It is truly amazing to be on the U.S. Immigration Roller Coaster these days! We have never before experienced the level of upheaval that has transpired in only 18 months since President Trump took office! It is truly volcanic! The week began with a great piece by Noah Smith in Bloomberg titled, “Watch What Happens When You Push Away Skilled Immigrants” – The U.S. can hire talented foreigners here, or they’ll end up working overseas. On the one hand, we are contending with President Trump’s harsh policies toward asylum seekers and unauthorized/illegal immigrants. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has unilaterally decided to radically alter the asylum rules and regulations in determining who is eligible – and who isn’t – i.e. victims of domestic violence in their home countries! However, what many people have not observed is that the Trump administration has skillfully used rule changes and executive action to make life incredibly more challenging for legal immigrants. The fact that CBP officials at the airports are now actively checking social media is just a small example of the expanded powers that have been granted to CBP and USCIS officials who already wielded tremendous power and discretion in deciding whom to admit to the U.S. For example, the administration has just announced that foreign workers will be targeted for potential (immediate) deportation if their petition for a green card is not approved or an application for a visa extension expires or is denied. That is, the Service will be issuing Notices to Appear (NTA’s) for immigration court! According to Smith, “Trump and his administration seem to be trying to harass skilled foreign workers out of the country.” And, “this is a terrible policy for the U.S. to be following, at a time when those workers are needed more than ever.” It has been well established that foreign nationals generate needed tax revenue to pay for general infrastructure, education, sanitation, police, etc. in our country and that declining regions particularly need immigrants to bolster their populations. However, “foreign workers are crucial to maintaining American technological and industrial dominance. Without a continued inflow of skilled workers, the U.S. risks losing its edge to China and other rivals.” Keep in mind, these H-1B workers spend their earnings in the U.S., invest in the U.S., raise their kids here, pay taxes, etc. According to the author, “hire skilled workers in America, or they’ll be hired elsewhere” such as Canada – which is always a step ahead of the U.S.! For example, they adroitly utilized the investor visa at a very reasonable amount for Canadian landed immigrant status (their version of the “green card”) in developing Vancouver long before the EB-5 investor green card program became popular in the U.S.! And, Canada is now actively attracting foreign nationals by offering easy student visas that will then lead to landed immigrant status within only a few years. Once again, they are using our bad policies to their advantage! Surely, U.S. companies such as Microsoft, if thwarted in being able to bring in skilled H-1B workers to the U.S., will simply expand their operations and campuses abroad such as in India where the cost of running their business is far cheaper than here. Simple economics!
Robert Reich – The “7 Truths About Immigration”
And then Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, weighed in this week by citing the “7 truths about immigration.” According to Reich: A record high of 75% of Americans now say immigration is a “good thing” for our country; America needs more immigrants, not fewer, because our population is rapidly aging; Historically, new immigrants have contributed more to society in taxes than they have taken from society in terms of public assistance; Most immigrants don’t take jobs away from native-born Americans. To the contrary, their spending creates more jobs; Trump’s claim that undocumented immigrants generate more crime is dead wrong. Both legal and undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than those born in the United States; violent crime rates in America are actually at historical lows, with the homicide rate back to its level from the early 1960’s; Illegal border crossings have been declining since 2014- long before Trump’s “crackdown.” There is no “surge” in illegal immigration. Way to go Robert – you are right on! Can anyone in the Trump administration hear him?
After being thwarted along the southern U.S. border, we now learn, and no surprise, that the Vermont-Quebec border is now becoming a “popular place for illegal immigrants to cross into the U.S.” In fact, the cost of being smuggled along the huge Canadian border is about $4,000 – half of the cost for being smuggled in along the southern border!
We have also learned that for former migrant families reunited under the awesome California federal court order, the future remains somewhat uncertain. Although more than 1,800 migrant families have now been reunified under the court-ordered deadline, the immigration authorities are now contending with the additional issue of how fast they can deport those having final orders of removal (estimated at 1,000), what to do with the children of those facing deportation, etc. Picture three, four, and five year old kids having to appear in immigration court trying to defend themselves by claiming asylum from Central American countries! There is no right to counsel in immigration court because immigration violations are generally regarded (except for “unlawful entry after deportation”) as civil and not criminal!
And, federal judge Dolly Gee in LA has now ordered an independent monitor to evaluate conditions in border facilities that house immigrant children, “amid allegations of unsafe conditions and rampant abuse.” Reports have emerged of immigrant children separated from their parents having been kicked and abused by guards in these facilities! This is terrible! And, it is actually happening in the U.S.!
5 Refugees Who Changed Modern American History
In case you missed it, Alejandro De La Garza wrote a terrific piece in Time magazine on June 20th describing some of the awesome refugees who have provided so many amazing contributions to America over the years. This list includes Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State and former U.S. ambassador to the UN, whose family fled Czechoslovakia to England in 1939 and later came to the U.S. Although raised Catholic, she later learned that her parents had converted from Judaism! Who knew? In addition, you have Dith Pran, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and Cambodian refugee; Gloria Estefan, the 7-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter who was born in Havana, Cuba; Sidney Hillman, adviser to FDR who was born in Lithuania and later came to the U.S., Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State whose family fled the Nazis in 1938 who is still going strong! Readers, this is but a very short list. Keep in mind that almost all of the U.S. Nobel prize winners over the years were born abroad and not in the U.S.! Doesn’t this tell us something about the value of foreign nationals in our great country? And, at this time, the administration is actively trying to prevent them from coming in! I recently read an article about the founder of one of the tech giants who was born in Brazil, then came to the U.S. as a foreign student, later obtained an H-1B visa, but then had to jump through hoops to be able to obtain his green card before his H-1B visa expired! Why are we making this process so incredibly challenging for highly smart and talented foreign nationals? Are American kids, aspiring rock and media stars, actually studying science, math and technology? I highly doubt it! But kids in other countries are! We do need them-now to prevent our country from decaying!
The September 11th USCIS Memo
As if this process is not challenging enough, we now have to contend with the recently announced September 11th Memo which will permit USCIS to reject any application or petition that, in their total discretion, they deem to be incomplete or deficient! No more will we be receiving Service Requests for Further Evidence (RFE’s) giving us the opportunity to provide a missing document or to address any issue raised by the Service establishing eligibility in connection with an H-1B working visa application, L-1 company transfer visa petition, etc., which has always been the case since I started practicing immigration law 30 years ago! Also, this will apply to family immigration petitions. In the event a key document is missing, USCIS will simply deny the petition or application and retain the huge application/filing fees! And, for those trying to be their own immigration lawyer – watch out! You can’t afford to assume this risk! Immigration law is not for amateurs or newbies! You can’t simply go on-line, download forms and learn immigration law! The consequences for doing so will be very severe! Experience and expertise in the field are now more important than ever! Welcome to my world!