ECONOMY

Big Tech Enters Fray to Save Jobs for Spouses of Foreign Workers

Big Tech is wading into a legal fight over visas in an attempt to preserve jobs of spouses of its foreign employees who are working in the U.S.

Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google, Microsoft Corp. and more than 20 other companies and organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Friday urged a federal court in Washington to reject a lawsuit seeking to eliminate work authorization for more than 90,000 H-4 visa holders.

Eliminating H-4 visas “would not only siphon off U.S. gross domestic product, but gift that productivity — and the innovation that comes with it — to other nations, harming America’s global economic competitiveness into the future,” the companies and organizations said in a so-called friend-of-court brief.

Under the Obama-era “H-4 Rule,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2015 issued visas to spouses, more than 90% of whom are women, of more than 580,000 highly skilled workers who live in the U.S. on H-1B visas, according to the companies’ filing. H-4 visas are critical to couples’ decisions to come to the U.S., buy homes and raise children, they argue. The Trump administration attempted to dismantle the rule, but never introduced regulation to do so.

Save Jobs USA, a group representing computer professionals at Southern California Edison who were replaced in 2015 by foreign workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas, sued to void the H-4 rule. The group argues DHS exceeded its authority, controlled by Congress, when it issued it.

“Congress is well aware that it has not granted H-4 visaholders the ability to work, either directly or through the conferral of a general work-authorization power on the agency,” Save Jobs USA argued in a court filing last month.

In a brief filed earlier this month, DHS under the Biden administration argued Congress “delegated broad authority” to the agency, which includes “providing certain foreign nationals with temporary employment authorization.”

A federal appeals court panel ruled in 2019 that Save Jobs had the legal right — or standing — to sue. The full D.C. court declined to reconsider the decision in January 2020 and the fight is now back in the lower district court, where the companies and the groups filed their brief Friday.

The case is Save Jobs v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 15-cv-00615, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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