A group of 174 Indian nationals, including seven minors, has filed a lawsuit against United States President Donald Trump’s decision in June to suspend a number of work visas until the end of the year, including the highly sought-after H-1B visas for skilled workers, PTI reported on Thursday.

The move will disproportionately hurt Indian citizens, who have received as much as 70% of H-1B visas over the past five years. Both US and Indian tech companies rely heavily on people on such visas for smooth operations.

The lawsuit, which seeks to declare the presidential proclamation as unlawful, was filed by lawyer Wasden Banias in the US District Court in Columbia on Tuesday. “The proclamation 10052’s H-1B/H-4 visa ban hurts the United States’ economy, separates families and defies the Congress,” it said. “While the two former points render it unseemly, the latter point renders it unlawful.”

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has issued summons to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F Wolf, and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.

The lawsuit urges the court to compel the Department of State to issue decisions on pending requests for H-1B and H-4 visas, Forbes reported.

It also points out that the Congress specified the rules under which H-1B visa holders could work in the US and balanced the interests of US workers and employers. “The complaint seeks to protect H-1B professionals, including those who have passed the labor certification process and possess approved immigrant petitions,” it said. “Such individuals are waiting for their priority date to obtain permanent residence, a wait that can take many years for Indian nationals.”

Trump’s order on June 22 covers L-1 visas as well, which allow a company to internally transfer employees from India or another country to an American office. The order also affects those on dependent visas like the L-2 and H-4, which are for the spouses and children of those who are in the US on worker visas.

The White House had said the move would help the coronavirus-battered economy. The visa suspension, effective from June 24, will last until the end of the year and is expected to open up 5,25,000 jobs for US workers. However, critics of the move said the US president is using the pandemic as a reason to limit immigration. Bloomberg, citing an immigration expert, said that as many as 375,000 temporary visa holders and green card applicants will now be unable to enter the US until next year – assuming the restrictions are relaxed then.

Meanwhile, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Bobby Scot, Representative Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday urged Scalia to reverse the work visa ban. “Throughout this administration, the president has continued to lament the alleged abuses of the immigration system while failing to address the systemic problems that have persisted and allowed businesses and employers to exploit and underpay immigrant workers, guest workers and American workers,” the lawmakers said in a letter.

“This misguided attempt by the president to scapegoat immigrants for policy failures during the pandemic not only serves to hurt immigrants, but dismisses the true problem of a broken work visa program that is in desperate need of reform,” it added.

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon, Apple Inc, Facebook and Microsoft are among those who have criticised the Trump administration’s decision.

Also read:

  1. Not just H-1B: Trump’s order also splits families by suspending dependent and other visas until 2021
  2. Anxious children, helpless parents: What are the human and emotional costs of Trump’s US visa ban?