H1-B visa ban blocked by US judge


A US federal judge on Thursday ordered a halt to the enforcement of a White House order that would block visas for skilled workers, such as engineers sought after by technology firms.

Amazon, Apple and Facebook are among tech industry titans and organizations that signed on to a court filing saying US President Donald Trump’s move blocking visas for skilled workers hurts the country.

US district judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction, ordering an immediate hold on a series of visa restrictions including H-1B visas relied on by tech giants for hard-to-get talent.

“We are grateful the court recognized the real and immediate harm these restrictions have meant for manufacturers right now and stopped this misguided policy until the court can fully consider the matter,” said National Association of Manufacturer’s general counsel Linda Kelly.

The association was among groups that filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban.

The judge concluded that Trump exceeded his authority in an executive order halting the issuance of non-immigrant work visas, according to TechNet, another of the groups behind the lawsuit.

“Any policy or order that hinders American companies’ ability to find high-skilled workers only harms our economic recovery at this critical time,” said TechNet chief executive Linda Moore.

“As we continue working to strengthen our domestic STEM (science and engineering) talent pipeline and empower the workforce of tomorrow, we must ensure that visa program remain in place to fill critical high-skilled labor shortages,” she said.

Silicon Valley tech giants filed a brief supporting the suit by the US Chamber of Commerce and trade groups against a proclamation issued by Trump in June halting visas for various categories of guest workers, including highly skilled talent sought by tech companies.

“The president’s suspension of the non-immigrant visa program, supposedly to ‘protect’ American workers, actually harms those workers, their employers, and the economy,” the brief backed by more than 50 tech firms and organizations argued.

“Beyond the overwhelming data undermining the proclamation’s purported rationale, the administration’s actions send a fundamentally un-American message to those abroad who might otherwise have brought their skills and ingenuity to the US,” it said.

Trump’s proclamation suspended a group of the non-immigrant visa programs, including H-1B visas relied on by many technology firms to bring in engineers.

The suspension was to last through this year and as long after “as necessary” under the justification of making jobs available to American citizens amid economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the filing.

Evidence, however, overwhelmingly indicates that suspension of the visa program will “stifle innovation, hinder growth, and ultimately harm US workers and firms”, the filing argued.