On October 1, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop enforcing parts of a presidential proclamation that banned many foreign workers from entering the United States. The court found that the president likely did not have the authority to issue the ban.

Who does the ruling impact?

The decision, in National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, granted a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the government from enforcing the ban while the court makes a final decision on the case, but only against the plaintiffs who brought the case.

The plaintiffs are four large business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, as well as a company operating cultural exchange programs. The decision applies to all of the hundreds of thousands of businesses that are members of those associations.

Who was impacted by the proclamation?

The proclamation, announced in June, prevented people from obtaining several categories of temporary work visas for entry to the United States, with limited exceptions. The proclamation also extended a ban on people with family ties seeking to permanently immigrate to the United States, but that part of the proclamation was not challenged in this lawsuit.

President Trump claimed—without justification—that the foreign worker ban was necessary to protect U.S. citizens’ jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What was the Trump administration’s justification for the ban?

President Trump claimed he was allowed to issue the ban under a law that gives presidents authority to stop groups of noncitizens from entering the United States if it is harmful to the interests of the United States. Previously, he used this same authority to issue the draconian and discriminatory Muslim and Refugee Ban that needlessly restricts travel to the United States by people from several majority-Muslim nations, as well as several other countries.

What did the court find in the case?

The court found that President Trump’s use of this authority for the foreign worker ban was different—and likely unlawful—for several reasons:

  • President Trump issued the ban in response to a domestic policy issue: U.S. employment. However, the President’s power to limit entry to the United States is intended to address foreign policy and national security interests, not domestic policy.
  • The ban would essentially replace several U.S. laws, written by Congress, allowing work visas covered by the ban. These laws already include protections for U.S. citizen workers, by preventing the government from issuing work visas if doing so would displace U.S. workers.
  • The proclamation did not include any evidence or findings showing that banning foreign workers would actually help the U.S. economy or U.S. citizen workers.

The proclamation’s foreign worker ban covers visas categories for workers transferring jobs within companies that already employ them, for highly skilled workers in specialized occupations, for seasonal workers employed during U.S. labor shortages, and for cultural exchange visitors in several categories, including trainees, interns and work-study programs.

Foreign workers, whether temporary or immigrant, have long been shown to help the American economy. Without this federal court decision, workers and companies counting on those workers would have fewer opportunities to conduct and expand their business in the United States—further weakening the economy in a time when we cannot afford to do so.