- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2015

Technology workers who say they lost their jobs to immigrant workers lost their bid to halt President Obama’s latest guest-worker program after a court ruled Sunday evening that they couldn’t prove the new workers would specifically compete with them.

Federal District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s ruling means Mr. Obama’s controversial program can go into effect Tuesday as planned.

Under the program, legal guest-workers’ spouses, who now are generally barred from working, will be allowed to apply for work permits, giving them the chance to win jobs.

Judge Chutkan wrote in the 12-page ruling that the damage to the technology workers, organized as Save Jobs USA, was “highly speculative.”

“Save Jobs does not explain how many IT jobs may be taken by H-4 visa holders, how many of those jobs its members may have sought themselves, what pay or benefits its members risk losing while the case is pending, or what other harm its members may face,” the judge wrote. “The court is left to speculate as to the magnitude of the injury, and speculation is not enough to turn economic loss into irreparable harm.”

The H-4 visa is given to dependents of H-1B visa holders, who are sought-after high-skilled workers.

Immigrant rights advocates have long sought the change, arguing that it’s unfair to restrict legal workers’ spouses from also getting jobs.

The Obama administration said allowing the spouses to work will help entice the best H-1B applicants from around the world.

Officials expect about 179,000 people to be eligible the first year, and 55,000 a year after that.

The issue of immigrants and work has become more controversial in recent months with reports that American tech firms are increasingly turning to H-1B workers as a cheaper alternative.

Employees of one California tech company testified to Congress earlier this year that they were laid off but were asked first to train their replacements, H-1B visa holders.

Save Jobs USA argued that the administration was going beyond its legal powers, similar to the arguments over Mr. Obama’s expanded deportation amnesty, and said the Homeland Security Department was ignoring the labor market, which can’t handle the extra workers.

But Judge Chutkan never reached the legal issues, saying that it wasn’t clear whether the workers or the administration had the better of that argument — but that it wasn’t necessary to even decide that issue since the plaintiffs couldn’t show they would directly be competing with the H-4 visa holders.

A bipartisan group of senators had asked the administration to look into whether the H-1B program was being used to oust American workers, but the Department of Homeland Security last month declined to investigate.

Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said his agency takes such allegations seriously — but said there isn’t enough evidence for him to look into Southern California Edison, the firm accused of wrongdoing.

“At this point it would be premature for USCIS to speculate as to whether Southern California Edison’s participation in the H-1B program has violated laws,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote. “If facts come to our attention that indicate violations have occurred, USCIS will take appropriate action to maintain the integrity of our programs.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, were not pleased with the brushoff.

“We did not ask for speculation; we asked for an investigation,” they said in a joint statement.

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