Report: Work Visas Change Could Hurt Immigrant Families | WBEZ
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Report: Proposed Change To Work Visas Could Hurt Immigrant Families

The Trump administration's proposed change to work visas could hurt some immigrant families, according to a new study by a Chicago-based South Asian think tank.

The South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) studied the impact of the Trump administration’s efforts to reverse an Obama-era work visa provision that allows H-4 visa holders — the spouses of highly skilled H-1B visa holders — to work in the United States, as their partners wait for permanent resident status. The group held a press conference Monday at the Indo-American Center on Chicago’s North Side.

“Rescinding work authorization for H-4 visa holders will have widespread negative consequences for immigrant women, families and the U.S. at large,” said SAAPRI Executive Director Dhara Puvar, who co-authored the study.

According to the study, revoking the Obama administration’s H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) program would make many immigrant households economically insecure. The rule change could also potentially separate children from their mothers, who may need to leave the country to find work, according to the study.

The report also examined the psychological and social effects of work on the H-4 EAD holders, showing that having jobs contributed to the “confidence, self worth, independence, and security for immigrant women.”

At the press conference, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky called the White House’s proposed rule change “yet another attack on the immigrant community, no doubt about it.”

She said she is co-sponsoring a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that protects the H-4 work authorization program.

Schakowsky was joined by U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview.

Citing the potential loss of tax dollars and jobs, revoking the H-4 work authorization “is bad for the American economy,” Krishnamoorthi said. “It hurts all of us.”

The SAAPRI study found that the proposed rule change could also deter high-skilled workers from moving to the U.S., sending them to other countries with less restrictive immigration policies.

SAAPRI’s Puvar said a change to the H-4 work authorization would disproportionately affect South Asian women. According to the report, since the adoption of Obama’s H-4 work policy, 93% of all EADs have been granted to South Asians, and 93% have been given to women.

The Trump White House first proposed changes to the H-1B visa program in 2017, including revoking work authorization for dependent spouses. This year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued the proposal to remove the H-4 visa work provision.

The Trump administration is currently working to put the rule change into effect. SAAPRI leaders said they hope the study will help inform Congress as it works on comprehensive immigration reform, as well as aid advocacy and legal efforts to block the White House from reversing the H-4 work authorization provision.

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