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H-1B spouses may lose right to work in US


WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is moving quickly to drain the American economy and its workforce of immigrant labour and foreign workers, not just those who are illegal but also those who have won permission to work legally.

It has now come to light that the new administration’s department of justice (DOJ) has filed a brief in the Washington DC court of appeals seeking a 60-day freeze in a case involving employment authorisation for H-4 visa-holders, who are primarily dependent spouses of H-1B visa-holders.

Thousands of Indian spouses come in this category, and they won a hard-fought permission to work in America in February 2015, when the Obama administration issued a rule through the department of homeland security allowing eligible spouses to be employed while the H-1B visa-holder awaits the receipt of his/her lawful permanent residency card (green card).

Soon after the rule was issued, a group called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit, but a district court ruled that it had no locus standi to sue and upheld the Obama administration’s rule.

Taking the case to the appeals court, Save Jobs USA filed its initial brief soon after the Trump administration took charge, and found immediate support from the DOJ, which filed a document on February 1, 2017 titled “Consent motion to hold proceedings in abeyance for 60 days”, asking the court to “allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues”.

The writing is pretty much on the wall, according to immigration activists, since attorney general Jeff Sessions, when he was a US senator, had called the H-4 rule a “change [in] immigration law in a way that hurts American workers”.

Aman Kapoor, co-founder and president of Immigration Voice, which has now filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of thousands of H-4 visa-holding spouses, says: “There is nothing for the DoJ attorneys to confer with their leadership about given the district court’s clear decision stating that this case had no basis for ever being filed.”

“Any failure to provide the strongest possible defence of the district court’s decision risks establishing a precedent prohibiting H-4 visa-holders from working under the current statutory regime,” Kapoor said.

Contrary to the popular image or impression, it is not just the bored Indian spouse who won permission to work through the H-4 route. In fact, the Immigration Voice intervention cites the case of highly qualified spouses, who, in many instances, added to the US economy both in terms of revenue and jobs.


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