Federal Judge Jeffrey S. White has now partially blocked a controversial Trump administration suspension of certain work visas. The president had characterized the visa suspensions as important to protecting the struggling U.S. job market from an influx of foreign workers, but it’s unclear what effect that these workers would actually have been having if allowed to continue their work freely, and the Trump administration has rarely, if ever, missed an opportunity to antagonize immigrants.
The original suspensions affected H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas, and some J-1 visas. The new ruling temporarily turning back the visa suspensions only applies to workers for companies represented by parties in the lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and TechNet.
The ruling was issued on Thursday, and gives companies good news for Friday and beyond. Judge White wrote, in part:
‘Congress’ delegation of authority in the immigration context… does not afford the President unbridled authority to set domestic policy regarding employment of nonimmigrant foreigners.’
It’s not the first occasion on which the president has sought to essentially unilaterally use his executive authority for political gain — he has, for instance, used emergency powers as an excuse to redirect huge quantities of money towards southern border barrier construction.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers characterized the original visa suspensions as “a series of damaging visa restrictions that prevent manufacturers from filling crucial, hard-to-fill jobs to support economic recovery, growth and innovation when we most need it.” Economic recovery from the chaos of the Coronavirus pandemic has proceeded in fits and starts — in September, the unemployment rate hit 7.9 percent from a point the previous month of 8.4 percent, meaning there was a mere half percentage point of decline. At this rate, restoring pre-pandemic economic stability will take more months, with months of economic travails already past.
NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly praised the temporary victory for the companies in the newly updated court case who are trying to protect their workforce. She commented:
‘Manufacturers went to court to challenge the administration’s ban on certain visas because the restrictions both undermined our industry at a critical time and conflicted with the law. We are grateful the court recognized the real and immediate harm these restrictions have meant for manufacturers right now and stopped this misguided policy until the court can fully consider the matter.’
The ruling from Judge White delivered a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs, which had originally been requested in July.