WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States government extended a restriction on the issuance of green cards outside the country on Monday through the end of the year, and added many temporary work visas to that suspension, including those widely used by technology companies. and transnational corporations.

The government said the measure is a way to free jobs in an economy that is ravaged by the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity estimated the restrictions will free up to 525,000 jobs for Americans, a claim that was quickly challenged by detractors.

The measure, while temporary, would amount to a major restructuring of legal immigration if made permanent, a goal the government had been unable to achieve prior to the pandemic. Attempts are also being made to implement long-term changes that would prevent many asylum seekers from obtaining work permits and would differently grant visas for workers in high-tech companies.

Business groups had lobbied to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, representing a victory for sectors wishing to restrict immigration just as Trump wants to further consolidate the support they give him before the November election.

The visa categories affected by the new restrictions are: H-1B, widely used by major US and Indian technology companies, and their immediate families; H-2B, for temporary non-farm workers; J-1, for exchange students, and L-1, for outstanding managers and employees of transnational corporations.

There will be exceptions for workers in the food processing sector, which account for about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said. Health workers who help fight the coronavirus will maintain an exemption from the restrictions, although it will be more limited.

« In administering our nation’s immigration system, we must be aware of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, especially in today’s extraordinary environment of high internal unemployment and lower demand for labor, » Trump wrote in his presidential proclamation.

The president imposed a 60-day restriction on the issuance of green cards abroad in April, which was due to expire on Monday. That announcement, which greatly affected family members, was received with surprising coldness by radical sectors opposed to immigration, who said that Trump did not go far enough.

The new measures to include non-immigrant visas are closer to satisfying those who want to prevent the arrival of foreign workers.

« This is a bold move by the Donald Trump government to protect American jobs, » said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that is in favor of the restrictions. « Not all of the items on our required action checklist are included in today’s announcement, but the corporate lobbyists who were desperately fighting for exceptions to be granted in order to protect their clients’ access by hand of cheap work from abroad have been largely snubbed. « 

Thomas J. Donohue, executive director of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the measures will harm the American economy, rather than help it.

« Placing a ‘you are not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, information technology experts, doctors, nurses and other workers will not help our country, but will prevent us from moving forward, » he said. « Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will boost investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation. »

BSA, a group representing major software companies, urged the government to reconsider, especially changes to the H-1B visa program, saying they will hinder the economic recovery by making it difficult to fill crucial jobs.

« Covering these positions, which are more abundant than the number of trained American employees, means that these jobs can stay in the United States, » the group noted. « This allows companies based in the United States to remain competitive globally, which in turn drives the country’s economy, creating jobs for millions of Americans. »

The restriction on the issuance of visas abroad will take effect immediately. Other changes, such as restricting work permits for asylum seekers, will go through a formal rule-making process that takes months.

The government is proposing a new way to grant H-1B visas, the official said, to grant them based on the highest salary, rather than the lottery system.

H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 a year for people with « highly specialized knowledge » and at least a bachelor’s degree, often in science, technology, engineering, teaching and accounting. Critics say high-tech companies have used visas as a tool to outsource jobs to foreigners, replacing Americans.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. hired the most employees with H-1B visas in fiscal year 2018, followed by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corp. Other large employers are Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google and Facebook Inc.

The rule against asylum seekers, slated to take effect on August 25, would make it much more difficult for them to obtain work permits by, among other things, extending the waiting time to apply for 150 days to a year and dismiss applicants who cross the border illegally.

The 328-page regulation – signed by Chad Mizelle, acting attorney general for the Department of Homeland Security, who is considered an ally of White House adviser Stephen Miller – says that limiting work permits will remove a major incentive for people to come to the United States to apply for asylum.

It is the latest in a long series of measures that make it harder to obtain asylum, making it almost unattainable, according to some activist groups advocating for immigrants.

« The rule will prevent many refugees from obtaining food, support and housing for themselves and their families, » said Eleanor Acer, director of refugee protection at Human Rights First. « Asylum seekers and their families are already struggling to survive. in the current wait times to get work authorization. But this rule will make survival impossible for many. « 


Spagat reported from San Diego.