As everyone knows by now, the Trump administration has seemed to be generally anti-immigration, imposing obstacles, bans, and delays at every turn. Now that the consequences are beginning to set in, contradictory signals are emerging, as the country lurches from crisis to desperation.
- Various travel bans have been imposed, revoked, and imposed again, jerked around by administration’s shifting priorities and by court orders. Throw the coronavirus into the mix and we have ongoing uncertainty.
- The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has reported ongoing “crisis-level delays” in adjudications of immigration-related applications, petitions, and other requests. Indeed, overall average case processing time has risen by 101 percent from the end of FY 2017 through FY 2019. This continues despite a drop in the number of forms received and despite repeated warnings that the delays, along with the messaging, are not only discouraging talent from coming to the United States but driving them to go elsewhere. AILA blames “needlessly burdensome policies.”
- As an example, AILA cites a new requirement for in-person interviews for all employment-based adjustment applicants, and refugee and asylee relatives, before a case can be fully adjudicated. In the past, such interviews were conducted on a case-by-case basis. “The failure to consider the operational impact of policy decisions directly exacerbates processing times.” This significant increase in work for each case correlates with a “skyrocketing average processing time for employment-based Form I-485 adjustment of status applications,” AILA notes.
- Another problem is rejection, including for trivial reasons, of certain types of applications on which any fields are left blank. Recent examples cited include someone who had only three siblings so left the fourth sibling field blank. Adjudicators are now requiring “N/A” or similar indications in every field. This type of needless complication results in delays when the application is rejected and the process has to be started again.
- A new survey from Envoy Global, which confirms research from the Wharton School of Business, appears to support this overall dimming view of prospects for immigrants in the United States. Immigration restrictions are pushing work out of the United States to other countries and reducing innovation, these results show.
- On the other hand, the overall number of temporary worker visas has increased during the Trump presidency, to 925,000 in 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
- As if all of this weren’t confusing and disconcerting enough, now comes acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly telling a private gathering in England in February that “we are desperate—desperate—for more people,” that the Trump administration “needs more immigrants,” and that the United States is “running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years.” What a surprise, especially as it appears to contradict Trump’s statements (e.g., “Our country is full”) and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s efforts to keep people out.
- He was also recorded as praising the immigration systems of Canada and Australia.
- He stated that the Trump administration would like to adopt a similar merit-based model.
- Have no fear: Jared Kushner is on the case, and Politico reports that White House officials are said to be looking into a limited proposal to create new visas or lengthen stays for foreign temporary workers, among other possibilities. It would be better than nothing.
Mixed signals, much?
Migration Policy Institute, “Temporary Visa Holders in the United States,” https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/temporary-visa-holders-united-states#Workers
NPR, “Kushner Seeks To Revive Trump’s Overhaul for Immigration System,” https://n.pr/2TanVQb
Politico, “Trump Seeks Deal on Foreign Workers That Could Anger Base,” https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/trump-foreign-workers-115991
Washington Post, “Mulvaney Says U.S. Is ‘Desperate’ for More Legal Immigrants,” https://wapo.st/3ckWElr
Washington Post, “Trump is Fulfilling His Pledge to Build Fortress America—and Running On It,” https://bitly.com/