NEWSLETTER: April 7, 2017

NEWSLETTER: April 7, 2017

USCIS HAS REACHED THE H-1B VISA CAP FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018

USCIS reported today that it has now reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2018 after only 4 days. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the Master’s cap.

Notably, USCIS has received great criticism for their temporary stoppage of “premium processing” service for H-1B visas, a program that allowed employers to pay extra to reduce visa wait times from as long as eight months to just two weeks. Not only has this hurt employers who wish to expedite the process, USCIS records show that this suspension will result in a severe loss of revenue as premium processing fees have amounted to $2.3 billion over the past 8 years.

BAY AREA TECH EXECUTIVES INDICTED FOR H-1B VISA FRAUD

Two Bay San Francisco tech executives have recently been indicted for fraudulently filing false H-1B visa documents in a scheme to illegally obtain visas and bring a pool of foreign tech workers into the United States. These executives have been charged with 26 counts of visa fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft in the Northern District of California. Each charge can carry penalties of between 2 to 20 years in prison.

ICE QUIETLY UPDATES RULE TO MAKE IT EASIER TO DETAIN EVEN MORE IMMIGRANTS

Immigration officials have issued a new “Detainer Form” that could sweep up even more undocumented immigrants into the Trump administration’s deportation force. A detainer form is commonly sent to local police jurisdiction by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials when they are seeking to take someone into custody. Unlike the previous detainer policy which recommended ICE officials to detain someone who had a prior conviction, such as a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors, the new detainer policy includes no detailed guidance. This means that ICE could send local police a detainer for any “subject” they believe “is removable from the United States.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ORDERS TOUGHER SCREENING OF VISA APPLICANTS

The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the U.S. by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents. This comes as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson recently instructed U.S. consular officers abroad to broadly increase scrutiny, the first evidence of Mr. Trump’s “extreme vetting” promise. The extra scrutiny will include asking applicants detailed questions about their background and making mandatory checks of social media history to determine if the person has ever been in a territory controlled by the Islamic State. Nevertheless, the new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 non-Middle Eastern or African countries that are admitted into the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program (ESTA).

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS SAYS GRANTS TO BE WITHHELD FROM SANCTUARY CITIES

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently announced that state and local governments seeking Justice Department grants must certify they are not “sanctuary cities,” which do not assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, in order to receive federal money. Among these grants are those from the Office of Justice Programs that provides billions of dollars in grants and other funding to help criminal justice programs across the country. During a recent appearance in the White House press briefing room, Mr. Session justified his actions by stating that sanctuary cities “make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” and he “urg[es] states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.” New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco are sanctuary cities.

SURVEY FINDS FOREIGN STUDENTS AREN’T APPLYING TO AMERICAN COLLEGES

As reported by NBC News, a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers shows that applications from international students from countries such as China, India and, in particular, the Middle East, are down this year. Educators, recruiters and school officials report that the perception of the United States has changed for international students as the U.S. is no longer viewed internationally as a welcoming place anymore. According to the Association of International Educators, the number of foreign students topped 1 million for the first time in 2016 and they generated around $32 billion in revenues which supported more than 400,000 jobs. Education professionals therefore warn a drop in international students could lead to faculty cuts, higher tuition and the loss of programs.

TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN HAS AN ALARMING EFFECT ON PUBLIC SAFETY

Recent reports has indicated that the Trump administration’s crackdown on deportations and sanctuary cities have caused undocumented immigration to avoid law enforcement at all costs, including by refusing to report crimes and declining to testify in court cases. According to Denver’s city attorney, an example of this was recently seen in Denver where four women made domestic abuse allegations and later declined to pursue their cases out of fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would see them in the courthouse and deport them. Similar scenarios have played out in cities across the U.S. as ICE have in fact detained individuals in city courthouses where ICE has defended such policy as a last resort effort after “other options” have been exhausted.

CAN MASSACHUSETTS POLICE DETAIN SOMEONE FOR A U.S. IMMIGRATION VIOLATION?

The Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’ highest court, is scheduled to hear a case on April 4, 2017, regarding whether Massachusetts law enforcement officers have authority to arrest and detain someone for civil immigration purposes, on a request for detainment by ICE, or whether this violates a person’s civil rights. We will keep our readers informed as this case develops.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY HAS FLAGGED 31 EMPLOYEES AT TOM CAT BAKERY IN QUEENS

A Queens bakery has told 31 of its employees that it must procure valid working papers proving they are allowed to work in the U.S. or be fired after the bakery was audited by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As many of the employees flagged by DHS have been at the 30-year-old company for as long as 24 years, they have opted to fight back and have held rallies in front of the bakery demanding either that Tom Cat sponsor the longtime employees to work there, or pay severance.

It is unknown whether the audit of the bakery is routine or the result of President Trump’s stronger stance on undocumented workers.