BY TED HESSON AND STEVE HOLLAND
U.S. President Donald Trump will expand an existing visa ban to include certain non-immigrant work visas as part of a move to protect U.S. workers amid the economic devastation tied to the coronavirus pandemic, a senior administration official said on Monday.
Trump will block the entry of foreign workers on H-1B visas for skilled workers and L-1 visas for workers being transferred within a company through the end of the year, the official said. The president will also block seasonal workers on H-2B visas, with an exception for workers in the food service industry.
The move comes despite opposition from businesses who depend on foreign workers, including major tech companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business association, which have said it will stifle the economic recovery. Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to enact his longstanding goal to limit immigration into the United States.
The immediate effects of the proclamation will likely be limited, as U.S. consulates around the world remain closed for most routine visa processing due to the pandemic.
Trump is running for re-election on Nov. 3 and has made his tough immigration stance a central pitch to voters, although the coronavirus, faltering economy and recent nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue in recent months.
The visa suspension is the latest step by Trump to restrict immigration in response to the pandemic and economic fallout.
Trump also will renew an April proclamation that temporarily blocks some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, the senior administration official said on Monday.
Trump rolled out new health-focused rules in March that allow for the rapid deportation of immigrants caught at the border and virtually cut off access to the U.S. asylum system.
At the same time, he announced the land borders with Canada and Mexico would be closed to non-essential crossings, a measure that has been extended several times.