The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant machinery has launched its most aggressive move yet, blocking the issuance of work visas to qualified immigrants and their families, according to an executive order signed by the president on Monday.
“Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” Trump wrote.
With the help of Stephen Miller, White House aide and architect of the government’s immigration policy, the administration has delivered on one of its most radical campaign promises, which often argued that foreign labor “harms employment prospects for Americans,” according to The New York Times.
Miller has also argued that the coronavirus crisis, and its ensuing economic crisis, “has made it even more important to turn off the spigot.”
The measure temporarily suspends new work visas, including those issued to programmers and other skilled workers who typically apply for H-1B visas, and prohibits hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals from seeking employment in the United States in the hospitality industry, students from applying to summer work-study programs, and au pairs arriving under other auspices.
The order also restricts the ability of U.S. companies with global operations and international companies with branches in the United States to transfer executives and other foreign employees to the United States for periods of months or years, and it blocks spouses of foreign nationals working for U.S. companies, according to the Times.
“The President is expanding that measure in light of the … expanding unemployment, and the number of Americans who are out of work,” one official said.
The officials said the ban on worker visas, combined with the extension of restrictions on the issuance of new green cards, would keep about 525,000 foreign workers out of the country for the rest of the year.
“This is a full-frontal attack on American innovation and our nation’s ability to benefit from attracting talent from around the world,” said Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a pro-immigration group supported by technology companies.
Similarly, administration officials explained that the president’s order would not affect “persons outside the United States who already have valid visas” or seasonal farm workers, as long as their annual numbers have ranged from a low of about 50,000 to a high of about 250,000 over the past 15 years.
“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” said Thomas J. Donohue, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation.”
The new restrictions take effect on June 24, CNN explained.
The Department of Homeland Security also released a regulation that would bar most asylum seekers from obtaining work permits — adding yet another hurdle for those seeking refuge in the United States.