The Trump administration, which recently ordered a temporary closing of borders and curtailment of immigration in response to the pandemic, is now moving to expand those restrictions, with Trump advisers pushing to have those limits left in place for months or even years, several people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The news organization reported Friday that senior administration officials are operating on the assumption that the public, concerned about the coronavirus, will be willing to accept new limits, creating an opportunity to advance long-held administration goals for overhauling the immigration system in the name of the national health and job protections.
The Journal said immigration advisers are drawing up plans for an executive order banning issuance of some new temporary, work-based visas. The order is expected to focus on H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, and H-2B ones, for seasonal migrant workers.
Also thought to be included in the proposed order: student visas and the work authorization that accompanies them.
Further, the paper reported, among the ideas being discussed is offering various incentives to hire Americans in industries hardest-hit by pandemic-inspired layoffs.
President Donald Trump has been taking steps to tighten borders and control the inflow of migrants for months now. In January, with an epidemic surging in China, for instance, he announced travel restrictions on China. Two months later the government closed Mexican and Canadian borders to nonessential travel. And last month, Trump signed an executive barring new immigrants for 60 days, including family members of U.S. citizens.
The moves, until now, have been pitched as temporary. But, The Journal reported, administration officials have been arguing that they might need to be in place until the emergence and deployment of a viable vaccine, which is still months off, if not further into the future.
Meanwhile, top GOP lawmakers have been encouraging Trump to expand his suspension on immigration to also cover temporary guest workers, to keep foreigners from taking jobs from Americans at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has sent the unemployment rate to a record high.
As Newsmax reported on Thursday, Sens. Ted Cruz, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have all signed a letter insisting the president suspect H-1B visas, which are popular with many tech companies, and H-2B visas, which bring in many landscapers and resort business workers.
They also prodded the president to temporarily halt the Optional Practical Training program, which enables foreign students to work up to three years in the United States.
The senators argue thousands of foreigners use those programs annually, and nearly all of them are grabbing jobs Americans could occupy.
“For many high school graduates and college students, they will spend the next few weeks at home making tough decisions about delaying or foregoing college this fall due to their limited family resources. There is no reason why these young people, especially, should not have access to seasonal, nonagricultural work such as summer resort employment or landscaping before those positions are given to imported foreign labor under the H-2B program,” the senators wrote.
The GOP lawmakers also asked Trump to suspend the EB-5 “golden visa,” a pathway for wealthy foreigners willing to pay $900,000 to enter the United States.
Newsmax's Tauren Dyson contributed to this report.
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