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Indianapolis Immigration Law Blog

The current state of U.S. immigration policy

Keeping up with U.S. immigration policy can be difficult, and it can cause stress for anyone seeking employment in the country. You may have heard different news stories or rumors, and they may or may not be relevant for an employment-based immigrant.

The Pew Research Center put together a list of key facts about current immigration policy and proposed changes. Here are the relevant points for those seeking employment-based visas:

Immigration outlook for Indian workers may be changing

Some people from India who hope to settle in Indiana or other parts of the United States may benefit from the Trump administration's immigration plans if they are enacted. The administration wants to move toward a merit-based immigration system that admits more highly-skilled immigrants. The plan is to increase the percentage of these immigrants to 57% from the current level of 12%.

More than three-quarters of all green card applications that are in progress come from Indian applicants. Under the current system, the wait time can be 12 years or even longer. One attorney says that an improved system would provide a clearer set of objective criteria and wait times for applicants. Getting rid of caps on immigrants per country might ease the backlog. However, others caution that the new proposal may not benefit Indians as much as it appears. The new system could make some of those who have been waiting ineligible. Some applicants may not pass the new minimum threshold.

Immigrants may be subject to DNA testing

Indiana residents may know that the Trump administration has tried to implement many policies aimed at changing how people enter the United States. Individuals who are trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States may have to submit to DNA testing as part of the immigration process. The process is being implemented on a pilot basis at two or three different towns along the border. It is intended to confirm claims made by individuals claiming to be part of a family.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, children are being used by traffickers in an effort to get into the country. In many cases, entire families are released after 20 days when children must be released from custody. DHS officials say that there was a 315% increase in cases involving fake family units between October 2017 and February 2018. A representative from Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that test results would not be kept on file.

H-1B visa program brings skilled immigrants

Many businesses and people interested in immigrating to work in Indiana are highly educated. The United States already hosts more college-educated immigrants than any other country in the world, far outstripping other economically advanced nations. According to 2015 numbers, 14.7 million immigrants with college degrees over the age of 25 were living in the United States, more than triple the number in Canada. Of course, the U.S. population is also much larger, which means that only 36 percent of U.S. immigrants have a college degree compared to 65 percent in Canada.

Even President Trump, known for his restrictive immigration policies, has stated that he wants to encourage highly skilled immigrants to come to the United States. Over three-fourths of the American public said that immigration for skilled employment is a benefit to the country, with strong support among both Democrats and Republicans. One of the most common ways in which highly skilled immigrants come to the United States for work is the H-1B visa program, created in 1990 as part of the Immigration Act. The program allows employers to sponsor foreign workers who have a bachelor's degree or greater and specialized knowledge. It has become particularly important for the tech industry and is often a pathway to employment for advanced international graduate students.

Federal judge blocks implementation of policy on asylum-seekers

Many people in Indiana and across the country have raised serious concerns about the Trump administration's policies in regard to immigration, especially their effects on asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border. One federal judge has blocked the implementation of a widely publicized policy that sought to force hopeful immigrants to return to Mexico to await processing of their asylum claims in U.S. courts. The federal judge ruled that the Department of Homeland Security exceeded its authority under federal immigration law in issuing the order for the policy.

The 11 plaintiffs who had filed the legal challenge, including migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, were ordered admitted into the United States within two days from the date of the ruling, April 8. In addition, the judge issued a preliminary injunction with nationwide application to prevent DHS from forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico in the future, an injunction that goes into effect on April 12. In his ruling, the judge said that the policy violated existing federal immigration law passed by Congress, which the Trump administration does not have the authority to change unilaterally.

Trump administration steps up effort to return asylum seekers to Mexico

WASHINGTON/SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The Trump administration is intensifying measures to curb the flow of Central American asylum seekers crossing into the United States from Mexico, officials said on Monday, including sending more people back to Mexico to wait for their asylum claims to be heard by U.S. courts. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency will speed up the reassignment of 750 officers to parts of the border dealing with the largest numbers of immigrants, a shift the administration first announced last week.

Supreme Court agrees to hear immigration case

Identity theft is a serious and growing problem in Indiana and around the country, but the efforts some states have taken to tackle it have been criticized by civil rights advocates and the courts. In 2017, a Kansas court voided the convictions of three undocumented immigrants because prosecutors used information from federal forms. The court ruled that the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 prevents states from pursuing criminal cases based on information found on certain federal immigration documents.

Kansas is one of a coalition of 11 states that are challenging the ruling, and the Supreme Court announced on March 18 that it would hear arguments in the case. Media reports suggest that President Trump, who has been critical of the ruling, urged the court to hear the case. The three undocumented individuals were convicted after prosecutors established that they had used false Social Security numbers on employment paperwork.

Tech workers struggle to enter the United States

It’s no secret that companies in Silicon Valley recruit highly-skilled employees from other countries to develop new products in the tech industry. However, most foreign-born tech employees rely on H-1B visas to access the United States.

According to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), one-fourth of H-1B applicants were rejected during the last three months of 2018. Most experts speculate the numbers will decrease with the Trump administration’s strict stance on immigration.

Democrats introduce updated DREAM Act

Indiana residents who follow developments in the nation's capital will likely know that a group of young people known as dreamers have become a hot-button political issue in recent years. Dreamers are undocumented young people who would be offered a path to eventual citizenship by the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill was introduced in 2001 and has yet to make it to the president's desk, but this deadlock has not prevented Democrats from introducing a new version that would go even further.

If the Dream and Promise Act is signed into law, the DREAM Act's protections would be expanded to cover immigrants who have been given Temporary Protected Status or granted Deferred Enforced Departure. To obtain conditional permanent residency, immigrants would have to meet a number of requirements. These requirements include serving in the U.S. military for at least two years, working under an employment-based visa or graduating from an American technical school or college.

Changes may be ahead for spouses of H-1B visa holders

Some H-1B visa holders in Indiana may face an additional hurdle to remaining in the United States if a proposal that changes the status of their spouse changes. The H-1B visa is an employment visa granted to workers with specialized skills, many of whom are from China or India.

Spouses of H-1B visa holders are allowed to get work permits. This can be important to retaining talent in the U.S. since it allows a couple to have a dual income instead of having to live on a single income. Since 2015, nearly 91,000 work permits have been granted to spouses. However, members of a California-based organization, Save Jobs USA, say they lost their jobs to employees with H-1B visas. They filed a lawsuit in 2015 to block the spousal work permits, which is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


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