According to The Hill, on Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending several categories of employment visas for immigrant workers to help ensure that unemployed American citizens remain first in line for available jobs.
The pause on these visas — an extension and expansion of a narrower order issued in April — could free up as many as 600,000 jobs for Americans at a time when upwards of 30 million Americans are still out of work because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, Breitbart noted.
The latest order will suspend the issuance of most H-1B visas for white-collar jobs, H-4 visas for spouses of H1-B holders, H-2B visas for blue-collar nonagricultural work, J-1 visas which cover both blue- and white-collar positions, and L visas that are for white-collar jobs.
There are some exemptions from the policy, such as those for certain jobs in the food-production industry or others related to pandemic response efforts, but the vast majority of the estimated 1.4 million worker visas issued each year will be suspended until the end of 2020, with the order subject to a review and potential adjustments every 60 days, according to Breitbart.
Polls suggest strong voter support
Breitbart further reported that Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said of the order, “Obviously American workers have been hurt, and it’s nobody’s fault that the coronavirus hit, but it did do a blow to the economy and to businesses who were furloughing and laying people off, and we want to make sure that Americans get hired into those spots.”
The media outlet indicated that multiple polls have shown that a majority of Americans are in favor of less immigration at this point in time — particularly with regard to work visas — as the nation deals with exceptionally high unemployment and that voters will support President Trump’s efforts to protect American workers’ interests.
“The president is confident this is going to be very popular with the American people,” Cuccinelli added. “It’s proven popular thus far — to start clearing this space … and it is the kind of thing that, frankly, some people on the other side of the aisle have supported in the past.”
Big business pushback
Breitbart reported separately that, aside from the typical opposition from Democrats and the liberal media, President Trump’s order has also been decried by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long relied on a constant influx of low-wage foreign workers to keep downward pressure on wage growth and to bolster member profits.
The Chamber of Commerce had actually been lobbying the president to increase the number of foreign worker visas issued per year, even in the midst of the pandemic-related spike in U.S. unemployment, and the group issued a statement of opposition to the move once it became clear that those efforts had failed.
“Today’s proclamation is a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. 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. Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue said in a statement, adding:
We are fighting for more investment and more growth in America because that means more jobs, and today that fight takes on a new level of urgency. We have long advocated for a rational immigration system that meets the needs of our economy and reflects the values of our country. Today’s proclamation serves neither of those interests. The U.S. Chamber will continue to strongly advocate for an immigration system that serves the interests of all Americans.
In other words, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would prefer imported foreign workers over American citizens for jobs in the U.S., despite tens of millions of Americans being unemployed or underemployed.
Sadly, the Chamber appears willing to fight the president to push a position that will ultimately depress wages and keep Americans out of work.