On May 7, 2020, four top Republican senators urged U.S. President Donald Trump to extend the April 22, 2020 immigration proclamation to suspend all-new guest worker visas for 60 days and certain categories of new guest worker visas, including H-1B, for at least a year or until the time the economy recovers. The letter highlights the fact that the US unemployment figures have reached 33 million due to the coronavirus pandemic and that the impact on businesses and workers has hurt the US economy. The senators’ aim is to protect US workers by suspending all non-immigrant guest worker visas for the next 60 days, followed by a continued suspension of certain categories of new non-immigrant visas for a year or so. They carve an exception to this suspension limited to time-sensitive industries such as agriculture issued only on a case-by-case basis when the employers can demonstrate that they have been unable to find Americans to take the jobs.
The letter demands the suspension of H-2B visas (non-agricultural seasonal workers), H-1B visas (specialty occupation workers), and the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program (extension of foreign student visas after graduation), and the EB-5 immigrant visa program (until reforms to the program are adopted). The senators argued that there is no reason why unemployed Americans and recent college graduates should have to compete in such a limited job market against an influx of additional H-1B workers, most of whom work in business, technology, or STEM fields. But they state that the suspension for 60 days would also help the already existing H-1B workers in the US by securing their jobs and protecting them from new H-1B workers in an already limited job market. The senators also urge the suspension of the EB-5 nonimmigrant visa as they indicate that the program has been plagued by scandal and fraud and criticized as functioning as a pay-for-citizenship scheme in many cases.
The senators also state that in 2019, more than 223,000 former foreign students had their OPT applications approved or extended and the lawmakers seek the suspension of the Optional Practical Training program (OPT), which allows foreign students to stay for an additional one to three additional years (STEM OPT) to obtain jobs they state, that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as the country’s economy recovers.
This letter by the senators and is unlikely to gain momentum in the House of Representatives to be introduced as a bill. It is uncertain, however, where President Trump will head with the points the senators made in this letter.