President Trump extends ban on H-1B, new green cards and work visas until months after he leaves office, citing continued weakness in the U.S. labor market due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump on Thursday signed a proclamation to freeze on various categories of work visas that extends to March 31 immigration restrictions he first put into effect in April and renewed in June 2020.
Hours before the freeze was set to expire on December 31, Trump issued another proclamation on Thursday to extend it until March 31, ensuring that his sweeping limits on legal immigration will remain in place when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20.
US President Donald Trump has extended the freeze on the most in demand H-1B visas by IT professionals, along with other types of foreign work visas and green cards through March 31. The step is taken to protect American workers, he said that the reasons for which he had imposed such restrictions amidst the pandemic have not changed.
The extension of the restrictions, which include a freeze on new H-1B and H-4 visas used by technology workers, continues Trump’s aggressive campaign to limit various types of immigration to the U.S. during his term.
“The effects of COVID-19 on the United States labor market and on the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern, and the considerations present” in the previous proclamations “have not been eliminated,” Trump said.
The extension through March means the curbs will be in place when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
Restricting immigration has been a focus of the Trump administration since its first days when it issued the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and it has continued into Trump’s final year in office as the White House uses the coronavirus pandemic as cover.
Biden, a Democrat, has promised to lift the suspension on H-1B visas, saying Trump’s immigration policies are cruel.
US media commented that Trump’s decision was yet another example of how the administration is trying to box Biden in on challenging policy matters.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
They would now have to wait at least till the end of March before approaching the US diplomatic missions to get stamping. It would also impact a large number of Indian IT professionals who are seeking renewal of their H-1B visas.
The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the WHO, for example, is higher than the comparable number present during June, and while therapeutics and vaccines are recently available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labour market and community health has not yet been fully realized, he said.
Moreover, actions such as States’ continued imposition of restrictions on businesses still affect the number of workers that can be hired as compared with February of 2020, Trump said, adding that his latest proclamation may be extended if necessary.
Technology companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s biggest business lobbying organization, have criticized the bans as damaging to the nation’s economy. The chamber and other trade groups have sued to block the restrictions.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is among the companies that have expressed support for a court order blocking Trump’s policy.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to significantly disrupt Americans’ livelihoods. While the November overall unemployment rate in the United States of 6.7 per cent reflects a marked decline from its 14.7% in April high at the height of business shutdowns related to the pandemic. But nearly double the 3.5% rate in February. There were still 9,834,000 fewer seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in November than in February of 2020, Trump said in his proclamation. The jobless rate for December will be released on Jan. 8.