immigration, foreign worker visas
© AP/ Charles Krupa
Corporate immigration lawyers are asking a federal judge to take control of the immigration system from President Donald Trump and then suspend routine visa deadlines for at least two million foreign workers until after the coronavirus epidemic has passed.

The judge should "assume jurisdiction over this matter" and order the Department of Homeland Security to extend the visas for the foreign workers, says the April 3 lawsuit by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The stakes are very high. Under federal rules, whenever U.S. and Indian companies fire visa workers — such as H-1Bs — in the coronavirus crash, the visa workers must go home. If enforced, this rule will free many blue-collar and white-collar jobs for Americans made unemployed by China's Wuhan virus.

Indian companies are lobbying federal agencies to keep their fired workers in the United States, and the Indian press is printing increasingly dramatic headlines. For example, a subheadline in MoneyControl.com declared that "Close to 20-30 percent of Indian H-1B and H4 visa holders in the U.S. may be forced to return home in the next 5-7 months."

The MoneyControl.com article quoted one of India's roughly one million legal contract workers in the United States:
"I wake up sweating thinking when we will have to leave the country," said Priya, fearing that her company, like many others in the USA, may get rid of H-1B workers.

"There are many who are working without pay. It will not be too long before layoff begins," she said. She has a year-old daughter and her husband holds H-1B visa as well.
"I'm shocked that we're not seeing reporting" about the crash's impact on foreign visa workers, said John Miano, a lawyer with the Immigration Reform Law Institute. "If we have a third of people not working, that should include a third of the H-1B workers," he said, adding, "there's good chance [they will have to go home] - unless someone steps in."

The federal government also keeps roughly 1.3 million foreign white-collar workers in the United States, plus more than one million work permit workers in the United States.

Most of the visa workers are white-collar graduates enrolled in the H-1B, L-1, TN, OPT, and CPT programs.

There is also a growing population of white-collar illegal aliens in the United States. This population includes people who overstay their education or work visas and people who work illegally after using a B-1 visitor visa to get into the United States.

Most of the work permits are held by blue-collar migrants. They include green card applicants, asylum applicants, and the illegal aliens who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty.

The lawyers' request comes after a group of GOP Senators quietly blocked a Democratic effort to restart work permits for the million-plus visa workers and the work permit workers who hold jobs in the United States. The giveaway was inserted into the Democrat' coronavirus rescue bill, but it was stopped when the GOP Senators warned their colleagues "to not open the immigration can of worms in the coronavirus bill," said one Hill source.

The GOP Senators who opposed the visa giveaway include Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Tom Cotton R-AR), and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). Their group was backed up by a larger group of GOP Senators who are "still concerned about any use of the coronavirus [bill] to pass an immigration bill," the source said.


The lawsuit was filed on April 3 by the AILA, which includes lawyers who work for companies that import foreign workers. The lawsuit says that the "global pandemic has caused a great need for a pause in the workplace, at home, in schools — everywhere. It remains irrational for USCIS to misunderstand the human and professional needs of Plaintiff's members."

Those "needs" include the ability to renew work permits and visa extensions, for foreign workers the lawsuit says:
For example, under 8 C.F.R. § 214.1(c)(1), a petitioner seeking the services of an E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, Q-1, R-1, or TN nonimmigrant beyond the period previously granted, must apply for an extension of stay on the form designated by USCIS, with the fee prescribed in 8 C.F.R. § 103.7(b)(1), with the initial evidence specified in § 214.2, and in accordance with the form instructions, which sets out that the extension or change of status must be filed before the foreign national's authorized stay expires.
The judge should take control, said the lawsuit, adding:
Declare that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an extraordinary circumstance beyond the control of Plaintiff's members representing applicants or petitioners for immigration benefits; C. Order USCIS to toll any and all deadlines for initial applications, responses to any and all Requests for Evidence or other responses due on or after March 1, 2020, requests for extension of status, maintenance of status, and reprieve from any expiration of status or employment authorization; D. Order USCIS to "maintain the status quo" for purposes of eligibility for protection from removal, work authorization, and immigration benefits from the date the President declared that a national emergency began on March 1, 2020, until 90 days after the emergency officially ends.
"The federal lawsuit is just a joke," responded Miano. "It is asking the courts to step and act like an [White House] administration — they're asking for judicial activism to the max."

American professionals have organized to lobby against the H-1B program via the American Workers Coalition, U.S. TechWorkers, ProUSworkers, and White Collar Workers of America.

The new TechsUnite.US site was created to help U.S. graduates anonymously collaborate while shielded by encryption.

In turn, these groups are backed up by a few sites that track the scale and location of the outsourcing industry in each legislator's district. The sites include SAITJ.org and H1BFacts.com. "The scope of this thing is really unbelievable," said one researcher.

Other sites document the conflicts created by diverse foreign business practices in the United States. The non-political MyVisaJobs.com site also provides much information about H-1B outsourcing and green card rewards in multiple industries.

In the 2016 election, Trump tried to win votes from college graduates who have been struck by the H-1B program. In March 2016, after much zig-zagging, Trump declared:
The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.