Happy spring from all of us at McEntee Law Group! This week, we’ve seen efforts by the Biden administration to undue Trump era policies that created an unprecedented immigrant visa backlog, the release of new digitized USCIS forms, and fierce advocacy for immigrant victims of violent crimes by our immigration lawyer colleagues.

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1. Huge Immigrant Visa Backlog Challenges Biden — Monday, April 12th

The Biden administration continues to face an uphill battle in undoing the damage done by the prior administration’s anti-immigrant policies. These policies left the Biden administration with a massive backlog of over 2.6 million visa applications. The U.S. Department of State, which processes immigrant visa applications, has a double-edged sword of a problem meeting Biden’s policy directives. First, the Trump administration ordered a hiring freeze, which has left the State Department understaffed. Second, consular operations are primarily funded by visa and passport application fees, so they do not have the resources to hire. The House and Senate Democrats’ proposed budget would allocate funding for 1,200 new employees, but even if it passes, hiring and training consular officers can take at least 1.5 years, especially if they need to learn a new language. It is unclear how long it will take for the Department of State to resume pre-pandemic processing times and even partially clear the backlog. 

These statistics show the massive impact of the backlog on applicants, their prospective U.S. employers, and their families, many of whom have made huge sacrifices for a chance at the American dream. We will continue to monitor processing times and provide updates here as updates become available.

“Picture a door like in New York City in the ’70s, with a hundred locks. The Trump administration locked all those locks. The Biden administration has to find all those keys, unlock those locks, and they can’t open the door until all that is done.”

—Melanie Nezer, Senior Vice President – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

2. The Economic Case for High-Skilled Immigration — Tuesday, April 13th

This article by Harvard Political Review summarizes the Trump administration’s inconsistent messaging on the H-1B visa, a temporary employment-based visa for foreign nationals working in specialty occupations. It makes the case for the positive economic impact that employment-based visa holders make in the U.S., and the negative impact that the Trump administration’s restrictions on H-1B visas has had on the U.S. Economy. 

The Trump administration’s efforts to curb H-1B visas over the past four years have increased the rate of denial and disincentivized the sponsorship of H-1B visas by U.S. employers. The administration claimed that these policies were intended to keep high-skilled immigrants from “stealing” American jobs, and this article demonstrates why that argument is false. Demand for H-1B workers far exceeds supply, as there are only 85,000 H-1B visas allocated annually, but hundreds of thousands of applications have been sponsored every year for the last five years. It also shows that for each H-1B worker hired in the U.S., 1.83 new jobs are created in the following seven years, or about 155,550 new jobs annually. As a law firm founded by immigrants, we value the contributions make to the U.S. and the critical role they play as our colleagues and our neighbors.

“H-1B workers have been critical to American economic growth, and experts note that foreign workers will become all the more important for the U.S. to remain economically and technologically competitive as the world moves farther and farther into advanced fields, like AI, in the coming years. When it comes to high-skilled immigration, it is time for the ‘stealing American jobs’ narrative to be put to rest.”

—Harvard Political Review

3. F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training Can Now File Form I-765 Online — Monday, April 12th

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is slowly introducing online forms. On April 12, USCIS announced that F-1 students who are eligible for optional practical training (OPT) can file their Form I-765 online. The online form allows applicants to ensure they pay the correct fee, monitor the status of their case online, and sign up for automatic case status updates from USCIS. Form I-765 is the 11th USCIS form to go digital. We welcome USCIS’ efforts to streamline the immigration application process, and we hope they will do so with a spirit of transparency and fairness. 

4. When It’s Up to the Cops if You Get Your Visa — Wednesday, April 14th

In 2000, Congress created a new visa category to encourage cooperation with law enforcement and offer immigration relief to one of the most vulnerable groups of immigrants. The U visa is for victims of specific crimes who suffer substantial harm and agree to provide assistance to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.  The goal was to build trust with law enforcement, support criminal investigations, protect victims, and provide a path to permanent residency for those who meet all requirements. However, as our immigration lawyer colleagues explain, sometimes the greatest barrier getting a U visa is the law enforcement officials themselves.  

To obtain a U visa, applicants must have a form signed and certified by law enforcement, stating that the applicant is, was, or is likely to be helpful to their investigation or prosecution. Whether the law enforcement official signs is up to their discretion, even in cases where the applicant has been helpful in the investigation of a qualifying crime. A handful of states have passed laws to try to standardize the process across jurisdictions, but in many states, law enforcement officers do not even know about the U certification process, and some refuse to sign due to their own anti-immigrant sentiments. At McEntee Law Group, we support policies that keep our communities safer and immigration options that protect victims. We are committed to ongoing advocacy for immigrants from all walks of life, including the most vulnerable.

“A 2018 by the NIWAP shows that only 35 percent of law enforcement agencies, 68 percent of prosecutors’ offices, and 18 percent of courts said they sign U visa certifications. According to another survey by the project, the reasons officers often cite for not signing the form include that the criminal was not prosecuted, the crime happened too long ago, or the victim did not suffer enough injuries. A number of certifiers also expressed that they would refuse to provide a signature simply because the federal law gives them the authority to deny any request as they see fit. Unless a state law exists to provide more rigorous regulations, certifiers are under no obligation to cooperate with petitioners.”

—Yilun Cheng, Slate

Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s ‘News Review’ from McEntee Law! Want daily immigration news updates? Follow us on Twitter.

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