President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday extending his April freeze on H-1B and other visas through the end of 2020, curtailing a source of foreign professionals for tech companies and universities, according to published reports.
Visa holders in the U.S. and applicants who’ve already received visas are exempt from the ban, but H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas will be temporarily halted until the end of the year under Trump’s executive order. Trump’s April order blocked family members of U.S. citizens from immigrating to the U.S., according to published reports.
Trump administration officials said the order was meant to protect American jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal, and on a call with reporters, administration officials said the measure would reserve up to 525,000 jobs for American citizens citing the high unemployment numbers facing the US workforce among the reasons for the extension of the order even as the move has garnered widespread opposition and criticism.
“This is a disaster for US competitiveness,” said Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and a Distinguished Fellow and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering in an email to indica.”The US has built its
competitiveness on the strength of immigration by bringing in the best and brightest and most ambitious people from all over the world. This was the closest thing there is to a free lunch.”
Wadhwa said Trump’s order is both good and bad as far as the H-1B visa goes
“The problem has been its abuse mostly by Indian body shops who create false resumes and all sorts of other schemes,” he said. “They have done the professionals a big disservice by tainting the visa itself and allowing the xenophobes to make it a target. When used correctly and given to the right people it has done wonders for the U.S.”
Wadhwa, a native of Delhi, India, said the Indian government and lobbying groups have known the extent of the abuse of the visa program and should have addressed it before it became such a toxic issue.
“So there is lots of blame to go around and everyone loses,” said Wadhwa, who was honored with Silicon Valley Forum’s Visionary Award in 2018. “There have been similar problems with the visa mills for student visas and the companies that have been abusing the system need to be shut down also.”
Tech industry executives have also been warning that visa restrictions would hurt America’s ability to compete in industries of strategic and financial importance, according to published reports.
“The exceptions — there are none under H-1B or H-4. H-2B, I noted — the H-2B exception is those dealing in closest to agriculture or aquaculture, seafood, but not the kind of restaurant, hotel, club, etc., stuff you heard referenced earlier,” a senior administration official said on the call with journalists according to reports. “That’s about 10 to 15% of all H-2Bs are in either seafood or food processing. This is, you know, packaging up food to be distributed or participating in the distribution. There are no exemptions for any of the L visas.”
Trump’s initial immigration freeze was opposed by many in the tech industry, who said the administration’s action would make it more difficult to recruit employees and force companies to relocate operations overseas to find talent.
“The technology industry is working overtime to keep Americans connected during a global pandemic by providing food delivery services, telehealthcare, collaborative business solutions, and ways for families and friends to stay connected,” said Linda Moore, the president and chief executive of tech industry lobbying group TechNet, in a statement. “Looking forward, technology will continue to be crucial to the rebuilding of our economy. Today’s executive order only hinders the ability of businesses to make decisions on how best to deploy their existing workforce and hire new employees. This will slow innovation and undermine the work the technology industry is doing to help our country recover from unprecedented events.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 525,000 people will be unable to enter the U.S., including 170,000 green card holders barred from entering the U.S. since April. The Trump administration official quoted by the Journal called the initiative an “America-first recovery” that would potentially open up 500,000 jobs for out-of-work Americans.