Administration’s Professional Foreign Worker Changes Cost U.S. Businesses over $100 Billion

The administration has put foreign workers in its crosshairs, costing U.S. businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.

In June 2020, a Presidential Proclamation barred the entry of most foreign workers through the end of 2020 with the stated goal of preventing job competition.  A new Brookings Institute working paper estimates that this action immediately  cost 471 Fortune 500 companies over $100 billion in lost market valuation.

Doubling down, on October 8, 2020, the administration released interim final Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security rules without any prior notice and public comment period, that attack the current H-1B specialized occupation foreign professional worker visa program and the professional worker permanent residency process.   In the preamble to the DOL rule, the administration estimates that the effects of the new rule, including lost access to talent, turnover costs, and having to pay any foreign workers more than they would pay comparable U.S. workers, will cost U.S. businesses more than $198 billion over the next 10 years.

The rules, which took effect immediately, apply to current, not just to future foreign professional workers.   In a press conference, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Ken Cuccinelli stated that the administration expects up to a third of the hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders currently working in the U.S. would not qualify for renewals of their status under the new rules – leaving their employers, and their communities, high and dry.

Maine currently has hundreds of H-1B visa holders working in our hospitals, colleges and universities, biotech and biopharmaceutical, research, high tech, and other businesses and facilities in every corner of the state. 

Apart from the financial toll of the administration’s attacks on the viability of the H-1B and employment based immigration programs, the potential harm to our nation’s health care system, where thousands of H-1B professionals serve, including over 70 in Maine in FY2019 (the last full year for which data is available), during a pandemic is staggering.

A federal court ruling partially blocked application of the Presidential Proclamation for the remainder of 2020, and lawsuits have been filed challenging the new rules.   Let’s hope the court system permanently reins in these costly and damaging attacks by the administration.