U.S. Workers Push for Ruling on Foreign Spouse Work Permits

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By Laura D. Francis

Displaced U.S. technology workers are trying again to get the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to hear a challenge to a regulation giving work permits to the spouses of temporary foreign workers.

The workers have been awaiting a resolution since they filed their appeal in September 2016. The appeals court has continually placed all proceedings on hold because of repeated assurances from the Department of Homeland Security that the agency is going to ditch the regulation itself.

But a proposal to do away with the 2015 Obama administration regulation has been long in coming, and could be years in the making, the workers said in a Sept. 11 court filing.

After “a year and a half delay, no proposed rule has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget,” they said. The OMB reviews regulations before they can take effect.

In fact, the DHS’s updates have gone from definite plans to issue a proposed regulation at a specific time to a “vague assurance that the agency intends to proceed at some unspecified time in the future,” the workers said.

The roughly 90,000 work permit holders also remain in limbo as they await word from the agency about its plans. Many made life-changing decisions based on the availability of a second income, such as buying a house or starting a business.

A representative for the DHS wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Competition for Jobs

The current regulation provides work permits to the spouses of H-1B skilled guestworkers who are waiting for their green cards to become available.

Save Jobs USA—made up of former Southern California Edison employees who were laid off and replaced by H-1B workers—says the regulation is illegal and creating extra job competition. The group appealed after a federal judge in Washington disagreed.

The DHS originally promised the court that it would have a proposal to rescind the regulation by February. But the agency was delayed by the need for “significant revisions” to its proposal, including a new economic analysis, it said.

The latest DHS update, filed Aug. 20, “gives no time table and no explanation for the delay,” John Miano, the attorney for Save Jobs, said in a Sept. 12 email to Bloomberg Law. “At this point it was clear that any proposed rule has just been sitting on someone’s desk for months,” he said.

The case is Save Jobs USA v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., D.C. Cir., No. 16-05287, motion to reschedule briefing and oral argument.filed 9/11/18.

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