As his poll number continue to drop and reelection hopes dim, Donald Trump is again weaponizing US immigration policy to energize his most aggressive, anti-immigrant voter base. He is expected to sign an executive order on Monday that would suspend temporary visas for foreign workers until the end of 2020, infuriating US business and industry groups who rely on foreign talent. The freeze will apply to H-1B visas designed for high-skilled workers, particularly in the tech industry, and H-2B visas used by seasonal workers, such as in the construction and hospitality industries. Others that are impacted are H-4 visas given to spouses of H-1B visa holders; L-1 visas for executives who work for large corporations; and some J-1 visas for scholars and professors.
Just days after the Supreme Court struck down the Trump administration’s effort to wind down the DACA program to shield those brought to the country illegally as children from deportation, this surprise move now targets US business interests directly, a direct reflection of the administration’s desperation amidst a catastrophically botched federal COVID-19 response, Trump’s effort to deny equal protection to transgender individuals, and numerous personal and political scandals plaguing reelection efforts. The libertarian Cato Institute, known for its pragmatic view toward policy, said suspending the L-1 visa for foreign corporate executives would hurt the American economy as it is a “crucial tool for growth and innovation and the administration will hurt the [US economic] recovery by ending it.”
While Trump’s heavy-handed use of Executive Orders to effectively legislate in violation of the Constitution has worked in the past, this blatant political maneuver targeting foreign professionals and executives who are key figures in the US economic recovery is already backfiring. Likely to be challenged in court if it materializes, the White House will now spend the next week hearing aggressive resistance from the conservative/rational Republican business base. Targeting critical temporary visas is yet another self-defeating maneuver by a President whose inability to look beyond his own agenda is precisely what is reflected in the poll numbers terrifying him. His rabid, anti-immigrant base has no idea what these visa categories even are; his rapidly-fading group of Republican interest groups, on the other hand, understand international business and how this is just another colossal example of this President yet again shooting himself in the foot.
Attorney José E. Latour