Biden to let Trump-era visa restrictions expire

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The White House does not plan to renew a Trump-era order that halted many work-based visa programs in the name of the coronavirus, sources told The Hill.

The order, signed by former President Trump in June, is set to expire on Wednesday.

The policy barred those seeking to come to the U.S. under a number of visa categories from entering the country, arguing that the impact of COVID-19 on the economy required limiting foreign workers.

“Without intervention, the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand,” Trump wrote at the time, adding that “American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy.”

The Migration Policy Institute estimated that the policy would block some 219,000 people from entering the U.S.

The proclamation froze the application process for work and student visas and was renewed by the Trump administration numerous times. It specifically targeted H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas and certain J-1 visas.

H-1Bs, the largest visa program, are used for skilled workers and are common in the tech industry, while H-2B visas are used by seasonal workers. H-4 visas are given to spouses of H-1B visa holders.

J-1 visas are given to researchers, scholars and other specialized categories such as au pairs. L-1 visas are used for executives transferring to the United States from positions abroad with the same employer.

Trump extended the visa order at the end of last year through March 2021, placing the onus on President Biden to revoke the measure and face potential criticism for welcoming more foreign workers at a time when the U.S. economy was still recovering from the coronavirus recession.

“This was a thinly veiled anti-legal immigration measure and not a meaningful effort to respond to the COVID-19 economic fallout as it was billed,” Jorge Loweree, policy director with the American Immigration Council said, adding that it is “good to see the administration moving beyond these pretextual bans.

Loweree noted that the Trump policy had the greatest impact on a tech sector heavily reliant on temporary worker visas.

“If anything we’ve become even more dependent on tech and computers during COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Business groups and immigration advocates had urged Biden to rescind the Trump order after taking office. Instead, Biden took no action and is now allowing the visa restrictions to expire.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), however, sent a letter to Biden Wednesday asking him to keep the limitations in place.

“With millions of struggling Americans out of work – and millions more desperate to make ends meet – now is not the time to open the floodgates to thousands of foreign workers competing with American workers for scarce jobs and resources,” Hawley wrote.

“It makes no sense to allow a struggling labor market to be flooded with a wave of foreign competition.”

The expiration follows Biden earlier in his term rescinding a Trump order from 2020 that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States. Trump cited similar economic concerns amid the pandemic in imposing those restrictions last year.

However, many of Trump’s regional-based travel restrictions still remain in effect, preventing entry to both migrants and travelers due to COVID-19.

And the Biden administration is still using another Trump-era measure, called Title 42, that allows quick expulsions of migrants in the name of public health.

Updated at 1:17 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Joe Biden Josh Hawley Pandemic work visas workforce
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