H-1B rules: Caltech leads lawsuit against ‘poison pill’


The wage-hike rule is “is a poison pill that would destroy the whole H-1B system,” alleges the lawsuit filed by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) along with several research institutions, manufacturing, trade and labor organizations against the Trump administration’s move.

Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, through a letter stated that they were filing a lawsuit October 19 in the US District Court of Northern California to block the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing and enforcing final rules that would overhaul the H1-B visa program.

We write today to reinforce our support for the international members of our community,” Rosenbaum wrote.

Our work to advance discovery in science and engineering and to respond to society’s most critical challenges depends on the contributions of all members of our community, importantly including our international colleagues. Universities and industries across the United States benefit immensely from their insights and discoveries. America will be the poorer if these new rules go into effect, increasing financial and compliance costs to a level that effectively eliminate employment security,” he added.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an estimated 580,000 foreign workers were working specialized occupations on H-1B visas in the US as of September 30.

This is the second lawsuit filed against the Trump administration’s H-1B visa-rules tweak.

The first lawsuit was filed last week by ITServe Alliance, a consortium of over 1,200 midsize information-technology firms.

That lawsuit said the midsize companies cannot afford the wage hike and alleged that the Trump administration had failed to follow due process in enforcing the new rules.

In his letter, Caltech president Rosenbaum also wrote that the new rules would “substantially restrict, if not outright eliminate” the H-1B visa category, “and call into question the status of many of our community members who actively contribute to Caltech’s research and educational endeavors.”

The US Chamber of Commerce, the University of Utah, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Bay Area Council are also part of the lawsuit as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges that the rules “are extraordinary: If left unchecked, they would sever the employment relationship of hundreds of thousands of existing employees in the United States, and they would virtually foreclose the hiring of new individuals via the H-1B program. They would also gut EB-2 and EB-3 immigrant visas, which provide for permanent residence in the United States.”

The lawsuit argues that H-1B workers are critical members of Caltech and other such institutions of higher learning, performing groundbreaking research and educating thousands of American students — which, in turn, creates new jobs.

The Department of Labor is asking companies to pay H-1B visa workers pay $100 an hour or $208,000 a year.

The Caltech lawsuit states that a private wage survey from Willis Towers Watson shows an entry-level employee in, say, Santa Clara, California, who earns approximately $70,600 per year, would get a raise of $137,400.

The lawsuit says that the Department of Labor has calculated that the wage-hike rule would cost $198.29 billion to employers in a 10-year period.

Ken Cuccinelli, a senior official at the USCIS, has said at a press conference that the DHS rule will render ineligible at least one-third of H-1B positions currently approved.

This rule impacts hundreds and thousands of H-1B workers currently working in the US and seeking to renew their visas.

The rule will devastate the process of receiving EB-2 and EB-3 permanent employment-based immigrant visas, experts believe.

The EB-3 visa damage would impact hundreds of nurses often work in inner and rural cities. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects the US will face a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 medical workers by 2033, and presently there are only 10,000 physicians working in the US on H-1B visas.

The lawsuit argues that not only workers on H-1B, EB-2, EB-3 but hospitals, businesses small and large, higher education institutions and several that rely on them will be impacted negatively, because the companies have invested in building laboratories, clinical facilities, and developing new products.

These rules will shatter long-held reliance, causing an enormous loss of productivity, creativity, and innovation, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the new DHS rule “redefines what qualifies as a ‘specialty occupation,’ tightening the category of individuals who will qualify — all at odds with the statutory definition.”

It also lowers the validity period of visas issued to H-1B workers employed at third-party job sites from three years to one year, while imposing “burdensome compliance requirements regarding third-party contracts and work itineraries” on employers.