U.S. president signs executive order, claiming move will protect local workers, to condemnation from tech industry
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order suspending all work visas, including the coveted H-1B and L permits, claiming the move would protect local workers amidst rising unemployment due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension would remain in effect until Dec. 31.
“We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump said in a statement. He claimed that between February and April 2020, more than 20 million Americans had lost their jobs, with several linked to industries whose employers were requesting H-1B and L workers to fill vacant positions. He claimed that in May alone, the unemployment rate for Americans who compete with ‘J’ non-immigrant visa applicants had grown to 29.9 percent for 16-19 year olds, and 23.2 percent for 20-24 year olds.
“The entry of additional workers through the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs, therefore, presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak,” read Trump’s executive order.
The decision is likely to impact Indian nationals the most, as they receive nearly 70 percent of the 85,000 H-1B issued annually. According to the order, the restrictions would not apply on visa holders who are currently in the U.S. However, visa holders currently outside the U.S. would not be allowed to return to the country.
Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born chief executive officer of Google parent Alphabet Inc., said he was “disappointed” with the order. “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation—we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all,” he said in a posting on Twitter.
Other leaders of the U.S. technology industry have also echoed Pichai’s words, saying the restrictions would slow the pace of innovation, and undermine the industry.