June 22 (UPI) — President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday halting access to various temporary work visas through the end of the year.
The order cites the COVID-19 pandemic in implementing a freeze new H1-B, H-4, L and most J visas as well as some H2-B visas with an exception for food processing workers, extending a prior 60-day limit on immigration signed in April that was set to expire.
A hold on the issuance of new green cards issued in response to the coronavirus will also remain in place through the end of the year.
“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” Trump said in the order. “But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
H-1B visas grant temporary work authorizations to people with highly specialized knowledge and are commonly utilized in the tech industry, while H-4 visas are issued to immediate family members of people who hold H-1B visas. Issuances of H-1B visas are currently capped to 85,000 annually.
H-2 visas provide temporary work for agriculture, construction, forestry and other industries, L visas are for temporary intracompany transfers who serve in management positions or have specialized knowledge and J visas are provided for study-based exchange visitor programs.
RJ Hauman, government relations director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, praised the order as a “big win for American workers” while expressing some worry about the implementation.
“We have some concern over potential abuse of broadly written exceptions, but there is still time for that to be addressed, both now and during implementation,” Hauman told NPR.
Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general during the Obama administration who currently represents H-1B workers condemned the decision by the White House.
“The ban on H-1B visas, which are often used to fill very niche positions that are not easily found in the American workforce, will ultimately prove to be counterproductive and is an example of using a nuclear bomb to address a bar fight,” said Fresco.