Impact of U.S. Immigration Barriers on Global Advancement of Science

A recent journal article discusses Why U.S. Immigration Barriers Matter for the Global Advancement of Science.

As the abstract notes, the report makes four key findings:

First, among Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists, migrants to the U.S. play a central role in the global knowledge network— representing 20-33% of the frontier knowledge producers. Second, using novel survey data and hand-curated life-histories of International Math Olympiad (IMO) medalists, we show that migrants to the U.S. are up to six times more productive than migrants to other countries—even after accounting for talent during one’s teenage years. Third, financing costs are a key factor preventing foreign talent from migrating abroad to pursue their dream careers, particularly talent from developing countries. Fourth, certain ‘push’ incentives that reduce immigration barriers – by addressing financing constraints for top foreign talent – could increase the global scientific output of future cohorts by 42% percent.

The report notes that:

A thorough examination of why and how U.S. immigration barriers matter is timely from the perspective of global science. By preventing many of the world’s brightest talent from studying and working where they have been most productive, high immigration barriers are likely to hurt both the talented individuals and the advancement of global knowledge. Even in the absence of immigration policy changes or uncertainty, a reduction in migration to the U.S. might occur due to COVID-19. Additionally, U.S. borders may be less open in the futuredue to potentially rising nationalism. The scale of the threat to the advancement of science remains sizable.

Read the full article here.

Lawsuit Challenges H-4 and L-2 Work Permit Processing Delays

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has filed a class action lawsuit, Edakunni, et al. v. Mayorkas, against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) challenging extreme delays that began during the Trump Administration on processing applications filed by spouses of H-1 and L-1 visa holders for extensions of their spousal H-4 and L-2 visas and work authorization.

Over 91,000 H-4 and L-2 spouses have waited a year or more for their applications to be processed.  Because employers can’t legally employ them once their work permits expire, many have lost their jobs despite applying to extend their status and work permits months before their prior documents’ expiration dates.

These delays have harmed not only the H-2 and L-1 spouses and their families, but also their employers who lose valued employees.

This article describes the problem and the lawsuit.

Maine Compact on Immigration and ABIC Leaders Meet with Senator Collins

On March 22, 2021, Senator Susan Collins met with several signatories of the Maine Compact on Immigration and leaders from the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) to discuss immigration reform.

The group asked Senator Collins to lead efforts  in the Senate to make sure that urgently needed immigration reforms are enacted in 2021.

Senator Collins heard the group’s hope that she will work for  swift passage of the Dream Act  and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, whose House versions were both approved in the House of Representatives the previous week.  These two bills  would open a path to permanent residency for undocumented immigrants and those with DACA who came to the U.S. as children, and for undocumented immigrant farmworkers, respectively, giving over 4 million individuals who are already part of our communities and economy stability, and the ability to reach their full potential.

The group also stressed the critical need for other reforms so that international students, employment-based immigrants, particularly in STEM fields, foreign temporary workers in hospitality and other seasonal sectors, immediate family immigrants, and asylum seekers will have improved paths, processes, and eliminated backlogs,  benefitting employers, families, and Maine (and the nation) as a whole.

Senator Collins noted her support for Dreamers/DACA holders, and her previous work with a bipartisan group of twenty senators (including Senator Angus King) to craft a permanent solution for these immigrants in 2018 after the Trump administration moved to rescind the DACA program.   That proposal failed after the Trump administration indicated its opposition to the bill, though it nonetheless gained 54 votes from Senators on both sides of the aisle.

Senator Collins also stated that the situation on the southern border would make passage of any immigration reform bills in the Senate extremely challenging.

Those at the meeting were:

  • David Barber, Tyson (Barber Foods), Specialist, Business Development, and President of the Maine Business Immigration Coaliation (MeBIC)
  • Nora Venegas, Tyson,  Director, Government Relations Global
  • Greg Dugal, Hospitality Maine, Director of Government Relations
  • Betsy Biemann, CEO, Coastal Enterprises, Inc
  • Deborah Bronk, PhD, President & CEO, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
  • Clayton Spencer, President, Bates College
  • James Herbert, PhD, President, University of New England
  • John Rowe, Chair Emeritus of Exelon Corporation and Board Member, American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC)
  • Rebecca Shi, Executive Director, ABIC
  • Beth Stickney, Executive Director, MeBIC (a state chapter of ABIC)

The attendees stressed that Maine can’t wait for Congress to reform the nation’s outdated immigration system, which fails those seeking to work or live in the U.S. and the U.S. economy alike, and their hope that Senator Collins will see them as a resource as immigration bills move through Congress this year.

Administration Re-Designates and Extends Syrian TPS

The Administration has  announced it is redesignating Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and is extending TPS for another 18 months for Syrians who already have it, through September 30, 2022.

TPS is offered to citizens of countries that the U.S. government deems unsafe due to natural disasters or wars and civil conflict, so that those already in the U.S. when the Administration designates their country for TPS can apply to remain and work here legally. It is typically offered in 18 month increments, and has often been extended repeatedly.

The redesignation allows eligible Syrians in the U.S. as of March 19, 2021 to apply for permission to remain and to work legally through September 30, 2022.  Until this redesignation, only Syrians who were already in the U.S. as of March 29, 2012 were eligible for TPS.

Eligible Syrians who already have TPS must reregister to extend their TPS status and work permits between March 19, 2021 through May 18, 2021.  Their work authorization documents that will expire on March 31, 2021 will be automatically extended through September 27, 2021.   Employers can accept the Federal Register notice announcing the TPS extension as proof of the work permit extension.

Syrians newly able to request TPS due to the redesignation must apply between March 19, 2021 through September 15, 2021.

Instructions on how to apply initially or to extend TPS are available here.

 

House Passes Landmark Immigration Bills

On March 18th, the House of Representatives gave bipartisan approval to two bills providing over 4 million immigrants with a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would legalize eligible “Dreamers” and DACA holders (immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors) and individuals who have had Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for years, who are already vital members of our communities and workforce. The bill would give over 3 million people stability and the promise of a permanent future here in the U.S.  Nine Republicans voted with all the House Democrats to pass the bill.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 would give legal status to over one million eligible undocumented farmworkers who work tirelessly, even at the risk of their health during COVID, to get food to our tables. It would also improve the the H-2A agricultural worker visa process, simplifying it for farmers, increasing worker protections for H-2A farm workers, and creating urgently needed new year-round visas for dairy workers.  Thirty Republicans joined virtually all the Democrats voting in support of the bill.  Maine’s Representative Pingree voted in favor, and Representative Golden was the sole Democrat to vote “nay.”

The bills will now move over to the Senate, where they are expected to be a priority for advancement.

Polls show overwhelming public support for legalizing Dreamers and DACA holders, and TPS and undocumented immigrants generally.

But opponents of these bills are trying to derail them by focusing on the southern border.  You can find context and data to give perspective on what’s happening on the southern border here.

Maine has hundreds of DACA and TPS holders as well as undocumented farm workers who are our neighbors, friends, essential workers, volunteers, consumers and taxpayers, whose high workforce participation and contributions on the front lines support our public health and economic recovery from COVID-19.  But without a path to permanent residency, every day they face the fear of being ripped from their families and their Maine communities where they have put down roots and that they call “home”.

Even during the pandemic, Maine’s employers aren’t able to find enough workers.  Passing the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is an investment in Maine’s people and in Maine’s economic future.

The Maine Compact on Immigration, signed by nearly 100 Maine businesses, chambers of commerce, trade associations and higher education institutions, calls on Maine’s Congressional delegation to lead on  urgently needed federal immigration reform.    Maine’s business community will look to Senators Collins and King to ensure that the Senate versions of these House bills make it over the finish line.

Contextualizing the Border “Crisis”

Much is being made about the “crisis” at the southern border, with many laying the blame on the Biden administration.

While having people trying to enter the U.S. without visas is never desirable, the current situation is not new, the numbers are not unprecedented and the root causes of the arrivals are complex and not simply the product of a change in administration.  They range from violence and poverty and recent natural disasters pushing people out of their countries to find safety and prospects for a future, to the termination by the Trump administration of a program that allowed Central American minors to apply for U.S. protection from inside their home countries, to the need for international aid to improve conditions in those countries and reduce the “push” factors, to the near total dismantling of an orderly asylum processing framework at the U.S.-Mexico border that forced tens of thousands of people seeking asylum to wait in unsafe conditions in Mexican border towns, and to outdated immigration laws that fail to provide sufficient avenues for individuals to enter the U.S. legally.

Here are a few resources to help put what’s happening into context:

  • Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data on southern border apprehensions, showing that the current numbers of people so far this fiscal year crossing the border, plus the number of people applying but being rejected for entry at U.S. border posts, are on track, by the time the fiscal year ends in September, to be similar to the 1,148,024 number in FY 2019 during the Trump administration.
  • CBP data of encounters by month for FY 2018 through FY 2021 year-to-date (YTD)  showing the cyclical increase in apprehensions at the southern border that is typical beginning usually in March of each fiscal year (but with asylum seekers or others being pushed back into Mexico starting in March 2020 due to COVID-19,  FY2020 was atypical).  This data also shows that the increase in apprehensions began by August 2020, during the prior administration.
  • CBP data from FY 1960 through FY 2019 showing that beginning in 1983, through 2019, there were 19 years where more than 1 million to over 1.6 million people were apprehended at the southern border – including during the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations.  (The numbers of total people stopped from entering each year are actually higher than the published numbers, which don’t include those rejected for entry at U.S. border posts).

 

Burma (Myanmar) Designated for Temporary Protected Status

On March 11, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security announced the designation of Burma (Myanmar) for 18 months of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to the recent military coup and the “deteriorating  humanitarian crisis” in that country.  Nationals of Burma or stateless individuals who last habitually resided there who were already in the U.S. on March 11, 2021 will be allowed to apply for TPS if they meet all the eligibility criteria.

Eligible individuals can apply for TPS and their work permits simultaneously, and if approved, will be eligible to live and work legally in the U.S through September 11, 2022.   The application period has not yet been established but is expected to begin imminently.  When available, USCIS will  publish the details on when and how to apply for TPS here.

TPS is offered to citizens of countries that the U.S. government deems unsafe due to natural disasters, wars and civil conflict, or other extraordinary conditions, so that those already in the U.S. when the Administration designates their country for TPS can apply to remain and work here legally.  It is typically offered in 18 month increments, and has often been extended repeatedly.

Biden Administration Abandons Public Charge Rule Designed to Slash Immigration

On March 9, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will no longer defend the Trump administration’s changes to the “public charge” rule.  As a result, the Supreme Court dismissed the prior administration’s appeal of court rulings blocking application of that rule.

This is great news for Maine and the nation.  The prior administration’s public charge rule changes took direct aim at immediate family immigration, imposing new age, education, credit score, health insurance, and English language tests on the parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who hoped to become permanent residents in the U.S.   The new rule was slated to slash immediate family immigration by as much as half.

Immigration is critical to keeping Maine’s population and workforce vibrant as baby boomers continue to leave the workforce, and birth rates remain low.  The vast majority of immigrants to Maine come through immediate family immigration.    MeBIC was one of nearly 150 organizations nationwide that appealed in a March 4, 2021 letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to stop defending the new public charge rule against the lawsuits challenging its legality.

DHS will now revert to the prior regulations interpreting the public charge ground of inadmissibility, which don’t divide U.S. citizens and permanent residents from their immediate family members if they don’t yet speak English fluently, or are under 18 years old, and myriad other unjust reasons.   MeBIC is gratified by DHS’s decision to no longer defend the deeply flawed rule change, and to return to the status quo ante.

USCIS will post updates on its transition back to the pre-Trump administration public charge changes here.

Venezuelans in U.S. Granted Temporary Protected Status

On March 9, the Department of Homeland Security announced the designation of Venezuela for 18 months of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to the “severe humanitarian emergency” in that country.  Venezuelans already in the U.S. on March 8, 2021 will be allowed to apply for TPS during the application period of March 9, 2021 through September 5, 2021 if they meet all the eligibility criteria.

Eligible Venezuelans can apply for TPS and their work permits simultaneously, and if approved, will be eligible to live and work legally in the U.S through September 9, 2022.  Estimates are that more than 300,000 Venezuelans will be eligible to apply for TPS.   USCIS has published details on how to apply for TPS here.

TPS is offered to citizens of countries that the U.S. government deems unsafe due to natural disasters or wars and civil conflict, so that those already in the U.S. when the Administration designates their country for TPS can apply to remain and work here legally.  It is typically offered in 18 month increments, and has often been extended repeatedly.

On January 19, 2021, the prior administration had conferred Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) on Venezuelans present in the U.S. as of January 20, 2021, valid through July 22, 2022.   DED is an administrative solution, while TPS is a remedy enshrined in statute.

The same Federal Register announcement of TPS for Venezuelans describes procedures for Venezuelans to apply for DED and work permits based on DED.  Since most Venezuelans who would be eligible for DED would also be eligible for TPS, and TPS will last for more than a month and a half longer than DED, as a practical matter, most Venezuelans will likely apply for TPS and its related work permit.

Data Shows Importance of Undocumented Immigrants to the U.S. Economy

New data released by MeBIC partner New American Economy looks at the labor force and economic impact of undocumented immigrants by country of origin.

The report indicates that over 40% of the estimated 10.3 million individuals without legal status in the U.S. are from Mexico, and their participation rate in the labor force is 96.7 percent.   Undocumented Mexicans held over $82 billion in spending power, contributed nearly $10 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and their earnings generated an additional $14.5 billion in Social Security and Medicare Trust Fund contributions in 2019.

Immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras comprise more than  15% of the undocumented population, and contributed over $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and had nearly $27 billion in disposable income in 2019.

According to the report, Indians make up nearly 6% of undocumented immigrants, and with the remaining 38% from myriad other nations. Indians contributed  $2.8 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and had over $15 billion in spending power in 2019.

Undocumented and Mexican and Central American workers are heavily represented in essential sectors such as agriculture, construction, personal services (such as child and elder care), manufacturing and hospitality.  Undocumented Mexicans alone represent nearly 12% of the agriculture labor force getting food to U.S. tables, even putting themselves at risk during the pandemic.

The data spotlights the workforce and economic contributions of the undocumented population and shows the economic imperative to legalize these individuals who are not only already part of our communities, but are essential to the nation’s economy.   Congress should pass bills like the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the Dream Act, and broader immigration reforms to give these millions of productive people full legal status and the security of permanence in the U.S.

COVID-19: U.S. Births Predicted to Drop by 300,000

Relatively early in the pandemic, a Brookings report predicted that U.S. births might decline by 300,000 to 500,000 in a year due to COVID-19’s economic impact.

In December 2020, Brookings issued an update of that report.  The takeaway:

As of now, we stand by our prediction of a COVID baby bust of around 300,000 fewer births. But the longer the pandemic lasts, and the deeper the economic and social anxiety runs, it is feasible that we will see an even larger reduction in births with an increasing share of them averted permanently.

In a March 4, 2021 op-ed, the report’s authors note that while nationwide data confirming their predictions is not yet available, data from states like California and Florida from January 2021 (the first month that full term babies conceived after the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. would have been born) confirm that births dropped by over 10% and 7% respectively.  The authors go on to note that

In the absence of effective policies to meaningfully increase births, the most reliable and immediate way to shore up the U.S. population is through immigration, which brings its own political and social challenges. To maintain economic growth without immigration to offset the decline in births, we would need an increase in the share of working-age individuals employed or an increase in the productivity of workers, or both.

Over the past four years, increased barriers to immigration have caused immigration to decrease by hundreds of thousands of individuals annually.  The time to reform the U.S. federal immigration system is now, if the U.S. is to maintain not only its immigrant tradition, but also economic stability and growth.

Recent Poll Shows Broad Public Support for Legalizing the Undocumented

A February 2021 Quinnipiac poll shows majority support among the U.S. public, regardless of party affiliation, for creating a path to permanent residency for individuals living in the U.S. without legal status.

Overall, 74% of those polled believe that undocumented individuals should be able to live permanently in the U.S, including 9% agreeing they should be able to stay but with a status falling short of full U.S. citizenship.  While support varied along party lines, 54% of Republicans support legalization, with 41% of those agreeing that the undocumented should have a path to full citizenship.

Even more of those polled support a path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, with 83% of respondents in favor, including 66% of Republicans.

Last summer, Gallup found, for the first time since it began asking the question, more public support for raising the levels of immigration to the U.S. than for lowering immigration levels.  Gallup recently reiterated the strong public support for getting immigration reform done.

More than 90 Maine businesses, trade associations, chambers of commerce, and higher education institutions recently launched the Maine Compact on Immigration to urge Maine’s Congressional delegation to lead on federal immigration reform efforts.  With the positive public polling nationally and broad support from Maine’s business and higher education communities, Maine’s delegation could help get long overdue common-sense immigration reforms over the finish line in Congress in 2021.

 

Flexiblity Offered to International Students Due to OPT Work Permit Delays

USCIS recognized the difficulties its own work permit application processing delays is causing international students who have been unable to begin their post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment, by announcing extended validity of the work permits once issued.

Employers who intend to employ post-curricular OPT international students can find the announcement here.

Biden Administration Revokes Immigrant Entry Ban

On February 24, 2021, the Biden administration revoked the harmful Presidential Proclamation banning entry of most immigrants to the U.S. first announced by the Trump administration on April 22, 2020.  The ban was extended twice, most recently on December 31, 2020, through March 31, 2021.

The ban particularly harmed U.S. citizens and permanent residents whose spouses, children, or in the case of U.S. citizens, parents, were unable to be issued visas or to enter the U.S. to be united with their immediate family members here, despite already having been approved to immigrate.  The Migration Policy Institute estimated the ban prevented about 26,000 intending immigrants per month from coming to the U.S.

It also robbed those selected to immigrate in the FY 2020 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery, who must enter the U.S. before March 30, 2021 or see their chance to immigrate evaporate completely.  Several of those selected in the DV lottery sued the U.S., and on February 19, 2021, a federal court ordered the government to preserve the validity of FY 2020 Diversity visas for those barred from entry due to the ban.

By its stated terms, the entry ban was not created as a public health measure during the pandemic (which could have been accomplished by requiring new immigrants to quarantine after their arrival), but rather, to prevent job competition, despite the fact that even during the pandemic, in many sectors, ranging from the food supply chain and hospitality to high tech, unemployment rates remained relatively low and employers struggled to fill jobs.

The immigrant entry ban’s revocation is welcome news.  Unfortunately, the Biden administration did not revoke the Trump administration’s ban on entry of most foreign temporary workers, which is due to expire on March 31, 2021.  However, on the same date as the revocation of the immigrant entry ban, the U.S. State Department announced a broad expansion of the types circumstances that could qualify for a waiver of the nonimmigrant worker entry ban.

H-2B Visa Cap Reached for 2nd Half of FY2021

On February 24, 2021, USCIS announced that the 33,000 cap had been reached for H-2B non-agricultural seasonal worker visas for positions beginning during the second half of the FY 2021 fiscal year (April 1- September 30, 2021).   You can see the cap count here.  Any cap-subject petitions received after February 12th  that have a job start date before October 1, 2021 will be rejected and returned to their petitioning employers.