By Joe Guzzardi
October 7, 2016
In another stunning defeat for American workers, Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled against Save Jobs USA, and declared that its effort to block the Department of Homeland Security from giving work permits to H-4 visa holders is without merit. The H-4 visa is given to H-1B visa workers’ spouses, mostly South Asian women. The suit further claimed that DHS’s unilateral action ignored the Immigration and Naturalization Act’s American worker protections, and stated the Obama White House sought to reverse the longstanding congressional policy.
In her ruling, Jamaica-born Judge Chutkan, a President Obama appointee, ruled that allowing H-4s to work, a benefit their visa did not previously permit, didn’t unfairly affect the American workforce. Obama, through an executive action last year, granted work authorization to spouses that had applied for permanent residency green cards.
Save Jobs USA was founded by a group of former information technology workers who had worked for Southern California Edison, but were fired in February 2015 and replaced by H-1B visa holders. The group said that SCE, which laid off a total of about 500 Americans, was importing cheaper overseas labor.
On its face, Judge Chutkan’s decision is ridiculous. Her position that adding approximately 180,000 H-4 visa holders to the labor force would not impact American workers defies logic. Unlike their H-1B spouses who purportedly have special skills and must work in information technology, the H-4s can seek employment in any field, and pose a direct challenge to American workers in any field. With more than 92 million Americans detached from the labor force, and the Economic Policy Institute’s 2014 research showing that for three of every five applicants, no job openings exist, 180,000 new workers competing, by definition, further saturates an already glutted job market.
The broader question in the H-4 visa case is whether President Obama through DHS has the authority to unilaterally grant work permission, in this case to immigrants who came to the U.S. with the understanding that they would not be allowed employment. When, in 2014, an immigration lawyer was asked what type of employment an H-4 visa holder could seek, she replied flatly: “Absolutely none,” and excluded working from home, reselling on eBay, swapping domestic services for gifts, and volunteering for free if the position is normally compensated. Unless Save Jobs USA wins its appeal, H-4s will now be able to work anywhere.
Judge Chutkan added a cruel note to her decision when she wrote that upon granting H-4s employment privileges, DHS intended to “alleviate the financial and emotional burden placed on H-1B visa holders and their families during the lengthy period in which only one spouse may be employed.”
Apparently, Judge Chutkan is dismissive of the “financial and emotional burden” suffered by American workers and their families fired by, among other corporations, Disney, Caterpillar, Toys “R” Us, Yahoo, Google, HP and Microsoft, to list but a few. An estimated 650,000 H-1B visa workers are currently in the U.S. labor force.
Predictably, Judge Chutkan confirmed what’s been the one constant in the Obama administration: when it comes to jobs, immigrants get preference over Americans.
By Joe Guzzardi