A federal judge in San Francisco has prevented the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on many of the largest U.S. companies hiring foreign workers under H-1B and other employment-related visas.
The ruling applies to employees of companies represented by plaintiffs in the lawsuit: the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and TechNet.
Together, the four organizations represent hundreds of thousands of companies, including major Silicon Valley technology employers, major names in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, and a few small businesses.
The regulation, which will apply until the end of the year, has a national scope but does not apply to employers who are not represented by one of the four plaintiffs.
“We compete with the rest of the world to find and develop the best talent to support innovation in our industry,”
John Baselice, executive director of immigration policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, said the decision not to implement these sweeping restrictions on legal immigration was a great victory for American businesses and our nation’s economy.
It is not clear how the judge’s order will be enforced, as U.S. consular and immigration officers would need to know which companies the plaintiffs are representing. The State Department did not respond to a question about how it was going to enforce the judge’s decision.
The temporary ban put in place by Mr Trump in June prevents foreigners with H-1B or other work visas from entering the US until the end of this year or longer if the President extends it. Mr Trump said he took the step to protect unemployed Americans who could take jobs that would not be occupied by foreigners.
At the time, tech industry officials and other business leaders warned the decision would limit companies’ ability to recruit top talent for the U.S. and exclude immigrants who fill unique skills or take jobs that most Americans won’t do. Colleges said it would discourage top overseas students from studying in the US
The H-1B visa is an employment-related visa for a highly skilled workforce. The government has argued that the coronavirus pandemic requires immigration restrictions to prevent sick people from entering the country and to ensure Americans get jobs first when the economy recovers.
Mr. Trump has likely exceeded his authority in issuing the ban, said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California, in his opinion.
“The delegation of powers of Congress in the immigration context … does not give the president unbridled authority to determine domestic policy regarding the employment of non-immigrant aliens,” wrote Judge White, a George W. Bush-appointed representative. “Such a finding would render the President’s powers under Article II virtually redundant.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Justice Department refused to comment.
In addition to the H-1B visas, the lawsuit was for H-2B visas for short-term seasonal workers in landscaping and other non-agricultural occupations. J-1 visas for short-term workers, including camp counselors and au pairs; and L-1 visas for in-house transfers.
The decision is especially important to potential H-1B visa holders who work in the affected businesses, as the government issues approximately 85,000 new ones on October 1, the start of each fiscal year. Mr Trump expressly extended the appointment last October to ensure these new visa holders will not be able to start new jobs in the U.S., his advisors said at the time.
The lawsuit did not seek to block an earlier ban Mr Trump announced in April that is preventing American family members and some work-related green card holders from entering the United States
The verdict breaks with a ruling by District of Columbia District Judge Amit Mehta, who ruled in a parallel case that he was not empowered to join the ban while a lawsuit is ongoing.
In his September 4 ruling, Judge Mehta, an Obama-appointed representative, wrote that he was not convinced that Mr Trump’s ban was unconstitutional. He pointed to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that Trump’s travel ban was legal for seven Muslim-majority nations because the president had the power to block foreigners if they were “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
“The wisdom of the president’s decision to address these changing circumstances by restricting entry to certain classes of foreigners is a political decision that the judiciary is not well equipped to evaluate,” wrote Judge Mehta.
Write to Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com
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