President Biden is expected to allow a guest worker visa pause – first signed by former President Donald Trump last year – to expire on Wednesday, a move welcomed by big businesses who opposed the ban but opposed by immigration hawks who warn it will hurt American workers.
Proclamation 10052, signed by Trump in June 2020, suspended guest worker programs – including new H-1B tech worker visas, H-2B seasonal worker visas, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas, and L executive transfer visas. It contained exemptions for military and health care workers, as well as cases deemed in the national interest.
Signed in the early months of the pandemic, it was not done for public health reasons but to protect the job market – with the administration estimating it would affect around 600,000 jobs.
“In order to ensure that we are hiring Americans first, we are putting a pause on certain non-immigrant visas into the United States,” a senior Trump administration official told Fox News at the time, “again for the purpose of ensuring that Americans can get jobs here in the U.S.”
Trump extended the proclamation in December, as well as a similar April proclamation, 10014, which had barred green card applications from foreign nationals abroad. Biden revoked 10014 in February but left 10052 intact.
Without any action from the White House, the order will expire by itself Wednesday.
The guest worker suspension is likely to be welcomed by business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and tech companies like Twitter and Google that criticized the suspension when it was signed.
Earlier this month, a group of Democratic senators urged Biden to revoke the order.
“The continuation of this ban creates delays and uncertainties for U.S. employers, their foreign-born professional workers, and their families,” the lawmakers, including Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote. “It’s also inconsistent with the previous messages and positions on this administration. Rather than attracting talented individuals to the United States, allowing these bans to remain in effect makes the immigration system harder to navigate and drives foreign talent to other countries.”
But immigration hawks are pointing to continued economic woes and the crisis at the southern border as evidence now is a bad time to let in more foreign workers from abroad.
“As the Biden administration continues to fuel an illegal immigration crisis with radical open border policies, today they’ll likely pivot to legal immigration and restore unfettered access to guest workers in the midst of an economic crisis,” RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which lobbied for the proclamation, told Fox News.
“Would it really hurt to send at least one signal to hardworking Americans, reminding them that they’re also stakeholders in immigration policy – not just illegal aliens and businesses reliant on cheap foreign labor?” he said.
It comes as Biden is facing increased opposition to moves related to immigration in general considering the crisis at the border. Republicans have indicated that they will oppose efforts for a comprehensive immigration reform bill until the crisis is resolved.