Government to End TPS for Nepalis

On April 26, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intention to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of Nepal living and working legally in the U.S.

Nepal was designated for TPS, granted by the U.S. to individuals from certain countries impacted by natural disasters or civil conflict, after the country suffered devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015.  An estimated 9000 Nepalese currently have TPS, and are now slated to lose that status on June 24, 2019.

Nepal joins a long list of countries that the Administration has decided, often against the contrary wisdom of their own officials on the ground, are now safe and able to manage the repatriation of their citizens with TPS.   To date, the Administration has announced termination of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.  (Update: On May 4, 2018, the Administration added Honduras to the countries whose TPS status will be terminated).

In total (including Honduras), over 300,000 individuals will lose their TPS, putting them at risk of deportation and depriving them of their ability to continue to work legally in the U.S.

While many will be able to fight to remain in the U.S., if they do not qualify on some basis other than TPS, they will lack work authorization during that process, to their detriment and that of their families, their employers, and our economy.

State Legislature’s Unfinished Business

Maine’s Legislature adjourned last week when the House rejected a move approved by the Senate to extend the session by five days to resolve important unfinished business.

The Legislature will reconvene on May 2nd to deal with vetoes issued by the Governor, and may try to take up the most pressing unresolved issues, such as tax conformity and Medicaid expansion funding.

Among the many bills destined to die without final action are the MeBIC-supported  LD 1492, An Act to Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers to Strengthen the Workforce, described in this previous post.  The bill passed in both the House and Senate with bipartisan majorities.  It then went to the Appropriations Committee for funding, from which it never emerged.

MeBIC is deeply disappointed that LD 1492, which would have helped ensure immigrant access to the English classes and other supports to aid them in reach their full potential in their communities and in Maine’s workforce, appears destined not to become law this year.

On the flip side, other bills submitted at the Governor’s request in the last month of the Legislative session that would have sent a hostile message to immigrants, and burdened Maine employers, also never advanced.

MeBIC  is committed to ensuring that an updated and possibly even more robust version of LD 1492 is introduced in next year’s legislative session.  Investing in immigrants’ ability to succeed is an investment for Maine’s future.

Immigration Has Overall Positive Impact on Labor Markets and the Economy

The National Academy of Science has published The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, an exhaustive analysis of the impact of immigration on the United States.

The 2017 report, the result of efforts by a panel of experts with divergent views convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, examined a broad range of important issues, including:

(t)o what extent do the skills brought to market by immigrants
complement those of native-born workers, thereby improving their prospects; and to what extent do immigrants displace native workers in the labor market or lower their wages? How does immigration contribute to vibrancy in construction, agriculture, high tech, and other sectors? What is the role of immigration in driving productivity gains and long-term economic growth?

Other questions arise about taxes and public spending: What are the fiscal impacts of immigration on state, local, and federal governments—do immigrants cost more than they contribute in taxes? How do impacts change when traced over the life cycle of immigrants and their children? How does their impact on public finances compare with that of the native born population? To what extent is the sustainability of programs such as Social Security and Medicare affected by immigration and immigration policy?

The report finds overall that immigrants have a net positive effect.  Among the summarized conclusions, the report states that

 immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. Immigration supplies workers who have helped the United States to avoid the problems facing stagnant economies created by unfavorable demographics—in particular, an aging (and, in the case of Japan, a shrinking) workforce. Moreover, the infusion by high-skilled immigration of human capital has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change. The literature on immigrants and innovation suggests that immigrants raise patenting per capita, which ultimately contributes to productivity growth. The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants.

Even for workers not in high-skilled fields,  the report finds that

over a period of more than 10 years, the impact of immigration on the  wages of natives overall is very small….  To the extent that negative wage effects are found, prior immigrants—who are often the closest substitutes for new immigrants—are most likely to experience them…. The literature on employment impacts finds little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers. However, recent research finds that immigration reduces the number of hours worked by native teens (but not their employment rate). Moreover, as with wage impacts, there is some evidence that recent immigrants reduce the employment rate of prior immigrants—again suggesting a higher degree of substitutability between new and prior immigrants than between new immigrants and natives.

As for fiscal impacts, the report includes this information:

An immigrant and a native-born person with similar characteristics will likely have about the same fiscal impact. Persons with higher levels of education contribute more positively to government finances regardless of their generational status. Furthermore, within age and education categories, immigrants generally have a more salutary effect on budgets because they are disqualified from some benefit programs and because their children tend to have higher levels of education, earnings, and tax paying than the children of similar third-plus generation adults.

At more than 600 pages, the report is a credible and authoritative analysis of a complex topic that too often is reduced to overly simplistic talking points, debunking myths such as the often cited “immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens”.

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on “Travel Ban 3.0”

On April 25, 2018, the Supreme Court considered the legality of President Trump’s third version of his Travel Ban.  Indications during oral argument were that the Court’s majority conservative wing might be reticent to rule against the Executive Branch.   A ruling is expected in late June, 2018.

Following the Administration’s removal of Chad from the list of targeted countries, the ban continues to block virtually all immigration of intending permanent residents from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.   This includes  those immigrating as spouses, children, parents, and siblings of U.S. citizens, and spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents.  It also includes individuals immigrating based on their employment who are typically highly skilled professionals, often working in STEM professions.

Travel Ban 3.0 also continues to block entry of most nonimmigrants, those coming to the U.S. temporarily to visit, study or work for U.S. employers in professional positions, who are nationals of the countries listed above, as well as blocking non-diplomatic visits by certain Venezuelan government officials and their family members.

The Travel Ban is successfully keeping families divided, and preventing employers from accessing the global talent they need to compete and grow, including families and employers in Maine.  A summary of Travel Ban 3.0 is available here.  (A separate ban also being litigated, “Travel Ban 4.0“, bars entry of refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries.)

Regardless of how the Supreme Court ultimately rules, a variety of other new policies and procedures by the current Administration have resulted in drastically reduced numbers of individuals coming to the U.S. from predominantly Muslim nations, as explained in a recent report by the Cato Institute.


Cato Institute: Administration’s Immigration Actions’ Discriminatory Impact

On April 25, 2018, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the legality of the President’s Executive Order referred to as “Travel Ban 3.0”, which has been challenged on multiple grounds, including that it unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims who wish to immigrate or come temporarily to the U.S.  The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in late June.

Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court litigation concerning Travel Ban 3.0, numerous other immigration actions by the current Administration have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of Muslims admitted to the U.S. to visit, study, work, and to take up permanent residency.

A recent Cato Institute report examines data from FY 2016 until to date in FY 2018 that reveals a 91% plunge in Muslim refugee arrivals, a 28% decrease in immigrant (permanent resident – “green card”) arrivals, and a 32% drop in arrivals of nonimmigrant (visitors, students, temporary employee etc.) to the U.S. from predominantly Muslim countries. The report also delineates several of the policies that have led to these results.

Those who are not making it into the U.S. are people who would contribute to our communities by stabilizing their reunified families, and as consumers, employees, volunteers and entrepreneurs.   The de facto Muslim ban should be rejected as against our nation’s values, harmful to our economy, and as antithetical to our future prosperity.

You can read the Cato Institute’s report here.

Another Federal Court Rules DACA Rescission Illegal

On April 24, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia found that the Administration’s justification for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful.   The decision aligns with two other federal court decisions that enjoined DACA’s rescission which are currently on appeal, but also differed in one critical way.

The prior federal court decisions ordered the government to resume processing applications to renew the DACA status of those individuals who had previously received it.   This latest decision orders the government to also resume processing applications for DACA status by those who meet the program’s eligibility requirements but who are applying for the first time. (Eligible DACA youth could not apply until reaching age 15, and those who turned 15 after September 5, 2017, the date the Administration rescinded DACA, have been unable to apply.)

The D.C. Federal District Court’s decision applies nationwide.  However, the Court stayed its decision for 90 days to give the government an opportunity to provide additional justification for its decision to rescind.  If the government does not respond, the injunction will take effect on July 23, 2018.  If the government does respond, the Court will consider the legality of its new rationale.

So, while the media is largely hailing this decision as a victory for DACA supporters, it is much more ambiguous than that.  It potentially could lead the same Court eventually to rule in favor of the government, if the government follows the decision’s blueprint for correcting the deficiencies in its original DACA rescission rationale.

Once again, the only real solution for DACA/Dreamers lies with Congress.    A fourth Federal District Court had previously ruled that the DACA decision was legal.   It’s clear that with four differing federal court rulings,  and with pending appeals, litigating DACA’s continued existence offers only a temporary reprieve and no certainty to DACA/Dreamers whose lives and futures in the U.S. are very much in limbo.

Congress must continue to work for bipartisan legislation offering permanent legal status to the DACA/Dreamers who are already integral members of our communities and our economy.

Administration’s Immigration Actions Harm Our Economy

An April 2018 report,  The Case for Protecting Legal Immigration Against Recent Attacks, was just released by, an organization whose mission is “to mobilize the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream achievable in the 21st century.”

The relatively succinct report outlines some, though by no means all, of the current Administration’s immigration actions that not only fly in the face of the U.S.’s long immigration tradition and values, but also harm our economy and our competitiveness in the short and long-term.   As the report’s introduction states:

Recent efforts to further stymie immigration reflect a growing attack on legal immigration that undermines the U.S.’ global standing, threatens our economic leadership, and fundamentally contradicts our nation’s heritage as a country that welcomes immigrants from every corner of the globe. Moreover, eliminating avenues for people to immigrate to the United States would devastate economic growth in the United  States causing as much as a two percent drop in GDP by 2040, with 4.6 million fewer jobs.1 This report will outline the overall benefits of immigrants and immigration, as well as the policies and regulations that have been pursued over the last year, and the impact on our families, communities, and economy.

Echoing the above report’s findings, a recent piece in Forbes by Stuart Anderson, a former Executive Associate Commissioner for Policy and Planning at the then-INS under the Bush Administration and former Republican staffer of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, delineates the concerted effort of the current Administration to effectively gut the U.S.’s ability to attract and retain top global talent.  Prior MeBIC posts give more detail about the specific proposals to take away work permission for spouses of H-1B holders, and to roll back the Immigrant Entrepreneur Rule described in the Forbes op-ed.

See this earlier MeBIC post for a detailed report outlining even more measures taken by the current Administration that have eroded our nation’s ability to attract and retain the immigrants we need to keep our communities and our economy vibrant.

Editorial on Census Data: Immigrants Represent Maine’s Hope for Growth

In an April 21, 2018 editorial, the Bangor Daily News  synthesized recently released 2016 Census data to reveal that while many Maine counties suffered year over year net losses in population, all Maine counties saw increases in their foreign-born population.

In some Maine counties, that foreign born influx blunted the population loss, while in others it kept the population numbers virtually steady, and in still others, was responsible for a county’s growth.  The editorial noted that

(t)he numbers aren’t large. But they’re positive in every county, which points to a distinct reality: If Maine stands a chance of growing its population, that growth will depend on welcoming those from abroad to settle in Maine.

MeBIC agrees, and also agrees with the editorial’s stance that Maine should position itself to help immigrants integrate, for example, by ensuring access to Adult Education English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.   LD 1492, which MeBIC supported but was one of many “unfinished business” bills in this year’s State Legislative session, would have provided more funding to add capacity to the Maine’s ESL programs.

That bill should be reintroduced in next year’s Legislature. Maine needs to invest not only in order to attract immigrants to strengthen our communities, but also to ensure that they can reach their full potential, benefiting the entire state.

HBS Paper Shows Robust Immigrant Entrepreneurship

An April 2018 Harvard Business School working paper surveying multiple studies and data sources finds that first-generation immigrants represent about 25% of new business creation nationwide, and in some states, about 40%.  These figures far exceed the approximately 14% share that the foreign-born represent of the entire U.S. population.

While indications are that the smallest of these businesses are family operations offering fewer employee benefits and hiring fewer workers than native owned businesses, overall, immigrant owned businesses were somewhat more likely to survive and to grow than those created by U.S. natives during the years examined.  The data also indicated that first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs, compared to their U.S. native counterparts “are more likely to engage in R&D and innovation. Immigrant-owned firms are more likely to file for patents, and their innovation advantage is especially high within the college-educated group.”  The working paper notes that immigrant entrepreneurship is consistent internationally, with data from countries such as the U.K, Canada and Australia showing higher rates of business creation by first-generation immigrants than by their native born populations.

The working paper echoes findings from previous reports on the outsized influence of immigrant entrepreneurs, such as studies showing that nearly 50% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first-generation immigrants or by their children.

Current U.S. policy trends discouraging immigrant entrepreneurship, and raising barriers to immigration to the U.S. generally, fly in the face of the long history, and continued prevalence, of immigrant business creation and the economic vibrancy that immigrants contribute to the U.S.


Impact of Expected Rollback of H-4 Work Rule Explained

In a previous post, MeBIC described the Administration’s stated plan to rescind a regulation in June 2018 that enables certain spouses of H-1B visa holders, who have H-4 visas, to get work authorization.  This op-ed in the New York Times explains in personal terms the toll that this move would take on H-4 spouses, which in turn will diminish U.S. companies’ ability to compete for global talent.

There will be a required notice and comment period when the public can register opposition to this rule change.  Maine businesses that would like more information or assistance in submitting comments should contact MeBIC.

Maine Businesses Join Broad Coalition Urging Resumption of H-2B Processing

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary work visa has long been inadequate to meet seasonal labor needs. With a cap of only 33,000 visas for each half of the fiscal year, U.S. businesses have little hope of getting the labor needed for seasonal surges.

In the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2018, passed on March 23, 2018, Congress included a fix that would allow about 63,000 additional H-2B visas for seasonal jobs that start before FY2018 ends on September 30th.

In January, employers nationwide filed H-2B petitions for more than 80,000 summer/fall seasonal positions, far exceeding the 33,000 cap. With with the authority granted in the Appropriations bill, which was nearly identical Congress’s FY2017 H-2B visa shortage solution, the government should be able to act immediately on H-2B visa petitions that were rejected because of the cap.  But that has not happened, and summer is rapidly approaching.

On April 11, 2018, over 1300 businesses and trade associations nationwide that depend on an influx of seasonal workers signed a letter by the H-2B Workforce Coalition to the Secretaries of the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security urging them act immediately to resume processing H-2B visa petitions up to the full number allowed under the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2018.

Twenty-two Maine businesses and trade associations, ranging from the hospitality sector, to landscaping and moving companies signed on to the letter.   Last year the government only released 15,000 additional visas, and did not begin processing them until July, in a classic “too little, too late” response.

Seasonal workers strengthen Maine’s economy, as this letter to the editor by a Maine innkeeper explains.  The federal government must do better this year.


MeBIC Partners Join Nationwide Call by Chambers for Dreamers’ Legislation

On April 12, 2018, over 50 Chambers of Commerce from across the country signed a letter to Congressional leadership calling for Congress to pass legislation providing a path to permanent legal status for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, the so-called Dreamers. Many of them now have legal protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but only federal court injunctions stand between them and the loss of that protection and their work permission.

MeBIC Partners, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, a MeBIC founder, and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce are two of the Chambers  who joined with MeBIC’s national partner, the New American Economy, to urge Congress to act now so that DACA/Dreamers will no longer be in limbo.

This drama began on September 5, 2017, when the Administration announced the rescission of the DACA program. Only Congress can provide a permanent fix to the crisis, but President Trump must stop moving the goalposts and frustrating the good faith efforts of bipartisan legislators who want to find a solution. The waste of human potential, and the economic costs of Washington’s inability to get a rational bill providing a path to permanent status for DACA/Dreamers over the finish line, are detailed in this previous MeBIC post.

The U.S. public and the business community nationwide and in Maine both overwhelmingly support crafting a solution for DACA/Dreamers.  Congress must prioritize acting on this.  Senators Collins and King were leaders in crafting a bipartisan solution for the DACA/Dreamers.   They should continue to press Congressional leadership for action.

H-1B Lottery for FY 2019 Visas Completed

USCIS announced on April 11, 2018 that it had completed the random selection process for the available cap-subject H-1B visas for FY 2019.

In just five days, USCIS received petitions for over 190,000 H-1B petitions, far exceeding the 85,000 combined caps for master’s degree and bachelors degree or specialized  knowledge employees.  It then conducted a lottery to select the petitions that it would actually consider.

USCIS will return unselected petitions and filing fees to their petitioning employers, unless the petition violated the multiple filing prohibition announced only days before the filing period began (when many employers would have already prepared their petitions and had them ready to submit to USCIS, as discussed in this MeBIC post).

The USCIS announcement confirmed that petitions not subject to the caps will still be accepted and processed.

With over 100,000 petitions unable to be processed due to the insufficient number of cap-subject visas, once again it is clear that the H-1B system is in need of an overhaul if it is to meet the needs of U.S. employers and the economy.



Travel Ban 3.0 Further Update

As we have written previously, the third iteration of the Administration’s travel ban, known as Travel Ban 3.0, is currently in effect, with lower court injunctions to block the Ban’s application held in abeyance while the case awaits a Supreme Court ruling.

Travel Ban 3.0 applied to eight countries, as explained in this post.  On April 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Chad, one of the targeted countries, has now met the U.S. government’s national security requirements and will be removed from the Ban. As a result, there will no longer be a blanket restriction against applying for visas for intending immigrants and visitors from Chad, though as is always the case, each individual applicant must show that s/he is eligible for the visas requested, and not otherwise inadmissible under existing immigration laws.

Oral argument in the Travel Ban case is scheduled for April 25th, and a decision by the Supreme Court is expected by the end of June, 2018.

H-1B Visa Cap Reached in 5 Days

On April 6, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that in only five days, the number of petitions filed for H-1B visas for FY 2019 (beginning October 1, 2018) far exceeded the annual 85,000 cap. This is the sixth year in a row where the cap has been reached in less than a week, indicating continued strong demand by U.S. employers for talent from around the globe.

USCIS will conduct a lottery to select which petitions it will process, and will return the remainder, together with their corresponding filing fees. Petitions for H-1B visas that are not cap-subject will continue to be processed by the agency, as explained in the announcement.

USCIS also made known on March 20, 2018 that it is suspending “premium processing” through which petitions are decided more quickly than the norm, until September 10, 2018. This means that many employers are not likely to get decisions on their petitions until well after the start of the new fiscal year, potentially disrupting their operations.

Another late USCIS policy change, dated March 23, 2018 but only publicly shared four days before the April 2, 2018 H-1B opening filing date, prohibits multiple filings by related entities for the same employee.  This may well lead to rejections or delays in processing of certain petitions prepared without knowledge of that guidance.

These developments underscore that the H-1B system, both in its numerical limits and in its implementation, falls far short of what U.S. employers and the U.S. economy needs.