H-1B: Stanford University, Bay Area Council sue Trump administration over new visa rules – The Mercury News


The Bay Area Council, Stanford University and a host of educational and business groups are suing the administration of President Donald Trump over new rules for the controversial H-1B visa program relied on by many Silicon Valley technology companies.

The administration earlier this month imposed additional regulations on the program, which is intended for skilled workers. Among the changes are a new one-year limit on placement of workers at third-party firms, more-restrictive definitions of what jobs and employment relationships qualify for the visa, and increased minimum pay.

In announcing its participation in the lawsuit filed Monday, the council, a business-funded public-policy group, claimed the new rules “effectively gut” the program, which would have a significant effect on the tech industry. Google, Apple and Facebook last year together received approvals for more than 5,500 new H-1B workers, according to federal government data.

“Shutting down our pipeline of high-skilled foreign workers will be a disaster for our economy and for our post-COVID recovery,” said Sean Randolph, senior director of the council’s Economic Institute. “The Bay Area, and America, must continue to be a place where anyone around the world can come to pursue their dream or dream job. This proposal from the Trump Administration effectively ends that option.” Stanford did not respond to questions about its participation in the lawsuit.

Other plaintiffs include the California Institute of Technology, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups and universities. The suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor claims the new visa rules were designed to “substantially restrict, if not outright eliminate” the H-1B visa, force hundreds of thousands of foreign workers out of the country because they can’t renew visas, and “virtually foreclose the hiring of new individuals via the H-1B program.”

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The Chamber, in a statement, said the changes would “devastate companies across various industries.” The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, seeks a ruling declaring the changes illegal and throwing them out.

Homeland Security and the Labor Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Homeland Security earlier said its rule change — including a new time limit on worker placements — would “combat the use of H-1B workers to serve as a low-cost replacement for otherwise qualified American workers.” The Labor Department said the new pay requirements “will induce some employers to employ U.S. workers instead of foreign workers from the H-1B program.”

The Trump administration has cracked down on the H-1B program, dramatically increasing visa denials for staffing companies and outsourcers that contract out foreign workers. Critics have argued that these companies and their client firms use the H-1B to supplant U.S. workers, drive down wages and send work overseas. Major technology companies, who hire H-1B workers directly and also via staffing firms, contend the visa is crucial to securing the world’s top talent.

The lawsuit argues that the administration’s rules aren’t valid because they were imposed “in substantially irregular fashion” on the basis of a purported emergency, without the typical public comment period.

The regulations push H-1B pay to “wages that vastly exceed what comparable domestic workers are paid,” the suit alleges, citing a case at the University of Utah, which wants to renew an employee’s H-1B visa. “That individual is currently paid approximately $80,000, far above the pre-rule required wage of $62,760. Under the (Labor Department) rule, however, the University of Utah would be obligated to pay this same individual $208,000.”

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The Labor Department’s calculations specified that the wage changes will cost employers almost $200 billion over the next decade, the suit noted. “This is not a wage increase designed to protect workers. It is the imposition of astronomically high wages … in order to destroy the H-1B program.”

The suit claims the redefinition of which “specialty occupations” are eligible for the visa violates the law, and that the rules add “burdensome compliance requirements regarding third-party contracts and work itineraries, which substantially restricts the ability of H-1B workers to fill these roles.”

Requiring specific, specialized degrees for job types will freeze many foreign students out of the H-1B program, the suit said.



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