Tweets of travel bans reverberate through deserted terminals. Consequences of visa cancellations echo in desolate embassies. Murmurs of work permit suspensions linger in empty dorms. For the more than 1 million foreign students in the United States, this threatened suspension would be devastating. I know this because I used to be one. Being an immigration attorney also makes me acutely aware of the turmoil this would cause.
Every year, foreign students flock to America in droves. They come for the world-class education, the ground-breaking research and the multicultural environment. The post-graduation work permit is a further draw. It is this work permit — known as Optional Practical Training — that now appears to be on the Trump administration’s chopping block to reduce immigration.
In a recent letter to the president, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Chuck Grassley and Josh Hawley called for the suspension of OPT, claiming there is “no reason” to allow these foreign graduates to apply for work permits. Ethical considerations aside, there is a plethora of economic evidence to support retaining the OPT program for current and future international students.
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President Trump on Monday extended a freeze on green cards for new immigrants and signed an executive order to suspend new H-1B, L-1, J and other temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year.
The goal of the move is to protect 525,000 jobs as part of the White House response to job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said a senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. NPR first reported the impending order on Saturday.
“Americans have been hurt through no fault of their own due to the coronavirus,” the official said. “And the president is prioritizing getting them back into the labor supply and getting them to work and standing on their own two feet again.”
Maya Nasr was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at 16 to study aerospace engineering. Currently a doctoral student there, she has been working on NASA’s next Mars rover, slated for launch this summer.
“By the time I finish my Ph.D., I will have spent 10 years in the U.S. researching what I am passionate about — getting people to Mars and human space exploration,” said Ms. Nasr, 23, who is Lebanese. “I would really like to stay here and work in this field.”
But recently she has been wracked with worry that the economic downturn that has left millions of Americans unemployed could threaten the visa program that would allow her to work as a foreigner in the United States once she graduates. “If I had to, I would consider Canada, the U.K. or Europe, but the U.S. is the place,” she said. (more…)
The Wall Street Journal – Trump Administration Considers Suspending H-1B, Other Visas Through the Fall
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is weighing a proposal to suspend a slate of employment-based immigration visas, including the coveted H-1B high-skilled visa, according to administration officials familiar with the talks, among several possible measures amid the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The proposed suspension could extend into the government’s new fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, when many new visas are typically issued, these officials said. That could bar any new H-1B holder outside the country from coming to work until the suspension is lifted, though visa holders already in the country are unlikely to be affected.
The suspension proposal is one of a series of legal immigration limits that President Trump is considering as part of an executive action he is set to unveil in the coming weeks. The administration has argued that the pandemic requires limits on immigration to prevent sick people from entering the country and to ensure that Americans get jobs first as the economy rebounds. (more…)
After suspending approval of green card requests to immigrants abroad seeking U.S. residency, the Trump administration has also halted processing requests from green card applicants already living in the country.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told employees this week that a “general hold” on permanent residency applications filed from immigrants within the United States would remain in place. But it updated a list of exemptions to the hold in a Wednesday email and other internal communication seen by CQ Roll Call. It was not clear when the hold was originally implemented. (more…)