Tag Archives: H1B visa

Trump’s War On Immigrants

The Trump presidency has made more than 400 changes to US immigration policy since it took office, waging what immigration advocates are calling ‘Trump’s war on immigrants.’

The Trump administration went on the offensive in January 2017, accelerating changes to immigration policy in a series of rapidfire executive actions. A report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) in July catalogs more than 400 revisions which have swiftly and ‘dramatically reshaped the U.S. immigration system’ in the last four years.

The sweeping changes impact “everything from border and interior enforcement, to refugee resettlement and the asylum system, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration courts, and vetting and visa processes,” states the report, and places tough restrictions on potential tourists, foreign workers and international students.

Sarah Pierce, Migration Policy Institute

“Many of the changes reflect the administrations’ really strong knowledge of immigration law,” confirmed Sarah Pierce, a policy expert who co-authored the report, at a briefing on immigration system changes hosted by Ethnic Media Services on August 7.

The new regulations reflect the administration’s willingness to enforce technicalities “that have been on books for years,” said Pierce, but have rarely been implemented. Those penalties and restrictions are now being used to restrict immigration into the country, reflecting emerging trends in the administration’s anti-immigration agenda.

What Laws have Changed?

The consensus among immigration experts at the briefing was that the Trump administration has used the current national crises to further their political agenda with executive orders that significantly reduce the flow of legal immigrants into the country.

Ignazia Rodrigues, NILC

Ignazia Rodrigues, immigration policy advocate at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) described the push to add a citizenship question to the census as an example of the administration’s anti-immigrant policy.

Most of the changes have been implemented by executive fiat without going through Congress, explained Pierce. Acting on the rhetoric that immigration poses a threat to the nation’s security and economy, the administration has doubled down on reducing immigration into the country, driving reform through ‘layered changes’ on a series of regulations, policy and programs.

For example, under a new revision, ICE can enforce a1996 law to levy exorbitant fines of $799 a day on unauthorized  immigrants who remain in the country in violation of a removal order.

In another draconian example, the Trump administration has expanded the definition of who fits the Public Charge rule, which bars foreign nationals who receive or are deemed likely to receive public benefits from becoming legal permanent residents. The rule uses the totality of the circumstances test to evaluate a broad set of metrics such as education, English proficiency, income, jobs, health and family size to deny entry to applicants.

As a result, a large number of green card holders are at risk of denial MPI reports, because at least 69% of recent green-card recipients have at least one of the negative factors that could be weighted against them under the regulation. The ruling will disfavor women, the elderly and children, as well as nationals from Central America and Mexico. Findings from MPI also show that immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America are less likely to be favored under the new Public Charge rule, said Pierce.

Though these changes may seem like minor technicalities, taken altogether they will have a monumental impact in dismantling and reconstructing the immigration system in the long term, and significantly change the face of U.S. immigration.

The MPI report finds that these critical changes will result in closing off humanitarian benefits, sealing the southern border, creating hurdles for both legal and unauthorized immigrants already in country and reducing legal immigration into the country.

However, the advent of the coronavirus has fueled the administration’s immigration offensive.

“The pandemic has only accelerated the pace of changes this administration has made,” said Pierce, identifying three major changes enforced since the COVID-19 crisis began, and the implication for prospective immigrants.

The administration invoked a 1944 public health law that allows the Surgeon General to restrict the entry of individuals deemed a public health threat, and block people at the US-Mexico border. The order, issued directly from the CDC director Robert Redfield, allows border security to bypass established protocols and expel children and asylum seekers from countries with communicable diseases, effectively ending asylum at the southern border. Human Rights First condemned the CDC order for “ending refugee and child protections at the border indefinitely, endangering rather than saving lives.”

Then, on April 22, President Trump signed a proclamation restricting permanent immigration in order to protect American workers and their jobs. The proclamation and the follow up June 22 proclamation restricting temporary workers, limits the entry of foreign workers (on H1B visas for example) and prospective immigrants applying for employment-based green cards from abroad. It also restricts ‘chain migration’ by temporarily suspending entry for many prospective citizens applying for family-based green cards from other countries. Effectively, citizens and green card holders are prevented from sponsoring family members – parents, siblings, spouses and children – to join them in the US.

Kalpana Peddibhotla, Immigration Attorney

Losing skilled foreign workers would negatively impact innovation and job growth especially in the high tech sector said immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, as several studies show that “foreign workers in STEM fields are critical to the innovation in the growth of patents,” and “immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses than US born natives.”

However, the restrictions continue unabated.  Travel bans still exist for foreign nationals traveling from 31 different countries, said Pierce, and the President recently signed an executive order restricting the ability of federal contractors to hire foreign nationals; the new order also referenced further restrictions proposed in the future for the H1B program.

These orders achieve what the administration has been working towards long before the pandemic began, remarked Pierce. “It’s hard to imagine them walking back any of these restrictions, even after the pandemic is no longer a prevalent issue.”

It’s uncertain whether future administrations would have the time, resources and willingness to reverse the restrictions said Pierce, adding that some reversals would require careful consideration; for example, if restrictions were lifted at the southern border it could result in a surge of unauthorized arrivals.

As the country begins the slow process of recovery from multiple crises – a pandemic, an economic slowdown and racial injustice uprisings, “It’s hard for me to picture a future administration investing this much in immigration,” said Pierce.

However, she pointed out that a future president could easily reverse the original 2017 travel ban which is still in place and expanded in 2020, because it would send “a visible strong signal that the US is changing its tone on immigration.”

It’s important to note that every one of these executive actions have been contested by lawsuits filed against the administration said Peddibhotla. “This is definitely not a great way for us to be governing and managing our immigration process. But it’s incredibly important that the lawsuits continue in order to hold the administration accountable.”


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Capturing the Face of Multi-Ethnic America

1. Can I identify my race in the census?

Yes.

Census 2020 collects data on race and ethnicity to capture the face of multi-ethnic America. 

The Asian race category which was added to the census in 2000, offers an option to mark national origin  as ‘Asian Indian’

Asian refers to people originating from the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. An ‘other Asian’ option is available for subgroups from the Asian diaspora such as Pakistan and Cambodia.

The term ‘race’ was first introduced in the 1890  census which distinguished between East Asian subgroups  – Chinese, Japanese and Indian (Asian) while the 1930 census actually had a color category  for Hindus.

The race question and heritage is based upon self-identification which means you can choose more than one option to describe your racial identity. 


2. Will I become a target for ethnic discrimination if I disclose my national origin as Asian Indian?

No.

Some Asian Americans fear that marking their race or national origin  on the census will lead to racial profiling and make them targets of ethnic discrimination.

But the census format only reflects how classifications of race and ethnicity have changed in society since the first census in1790.

Data collected on race informs federal policy decisions on civil rights, educational opportunities, promoting equal opportunities ,and assessing environmental risks and racial disparities in health care access, housing, income and poverty.

 

3. Is the census available in any Indian languages?

No. 

Paper census forms will only be available in English and Spanish and people can respond to census questions online or over the phone in 12 other languages.

However the Census Bureau will provide guides, glossaries, and a language identification card for ‘limited English speaking households’ for a total of 59 languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali, Urdu, Telugu, Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi.

Since 1890 the Census has collected data on English-speaking ability and languages spoken at home to help determine bilingual election requirements under the Voting Rights Act.

 

4. Does my information remain confidential?

Yes. 

Census information is PRIVATE. The Census Bureau values the trust respondents place in them to be ‘caretakers’ of the data they collect. Information is used only to produce statistics of the US economy and population for federal programs.

Individuals are never identified.

Strict confidentiality laws prohibit the Census from sharing information it collects from respondents. Your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Your data is protected by Title 13 of the US Code.

 

5. Is this information distributed to ICE and other government agencies?

No.

The Census Bureau does not share respondent information with immigration, law enforcement, tax collection agencies or any other organization. Security measures are in place to ensure that any census data released to federal agencies or organizations, are carefully reviewed to avoid disclosing individual information

Surveys are mailed to addresses, rather than to specific individuals, to protect the confidentiality of participating households.

So, it is safe, especially for immigrant families with children – a group that is traditionally undercounted – to participate in the census.


6. Will I have to disclose my citizenship?

No.

The Census is a count of everyone living in the US including citizens, non-citizens, undocumented immigrants, non-citizen legal residents and non-citizen long term visitors. 

The Constitution “does not say citizen, it does not say legal resident, it says the census must count all persons in the 50 states and the primary constitutional purpose is apportionment.” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a Census Expert.

The addition of the citizenship question made people wary about participating in the census for fear it would expose non-citizens to ICE interrogations. But the Supreme Court BLOCKED its inclusion in Census 2020 so immigrants (legal and undocumented), refugees, minorities and their families are not deterred from participating in the census, and the population count is more accurate.  

What’s at stake? An accurate count ensures that each state gets the right number of congressional seats to represent its population and receives its share of $900 billion each year in federal funding to support communities, families and infrastructures.

Remember – you don’t count if you’re not counted!

 

7. I’m on an H1B visa and my spouse is on H4 visa.  Will participation in the census affect our status?

No.

The H1B visa is issued to foreign-born workers and skilled professionals who account for a significant proportion of IT occupations in states like California and Texas.

In 2018, USCIS reported that Indians accounted for 73.9 percent of total H1B visa holders in the USA and that  93% of H4 dependent spouses were from India.

Though the census includes all foreign-born non-immigrants in its population count, it does not collect data on their legal status. The law ensures that personal information is not shared with any agency, including law enforcement. All data at the Census Bureau is kept confidential and protected from disclosure.

 

8. How many questions does the Census have?

Nine. 

Each household will receive a form that asks about basic demographic and housing information that covers:

  • The number of people living or staying in your household as of April 1, 2020.
  • If your home is owned with or without a mortgage, rented or occupied without rent.
  • A phone number of someone living in your home.
  • The name, sex, age, race and date of birth of each person living in your home.
  • Whether anyone is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish descent
  • The relationship of each person to a central person in the home.
  • Data collected on age for example, helps local officials plan program funding for health and assistance to seniors and children.

9. How do I respond to the Census?

You can respond online, by mail or by phone. 

Between March and April 2020, Most households will receive an online invitation to participate in Census 2020. Areas less likely to respond online will receive a paper invitation. Reminders will be sent out and if people do not respond they will receive additional reminders and a paper questionnaire, or an in-person follow up.

For questions about the census call 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282 or go to ask.census.gov

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor to India Currents

All Media Assets: U.S. Census Bureau