Administration

Business groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas

Several top business groups and universities teamed up to file a lawsuit on Monday against the Trump administration over additional immigration reforms aimed at making it more difficult for skilled foreign workers to acquire visas. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), National Retail Federation (NRF), American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, Cornell University, and the University of Southern California, among others, filed the complaint against the acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. 

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that the Department of Homeland Security would publish new regulations targeting H-1B visas that are granted to skilled workers to heighten requirements for businesses to hire such employees.

The Department of Labor also issued a rule requiring employers to increase what they pay H-1B recipients in an effort to discourage companies from undercutting American workers. Officials argued that the H-1B visa program had been abused. They have also seized on the ongoing economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the timing was right to crack down.

"Once again, defendants attempt to use the COVID-19 pandemic as pretext to fundamentally disrupt high-skilled immigration," reads the lawsuit filed in a federal court in California.

"These 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."

The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, California Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, and the University of Utah also joined the lawsuit. 

The rule changes build on President Trump's executive order in June to suspend the issuance of certain temporary worker visas through the end of 2020. That order applied to H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas and certain J-1 visas.

Business groups, including the Chamber, NAM, and NRF, promptly filed a lawsuit over the executive order, arguing that the U.S. has benefited from temporary worker visa holders. 

"The rules being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor undermine high-skilled immigration in the U.S. and a company's ability to retain and recruit the very best talent. If these rules are allowed to stand, they will devastate companies across various industries," Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement about the lawsuit on Monday.

Linda Kelly, NAM senior vice president and general counsel, also said in a statement that high-skilled innovators are needed now more than ever.

"Rewriting laws through a dark-of-night-style rulemaking leads to dangerous policy outcomes, and this pair of interim final rules is an illegal attempt to dismantle legal immigration by rendering the H-1B visa program unworkable for hundreds of thousands of American-based workers who are essential to the recovery and renewal of our industry and our economy," she said.

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