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Biden halts Trump rule that blocked spouses of immigrants from working in the US

Under the Trump policy, immigrant spouses suffered considerable visa processing delays, forcing many to lose their  employment or take unpaid leave.

By Amy Lieu - May 06, 2021

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration officials are delaying a Trump-era policy that forced some immigrants to turn in new fingerprints to renew their visas, causing a massive backlog that prevented thousands from being able to work in the United States.

In 2019, the Trump administration implemented a rule change for H-4 visa holders, who are spouses of immigrants employed in specialty occupations under the H-1B visa. The H-4 visa itself grants employment authorization.

Then, in March, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Wasden Banias immigration law firm filed a class action lawsuit, Edakunni v. Mayorkas, against the Department of Homeland Security, citing “extraordinary” delays in visa processing caused by the rule change.

In a court filing on Monday, DHS said USCIS would delay the Trump-era biometrics requirement for two years starting on May 17, Reuters reported.

As the Mercury News noted, approximately 100,000 immigrants were impacted by the delays, with Indian women the most affected. Some of them were unable to submit new fingerprints in time and subsequently lost their employment or were forced to take unpaid leave, they told the outlet.

“The process to attain work authorization should not put families at risk of immense loss of income and instability. There are reasonable and immediate steps that DHS can take to make certain that visa holders meet requirements without imposing needless suffering. We hope to work with the government on immediate solutions to get these individuals back working,” Jesse Bless, federal litigation director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in a statement.

Lawyer Jon Wasden of the Wasden Banias firm told the Wall Street Journal separately, “You have all of these people out of work for a policy that did not need to happen.”

The H-4 rule change was one of a litany of attacks on immigration Donald Trump launched during his time in office.

Though he routinely insisted he wanted to target unlawful immigration, Trump repeatedly attacked immigrants both legal and undocumented, undermining the H-1B visa program — which is awarded to skilled workers — while simultaneously claiming he only wanted the “most-skilled” immigrants coming into the United States.

During a speech in Wisconsin on April 18, 2017, Trump called for an end to visa abuses and “a long-overdue reform of H-1B visas.”

“They should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans. No one can compete with American workers when they’re given a fair and level playing field, which has not happened for decades,” he claimed.

As USCIS itself notes, H1-B visas are already awarded to immigrants with “exceptional merit.”

A DHS proposal in October 2020 also aimed to replace the H-1B visa lottery program with one that would only select immigrants offered the highest salaries.

In response, immigration advocacy and business groups pushed back against such a move, saying it would inflict harm on companies.

Jon Baselice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive director of immigration policy told the Journal at the time, “This proposal will significantly disrupt the operations of many businesses by denying them access to the talent they need to grow and create jobs.”

“Changing the requirements around H-1B and other work visas will only hurt American companies that depend on high-skilled workers who fill critical positions while we work to grow our domestic [science, technology, engineering and math] pipeline,” Linda Moore, who leads TechNet, a network of technology executives, told the publication separately.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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