On Monday, President Donald Trump made a proclamation that the United States is blocking the H-1B visas for foreign skilled workers, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company.
“In addition, pursuant to proclamation 10014, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security reviewed nonimmigrant programs and found that the present admission of workers within several nonimmigrant visa categories also poses a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery,” the proclamation partly reads.
Included in the ban are those who the H-2B seasonal workers visas to enter the United States.
The development has stirred criticism from both the tech industries and the immigration council; critics say it’s another measure the Trump administration is using to achieve its anti-immigration aim, as he said the decision was based on saving jobs for the American people in the face of crippling effect of COVID-19 on the labor market.
But a senior administration official, who spoke to the press, said that the ban, which takes effect on Wednesday, and will last until the end of the year, will provide up to 525,000 jobs for the US workers. He added that the aim has been to “get Americans back to work as quickly as possible.”
However, the proclamation exempts those already in the US, and those abroad who have valid visas, as long as they have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States.
The ban does not affect those whose services are considered to be in national interest. For instance, the food supply chain workers. But those on work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, which includes camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers are affected.
Leading tech companies say the decision would hurt the US job markets. The BSA, the Software Alliance members which include Microsoft and Slack, in a statement, urged the administration to “refrain from restricting employment of highly-skilled foreign professionals.” They said “The restrictions will negatively impact the US economy and decrease job opportunities for Americans.”
Reuters reported that Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the end of 2020.
“This is introducing more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of US companies. The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the US labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers,” she said.
But Trump seems not to care about what the US labor market really needs. Part of the proclamation restricts some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, but it narrowly opens a window for more medical professionals, only those working on coronavirus research and care.
According to a White House official, the administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 yearly visas will go to the highest bidders, not through visa lottery. And it is working to make it harder for companies to use the H-1B visa program to train foreign workers to perform the same job in another country.
Part of the administration’s aim is to block asylum seekers’ work permits. Reuters reported that a separate asylum measure that would greatly limit asylum seekers’ access to work permit is set to be finalized on Friday.
The justification was seen on the proclamation where it’s stated that jobs, such as the one done by asylum seekers put Americans up for job competition.
“Americans workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy, including against millions of aliens who enter the United States to perform temporary work,” it said.
However, the American Immigration Council said Trump is seeking an interest not related to the health crisis, that his aim is to change the immigration system.
“This is another thinly-veiled attempt to implement radical changes to our immigration system, and to limit the number of citizens who are able to come to the US. This is not about public health or the economy,” the Immigration Council tweeted.
The Council added that the shutdown will not be temporary as claimed by Trump, that his administration will continue to find “excuses to justify extending this ban.”
It’s becoming a common belief that Trump is giving more attention to immigration in the face of global health crisis to woo voters, as he could no longer count on the economy devastated by coronavirus, and his approach to it that has infuriated many Americans.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in response that none of the proclamation is about COVID-19, that Trump is looking for ways to exploit the immigration system.
“Trump just announced new restrictions on temporary workers visas, yet another attack on our immigration system. This is not a response to COVID-19 or an economic crisis. It’s the exploitation of a pandemic to reshape immigration law, while superseding congress,” ACLU tweeted.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, joined voices with Democrats to condemn the proclamation. She said “ it is a new season of the same racist, xenophobic show put on by Donald Trump.”
“But Trump’s transparent effort to rally his base and distract from his innumerable failures, including his disastrous response to COVID-19, will not work. Indeed, the courts will stop his unlawful actions targeting immigrants. Like the past versions of this overused script using a pandemic to justify white nationalist policies, it deserves to be cancelled,” she added.