Ban on temporary work visas – H-1B visas

July 10th, 2020

I turn again to Asel Mukambetova of Selflawyer, here to summarize the impact of the Trump Administration’s ban on temporary work visas.

Asel’s assessment: President Trump passed an executive order on June 23, 2020 temporarily banning all new work visas issued to foreign nationals until the end of 2020. Suspended work visas include H-1B, used by U.S. tech companies for highly qualified foreign professionals, and four other visa categories. All told, Trump’s executive order can bar the entry of up to 525,000 foreign workers.

Before this ban, H-1 visa denials skyrocketed between FY 2015 and 2020. The number of RFEs (Request for Evidence) issued also showed a drastic upward trend for the same period. Between FY 2015 and FY 2019 shows that USCIS increased its RFEs by 64% and denial rate by 82%.

The software industry alone creates 14.4 million jobs and contributes $1.6 trillion in the total value-added GDP of the U.S. economy. The computer-related sector employs the highest percentage of the H-1B workforce. Top U.S. tech firms like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon among others rely on employment visas like H-1B, to hire critically needed tech workers from overseas. This allows them to maintain global competitive standards, which in turn boosts the economy and helps create millions of jobs for American citizens.

Trump’s ban will discourage companies from locating their branches in the U.S., creating opportunities for countries like Canada and Australia.

PFR: I have posted often on H-IB workers and stem workers. This in 2017: The nation’s STEM workforce that is foreign-born doubled from 11.9% in 1990 to 24.3% in 2015. They account for 47% of STEM workers with advanced degrees.

Look who wins the Nobel Prizes and MacArthur Fellowships

July 7th, 2020

In 2019 four of eight Nobel Prize winners from the United States were foreign-born individuals. Eleven of 14 Nobel Prize winners in 2019 have been associated with a U.S. institution of higher education at some point in their lives. Throughout the history of the Nobel Prize, 143 immigrants to the United States have won a Nobel Prize and were 34% of all U.S. winners.

In 2019, six of the 26 MacArthur Fellows are foreign born and, since 1981, 226 of 1,040 total MacArthur Fellows (22%) were born outside of the United States.

From here.

Four ways immigration has become more difficult

July 4th, 2020

For this July 4th, I have asked Asel Mukambetova. an immigration attorney, to summarize how immigration has changed in the past few years. Asel is founder of Self-Lawyer, an online legal services platform focusing on immigration. She describes below four major initiatives by the Trump administration. This posting allows you to review them all at once. (In future posting Asel will describe other new barriers to immigration.)

Asel’s observations: As a practicing immigration attorney, I can say that access to permanent residence has significantly decreased. Since Trump became a president of the U.S. in 2017, his administration made a set of series changes in U.S. immigration policy. Some of the changes that had the most impact on the access to permanent residence are:

Changing Asylum Policies
To restrict the flow of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration has undertaken several measures to change the criteria of those qualified for asylum under U.S. immigration law. The two most consequential measures include “Remain in Mexico” and “Border Crossing Asylum.”
The impact: Through figures obtained from the immigration courts and the Mexican government, SelfLawyer and others estimate that between 57,000 and 62,000 asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador had been sent to Mexico to wait for their cases to proceed through the U.S. immigration courts.

Refugee admission
The original January 27, 2017 travel ban, Executive Order 13769, that suspended the refugee admission program for 120 days and called for a review of the screening and admission process, also lowered the admissions ceiling.
President Barack Obama had originally set admissions numbers for the fiscal year 2017 at 110,000. President Trump lowered the admissions to 50,000. President Trump has since repeatedly reset the refugee admissions cap at lower and lower levels.
The impact: According to SelfLawyer’s research, President Trump set the cap for 2018 at 45,000; however, only 22,491 were admitted. For 2019, the cap was set at 30,000; that cap was reached. The cap set for 2020 is 18,000.
United States State Department data shows that the admission of Muslim refugees had drastically declined (91% drop) between 2016 and September 2018 compared to Christian refugees (58% drop) in the same time period.

Defining Public Charge
On October 15, 2019, President Trump greatly expanded who can be considered a “public charge.” Under this new rule, a legal immigrant is a public charge if that person uses food stamps, subsidized housing, or certain Medicaid benefits for more than a year within a three-year window. Moreover, using two benefits in one month counts as two months. Under the rule, immigrants labeled a public charge are ineligible for green cards or visa extensions. In deciding who may someday be a public charge, the immigrants’ age, health, financial status, and educational background will be considered.
Another Presidential Proclamation went into effect on November 3, 2019. This proclamation states that the U.S. will only accept immigrant visa applications from persons who will be able to obtain health care in the U.S. within 30 days of arrival, or have the resources to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”
The impact: The Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 382,000 green card applicants annually will be subject to review under the new public charge rule. DHS estimates that more than 324,000 will either be dropped or simply not enroll in public benefit programs.
The chilling effects of the rule could impact up to 10 million noncitizens, even those the rule doesn’t apply to, according to the Migrant Policy Institute. Moreover, The Urban Institute found that one in seven adults in immigrant families avoided public benefits in 2018 for fear it may put their green card at risk. A Migrant Policy Institute analysis found that the health insurance requirement could block 375,000 immigrants per year.

The Ending of Temporary Protected Status
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has failed to renew the TPS for persons from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. As a result, citizens from these countries are subject to deportation, many of whom had been in the U.S. since the late 1990s and early 2000s. According to administration officials, the length of time these individuals have been in the U.S. correlates with who is selected.
The impact: According to USCIS data compiled by the Congressional Research Service and obtained by SelfLawyer, ending TPS would affect some 250,000 Salvadorans, 56,000 Haitians, 80,600 Hondurans, 14,500 Nepalis, 4,500 Nicaraguans, and 800 Sudanese.

Look closely at the actual trends in immigration….

July 1st, 2020

Absence of a real dialog in Washington about immigration policy makes it difficult to lay out policy proposals for resolving persistent problems. (Both parties are at fault.) But let’s look at the trends. In sum, there has been and continues to be a gradual ameliorization of the status of immigrants, notwithstanding the thunder and lightning.

This improvement in status is marked in the dramatic increase in the eligible voters who are naturalized citizens, from 12  million in 2000 to 23 million in 2020.

Green card issuance has remained steady at about one million per year. (Here, here. and here). Naturalization has been happening at about 800,000 a year.

Immigration law enforcement has improved in last 10 years. After decades of poor enforcement, in the past ten years performance has improved – under both Obama and Trump.

The United States has by far the largest unauthorized population in the world. Some 3% of the population is unauthorized, compared to about ¼ of one percent for other advanced countries. This population leveled off during the 2008 Recession and is now down 10% to about 10.5 million. Enforcement increased during under Obama. Trump would like to claim credit.

More active enforcement is shown in higher court cases and deportations over ten years.

The skill level of immigrants has increased in last 10-15 years. During 1970s- late 2000s, immigration was hourglass-like – some highly skilled, few middle-skilled, many with little formal education. As I have noted before, American businesses (farming, meatpacking, textiles) were the primary immediate beneficiaries of the migration of those with little education, which surged early 1990s – mid- 2000s. Since about 2000, recent migration has been increasingly educated.

For instance, 72% of Indian immigrants have at least a B.A. The size of the Indian immigrant population rose from 450,00o in 1990, to 1 million in 2000 to 2.4 million in 2015, and is undoubtedly more now.

Housecleaning workers in America

June 27th, 2020

Computer engineers and physician workforces in the United States would fall into severe shortages without foreign-born workers. That is also the case with housecleaners. Housecleaning is a good example of a personal service that Americans want done and for which the supply of labor is inflenced if not dominated by foreign-born workers with few job options. Most would not qualify for a green card today per Trump administration rules. 

There are about 350,000 full time housecleaners in America. Half of them are foreign-born non-citizens, which is far more than their 8% share of total employment in the U.S. About 3% of female non-citizen workers are housecleaners, compared to one third of one percent of all other female workers.

Housecleaners make about $12 an hour. 39% of housecleaners did not graduate from high school. While about half of all workers get health insurance through their employer, but only 7% of housecleaners do. 17% of all workers earn below 200% of the poverty level; 55% of housecleaners do. Earning under the 200% of poverty level generally indicates that with the “public charge” rule changes earlier this year would place the person at risk of being a public charge. See this recent post on low income households and federal supports.

Mostly from the Economic Priorities Institute, here.Also here.

Making sense of the latest immigration order

June 24th, 2020

This is how we, in a country with by far the largest foreign-born population in absolute numbers and share, go about making immigration policy.

On June 22 the administration continued and expanded until year end a halt on some of the most important classes of temporary visas, effective today (June 24). What to make of this?

The United States is the only country that has used the pandemic to restrict immigration expressly on economic, rather than public health, grounds.

The earlier April 22 order stopped some green card processing, on the grounds that green cards bring in people who compete with American citizens for jobs. The order is not backed up with any analysis. This order may have shut down over 300,000 green cards from being issued in the next 12 months, compared to about one million green cards issued in each recent years.

The June 22 order targets temporary visas, such as H-1Bs. Today the Wall Street Journal wrote, “….the vast majority of H-1Bs—which are capped at 85,000 a year—are for computer programming. The unemployment rate for these occupations was 2.5% in May compared to 13.3% for the entire economy. The Labor Department’s JOLTS survey found 122,000 information industry job openings in April, slightly more than the year before.”

Two things worth noting.

The executive branch can make up the facts and assessments as it goes along. No agency of the Executive Branch or the Congress is tasked to provide on-going assessment of the impact of immigration on labor markets. This has applied to every past administration.

And, Trump is following on with Obama’s immigration policy-making, which is to use executive orders to make sweeping changes in policy that should be in the scope of Congress.

Congress was paralyzed over immigration policy during the first two decades of the 21st century. At least three bipartisan efforts in the Senate, including in 2007, 2013 and 2017, failed. Especially after 2010, the politics of immigration became polarized.

El Salvador’s crisis in remittances

June 24th, 2020

Remittances to El Salvador, the vast majority coming from the U.S., are collapsing due to the pandemic. In. 2019 the country received $5.6 billion in remittances, more than the country’s annual exports, and equivalent to 20% of GDP. In 2009, remittances dipped about 10% from 2008 due to the recession, but then resumed their annual increases.

April 2020’s remittances were 40% below April 2019.


Data from here.

Crisis in college STEM enrollment

June 21st, 2020

Are the finances of high ed STEM education unraveling? The pandemic and Trump’s hostile approach to immigration are combining to threaten the sustainability of STEM departments at American universities. All of a sudden, it has become clear that globalization meant the U.S. serving as a factory for STEM talent for the world.

As of 2017, 81% of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79% in computer science are. National Foundation for American Policy report in 2017 said that “both majors and graduate programs could not be maintained without international students.” It further argued that “the increase in both the size and number of graduate programs in science and engineering at U.S. universities indicates U.S. student enrollment has not been held down by the lack of available slots at U.S. graduate schools.” (From Inside Higher Ed, here.)

Foreign students overall are cash cows, as the table below shows. (From here.) This shows the net tuitions and fees of full-time undergraduates to public higher ed, after scholarships and other financial aid.


SCOTUS: Trump cannot now terminate DACA

June 18th, 2020

Here is the Supreme Court decision released this morning.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was an executive order issued on June 15, 2012. As of late 2019, about 825,000 individuals had obtained official protection.

Here are some findings in a 2019 survey of DACA beneficiaries:

The average age of arrival to the United States among respondents is 6.1 years old, and 69% reported not having any immediate family members who still live in their respective countries of birth.

46% reported already having a bachelor’s degree or higher. After receiving DACA, 58% moved to a job with better pay. Among respondents 25 years and older, 20% have obtained professional licenses after receiving DACA. Among respondents 25 years and older, median annual earnings total $44,583. (this compares with median for Hispanics 25 and over, of $38,272).

Here are the outlines of a possible deal between the administration and DACA supporters:

Provisions for Dreamers:

Expand the category of persons covered. [This will cause the target population to grow from about 800,000 to upwards of two million.]

Create for them a secure path to a green card and citizenship. 

For their parents: “it is now clear that addressing their status in this bill would cause one side or the other to block the legislation, and so we believe it should not be included at this time.”

Provisions for enforcement:

Technology: Deploy region-specific technology to appropriate sectors of the southern border, such as radar surveillance systems.

Infrastructure: rebuild roads and barriers, improve security and enforcement technology at ports of entry through additional cameras/surveillance of traffic/pedestrian areas.

Personnel: Increase the number of CBP officers at ports of entry; increase training for CBP officers and Border Patrol agents.

Require annual reporting to Congress and the public on extensive metrics on how the increased efforts have affected entry attempts and successful or unsuccessful border crossings

Hong Kong citizens to the United Kingdom?

June 16th, 2020

Around 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently already have a British Overseas (National), or BNO, passport. 2.6 million others are also eligible. The BNO passport was created in anticipation of the handover to China, which occured in 1997. The last date for obtaining the right to obtain a BNO was at the time of transfer. BNO passport actual and eligible holders account for 40% of Hong Kong’s population.

The BNO passport does not provide an automatic right to immigrate to the United Kingdom, but does allow six month visits and two year work visas. The Johnson government has changed the rules to allow one-year visits. permanent immigration

Mainly from the BBC, here