US Mulls Temporary Ban on Work Visas Amid Unemployment: Reports

1 in 5 American workers have reportedly filed for first-time unemployment benefits since mid-March.

Published09 May 2020, 08:12 AM IST
World
2 min read

According to media reports, the Trump administration is contemplating a temporary ban on work-based visas like the H-1B, amid a growing unemployment crisis in the country due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the labour market, and 1 in 5 American workers have filed for first-time unemployment benefits since mid-March, when the lockdown measures hit businesses across the country, PTI reported. Four top Republican senators have reportedly urged President Trump to suspend all new guest worker visas for 60 days and certain categories of new guest worker visas, including the H-1B, for at least a year or until unemployment figures return to normal levels.

“The President’s immigration advisers are drawing up plans for a coming executive order, expected this month, that would ban the issuance of some new temporary, work-based visas,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The US Department of Labour on Thursday, 7 May, said another 3.2 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, after factoring in seasonal adjustments.

Meanwhile, several American lawmakers have reportedly introduced a legislation in Congress to offer the 40,000 unused green cards to thousands of foreign nurses and doctors to meet the urgent needs of the overstretched healthcare sector.

The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would allow for recapturing of green cards that were approved by Congress but unused in past years, allowing thousands of additional medical professionals to serve permanently in the United States.

As many as 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors would be eligible for green cards through this legislation, and “ensure that states like Iowa have the professionals they need to serve patients for years to come”, a media release said.

“More than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment coverage since mid-March, and approximately one-fifth of the American workforce is currently out of work. This is a stunning difference compared with the historically-low nationwide unemployment rate of just 3.5 per cent in February this year.”
Senators in their letter

Noting that exceptions to this suspension should be rare and limited to time-sensitive industries such as agriculture, the senators wrote that exceptions must only be issued on a case-by-case basis, when the employers have been unable to find Americans to fill in the positions.

The senators reportedly argued that there was no reason for jobless Americans to have to compete in a limited job market.

Their letter came days after the Trump administration urged a federal district court not to block an Obama-era rule allowing certain categories of spouses of H-1B visa-holders to work in the country, saying that American workers have not been irreparably harmed by such work authorisation.

(With inputs from PTI and The Wall Street Journal)

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