President Donald Trump is currently considering an executive order that would rescind employment authorization for H-4 visa holders, leaving 180,000 women, mostly from India, frantic about their ability to continue to work in the U.S.

H-4 visas are given to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, highly-skilled foreign workers, the majority of whom are from India. Until 2015, H-4 visa holders – who often had skill levels comparable to their spouses – were not allowed to work. In 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that some H-4 visa holders, whose spouses were on track for permanent residency in the U.S., would be able to work.

At a press briefing Feb. 8 organized by New America Media, Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told reporters that a leaked memo from the Trump administration proposes to end work authorization for H-4 visa holders. Kinoshita told India-West after the briefing: “The memo doesn’t explicitly address H-4s but talks about reviewing and rescinding a number of work pathways for immigrants.”

“H-4s are vulnerable because the Department of Homeland Security extended work permits to them under the regulations in 2015 and this draft memo seeks to rescind those regulations,” she said.

A leaked draft of an executive order titled “Protecting American jobs and workers by strengthening the integrity of foreign worker visa programs” appeared on the New York Times Web site Jan. 27. In the draft, Trump proposes sweeping changes to several highly-skilled foreign worker visa programs, including H-1B workers. (See earlier India-West story: http://bit.ly/2kTkiL5.)

Lakshmi Sridaran, Indian American director of national advocacy and policy at South Asian Americans Leading Together, told India-West the proposed order belied the years of work community organizations had undertaken to get employment authorization for H-4 visa holders.

The Trump administration filed a motion Feb. 1 in a pending lawsuit – Save Jobs USA vs. U.S. – to get a 60-day abeyance giving it time to determine how it will participate in the lawsuit. Save Jobs USA contends in its suit that H-4 visa holders are competing and gaining the jobs of American workers. The organization filed a similar lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of 500 Southern California Edison employees who were allegedly replaced by H-1B workers.

The NAM press briefing addressed several executive orders by the Trump administration, notably, an enacted order that re-focuses on the Secure Communities program which allows law enforcement to ask for proof of legal residency from anyone they interact with, and then provide that information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The order also cuts federal funds for sanctuary cities, jurisdictions who have refused to participate in S-COMM. (See earlier India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2jePTK1.)

Kinoshita advised readers not to sign documents with immigration officials without an attorney present.

ICE officials must present a warrant before being allowed to enter a workplace or residence, she said, advising people not to open their doors to immigration officials who do not present a warrant. “ICE almost never has a warrant. If they’re not breaking down your door, don’t open it,” stated Kinoshita.

Panelists also addressed the “Muslim ban,” which barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Several courts around the country immediately issued emergency orders to keep the ban from being implemented. A San Francisco federal appeals court Feb. 9 issued a permanent injunction on the ban, refusing to reinstate Trump’s order.

Esther Sung, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, noted that several people not from the seven countries on the list had also been swept up by Customs and Border Protection agents during the initial implementation of the ban. Some people from countries not on the list were not allowed to board their flights, she said.

“People outside the U.S. have very little protection under the constitution,” said Sung, noting that those traveling with temporary U.S. visas, such as tourists, students, or temporary workers, also have few protections.

Green card holders do have constitutional protection but are still being detained in “the chaos the order has created,” said Sung.

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