Republican senator seeks extension of ban and a thorough review of non-immigrant visa programs.
President Joe Biden has let a Trump era ban on certain temporary foreign work visas, including H-1B visas expire on Wednesday bringing huge relief to Indian professionals.
Former US President Donald Trump had on June 22 last year issued a proclamation suspending the H-1B, H-2B, J and L nonimmigrant visa programs until Dec. 31 ostensibly to protect American jobs for Americans amid a raging covid-19 pandemic.
These programs make “a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the covid-19 outbreak,” he argued.
The order did make exemptions for three categories: military, healthcare workers, and any other visa holders whose entry will be in the country’s national interest.
However, on Dec. 31, just three weeks before leaving office, Trump extended the ban until March 31, saying the job losses caused by the pandemic were still presenting serious economic challenges to workers across the US.
On Feb. 25 Biden lifted the Trump-era ban on Green Cards, which allows immigrants to live and work permanently in America and set them on course for citizenship, saying it “did not advance the interests of the United States.”
In fact, it harmed the nation, he said, by “preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”
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He was, however, silent on H-1B work visa program that allows American companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers to make up for local shortage.
More than two thirds of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually, including 20,000 for those with advanced masters’ degrees from US colleges, go to Indians.
No new proclamation was issued by Biden till Wednesday mid-night, resulting in the automatic expiry of the Trump ban on H-1B visas.
Meanwhile, a Republican Senator from Missouri on Wednesday urged Biden to issue a fresh proclamation “to extend the freeze on temporary foreign worker entries into the US.”
Trump “proclamation suspending entry of certain temporary workers into the US has protected Americans suffering from the pandemic-induced economic crisis” Senator Josh Hawley wrote in a letter to Biden.
READ: US judge rejects challenge to Trump’s H-1B ban (September 17, 2020)
“With millions of struggling Americans out of work – and millions more desperate to make ends meet – now is not the time to open the floodgates to thousands of foreign workers competing with American workers for scarce jobs and resources,” he wrote.
Noting that unemployment rate remains at 6.2 per cent – with nearly 10 million Americans out of work and looking for a job, Hawley wrote that the pandemic “has been especially devastating for low-income and working class Americans.”
Many of the “have borne the brunt of the crisis – and stand to lose the most from misguided policy decisions,” he wrote.
In periods of high unemployment, it makes no sense to allow a struggling labour market to be flooded with a wave of foreign competition, Hawley wrote.
“What makes even less sense is to willingly introduce further competition for the US workers at the same time that a disastrous illegal immigration crisis grows on our southern border.”
“As at the border, failure to take meaningful action is, in itself, a policy decision with detrimental impacts for American workers,” Hawley wrote.
Hawley urged Biden “to extend the temporary foreign worker entry suspension until the national unemployment rate has meaningfully declined.”
He also asked the administration to conduct a thorough review of non-immigrant visa programs to ensure that American workers are fully and effectively protected from harm.”
USCIS completes H-1B cap lottery process for FY 2022 (March 31, 2021)