Indian nationals challenge US President Trump’s H-1B suspension in federal court

President Donald Trump’s temporary suspension through a June 22 proclamation of non-immigrant work visas such as the H-1B, L-1, H-2A and J has been challenged by 174 Indian nationals, including seven minor children, in a federal court in Washington DC.

The lawsuit filed by Wasden Banias, a law firm, has asked the court to direct the state department to decide on the plaintiffs’ H-1B and H-4 (for H-1B dependents) applications and direct the department of homeland security to not refuse entry to the plaintiffs and for the restrictions to be struck down.

On June 22, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending most non-immigrant work visas, including the H-1Bs till December 21 ostensibly to ensure Americans have the first shot at jobs that become available as the economy emerged from Covid-19-related lockdowns and layoffs.

Indians hired by US firms and US-branches of Indian firms are the largest recipient of H-1B visas, accounting for more than 70% of the 85,000 issued annually. There are fears that the temporary suspension could lead to more lasting changes and restrictions, based on reported plans of the administration. The president is said to be working on an executive order overhauling legal immigration system, to move it towards merit-based from family-based.

The June 22 proclamation does not impact H-1B visa holders already in the United States, but those with approved petitions and not in the US and those applying afresh.

The lawsuit cited the case of a family, which was on H-1B visa with a pending clearance for immigrant visa. They traveled to India recently and wanted to renew their H-1B or H-4 visas but there had been no progress on their applications.

The June 22 proclamation also extended the suspension of immigration, the issuance of Green Cards.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday. The same day, several lawmakers wrote to the labor secretary Eugene Scalia to end the H-1B restriction. “Throughout this administration, the president has continued to lament the alleged abuses of the immigration system while failing to address the systemic problems that have persisted and allowed businesses and employers to exploit and underpay immigrant workers, guest workers and American workers,” the lawmakers wrote as reported by PTI.

“This misguided attempt by the president to scapegoat immigrants for policy failures during the pandemic not only serves to hurt immigrants, but dismisses the true problem of a broken work visa program that is in desperate need of reform,” they added.

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