Trump ‘extending and expanding’ crackdown on work visas through year-end

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump expanded his crackdown on foreign workers Monday, issuing a proclamation that freezes access to several types of work visas amid historically high unemployment in the United States.

The new policy is “extending and expanding” on Trump’s April pause on issuing new green cards, which will continue beyond the initial 60-day period until the end of the year, according to a senior administration official.

The proclamation includes new restrictions on most H-1B, H-4, H-2B, J and L visas, with some exceptions, lasting through Dec. 31.

“The president is expanding that measure in light of the, frankly, the expanding unemployment and the number of Americans who are out of work,” the official told reporters. “He’s extending and expanding the suspension of certain visas through the end of this calendar year 2020.”

The official said there will be few exceptions to the new rules. Some H-2B applicants working in the food supply chain will be exempt. All working L and virtually all J visa applications — excluding professors, scholars and au pairs — will be affected by the new policy.

But the official argued that the changes were necessary because of the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that the new restrictions would “open up 525,000 jobs that might otherwise be taken by foreign workers — legal, but foreign workers.”

In the proclamation, Trump says that “American 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.”

The proclamation states, “The overall unemployment rate in the United States nearly quadrupled between February and May of 2020 — producing some of the most extreme unemployment ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the May rate of 13.3% reflects a marked decline from April, millions of Americans remain out of work.”

Trump announced in April that he would freeze the distribution of green cards to most applicants, with the exception of farm workers and the immediate family members of American citizens. Those exemptions remain in place.

While characterizing the new work visa restrictions as “temporary,” the senior administration official said that the president’s executive action would also include more long-term measures.

“The H-1Bs, the pause on visas, is the temporary action in the president’s action today in the executive order. The more permanent actions that he is directing us to take include reforming the H-1B system to move in the direction of a more merit-based system,” the official said. “You hear the president talk all the time about getting the best and the brightest, and you also hear him talking about protecting American jobs. So these reforms will do both.”

The official said that the secretary of labor would also use existing, yet dormant statutory authorities “to investigate abuses in the H-1B space,” including allegedly discriminatory practices.

The administration will also begin requiring biometric data and security checks for all visa holders “prior to entry.”

Currently, the official said, “it is not a uniform set of checks before people arrive.”


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