- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2020

Immigration lawyers and some of the country’s largest business lobbies went to court Monday to challenge new Trump administration rules designed to force employers to pay Americans higher wages before they can offer jobs to foreign guest-workers under a key visa program.

The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Washington, D.C., and California, arguing that the Labor Department cut too many corners in developing the new policy, and further arguing that the American economy will suffer if the pipeline of H-1B visas is constricted.

“If these rules are allowed to stand, they will devastate companies across various industries,” said Thomas J. Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is leading one of the challenges.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is handling the other challenge on behalf of major universities and health care providers.

They complained that the Labor Department never put the rule out for notice and comment, and said it ignores the benefits H-1B workers bring to the economy.

“Frankly, the last thing we need during a pandemic and economic turmoil is a rule based on a false and incorrect understanding of the market and American workforce,” said Jesse Bless, AILA’s director of federal litigation. “This will impede our economic recovery, not enhance it.”

The H-1B is known as the specialty visa, and is most commonly associated with technology workers, though it’s been used for everything from journalists to professors to horse trainers to fashion models.

In recent years the H-1B has become tarnished by stories of American workers being fired from jobs as companies look to bring in cheaper foreign workers. In one case, hundreds of Disney tech employees were fired — but not before some were forced to train their H-1B replacements.

The Labor Department’s new rules will require companies to offer a higher pay rate to Americans before seeking an H-1B worker for the job. Those changes took effect last week.

Homeland Security also announced new rules to take effect in December aimed at cutting out middleman companies that file legions of H-1B visa applications, then farm out the workers to other companies.

The H-1B program is capped at 85,000 new visas per year, with 20,000 of those visas earmarked for foreigners who obtained post-graduate degrees from U.S. institutions.

Visas are generally good for three years, though they can be renewed, and as of last year there were more than 580,000 valid H-1B visas.

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