This week, we read about the status of the new White House spending bill, a decline in the H1-B visa program, and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy getting reinstated.
The fate of key parts of Biden’s spending bill, including many immigration provisions, will come down to the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough. MacDonough provides advice on whether a bill complies with Senate rules.
MacDonough previously rejected two immigration provisions by Democrats, including one that would have provided a path to green cards to 8 million immigrants. Yet, top Democrats are hoping she will approve their current proposal. The newest proposal grants 6.5 million foreign nationals a status that would allow them five years of work and travel rights. Clearance by the Senate parliamentarian would be one of the last steps before Democrats can bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
“As soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate parliamentarian has been completed… the Senate will take up this legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.).
Immigrants in the H1-B program holding highly skilled tech jobs have dropped the most in a decade. This is due to travel and visa restrictions, even as job openings reach historic highs.
While foreign engineers and mathematic workers have historically seen job growth in the U.S., this is the second consecutive year there’s been a decline. The visa processing backlog has only worsened due to the pandemic. The backlogs have been a major contributor to the H1-B drop.
“Since March 2020, the processing of any new visas has been dramatically slowed and almost halted by travel restrictions,” said Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis.
Through the H1-B program, U.S. employers can hire highly-skilled foreign employees in specialty fields. The tech industry particularly relies on the program to fill roles in coding, mathematics, and engineering.
The program only allows up to 85,000 new visas each year. Recipients can transfer their roles within their fields to get their visas extended.
The jobs within those categories totaled nearly half a million in 2021, which was a 9% decrease from 2020 and 17% decrease from 2019. Experts say they expect an uptick in hiring in said fields as we recover from the pandemic.
The Biden Administration reinstated the Trump Administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. The policy returns asylum seekers across the border and into Mexico while their claims are processed.
The program, established by Donald Trump in 2019, was initially criticized by Joe Biden as inhumane. Initially, it was terminated when Biden took office in 2021. The termination was recently challenged in court by Republicans who claimed it would place a burden on the states. The Supreme Court agreed, issuing an order to force the government to resume the program.
The federal government is now coordinating with Mexico on the details of the program. Under the policy, single adult asylum seekers will be the primary target for removal back to Mexico. Mexico will accept asylum seekers from Spanish-speaking countries.
“President Biden and his administration must stop implementing Trump policies that endanger the lives and safety of people seeking refuge in the United States,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First.
During the Trump Administration, more than 60,000 asylum seekers were removed to Mexico while their claims were being processed. This left them vulnerable to gang violence and extreme poverty conditions. Under the reinstated program, the Biden Administration plans to process asylum petitions within 180 days in hopes of minimizing risks to asylum seekers and the Mexican government.
Still, many are concerned that this new policy will have disastrous consequences for asylum seekers.