The H-1B visa program that allows U.S. companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers had been under threat from the Trump Administration since last fall. Thankfully, that is not the case anymore. The visa program, which brings an estimated 85,000 foreign workers to the U.S each year, received a reprieve in early December thanks to a legal decision from a federal judge in Oakland.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Dec. 1 overturned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rules that would have reduced by one-third the number of H-1B visas issued annually and made it more costly for U.S. employers, forcing them to pay exorbitant wages to foreign workers.
No opportunity for public comment
The Trump Administration declared that the rules were necessary in order to protect U.S. workers threatened with job loss related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump Administration introduced the order in October of last year and declared it would take effect in early December. Leadership claimed that the rules needed quick adoption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge White cried foul, noting that the Trump Administration wanted to adopt the rules six months after the pandemic hit the U.S. Such a swift declaration would make it impossible for the public to comment on the proposed rule.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of colleges, including the California Institute of Technology and the University of Utah. The latter school noted that an H-1B employee up for renewal would receive an $80,000 salary. Under the Trump Administration’s new rule, that same employee had to be paid $208,000.
Many of these foreign employees work within the IT, medical, finance, science, engineering and education industries. A number of companies, including start-ups as well as rural medical facilities, have become dependent on highly skilled foreign workers who bring a wealth of knowledge and talent.
While the Trump Administration insisted the new rules would protect U.S. companies, critics said they would have had the opposite effect.