Recently, President Obama made remarks indicating that he wanted to make the H-1b program more efficient as part of the Executive Action that he has promised to deliver in light of Congressional inaction on immigration reform. His remarks immediately drew the ire of Senator Grassley who opined that the H-1b program should have a labor market test attached to it. In typical form, Senator Grassley falsely claimed that US companies lay off US workers in mass and then replace them with cheaper H-1b workers. It should be alarming to all advocates of legal immigration and business immigration reform that Senator Grassley would be the top Senator and carry tremendous weight over any immigration bill should the Republicans take control over the Senate. Hopes of U.S. companies being able to hire and retain the best and the brightest will be destroyed by a strong wind blowing from the corn fields of Iowa should the Senate change hands in the November election.
The Department of State has released the November Visa Bulletin and it contains a mix of bad news and good news depending upon your country of origin. If you are an EB2 Indian national, the news in not unexpected as it was predicted but, the retrogression of over 4 years to Feb of 2005 is nonetheless devastating. For EB3 Philippines and the rest of the world, a forward jump of almost 8 mos. is very welcome. The prognostications for upcoming months is similar in that no movement is expected for India EB2 however EB3 for the Phillippines and all other countries are expected to continue their rapid movement forward however, both may retrogress later in the fiscal year i.e. next summer. We will keep you updated as developments occur. A legislative fix for retrogression remains much needed.
The Department of State has released the October Visa Bulletin and all EB3 categories saw forward movement with the EB3 Philippines and the All Other categories surging forward 6 months. Unfortunately, EB2 India saw no forward movement and the DOS predicted that retrogression in this category could come as early as Nov. As a practical matter, this means that if you are in the EB2 category and your priority date is current, get your I-485 filed by the end of October and if you are already filed, respond to any RFE’s as quickly as possible as the window is closing quickly.
For those of you holding out hope for Executive Action to address some of the needs of the immigration system, stop holding your breath. President Obama recently announced that he will still take action but, not until later. Many believe that he received significant negative reaction from within his own party over his planned actions and the fear was that his actions would sway the mid-term elections and hand the Senate to the Republicans. For now, we continue to live with antiquated laws and an agency beating its own drum.
With President Obama promising Executive Action to address U.S. immigration problems, many stakeholders including those from the tech industry have heavily lobbied for him to use his pen to address not, only the border crisis, DACA children, and the deportation system but, also retrogression, H-1b visas, and the like. The conventional wisdom says that the President will stay true to his core constituents and offer no relief to employment based (legal) interests beyond the H-4 employment rule which has already been subjected to a comment period and merely awaits final regulatory approval but, until he speaks, we can all dream a little. Check out Computerworld’s take on this subject.
Our friends to the north have been observing our current immigration system and have noted that the US policy and practice at present is to refuse work visas to high tech workers (STEM grads), entrepreneurs, and specialized workers from international companies and have decided that they may be able to take advantage of our ineptitude. I can only imagine the discussion, maybe it went something like this (picture with a Molson and hockey in the background, of course) “Don’t you think we could use an influx of some smart, talented, tax-paying, revenue creating international workers, Eh ?” Seems so simple doesn’t it, Washington DC ! With the current culture of NO so prevalent at the USCIS service centers and the failure to produce any immigration reform that among other things addresses, the over 20 year wait for a green card for an Indian national IT engineer, it is not surprising that scores of quality international workers will seek alternative opportunities and that other industrialized nations will seek to create options for them. We can only hope that they will use their Canadian resident cards to vacation in Florida and Arizona in the winter.
New York Times Op-Ed by Sheldon G. Anderson, Warren E. Buffett, and Bill Gates Calls on Congress to ‘Break the Immigration Impasse’
In a recent Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times, Sheldon G. Anderson (Chairman and Chief Executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation), Warren E. Buffett (Chairman and Chief Executive of Berkshire Hathaway), and Bill Gates (former Chairman and Chief Executive of Microsoft) called on Congress to reach a compromise to remedy our “irrational” immigration laws. In this piece, these three business leaders stated that “the three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. . . You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement.” In reviewing the current impasse, this piece notes that “it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities . . . and then to deport them when they graduate.” The Hammond Law Group applauds these statements by Mr. Anderson, Mr. Buffett, and Mr. Gates. We also agree with their conclusion that “whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to deal.” These statements are a call to action that every member of Congress should consider as they review whether or not their choices are truly reflecting the best interests of our country.
A few weeks ago, President Obama promised to use Executive Action to bring about immigration reform when it became clear that Congress was not going to act but, can he deliver on that promise ? The first question is whether he is committed to any reform that would impact legal immigration and the simple answer is, not really ! Although he has made numerous pronouncements that indicate a support for entrepreneurs, STEM workers, and other international professionals, the actions of his administration have been outright hostile to all of those classes of international workers. To date, the executive actions which the President has been willing to take, have focused on humanitarian classes of immigrants including what is referred to as DACA individuals. If however, the President wants to “enact” more sweeping immigration changes, he can only changes policy and/or interpretation, not a statute or a regulation. For example, he can’t simply raise the H-1b cap. However, he can reduce retrogression by eliminating the inclusion of dependents when allocating immigrant visas. There are also a number of other actions the President can take that would impact legal immigration if he chose. Whether all of those changes would be considered positive by the business community or by the legal foreign workers them selves is unknown and there is cause for concern that his policies may be more restrictive than any bill Congress would have passed or than the current system. The last major Executive Action change was the creation of STEM extensions under President Bush. Here are links to two articles on this subject, one from Computerworld and the other from The Hill.