Trump immigration order restricting guest worker visas set to expire

An executive order signed by President Trump expanding immigration restrictions to protect the labor market for American workers amid the pandemic, will expire this week — and immigration hawks are urging him to extend it.

Trump first signed an order in April that restricted some green cards, and then expanded it in June to include a number of guest-worker programs — including new H-1B tech worker visas, H-2B seasonal worker visas, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas and L executive transfer visas. It contained exemptions for military and health care workers, and cases deemed in the national interest.

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While Trump imposed separate travel restrictions to protect public health, this was done specifically to protect the job market amid coronavirus. The administration estimated that the order would affect around 600,000 jobs.

“There are an unprecedented number of Americans who are out of work, but we are also expecting to see an unprecedented growth in our economy,” a senior administration official told Fox News in June.

“In order to ensure that we are hiring Americans first, we are putting a pause on certain non-immigrant visas into the United States,” the official added, “again for the purpose of ensuring that Americans can get jobs here in the U.S.”

The order was criticized by big companies, like Twitter, which claimed it undermined “America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity.”

Business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had also opposed the order, saying it would prevent businesses from meeting their workforce needs.

But with the order set to expire on Thursday, there is no indication that Trump is extending the order — and immigration hawks are urging him to extend it into the new year. 

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“You withstood intense pressure from powerful business interests that continue to demand more cheap foreign labor, even as they have laid-off an unprecedented number of American workers,” Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said in a letter to the president this week. “I urge you to extend this proclamation well into 2021 in an effort to further protect American workers and their families during these trying times. 

Stein notes that it is a move that could be politically complex for President-elect Joe Biden when he takes over the White House. 

“If Joe Biden does end up entering the Oval Office and quickly rescinds your proclamation, he will have to answer to the American people and tell them why he decided to increase immigration and restore unfettered access to guest workers in the midst of the greatest economic crisis in living memory,” he wrote.

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Biden has pledged to reverse a number of Trump immigration policies, specifically related to asylum and illegal immigration — but also related to legal immigration and guest worker programs.

The president-elect has also said he wants to reform the visa system to make sure it is not used to undermine waves, before expanding the number of visas for “high-skilled workers” and ending caps on country visas.