Immigration Weekly Round-Up: White House Immigration Meeting Ends in Expletives, Visa Extensions for Skilled Immigrants Expected to Remain, and DACA has New Life but Details Unclear

by Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A.
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After a holiday break, the Weekly Round-Up is back, and just in time for a week in which immigration news filled the headlines.

White House Immigration Meeting Ends in Vulgarity

On Thursday, Congressional Democrats and Republicans met with President Trump at the White to discuss a deal on DACA, the program that allowed approximately 800,000 people who came to the United States as children to remain and work here.  As part of that deal, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought up a plan to cut the visa lottery program – which awards 50,000 to people across the world through a lottery system – and provide the balance of visas to largely underrepresented nations, such as Haiti and several in Africa.

Then, as numerous news outlets have reported, President Trump stated, “why do we want all these people from sh**hole countries coming here?”  He reportedly went on to say “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”  The President’s comments received swift condemnation, both in the United States and around the world.  Kamala Harris, Democratic Senator from California, tweeted that “Immigrants from countries across the globe — including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa — have helped build this country.  They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.”  Mia Love, a Republican Congresswoman from Utah whose parents emigrated from Haiti, issued a statement saying that President Trump’s “comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. . . . This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”  Former president of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, tweeted “SHAME ON TRUMP!  The world is witnessing a new low today. . .”  Rupert Colville, the United Nations human rights spokesman, said at a news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘sh**holes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny that the comments were made, but Friday morning, Trump denied using the vulgar term.  President Trump tweeted ‘[t]he language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”  He later tweeted ‘Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

Meanwhile, following Trump’s tweet on Friday, Senator Durbin, who was in the meeting, stated that President did use the term “sh**hole countries.” 

Visa Extensions for Skilled Workers Expected to Continue

Recently, the Trump Administration proposed ending the practice of extending H-1B visas – awarded to skilled immigrants working in professional occupations – while those immigrants applied for permanent resident status in the United States.  This would have a substantial impact on companies, particularly those that employ skilled immigrants from China and India.  Currently, many qualified Chinese employees, working in skilled positions, must wait nearly four years for their green card applications to be eligible for approval, and many from India must wait almost 12 years.  Without H-1B visa extensions, workers from India and China would need to leave the United States during that entire period, giving up their employment during that time.

Recently, however, as reported in Newsweek, following outrage from U.S. and Indian companies, the White House backed away from this proposal. Jonathan Withington, Chief of Media Relations for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, issued the following statement: “[W]e can say . . . that USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6-year limit.”

If you are an employee or company that may be affected by this decision, or have questions about this policy, please seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney.

Federal Judge Orders Continuation of DACA

This week, William Alsup, United States District Court Judge in San Francisco, issued a nationwide injunction against the White House termination of the DACA program stating that the Trump administration “must maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis” as the legal challenge to the president’s decision moves forward.

The President moved to end the program in a September announcement declaring that the previous administration’s actions were unconstitutional and an overreach of executive power.  The decision left the fate of 800,000 DACA in limbo, where it remains as Congress debates the fate of the program.  Several states and organizations including previous Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who is now the president of the University of California college systems, have sued the Trump Administration arguing that the program’s shutdown was arbitrary and done without following the proper legal procedures.  The White House argued that DACA was an illegal program established by the Obama Administration.  Judge Alsup disagreed stating that the Department of Homeland Security has had, for many years, the authority and discretion to grant the type of protections that formed the basis of DACA.

Judge Alsup’s ruling opens the door for the continuation of DACA, although many details remain unclear.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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