- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2020

Key GOP allies implored President Trump on Thursday to expand his immigration pause to include temporary guest-workers, saying those foreigners who come for only a short period of time are the “critical” threat to out-of-work Americans looking for jobs.

Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley signed a letter urging suspension of the H-1B visa, which is heavily used by tech companies, and the H-2B visa, which is used by landscaping and resort businesses. They also urged Mr. Trump to suspend the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign students to extend their stay in the U.S. to work for up to three years.

Hundreds of thousands of people use those programs each year — and almost all of them are taking jobs Americans could fill, the senators said.

“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 said.

They said a year-long pause on H-1B and H-2B visas would give struggling Americans a better shot at restarting their work lives.

They also asked Mr. Trump to reverse himself and suspend the EB-5 “golden visa,” which allows wealthy investors to buy a ticket into the U.S. for a minimum investment of $900,000.

The Seasonal Employment Alliance, which advocates for H-2B workers, fired back at the senators, saying they have already taken steps to try to connect Americans with jobs by creating a job bank with more than 825 openings for seasonal work, at an average wage of $15 an hour.

SEA Executive Director Gray Delany said that shouldn’t, however, take away from the ongoing need for foreign workers. He said some landscaping businesses that rely on foreigners have had to cancel contracts and lay off year-round American staff.

“What do you have to say to these forgotten Americans?” Mr. Delany said in a statement.

He also said the extra unemployment benefit Democrats demanded to include in the stimulus law is so generous that it’s luring people out of the workforce and onto the unemployment rolls, further hindering companies’ ability to staff up.

Mr. Trump last month announced a 60-day pause on many immigrant visas — those that involve permanent status and put folks on a path to citizenship. But he did not pause non-immigrant visas, which are used by guest-workers.

He said he would re-evaluate and could announce more restrictions later, and might extend his pause beyond the initial 60-day period.

Analysts say the current version of the pause is likely to have only a small effect, with about 25,000 people prohibited from entering each month.

Mr. Trump’s supporters say he misfired, and the bigger danger to American workers is temporary visas like the H-1B program.

Mr. Trump’s move to exempt the EB-5 visa from his 60-day pause was particularly striking. It is an immigrant visa.

The president’s critics, though, pointed out that companies associated with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, make frequent use of EB-5 visas. Mr. Kushner is perhaps Mr. Trump’s most intimate adviser.

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