White House advisor Stephen Miller is using the Coronavirus pandemic to implement his anti-immigrant agenda (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Donald Trump suspends visas for hundreds of thousands of high-skilled foreign workers.

The order is part of White House advisor Stephen Miller’s anti-immigration mission. It blocks visa for personnel such as computer programmers, seasonal workers in the hospitality industry, and students on work-study summer programs.

The restrictions also prevent American companies with global operations and international companies with American branches from transferring foreign executives and other employees to the US. They bar entry to spouses of foreigners who are employed at American firms.

Administration officials said the order, combined with further restrictions on new green cards for residency, will keep 525,000 foreign workers out of the US for the rest of 2020. They said employees already in the US will remain, and there be an exception from the ban for certain Coronavirus researchers.

Business leaders have objected that the Administration’s hard-line approach will prevent recruitment of critically-needed, high-skilled staff.

Thomas Donohue, the chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce, summarized:

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.

Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation.

Trump’s order, using Miller’s language, asserted without evidence, “Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain non-immigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”

In April, Trump signed an executive order suspending the issue of green cards for 60 days to most applicants. However, pressure from the business community checked Miller and Trump from barring high-skilled workers.

Last week, Miller used the cover of Coronavirus to propose raising of the standard of proof needed to obtain asylum, and to allow immigration judges to deny applications for protection without any testimony by migrants in a hearing.

In May, the Administration cited Covid-19 to prevent 43,000 migrants from applying for asylum.