A group of GOP senators are calling on President Trump to suspend issuing new guest worker visas, adding to restrictions the president placed on immigration in April.
Sens. Ted Cruz (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Chuck Grassley (IA), and Josh Hawley (MO) sent a letter to the president on Thursday urging Trump to place a 60-day freeze on “all new guest worker visas” to combat an unprecedented wave of unemployment in the U.S., according to a copy of the letter obtained by Politico. The senators called for continuing restrictions on nonimmigrant worker visas for up to a year.
“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,” the letter says. “The United States admits more than one million nonimmigrant guest workers every year, and there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high.”
For the year-long suspension, the letter specifically targets H-2B visas, H-1B visas, and the Optional Practical Training program. The visas cover nonagricultural seasonal work such as theme parks and landscaping and specialized positions in fields such as technology development. The OPT program allows foreigners recently graduated from an American university to stay one to three years in the U.S. to gain job experience in their chosen field.
A group of Republicans in the House led by Texas Rep. Lance Gooden sent a similar letter to the White House on Thursday, additionally calling for Trump to suspend the H-B5 investor visa.
The H-B5 program “has been overwhelmingly abused by Chinese nationals to buy American citizenship,” the House letter says. “This program concentrates vast financial resources into already wealthy parts of the country, which is completely contradictory to the stated justification for the program.”
If the president heeds the lawmakers’ requests, the new order would build on several others he has issued since January restricting immigration. Trump froze immigration from China on January 31 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Later orders restricted immigration to the U.S. in a bid to put more Americans back in jobs amid skyrocketing unemployment due to widespread shutdown orders.
“As we all know, millions of Americans sacrificed their jobs in order to battle the virus and save the lives of our fellow citizens,” Trump said on April 21 after announcing a ban on European travel weeks earlier. “We have a solemn duty to ensure these unemployed Americans regain their jobs and their livelihood.”
“In order to protect American workers, I will be issuing a temporary suspension of Immigration into the United States,” Trump said. “By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America re-opens.”
The ban on European travel was not comprehensive, only covering new green card applicants. The rule exempted all immigrants coming into the country on a temporary basis or those coming to work in the healthcare industry.
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This piece has been updated to include mention of a similar letter sent to the White House by House GOP Reps. Brian Babin (TX), Mo Brooks (AL), Michael Burgess (TX), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Lance Gooden (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), and Steve King (IA).