Trump urged to suspend H-1B, other foreign programmes

US President Trump urged to suspend H-1B and other foreign workers programmes

US President Donald Trump

A US lawmaker has urged President Donald Trump to suspend the foreign workers programmes, including H-1B, as more than 26 million Americans have lost their job because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Trump, Congressman Paul Gosar sought additional suspension of the H-1B, H4, L1, B1, B2, Optional Practical Training Program, and further guest worker admissions in order to promote wages and opportunities for American workers during this period of rising unemployment.

Read: Spoke 'sarcastically' about injecting disinfectants: US President Donald Trump

The letter, dated April 23, was released to the media on Friday, a day after Trump issued an executive order that suspended issuing of new Green Cards for the next 90 days.

"At a time when more than 26 million Americans are out of work due to COVID-19, the very last thing we should be doing is authorising is additional foreign labor," Gosar said.

Trump's proclamation is a solid step to ensure we put American workers first, but the Secretaries of State, Homeland Security and Labour must recommend the suspension of additional guest worker visas and programmes that undercut the American workforce, he said, adding, "There has never been a better time to truly put America first."

On April 22, Trump issued the "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the US Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak."

"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen," he told journalists at the White House.

For latest updates and live news on coronavirus, click here

Section 6 of the proclamation requires the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security, and State to recommend additional measures to “ensure the prioritisation, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

“I write to encourage consideration of “additional measures” by the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of State, as described in Section 6 of the proclamation, within 30 days of the effective date to “ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.,” he said.

In another letter, Congressman Josh Harder urged Congressional Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis to take action to protect medical professionals who hold H-1B visas, especially as these workers are essential to confront and combat the current epidemic.

Harder is working on a bill to extend the 60-day grace period for an H-1B healthcare worker who loses his or her job to last for the duration of the Coronavirus crisis, so that even if their health center is struggling, they aren't forced to abandon the community they serve in the middle of a crisis.

“I urge you to include my bill, which would solve this problem, in the next coronavirus relief package,” Harder wrote.

More than 90 per cent of the US population is presently under a stay-at-home order.

Requiring people -- particularly healthcare workers -- to move, and in many cases use public transportation, during this time is irresponsible.

It could put them and the wide range of other essential workers with whom they would have to interact with at an unnecessary risk, he argued.

Immigrant doctors who are laid off because of budget shortfalls are required to find a new source of employment within two months or must leave the country.

Many Community Health Centers have already been forced to lay off personnel, meaning doctors on specialty visas could be forced to leave the country.

"With patient visits down, California health centers are losing about USD90 million a week. If trends continue, up to 77 health centers statewide may not be able to make payroll," said Golden Valley Health Centers Manager, Government Affairs, Yamilet Valladolid.

"These shortfalls could have an impact on H-1B visa holders who currently practice medicine at these facilities. We're already short on providers -- we need to keep these folks here," he said.

Doctors who are forced to return to their country of origin can return to the United States only after starting the visa application process from the beginning.

The H-1B Visa programme, designed to allow immigrants with specialty skills to work in the United States, has also stopped expedited processing, likely meaning the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will have a backlog once the country begins to return to normal, Harder said.