Koch groups ask White House to spare work visas

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce

Two groups affiliated with conservative mega-donor Charles Koch asked Thursday for top administration officials to reconsider a plan that would reportedly curtail the issuance of most temporary work visas.

In a letter to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, top representatives of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Libre Initiative requested “that this administration refrain from imposing additional barriers on non-immigrant visas.”

The letter, signed by AFP Chief Government Affairs Officer Brent Gardner and Libre Initiative President Daniel Garza, argues that recovery from the 2008 financial crisis was in large part driven by immigrant workers and innovators.

“Research has shown that most of America’s economic gains after the 2008 financial collapse would have been largely eliminated if not for the shared contributions of U.S. citizens and immigrants seeking new opportunities,” wrote Gardner and Garza.

“Additional research has also concluded that from 2006 to 2016, immigrants were responsible for nearly half of the U.S. labor force growth, a key component of economic growth,” they added.

Gardner and Garza partly based that assertion on a 2018 report by Citi GPS and Oxford University that tracked immigrants’ role in labor force growth, and a 2020 report published by the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the negative effects of decreased immigration on the economy.

But the letter’s argument also rests on anecdotal cases of immigrant innovation, like tech companies Uber and Zoom, two now-omnipresent platforms founded by immigrants.

“For example, research has found that immigrants account for about a quarter of U.S. invention and entrepreneurship, and since 1972 immigrants have accounted for about 25% of the patents in technology, medical research and development, electronics, and chemical technologies,” wrote Gardner and Garza.

“Meanwhile, companies who applied for new H-1B workers created new products and replaced outdated ones at a 17 percent higher rate than other firms,” they added.

According to multiple reports, Kudlow and Kushner are preparing drastic cuts to various visa programs, including H-1B, the most common temporary high-skill work visa; H-2B, a temporary nonagricultural work visa commonly used by the food processing industry; J-1, a temporary work visa for some students and trainees; and L-1, a visa granted to high-level executives transferring to the United States.

The administration is also reportedly targeting the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows recent graduates of U.S. universities to work in the country for a short period after graduation.

President Trump in April signed an executive order limiting issuance of green cards, or permanent residency visas, to foreign nationals abroad, arguing the measure was necessary to protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming visa ban being drafted by Kudlow and Kushner is widely presumed to be a continuation of the April green card order, in line with the administration’s restrictive immigration policies.

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue wrote a similar letter to Trump Thursday, asking him to reconsider the negative economic effects of a visa ban.

Gardner and Garza used the opportunity to make the case for wide-ranging bipartisan immigration reform, an initiative AFP and Libre have supported in the past.

“We don’t need to suspend, further restrict, or impose additional barriers to our legal immigration system — we need to build a better one. By doing this, we can ensure a speedy economic recovery for all Americans,” wrote Gardner and Garza.

Tags Americans for Prosperity Brent Gardner Daniel Garza Donald Trump Immigration Jared Kushner Larry Kudlow Libre Initiative Unemployment work visas
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