Some of the biggest names in U.S. technology are urging a Washington federal court to dismiss a lawsuit to remove the work permit of more than 90,000 H-4 visa holders.
Big Tech is entering a legal fight for visas to save the work of the spouses of its foreign employees working in the US
Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google, Microsoft Corp. and more than 20 other companies and organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Friday urged a Washington federal court to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to eliminate the work permit for more than 90,000 H-4 visa holders.
The elimination of H-4 visas “would not only eliminate the gross domestic product of the United States, but would give that productivity to the rest of the nations and the innovation that it entails, harming the global economic competitiveness of the United States in the future,” they said. companies and organizations in a brief that the court may consider in weighing the case.
Under the Obama-era “Rule H-4,” in 2015 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued visas to spouses, more than 90% of whom are women, of more than 580,000 highly skilled workers living in the U.S. to H-1B visas, according to the presentation of the companies. The H-4 visa is critical to a couple’s decision to come to the U.S., buy a home and raise children, they argue. The Trump administration tried to dismantle the rule, but never introduced regulations to do so.
About three-quarters of H-1B holders work in the technology sector, which relies on visas to hire talent abroad, especially in science and engineering. Last June, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to temporarily freeze the issuance of new H-1B and H-4 visas. Twitter Inc. and Amazon last year called the order “short-sighted,” saying technology immigrant labor could help the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Representatives from Microsoft and Airbnb Inc. also spoke out, saying immigrants play a vital role in the success of their businesses.
Trump’s argument was that visa programs allow employers to lower wages for native workers. Companies say they need highly skilled workers to cover crucial jobs.
Save Jobs USA, a group representing computer professionals in Southern California, Edison, who were replaced in 2015 by foreign workers in the United States with H-1B visas, sued to overturn the H-4 standard. The group argues that DHS exceeded its authority when it issued it.
“This case is basically at the heart of our democracy and how our country will be governed,” Save Jobs lawyer John Miano said in an interview. “We have big companies now that go to DHS to create guest worker programs and have found that they can make things easier by skipping Congress.”
The average U.S. citizen can’t call the DHS secretary, but tech titans can organize a dinner party and repress agency leaders for getting what they want, Miano said. Technology companies decided to analyze the case because “they want to protect their investment,” he said. “Do we have government by Microsoft and Google, or do we have government by elected office?”
In a brief filed earlier this month, DHS under the Biden administration argued that Congress “delegated broad authority” to the agency, which includes “providing certain foreign nationals with a temporary work permit.”
A federal appeals court ruled in 2019 that Save Jobs had a right, or legal right, to sue. The DC plenary declined to reconsider the decision in January 2020 and the fight is back in the lower district court, where companies and groups filed their brief Friday.
The case is Save Jobs USA v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 15-cv-00615, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
(Background updates on Trump’s executive order and Save Jobs USA comment.)