Trump’s Assault on Legal High-Skilled Immigration

The U.S. high tech sector is the envy of the world in no small part due to the contributions of immigrant scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Yet making their—and their employers’—lives miserable has become a top priority for the Trump administration.

Almost since day one, restrictionists in President Donald Trump’s inner circle targeted not just undocumented low-skilled workers but also legal high-skilled ones. And the latest in their crosshairs may be international students—the very people who Mitt Romney, during his ill-fated presidential campaign, said should have green cards stapled to their diplomas, since it makes no sense for them to get an American education and then return to their home country to compete with America.

The White House’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, drafted largely by restrictionist Trump aide Stephen Miller within months of Trump assuming office, ordered the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to “rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad” with an eye toward creating “higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States.” And the agencies aren’t wasting any time. They have been scouring and revising existing rules to make it as hard as possible for high-skilled immigrants to come—and stay—in the United States. Here are just a few of the things they’ve done:

* The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just last week instructed its adjudicators to no longer “defer to prior determinations,” approvals and findings of facts for the renewal of H-1Bs and other high-skilled visas. This means that when high-tech foreigners try to extend their H-1B after three years, the government having previously approved their applications—involving the same set of facts—means nothing. For employers, it will create uncertainty and additional paperwork burden.

* USCIS is also issuing ‘exponentially more’ of what are called “requests for evidence” when an employer first petitions for an H-1B visa, according to BNA Bloomberg. This means that employers must submit additional evidence regarding salaries and job duties so that the agency can ensure that H-1Bs are being handed only to the “most-skilled or highest-paid.”

* USCIS adjudicators are also far more suspicious of H-1B petitions where employers offer the lower end of the prevailing wage spectrum, for example when hiring fresh graduates with less job experience. They think that that’s an indication that the individual’s position isn’t sufficiently complex to qualify for a visa.

* The Trump administration is delaying whether to defend a regulation that allows certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to work. Tens of thousands of qualified spouses are currently locked out of the job market because their visas bar them from working.

By Stuart Anderson for REASON.COM
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