US President Donald Trump suspended the entry into the United States of certain foreign workers on Monday, a move the White House said would help the coronavirus-battered economy, but which business groups strongly oppose. Trump issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B visas, which are for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company. Trump also blocked those entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, which are used by landscapers and other industries.
The visa suspension, which runs to the end of the year, will open up 525,000 jobs for U. S. workers, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters. The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at “getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible.” But businesses including major tech companies and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce said the visa suspension would stifle the economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic.
The measure also exempts food supply chain workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. The suspension will include work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, including camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers. Republican Trump is running for re-election on Nov. 3 and has made his tough immigration stance a central pitch to voters, although the coronavirus, faltering economy, and nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue. The president has faced pressure to restrict work visas from groups that seek lower levels of immigration, as well as some Republican lawmakers.
H-2B visas, which were included in the suspension, have been used by Trump-owned- or Trump-branded businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Many business groups were lobbying against a temporary visa ban before it was announced. 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 rest of the year.
The visa suspension issued on Monday narrows an exemption for medical workers in Trump’s April ruling to include only people working on coronavirus research and care.
U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 15,269 petitions for H-1B visas in healthcare-related jobs across the United States in the fiscal year 2019. The Trump administration will make several other moves to tighten rules around temporary work visas. The administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 visas available in the program each year go to the highest-paid applicants, instead of the current lottery system, the senior administration official said.