American Businesses Should be Concerned by Trump’s Announcement That He Will Nominate Jeff Sessions as Attorney General

President-elect Donald Trump has announced that he intends to nominate Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. If confirmed, the conservative Senator from Alabama would serve as the country’s top law enforcement official. Senator Sessions is well known for being a hard-liner on immigration and while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed meaningful immigration legislation, including a bill that provided a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. He is also against legal immigration reform. Last year, Senator Sessions released a Memo entitled, “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority” that lays out why immigration reform has worked against American citizens. The memo describes elite skilled immigrant workers in Silicon Valley as a “hoax” and speaks very critically of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs.

This announcement is a big blow to those hoping President-elect Trump’s hard-lined rhetoric during the campaign would not turn into actual policy. Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, released the following statement after the announcement about Senator Sessions broke: “Hope that President-Elect Trump would moderate his extreme views on immigration took a major hit with the announcement that he is nominating Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General of the United States. Senator Sessions is the leading anti-immigration voice in the U.S. Senate. For years, Senator Sessions has urged severe restrictions on visas, called for drastically expanded immigration enforcement, and blocked all practical reforms to our outdated immigration system. As the country’s top lawyer and highest-ranking law enforcement official tasked with administering justice, the Attorney General has substantial authority over our nation’s laws, including our immigration laws. . . ”

American companies that use the H-1B and L visas should be very concerned at this nomination. During the election, Trump clearly stated that he will target illegal immigration, and not skilled workers that are here legally. The nomination of Sen. Sessions signals that the election rhetoric was inaccurate. American businesses should be very concerned and raise their concerns with their representatives in Congress. We may have a broken immigration system, but we have a system that is limping along.

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Job Flexibility Rule for Immigrant Workers Finalized

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that will effect skilled foreign workers in the United States. The final rule provides benefits to certain employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa programs. These benefits include: improved processes and increased certainty for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and non-immigrant workers; greater stability and job flexibility for those workers; and increased transparency and consistency in the application of DHS policy related to affected classifications. DHS states that the rule will “improv[e] the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers.” Many improvements have been made to the H-1B visa status, which is the most commonly used status by U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations temporarily. The rule provides for longer H-1B status extensions, and allows non-immigrants to change jobs or employers – with grace periods given for certain visa classifications. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2016 and will take effect on January 17, 2017 – just before President Obama will leave office. WATCH THIS BLOG FOR MORE DETAIL TO COME ON THIS NEW RULE.

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Giuliani Speaks about the President-Elect’s Policies

On November 13th, Rudy Giuliani sat down with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the President-elect’s policies. Giuliani has been an adviser to Donald Trump throughout his campaign and is currently the vice chairman of the President-elect’s transition team. On Sunday, he discussed what policy changes Trump is planning to make in the transition from his campaign to his presidency. During the hour long interview, Giuliani touched on some key immigration issues. He said there would not be a complete Muslim ban in the United States, and instead there “would be extreme vetting.” The Washington Post covered the CNN interview and discussed how Trump’s stance on “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims” has softened since President-elect Trump first used those words last December. While it is still unclear what “extreme vetting” would entail, Giuliani said Muslims would be allowed into the United States if their home countries let immigration officials thoroughly examine the migrants. Giuliani added that with six countries: Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, “we have to be very careful.”

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How Trump’s First 100 Day Plan Effects Immigration

President-elect Donald Trump has released his “100-Day Action Plan to Make America Great Again.” Unsurprisingly, the plan includes many policies that will impact immigration. Immigration was one of the biggest issues raised by Trump during his campaign, and he promised many reforms in this area. The first item that will impact immigration is his promise to cancel President Obama’s executive actions. This would comprise of any memos and formal executive orders issued by Obama, including the creation of a Syrian refugee program and halting the deportation of illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children (also known as “DACA” or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”). In addition, President-elect Trump has pledged to cut all federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” These cities have local policies where authorities do not ask to see an immigrant’s paperwork and do not prosecute people on the basis of being an undocumented immigrant. President-elect Trump has stated these cities harbor dangerous immigrants who commit crimes against Americans. He has also promised to remove more than “2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.” President-elect Trump will also ensure that any person coming from a “terror-prone region” will receive an extreme vetting process. A list of where these regions are located has not be given yet, but Syria will likely be at the top of the list. Lastly, President-elect Trump plans to propose legislation to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S. and ensure Mexico reimburses the U.S. for the cost of building the wall.

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DHS Finalizes Rule to Increase Fees

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized a rule that will increase immigration fees. The proposed rule was issued on May 4, 2016, and the final rule will go into effect on December 23, 2016 (60 days after publication). The fees in the final rule remain unchanged from the fees originally proposed. DHS says the new fees are needed to maintain adequate services and recover costs and proposed after a comprehensive fee review. The fee hike will affect many, including those most commonly applying for a Form I-140, where the fee will go up more than 20%. Other significant increases include the Form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, which will go from $325 to $460; the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status, which will go from $985 to $1140; and the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant Status, which will go from $290 to $370. In July, the U.S. Government of Accountability Office released a report that found that better oversight, monitoring and reporting of DHS programs are needed in order to show how the Agency’s collection programs are operating. To see all the new fee changes, see the “Summary of Final Fees” chart in the Federal Register.

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Where the 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand on Immigration

For those of you who missed the third and final Presidential debate, immigration was an important topic discussed by the 2016 Presidential candidates. Moderator Chris Wallace asked both candidates about their positions and plans regarding immigration. Some highlights include Mr. Trump accusing Secretary Clinton of wanting to give amnesty to all illegal immigrants. He also stated the need for stronger borders, in an effort to keep drugs out of the United States. Trump reiterated his plan to build a wall on the southern border and deport criminals as one of his first actions in office. Ms. Clinton said that she does not want to “rip families apart” and deport the millions of undocumented people in the U.S. She also asserted she has supported border security for years and will ensure resources go towards deporting any violent criminals. Secretary Clinton stated she would introduce comprehensive immigration reform within her first one hundred days in office.

Hillary Clinton’s official immigration plan promises to introduce comprehensive immigration reform within her first 100 days in office, which would include a route to citizenship. Ms. Clinton also supports President Obama’s executive actions from 2014 that would allow undocumented immigrants whose children were born in the U.S. to apply for work permits and temporary residency (also referred to as DACA and DAPA). The Supreme Court blocked this order, after issuing a 4-4 split decision, leaving the Fifth’s Circuit decision in place, and denied rehearing the case this session. A Clinton Administration will also continue President Obama’s policy of deporting violent criminals and others who break the law after entering the U.S. In addition, Clinton would end family detention for parents and children, and she would also allow all people – regardless of immigration status – to buy into the federal health care exchanges.

Donald Trump’s official immigration plan includes building a physical wall on the Southern border on his first day in office. Mr. Trump would not support President Obama’s executive actions and has promised to triple the number of enforcement and border patrol agents. A Trump Administration would oppose any pathway to legal status for immigrants in the U.S. illegally and would deny illegal immigrants access to any government benefits. He would suspend issuance of visas to any places “where adequate screening cannot occur” and would also create a deportation task force that would prioritize the removal of criminals or people who have overstayed their visas.

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Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in Immigration Case

On Monday, October 3rd the Supreme Court denied the Obama administration’s request to rehear arguments in United States v. Texas, a case involving President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration. The Supreme Court denied the case without comment in a long list of orders the Justices issued for their 2016-17 session. In June, the court issued a 4-4 split decision that left the Fifth Circuit’s decision in place, blocking protections for millions of immigrants. In July, The U.S. Department of Justice petitioned the Court to rehear the case, but recognized a rehearing was unlikely, as the Senate was not willing to confirm the President’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court, and the administration knew it was unlikely a current justice – who opposed the program in June – would flip their vote in a rehearing. The Fifth Circuit’s decision affects millions of U.S. citizens living with family members who are now at risk for deportation.

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Madeleine Albright Writes About Her Experience as a Refugee

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, sent the below message to the White House ahead of President Obama’s remarks at a U.N. Refuge Summit:

I came to the United States as a refugee when I was 11 years old. My father was a diplomat and a strong supporter of democracy in Czechoslovakia, so when the Communists took over, we were forced into exile as refugees. In November 1948, we were welcomed to the United States of America. Becoming a U.S. citizen is the most important thing that ever happened to me. My father said that when we were in Europe during WWII people would say, “We are sorry for your troubles and hope that you have everything you need; by the way, when will you be leaving to go back home?” But in America, people said: “We are sorry for your troubles and hope that you have everything you need; by the way, when will you become a citizen?”

America resettles more refugees than any other nation because it reflects one of our noblest traditions as a nation: providing support to those who are most vulnerable. With the world facing the largest mass displacement on record since World War II, it has never been more important for world leaders to follow America’s example and work together to do more to support refugees. Under President Obama, we’ve increased the number of refugees resettling this year to 85,000 – including 10,000 Syrian refugees. Starting next week, the United States will commit to resettling 110,000 refugees from around the world over the coming year. And with refugees undergoing the most rigorous screening of any kind of traveler, he’s shown that we can welcome refugees while ensuring our own safety.

As a former Secretary of State, I can tell you that President Obama’s leadership in this global crisis is critical to our national security. When countries with insufficient resources take in refugees, it creates more instability, not just at the frontlines of this crisis, but around the world. If we were to slam the door in the faces of refugees with certain religious backgrounds, we would defy our history and our principles of pluralism and diversity. As we talk to other nations about what more needs to be done to tackle this crisis, it’s important that President Obama is setting this example. When I came here as a child, I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and beholding the Statute of Liberty. I did not have to face refugee camps or the kind of danger that many refugees endure. But like all refugees, I shared a hope to live a safe life with dignity and a chance to give back to my new country. Together, we can help refugees rebuild their lives and live with dignity once again.

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2018 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program Announced

On September 16, 2016,  the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a notice in the Federal Register on the 2018 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2018). This Congressionally-mandated program provides visas for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of visas are available each fiscal year, and for FY2018, 50,000 diversity visas will be available. Applicants are selected through a lottery, with diversity visas distributed among 6 geographic regions. Natives from certain countries will not be eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous 5 years. Some of these countries include: Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Online registration for the DV-2018 program begins on Tuesday, October 4th at 12:00 pm EDT and ends on Monday, November 4th at 12:00 pm EDT. The notice contains FAQs and information about the diversity visa process, as well as requirements, such as every entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent.

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New International Entrepreneur Rule Revealed

Today, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is proposing a new rule, which would allow certain international entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. on a case-by-case basis, in order to start or grow their business. These entrepreneurs would be given parole – temporary permission to be in the U.S. – if they can show they will provide a significant public benefit.  This action stems from President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action, issued in November of 2014. The White House describes this administrative action as necessary “to ensure that our system encourages [foreign entrepreneur] to grow our economy.” The proposed rule would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs who can show a benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation. Per the USCIS press release, the following criteria would be considered by DHS:

  • Entrepreneurs who have a significant ownership interest in the startup (at least 15%) and have an active and central role to its operations;
  • The startup was formed in the U.S. within the past 3 years; and
  • The startup has substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creations as evidenced by:
    • Receiving significant investment of capital (at least $345,000) from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
    • Receiving significant awards or grants (at least $100,000) from certain federal, state or local government entities; or
    • Partially satisfying one or both of the above criteria in addition to other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

The proposed rule would allow an initial stay of up to 2 years to entrepreneurs who meet the criteria. After that, a request for re-parole – for up to 3 additional years – would be considered only if the startup entity continue to provide a significant public benefit as evidenced by substantial increases in capital investment, revenue or job creation. Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 45 days from that date to comment on the rule.

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About ABCs of Immigration Law
The global economy has become increasingly transactional and transcontinental. Since 9/11, there have been many amendments to immigration laws in the United States that have largely affected both individuals and businesses. Cozen O'Connor's immigration law blog, ABC's of Immigration Law, focuses on the interests and the challenges faced by those individuals and business impacted by immigration laws.
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