In April 2018, the U.S. unemployment rate reached a low of 3.9%. Yet with restrictive immigration policies at the heart of President Trump’s agenda, DHS is actively pursuing an onslaught not only against undocumented persons or criminal alien’s but is actively seeking to restrict legal immigration in every way possible. Last month current USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna provided an update to Senator Charles E. Grassley on USCIS’ plans to restrict eligibility for, or even remove, specific nonimmigrant worker programs in its effort to comply with the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order issued in April 2017.
These actions are likely to have a devastating long-term impact on our economy and endanger our national security. As China and India leap ahead in technology, the US is actively finding ways to remove the best and brightest in an environment where industry urgently needs qualified graduates. This isn’t making American great, this is potentially destroying our technological advantage to pander to rightwing restrictions views. A new report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a research organization focused on immigration and the economy found 81 percent of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79 percent in computer science are. Clearly U.S. students are not studying math and science and if we deport all the smart graduates, we stuck with the children of immigrants as a key source of science and math graduates.
This dangerous trend is being ignored as the rightwing restrictionist debate is channeled into talk of violent M13 immigrant gangs and other absurd nativist rhetoric.
1. Restricting the H-1B Visa program. USCIS recently published a policy memorandum clarifying existing regulatory requirements relating to H-1B petitions filed for workers who will work at one or more third-party worksites. The updated guidance makes clear that employers must provide itineraries in cases where worker will work at more than one location and that USCIS may request detailed documentation, such as contracts relating to employment or assignment of such workers to ensure legitimate employer-employee relationship and that beneficiary will perform H-1B specialty occupation work for the entire time requested.
So, while demand for qualified professionals has never been higher, the USCIS is stifling trade and industry in a way that will do long term damage to our economy and force employers to move offshore. Canada is already taking advantage by offering skilled workers fast work visas, and providing accommodating conditions for companies to relocate.
a. Dedicated e-mail addresses have been established by USCIS for public to report suspected H-1B fraud and abuse.
b. Targeted Site Visits are being conducted by USCIS on H-1B dependent employers to determine whether they are paying their workers the statutorily required salary to qualify for an exemption from recruitment attestation requirements. (The site visits are also focused on employers for L-1B workers who will work offsite at another location).
c. In March 31, 2017, USCIS issued a new policy memorandummaking it more difficult for most computer programmer positions to qualify for H-1B visas.
2. Clarifications on L-1 and TN. USCIS published policy guidance clarifying issues regarding L-1 qualifying relationships (amendments must be filed if there are changes after petition approval) and proxy votes and also clarifying that TN nonimmigrant economists be defined by qualifying business activity.
3. Adjudicating extension requests for NIV categories. USCIS published a policy memorandum that instructed officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests for nonimmigrant visa categories. Findings of a previously approved petition are no longer given deference. As a result, H-1B, L-1, O-1 cases are being routinely denied upon extension on the basis that the original petition should not have been approved. What makes this so difficult is interpretation is inconsistent with many cases being approved and an equal number being randomly targeted for denial.
4. Removing H-4 EAD. USCIS will be working on proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility.
5. Removing the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER). USCIS has proposed a rule to remove the IER and have not approved any parole requests under the International Entrepreneur Final Rule at this time.
Employers in America are already feeling the pain of being unable to secure qualified talent and the Administration’s restrictive adjudications are merely the start of policies that will ultimately choke our industries and play into the hands of our competitors. While these anti-immigrant slogans and actions may appease some, the broad onslaught against legal workers and much needed skilled and unskilled workers is dangerous to our economy and to the future of America.