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Coronavirus in Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz asks Trump to limit work-based immigration

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The parking lot of Barton Creek Square in Austin on May 1, the same day some Texas businesses began reopening on a limited basis. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Thursday's biggest developments:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz asks Trump to limit work-based immigration

  • Halliburton lays off 1,000 employees

  • Austin plans to extend stay-at-home orders

Cruz asks Trump to limit work-based immigration

[10:16 a.m. ] U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Thursday asked President Trump to further limit work-based immigration to the United States and preserve jobs for American workers during the country’s economic recovery efforts.

Trump last month signed an executive order that suspended the processing of new applications for permanent residency, or green cards, but left in place work visas for certain industries, including the medical field and the agriculture and service industries.

In a letter to the president, Cruz said current guest-worker programs “remain a serious threat” to America’s economic recovery effort and is calling for suspension of guest-worker visas for at least 60 days. The letter was first reported by Politico.

“The United States admits more than one million nonimmigrant guest workers every year, and there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high,” Cruz wrote. The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Josh Hawley, R-Missouri.

The senators argued that instead of enjoying regular graduation ceremonies, high school and college graduates will instead be fretting about their futures and whether they’ll find employment this year.

“There is no reason why these young people, especially, should not have access to seasonal, nonagricultural work such as summer resort employment or landscaping before those positions are given to imported foreign labor,” the lawmakers wrote.

The senators also called for the possible suspension of some visa applications for up to a year, or until the American economy recovers. Those include visas for high-skilled workers and for non-agricultural guest workers. They also asked Trump to suspend the Optional Practical Training program that allows foreign students to stay in the United States and work.

“While the merits of such a program are subject to debate, there is certainly no reason to allow foreign students to stay for three additional years just to take jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as our economy recovers,” the senators wrote. — Julián Aguilar

Halliburton lays off 1,000 employees

[10 a.m.] Houston-based giant Halliburton announced that it is laying off 1,000 employees at its headquarters, the Houston Chronicle reports. In March, the oil field services company had already furloughed 3,500 employees amid the coronavirus crisis and a drop in oil prices.

“The reductions are in addition to layoffs across the company’s global operations,” Halliburton said in a statement. “These actions are difficult but necessary as we adjust our business to customers’ decreased activity.”

A dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia, plus the slowdown in demand for oil due to the pandemic, has made oil prices plummet from $60 to less than $25 a barrel in a few months. In spite of an intense debate, the Texas Railroad Commission has decided to not impose oil production cuts. — Juan Pablo Garnham

Austin plans to extend stay-at-home orders

[10 a.m.] Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders to reopen the economy, Austin is planning to extend stay-at-home orders, KXAN reports.

“We are not going to reopen anything more than what we have already open because we think that’s the safest thing to do,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the TV station.

The next phase for reopening businesses in Texas starts on Friday and will include the limited opening of hair, nail and tanning salons, barbershops, wedding venues and swimming pools. But in Austin, public libraries and public swimming spots like Barton Springs and Deep Eddy Pool will remain closed for now. Most city offices will remain closed too and employees will be working from home whenever possible. — Juan Pablo Garnham

Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, has been a financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.