In what appears to be part of an ongoing effort to cripple immigration into the United States, the Trump administration on Monday (June 22) released an executive order announcing the extension of green card restrictions for new immigrants, and the temporary suspension of new work visas. Trump, however, insists the move—which will suspend “new H-1B, L-1, J and other temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year,” according to NPR—is in response to the loss of American jobs due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” Trump said in a statement.

Immigration activists cry foul, arguing that Trump is actually taking these steps in an effort to “placate his political base,” according to USA Today. “Immigrant workers are vital to the American workforce,” said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, in an interview with USA Today. “As our nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, immigrants in all industries will be essential to rebuilding our nation.”

Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers, spoke to NPR about pushback against Monday’s order coming from business groups. “The ban on H-1B visas, which are often used to fill very niche positions that are not easily found in the American workforce, will ultimately prove to be counterproductive,” he said. “And [it] is an example of using a nuclear bomb to address a bar fight.”

“This is a full-frontal attack on American innovation and our nation’s ability to benefit from attracting talent from around the world,” said Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a pro-immigration group supported by technology companies, in an interview with The New York Times

Thomas J. Donohue, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also spoke to The Times about potential damage caused by Monday’s order, which will prevent “hundreds of thousands of foreigners from seeking employment in the United States,” according to The Times. “Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” Donohue said. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation.”

Reports The Times:

Administration officials said the president’s order would not affect people outside the United States who already have valid visas or seasonal farm workers, whose annual numbers have ranged from a low of about 50,000 to a high of about 250,000 in the past 15 years. There will also be a narrow exception for certain medical workers dealing specifically with coronavirus research, officials said.

Click here to read Trump’s executive order suspending temporary work visas and extending green card restrictions.