"The issue of H1B and the rhetoric that has been flying around all of that, I think is going to be a source of tension," former US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said.
Her remarks came amidst reports that the Trump administration is initiating steps against it and half a dozen bills have been introduced in the US Congress in this regard.
"What I think is deeply regrettable, is rhetoric both during the campaign and what has been heard from some political leaders and from some communities in constituency within the US is a scapegoating of the program for the kinds of job losses that certain industries and certain communities are experiencing," Biswal said in response to a question.
"It's fundamentally a conflating of issues so that rather than tackling some of the more difficult issues that we as a country need to address in terms of how our economy is changing, in terms of how certain industries and certain types of jobs are frankly not tenable in the long-term. Therefore, we need to think about how to re-structure the American work force and what kind of training and opportunity to provide," Biswal said.
The former top American diplomat said that the US would be badly hit if the country is not drawing the talent, the best, the brightest minds from around the world to its shores, whether in temporary capacities, whether in student capacities or in immigrant capacities.
"So, what I would hope is that on the issue of the H1B program, that we can have a rational discourse on what are some of the reforms that would be useful. What are some of the ways in which companies that use that category of skilled labour, can also be committing to building training and opportunities for displaced workers to be able to engage in some of these jobs. And how can we kind of re-frame the discussion in a more constructive and productive way," she said.
"Otherwise, what you have when you do that kind of scapegoating is you then create vulnerability for those workers and for all immigrant populations," Biswal warned.
"We are starting to see that in the rise in hate crimes, and the rise of violence targeting immigrant communities. And particularly we've seen the uptake on violence against Indians and Indian-Americans in the US. I think that the government and political leaders at the national, at the state, and at the local level have a responsibility to, one, condemn that kind of violence and targeting, and two, to act and speak responsibly about these issues," Biswal said.