Trump Signs Order Limiting Agency Use of Foreign Workers

The order was issued the same day the president fired the chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which said it plans to outsource 20% of its tech positions to companies based overseas.

President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order on hiring American workers Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that bars federal agencies from hiring foreign workers over U.S. citizens or green card holders, after firing the chair of a federally owned corporation that outsourced labor.

The order requires federal agencies to take a closer look at the use of H-1B visas by government contractors to bring foreign workers into the country for high-skilled jobs rather than hiring Americans.

“When employers trade American jobs for temporary foreign labor, for example, it reduces opportunities for United States workers in a manner inconsistent with the role guest-worker programs are meant to play in the nation’s economy,” the order states. 

The president said from the White House that the action will help ensure the government hires Americans first, claiming: “We’ve been doing it at a level that hasn’t been done, maybe ever.”

Amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the president had already signed an executive order halting the issuance of several categories of nonimmigrant visas through the end of the year, including the H-1B visas often sought by foreign workers specializing in  information technology. 

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia praised the executive action, saying in a tweet that the administration is taking steps to end fraud and abuse of the H-1B system.

Trump also said on Monday that he had fired the chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Skip Thompson, and called for the board to also replace president and CEO Jeff Lyash, claiming the executive makes $8 million a year as essentially a federal employee.

This map shows the distance and drive times throughout the sections of the seven states that make up the Tennessee Valley. (Image via Tennessee Valley Authority)

“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired,’” the president said. 

The move follows the federally owned corporation announcing earlier this year that it plans to outsource 20% of its tech positions to companies based overseas. The White House claims the plan will cause more than 200 highly skilled American tech workers to lose their jobs to foreign workers hired on with temporary work visas. 

The White House also suggested Monday that outsourcing tech jobs could pose a national security risk if the positions include access to sensitive information.

“All TVA funds come from the wholesale sale of energy within the TVA service area,” the corporation’s spokesman Jim Hopson said in an email. 

“The TVA CEO compensation is set by the board of directors in accordance with the TVA Act, which requires for compensation to be competitive with other utilities. Even so, Mr. Lyash’s total compensation is in the bottom 25 percent of comparable utilities,” Hopson added. 

The statement reflects that of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee back in April, when the GOP member said that the White House was spreading misinformation, explaining the TVA does not operate on taxpayer money. 

Launched during the Great Depression, the TVA today provides utility services to residents in parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky, as well as in smaller sections of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. 

Saying the new head of the TVA must make no more than $500,000 a year, Trump called on the corporation’s board to immediately hire a new CEO who “puts the interests of Americans first.”

He also called on the TVA to lower energy prices in all seven states that fall under its purview, arguing the money saved on paying a new CEO a lower salary will lead to direct savings for residents. 

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