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Infosys Technologies employees move through the headquarters during a break in Bangalore, India. Photo: Aijaz Rahi / AP

The chief representative of India-based IT consulting companies is firing back at federal efforts to crack down on H-1B visas, saying Indian technology workers are being unfairly singled out by the Trump administration's policies.

Why it matters: Republicans want to curb the number of foreign workers coming to the U.S. on high-skilled visas that many companies use to find talent for hard-to-fill specialized roles. Many proposals, including a bill by Rep. Darrell Issa that heads to a committee vote today, focus on heavy users of H-1B visas, many of which are India-based IT companies.

Fighting back: India says those provisions put its IT sector at a big competitive disadvantage. The National Association of Software & Service Companies (NASSCOM), the group representing those companies in India, visited policymakers this week to warn of the economic domino effects of targeting Indian visa holders.

Decoding: A firm that has 15% or more of its employees on H-1B visas is categorized as "H-1B dependent" by law, and most of those firms are based in India, such as Wipro, Infosys and Cognizant. IT services firms with large U.S. workforces, such as IBM, Accenture and Deloitte, for example, use H-1B workers but aren't subject to H-1B dependent rules because the visa workers make up less than 15% of their workforces.

"We don't have a problem with new provisions applying to all companies," NASSCOM president R. Chandrashekhar told Axios in an interview. "But a discriminatory approach that says these provisions are only applicable to a certain type of company does not actually help American workers. That's just an illusion of protection."

The point of view from India:

  • Misperception about Indian outsourcing companies: "I think the biggest misperception is the belief that these companies are not actually adding any value, and they are bringing low-skilled workers to replace high-skilled American workers at a lower cost." He says Indian companies have been hiring more and more U.S. talent to complement Indian workers as the consulting business expands beyond just IT jobs.
  • Not a zero-sum game: "The industry in India plays a significant part in enabling American businesses to be as successful as they are and to continue to grow," he said. "The multiplier effect has to be kept in mind."
  • Tech worker shortage: U.S. companies are facing a shortage of technology talent. Making it harder for Indian skilled workers to come to the U.S. will encourage companies to find workers in other countries, he said.
  • Strain on India-U.S. relationship: "I would not say it's already damaged it substantially, but it's become a very major concern in the relationship. It's difficult to see a strong and strategic relationship continuing to grow while this issue continues to fester and get exacerbated."
  • Two-way street: He noted that India's government has allowed unfettered access to American tech companies wanting to operate in the country. The largest number of Facebook and WhatsApp users are in India, and a significant percentage of Google users are there. "We genuinely believe this policy of openness is in our best interests. But how do we argue that case when there is no reciprocity?"

What's next: Issa's bill heads to a markup today after reaching a compromise with California Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

Go deeper: Issa's bill take aim at H-1B visa-dependent outsourcing firms.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.