Law360 (November 10, 2020, 4:10 PM EST) -- More than 240 visa applicants brought a proposed class action over federal visa restrictions Monday, alleging that President Donald Trump doesn't have the authority to restrict immigration because of high unemployment caused by COVID-19.
The foreign nationals along with their American sponsors sued Trump and the U.S. Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security, telling a California federal court that Congress didn't intend for immigration to be allowed only during times of economic prosperity and high employment.
Congress recognized that immigrants bring innovation and economic opportunity to the U.S. and chose not to put economic restraints on immigration, according to the suit, seeking to block the ban and class certification.
"The president, through executive proclamations, has sought to nullify Congress' carefully calibrated statutory scheme by categorically banning large swaths of immigrant visas on a purported and unsupported concern for the domestic labor market," the visa seekers said.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has issued a number of proclamations restricting immigration in the name of protecting U.S. workers who lost their jobs as a result of disruption caused by the novel coronavirus.
In April, Trump barred foreign workers from coming to the U.S. on employment-based green cards for 60 days. Since then, Trump has issued more executive orders to bar foreign citizens from coming to the U.S. on a number of work visas, including H-1B specialty occupation visas, through the end of 2020.
Foreign nationals exempted from the visa restrictions include lawful permanent residents, health care professionals needed to battle the coronavirus and individuals seeking EB-5 immigrant investor visas, according to the proclamations.
The foreign nationals in the newly filed suit are seeking to come to the U.S. on employment-based visas set aside for highly skilled workers and individuals who have an extraordinary ability, as well as family-sponsored and diversity visas.
Several lawsuits have been filed challenging the Trump administration's work visa ban, achieving mixed results. A D.C. federal court temporarily blocked the administration from applying its ban to diversity visa winners, but the court refused to shield Indian citizens seeking to come to the U.S. on H-1B specialty occupation visas from the ban.
In October, a California federal court tentatively stopped the government from enforcing the ban against business associations that challenged the visa proclamation.
Even though President-elect Joe Biden could end current immigration policies in 2021, the green card seekers' attorney Charles Kuck of Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC said in a statement Monday that his clients need relief now.
"The plaintiffs cannot wait two more months to enter the United States on their diversity visas, reunite with their loved ones on family visas, and start their employment with employers who have already shown that there are no qualified workers for their jobs on their employment visas," Kuck said.
Representatives for the government did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The green card seekers are represented by Charles H. Kuck of Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC, Jesse Lloyd of Bean & Lloyd LLP, Jeff Joseph and Aaron Hall of Joseph & Hall PC and Greg Siskind of Siskind Susser PC.
Counsel information for the government was not immediately available Tuesday.
The case is Anunciato et al. v. Trump et al., case number 3:20-cv-07869, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
--Additional reporting by Suzanne Monyak. Editing by Stephen Berg.
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