The White House has announced that President Obama will proclaim the executive actions he will take on immigration tomorrow night at 8pm eastern. Proponents of business reforms should expect to be disappointed as it is not believed that he will take any action to address retrogression. However, it is expected that he will extend the STEM OPT period for US graduates. The White House believes this action will impact the number of H-1b cap filings. We believe that this change will have a positive impact on any US grad who was not so lucky, to have been chosen in the lottery but, will have no impact on the overall number of H-1b cap filings. The connection between those two, we think is mis-placed. We will provide a summary after his speech.
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.
If you are interested in learning more about the political voices that are influential in the CIR debate, here is a nice concise article.
HLG will host its annual Immigration Update seminar in the NYC/NJ area on Fri. Aug 22nd. The seminar is primarily designed for staffing cos. in the IT and engineering sectors but, many of the topics will be relevant to any company that employs H-1b workers. Mike Hammond, Cadence Moore, and Lisa Galvan will be speaking. The seminar is free to attend. For more details and a full agenda click here.
Senator Sessions (R-Ala) a long-time and outspoken opponent of the H-1b visa and any increase in the H-1b quota or an increase in legal immigration, hosted a policy discussion last week to denounce any increase in the H-1b cap. The premise of the discussion was that there were plenty of unemployed US workers with STEM degrees who were being bypassed for cheaper H-1b visa holders. Check out the summary of the arguments being made.
In the days since the USCIS announced the large number of H-1b cap petitions filed this year, numerous articles have been written on the topic discussing the need for immigration reform and an increase in the number of H-1b’s available each year. Here are a few to read: BloombergBusinessWeek ; Computerworld; and our friend and fellow immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta published an insightful blog post on the subject.
Today, the USCIS announced that they received approximately 172,500 H-1b cap petitions. The lottery was completed today and 85,000 lucky petitions were selected for further processing. The remaining 87,500 rejected petitions will be returned. We expect to start receiving receipts and rejections in the next week. Premium processing of cases is expected to start no later than April 28th. Earlier this week, President Obama made a speech declaring how important it is for U.S. economic growth to keep the best and the brightest in the U.S. and to encourage entrepreneurship. With today’s announcement that over 50% of the best and brightest, as selected by U.S. employers, are being rejected for jobs in the U.S., it may provide the impetus for House Speaker Boehner and the Republicans in the House to stop holding CIR hostage and give appropriate consideration to the Senate bill which was passed in the summer of 2013 with wide bi-partisan support but, has not even been considered in the House.
The H-1b cap filing season officially opens today and the USCIS once again expects a lottery with the end result being that literally tens of 1000’s of professionals, some of them holding US graduate degrees will be rejected and told to go home ! As this unfolds, tech leaders from the Silicon Valley have made a push in Washington to pass immigration reform emphasing the job creation that is a direct result of H-1b workers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has once again reached out to Congress to advocate for CIR specifically urging action to insure that the U.S. has access to the top talent the world has to offer.
On Tuesday night, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address and immigration and CIR were not featured very prominently and that may be a good sign. If you did not catch the address, here is what President Obama said about the need for immigration reform,
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The lack of specifics and a seemingly deferential attitude toward allowing the legislative process to work, a stark contrast to other portions of his speech and certainly not characteristic of his Presidency, gives us hope that he believes the two sides are close and an agreement is possible. Comments made later by influential Democrat, Nancy Pelosi echo this sentiment. Although this may all be wishful thinking, in the midst of a bitterly cold winter, wishful thinking is often all we have.