U.S. Immigration Policy and Legislation: The Current State of Play

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

Immigration policy has been a key focus of the U.S. Trump administration from its outset and remains in the headlines. What are the administration’s current immigration-related priorities, and what can employers of foreign workers expect going forward?

Immigration Priorities

Early on, the administration articulated several key immigration priorities—some of which have already come to fruition, and some of which remain to be implemented.

One of President Donald Trump’s first actions after he took office was to sign an executive order banning travel to the U.S. of citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries. This ban was later rescinded and reissued, and neither the first nor second version of the travel ban is currently in effect.

A third iteration—a “proclamation” rather than an executive order—was issued on 24 September 2017, and in December 2017 the Supreme Court allowed it to be implemented pending a decision on the merits of a legal challenge to the ban’s constitutionality.

The travel ban was the most headline-worthy part of the administration’s call for greater immigration enforcement, but it has by no means been the only enforcement priority. For example, the administration had originally called for $23 billion for border and enforcement infrastructure and personnel, including the construction of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. The fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget that was eventually signed into law in March 2018, however, provided just over $1.5 billion for additional fencing and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Related: Senate Confirms New U.S. Customs and Border Protection Head

The spending package provided funding for additional Customs and Border Protection officers, and extended four immigration programs—E-Verify; the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for foreign medical graduates working in underserved areas; the Special Immigrant Religious Worker Program for nonministers; and the EB5 Regional Center Program for foreign investors—through the end of the fiscal year on 30 September 2018.

It also provided limited cap relief for the H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program for this fiscal year only. It did not, however, provide relief for beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Related: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Revamps E-Verify Website

Another key priority has been to increase federal immigration enforcement powers, including greater interagency and state/local collaboration. On the employment front, this has taken the form of increased worksite compliance initiatives, which are discussed further below.

On the legislative front, the administration favors adopting a merits-based points system for new immigrants, limiting family-based sponsorship to end what it calls “chain migration,” and terminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery program.

Drilling down to adjudication and policy initiatives that have had an immediate impact on employers, the administration has issued executive orders and policy memoranda—and implemented some informal, subregulatory changes—that have especially affected the H-1B visa category.

Read the rest of this article in the July 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

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