The White House Now Apparently Focusing on the Dream Act, H-1B, L-1 and other Skilled/Professional Work Visas
Newley Purnell of the The Wall Street Journal blogged today about the White House’s Plans for H-1B and other Skilled/Professional Work Visas. The changes are likely to include “Tighter restrictions on skilled worker visas” which could be issued via “both executive action by President Donald Trump and via Congressional moves“. The article notes that “President Trump could use an executive directive to take steps like ending a provision announced in 2014 that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders [H-4 Spouses] to work in the U.S.” As well, any such changes would be included in a more comprehensive immigration reform effort.
A USA Today news article also touched on a draft of the anticipated changes today, indicating that the President’s new executive order “takes aim at both H-1B visas, which are capped at 65,000 a year and are set aside for so-called “specialty positions,” as well as visas used for temporary agricultural workers, summer student workers and intracompany transfers.”
In a related story, Vox recently published details regarding six unverified drafts purportedly of upcoming Executive Orders. Vox indicates that it did not publish the documents until the President “…signed two executive orders on immigration that word-for-word matched the drafts we’d received…Since publication last week, a third one also turned out to be authentic – the one on restricting travel from Muslim majority countries.”
One of these unverified draft Orders is titled “Ending unconstitutional executive amnesties,” would essentially terminate the DREAM Act, “a major Obama program that has effectively protected more than 740,000 unauthorized immigrants from deportation since 2012.” The order draft would also cease granting Advance Parole to DREAMERS.
Vox also noted a draft order entitled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” which would target employers of H-1B professional and L-1 intracompany professionals, as well as F-1 and J-1 visas. Vox indicates that,
“The order itself contains a variety of provisions. One would reverse Obama’s extension of the duration of Optional Practical Training work visas and decision to allow the spouses of H-1B guest workers to also have work permits. Another would undo relief Obama has granted to people eligible for green cards but unable to apply for them due to what’s known as the “three- and ten-year bars.”
Another provision calls on the Department of Homeland Security to begin “site visits” at places that employ guest workers with L-1 visas and then to expand the site-visit program to cover all employment-based visa programs within two years.
Other provisions are less clear in their impact. The order directs the secretary of homeland security to promulgate a regulation that would “restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs” and to “consider ways” to alter the H-1B program (for technical guest workers) to be “more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” The H-1B program, which is often used by outsourcing firms, has come under recent criticism from both Trumpist Republicans and pro-labor Democrats, and the Trump administration is reportedly looking at another way to determine which of the hundreds of thousands of H-1B applicants get visas (instead of the current lottery system).
Another directs DHS to “improve monitoring of foreign students” and to “reform practical training programs for foreign students to prevent the disadvantaging of US students in the workforce.” Another calls for the promulgation of a new regulation to “clarify comprehensively” that people on tourist visas may not perform skilled or unskilled labor. Another directs the secretary of state to “reform the J-1 Summer Work Travel program to improve protections of US workers.”
In conclusion, we presently have little concrete knowledge about what is and what is not going to happen. However, I believe it is clear that impairing or terminating established legal immigration programs like those noted above would fly in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism, basic economic principles and logic.
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the fields of Science, Math, Engineering and Technology. Our repeated rejection of legal visa programs, especially those allowing professionals and investors to live and work in this country is untenable and certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, while other nations eagerly recruit these resources (and compete for the ones we have). There are many that hold the H-1B visa program has kept the United States economy and scientific establishment from collapsing: this view is best put by theoretical physicist and author Dr. Michio Kakuthe who indicates that while, “Science is the engine of prosperity”, “The United States has the worst educational system known to science.”