As the elections draw closer, it appears that the Trump Administration is not wasting any time in making bold and often unconstitutional changes to many different processes and administrative procedures for just about every type of immigration benefit that exists. Two weeks ago, we informed our readers of the government’s plan to once again fast-track deportations across the country.
The “expedited removal” process was one of the many actions by the administration that was blocked in federal court, but the temporary block made in 2019 has now expired as of last week, the Trump Administration announced that it would again start up these deportations to “save resources typically used for long-term detention and help the immigration court system reduce its massive case backlog,” according to ICE officials. It is uncertain whether the 2019 block was removed because litigants failed to properly move forward with their suit against the government or if they lost the suit, but we can expect to see more in the future about this issue.
Another hotly contested Trump action is finally finding its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 19th, the court announced its decision to review one of Trumps most well-known anti-asylum policies; the border wall. Trump used his emergency powers to access military funding to continue building the border wall between the US and Mexico. This and the “Remain in Mexico policy” that forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed through the immigration court system are both to be reviewed mid-summer 2021 by the Supreme Court. The decision to take on these issues was made recently after the justices announced that they would also make a ruling on the Trump administration's effort to exclude illegal immigrants from the 2020 census, a highly criticized Trump Administration decision that most link to the election.
More directly related to the upcoming election is an ongoing delay in the processing of naturalization requests by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that essentially prevents thousands of U.S. legal permanent residents from becoming citizens in time to meet their states’ voter registration deadlines and, therefore, barring them from voting in the election in two weeks. As a response, immigrant advocacy groups have made direct requests to USCIS to have the bureaucracy commit to performing “expeditious” naturalization adjudications to ensure that as many new American’s as possible can vote this election cycle. If USCIS commits to prioritizing these adjudications, an estimated 300,000 newly naturalized citizens would be able to vote in the election. Given the trend of the administration, it is not likely that this will happen.
Most Americans are aware of Trump policy to “Buy American and hire American,” but might not know how this relates to the H1b visa process and the systematic attacks US employers have suffered as a result. On October 21st, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it plans on revoking approximately 1,100 existing Optional Practice Training (OPT) permits from international students over the next few months. The OPT permits allows international students to work in the field of study with in the U.S. on a student visa while they look for sponsors for the H1B visa to work in areas most commonly known as STEM.
Like attacks on other immigration processes, DHS acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli justified the decision to severely limit these programs to job losses resulting from the economic downturn brought on by Covid-19, stating that the OPT program allows for foreign students to essentially “compete with potential American workers.” What the Secretary does not mention is that the administration has been systematically dismantling foreign worker programs well before Covid19 hit.
Though he claims that the decision is intended to support American workers, he does not mention the thousands of jobs that will be lost permanently in the US if these employers have to close down due to not being able to hire the relatively few numbers of foreign candidates needed to fill these temporary specialty occupations. Most high-tech employers have no choice but to hire foreign workers because the US labor pool for STEM workers is mostly completely dried up. For many, not being able to employ these key workers could mean closing their doors permanently, an act that not only affects their other US employees, but the potential displacement of thousands of US workers up and down the supply chain.