2021 Might Be A Decisive Year For H-1B Visas

Significant, given possible effects on relative attractiveness of Canada to potential immigrants:

The Trump administration was hostile to high-skilled immigration, but the Biden administration may enact the most enduring policy changes to H-1B visas. And the changes might not be positive for employers. A series of decisions loom on regulations that would affect who can receive H-1B petitions, how much employers must pay H-1B professionals and much more.

The Big Picture: “H-1B visas are important because they generally represent the only practical way for high-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work long-term in the United Statesand have the chance to become employment-based immigrants and U.S. citizens,” as discussed in a recent Forbes article. “In short, without H-1B visas, nearly everyone from the founders of billion-dollar companies to the people responsible for the vaccines and medical care saving American lives would never have been in the United States.”

The number of H-1B visas is small for a country the size of the United States. The 85,000 annual H-1B limit—the 65,000 regular cap and the 20,000-exemption for H-1B visa holders with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university—comes to 0.05% of the U.S. labor force. Companies are allowed to file for only 85,000 new H-1B petitions in a year, and about two-thirds, or 56,000 a year, are in computer occupations. 

The U.S. job market is strong for individuals who work in computer occupations. The unemployment rate in math and computer occupationswas 2.5% in April 2021, below the 3%, lower than in January 2020 before the pandemic began. 

Today, there are well over 1 million active job vacancy postings in computer occupations, according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis of Emsi Job Posting Analytics. “There is not a fixed number of jobs, and people with high skills often create more jobs for people with complementary skills,” notes the NFAP analysis. “Still, even if one adopts a zero-sum approach, there are nearly 20 times more job vacancy postings in computer occupations than new H-1B petitions typically used by companies in computer occupations each year. There are also likely many more openings than publicly posted positions.”MORE FOR YOUFederal Judge Hears Arguments Against Trump’s H-1B Visa BanH-1B Visa Denials Continue To Mount For CompaniesCourt Hearing Shows Businesses Could Prevail Against H-1B Visa Rules

With regional Covid-19 bans still in place and many U.S. consulates either not operating or working in a limited capacity, visa backlogs, including for H-1B and L-1 visa, will continue to mount until the State Department commits to new policies. Jeffrey Gorsky, former Chief of the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the Visa Office in the U.S. Department of State, believes the State Department could become more creative with biometric intake, give visa processing a higher priority and conduct more interviews via video. He believes interviews via Zoom would meet the statutory definition of in-person interviews.

Due to Trump administration policies that U.S. courts found unlawful, H-1B denial rates reached 24% for initial employment and 12% for continuing employment in FY 2018 (compared to 6% and 3% in FY 2015). After USCIS agreed to a settlement with the ITServe Alliance that overturned years of restrictive policies, H-1B denial rates returned to pre-Trump levels (after costing companies millions of dollars). The Biden administration may remove some restrictions on H-1B visa holders that prevent them from starting businesses, according to the New York Times.

Still, the H-1B annual limit is low. Employers filed 308,000 H-1B registrations for cap selection for FY 2022, according to USCIS. That means over 72% of H-1B registrations for high-skilled foreign nationals were rejected even before an adjudicator evaluated the application.

The economic literature shows loosening restrictions on H-1B visas would benefit the U.S economy and American workers. A study by economists Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber and Angie Marek Zeitlin found, “The number of jobs for U.S.-born workers in computer-related industries would have grown at least 55% faster between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, if not for the denial of so many applications in the recent H-1B visa lotteries.”

Britta Glennon, an assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, found in her research that H-1B restrictions push technology-related jobs out of the United States: “[A]ny policies that are motivated by concerns about the loss of native jobs should consider that policies aimed at reducing immigration have the unintended consequence of encouraging firms to offshore jobs abroad.”

Some policymakers argue America needs even more restrictive laws and rules to block the hiring of foreign-born scientists and engineers. As discussed below, the Biden administration will soon decide on a series of restrictions that could produce significant changes in H-1B visa policy.

Rule Would Make it Less Likely International Students Will Get H-1B Petitions: Before Donald Trump left office, his administration finalized a regulation that would end the H-1B lottery and replace it with a system that awards H-1B petitions by highest to lowest salary level. Many attorneys consider the regulation to be unlawful, and there are pending lawsuits against the rule. Instead of taking steps to rescind the rule, the Biden administration only delayed the regulation until next year’s H-1B cap selection.

In addition to questions of legality, the rule finalized by the Trump administration would fulfill a long-standing goal of Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller and his allies to make it more difficult for international students to obtain an H-1B petition, which would discourage many students from coming to America in the first place.

International students are disadvantaged under the rule because choosing H-1B petitions by salary level favors individuals with the most experience in the labor market over those with the least experience. “The National Foundation for American Policy found that an international student may be 54% more likely to get an H-1B petition under the current H-1B lottery system than under the Trump administration’s regulation that would end the H-1B lottery,” according to an NFAP analysis of actual cases of recent international students and filings for H-1B petitions. “The data demonstrate the new regulation would have a significant negative effect on the ability of international students to gain an H-1B petition.”

“The law firm Curran, Berger & Kludt provided NFAP with 170 cases of F-1 students with applications for H-1B cap selection for FY 2018, FY 2019, FY 2020 and FY 2021,” according to NFAP. “Under the current system that randomly selects H-1B petitions, 60% of the F-1 students were chosen through the H-1B lottery. However, the law firm provided information on the pay levels (Level 1 through 4) for the students’ H-1B applications, and NFAP found if the new regulation had been in effect, only 39% of the students’ H-1B petitions would have been selected.” Education organizations had warned the Trump administration’s rule would harm international students and make studying in America less attractive.

Rule to Force Employers to Pay H-1B Visa Holders and Employment-Based Green Card Applicants Well Above Market Wages: Under a Department of Labor (DOL) rule, published in the final days of the Trump administration, “employers must pay 23% to 41% higher salaries than under the current system across a range of occupations if they want to employ high-skilled foreign nationals in America,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis. https://embedly.forbes.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fdatawrapper.dwcdn.net%2FUsMsI%2F1%2F&display_name=Datawrapper&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdatawrapper.dwcdn.net%2FUsMsI%2F1%2F&key=3ce26dc7e3454db5820ba084d28b4935&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=dwcdn

The rule would apply to H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants and could have a devastating impact on both. H-1B visa holders waiting in the green cards backlog might be forced to leave the country if an employer could not extend their H-1B status at the new, much higher required salary level.

There is no evidence H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants as a group are underpaid relative to native-born professionals. Numerous economic studies have found high-skilled foreign nationals, on balance, earn more than their native-born counterparts. For example, Andrew Chamberlain, the chief economist at Glassdoor, found, “Across the 10 cities and roughly 100 jobs we examined, salaries for foreign H-1B workers are about 2.8% higher than comparable U.S. salaries on Glassdoor.” A recent study by Utah State University economist Omid Bagheri finds a larger wage premium for high-skilled foreign nationals.

The Biden administration published a notice of an agency action to delay the DOL rule until November 14, 2022. At the same time, the administration requested information from the public on data sources for calculating the prevailing wage.

Three courts blocked the rule when it was published as “interim final” in October 2020. On January 14, 2021, the Trump administration published a final rule that was only slightly modified from the original and carried the same aim—to price H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants out of the U.S. labor market. “The revisions to the rule don’t change the fact that it still fails to do what the law requires—to reflect the actual, prevailing wage for workers in that geographical area doing similar work,” said Kevin Miner, a partner at Fragomen. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and allied business groups and education organizations filed an amended complaint that argues the regulation to end the H-1B lottery is unlawful and continued its lawsuit to end the Department of Labor wage regulation.

New Regulation on Work at Third-Party Sites: “USCIS is still aiming to have a regulation in place by FY23 cap season to restrict use of the H-1B category by outsourcing companies by changing the ‘employer-employee relationship’ definition,” according to Berry Appleman & Leiden. Peter Bendor-Samuel, founder and CEO of Everest Group, argues access to talent is key for competitiveness as information technology services companies attempt to build digital platforms for U.S. companies. “Almost every major U.S. firm is building some form of digital platform so it can enhance its competitive position both domestically and internationally,” he said. “This is probably the most important thing these firms are doing and success will define both company and global success as we move into the future.”

The mistaken premise of nearly all restrictions on high-skilled immigration is that foreign-born scientists and engineers offer no value to America or U.S. companies except for a willingness to work for less money. Some policymakers believe that people born in other countries possess inferior abilities to people born in the United States—hence the belief companies must pay them lower salaries—and incorrectly assume that only a fixed number of jobs exist in the U.S. economy. The Biden administration has an opportunity to adopt a more forward-looking policy.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2021/06/02/2021-might-be-a-decisive-year-for-h-1b-visas/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&sh=7932dc0018df

International students warming to US after Biden victory

We shall see how this affects Canada’s relative position but the largest source country for international students is also India as is the case in the US survey. Certainly the Trump administration did result in increased interest in studying and working in Canada:

International students’ perceptions of the United States as a study destination have significantly improved following the presidential election win by Joe Biden, according to new research by IDP Connect. 

The improved perceptions of the US among students surveyed in early 2021 could impact on the pulling power of rival destination countries Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the research suggests. 

A survey of more than 800 prospective international students in more than 40 countries who are interested in studying in the US – albeit with more than half of respondents based in India – has found that more than three quarters (76%) have improved perceptions of the US since the 2020 presidential election, with 67% stating they are now more likely to study there. 

“I really hope that the result of the election helps students like me to move to America and pursue our dreams,” said one respondent.

Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, said US higher education institutions should review their marketing and recruitment programmes to take full advantage of the change in perceptions. 

“Since the election in November 2020, we’ve seen higher search activity for the US, with the US now overtaking the UK in regard to international student search volumes.” 

He said: “US universities, colleges and education institutions should be looking at their recruitment strategies and practices to ensure they capture this momentum and support students in their decision-making process.”

When asked how nine key factors would be affected by the Biden administration, respondents expected all to improve, with the welfare of international students, safety of its citizens and visitors, and post-study work visa policies perceived to see the most improvements. 

Furthermore, the majority of students (69%) expected the new presidential administration would have a positive effect on their home country. 

As the students surveyed were at the early stages of their journey, many indicated they are still considering other destinations. Of those surveyed, half (50%) were also considering Canada, while 41% were considering the UK, just over a quarter (28%) were considering Australia and 13% were considering New Zealand as their study destination in addition to the US. 

Increased competition

This suggests that rising demand for study places in the US could mean increased competition for market share among these rival destination countries, the research notes.

The survey also showed that students from Africa were more likely to be exploring their study options in the US and Canada, while Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian students tended to look at the US and UK, IDP Connect said. The country from which students had the most improved perception of the US was Kenya.

A prospective graduate student from Nigeria said: “With this new administration, the United States will favour citizens of my country to study appropriately with due consideration.”

Emmett said the findings of the research are a reminder that students are tuned into global political discussions. 

“Of the students who stated they have a high awareness of US politics, 86% reported a better perception following the election,” Emmett said. 

Respondents were asked to rate how they feel the new administration would affect nine key factors on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing ‘will become much worse’ and 10 representing ‘will become much better’. Overall, students expect all nine factors to improve. 

This list was topped by ‘welfare of international students’ (7.52), followed by ‘safety of citizens and visitors’ (7.48), ‘post-study work visa policies’ (7.32), ‘economic stability of the US’ (7.28), ‘perceptions of the US overseas’ (7.24), ‘response to coronavirus’ (7.17), ‘political stability of the US’ (7.11), ‘management of social issues, eg community divisions’ (7.10) and ‘travel restriction policies’ (6.94).

Among respondents, 13% indicated they had high awareness of US politics (‘I follow US politics closely’), compared with moderate awareness (34%), low awareness (42%) and no awareness (‘I do not follow US politics’) (11%). 

Biden’s first steps

On his first day in office, Biden revoked former president Donald Trump’s travel bans blocking people from seven mostly Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, a critical first step towards rebuilding the reputation of US higher education in a global context.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), in late November wrote to then President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on behalf of 43 US university associations calling on them to move to ensure that American colleges and universities are “once again, the destination of choice for the world’s best international students and scholars”.

They urged Biden to withdraw Trump administration proposals to limit international students’ duration of stay and make it harder and costlier to obtain H-1B visas, which provide a pathway for foreign-born researchers to stay in the US on a long-term basis.

They also urged him to make it clear that the Optional Practical Training programme would remain in place. 

Biden has since proposed across the board changes to US immigration laws, including a step to make it easier for international graduate students with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the US by exempting them from immigrant visa caps. 

The draft immigration bill also includes permission for ‘dual intent’, which would mean student visa applicants no longer have to promise that they intend to leave the US when they finish their studies. Under the current single intent requirement, nine in 10 visa denials – close to a quarter of all applications – relate to a failure to convince officials that they solely intend to come and study and then leave.

However, it is not clear yet if the bill could garner enough political support.

Emmett said: “While the new administration has a more welcoming stance towards international students than the predecessor, it will be interesting to see if student perceptions of the US as a study destination continue to improve over the long term.”

Motivations for study in US

When asked why they are interested in studying in the US, the top motivation among respondents was ‘quality of teaching compared to my home country’ (64%), ‘modern, progressive, dynamic’ (59%), ‘institution or university of choice is located there’ (46%), ‘availability of part-time work’ (43%), ‘multicultural’ (33%), ‘attractive climate, weather, environment’ (30%), ‘safe country’ (29%), ‘Optional Practical Training or post-study work programme’ (26%), ‘affordable place to live and study’ (18%) and ‘family or friends recommended’ (14%). 

Among those who responded, 51% were interested in graduate programmes, 30% in undergraduate programmes and 19% in other (non-degree) programmes. Their expected start date of studying abroad was April to July 2021 (19%), August to October 2021 (38%), January to March 2022 (12%), April to July 2022 (6%), August to October 2022 (15%) and ‘beyond 2022’ (8%).

The survey results come with the caveat that they are dominated by views of students in India, one of the largest source countries for international students in the US. A majority and by far the largest group of respondents were located in India (483), followed by Kenya (74), Bangladesh (74), Indonesia (50), Egypt (29), Pakistan (27), Nepal (22), Philippines (22), Vietnam (16) and Cambodia (15). 

In 2019-20 the top five source countries for the more than one million international students in the US were: China, 372,532 students (34.6%); India, 193,124 (18%); South Korea, 49,809 (4.6%); Saudi Arabia, 30,957 (2.9%); and Canada, 25,992 (2.4%), according to datafrom the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210303133839873

Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Useful data and analysis, along with practical recommendations to streamline processes:

President Joe Biden rescinded Donald Trump’s presidential proclamation banning new immigrant visas for most new legal permanent residents coming from abroad. Trump justified the ban based on old, disproven economic protectionist arguments. He claimed immigrants would take jobs. During his campaign and in this proclamation, President Biden rejected this idea. Yet incongruously, he’s keeping an identical ban on temporary work visa holders.

The State Department issued nearly 290,000 fewer immigrant visas in the categories that the ban targeted during the year that it was in effect. If they are not from a country on which Biden has imposed a countrywide entry ban—mostly Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran—these immigrants will now be able to immigrate to the United States. This is great news for them and for the Americans with whom they plan to associate.

Altogether, the banned categories saw a 90 percent decline in visa issuances over the last year. The family‐​sponsored categories saw an average decline of 94 percent, while employees of U.S. businesses were least affected (partly due to a favorable court decision that exempted employees of members of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce). 83 percent of the banned immigrants were family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens were exempt from the ban, but they also saw a decline in the number of visas issued due to the travel restrictions. According to a government filing this month, the State Department had nearly 473,000 documentarily qualified family‐​based immigrant visa applicants—presumably some of these cases will ultimately turn into denials, but this will be a huge undertaking for the consulates to process.

Four ideas to help with this backlog (mostly borrowed from our one‐​time Cato author David Kubat):

  1. The government should use “parole‐​in‐​place” authority to waive the requirement to travel to consulate abroad for certain applicants who would otherwise be eligible to adjust in the United States if not for the fact that they initially entered without inspection (illegally).
  2. It should adjudicate applications for waivers on grounds of inadmissibility before conducting the interview to save time and streamline the process. Under the current process, the State Department waits until after they’ve taken your fingerprints, medical evaluation, and other documents and then get denied. Only then do you restart the many months‐​long process of trying again.
  3. It should allow for remote or virtual interviews to speed the interview process. Remote immigration court hearings are already happening.
  4. It should waive as many interviews as possible for applicants with no red flags and a history of travel to the United States.

As Figure 1 shows, the number of immigrant visas had already declined by more than a quarter before the pandemic. This means that even without the visa bans, the new administration will have to go further to rescind the numerous restrictions on legal immigration that led to that decline.

Of course, the other major visa ban—on the most common nonimmigrant work visa categories for skilled and seasonal nonagricultural workers—is still in effect. President Biden states in his order revoking the immigrant visa ban, “The suspension of entry…. does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States including…. industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.” These lines apply just as much to the nonimmigrant visa ban, yet Biden has chosen to keep it.

The nonimmigrant visa ban and immigrant visa backlog are just two of the numerous issues that Biden will have to address to get the legal immigration system back to what it was pre‐​Trump. There are also country‐​specific entry bans on Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran that lack any health basis. The public charge rule to keep out low‐​income immigrants is also still in force. USCIS has not reinstated its prior deference memo and so is still relitigating past approved petitions and applications in order to increase denials. The immigration forms still contain the bogus, vague, time‐​consuming, and expensive “extreme vetting” questions based on a faulty reading of the data on vetting failures. At the border, Border Patrol is still “expelling” asylum seekers under a political CDC order. The immigration courts and asylum process generally is still in chaos.

With this action, the president makes his first real attempt to reinstate the system to how it once was, but he’s not even 10 percent of the way there. Still, it’s a great first step.

Source: Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test

Expected:

The Department of Homeland Security is discarding a new citizenship test that just went into effect in December, reverting back to an older version after the Trump Administration’s test was blasted for allegedly containing conservative biases.

A new citizenship test, which took effect on December 1, upped the question pool for naturalization candidates from 100 to 128 questions and required 12 out of 20 questions randomly assigned to be answered correctly, up from 6 out of 10.

The test was also blasted for its content, with five questions in the pool referring to the Federalist Papers—a favorite topic among conservatives—with only two questions about the civil rights movement and three about women’s suffrage, for example.

Those who file for naturalization after March 1 will be given the 2008 test the Biden Administration is reverting to, while those who filed between December 1 and March 1 will be given the option of taking either the 2020 or 2008 version.

BIG NUMBER

Around 2,500. That’s how many comments from the public U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received about the 2020 changes.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“Multiple commenters noted that there was little advance notice before implementation of the 2020 civics test, which raised concerns about limited time for study and preparation of training materials and resources,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its policy change announcement Monday.

KEY BACKGROUND

The Trump Administration was known for its tough stance against immigration into the U.S., whether the immigration was legal or not. One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, which was never completed, and his administration became notorious for unwavering enforcement of family separation policies aimed at combating illegal immigration. The Trump Administration also curbed legal access for noncitizens to work in the U.S., tightening the rules around H-1B visas. The Administration made numerous policy changes committed to enforcing what it touted as traditional American values, but what critics denounced as pushing conservative views. One of Trump’s final acts was creating the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools, which was almost immediately zapped by President Joe Biden.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Democrats have proposed an immigration bill that could give around 11 million undocumented immigrants U.S. citizenship through an eight-year process, but the bill faces a difficult path of passing through the 50-50 Senate.

Source: Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test

Immigration Newspeak II — USCIS Edition

Predictable criticism by CIS on the more inclusive language of the Biden Administration. Similar to Canadian debates over “illegal” border crossers and “irregular arrivals”:

As I previously wrote, open borders advocates vehemently oppose the use of precise legal terms found in U.S. immigration law. The recent “dehumanizing” strawman term is “alien”, which is defined in statute at section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as: “The term ‘alien’ means any person not a citizen or national of the United States.” The Biden administration particularly despises the term and devotes an entire section of its mass amnesty bill to replace “alien” with “noncitizen” throughout the INA. While this legislative change is silly and unnecessary, if it becomes law then so be it, that is the proper way of making change.

However, Biden’s deputies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have taken it upon themselves to preemptively trash statutory language in favor of the activists’ preferred lingo. Unexpectedly, the first change occurred at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where agents were ordered to discontinue using “alien” and “illegal alien” and instead use “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual”. Further exposing the absurdity of this linguistic gymnastics, ICE agents were ordered to replace “aslyee” with “asylum-seeker”. When I worked at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the term “asylee” was largely understood to mean an alien who had established eligibility for asylum. Under the Biden “newspeak”, legitimate asylees have now been demoted in reference to speculative asylum seekers. DHS justified this change as “an effort to align with current guidance and to ensure consistency in reporting”. But, as my colleague Art Arthur pointed out, the term “noncitizen” inherently defines someone by what he or she is not — a citizen.

Alas, this illogical scrubbing of technical language has reached my former agency. As first reported by Axios (and confirmed by my sources), USCIS staff received a memo February 16 — dated February 12 — with the subject “Terminology Changes”. (See the two pages of the memo here and here.) Citing the Biden-backed mass amnesty bill that has still not formally been introduced in either chamber of Congress, the memo says “the Biden Administration provides direction on the preferred use of immigration-related terminology within the federal government” and includes a table of previously used terms and the Biden-approved replacements. On the outs are “alien”, “illegal alien”, and “assimilation”, which are replaced with “noncitizen”, “undocumented noncitizen or undocumented individual”, and “integration, civic integration”. Curiously, the table also lists “undocumented alien” as a previously used term (to be replaced by the same terms acceptable in place of “illegal alien”) yet this term was never used in my four years at the agency because it is an inaccurate term made up by amnesty advocates.

Un-ironically, the memo contradicts itself by saying the guidance “does not affect legal, policy or other operational documents, including forms, where using terms (i.e., applicant, petitioner, etc.) as defined by the INA would be the most appropriate.” In the table replacing “alien” with “noncitizen” there is an associated footnote that reads, “Use noncitizen except when citing statute or regulation, or in a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, or Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge.” Translation: This cringe-worthy effort is a messaging gimmick.

At a time when USCIS is continuing to struggle financially and has record-level backlogs, posturing by the political appointees at the agency demonstrates a clear disconnect from the serious issues the agency needs to address. At the risk of embarrassing the Biden political appointees at USCIS, I do wonder if they are aware that the “A” in “A-Number” (the unique personal identifier assigned for immigration benefits) and “A-File” (individual files identified by the A-Number) stands for “alien”. Has the USCIS Office of the Chief Financial Officer calculated the time and money it will take to replace “A-Files” with (presumably) “NC-Numbers” and “NC-Files”? How about a complete overhaul of the USCIS website? Even if the answer is yes, which I doubt, what a waste of resources.

If you believe the memo, the terminology changes are essential for “the interest of effective communication” and “designed to encourage the use of more inclusive language.” I can think of nothing more ineffective than requiring USCIS staff, the media, and the public to maintain a cheat sheet of terms in order to communicate and understand what is being discussed. And, again, who exactly is “excluded” by statutory term “alien”? The memo, unsurprisingly, is silent on that point.

Source: Immigration Newspeak II — USCIS Edition

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.

Biden White House Aims To Advance Racial Equity With Executive Actions

Of note and interest given the broad yet specific focus, not just limited to employment equity within government:

Saying it’s time to act “because that’s what faith and morality require us to do,” President Biden on Tuesday signed four executive actions aimed at advancing racial equity for Americans the White House says have been underserved and left behind.

Biden said Tuesday that the measures follow one of his core campaign promises: to restore “the soul of the nation,” as he often said during the presidential race.

“Our soul will be troubled,” he said, “as long as systemic racism is allowed to exist.”

In announcing the actions, Biden cited the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer last May, which touched off demonstrations in cities across the United States. Biden called the killing “the knee on the neck of justice,” and said that because of it, “the ground has shifted. It changed minds and mindsets.”

The four executive actions Biden signed:

  • direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development “to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies”;
  • direct the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons;
  • reaffirm the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation”:
  • and combat xenophobia against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Before the signing ceremony, Biden also called for restoring and extending the Voting Rights Act, but announced no new initiatives regarding ballot access. Some state legislatures are seeking to restrict access in the aftermath of November’s elections.

Earlier, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice told reporters that “advancing equity is a critical part of healing and of restoring unity in our nation.”

Rice cited a 2016 Department of Justice inspector general’s report that she said found private prisons are “less safe, less secure and arguably less humane.” She said Biden is committed to reducing incarceration levels “while making communities safer,” which she said starts with not issuing any new federal contracts for private prisons. But Rice said the order does not apply to private prisons used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The ACLU called Biden’s action on private prisons “an important first step,” but that he “has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises.”

According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, a little over 14,000 federal inmates are currently in privately managed facilities. That’s 9% of total federal inmates.

In a statement, the Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing private detention facilities, said Biden’s action “is a misguided attempt to blame longtime government contractors for a ‘mass incarceration’ problem they actually play zero role in driving.”

The White House said the presidential memorandum on housing directs HUD to “examine the effects of the Trump administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws,” and the measure also “recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts.”

The Biden administration says the executive action on tribal sovereignty shows its commitment “to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities.” The order, the White House says, “reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.”

Biden’s presidential memorandum on Asian American and Pacific Islanders establishes that the policy of the administration “is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination,” which Biden called “unacceptable and un-American.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose along with the spread of the coronavirus, which emerged from China. Former President Donald Trump routinely referred to it as “the China virus.”

The memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services “to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response.” It also directs the Department of Justice to work with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities “to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.”

Tuesday’s measures continue Biden’s rollout of more than 20 executive actions in his administration’s first days.

One executive action signed last week requires all federal departments and agencies to look for ways to address racial equity.

And a senior government official, who spoke to reporters Tuesday on the condition of not being identified, said, “This is not the end of our work on racial equity,” adding that “we’ll have a lot more work to do in the coming weeks and months.”

Source: Biden White House Aims To Advance Racial Equity With Executive Actions

Biden wants to remove this controversial word from US laws

Words matter:

It’s just one small part of the sweeping immigration overhaul President Biden is pushing.

But the symbolic significance is huge.

Biden’s proposed bill, if passed, would remove the word “alien” from US immigration laws, replacing it with the term “noncitizen.”
 
It’s a deliberate step intended to recognize America as “a nation of immigrants,” according to a summary of the bill released by the new administration.
 
The term “illegal alien,” long decried as a dehumanizing slur by immigrant rights advocates, became even more of a lightning rod during the Trump era — with some top federal officials encouraging its use and several states and local governments taking up measures to ban it.
 
“The language change on the first day of this administration, with Kamala Harris the daughter of immigrants, to me it’s not just symbolic…it’s foundational,” says Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant whose organization, Define American, pushes for more accurate portrayals of immigrants.
 
“How we describe people really sticks. It affects how we treat them,” he says. “How we talk about immigrants shapes the policies. It frames what are the issues really at stake here. It acknowledges that we’re talking about human beings and families.”

What the laws say now

US code currently defines “alien” as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”
 
Officials in the past have pointed to the term’s prevalence in US laws to defend their word choices.
 
In 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors to refer to someone who’s illegally in the United States as “an illegal alien,” citing the US code in an agency-wide email.
 
The term “alien” was often invoked by President Trump in speeches as he warned of what he saw as the dangers of unchecked illegal immigration.
 
Speaking at the Mexico border last week in one of his final addresses as president, Trump used the term at least five times.
 
“We were in the Trump administration the perennial boogeyman,” Vargas said.
 
“Whenever Trump was in trouble, he started talking about the ‘illegals’ and talking about the border.”
 
But not everyone in the Trump administration was a fan of the language.
 
In an interview with the Washington Post published shortly before he resigned as acting secretary of Homeland Security in 2019, Kevin McAleenan told the newspaper he avoided using the term “illegal aliens” and instead described people as “migrants.”
 
“I think the words matter a lot,” McAleenan said, according to the Post. “If you alienate half of your audience by your use of terminology, it’s going to hamper your ability to ever win an argument.”

This isn’t the first effort to change such wording

California struck “alien” from the state’s labor code in 2015.
 
New York City removed the term from its charter and administrative code last year.
 
Throughout President Trump’s time in office, immigrant advocates criticized dehumanizing rhetoric.
In guidelines issued in 2019, New York City banned the term “illegal alien” when used “with intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person.” Violations, the city warned, could result in fines up to $250,000.
 
And last year two Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill to replace the term “illegal alien” with “undocumented immigrant.” The bill never made it to the state Senate floor for a vote.

Prank callers targeted the term early in the Trump administration

One of the first times the use of the term “alien” drew widespread attention during the Trump administration was in 2017 after officials publicized a hotline for victims of “crimes committed by removable aliens.”
 
Prank callers swiftly flooded the line with reports about space aliens, sharing examples on social media of their comments about Martians and UFOs.
 
But Vargas says the term and others used to demonize immigrants are no laughing matter.
 
“Language has power. And I think we saw that in the Trump administration, how it used dehumanizing terms and how it debased language and in turn debased people,” Vargas says. “If you call them ‘alien,’ of course you’re going to put them in jail, of course you’re going to lock them up, of course you’re not going to care that you’re separating little kids from their parents.”
 
Vargas says the new administration’s effort to use more respectful language gives him hope that some Americans’ views on undocumented immigrants could also shift. Changing just one word, he says, could have a far-reaching impact for millions of people.
 

Rioux: Réconcilier les Américains?

Rioux on what he perceives to the the extreme left in the USA and his attack against programs targeted towards minority communities. A caricature of these programs and an ignorance of the reality lived by those communities, not to mention the ample evidence of worse economic and social outcomes.

Of course, it is a political risk, but one that has historical and current justifications, particularly after the Trump presidency.

And should the general policy changes work (economic recovery, COVID measures, immigration reform etc) unlikely that there will be major negative political consequences despite some of the political rhetoric:

Lorsqu’il a juré sur la Bible, perché sur les hauteurs du Capitole devant des rangées de drapeaux plantés dans le sol, Joe Biden avait l’air bien seul. Le nouveau président américain a évidemment juré de rassembler l’Amérique et les Américains. Les accents paraissaient souvent sincères. Mais le pourra-t-il ?

Pour ce faire, ce vieux membre de l’establishment démocrate peut miser sur sa longue expérience de négociateur. Mais il lui faudra pour cela prendre en compte le fossé grandissant qui sépare le peuple américain de ses élites et qui a servi de marchepied à Donald Trump pour se hisser au pouvoir.

Lorsqu’on veut se réconcilier avec quelqu’un, il faut commencer par le traiter poliment et éviter de l’insulter. En jouant l’hyperbole sur les événements du Capitole, les démocrates et les médias n’ont fait pour l’instant que jeter de l’huile sur le feu. Si cette profanation d’un lieu sacré de la démocratie est un geste gravissime, il faut une imagination débridée pour comparer ces personnages de carnaval venus faire des égoportraits dans le bureau de Nancy Pelosi aux marins de Kronstadt, aux milices de la Nuit de cristal ou aux incendiaires du Reichstag.

La génération des « safe spaces » biberonnée aux jeux vidéo a peut-être eu des sueurs froides. Mais ce qui s’est passé le 6 janvier a plus à voir avec la jacquerie des gilets jaunes français qu’avec une insurrection ou une tentative de coup d’État. En novembre 2018, les gilets jaunes avaient bien tenté d’envahir l’Élysée. La garde républicaine eût-elle été aussi empotée que la police américaine, les manifestants auraient paradé en Robespierre dans le bureau d’Emmanuel Macron. Mais ce n’aurait été qu’une parodie de révolution.

Nous avons assisté en direct au suicide politique du Dr Folamour qui a dirigé les États-Unis pendant quatre ans. Dans cette société éminemment violente qu’ont toujours été les États-Unis, le geste répond, comme en miroir, aux longues semaines d’émeutes qui ont suivi l’assassinat de George Floyd et qui ont fait, elles, une trentaine de morts. Avec la bénédiction de nombreux élus démocrates !

Il faut néanmoins reconnaître les efforts que Joe Biden a déployés pour reconquérir les États de la Rust Belt que Trump avait ravis aux démocrates en 2016. Mais ces gains ne seront que de courte durée si le président persiste à obéir à son extrême gauche en introduisant, notamment, des critères raciaux dans le programme de relance du pays. Un programme conçu, dit-il, « spécifiquement pour aider les entreprises possédées par des Noirs et des Bruns » (Black and Brown people). Des mots dignes d’un nouvel apartheid !

Peu importent les appels du président à la réconciliation, cette pensée racialiste est la recette parfaite de la guerre civile. En Oregon, le fonds de 62 millions destiné à aider spécifiquement « les citoyens et propriétaires d’entreprises noirs » est d’ailleurs l’objet de poursuites devant les tribunaux. Car cette épidémie « n’est pas une affaire de Blancs ou de Noirs. C’est l’affaire de tout le monde », a déclaré l’entrepreneur d’origine hispanique Walter Leja, qui fait partie des plaignants.

Joe Biden ne peut pas ignorer que, selon l’Institut Gallup, 74 % des Américains sont contre l’utilisation de critères raciaux dans l’embauche. Un consensus confirmé en novembre par le rejet, pour une seconde fois en 25 ans, de la proposition 16 en Californie. Soutenue par les lobbies ethniques et les grandes entreprises, elle visait à réintroduire ce qu’on nomme là-bas la « discrimination positive » dans l’emploi, l’éducation et l’octroi des contrats publics.

Or, cette réaffirmation des principes d’égalité républicaine ne vient pas cette fois des perdants de la mondialisation, ceux-là mêmes qu’Hillary Clinton avait qualifiés de « déplorables ». Elle vient de l’un des États les plus modernes, les plus multiethniques et qui est de plus un fief démocrate. Aux États-Unis, l’attachement au principe de l’égalité républicaine dépasse de loin les 74 millions d’électeurs de Donald Trump. Il est même un des fondements du pays. Biden ne pourra pas le renier sans en subir les conséquences.

« Réconcilier l’Amérique », cela ne se fera pas non plus en légitimant la censure pratiquée par ces milliardaires du numérique alliés aux démocrates qui, du haut de leur supériorité morale, ont supprimé les comptes d’un président démocratiquement élu. Cette nouvelle alliance de la « cancel culture » avec les magnats des GAFA a de quoi faire se retourner dans leurs tombes tous les « progressistes » d’hier et d’avant-hier.

Joe Biden ne doit pas se tromper sur les raisons qui lui ont permis de l’emporter de justesse au Sénat et au Congrès. Si les Américains ont voulu se débarrasser d’un président égocentrique, incohérent et narcissique, ils n’ont pas plébiscité la politique racialiste et la culture de l’Index que caresse la gauche du Parti démocrate.

Réconcilier l’Amérique suppose que l’on croie dans la nation et une citoyenneté qui ne soit pas fondée sur des critères raciaux. Faute de tenir compte de ces avertissements, l’épisode Biden pourrait bien prendre fin dans deux ans, à l’occasion des élections de mi-mandat. Et la guerre civile larvée symbolisée par l’émeute du Capitole se poursuivra de plus belle.

Source: TO ADD

Biden bets big on immigration changes in opening move

Good overview:

For the opening salvo of his presidency, few expected Joe Biden to be so far-reaching on immigration.

A raft of executive orders signed Wednesday undoes many of his predecessor’s hallmark initiatives, such as halting work on a border wall with Mexico, lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries and reversing plans to exclude people in the country illegally from the 2020 census.

Six of Biden’s 17 orders, memorandums and proclamations deal with immigration. He ordered efforts to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program known as DACA that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. He also extended temporary legal status to Liberians who fled civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022.

The Homeland Security Department announced a 100-day moratorium on deportations “for certain noncitizens,” starting Friday, after Biden revoked one of Trump’s earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations.

That’s not it. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, unveiled Wednesday, is an immigration bill that would give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1 — an estimated 11 million people — and reduce the time that family members must wait outside the United States for green cards.

Taken together, Biden’s moves represent a sharp U-turn after four years of relentless strikes against immigration, captured most vividly by the separation of thousands of children from their parents under a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings. Former President Donald Trump’s administration also took hundreds of other steps to enhance enforcement, limit eligibility for asylum and cut legal immigration.

The new president dispelled any belief that his policies would resemble those of former President Barack Obama, who promised a sweeping bill his first year in office but waited five years while logging more than 2 million deportations.

Eager to avoid a rush on the border, Biden aides signaled that it will take time to unwind some of Trump’s border policies, which include making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court. Homeland Security said that on Thursday it would stop sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for hearings but that people already returned should stay put for now.

It “will take months to be fully up and running in terms of being able to do the kind of asylum processing that we want to be able to do,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, told reporters.

Despite the deliberative pace in some areas, Biden’s moves left pro-immigration advocates overjoyed. Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, called the legislation “the most progressive legalization bill in history.”

“We made it,” she said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “We made this day happen.”

It is even more striking because immigration got scarce mention during the campaign, and the issue has divided Republicans and Democrats, even within their own parties. Legislative efforts failed in 2007 and 2013.

More favorable attitudes toward immigration — especially among Democrats — may weigh in Biden’s favor. A Gallup survey last year found that 34% of those polled supported more immigration, up from 21% in 2016 and higher than any time since Gallup began asking the question in 1965.

Seven in 10 voters said they preferred offering immigrants in the U.S. illegally a chance to apply for legal status, compared with about 3 in 10 who thought they should be deported to the country they came from, according to AP VoteCast. The survey of more than 110,000 voters in November showed 9 in 10 Biden voters but just about half of Trump voters were in favor of a path to legal status.

Under the bill, most people would wait eight years for citizenship but those enrolled in DACA, those with temporary protective status for fleeing strife-torn countries and farmworkers would wait three years.

The bill also offers development aid to Central America, reduces the 1.2 million-case backlog in immigration courts and provides more visas for underrepresented countries and crime victims.

The proposal would let eligible family members wait in the United States for green cards by granting temporary status until their petitions are processed — a population that Kerri Talbot of advocacy group Immigration Hub estimates at 4 million.

Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens who have been waiting outside the country for more than six years are just getting their numbers called this month. Waits are even longer for some nationalities. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens from Mexico have been waiting outside the United States since August 1996.

The bill faces an enormous test in Congress. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Wednesday that he would lead the Senate effort. Skeptics will note that Ronald Regan’s 1986 amnesty for nearly 3 million immigrants preceded large numbers of new arrivals and say to expect more of the same.

In a taste of what’s to come, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, described the bill as having “open borders: Total amnesty, no regard for the health and security of Americans, and zero enforcement.”

To be clear, enforcement has expanded exponentially since the mid-1990s and will remain. Biden’s bill calls for more technology at land crossings, airports and seaports and authorizes the Homeland Security secretary to consider other steps.

Biden warned advocates last week that they should not hold him to passage within 100 days, said Domingo Garcia of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who was on a call with the president.

“Today we celebrate,” Carlos Guevara of pro-immigration group UnidosUS said Wednesday. “Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Source: Biden bets big on immigration changes in opening move