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Lawsuits & Litigation

Chamber of Commerce, Business Groups Sue Trump Administration on Work Visa Restrictions

— July 23, 2020

The lawsuit claims the Trump administration’s rules impact skilled migrants as well as “rank-and-file” American workers.

Business advocacy groups across the United States are suing the Trump administration over its decision to suspend or limit work visas.

According to The Hill, the lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, TechNet, and International Training and Exchange, also known as Intrax.

The complaint names as defendants acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Amongst the lawsuit’s main objectives is removing obstacles to immigration for skilled workers. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has sought to use public health as a justification for broadly restricting legal immigration. While other countries around the world have limited the entrance of outsiders within their borders, the Trump administration has extended immigration prohibitions far into the future. The issuance of H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas, and J-1 visas, for instance, are all suspended until at least the end of 2020.

Trump administration officials have previously proposed extended such suspensions through part of 2021.

The lawsuit suggests that the government’s immigration policies are deterring skilled workers and foreign professionals, while creating an all-around hostile climate for prospective migrants.

A man in a suit stands at a podium, pointing.
Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

“Our lawsuit seeks to overturn these sweeping and unlawful immigration restrictions that are an unequivocal ‘not welcome’ sign to the engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses, and other critical workers who help drive the American economy,” the lawsuit states. “Left in place, these restrictions will push investment abroad, inhibit economic growth, and reduce job creation.”

TechNet—a technology trade group—voiced a set of industry-specific concerns.

“Today, we reiterate that banning categories of innovators only hinders tech’s ability to serve our country by providing essential groceries and food delivery, collaborating with co-workers, having safe medical visits using telehealth solutions, and helping millions stay connected,” TechNet CEO Linda Moore said in a statement. “This litigation is a necessary step toward maintain our nation’s ability to compete in the global economy and provide Americans the help they need during this uncertain time and in the future.”

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donahue further outlined the group’s opposition to the administration’s immigration rules. Donahue notes that the government’s visa restrictions affect many different categories of workers, directly and indirectly—he provides the example of a hypothetical new manufacturing plant. Such a plant may plan to hire American workers, but could need to temporarily import technical experts from abroad to get its machinery up and running.

Donahue’s sentiment was echoed by the NRF chief administrative officer and general counsel Stephanie Martz, who noted the relationship between American workers and foreign expertise.

“This proclamation is meant to protect American jobs but instead it threatens the millions of rank-and-file workers whose jobs rely on experts coming up with the latest technology to keep retail moving forward,” Martz said. “Advanced computer and IT jobs are already hard to fill, and retailers need to be able to bring in talent from wherever they can find it.”


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