An announcement temporarily halting a number of employment-based visas is expected to reduce the labor pool for some construction companies.
In arguing that the spread of COVID-19 required stricter immigration policies, President Trump signed an executive order that will prevent hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from entering the country until the end of this calendar year.
“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” Trump said in his order.
“But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment post an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” the document continued.
Employment specialists said the order will impact the number of available workers in everything from landscaping to seasonal resort work and high-tech consulting.
In place for more than 60 years, the employment-based visa program has particularly provided a labor force in construction and home maintenance through H-2B visas designed for short-term workers.
Previously limited to no more than 66,000 such visas a year, the Trump Administration last year upped the number to 96,000, its highest peak in more than a decade.
The executive order has sparked varied responses. Sarah Pierce, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, said the President’s decision will introduce “more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of U.S. companies.”
In an interview with the Reuters news service, Pierce added that the White House was in error in assuming that U.S. companies had yet to look at the domestic labor pool for workers.
She asserted that most companies would take that route, “before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in more foreign workers.”
But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, applauded the executive order as “welcome news for tens of millions of Americans who have lost jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”
In a statement, Stein continued: “Among the recently unemployed are workers of all skill levels who are ready, willing, and able to fill jobs as our economy recovers.”
By Garry Boulard
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