US Presidential race becomes Wi-Fi password snark battle

Freeze on visas for skilled workers bubbles along as background issue

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The tragi-comedy that is the extended US presidential election campaign has taken two turns into technological territory.

First, the trivial.

As reported by The Hill, last week's debate among Republican candidates for the presidency offered the Wi-Fi password “StopHillary” to members of the press.

The Democratic debate on Saturday raised the tone by offering the network name “13MillionNewJobs”, a reference to President Obama's time in office, although no password at all.

On a more serious note, leading Republican candidate Ted Cruz has announced an immigration policy that calls for a review of the United States' H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is a Silicon Valley favourite, because it allows companies to bring in workers from offshore for up to six years.

Cruz wants to “suspend the issuance of all H-1B visas for 180 days to complete a comprehensive investigation and audit of pervasive allegations of abuse of the program.” Another Republican contender, Donald Trump, has pledged to legislate higher wages on H-1B workers so that the cost advantage to be had bringing workers from lower-paid countries diminishes. Neither Cruz nor Trump needs votes from India, but H-1B changes are not popular there are they are seen as deliberately targeting Indian IT workers. Opponents counter that Indian companies enjoy an unfair advantage because they can bring their own staff to the United States on H-1Bs and therefore enjoy lower costs.

That the visa has become a political football is remarkable in itself, seeing as there's only around 85,000 issued each year, a drop in the ocean of the US workforce. Yet with political “debate” happy to include Wi-Fi passwords, fights over small migration programmes shouldn't surprise. ®

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