Donald Trump told Fox News that he would issue an executive order in the next few days that would severely restrict access to some temporary visas issued to foreign travelers to the U.S.
He said the restrictions on H-1B, L-1, and other temporary, employment-based immigration visas are necessary because of the large number of Americans who became unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s common sense, I mean, to be honest with you. It’s common sense,” Trump said, linking the move to the surge in unemployment that resulted from the near shutdown of the economy caused by the coronavirus. The unemployment rate now sits at 13.3 percent.
Asked whether the new restrictions would include exceptions, Trump said that in “some cases you have to have exclusions.”
“You need them for big businesses where they have certain people that have been coming in for a long time,” he said. “But very little exclusion and they’re pretty tight. And we may even go very tight for a period of time.”
NPR reported that several visa classifications were targeted in the order.
The new order — which is expected to come with broad exceptions — comes as the administration continues to wrestle with high unemployment among American workers because of the coronavirus pandemic and tries to kick-start the economic recovery.
The order would target H-1B visas, which are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in the tech industry, as well as L-1 visas, which are meant for executives who work for large corporations.
The executive action is also expected to suspend H-2B visas for seasonal workers such as hotel and construction staff, and J-1 visas, which are meant for research scholars and professors and other cultural and work-exchange programs. Trump could renew the suspensions when they lapse. The order is not expected to immediately affect anyone already in the United States.
Industry won’t be pleased, but advocates for immigration restrictions are very happy.
“No matter how you slice it, this is shaping up to be a big win for American workers at a critical time,” said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower levels of immigration. FAIR had called on Trump to suspend guest worker visas.
“We have some concern over potential abuse of broadly written exceptions, but there is still time for that to be addressed, both now and during implementation,” Hauman said.
Most of the exceptions will probably come for people who travel to the U.S. to work on an annual basis and have been coming here for years. But other exceptions may be more problematic.
The order does include many exceptions.
It does not apply to H-2A agriculture workers who Trump says are necessary to ensure grocery store shelves remain stocked with fruits and vegetables. Health care workers involved in treating coronavirus patients would also be exempt.
The order would make broad exceptions for travel in the national interest, including in the areas of economics, public health and national security. The U.S. State Department will review and approve these applications on a case-by-case basis.
Reforming visa programs will not make much of a dent in the problem of immigrants being hired instead of Americans to do work because they expect lower pay. And it won’t do anything to stop illegal immigration.
But it’s a start. and a step in the right direction.