A top American Senator has urged President Donald Trump to reverse his executive order to suspend the issuance of green cards for 60 days and sought fast-tracking of the H-1B visas for foreign workers to meet the surging demand for healthcare professionals due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed the executive order to suspend certain types of immigration into the US for 60 days to protect the jobs of Americans laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the country’s economy.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
“The Trump administration’s announcement of a temporary halt to immigration is the opposite of what is necessary for the health and safety of our country at this time,” said Senator Michael Bennet in his first letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.
“The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and (the Department of State) must immediately work to expedite the processing of visa petitions of healthcare professionals and provide them with more flexibility to practice in specialties or locations where they are most needed,” Bennet, a Democrat, said.
In the second letter, Bennet called on Trump to reverse the executive order he issued on Wednesday suspending the issuance of new green cards to the United States for at least 60 days.
The temporary suspension of immigration will affect those who are legally seeking entry into the US for employment purposes but not the ones who are already living in the country, the order said.
Current regulations may force healthcare workers to suspend this work and even leave the country if their visa expires.
Additionally, individuals who hold H-1B visas often cannot practice outside of specialties and locations designated by their sponsor.
Since the H-1B visa is tied with the specific speciality for which they are issued, a doctor with this visa cannot be roped in for any other public health programme or temporarily transferred or posted to another place.
Each of these regulations undermines the country’s healthcare workforce when it is already under tremendous strain due to the pandemic, he said.
“The use of a global public health crisis to promote an anti-immigration agendagoes against the immigrant tradition upon which this country was built,” Bennet wrote in the second letter.
“More than twenty-five per cent of all doctors and seventeen per cent of all healthcare workers are immigrants…instead of honouring our nation’s proud immigrant heritage, the administration has placed countless lives at risk in the interest of amplifying its anti-immigration agenda,” he wrote.
The executive order, he said, follows a broader set of anti-immigrant policies from the Trump administration.
‘HALT IMMIGRATION POLICIES HARMFUL TO PUBLIC HEALTH’
Previously, the administration had suspended routine visa processing at US consulates and embassies abroad, closed the borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel, and postponed court dates for migrants in the Migrant Protection Protocol programme.
Over the first two weeks of April, the US deported almost 3,000 individuals, even as the US continued to have the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, he said.
Requesting Trump to reverse the executive order, the Senator demanded that his administration must halt all anti-immigration policies that are harmful to public health and safety as the US struggles to fight against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The use of a global public health crisis to promote an anti-immigration agenda is deeply problematic and goes against the immigrant tradition upon which this country was built.
“It also won’t undo the administration’s failures to address the pandemic earlier and more aggressively. Further limitations on immigration will only bring insecurity to immigrant families resulting in greater uncertainty and economic harm to the US,” he said.
Foreign-born individuals make up a large percentage of those who are on the front lines in this pandemic, he said adding that more than twenty-five percent of all doctors and seventeen percent of all health care workers are immigrants.
“Nearly forty per cent of all medical/life scientists in this country, many of whom are researching the remedies to the very virus that has caused this pandemic, are foreign-born,” he said.
“Additionally, over thirty per cent of all agricultural workers, seventeen per cent of all grocery and supermarket workers, and over eighteen per cent of all food delivery workers are foreign-born. These individuals deserve our warmest praise and support, not policies that will incite fear and harm their families, friends, or communities. We shouldn’t be making it harder for them to be with their loved ones during this difficult time,” Bennet said.
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