A federal judge threw out two rules by the Trump administration that limited the number of visas that are made available to skilled foreign workers.
The Tuesday ruling from U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, a George W. Bush appointee, dismisses changes the administration announced in October to the H-1B visa program, which included salary requirements on firms that employed skilled workers from overseas and placed new limits on specialty occupations. Officials defended the move as necessary because of the number of jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic and estimated that roughly a third of H-1B visa applications would be denied.
White ruled that the administration failed to properly follow transparency procedures and that its claims that the changes were an emergency response to the pandemic’s economic fallout were unsubstantiated since the October rule was implemented after months of speculation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event beyond defendants’ control, yet it was within defendants’ control to take action earlier than they did,” White wrote.
“Defendants failed to show there was good cause to dispense with the rational and thoughtful discourse that is provided by the [Administrative Procedure Act’s] notice and comment requirements,”
The U.S. doles out roughly 85,000 visas to high-skilled foreign workers each year, a large chunk of which goes to tech, engineering or medical companies and often last for three years with the option of renewal.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with several universities, sued the administration, arguing that there was inadequate time for the public to comment on the new rules and that the salary changes, which would essentially require companies to significantly raise what they pay foreign workers, would force the firing of many employees.
The Trump administration has made limiting all forms of immigration a priority. The October change, implemented just before the November elections, followed a temporary order in June by the president suspending the H-1B program through the end of 2020.