Trump administration extends visa ban to nonimmigrants

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration extended the ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and added many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those widely used by technology companies and multinational corporations.

The administration launched the effort as a way to free jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to journalists on condition of anonymity predicted that it will open up to 525,000 jobs for Americans.

The ban, albeit temporary, would amount to a major restructuring of legal immigration if it became permanent, a goal that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. Long-term changes are also sought that prevent many asylum seekers from obtaining work permits and assigning high-tech worker visas differently.

Business groups pushed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for intransigent immigrationers as Trump seeks to further consolidate his support ahead of the November election.

The new visa ban applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by top American and Indian tech company workers and their families, H-2B visas for temporary non-farm workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.

There will be exemptions for food processing workers, who account for about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said. Healthcare workers assisting in the fight against the coronavirus will continue without the green card freeze, although their exemption will be more limited.

“In administering our nation’s immigration system, we must take into account the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high internal unemployment and depressed demand for labor,” Trump wrote in his presidential proclamation. .

Trump imposed a 60-day ban on green cards issued abroad in April, which will expire on Monday. That ad, which was primarily aimed at family members, drew a surprisingly cold reception from intransigent immigration officials, who said the president did not go far enough.

The new steps to include nonimmigrant visas went a long way in appeasing the intransigent.

“This is a bold move by the Trump administration to protect American jobs,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for the restrictions. “Not all of the items on our necessary actions checklist are included in today’s announcement, but corporate lobbyists desperately fighting for exceptions to protect their clients’ access to cheap foreign labor have been rejected.”

Thomas J. Donohue, executive director of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the measures will harm, not help, the American economy.

“Placing a ‘not welcome’ poster for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers will not help our country, it will stop us,” he said. “Restrictive changes in our nation’s immigration system will boost investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.”

BSA, a group representing major software companies, urged the administration to reconsider, particularly changes to the H-1B program, saying they will hinder economic recovery by making it difficult to fill critical positions.

“Fulfilling these roles that are more abundant than the number of qualified American employees to fill them means that these jobs can be held in the United States,” the group said. “This allows US-based companies to remain globally competitive, which in turn stimulates the US economy, creating jobs for millions of Americans.”

The visa freezes issued abroad are designed to take effect immediately. Other changes, including restrictions on work permits for asylum seekers, will go through a formal rule-making process that will take months.

The administration is proposing a new way to grant H-1B visas, the official said, granting them for the highest salary instead of lottery.

H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 a year for people with “highly specialized knowledge” and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, often in science, technology, engineering, teaching and accounting. Critics say high-tech companies have used visas as a tool to outsource jobs to foreigners, replacing Americans.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. was the largest H-1B employer in fiscal year 2018, followed by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Microsoft Corp. Other major employers include Inc., Apple Inc. , Google and Facebook Inc.

The rule against asylum seekers, scheduled to take effect on August 25, would make it much more difficult for them to obtain work permits, among other things, by lengthening the waiting time to apply from 150 days to a year and excluding applicants who they cross the country. illegally border.

The 328-page regulation, signed by Chad Mizelle, acting general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, considered an ally of White House adviser Stephen Miller, says limiting work permits will remove a major incentive for people to come to United States to apply for asylum. .

It is the latest in a long series of measures that make asylum more difficult to obtain, almost unattainable, according to some immigrant advocacy groups.

“The rule will prevent many refugees from feeding, supporting and sheltering themselves and their families,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First. “Asylum seekers and their families are already struggling to survive under existing work authorization wait times. But this rule will make survival impossible for many. “