New head of US homeland security is ex-lobbyist of Indian trade body Nasscom
Chad Wolf does not need to be confirmed by the senate as an “acting” secretary. The White House has not said when the president intends to name an official to lead the department on a permanent basis, and whether it will be Wolf, who would then require to be confirmed by the senate.Updated: Nov 15, 2019 09:00 IST
Chad Wolf, who took office Wednesday as the acting head of the department of homeland security (DHS), was once a paid lobbyist for Nasscom, a trade body of Indian IT companies that are among the heaviest users of US H-1B visas, which have come under harsh scrutiny of the Trump administration.
DHS oversees the H-1B visa programme, which is directly run by one of its agencies, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS).
Critics of the H-1B visa programme had been campaigning against Chad’s appointment and had even targeted Stephen Miller, the immigration czar in the White House who they believed was behind the appointment. Thought they failed to prevent it, they have not given up.
“Any senator who agrees to the nomination of CHAD WOLF is actively voting against the American workers and putting the swamp as head of DHS,” wrote Sarah Blackwell, an anti-H-1B attorney who has represented American workers displaced by workers brought on H-1B by Indian IT companies.
RJ Hauman, government relations director at the hawkish Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Politico some days ago, “Going with a career official or someone who once lobbied to replace American workers with cheap foreign labor sends the wrong signal right before an election year.”
Wolf does not need to be confirmed by the senate as an “acting” secretary. The White House has not said when the president intends to name an official to lead the department on a permanent basis, and whether it will be Wolf, who would then require to be confirmed by the senate.
According to some news reports, Wolf intends to hand over the management of the H-1B visa programme to some other official in view of a potential conflict of interest. But there has been no official announcement yet, and Wolf, who tweeted Thursday to thank President Trump, has not addressed the anxiety felt among some quarters about his past work as a lobbyist.
There was no response to a request for a comment from Nasscom. The trade body has used professional lobbyists to work on “issues related to immigration and trade policy, and skilled worker training”, as was said by Abraham Strategies LLC, its current lobbyist, in a mandatory lobbying disclosure document filed with the US senate in August.
Wolf was among officials listed in the disclosures statement represent Nasscom for erstwhile lobbyist, Wexler | Walker, a unit of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, LLC, from 2015 to 2018.
Indian IT industry officials here, who have lived since January 2017 in dread of that one morning tweet from President Trump that could completely upend their day and businesses, have been watching the appointment closely. But they wondered if Wolf can prevent that tweet or loosen the screws.
The Trump administration has subjected the H-1B visa programme to unprecedented scrutiny to prevent its being used to displace American workers. Rejection rates for new petitions have, for instance, have shot up, especially for IT services companies, that include Indian firms Infosys, TCS and Wipro.
Indians are the chief beneficiary of these short-term non-immigration visas, cornering more than 70% of the 85,000 that are issued every year. They are hired by both Indian companies such as those listed above, and US companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.