US work visa restrictions edge closer amid asylum clampdown


Asylum March

Diane Greene Lent

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

More and more reports seem to be coming out suggesting that there may very well be a temporary partial non-immigrant work visa ban.  It seems that changes could be occurring as early as July 2020, without the usual notice and comment period.  If employers are considering the H1B visa, H2B visa, L1 visa, J1 visa or OPT they should apply soon.  Even if you apply soon you may still be affected by a possible ban.  We do not know for sure which visa categories will be affected by the possible new “work visa ban”.  It is being suggested that the work visa ban may last from 90 to 180 days.  It is also not certain when this might happen.

Those who may be affected should consider contacting White House Officials, Lawmakers and others protesting about the proposed ban.  Unemployment has remained low in industries that employ non-immigrant workers.

Amid a partial temporary ban on out of country and possibly in-country US green card processing, plus mounting speculation of a temporary ban on issuing US work visas, the Trump administration has now solidified restrictive policies on US asylum. New standard of proof rules for migrants could see an increase in US asylum rejections.

The Trump administration has been accused of using the coronavirus pandemic, and more recently the George Floyd protests, as an excuse to further its anti-immigration agenda. Much of the agenda is being driven by Trump’s leading aide, Stephen Miller.

Under the proposed new standard of proof rules, judges would be given more grounds on which to refuse a US asylum application, without giving those seeking asylum an opportunity to testify in a US immigration court.

Rules could be enforced after pandemic

Although the rules would be implemented under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and bringing protests over the death of George Floyd to an end, critics of the proposed rules claim that they will continue to be enforced long after the pandemic has passed and protests have eased.

News that the Trump administration plans to further curtail US asylum comes after Trump further extended a coronavirus border rule that has already stifled the opportunity of asylum in the US for nearly 43,000 migrants arriving at the US southern border.

With green card processing also suspended, immigrant advocates are now bracing for a temporary ban on US work visas, including the H1B and L1 visa categories.

US colleges forced to enforce immigration rules

Meanwhile US education secretary, Betsy DeVos, recently issued an ‘emergency rule’ that bans colleges from granting virus relief funds to international and undocumented students. The ban includes the tens of thousands of people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.

There’s speculation that the Trump administration is now targeting a temporary ban on the US H1B visa, among others, in order to combat growing unemployment rates among American workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At an event organized by the Heritage Foundation, acting deputy of the Department of Homeland Security, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli said: “You’re going to see some more news on that [US work visa bans] probably sometime soon.”

Stephen Miller immigration hardliner

Ahead of the upcoming US presidential elections in November, efforts to restrict US immigration have seemingly ramped up in recent months, largely driven by senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller.

Trump’s initial executive order signed in April, imposing a partial ban on US green cards with a number of exemptions, was condemned by conservative groups who had hoped the administration would come down hard to restrict nonimmigrant visa routes.

Senior Trump administration officials continue to debate incorporating the possible suspension of US work visas, including the H1B visa, under the existing executive order, according to two anonymous government officials.

During a recent meeting, it’s understood that Stephen Miller pushed the President, and labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, to ‘significantly reduce the number of foreign workers entering the country,’ according to a New York Times report.

However, administration officials have insisted that the executive order – expected to be released in the coming days – is not yet finalised. Under any potential temporary ban, it’s understood that US visa holders already in the country will not be affected.

Policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, said: “Whether it’s restrictions to legal immigration or further gutting the asylum system, the goal to reduce immigration to its lowest level possible continues to be at the forefront of this administration’s decision-making.”

White House defends initial executive order

The White House has moved to defend its initial executive order on border restrictions, stating that it was ‘necessary for preserving US jobs and prevent further coronavirus outbreaks amid a pandemic that has left tens of millions unemployed while ravaging the economy.’

However, immigrant advocates countered the White House’s explanation, saying that multiple studies highlight how immigration bolsters the economy. Meanwhile, long before the pandemic struck, Miller has used health authorities to try and turn away migrants at US borders.

Several other efforts to stifle asylum at the US border rely on the cooperation of foreign governments. The US has bilateral agreements in place with Guatemala, which allows for the deportation of asylum seekers, and Mexico, which forces US asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for the duration of their case in the US.

Proposals to push on with restricting US asylum were driven forward by the Justice Department recently, despite the first legal challenge recently being launched opposing the Trump administration’s coronavirus-related border restrictions.

The new rules would allow Trump to block asylum in the US as his physical border wall remains far from completion.

‘Scattergun’ immigration regulations

Director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Theresa Cardinal Brown, described the proposed asylum rules as a ‘culmination of all the scattergun regulations that already exist’ and an ‘insurance policy against other countries saying: never mind, we’re not going to do your dirty work anymore.’

The proposed regulation is currently open for comment for a duration of 30 days.

The new rule will cut migrants off from full court proceedings to hear their asylum claims, while giving US immigration officers scope to declare asylum applications ‘frivolous’, effectively blocking any other form of immigration route into the US.

Meanwhile, the regulations would require migrants to provide substantial proof that returning to their home country would mean persecution. It’s understood that those saying they’re being targeted by gangs or ‘rogue’ government officials are likely to see their asylum claims rejected.

Those seeking protection based on their gender will also be heavily scrutinized and have a limited ability to seek US asylum.

The acting general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad R. Mizelle, said: “Persecution is an extreme concept involving a severe level of harm that includes actions so severe that they constitute an exigent threat.” can help with US employment-based visas

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