The idea of the H1B visa is being gut-punched in the public square of the world’s most glittering IT hub and the gloves are off in this particular fight.
Anti-H1B posters have been plastered in prominent Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) train stations, will soon be seen inside trains in the heart of San Francisco Bay Area and will stay there for at least a full month in an ad buy worth $80,000 bang in the middle of the new H1B filing season which opens 2 April.
BART is among the busiest rapid transport systems in the United States with an average of close to 425,000 weekday passengers and roughly 124 million annual passengers in the 2017 fiscal year. At least three stations — Civic Centre, Oakland’s 12th Street and 19th Street are marquee locations, according to Bay Area newspapers.
Paid for by Progressives for Immigration Reform, the anti H1B ads lexicon fans the very flames of anti-immigrant sentiment that put Trump into the White House.
Addressing “US tech workers”, the ad says “Your companies think you are expensive, undeserving & expendable. Congress, fix H-1B law so companies must seek & hire US workers!”
“I’ve lived here for 10 years. I’ve never seen so much anger against us. Remember, this is not a dark alley, it’s an essential public transport system. Thousands of people are going to be seeing these posters. Imagine the possible consequences…”, says Bharati, a Bay Area H1B worker who says she feels “lucky” she can drive to work and not have to take the BART train with these ads plastered everywhere.
Jansi Kumar, a Seattle resident, says the BART poster story is flying on WhatsApp groups. “People are really scared, it is unnerving,” she says.
Firstpost left messages over the weekend to speak with Progressives for Immigration Reform, the organisation that has reportedly paid for the ads.
A Mercury News report said that the $80,000 ad buy covers more than “250 panel ads and 100 smaller in-train ads, which will be seen on both sides of the Bay”.
On Twitter, BART riders and techies in the city are reacting with disgust and shock.
“BART is supposed to be for everyone!!! How will immigrants feel when they see these disgusting advertisements on their commute?”, wrote Karin Spirn on Twitter.
Progressives for Immigration Reform and ustechworkers.com are the two names listed on the ad that’s circulating online. Progressives for Immigration Reforms’ motto aligns neatly with the nativist policies of Trump’s immigration policy lead Stephen Miller at his fiery best. It is timed to coincide with the H1B filing season that opens 2 April, just after Easter weekend in the US.
How an ad campaign like the one playing to full houses in train stations will do in a blue state like California is merely a fringe issue. Campaigns like these are fairly easy to replicate and seed in an exponential fashion because of the location where millions of people must travel every day. If cash flow is not a concern for lobbyists hell bent on maligning the H1B visa, then every Indian stronghold in America is a potential target for this hate campaign in a crucial election year. Time and again, Silicon Valley’s leaders have pushed back against anti-H1B policy. This time, it’s not policy, it’s a bloody nose on the railroad.