US Chamber of Commerce, other industry groups sue Trump administration over foreign worker limits

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was joined by three industry groups and a technology company in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and State Department regarding the actions of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to curb foreign workers from entering the country, primarily via the H-1B visa program.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, 21 July, in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California, comes a month after Trump announced he was temporarily suspending several work visa programs as high unemployment rates due to the coronavirus pandemic left millions of Americans out of work.

Trump’s order, though, did provide an exception for seafood processors who use H-2B visas to fill seasonal positions. Foodservice workers are considered essential workers under the order.

If the plaintiffs are successful, though, fishing companies could find themselves back competing for visas. The plaintiffs want a judge to rule that last month’s order exceeded the president’s authority and allow other non-agricultural businesses, including resorts and landscaping firms, to hire H-2B visa workers.

For the 2020 fiscal year, which ends in October, there are 66,000 H-2B visas, with 33,000 of those having been available since April. Efforts to increase the number of visas for this year have not been successful.

Besides the U.S. Chamber, other plaintiffs are the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, the Technology Network, and Intrax. The latter is a company that manages cultural-exchange programs.

The plaintiffs claim that the order “is not plausibly or rationally related to its stated purpose” of handling the unemployment spike caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The proclamation fails this requirement because, among other reasons, it does not take account of several crucial aspects of the issues at hand, it does not address important reliance interests, it does not consider evidence that bears on the judgments made, and it does not reflect a rational fit between the problem identified and the action taken,” the complaint states.

In addition, the groups claim that by prohibiting companies from hiring foreign workers, the government is risking more American jobs and threatening to make more U.S. residents unemployed.

In addition to not allowing more workers in, the order also keeps visa holders from bringing dependents with them who would help increase demand for other products, thereby indirectly creating more jobs for others.

The National Fisheries Institute, the largest U.S. seafood trade group, told SeafoodSource it had no comment on the suit.

Photo courtesy of Polina LVT/Shutterstock


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