In an effort to stop President Trump from expanding his recently signed presidential proclamation halting immigration to the U.S. for certain immigrants, some leading organizations from the American business and immigration communities have rallied to protect the nonimmigrant skilled worker sector from being added to the prohibition. What is at stake is the ability of U.S. employers to access uniquely skilled professional workers from outside the United States, job creation from the know-how and innovation they bring, and the economic impact their entrepreneurship can provide to reinvigorate the American economy.
A letter circulated by Compete America, a coalition of American employers dedicated to creating new jobs for Americans through education and reforming the nation’s broken high-skilled immigration system, called on President Trump to continue to allow skilled workers to immigrate to America. The letter which was recently submitted to the White House, was signed by over 300 U.S. companies and immigrant groups, and focused on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in defending current U.S. immigration policy that supports such workers. It states, “The centrality of the STEM workforce today across the American economy is evidenced by the fact that in the 21st century Americans with university STEM degrees are called upon to use their quantitative skills in finance, public administration, professional services, manufacturing, information, education, health care, transportation, and retail, in addition to high-tech, as the Census Bureau has explained.”
It adds, “As described in a July 2019 economic study on the impact of highly-skilled STEM immigration on the U.S. economy, the foreign-born share of STEM professionals in the United States increased from about 16% to 24% over the period 2000 to 2015 creating an estimated benefit of $103 billion for American workers.” Almost all this benefit was, “attributed to the generation of ideas associated with high-skilled STEM immigration which promotes the development of new technologies that increase the productivity and wages of U.S.-born workers.”
The effort to stop President Trump’s expansion of his proclamation comes on the heels of an April 27, 2020, radio interview with radio host Brian Kilmeade, where Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf talked about expanding the presidential proclamation to deter further immigrant groups from coming to America. Then Tom Cotton (R. Ark.) and three other influential senators wrote the president calling on him to suspend “all nonimmigrant guest worker visas for the next sixty days,” and then follow that “by a continued suspension of new nonimmigrant guest workers for one year or until national unemployment figures return to normal levels.” They added that, “more than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment coverage just since mid-March, and approximately one-fifth of the American workforce is currently out of work.” They concluded, “there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high.”
As the New York Times
There are certain work visas that are of foremost concern in the draft letter being circulated for signatures. Addressing the President, the letter says, “We urge you to avoid outcomes, even ones limited in validity for temporary periods, that restrict employment-authorization terms, conditions, or processing of L-1, H-1B, F-1, or H-4 nonimmigrants at this critical inflection point in our nation’s history. Artificial constraints on our human capital are likely to result in unintended consequences and may cause chaos if we have to re-calibrate our personnel based on country of birth.”
The L-1 work visa applies to foreigner workers who work for a company with a U.S. affiliate. Think Toyota in Japan is transferring a senior manager to Toyota in Los Angeles, for example. These workers come to the U.S. as intra-company transferees to temporarily perform services either in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A) or that entail specialized knowledge (L-1B). The employee must have been employed abroad for the corporation on a full-time basis for at least one continuous year out of the last three-year period to qualify.
Through the H-1B work visa a qualified foreign worker can come to the United States on a temporary basis to work in a specialty occupation, or do research and development or provide services as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. A specialty occupation requires the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of work experience. Spouses if H1B workers get H-4 visas which entitled them to work as well under the present arrangements.
F-1 visas authorize foreign students to study in American colleges. Cancelling OPT for such students is also a source of concern.
Ran Harnevo, CEO and Co-Founder of Homeis, an internet platform for immigrants to connect with each other, says that the potential Trump policy of stopping immigration in categories like STEM, L-1, H1B and F-1 visas to open up jobs for American workers will not work. “These immigrants are not taking jobs from American workers, and cancelling their visas will only hurt the U.S. economy.” His point is that there are insufficient skilled American workers to full these positions and therefore, “such a policy will only create fear and uncertainty.” For those reasons he questions the ethics of it.
As the letter argues, “A critical part of recovery is unleashing the private sector’s creativity and ingenuity. And, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, including professionals holding nonimmigrant visas, are vital to that.” The letter goes on to cite several studies to back up its contentions. The President is expected to consider whether to widen the scope of his proclamation limiting immigration to include other targeted groups in the days ahead.