USCIS ramps up scrutiny of foreign workers in America; H4 EAD on its way out - it's official

The Trump government on Friday confirmed that it is intensifying efforts via a tie-up with the US Justice department to crack down on "fraud, abuse and discrimination by employers bringing foreign visa workers to the United States." In a separate development, the Trump government has published in its Spring agenda notice of a proposed rule that leaves little doubt that employment authorization for H4 spouses is on its way out.

USCIS director Francis Cissna. Reuters

USCIS director Francis Cissna. Reuters

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has signed an MoU with the Justice Department to streamline the sharing mechanisms between these two powerful arms of government to prosecute employers who may be working against the interests of US workers. That the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department is in play here is an important signalling exercise with midterm elections barely six months away.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) can enforce the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act which prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring and firing decisions. "An employer that prefers to hire temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers may be discriminating in violation of this law."

USCIS is America's lead agency to manage the country's immigration system and decides on immigration benefits, including employment-based petitions like the many categories of H and L visas, for instance.

H1B and L visas have been a popular way for US companies to hire foreign high skilled workers (and fashion models) but in the specific case of technology workers, the arbitrage for US companies has steadily eroded over the years brining the H1B's relevance into question for financial controllers. From its glory days of being considered high value, the H1B has come almost full circle. The US government moves to rein in foreign workers rides on many economic considerations that are not just about American workers, although that certainly drives the policy agenda.

The latest MoU strengthens an existing partnership between the USCIS and the DoJ that has already resulted in "dozens of investigations".

"Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed over $200,000 in back pay to affected U.S. workers. The Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies to combat discrimination and abuse by employers using foreign visa workers", the Trump government said.

All of USCIS' efforts since Donald Trump came to power have been explained by a simple boiler plate statement - "protecting and maintaining the integrity of our immigration system."

Gaps in process capabilities have historically undercut multi-agency efforts to achieve closure on many complaints that have come in to the USCIS. The latest MoU is a formalization of a relationship that has already been at work across the Justice department and the USCIS.

The 11 May agreement between USCIS and the US Justice department has been signed off by USCIS director Francis Cissna and John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General with the DoJ.


Updated Date: May 12, 2018 03:54 AM

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