President Donald Trump waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House after returning on Marine One, early Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Trump returned from Arizona. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Thousands of Canadians could be affected by Trump’s decision to extend visa ban

In 2019, more than 4,600 people born in Canada were approved as beneficiaries under the H-1B

Thousands of Canadians working for technology companies or multinational corporations in the United States could be affected by a new ban that freezes the issuance of temporary work visas until the end of the year.

The Trump administration on Monday extended a ban on green cards issued outside the U.S. and added many temporary work visas to the freeze.

The ban on new visas, which takes effect Wednesday, applies to four categories including H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1.

In 2019, more than 4,600 people born in Canada were approved as beneficiaries under the H-1B alone, which is widely used by American and Indian technology companies, according to a report compiled by the citizenship and immigration division of the Department of Homeland Security.

Documents provided by the U.S. State Department also showed more than 400 Canadians with impacted visas last year, including 101 for the H-1B and 156 for the J-1. The State numbers also show 161 Canadians with L-1 visas, issued to managers and other multinational employees, and five H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers.

The Trump administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an American economy reeling from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity predicted it will open up to 525,000 jobs for Americans, a claim that was immediately challenged by critics.

The ban, while temporary, represents a cut to legal immigration on a scale that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. Long-term changes that would prevent many asylum seekers from getting work permits and would allocate high-tech worker visas differently are also being sought.

Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.

There will be exemptions for food processing workers, which make up about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said. Health care workers assisting with the coronavirus fight will continue to be spared from the green-card freeze, though their exemption will be narrower.

“In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must remain mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labour market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labour,” Trump wrote in his presidential proclamation.

Trump imposed a 60-day ban on green cards issued abroad in April, which was set to expire Monday. That announcement, which largely targeted family members, drew a surprisingly chilly reception from immigration hardliners, who said the president didn’t go far enough.

The new steps to include non-immigrant visas went a long toward appeasing hardliners.

“This is a bold move by the Trump administration to protect American jobs,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictions. “Not all the items on our checklist of needed actions are included in today’s announcement, but the corporate lobbyists who were desperately fighting for exceptions to protect their clients’ access to cheap foreign labour have largely been rebuffed.”

READ MORE: Did TikTok teens, K-Pop fans punk Trump’s comeback rally?

Thomas J. Donohue, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive officer, said the measures will harm, not help, the American economy.

“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” he said. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.”

BSA, a group that represents major software companies, urged the administration to reconsider, particularly changes to the H-1B program, saying they will hinder economic recovery by making it harder to fill critical positions.

“Filling these roles that are more abundant than the number of U.S. employees qualified to fill them means these jobs can be kept in the U.S.,” the group said. “This allows companies based in the U.S. to remain globally competitive, which in turn boosts the U.S. economy, creating jobs for millions of Americans.”

The freezes on visas issued abroad are designed to take effect immediately. Other changes, including restrictions on work permits for asylum seekers, will go through a formal rule-making process that takes months.

The administration is proposing a new way of awarding H-1B visas, the official said, awarding them by highest salary instead of by lottery.

H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 a year for people with “highly specialized knowledge” and minimum of a bachelor’s degree, often in science, technology, engineering, teaching and accounting. Critics say high-tech companies have used the visas as a tool to outsource jobs to foreigners, replacing Americans.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. was the largest H-1B employer in the 2018 fiscal year, followed by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corp. Other major employers include Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google and Facebook Inc.

The rule against asylum seekers, scheduled to take effect Aug. 25, would make it much more difficult for them to get work permits by, among other things, lengthening the waiting time to apply from 150 days to a year and barring applicants who cross the border illegally.

READ MORE: Trump suggests U.S. slow virus testing to avoid bad statistics

The 328-page regulation — signed by Chad Mizelle, the Homeland Security Department’s acting general counsel, who is considered an ally of White House adviser Stephen Miller — says limiting work permits will remove a major incentive for people to come to the United States for asylum.

It is the latest in a long string of measures that make asylum more difficult to get — almost unattainable, according to some immigrant advocacy groups.

“The rule will prevent many refugees from feeding, supporting, and housing themselves and their families,” said Eleanor Acer, Human Rights First’s senior director for refugee protection. “Asylum seekers and their families already struggle to survive under existing work authorization wait times. But this rule will make survival impossible for many.”

Perhaps the only major consolation for business and academic institutions is the preservation — at least for now — of the Optional Practical Training program that allows college graduates to stay in the United States up to three years after completing study.

___

Spagat reported from San Diego.

Deb Riechmann and Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusDonald TrumpUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Greens, Liberals, NDP field Fraser-Nicola candidates ahead of October election

Incumbent Jackie Tegart has two opposing candidates after snap election called Monday

Work has started on 20 units of seniors’ housing in Clinton

Much-delayed project has been in the works for almost a decade

Cache Creek firefighters plan bigger, better Halloween fireworks

‘With so much uncertainty in the world it’s nice to know that one community event is staying intact’

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. marriage annulled because husband was unable to have sex with wife

Husband did not disclose any sexual health concerns to his wife prior to marriage

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted with Black Lives Matter slogan

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

B.C. VOTES 2020: B.C. Liberals vow to eliminate sales tax for a year

From 7% to zero, then back in at 3% to stimulate economy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

Most Read