice, through a government filing, of the H-1B workers' wages and work locations. While the Labor Department filings don't directly correlate with number of visas ultimately awarded to the companies, the data reflects visa demand from companies requesting to fill slots with H-1B-holders.

The backdrop: Tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook say the visas are crucial for specialized jobs they can't fill with American workers. India-based companies that staff corporate IT departments file the largest numbers of visa requests, triggering criticism that the visas are used to fill lower-paid, entry-level IT jobs (which Trump and his supporters would prefer to see go to Americans) instead of higher-paying, more senior engineering jobs.

Tensions over U.S. worker displacement escalated with the 2015 layoffs at Disney, where IT workers were let go after bringing in an offshore contracting firm that largely relies on H-1B visas. Trump seized on the incident during the campaign and said he was "totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse." This was a defining incident in shaping the thinking of key White House advisors Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.

The draft EO doesn't order immediate changes to the H-1B allocation process. Tech industry insiders expect Trump will direct DHS, which runs the H-1B visa lottery system, to start a rule-making to re-prioritize the visa allocation to give preference to higher-paying firms. This pits tech firms against the Indian IT-staffing firms.

What it means for tech: In theory, prioritizing by salaries means visas for more senior, higher-paying jobs will be granted first, and visas for lower-paying jobs (such as those being filled by Indian IT services firms) would fall to the back of line, perhaps not getting allocated at all if demand for the high-wage job visas is strong.

IEEE, one of the largest groups representing U.S. technical workers, in a memo to Miller proposed giving priority to companies that are not H-1B dependent (meaning less then 15% of their workforce is H-1B holders) and pay the highest salaries.

California House members Darrell Issa, a Republican, and Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat, are pushing bills that would raise salary requirements for H-1B visa holders. Tech companies generally support those efforts to de-prioritize Indian outsourcers that they claim "clog up" the oversubscribed lottery system with bulk applications.

But there's a catch: Wage-based hiring means companies may miss out on mid-level workers they still have trouble filling with qualified Americans. For example, software engineering jobs will be filled quickly, but jobs for network engineers or tech support that tend to skew lower on the pay scale could be tough to fill without H-1B visas. "The demand in the job market is not always captured by the highest salary," said one tech lobbyist. So tech companies are advocating for worker skill-set to be taken into account in addition to salary alone.

The irony: Some of the biggest tech companies also use India-based IT staff to supplement their own corporate IT departments. So they'll also feel the pinch if those jobs are harder to fill with visas.

What it means for India-based IT firms: Since they're more dependent on H-1B workers, so-called outsourcing firms will be hit hard if changes to the lottery system move them to the back of the line or cut them out altogether. Stock prices of leading firms Infosys and Wipro have already taken a blow in anticipation of reforms.

For their part, many India-based firms have ramped up U.S. recruiting to reduce its reliance on offshore visa holders, and they say they comply with visa system rules. Squeezing them too hard could drive the companies to move some U.S.-based jobs to India. "The sector deserves credit for helping U.S. companies succeed while also making substantial local investments and protecting and growing the U.S. workforce," said a lobbyist working with the India-based IT sector.

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World Bank president comments on Ivanka Trump's investment fund

Michael Sohn/ AP via pool

World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim has released a statement about Ivanka Trump's involvement in a fund for women entrepreneurs to be administered by the World Bank (which Trump told our own Mike Allen about on Tuesday):

"The World Bank Group is working with partners on the details around creating a facility for women's economic empowerment, specifically through providing access to finance, markets, and networks. Typically, the governance of facilities we manage is decided among donors, and the secretariat sits within and is administered by the World Bank Group. We are very grateful for the leadership Ms. Trump and Chancellor Merkel have demonstrated on this important issue."

Axios' Dan Primack still has some questions about the fund, including whether Trump or adviser Dina Powell will be actively soliciting contributions while working in the White House.

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Juno, the 'anti-Uber' startup, sells to Gett for $200 million

Courtesy of Gett

Before Juno even made it beyond New York City, the ride-hailing company has already sold to Gett, a competitor headquartered in Israel and with operations in Europe. The two will team up to tackle NYC, and eventually expand to more U.S. cities.

One notable piece of the $200 million acquisition is that Juno is rescinding the restricted stock unit program for drivers it rolled out last summer, and will send a one-time payment to participating drivers. The RSU program was the differentiator that immediately attracted the most attention when Juno first opened up shop last year, advertising itself as the "anti-Uber."

Broken promise? The combined company won't roll out any equity program to drivers in the future, instead focusing on rewarding loyal drivers in other ways, such as cash bonuses, a Juno spokesperson confirmed to Axios via email. The company added that it realized even before the sale that implementing the program turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.

Opposing views: Shortly after the deal was announced, the Independent Drivers Guild in NYC expressed disappointment in the company's move, calling it a "bait-and-switch." Juno, on the other hand, maintains that while the equity compensation was important, it wasn't its only differentiator. "Juno is about the unique culture we created, about the way we treat drivers and riders, about our 24/7 live support, about a fair lower commission," the spokesperson said via email, adding that these aspects will "only get better."

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Just 36% say they'd vote to re-elect Trump

Evan Vucci / AP

Only 36% of people say they would vote to re-elect President Trump if the 2020 election were today, per a Fox news poll, compared to 55% who would vote for someone else.

Most have already made up their minds: 21% say they would definitely vote for Trump and 47% would definitely vote for someone else.

At this point in his first term, 52% said they'd vote to re-elect Barack Obama, and 31% said they'd vote for someone else.

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Trump says he's considering breaking up the 9th Circuit

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump has told the Washington Examiner he is "absolutely" considering breaking up the 9th Circuit, where judges have struck down both his travel ban and sanctuary cities order.

"There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous.... Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that's like, semi-automatic."

The circuit includes... Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and is by far the largest of the 13 appellate circuits.

Deep breath: It's not clear that splitting the court in two would be particularly helpful to Trump, or that this is something he's actually inclined to move ahead with.

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Instagram growth explodes

Instagram announced Wednesday that it has amassed 700 million monthly active users (MAU) since launching in 2010, a more than 16% increase in just four months, and a 40% increase in one year.

Data: Instagram; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: Instagram announced the growth achievement the same day Twitter reported its Q1 earnings, where it touted a 2.8% quarterly increase in monthly active users to to 328 million — still less than half of the user base of Instagram, which is four years younger. Instagram rival Snapchat will also be taking note of these numbers, as its audience has dwindled since Instagram launched a copycat stories feature in August. Instagram's stories audience has increased so quickly that it surpassed Snapchat's total audience by nearly 40 million MAU a few weeks ago.

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White House, Dems reach truce on insurer payments

Carolyn Kaster / AP

There's been a lot of buzz this afternoon about the White House supposedly promising to continue the Affordable Care Act's insurer payments. The reality is that it's only going to continue the payments "for now," per a White House official.
But that was enough to convince House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had clashed with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney over the issue, to dial down the threats of a government shutdown.
From the White House: "While we agreed to go ahead and make the CSR payments for now, we haven't made a final decision about future commitments."
From Pelosi: "Our major concerns in these negotiations have been about funding for the wall and uncertainty about the CSR payments crucial to the stability of the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. We've now made progress on both of these fronts ... Our appropriators are working in good faith toward a bipartisan proposal to keep government open."
Behind the scenes: Pelosi talked to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus this afternoon, who has been more conciliatory on the spending bill negotiations than Mulvaney.
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WH considers labeling North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism

Wong Maye-E / AP

A senior White House official said the U.S. is considering adding North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, per Reuters.

The club: North Korea would be joining Iran, Sudan, and Syria. It was de-listed as a state sponsor in 2008 after agreeing to scale back its nuclear program.

Context: Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, DNI Dan Coats, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joesph Dunford are briefing Senators in at the White House today on North Korea.

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Al Gore says better than 50-50 chance Trump decides to stay in Paris climate accord

Emily Pidgeon/TED

Odds are that the U.S. will remain a party to the Paris climate accord former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday In a brief appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver.

"I think there is a better than 50-50 chance the Trump administration will decide to stay in the Paris agreement," Gore said. "I don't know that for sure."

Gore said there is a debate taking place tomorrow inside the White House with a decision set to be announced the third week in May before a G-20 summit. "I think the odds are they will decide to stay in Paris agreement. I certainly hope so."

The backdrop: Gore's comments came during an entire session devoted to the impact on climate change. Discussions ranged from more accurate pictures of the crisis to weighing radical solutions, including shooting chalk into the atmosphere in order to reduce the amount of sunlight heating the earth. That idea drew criticism from Gore and others.

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Trump has filled 5% of his senior administration jobs

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Of the 556 seats that have to be nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate:

  1. 530 seats are empty
  2. 20 Cabinet-level seats filled, 2 await confirmation, 1 failed
  3. 37 nominees awaiting confirmation
  4. 468 seats have no nominations

The precedent: at the 100-day mark, Obama had 487 empty, George W. Bush 521, and Clinton 507

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99% of women founders don't use VC funding

Marius Boatca via Flickr CC

Only 1% of female founders use venture capital funding to back their businesses, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) and Women's Presidents' Organization (WPO) report, obtained by Fortune. The study looked at 430 women-owned businesses over their lifetime, including old and new companies, and found that:

  • 8% of the women are using personal savings instead of VC funding
  • 22% incurred personal debt
  • 18% received a loan from friends or family

Why not: Co-founder of EY's Entrepreneurial Women program said some women don't seek out venture capital funding in the first place and see it as a point of pride and a source of control — 100% ownership of the business.

Where it stands: 2.19% of all venture capital funding went to women last year, which is a smaller percentage than almost every year in the last decade.