Updated on Monday at 4:15 p.m.
President Trump will extend a freeze on "green cards" for new immigrants and sign an executive order to suspend H-1B, L-1, J and other temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.
The goal of the move is to protect 525,000 jobs as part of the White House response to job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NPR first reported the impending order on Saturday.
The order will target H-1B visas, which are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in the tech industry, as well as L-1 visas, which are meant for executives who work for large corporations.
But other workers will also be affected, including foreign au pairs who provide childcare. Professors and scholars will not be included in the order, the official said. There will be a provision to request exemptions. The order is not expected to immediately affect anyone already in the United States.
Business groups are expected to oppose the move. But groups that want less immigration cheered it. "No matter how you slice it, this is shaping up to be a big win for American workers at a critical time," said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower levels of immigration. FAIR had called on Trump to suspend guest worker visas.
"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 said.
In May, Trump issued a temporary halt on new green cards but stopped short of suspending guest worker programs amid concerns from the business community.
Plans for Monday's order raised significant concerns among business and industry groups. "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 Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers.
The order was not expected to apply to H-2A agriculture workers who Trump says are necessary to ensure grocery store shelves remain stocked with fruits and vegetables. Health care workers involved in treating coronavirus patients will also be exempt.
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