Politics & Policy

Group of Senate Republicans Urges Trump to Suspend ‘All Guest Worker Visas’ Until Unemployment Returns to ‘Normal Levels’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shakes hands with Senator Ted Cruz as Senator Chuck Grassley looks on, in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

A group of GOP Senators is asking President Trump to ramp up his recent “pause” on immigration to include a prohibition on guest-worker visas, citing rising levels of American unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), joined by Senators Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) are requesting that the White House halt new guest-worker visas and all non-immigrant guest-worker visas, as well as a suspension of new non-immigrant guest-worker visas for 60 days or until American jobless numbers fall to “normal levels.”

“As we work toward recovery, we urge you to keep the American worker in mind and limit the number of unnecessary guest workers while American families and businesses get back on their feet,” the senators write in the letter.

While Trump announced a 60-day moratorium on immigration last month, the rule did not affect guest-worker programs, including EB-5 visas — which give immigrants green cards after a set amount of investment — H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, H-1B visas for specialty occupation workers, and the country’s Optional Practical Training (OTP) program, which allows foreign students to work in the U.S. for 1-3 years after graduation.

The senators explain that EB-5 program “has long been plagued by scandal” and amounts to a “pay-for citizenship scheme in many cases.” They also argue that suspensions to OTP, H-1B, and H-2B will help those citizens who recently graduated high school or college and have entered a tough job market.

“Given the extreme lack of available jobs for American job-seekers as portions of our economy begin to reopen, it defies common sense to admit additional foreign guest workers to compete for such limited employment,” they explain.

Last week, the Department of Labor reported 3.8 million new jobless claims, bringing the total number of American seeing unemployment benefits to 30 million, or 18 percent of the total work force.

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