Trump extended the term of his executive order just hours before it was set to expire. The order will now expire at the end of March, extending into President-elect Joe Biden’s first term in office.
The White House has argued the restrictions are necessary to project job opportunities for American workers amid a surge in unemployment during the pandemic. In a proclamation detailing the move, Trump noted that COVID-19 “continues to significantly disrupt Americans’ livelihoods.”
“The effects of COVID-19 on the United States labor market and on the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern, and the considerations present in Proclamations 10014 and 10052 have not been eliminated,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.
The Trump administration first announced limits on the issuance of green cards for immigrants in April. In June, Trump expanded the order to limit several guest worker programs, including new H-1B tech worker visas, H-2B seasonal worker visas, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas and L executive transfer visas, with some exceptions.
Trump’s proclamation noted that recent spikes in COVID-19 cases have surpassed previous highs in June, as well as the implementation of pandemic-related restrictions that placed further strain on U.S. businesses. The effect of recently approved vaccines and other treatments “has not yet been fully realized” for the U.S. labor market, he added.
“While the November overall unemployment rate in the United States of 6.7 percent reflects a marked decline from its April high, there were still 9,834,000 fewer seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in November than in February of 2020,” the proclamation added.
Members of the Biden transition team were critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policies on the campaign trail, arguing that they were too draconian and discriminatory. Biden pledged to reverse several Trump-era policies once he enters the White House, but it was not immediately clear if he plans to unwind Trump’s executive order prior to its expiration in March.
Groups in favor of continued restrictions on legal immigration during the pandemic had called on Trump to extend the order.
“While the unemployment rate has fallen, too many Americans are still looking for work and the economic outlook remains bleak,” said RJ Hauman, director of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which lobbied for the extension. “If this proclamation was allowed to lapse, then companies could easily return to exploiting cheap foreign labor. If President-elect Biden quickly rescinds, the country should take note — he doesn’t stand with American workers.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.