Judge blocks White House ban on skilled worker visas

A US federal judge on Thursday ordered a halt to the enforcement of a White House order that would block visas for skilled workers, such as engineers sought after by technology firms.

Amazon, Apple and Facebook are among tech industry titans and organizations that signed on to a court filing saying US President Donald Trump’s move blocking visas for skilled workers hurts the country.

US District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction, ordering an immediate hold on a series of visa restrictions including H-1B visas relied on by tech giants for hard-to-get talent.

“We are grateful the court recognized the real and immediate harm these restrictions have meant for manufacturers right now and stopped this misguided policy until the court can fully consider the matter,” said National Association of Manufacturers general counsel Linda Kelly.

The association was among groups that filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban.

The judge concluded that Trump exceeded his authority in an executive order halting issuance of non-immigrant work visas, according to TechNet, another of the groups behind the lawsuit.

“Any policy or order that hinders American companies’ ability to find high-skilled workers only harms our economic recovery at this critical time,” said TechNet chief executive Linda Moore.

“As we continue working to strengthen our domestic STEM (science and engineering) talent pipeline and empower the workforce of tomorrow, we must ensure that visa programs remain in place to fill critical high-skilled labor shortages.”

Silicon Valley tech giants filed a brief supporting the suit by the US Chamber of Commerce and trade groups against a proclamation issued by Trump in June halting visas for various categories of guest workers including highly skilled talent sought by tech firms.

“The president’s suspension of nonimmigrant visa programs, supposedly to ‘protect’ American workers, actually harms those workers, their employers, and the economy,” the brief backed by more than 50 tech firms and organizations argued.

“Beyond the overwhelming data undermining the proclamation’s purported rationale, the administration’s actions send a fundamentally un-American message to those abroad who might otherwise have brought their skills and ingenuity to the United States.”

Trump’s proclamation suspended a group of non-immigrant visa programs, including H-1B visas relied on by many technology firms to bring in engineers.

The suspension was to last through this year and as long after “as necessary” under the justification of making jobs available to citizens amid economic disruption caused by the pandemic, according to the filing.

Evidence, however, overwhelmingly indicates that suspension of the visa programs will “stifle innovation, hinder growth, and ultimately harm US workers, businesses, and the economy more broadly in irreparable ways,” the filing argued.

Others joining the petition included Microsoft, Twitter, Uber and several trade groups for the tech sector including the Information Technology Industry Council.

Vague and unpredictable Trump administration immigration policies threaten the US economy amid a tightening labor market, CEOs from major American companies have warned. (AFP)

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