Trump’s visa halt may run into opposition from America Inc. before the November poll
The White House has made a proclamation restricting the issuance of non-immigrant work visas across the board, purportedly to clamp down on American jobs going to foreign workers, a consistent policy priority of the Donald Trump administration. The broad-brush order includes the H-1B visa for skilled workers, which is widely garnered by Indian nationals, the H-2B visa issued to seasonal workers in the landscaping and hospitality industries, the L-1 visa for intra-company transfers, and the J-1 visa for students on work-study summer programmes. It will also impact the H-4 visa for dependents of H-1B visa holders. The proclamation will enter into force on June 24 and be applicable until the end of the calendar year, which notably includes the November 3 presidential election. It is intended as a follow-on order reducing the number of foreigners entering the U.S., as it comes on the back of the 60-day halt in legal migration that began on April 23. While a broad swathe of workers is likely to be affected by the latest pause in visa processing, the latest restrictions will not apply to visa-holders who are already within the U.S., or those who are outside it and have already been issued valid visas. The reasoning offered by the White House is that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has “significantly disrupted Americans’ livelihoods,” to the extent that the overall unemployment rate in the country nearly quadrupled between February and May 2020 to 13.3%.
There is little doubt that the policies of the Trump White House are likely to genuflect to the broader requirements of the 2020 presidential campaign, one of which is a sharp focus on “America First,” or in this case the need to project aggressive action against American jobs allegedly being lost to foreign workers. This week’s proclamation offered data to bolster that claim, noting that between February and April, “more than 20 million U.S. workers lost their jobs in key industries where employers are currently requesting H-1B and L workers to fill positions”. It also observed that similar or higher numbers could be found in the other listed visa categories. However, Mr. Trump may find that the blowback from America Inc., the employers of millions of non-immigrant foreign workers, is speedy and savage. Already Google CEO Sundar Pichai has responded by tweeting, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation — we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.” If more captains of the Fortune 500 companies strike this note of disappointment — and lobby quietly behind closed doors to boost the prospects of Mr. Trump’s rival in the November election, former Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden — this might be the straw that breaks the back of the Trump campaign juggernaut.