An organisation representing technology workers in the United States has appealed to President Donald Trump to stop issuing H-1B visas , and protect the interests of American workers amid massive layoffs due to the economic impact brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

In its letter to Trump, US Tech Workers – a nonprofit organisation which describes itself as representing American workers – also urged him to suspend the H-2B visa programmes, which are mostly for foreign farm workers.

“We have written a letter asking that the H-1B & H-2B visa programme be suspended for this year due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus,” the organization said in its letter. “Battling both a pandemic and the resulting fallout to our economy from the coronavirus is no time to approve employment visas for more foreign workers.”

The organization said that 3.3 million Americans have filed initial jobless claims for the week ending March 31, breaking the record-high of 6,95,000 in 1982 – the peak of recession.

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In its letter, the organization said the government should be cautious about bringing in foreign workers at a time of tremendous uncertainty. “We urge you to pause the H-1B visa programme that would bring in 85,000 workers this year and suspend the recently approved addition of 35,000 workers for the H-2B visa,” the organization said. “Overall the importation of workers should be undertaken with great caution during this period of tremendous uncertainty, the letter said.”

Fearing layoffs, foreign technology professionals holding H-1B visas, meanwhile, have demanded the extension of their permissible post-job loss limit to stay in the US from the existing 60 to 180 days, PTI reported.

Economists have predicted that 47 million jobs could be lost in the United States due to the coronavirus, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to CNBC.

Trump has warned Americans to prepare for “very, very painful two weeks” as the White House projected that the coronavirus pandemic could kill 1,00,000 to 2,40,000 people even if social distancing norms are followed. US has nearly 1,90,000 cases of the coronavirus, the maximum in the world. The number of deaths has crossed 4,000 – higher than the toll in China, where the virus originated.