Continuing the downward trend of restricting immigration to the USA, President Donald Trump’s administration recently announced the rollback of visas for spouses of H1-B visa holders.
In a communique to Senator Chuck Grassley, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Francis Cissna announced plans to roll back the 2015 provision by the Obama administration.
Read the entire letter here.
What are H1-B visas and what happened in 2015?
H1-B visa holders are usually highly skilled people who want to be employed by companies in the USA. These include engineers, doctors, lawyers etc. It is the most highly sought after visa by international workers and has been the subject of controversy in the States as people say that it enables companies to take away jobs from US citizens.
Before 2015, if you were a spouse of an H1-B visa holder who was trying to seek permanent status in the US, you could not be employed. Since this process could take over a decade, in 2015, the Obama administration passed an exception which allowed work permits for spouses of H1-B visa holders.
What the announcement was all about
This move comes at a time when the USA is fast losing its popularity as a destination for students and workers because of the anti-immigration attitude and the administration’s open preference for not employing international workers.
And now, given the nationalistic fervor gripping the US, and an administration with a strong anti-immigration agenda, this H-4 visa rule is being scrapped. In his letter, Cissna said
Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility
He further said
As you may be aware, USCIS is reviewing existing regulations, policies, and programs and developing a combination of rulemaking, policy memoranda, and operational changes to implement the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ Executive Order (EO). These initiatives aim to protect the economic interest of United States workers and prevent fraud and abuse in the immigration system
This executive order that Cissna talked about is aimed at tightening rules for H1-B visas, making them more merit based so as to safeguard American people’s interests. According to Trump, H1-B visas were earlier being handed out like a “lottery”. This move also received backlash as it basically gives preference to a select group of people.
As with every major policy revision, people can comment and send in their feedback to hopefully modify the policy. A formal announcement is expected later in the summer.
The real question
The real question is that why the Trump administration has rolled back a measure that generated a sense of goodwill in the international community and created an additional incentive for people to come to the US for work.
The earlier tightening of H1-B rules and now the removal of H-4 visas are in line with the administration’s promise to restrict immigration and promote American interests. However, the pushback against this has already been immense.
New York-based immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta said that H-4 spouses are also “Americans in waiting”. Allowing them to the pitch into the American economy through their taxes and talents.
“Eliminating work cards for H-4 spouses is not consistent with Buy American Hire American, although it may be consistent with xenophobia and white nationalism,” he added.
Now, after the initial explanations from both sides of the room about this rule, the emergence of a consensus looks like a distant dream. While on one side, this scrapping actually falls in line with the Buy American, Hire American policy, on the other side, it is colored with racist undertones.
Given the fact that the President ran on a masked racist agenda and has on multiple occasions supported openly racist groups, the speculation that this might actually be a by-product of that mentality is not that far off.
Now it remains to be seen that whether this scrapping will actually go through or not once a formal announcement is made.
If it does, it will adversely affect the 60,000+ people currently under its ambit and further restrict immigration to the USA.
Image Source: Google Images
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