Business Groups Sue Over Presidential Proclamation Restricting Employment Visas

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington in 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CN) — A group of manufacturers and corporations Tuesday filed a suit against the U.S. Homeland Security and State Departments over a recent presidential proclamation that banned workers in several key nonimmigrant visa categories from entering the county.

On June 22, President Donald Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10052, an order that essentially barred additional nonimmigrant workers from entering the U.S. under commonly used visa programs, including the H1-B and H-2B programs.

The order — currently set to stay in effect until the end of the year with an option to renew as needed — was issued by the Trump administration with the justification that it would help to protect domestic workers from further work disruptions as the country continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. The order contends that in an economy gripped by the coronavirus, some employment authorized by certain nonimmigrant visa programs “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”

But a group of businesses and organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, launched a legal challenge against the proclamation Tuesday in a federal court in California with claims that the proclamation and its visa restrictions will do untold damage to the American economy at a particularly vulnerable time.

“These overreaching, unlawful restrictions don’t just limit visas — they will restrain our economic recovery at a time when the very future of our country hangs in the balance,” Linda Kelly, NAM senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “Manufacturers and program sponsors are going to court because these restrictions are far outside the bounds of the law and would deal a severe blow to our industry. We cannot let this stand.”

The lawsuit argues the proclamation could lead to a severe worker shortage, saying it prohibits companies to move workers who may have developed skills outside of the U.S. into domestic work roles and that such a limitation will curtail the development of new projects or the expansion of business opportunities.

The complaint states that this could lead to some work positions going completely unfilled, potentially putting entire projects on ice that would have otherwise created jobs or advanced the nation’s economic health.

The complaint goes so far as to say that the proclamation, despite being billed as a tool to help protect domestic workers, has actually resulted in some domestic workers losing their jobs. Many companies have actually had to furlough or lay off many domestic employees because some business operations that strongly rely on temporary workers have been put on hold, the plaintiffs claim. 

This consequence of the proclamation could be so severe, according to the lawsuit, that some companies may even be forced out of business. 

The plaintiffs suggest that the proclamation will have far-reaching consequences regarding the United States’ role on the world stage, pointing out that the country has long held a significant role in acting as an economic leader around the globe, and that part of that leadership role has come from an interest in attracting some of the best talent from other nations.

The suit says that once the U.S. closes its doors to nonimmigrant workers, that talent has nowhere to go but somewhere else.

“Our industry should be laser-focused on leading our recovery and renewal, but these visa restrictions will hand other countries a competitive advantage because they will drive talented individuals away from the United States,” Kelly said. “These restrictions could harm every corner of our economy, as evidenced by the broad coalition that has come together to oppose them.”

The complaint further alleges that, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress is the governmental body charged with managing and issuing visas — not the president.

“The Proclamation suspends the entry of noncitizens in response to a purely domestic economic policy problem, but Congress has already struck the policy balance in the area at issue,” the complaint states. “The INA does not authorize the President to enter such an order.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the entire proclamation was an overreach of the executive branch and that the entire proclamation — including any actions taken to help enforce it — should be tossed.

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