Immigration: Trump extends restrictions on some work visas until 2020

The new restrictions are part of a joint effort to abolish visas available to people abroad as a result of high U.S. unemployment stemming from a coronavirus pandemic, a senior administration official told reporters Monday.
Trump signed an immigration proclamation in April targeting people outside the U.S. who want to migrate legally to the U.S., with some exceptions. That order, which was supposed to expire, will be extended until the end of 2020 and extended to some visas for workers’ guests.

“The president is spreading that measure in light of honest, rising unemployment and the number of Americans losing their jobs,” the official said.

The new visas include L-1 visas for transfers within companies, H-1B for workers with special occupations, as well as H-4 visas for spouses, H-2B for temporary non-agricultural workers and most J-1 visas for exchange of visitors,

Like April, the latest proclamation only applies to people outside the U.S. It does not apply to lawful permanent residents, spouses, or children of a U.S. citizen, persons working in the food supply chain, and individuals “whose entry would be in the national interest.”

The new restrictions take effect on June 24.

The Department of Homeland Security also issued a regulation banning most asylum seekers from obtaining work permits – adding another hurdle to asylum seekers in the United States. The rule was initially proposed in November last year.
CNN previously reported that one of the key figures behind the immigration restriction movement is Stephen Miller, Trump’s leading immigration adviser and architect of the president’s strict immigration agenda.

Citing the pandemic, the administration has progressed with a series of immigration measures that fought for a breakthrough before the coronavirus. Among those changes is the closure of the southern border for migrants, including asylum seekers, unless certain conditions are met.

Following the president’s April proclamation, Miller put the move as a first step toward reducing the flow of immigrants entering the United States.

The administration re-launched the economic argument on Monday, explaining the latest immigration action. While Trump has dealt with the recent number of jobs, the number of unemployed remains high – although companies have said in a series of letters to the president that continued immigration is important for economic recovery.

“Why would he want to reduce the critical workforce that will help the economy recover?” Greg Chen, director of relations with the government of the American Association of Immigration Lawyers, told CNN earlier.

Earlier this month, a technology trade group wrote to Trump claiming that nonimmigrant visas are key to sustaining the economy amid the global public health crisis.

The overseas-born U.S. workforce, wrote the Information Technology Council, “allows many Americans to continue working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and play a key role … to ensure secure business and connected people.”

ITI is supported by companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Oracle.

But critics say shortcomings in the H-1B program have given way to its exploitation. In that regard, a senior administration official said Monday that Trump’s labor ministry had been instructed to “investigate abuses” regarding the visa.

“H1Bs, a visa break, is a temporary action in the president’s action today in the executive order. The more permanent action he is instructing us involves reforming the H1B system to move in the direction of a more established system,” the official said.

Institute for Migration Policy, Washington Research Center, DC, is estimated that new restrictions would block 219,000 temporary workers.
Shortly after the announcement, DHS issued a regulation which would prohibit asylum seekers who cross the border illegally from obtaining work permits, with an exception, and delay when permits can be issued.

“Most asylum seekers will need to rely on charity or work under the table to survive,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy adviser at the U.S. Immigration Council, noting that not declaring income can be used against an individual in a separate asylum rule proposal.

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The rule, which will take effect this summer, applies to thousands of migrants seeking asylum in the United States who depend on alimony work permits, while their cases go through immigration courts – a process that can take months, if not years.

This story has been updated with additional details of the administration’s action.

CNC’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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