- Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State, alleging that the federal government's restrictions on work visas are unlawful (National Association of Manufacturers, et al. v. United States Department of Homeland Security, No. 4:20-cv-04887 (N.D. Calif. July 21, 2020)).
- The lawsuit directly protests a proclamation signed by President Donald Trump June 22. In implementing the proclamation, "Defendant departments have refused to issue, process, receive, or adjudicate requests for visas in the categories at issue, including H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L-1, L-2, J-1 and J-2," the lawsuit claims.
- The parties bringing the lawsuit, in addition to the Chamber, include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, Technet and Intrax, Inc. "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," Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement. "Left in place, these restrictions will push investment abroad, inhibit economic growth, and reduce job creation."
H-1B visas allow employers to fill roles that require "the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge" with talent outside the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The H-2B program applies to seasonal workers.
With its June order, the Trump administration halted both programs. The move came in response to unemployment rates, which had been elevated by the response to the novel coronavirus. "American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy, including against millions of aliens who enter the United States to perform temporary work," the proclamation stated. "[U]nder 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."
The measure drew criticism across the business community, and especially among the tech industry. Nearly two-thirds of H-1B visa requests are for workers in the STEM fields, according to the American Immigration Council.
Should immigration rules continue to tighten, some U.S. businesses may elect to expand outside the country, sources previously told HR Dive. Many will table the decision until the election, however, when the trajectory of immigration policy for the next four years becomes more clear.