National Business Leaders Urge Congress to Reach Deal for DACA Youth

On February 11, 2019, the Coalition for the American Dream sent a letter to House and Senate majority and minority leadership renewing the call for Congress to pass legislation immediately, providing a path to permanent status in the U.S. for those holding temporary status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the so-called Dreamers.

The Coalition, including over 100 CEOs of companies such as Coca-Cola, General Motors, IBM, Marriott, Verizon, Walmart, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the National Retail Federation,  and the National Association of Manufacturers reminded leadership of the economic costs of inaction, including over $90 billion in lost federal tax revenue, and a $360 billion reduction in GDP.   The letter also pointed out  the overwhelming public support for offering permanent status to Dreamers.

DACA is on the table as a group of legislators works to craft a bipartisan bill before February 15th that will fund the government and include immigration and border reforms.   Let’s hope this letter, and the accompanying full page ad in the New York Times, will help Congressional leaders keep in mind that providing a path to residency for those with DACA and TPS is both the humane, and also the economically smart thing to do.

Fact-checking the President’s Immigration Statements in the SOTU Speech

As expected, immigration featured prominently in President Trump’s State of the Union speech to Congress on February 5, 2019. The President continued his push for border wall funding, using his now familiar appeal to fear.

Statement:  “I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for the tremendous onslaught.”

Facts:  The 396,579 apprehensions at and between southern border posts in FY 2018, while an increase over the prior year, were fewer than the number in FY 2016, and less than a quarter of the more than 1.6 million apprehensions in FY 2000.   Since the recession hit in 2007, apprehensions at the southern border have fallen dramatically, and remain at low levels not seen since the mid-1970s.  Far more people coming legally through ports of entry overstay their visas each year than cross without authorization at the southern border.  And many of those arriving at the southern border are seeking out, not evading, border officials, to request asylum after fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Statement:  “I want people to come into our country, in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”

Facts:  From the Travel Ban, to slow-downs in processing employment-based and immediate family visa petitions, to drastically reducing the number of arriving refugees, to denying asylum seekers their legal right under U.S. and international laws to request asylum when they approach border agents at or between ports of entry, to refusing to support bipartisan legislation that would have given immigrant youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a path to permanent residency unless Congress agreed to slash immediate family immigration by hundreds of thousands a year, President Trump has attacked legal immigration from his very first week in office.

Statement: “Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities.”

Facts:  While it’s true that drugs flow over our southern border, the vast majority of them come through our ports of entry, so additional border wall will have little impact on drug smuggling.

Statement: President Trump highlighted the number ICE arrests of noncitizens who had been charged with or convicted of crimes.

Facts:  President Trump ignored the numerous studies showing that noncitizens commit crimes at rates lower than the U.S. population.  Also, ICE data for FY 2018 shows that the President mischaracterized and greatly inflated his crime numbers.   Twenty-five percent were for routine traffic offenses (not including OUI) and immigration law violations, and 28% were for nonviolent crimes.  And when the President cited numbers of specific types of offenses, he  doubled or more than doubled the actual number of those charged or convicted for the specific crimes. 

Statement:   The President said that construction of a border wall near San Diego “almost completely ended illegal crossings.”

Facts:  The Congressional Research Service found that it was the addition of technology and more personnel on the border that led to reduced unauthorized border crossings. The wall by itself “did not have a discernable impact.”

Statement:   President Trump said that El Paso used to have one of the highest violent crime rates prior to construction of the border wall, but after its construction, became one of the nation’s safest cities.

Facts: El Paso’s crime rates fell to record lows in 2006, before the wall was constructed, rose again after its construction in 2008, and have since fallen again. Officials in El Paso say the rate of crime there is unrelated to the wall.

In his speech, President Trump relied on the same falsehoods he has used for months to try to scare the public into support for a wall that will be far less effective than meaningful immigration law reform. Fortunately, the U.S. public is not so easily swayed. Recent polls show that opposition to the border wall has grown since last summer, with a majority of the U.S. public opposed.

New Polls Show Strong Support for Immigration; Majority Oppose Border Wall

UPDATE:  A Gallup poll released on February 4, 2019 found that 60% of respondents oppose significantly expanding the U.S.’s  southern border wall, and 81% support providing a path to citizenship for those here without legal status.   A majority (67%) believe that present immigration levels should be increased or stay the same.  Only 31% felt immigration levels should decrease.

The Gallup results are in line with the  recent Quinnipiac poll noted below.

A January 29, 2019 Quinnipiac poll found that 75% of respondents felt that immigration is good for the U.S., with only 14% disagreeing.   Sixty percent of  Republicans, 79% of Independents, and 90% of Democrats agreed that immigration benefits the country.

The poll also asked about support for building a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border,  and found that 55% oppose the wall.  The answers revealed  sharp partisan divisions, with most Republicans supporting the wall, and most Democrats and Independents opposing it.

Over sixty percent of poll respondents supported more border security measures, not including the border wall, and 66% opposed the idea of the President invoking emergency powers to construct the wall, with 66% of Republicans joining Democrats and Independents on the latter question.

In addition, a strong bipartisan majority opposed shutting down the government over the border wall issue, with 68% of respondents overall opposed, including 61% of Republicans.

The Quinnipiac poll results echo other recent nationwide polls by multiple pollsters, compiled here.



Final H-1B Rule Changes Filing Process

On January 31, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule  changing the application method for H-1B temporary professional or specialized knowledge visas, and how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process them.

H-1B employment visas are available in an extremely limited supply.  Only 65,000 cap-subject petitions are available to those with at least a Bachelors degree, with another 20,000 available to those holding a Masters degree or higher.

To handle the excess demand, employers were not allowed to file petitions prior to April 1st for positions starting on or after October 1st, the start of the next fiscal year.  Typically the cap has been reached within five days, with a lottery conducted to select which petitions will be considered.  Those not selected were rejected and returned to the employers.

The final rule’s new process will require employers to register with USCIS in advance of April 1st for each position for which they intend to seek an H-1B visa.   USCIS would then essentially conduct the lottery from the registrations received.  Only those employers whose registrations are selected will be invited to submit the full H-1B petition, within 90 days of receiving notification of their selection.  In theory, this will save employers the time and expense of fully preparing an H-1B visa petition that later gets shut out in the lottery.

Because this new registration system will need testing, USCIS will suspend its implementation and make it effective for FY 2021 H-1B petitions.  Employers planning to seek H-1B visas for FY 2020 will file complete petitions with USCIS as of April 1, 2019, as usual.

The new rule will also change how USCIS processes H-1B petitions, counting all applicants towards the 65,000 cap before beginning to count petitions towards the 20,000 cap for those with Masters and higher.  USCIS estimates  this will increase the number of Masters or higher degree holders who receive H-1B visas by 16%.

This latter change, effective on April 1, 2019, will apply to FY 2020 petitions.  It could make it harder for employers in fields where professional positions frequently require only a Bachelors degree to succeed in obtaining an H-1B visa for their intended employee.

Employers seeking more details should speak with their immigration counsel.