White House restricts legal immigrants with fee hikes, H-1B visa denials – San Francisco Chronicle

Despite occasionally expressing support for legal immigration, the Trump administration is imposing restrictions on it, denying and delaying more applicants for H-1B skilled-work visas and proposing to raise costs for people seeking asylum, citizenship and green cards.

Costs: The Department of Homeland Security wants to increase fees by a weighted average of 21%, according to a Federal Register notice it published Thursday. The public has 30 days to comment.

“This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already overextended system,” immigration hard-liner Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. Cuccinelli was acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service when the statement was issued this month; last week he was named acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, according to BuzzFeed News.

Immigration rights advocates criticized the proposal as punitive rather than practical.

“It’s very clear that a policy objective of this is to erect significant new barriers for asylum seekers, green card applicants and citizenship applicants,” said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House as assistant director for entrepreneurship, and is now the co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a Seattle technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. He called the move “a weaponization of government fees.”

Fee increases could also apply to permit renewals for some 660,000 people who were brought to the U.S. without official permission as minors — if Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program allowing them to stay here, survives the Trump administration’s current attempt at the U.S. Supreme Court to have it repealed.

The change would particularly affect vulnerable immigrants — those who are low-income or asylum seekers, Rand said. It would mark the first time the U.S. requires people fleeing persecution to pay fees. Iran, Fiji and Australia are the only other nations that do so.

Citizenship application fees would rise about 60% to $1,170. “That can be a month’s income at minimum wage,” Rand said, noting that the change also would eliminate current fee waivers for lower-income people.

“In essence, the White House is creating a wealth test for citizenship and telling lower-income applicants that they’re not welcome in Trump’s America,” Melissa Rodgers, director of programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said in a statement.

About $200 million of the revenue from the fee increases would be given to U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement, the agency that carries out deportations, for “fraud detection.”

H-1B denial rates rise

The denial rate for H-1B visa applications has more than tripled since 2015, while the request rate for additional information almost doubled. Denial rates for applicants who provided more information more than doubled.

Fiscal year

Denial rate

Requests for evidence

Request for evidence denial rate

2015

4.3%

22.3%

16.8%

2016

6.1

20.8

21.1

2017

7.4

21.4

26.4

2018

15.5

38.0

37.6

2019

15.2

40.2

34.6

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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H-1B rejections: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is denying a much higher share of applications for H-1Bs, the skilled-work visas that many Silicon Valley companies rely on.

The denial rate has gone from 4.3% for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2015, to 15.2% in the fiscal year that just ended, according to government data.

While President Trump has sometimes tweeted about supporting skilled immigrant workers, his administration’s actions have not followed suit.

“H-1Bs are a target of this administration,” said Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney in Austin, Texas.

“Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ order directed (U.S. immigration officials) to be as strict as possible. We can see objectively with this data that they are making it significantly harder to hire talented, qualified skilled foreign nationals.”

He thinks the immigration agency is trying to make applying for H-1B visas “a more painful process.”

For instance, it has almost doubled challenges to H-1B applications, in addition to the outright denials. The share of applicants who receive requests to provide more information about themselves or their proposed jobs rose from 22.3% in 2015 to 40.2% currently. Rejections rose for those who received scrutiny in the form of documents called requests for evidence, going from a 16.8% rejection rate in 2015 to 34.6% this year.

The agency is also taking longer to notify applicants of their status unless they pay premium processing fees, Finkelman said, “causing delays for employers and the talent they want to hire.”

The Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors lower immigration rates, wrote a blog post noting that the actual number of H-1B approvals rose despite the lower denial rates because more applications were filed. (While the U.S. limits new H-1Bs to 85,000 a year, people who already hold the visa often apply for extensions or job changes.)

Rand dismissed that argument as disingenuous. “It’s clearly deliberate” that the denial rate has risen, he said. “Without formally changing policy through rule-making, the administration has been squeezing its civil servant employees to reject more applications.”

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @csaid

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Immigration to the UK may rise or fall but our laws are still barbaric – The Guardian

Should net immigration to Britain rise or fall? That’s the question many journalists have asked party leaders last week and it’s one that neither Labour nor the Tories are able to answer. Partly, that’s because the immigration policies of both parties are incoherent. It’s also because the question itself is incoherent.

The presumption in the question is that those hostile to immigration want to reduce numbers, while those with liberal views want them to rise. The former may be true. The latter isn’t.

I don’t care if the net immigration level falls to zero. Immigration rules are detestable not because they let in too few people but because of the way they treat immigrants, both those let in and those kept out.

Britain’s “hostile environment” policies led to the Windrush scandal, when thousands of its own citizens of the wrong colour were denied basic rights from benefits to hospital treatment. They have caused tens of thousands to be incarcerated for indefinite periods and often facing abuse. They have resulted in deportations for ludicrous reasons and to many being returned to persecution, even death. And they have thrown up horrors such as the deaths of 39 migrants in a shipping container, which politicians are happy to blame on people smugglers, but for which their own policies also bear responsibility.

The question I would ask of politicians is not: “Should immigration levels go up or down?”, but: “Do you think that the deaths of the 39 frozen migrants, the detention of tens of thousands held in the most degrading of conditions, the deportation of people to persecution and death, the denial of rights to its own citizens, is a price worth paying for Britain’s immigration policy?”

Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist

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Bruce Ashford: These immigration reforms will make America good as well as great – Fox News

During upcoming weeks and months, conservatives have an opportunity to do the right thing by enacting restitution-based immigration reform legislation that will secure our borders, deport dangerous immigrants, allow temporary documentation for immigrants willing to pay significant fine, and protect innocent Dreamers.

We should act now because it is the right thing to do, it is good for American workers, and upcoming weeks are crucial to accomplishing our long-term goals.

To that end, and as a response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2018 resolution on immigration reform, a substantial number of prominent evangelical leaders released the “Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform” this month.

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The proposal is based on Christian teaching about the necessity of upholding the rule of law in a humane manner.

By passing restitution-based immigration legislation, Congress will be doing the right thing.

First, Congress must reject amnesty-based proposals, which disrespect and diminish the rule of law.

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Over the past several decades U.S. lawmakers and authorities have neglected to secure our nation’s borders. They’ve spoken out of both sides of their mouths.

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On the one hand, they’ve kept immigration laws on the books. On the other hand, out of a combination of negligence, lack of enforcement, and corruption, we’ve essentially winked as millions of undocumented immigrants have entered unlawfully and taken residence within our borders.

In other words, we’ve sent the message: “Even though we do have immigration laws, we don’t take them seriously and, no matter what the laws say, it’s as if you’re committing only a mild trespass when you enter unlawfully.”

This must end. Every nation has the right, and often the responsibility, to secure its borders. The United States is no exception.

For that reason, restitution-based legislation would affirm the need to secure the borders while also causing undocumented immigrants to make restitution for illegal entry, falsification of papers and identification, and other crimes. Only after making restitution may they apply for citizenship.

Second, Congress must reject mass deportation proposals, which are inhumane and financially disastrous.

Mass deportation would result in inhumane treatment of many immigrants. It would punish mercilessly some individuals and families whose illegal entry into the United States was done out of fear and desperation.

In fact, many immigrants will embrace the opportunity to make restitution and – if they are allowed – eventually become citizens, pay taxes, and hold their heads high. Restitution-based reform will make those things a possibility, though not a certainty.

Mass deportation would also be a financial disaster. As conservative economists have calculated, previous deportation plans would increase federal spending by approximately $400 billion, reduce the U.S. labor force by more than 6 percent, and shrink the economy by nearly the same percentage. Restitution-based immigration reform would reduce significantly these enormous economic setbacks.

Third, we must not punish children for the sins of their parents. We must secure our borders. We must send dangerous people back to their home countries. We must require undocumented adult immigrants to make restitution. But what we must not do is punish children — the so-called Dreamers — for the sins of their fathers and mothers, or for the sins of negligent or corrupt American authorities.

Although American authorities would be within their legal rights to deport Dreamers, they would also be within their legal rights to adjust the application of our laws so that they can show mercy to Dreamers. Our nation has done so many times before in its history and, in doing so, has held together two deeply Christian concepts — justice and mercy.

According to multiple recent polls, 75 to 80 percent of Americans believe that we should find a way for Dreamers to stay in the United States legally. According to exit polls, this number includes 60 percent of Americans who voted for Trump.

With such a large majority of the American people wanting to see us solve this on behalf of these young people, what stops us? Fear? Anger? Dirty politics? If we want America to be great, we must also be good, and that means that we consider both justice and mercy and find ways to extend both.

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The United States is in many ways a great nation, but we must never forget that our greatness is tied to goodness.

Diminishing the rule of law by speaking out of both sides of our mouths is neither good nor great. Throwing innocent young people into legal limbo is neither good nor great. Perpetuating a situation in which undocumented immigrants spend their lives in the shadows is neither good nor great.

By supporting restitution-based immigration reform, conservatives could take a large stride toward making American good and great again.

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Nearly 80,000 immigrants approved for DACA have arrest records, USCIS report finds – Fox News

Nearly 80,000 immigrants approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields those who came to the country illegally as minors from deportation, have an arrest record — including arrests for violent or sexual offenses.

The data released Saturday by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows only arrests or apprehensions for a criminal offense or an immigration-related civil offense and does not take into account whether there was a conviction, acquittal, dismissal or a lessening of charges.

TRUMP BLASTS ‘TOTALLY ILLEGAL’ DACA ORDER, SAYS OBAMA DIDN’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO SIGN IT

The report finds that of the nearly 889,000 applicants for the DACA program, 110,000 had arrest records. Of the more than 765,000 approved for DACA, 79,398 had arrest records. Of that number, 67,861 were arrested before their most recent DACA approval, while 15,903 were arrested after their most recent approval.

The offenses incurred by DACA requestors who were arrested before their most recent approval include battery (3,421), assault (3,308), burglary, breaking and entering (1,471), rape (62), murder (15) and theft or larceny (7,926). The largest population arrested were suspected of driving-related offenses excluding DUIs (23,305) and immigration-related offenses (12,968.)

The report comes as the Obama-era program’s constitutionality is under examination at the Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case began this week.

“As DACA continues to be the subject of both public discourse and ongoing litigation, USCIS remains committed to ensuring transparency and that the American people are informed about those receiving DACA,” USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. 

“This agency is obligated to continue accepting DACA requests from illegal aliens as a direct result of the previous administration’s decision to circumvent the laws as passed by Congress. We hope this data provides a better sense of the reality of those granted the privilege of a temporary deferral of removal action and work authorization under DACA,” he said. 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES FEES ON ASYLUM APPLICATIONS, DACA RENEWALS

The Trump administration announced its plan to phase out the program in 2017, only for the federal courts to rule that it could not apply retroactively and that DACA should be restarted in full. The White House fought back against those decisions, saying the president has broad authority over immigration enforcement policy.

Trump on Tuesday ripped into the program, saying that some in DACA are “far from ‘angels’” but also promising to make a deal to let recipients of the program stay.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,’” Trump tweeted. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

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Supporters of DACA have noted that the program comes with restrictions on who can be eligible with a criminal record. According to the USCIS website, those eligible can request DACA only if they “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Supporters will also note that the level of arrests for DACA recipients is lower than the estimated 30 percent of U.S. adults who have an arrest record.

The Trump administration announced last week that it will place a $275 fee on DACA recipients, as part of an across the board increase in fees for immigration applications.

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Father of murdered teen speaks out on sanctuary policies for immigrants – KOMO News

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