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Cornell is filing its second law suit this year, over the restrictions that the Trump administration has posed on H-1B visas.

October 20, 2020

Cornell Signs Onto Lawsuit Against New H-1B Visa Restrictions

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For the second time this year, Cornell has decided to sue the Trump administration over visa restrictions.

Joining other universities like Stanford and the California Institute of Technology, Cornell filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to roll back the U.S. Department of Labor’s and Department of Homeland Security’s recent H-1B visa restrictions. The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit emphasizes how many higher education institutions across the country rely on the H-1B visa program to fill vital research and teaching positions. For Cornell, the lawsuit cites how the University employs many H-1B workers as research scientists and doctors, describing how these workers are “integral components of teams working tirelessly to advance medical sciences, seeking betterment of the country as a whole.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit request that the court vacate the DHS and DOL rules and issue a judgment that the restrictions were unlawful as well as “arbitrary, capricious and otherwise not in accordance with the law,” among other requests.

The lawsuit comes as President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly tried to curb the H-1B visa program during the past few months. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration first halted the issuance of temporary work visas, including the H-1B visa, in June. Earlier this month, a federal judge held that the ban overstepped the administration’s authority. The ban is currently being contested in several cases.

H-1B visas are intended for high-skilled workers, allowing companies to temporarily sponsor employees from abroad. The program is capped at 85,000 visas a year.

On Oct. 6, the DOL released a new set of restrictions that would require employers to pay higher wages to employees with H-1B visas in an attempt to deter U.S. companies from hiring foreign workers.

Additionally, the DHS tightened the definition of who could hold a H-1B visa, stating that petitioners had to prove that they had a college degree in the specific field they are seeking work in. The mandate states that third-party firms that hire workers only grant them one-year work authorizations, rather than the typical three years.

The DHS mandate claims the measures restricting the H-1B visa program are necessary to “more effectively ensure that the employment of H-1B workers will not have an adverse impact on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.”

The lawsuit claims that the visa restrictions have the potential to “outright eliminate” the H-1B visa program. Cornell did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

“These rules are extraordinary: If left unchecked, they would sever the employment relationship of hundreds of thousands of existing employees in the United States, and they would virtually foreclose the hiring of new individuals via the H-1B program,” the lawsuit read.

On Oct. 16, multiple tech firms filed a lawsuit against the new restrictions in a court in New Jersey, stating that the new rules violate the Immigration and Nationality Act.

This is the second lawsuit this year that Cornell has signed onto against the Trump administration. In July, the University sued the government over restrictions on international students, after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ruled that students who don’t take any in-person classes are not permitted to enter the country. One week after Cornell signed onto the amicus brief, the Trump administration rescinded the restrictions.

President Martha E. Pollack said at the time the restrictions were rescinded that the decision was a “significant victory for all Cornellians and for international students at institutions throughout the country.”

Read the full lawsuit here.