Kalpana Peddibhotla is a business immigration attorney. She is former co-chair for the Immigration Committee for the South Asian Bar Association of North America.
NASHVILLE, TN – The Trump administration has made more than 400 changes to immigration policy, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). The nonpartisan NGO has tracked immigration trends in the U.S. and worldwide since 2001.
MPI began cataloguing changes the administration has made in January 2017 and decided to publish the list as a public resource.
“It helps you see some of the trends with this administration’s agenda on immigration,” said Sarah Pierce, an immigration policy analyst. Pierce said the administration is well versed in immigration law and regulations and has enforced things that have been on the books for years but never been implemented.
“They put into force a 1996 law that has allowed ICE to begin levying fees of up to $799 per day for an unauthorized immigrant to remain in the country in violation of a removal order,” Pierce said.
Immigration authorities have changed how the Public Charge rules have been applied for decades and that has made it easier for them to reject visa applications. (see Public Charge Rule)
“It seems like a really small and technical change but when you take these all together it has added up to a really monumental change and evolution of our immigration system,” Pierce said.
MPI’s July report chronicles everything from border and interior enforcement, to refugee resettlement and the asylum system, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration courts, and vetting and visa processes.
Trump has ordered major changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. He has put bans on travel, paused visa issuance for certain groups of foreign nationals and further closed off of the U.S.-Mexico border that has effectively ended asylum there.
Trump’s nonstop pace signing executive orders have dramatically altered the immigration landscape. Pierce said that it won’t be easily undone.
“Much of the White House’s immigration agenda has been realized in the form of interlocking measures, with regulatory, policy, and programmatic changes driving towards shared policy goals,” Pierce said.
While Trump’s edicts could, in theory, be undone by a future administration, Pierce said it is likely that the Trump presidency will have long-lasting effects on the U.S. immigration system.
Attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, practices business immigration law. She said some recent Trump proclamations are hitting Silicon Valley really hard.
“The president initially took office on a claim that he was going to stop the unauthorized entrance of immigrants, or the undocumented population. But very shortly after taking office, he actually attacked specifically legal immigration and he did so to the business community through his order called “Buy American Hire American” that came out in April 2017,” said Peddibhotla.
Several policy memos from the White House have resulted in changes that “you can’t just rewrite over night” and they are making it harder for companies to sponsor foreign workers.
For example, the administration now demands three times the documentation prior administrations required to grant work-related visas. Premium processing has been suspended so it takes months instead of weeks for an employer to make someone an offer and have the paperwork processed quickly.
“It’s become difficult for the movement of labor which is critical to the success of businesses and our economy,” Peddibhotla said. In addition, Trump has removed the deference given to companies seeking extensions of visas for people they already employ. All the prior documentation previously provided is now ignored and green card applicants are interviewed under the guise of protecting our national security.
“Having gone to numerous of those interviews I have yet to see how national security is even raised in a single one of those interviews and it has created a backlog in overall immigration handling,” she said.
Recent presidential orders ban four different categories of foreign workers, including new H-1Bs and executive managers and specialty knowledge workers of multi-national corporations.
“He did so under Section 212F of the Immigration and Nationality Act which permits the president to bar immigrants if he finds that it is in our national interest. Implicit in that section that gives the president these powers is the notion that the president has to make a finding,” she said.
Peddibhotla said that in the past the courts have been hands off with presidential power because they are usually rooted in national security interest as opposed to a domestic economic policy.
“He is testing these waters where he is claiming ‘I’ve got the right to bar immigrants because it’s in our national interest because it harms our economy’.”
Peddibhotla said numerous studies have shown that immigrants do not harm our economy but grow it and have multiple spillover impacts into the local economy.
“We shouldn’t fall into this tap into believing that the president can do anything by proclamation just because he claims this notion of national interest,” she said.
For one thing, Trump’s math doesn’t add up. He claims blocking foreign workers from getting visas would save 525,000 jobs but there have been just 167,000 applicants from foreign workers.
Secondly, what the Trump administration says and what it does are sometimes at odds with each other. While Trump has been busy denying visas to foreign workers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has argued for just the opposite. When it wanted to extend visas for its own foreign STEM workers, DHS argued that those workers help stimulate innovation and increase patent applications.
“We recognize that immigrants and international students make significant contributions to the U.S. technology industry,” the DHS report states. Peddibhotla said that immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses than U.S. born natives and that is critical to our economic recovery.
Then there is the job multiplier effect of certain workers, including H-2Bs, which are currently blocked as well as H-1Bs. A study by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research found evidence contrary to Trump’s claims.
Their research found that for every 100 H-1B workers it results in an additional 183 jobs for U.S. natives. And for every 100 H-2B workers it results in an additional 462 jobs for U.S. natives.
This article was brought to you by Ethnic Media Services and the support of the Blue Cross Foundation of California.