Business Sector Joins Fight Against Trump's Work Visa Ban

By Suzanne Monyak
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Law360 (July 21, 2020, 10:51 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and associations of manufacturers and technology giants urged a California federal court Tuesday to strike down the Trump administration's ban on work visas, joining a pile-on of litigation challenging the sweeping immigration restrictions.

The business associations' complaint argues that President Donald Trump's proclamation, which bars foreign workers from entering the U.S. on new temporary work visas through the end of the year, has inflicted "severe economic harm" on American businesses and "takes a sledgehammer" to the federal immigration statute.

The visa suspension was purportedly issued to protect U.S. workers laid off during the coronavirus pandemic, but the associations contend that the visa ban will actually hurt the U.S. economy by preventing global companies from transferring their foreign executives to expand U.S. offices and cutting off businesses' access to foreign talent.

"There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic crisis, testing our nation's resilience. But the policy established by the proclamation does not bear a rational relationship to this problem," the complaint says.

Some smaller businesses that depend on specialized foreign workers to maintain key operations have been forced to lay off American citizens as a result of the ban, the suit says. The associations also say their member companies are now "unable to fill necessary positions" in fields where there is a shortage of U.S. workers.

The suspension will also hurt the U.S.' standing globally and deter companies from investing in the U.S., which will carry "far-reaching repercussions in today's competitive market for talent," the associations say.

"Shutting the door to leading talent has direct economic consequences: Not only does it stifle American businesses, but it works to the advantage of foreign nations," the complaint says.

Linda Moore, CEO and president of TechNet, an association of CEOs of major technology companies including Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon that joined Tuesday's lawsuit, said in a statement that the litigation is "a necessary step toward maintaining our nation's ability to compete in the global economy."

"TechNet spoke out when the administration announced its visa restrictions, and today, we reiterate that banning categories of innovators only hinders tech's ability to serve our country by providing essential groceries and food delivery, collaborating with co-workers, having safe medical visits using telehealth solutions and helping millions stay connected," she said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

The other challengers behind Tuesday's lawsuit include the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and Intrax Inc., a company that operates cultural exchange programs through the J-1 visa program.

Tuesday's lawsuit is the latest challenge to the president's immigration proclamations. Trump's initial proclamation in April barred some foreigners from moving to the U.S. on new green cards, including relatives of U.S. permanent residents and parents of American citizens.

The White House then expanded that order in June and blocked companies from bringing on new hires from abroad on a number of work visas reserved for high-skilled workers, including the H-1B specialty occupation visa, the L visa for internal transfers, H-2B guest-worker visas and J-1 cultural exchange visas.

The White House has said that the entry of foreigners under these visa programs "presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak."

However, Trump's restrictions have drawn resistance from immigrant and business advocates, which say that the visa suspensions will hurt the U.S. economy and American businesses.

The proclamations have also caused families to be separated, preventing green card holders from bringing their spouses to the U.S. while also trapping some U.S. visa holders who got stuck abroad on temporary trips when the U.S. closed its borders in March in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

A group of nearly 200 Indian citizens — Indian workers account for more than half of H-1B visa holders — sued the administration in D.C. federal court earlier this month to block the H-1B visa suspension, and two other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of diversity visa applicants who won a coveted green card in the lottery, which allocates 55,000 visas annually to individuals from underrepresented nations.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association also lodged a legal challenge in D.C. federal court on Friday on behalf of visa hopefuls, their relatives and several businesses, targeting both the suspension of green cards and work visas.

The business associations are represented by Paul W. Hughes, Michael B. Kimberly and William G. Gaede III of McDermott Will & Emery.

Counsel information for the federal government was not yet available.

The case is National Association of Manufacturers et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al., case number 3:20-cv-04887, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

--Editing by Jack Karp.

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