Trump And Miller Left Biden With Unfinished Immigration Business

Of note:

Donald Trump, Stephen Miller and the rest of the Trump immigration squad left the Biden administration with a lot of unfinished business, only some of which has garnered newspaper headlines. The Biden administration has moved quickly on several high-profile issues, including protection for refugees and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. However, the list of immigration issues that requires attention after four years is long. Below are some of the most significant issues.

Stephen Miller’s Department of Labor Rule: Jyoti Bansal came to America on an H-1B visa. “I waited seven years for my employment-based green card [due to the per-country limit] and I wanted to leave my job and start a new company but couldn’t,” Bansal told me in an interview. “What is most frustrating about the green card process is you have no control over a major part of your life.”

In the final days of Donald Trump’s term, as part of a longstanding goal to price out of the U.S. labor market employment-based immigrants, international students and H-1B visa holders, White House adviser Stephen Miller and other members of the Trump immigration team pushed through a final rule on wages from the Department of Labor (DOL). The rule would significantly boost the required minimum or “prevailing” wage employers must pay employment-based immigrants and H-1B visa holders by 24% to 40% across a range of occupations, according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.

If the DOL rule had been in effect years ago, Jyoti Bansal likely would never have been able to come to America, nor would the many people who played critical roles in developing the Covid-19 vaccines and came to (or remained in) America on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards.

In 2007, Bansal received an employment authorization document (EAD) as part of the green card process. He later left his employer and started AppDynamics. The company, which monitors websites for clients such as HBO, has grown to employ over 2,000 people and was valued at $3.7 billion when Cisco acquired it in 2017.

The DOL final rule cites Donald Trump’s anti-immigration “Buy American and Hire American” executive order for the regulation’s “justification,” its “need” and the “Objectives of and Legal Basis for the Final Rule.” However, on January 25, 2021, President Biden revoked Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. In other words, the authority cited for the DOL final rule by Trump’s Department of Labor no longer exists. The nation’s leading anti-immigration group, which has called for a “permanent pause” on immigration to America, has praised the DOL rule. This should not be a difficult choice for the Biden administration on what to do with the rule.

An Agenda on International Students: It is too soon to expect a full agenda from the Biden administration on international students. Rescinding the DOL wage rule would help attract students, since the rule makes it far less likely international students could get a work visa or permanent residence in the United States. There are other pressing student issues.

First, processing delays in Optional Practical Training (OPT) have bedeviled international students, particularly at the Texas Service Center Lockbox. Without a receipt, students can lose their status. (Attorneys have reported some improvements.) The Biden administration disbanded a last-minute effort by the Trump administration to establish a new unit to go after international students working on OPT, which may facilitate more targeted enforcement against bad actors, rather than a generalized effort against all students working on OPT.

Second, the Trump administration’s student policies left in place from 2020 may need to be adapted to the current situation. “After a concerted advocacy effort by the higher education community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that international students should ’continue to abide’ by emergency pandemic guidance that allows them to take all or some of their courses online,” according to a letter from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We strongly support this guidance because without it, a large number of international students still in the United States during the pandemic would have had to take classes in person or leave–neither tenable as COVID cases rise and the pandemic is still prevalent.

“However, DHS has still not issued additional guidance that would allow all international students, including those who were not already enrolled during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 but have since enrolled or who will enroll, to enter and remain in the United States. Current guidance stipulates that if a new international student’s courses are online, they are prohibited from entering the United States or must depart the country. This policy is a substantial problem for programs with students living in different time zones.”

Universities would like updates to the policy, including “explicitly allowing initial international students to enter the country, as well as permitting existing students to remain in the United States when enrolled in online-only courses (as opposed to currently only allowing students enrolled in hybrid courses to enter).”

A recent survey found that during Fall 2020, “new enrollment of international students physically in the United States declined by 72%,” more than the 43% drop in foreign enrollment overall because students started online overseas.

If the Biden administration is looking for policy suggestions for a broader agenda on international students, NAFSA: Association of International Educators has put one together. The recommendations include a series of administrative and legislative actions to “establish a welcoming environment for international students and scholars.”

The Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders and Long USCIS Processing Times for Work Authorization: The Trump administration was unsuccessful in its plans to rescind the Obama administration’s rule on H-4 EAD (employment authorization document). A lawsuit (Kolluri v. USCIS) credibly alleges that USCIS put in place an unnecessary biometrics requirement to prevent the applicants, mostly women from India, from working in the United States. The California Service Center is taking up to two years to process an extension for work authorization. Another lawsuit charges current USCIS policies make it “mathematically” impossible for the spouses to continue working because extension applications cannot be processed in time.

Startup Visas and the International Entrepreneur Rule: The Biden administration’s outline on immigration legislation did not include a startup visa that would allow foreign nationals to gain green cards after demonstrating they have started a business that creates a threshold number of jobs. Congress can add that to any proposal. In the meantime, the administration can revive the International Entrepreneur Rule.

A letter from a coalition that includes the National Venture Capital Association, FWD.us, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Immigration Forum and others asks DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Majorkas “to implement the International Entrepreneur Rule . . . . originally put in place at the end of the Obama Administration, would work similar to a Startup Visa by allowing world-class foreign entrepreneurs to launch high-growth companies in the United States by utilizing the parole authority of DHS.”

A new report from the Progressive Policy Institute finds implementing the International Entrepreneur Rule could lead to significant job creation. A study last year from the National Foundation for American Policy examined the international experience and concluded startup visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs can bring jobs and innovation to a country.

It may take years for the Biden administration to undo many of the immigration policies implemented over the last four years. Addressing some of the issues not making front-page news will improve the chances the effort will be successful.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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