USCIS’s Cuccinelli Boasts Of Increasing Immigration Bureaucracy – Forbes

In a new press release, USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli boasted that the Trump administration has increased red tape and bureaucracy for U.S. companies. It’s the latest example of administration officials lauding efforts to make it more difficult for employers to obtain what economists often consider to be a company’s most valuable resource – talent.

Since 2017, Trump administration policies have focused on restricting the entry of immigrants and foreign nationals, including scientists and engineers. “Denial rates for new H-1B petitions have increased significantly, rising from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis.

In addition, expensive and time-consuming Requests for Evidence (RFEs) reached an unprecedented level of 60% in the FY 2019 first quarter. The percentage of completed H-1B cases with a Request for Evidence has doubled between FY 2016 and FY 2019. Many companies have resorted to lawsuits in federal court against USCIS to gain approvals for employees they have identified as valuable.

However, Ken Cuccinelli and USCIS describe the increased bureaucracy facing businesses in positive terms and the fulfillment of a mission. “Consistent with President Trump’s call for enhanced vetting, USCIS plays a key role in safeguarding our nation’s immigration system and making sure that only those who are eligible for a benefit receive it,” according to the October 16, 2019, press release. “USCIS is vigorous in its efforts to detect and deter immigration fraud, using a variety of vetting and screening processes to confirm an applicant’s identity and eligibility. The agency also conducts site visits, interviews applicants, and requests evidence for benefits that offer individuals status in the United States.”

The meaning of the bureaucratic language used by USCIS is clear: USCIS has made it more difficult for employers to gain approval for high-skilled foreign nationals and others.

Here are examples of increased bureaucracy and added burdens on companies hiring foreign-born scientists and engineers:

•          Government documents reveal USCIS adjudicators were directed to restrict approvals of H-1B petitions without the legal or regulatory authority to justify those decisions. The documents became public following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

•          A USCIS internal document – “H-1B RFE Standards” – encouraged adjudicators to demand more information of employers, leading to such requests being made in 40% to 60% of H-1B cases.

•          Another USCIS document changed the standard for what qualifies as a “specialty occupation” for an H-1B visa holder – without any change in the law or regulation. While initially used to deny H-1B status to computer programmers, this analysis explains that the USCIS document states the new USCIS policy is “Applicable to Many Occupations.”

•          USCIS adjudicators have taken the unusual step of approving H-1B status for periods of very short duration. In an ongoing court case, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer cited the plaintiff’s example of USCIS granting one applicant an H-1B approval valid for only a single day – from February 1 to February 2, 2019. (See USCIS decision here.) Such actions force businesses to waste time and money filing repeatedly for the same employees.

•          A Trump administration decision to compel employment-based green card applicants to sit for in-person interviews contributed to “increased delays in the adjudication of employment-based benefits [that] undermined the ability of U.S. companies to hire and retain essential workers,” according to an American Immigration Lawyers Association report. It also caused increased backlogs in other types of applications.

•          USCIS now often requires – without a new law or regulation – a company to list every contract on which an H-1B visa holder will work during a three-year period to prove a “valid employer-employee relationship.” This was not done previously, and companies consider it unduly burdensome and out of touch with how businesses operate in a modern economy. The policy is a source of litigation.

•          USCIS also issued a memo instructing adjudicators to no longer defer to prior determinations when adjudicating extension applications for existing H-1B visa holders. That policy change has contributed to a significant increase in denials and Request for Evidence for continuing employment for H-1B petitions, resulting in a three-fold increase in the denial rate for companies trying to retain current H-1B employees between FY 2016 and FY 2019. Employees who spent years working in the United States have been forced to leave the country after being denied H-1B extensions.

“By increasing the many hoops and hurdles that employers and foreign-born workers must negotiate to work in the United States, USCIS is making it harder for American companies to recruit and retain global talent,” said attorney Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, in an interview. “It is doing this through trumped-up claims of increased workload and fraud referrals, when many of those challenges are the result of its own efforts to create more work for itself and further grow the immigration bureaucracy.”

The available U.S. domestic talent pool is limited in many key fields. Approximately 80% of full-time graduate students at U.S. universities in computer science and electrical engineering are international students who need a visa to work long-term in the United States.

Research by Britta Glennon, an assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, found the types of government restrictions applauded by the acting director of USCIS are not good for America. Glennon found H-1B visa restrictions carry the unintended consequence of pushing jobs outside the United States and lead to less innovation in America. “In short, restrictive H-1B policies could not only be exporting more jobs and businesses to countries like Canada, but they also could be making the U.S.’s innovative capacity fall behind,” concluded Glennon.

When USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli ran for and held public office in Virginia, he had the support of the Tea Party and advocated against overreaching federal bureaucracy, including by filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a-changin.’”

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The Immigration Numbers Are in—With a Big Surprise – Newser

(Newser) – New immigration data includes one no-brainer—that immigration influx is down—and one possible surprise about where immigrants are choosing to live, City Lab reports. Released by the Census Bureau and gathered by a Brookings Institution demographer, the analysis says America’s immigrant population grew by only 200,000 in 2017-2018, the lowest boost since 2010. Over 2013-2014, for example, the foreign-born population had spiked by over a million. Experts say much of the decline can be linked to President Trump’s policies and the tone of his presidency, per the New York Times last month. For more:

  • The country’s foreign-born population is still at a historic high of nearly 45 million. That’s 13.7% of the US population, second only to the 14.7% record in 1910, an era of high immigration.

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How Democrats Can Turn Immigration Into Trump’s Kryptonite – POLITICO

Steve Tobocman is a former Michigan State Legislator and Co-Director of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University. John Austin is former President of the Michigan State Board of Education and Director of the Michigan Economic Center. Researcher and Strategist Suzette Brooks Masters provided the authors with an analysis of the relevant research.

President Donald Trump’s words and actions on immigration have outraged many Americans. Separating families at the border, packing asylum seekers in cages, seeking to ban Muslim visitors, virtually eliminating the nation’s refugee resettlement program, radically changing asylum rules and imposing a new wealth test for legal migration—even contending that the Statue of Liberty’s inscription should apply only to those who can “stand on their own two feet”—are offensive to our nation’s character and our history of openness.

And yet in trying to distinguish themselves from an unpopular president, Democrats might be losing the battle for a substantial segment of the voting population—moderate Republicans, independents and some traditional Democratic voters—by adopting extremely progressive positions on immigration, whether it’s abolishing ICE, providing government health care for the undocumented or glorifying immigrants as economic superheroes.

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When Democratic debates focus on decriminalizing violations of our immigration laws and degenerate into a feeding frenzy of attacks over the deportation practices of the Obama administration—an administration that the vast majority of Americans still view as advocating the expansion of access to legal residency for the undocumented—the Democratic candidates seem radically out of sync with truly mixed public opinion on immigration issues. When the most memorable debate exchanges center on providing government health care for the undocumented, they feed the fires of resentment already kindled by Trump that immigrants are getting “special treatment at my expense.”

If Democrats do not craft a smarter and more broadly appealing message, they risk alienating voters and helping Trump win reelection in 2020. But fortunately, new research on how Americans respond to disruptive forces like immigration and the looming majority-minority demographic shift offers guidance on how politicians can talk about immigration in a way that appeals to a wide swath of voters, without compromising the Democratic values of inclusion and compassion. Democrats and immigration advocates must offer a narrative that affords optimism and builds shared hope for the future, rather than focusing too narrowly on immigrants alone (making it about them rather than us) or deifying immigrants as better than Americans (the notion of immigrant exceptionalism).

As former Democratic elected officials in Michigan who have pushed hard for our state to welcome immigrants, we know how politically fraught the topic is, particularly in the Midwest, where many are uneasy about their place in today’s economy and society. But we have also seen how, if Democrats craft the right message, they can turn Trump’s radical immigration policies against him. In 2018, Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who narrowly flipped a Trump district blue, told one of us that her district’s Trump voters have called her to express anger at him only a couple of times: after his performance at the Helsinki news conference with Vladimir Putin, and after these voters had seen immigrant children locked up in cages at the border.

How do most voters actually think about immigration? For starters, about two-thirds of the public does not believe in either extreme in the immigration debate, according researchers at More in Common, a nonprofit organization that works to identify and address the underlying drivers of polarization. These voters constitute an “exhausted majority”—made up of moderates, the politically disengaged, and various passive and traditional liberals who reject the excessive partisanship and don’t feel strongly allied with any ideology.

To the extent that voters feel strongly about immigration, it is culture and American identity that drive the debate on those issues, not policy. Numerous polling and academic analyses of the Trump victory confirm that it was primarily cultural anxiety that drove many white voters to Trump, not economic insecurity. Polling conducted in the fall of 2016 by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)/Atlantic found that 68 percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needed to be protected from foreign influence. And nearly half agreed with the statement “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.” It turns out that 79 percent of these white working-class voters who had these anxieties chose Trump in November, while only 43 percent of white working-class voters who did not share one or both of these fears cast their vote the same way.

In addition, research shows that talking about the coming “majority-minority” society and focusing on the “countdown” to that new reality only exacerbates racial anxiety and anti-immigrant sentiments. Social psychologists Jennifer Richeson and Maureen Craig found in 2014 that randomly assigned white Americans who read and heard more about America’s looming racial shifts were more likely to report negative feelings toward nonwhites and to favor restricting immigration. Richeson and Craig’s findings have been confirmed by several other researchers, including in 2018 by Dowell Myers and Morris Levy, who also found higher levels of anxiety about national census reporting when immigration is framed as the decline of the white majority population to minority status instead of being a story of increasing diversity. The answer for Democrats is not to pretend that these demographic shifts are not happening but rather to de-emphasize the differences between groups in favor of an overarching national identity.

Democrats also must acknowledge that their base is increasingly made up of urban voters who embrace immigrants and diversity, which can leave nonurban voters, who might have different needs and concerns, feeling alienated. University of Wisconsin political scientist Katherine Cramer’s 2016 book The Politics of Resentment found among rural Wisconsin residents a number of clear, common attitudes: intense resentment toward their urban counterparts; frustration with government and decision-makers who they believe ignore their concerns and disrespect them, which leads these residents to favor less government; and a deep sense of grievance, which Cramer calls “redistributive injustice,” animated by the belief, true or not, that they are not getting their fair share of resources and attention.

There is an abundance of economic data to show the extraordinary contributions of immigrants. Nationally, immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses and are founders of more than half the nation’s billion-dollar startups, as well as 28 percent of its Main Street businesses. They dominate high-skilled STEM careers. Approximately 80 percent of the graduate students in U.S. colleges and universities studying electrical engineering and computer science are international students; nearly 40 percent of nation’s Nobel prize winners in science over the past two decades are immigrants. But while this story about immigrants’ positive economic impact has often brought new, powerful allies to the immigrant welcoming party (including our business communities in the Midwest), casting immigrants as “exceptional” can foster more resentment among voters who are struggling to find their own place in a new globalized economy and might get the impression that their hardships aren’t as worthy of attention as immigrants’.

How can Democrats address these voters’ concerns while also looking out for immigrants? What they need is a message of understanding that transforms immigration from the third rail to a story about American values and the achievability of the American dream for all. A story that focuses on what is at stake and available for the country and that speaks directly to the uncertainties and fears across the Midwest, the Rust Belt, and voters in America’s rural and African-American communities in an era of rapid technological and demographic change. Here are the foundations of such a story.

Revive the “American Dream” for all Americans. America aspires to be the land of freedom and opportunity for all. Talk about realizing the American Dream for everyone—a dream that is not limited to immigrants, but a promise made to all American families. This means making it very clear that undocumented immigrants aren’t deserving of special treatment. They have to play by the rules like everyone else.

Flip the script: Immigration builds American communities. Leaders need to communicate that immigrants want to be American, that they are coming to America for the same reasons they always have, for opportunity and freedom. And we all benefit from it. In our home state of Michigan, immigrants account for all the population growth in the past 30 years, and we are not alone. Immigrants make our communities more sustainable and more vibrant. The American immigration system is broken, and our nation’s security and prosperity demand that we fix it.

Emphasize fair play. Nothing fuels resentment more than feeling that someone else is getting a “handout” or a pass. Democrats need to reassure the American public that they want a modern immigration system that is both generous and secure, fair and orderly—that we will have secure borders. They should be clear that, as President Barack Obama did, we will prioritize and deport violent criminals, as we create clearer pathways to citizenship for families who are law-abiding, taxpaying contributors to our communities and economy.

Turn down the volume and add nuance. Immigration and immigrants are not the looming menace to our country and way of life, but neither are they the defining moral and economic good of America. Immigration is one of many ways—like building out education and infrastructure—that our country gets richer, stronger and more interesting. Other research has suggested that in times of growing complexity in life and a diversity of opinions, authoritarians rise by offering a return to simplicity, “sameness” and order. Leaders and immigrant advocates must help voters place the issue of immigrants and immigration in a similarly simple and orderly context, one of many important, but complicated issues.

We have seen what lies at the end of Trump’s leadership path on immigration. America at this hour desperately needs an alternative voice—a voice that speaks to the majority of Americans—creating a realistic vision for a stronger, more bonded, more resilient and more unified country.

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Immigration Cases, Judicial Vacancies Tax New Mexico Courts – The Wall Street Journal

LAS CRUCES, N.M.—With three of New Mexico’s seven federal district judgeships currently vacant, the U.S. court system here was already in danger of being overwhelmed. At the same time, hundreds of migrants facing charges of crossing into the U.S. illegally are crowding into courtrooms daily and pushing the system to the breaking point, according to judges and attorneys.

While many migrants are being cycled in and out of court in a matter of minutes, other civil and criminal cases face delays and judges say they worry they…

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Supreme Court to consider rights of asylum seekers to challenge expedited removal orders – CNN

The Trump administration had asked the court to review an opinion of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that would allow those who have been denied asylum the opportunity to make their claims in federal courts.
If the opinion is ultimately upheld, it could open the doors to more asylum seekers at a time when the administration has attempted to dramatically limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US.
The case centers on Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a native citizen of Sri Lanka who’s a member of an ethnic minority group. He was arrested 25 yards north of the US-Mexico border and placed in expedited removal proceedings. That fast-track deportation procedure allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge.
Deportations of migrant families continue to jump under the Trump administration
Thuraissigiam applied for asylum, citing fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, and an asylum officer determined he had not established a credible fear of persecution. A supervising officer and an immigration judge affirmed the decision. Under the law, after the denial, Thuraissigiam was ineligible to challenge the finding.
Thuraissigiam went to federal district court, arguing that the expedited removal violated his constitutional rights. A district court said the law did not authorize the court to hear his claims. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, but said the law violates the Suspension Clause, which, the court held, requires Thuraissigiam, even as a noncitizen, to have a “meaningful opportunity” to demonstrate that he is being held against the law.
The Trump administration argued in briefs that the law — which sharply limits judicial review to final orders of removal — was passed so that the asylum system would not be abused. The law offers some exceptions, but they were not met by Thuraissigiam.
“The Ninth Circuit held that the Suspension Clause provides respondent with a constitutional right to additional review of his application for admission, beyond the review Congress has established,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in court briefs. He said Thuraissigiam “failed to satisfy even the threshold screening standard.”
A Congressional Research Service report notes that the Supreme Court “has repeatedly held” that the government may exclude immigrants “without affording them the due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States.”
Expedited removal has been a point of contention in recent months, as the Trump administration has moved to expand the procedure and cast a wider net over undocumented immigrants subject to it. A federal judge blocked the move in a separate case last month.
This story has been updated.

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