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Articles Posted in House of Representatives

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In this article, we will discuss how the upcoming Presidential election could impact immigration for years to come.

On November 3, 2020 Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes for the next President of the United States. While the upcoming presidential election seems far into the future, Americans must now begin to consider how their votes could impact the future of immigration.

During the 2016 election, the topic of immigration took center stage and has continued to remain a prominent topic of contention among Democrats in Republicans. In part immigration was catapulted to mainstream media by then Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who made the topic of immigration a central issue of his campaign, by means of his campaign logo “Make America Great Again,” to highlight the discontent that many Americans felt regarding illegal immigration, the availability of jobs in the United States, and the country’s general loss of “status” in relation to other countries. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump consistently made pledges to his supporters with respect to immigration, including a promise to build a wall and ensuring Mexico pay for it, ending birthright citizenship, ending “mass” migration of Syrian refugees, removing undocumented immigrants from the United States, and limiting legal immigration, to name a few of his campaign promises. The President also vowed to serve the interests of America and its workers, calling them “the forgotten people.” This rhetoric proved to be successful as disenchanted Americans across the country began to rally in support of Donald Trump helping him win the Presidency.

The President’s strategy was so successful, that other Republicans have taken a page out of Donald Trump’ s playbook, using the same rhetoric to gain the support of rural Americans.

This same anti-immigrant rhetoric is expected to take center stage during the upcoming presidential election. Republicans have remained united on the issue of immigration and have consistently supported Trump’s policies even where courts have struck down the President’s orders with respect to ending DACA.

Today, Americans remain largely divided on the issue of immigration, making the outcome of the Presidential election all the more unpredictable. The President’s current impeachment proceedings have also thrown a wrench into the process, creating deep divisions among party lines.

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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The House of Representatives recently made a bold move that could give undocumented farmworkers a pathway to permanent residence.

Yesterday, December 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165, the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a progressive bill that if approved by the Senate, would create several exciting opportunities for undocumented farmworkers as well as U.S. employers.

What does the Bill propose?

The bill would allow existing agricultural workers in the United States to legalize their status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the United States economy.

Which workers would be eligible for Permanent Resident Status?

Earned Pathway to Legalization

  • Individuals who have worked in agriculture in the U.S. for at least 10 years before enactment of the bill, must continue to work for at least 4 more years in agriculture on Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status before being eligible to apply for permanent residence OR
  • Individuals who have worked in agriculture in the U.S. for less than 10 years, must work at least 8 more years in agriculture on CAW status before being eligible to apply for permanent residence
    • Applicants who qualify based on one of these criteria would be required to pay a $1,000 fine

In addition, the bill would:

  • Create a new temporary worker visa program for current unauthorized farmworkers called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status. CAW visas would be renewable and five-and-a-half years in length. The number of CAW visas would be uncapped.
  • Establish eligibility requirements of the CAW visa.Unauthorized immigrants who have spent at least 180 days of the last two years in agricultural employment would be eligible for the Certified Agricultural Worker Visa.
  • With few exceptions, applicants must meet existing work visa admissibility requirements to be eligible and must pass a criminal background check.
  • Felons and those who have been convicted of multiple misdemeanors (two or more offenses of moral turpitude or three offenses in general) would not be eligible.

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Do’s and Don’ts

If you are considering applying for a temporary visitor visa to travel to the United States for purposes of leisure or to receive temporary medical treatment, there are several things you should be aware of. First, you should understand what you can do while on a temporary visitor visa and what you cannot do. You may travel to the United States on a visitor visa if your visit will be temporary. The proposed visit must be either for recreational purposes such as to visit your friends and relatives in the United States, receive medical treatment, attend a short course of study related to the nature of your trip, or to engage in activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature. You may not enroll in a course of study that exceeds your authorized duration of stay of is unrelated to the nature of your trip, and you may not seek employment during your stay. If approved, a visitor visa is generally authorized for a 6-month period which may be extended for an additional 6 months by filing Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Does your country participate in the visa waiver program?

Before applying for a visitor visa , you should verify whether you are a citizen of a country that participates in the visa waiver program. Presently 38 countries participate in the visa waiver program, as shown below.

Andorra Hungary Norway
Australia Iceland Portugal
Austria Ireland San Marino
Belgium Italy Singapore
Brunei Japan Slovakia
Chile Latvia Slovenia
Czech Republic Liechtenstein South Korea
Denmark Lithuania Spain
Estonia Luxembourg Sweden
Finland Malta Switzerland
France Monaco Taiwan
Germany the Netherlands United Kingdom
Greece New Zealand

If your country of citizenship participates in the visa waiver program, you may not need to apply for a tourist visa at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad. If you have been previously denied a United States visa, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will automatically deny your ESTA submission and you will not be eligible to travel under the VWP even if your country participates in the program. Note: The House of Representatives and the Senate is presently in talks to approve a bill that will block individuals who have traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Sudan during the last 5 years from using the visa waiver program.

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Yesterday, December 2, 2015 the state of Texas brought suit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), before the United States District Court in Texas Health and Human Services Commission V. United States et al., 12/2/15. In its suit, the state of Texas claims that the federal government and the IRC acted unlawfully in their attempt to resettle Syrian refugees without prior consultation and direct cooperation with the state of Texas, as required by federal law. The lawsuit was brought by the Texas Health and Services Commission (THSC) representing the interests of the state of Texas in court. The THSC is an agency responsible for the administration and development of the refugee resettlement program in Texas. The state of Texas discovered in a phone call with the IRC that the Committee intended on resettling 6 Syrian refugees in Dallas, Texas on December 4, 2015 without consent. On December 1, 2015 Texas addressed the Committee in a letter requesting a halt to the resettlement of Syrian refugees until the state would receive security assurances and discuss proper screening procedures for said refugees. The IRC responded on December 2nd that it would continue the resettlement process as planned resettling the refugees in Texas.

Refugee Resettlement Program

Texas administers the refugee resettlement program along with the assistance of local government agencies responsible for the financial costs associated with the refugee’s resettlement and transition to the state of Texas.  In order to accomplish its endeavors, all federal and state agencies must adhere to strict framework’s established by the Refugee Act of 1980, which require collaborative and cooperative efforts between all entities involved in the process of refugee resettlement. According to Texas, “instead of adhering to that statutory framework, the federal government and the Committee have left Texas uninformed about refugees that could well pose a security risk to Texans and without any say in the process of resettling these refugees.”

Arguments for the state of Texas

In its suit, Texas aims to re-assert its sovereignty and obligation to protect the safety of its residents. Texas claims that the government’s failure to adhere by the law has raised legitimate security concerns involving potential complicity between refugees and terrorists.

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Last week, in a 289-137 vote the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would require a comprehensive background check to be conducted for every Syrian and Iraqi seeking refugee admission to the United States. Among its provisions, the bill, better known as the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (American SAFE Act of 2015) will require supplemental certifications and background investigations to be conducted before a Syrian or Iraqi refugee can be admitted to the United States. These additional security protocols will require multiple federal government agencies to work together in order to determine whether 1) such an alien poses a threat to the national security of the United States and 2) whether it is in the public interest of the United States to admit the alien based on the findings of the security checks conducted. The bill received overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans alike amid the recent terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS leaving 129 dead and 353 wounded in the city of Paris. Though the bill will need to pass through the Senate before it can become law, the House’s overwhelming support for the bill has blocked the President from using his veto power.

Specifically, the bill will apply only to Syrian and Iraqi nationals referred to in the bill as ‘covered aliens.’ A covered alien means any alien applying for admission to the United States who is either a) a national or resident of Iraq or Syria b) has no nationality but whose country of last habitual residence is Iraq or Syria c) has been present in Iraq or Syria at anytime on or after March 1, 2011.

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