THE NEUTRAL ZONE

While coronavirus has halted many events across the nation, immigrants are caught in limbo as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices and consulates close globally. Immigrants worry as children with summer birthdays age out of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and become ineligible for citizenship through their families and their applications can be significantly delayed because of the closures. 

USCIS is facing a funding crisis, as application and petition receipts are estimated to drop 61% throughout 2020. Previously, the agency funded 97% of its budget through fees, though now it is asking Congress for $1.2 billion to meet its funding gap. The agency has already proposed raising application fees from $725 to $1,170 for most applications to decrease the gap.  

On April 22, President Trump halted the issuing of green cards to nonimmigrants, excluding high-skilled H-1B and L-1 visas. Four Republican senators have since spoken out, urging the president to suspend new visas. H-1B visas are the main way skilled workers can work long-term in the U.S. without becoming a citizen. L-1 visas allow employees to temporarily transfer to America within their international company. On Friday, Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of Chinese nationals studying or conducting research at U.S. universities. 

Trump is now expected to limit visas for highly skilled workers, student visas, and intra-company transfers. Businesses have spoken out against limiting high-skilled, nonimmigrant workers under H-1B visas, citing studies that skilled workers in the STEM fields “creat[ed] an estimated benefit of $103 billion for American workers.” Advocates argue ending the programs will place a further strain on businesses during the pandemic.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Government Agencies Still Hiring H-1B Visa Employees for American Jobs – Breitbart – 5/27/2020
The governments’ hidden workforces of roughly 18,000 H-1B employees are an easy target for President Donald Trump as he searches for ways to open up good jobs for the many American graduates who have been forced out of jobs by the coronavirus crash.

Covid-19 Spreads Deportation Fears Among Immigrant Doctors in U.S. – The Wall Street Journal – 5/31/2020
Dr. Kumar, who is 37 years old and works in Grand Rapids, Mich., is one of an estimated 15,000 physicians in the country on a temporary H-1B visa while they wait years in line to become permanent residents. Their visas are tied to their employment, meaning that if a prolonged illness costs them their job—even temporarily—or their life, they and any dependents could lose their legal status in the U.S.

Most USCIS services have been halted due to coronavirus. Here’s what immigrants can do – Miami Herald – 5/31/2020
The temporary office closure affects tens of thousands of individuals awaiting immigration benefits such as extensions of status, work permits, green cards and U.S. citizenship through naturalization — including those who have interview appointments, biometric services and naturalization ceremonies.

Second man with COVID-19 dies in US immigration custody – Al Jazeera – 5/31/2020
More than 1,200 immigrants in ICE custody – half of the 2,394 detainees ICE has screened for the virus – have tested positive, according to the agency. While ICE has dialed back arrest operations and agreed to review cases of some at-risk immigrants in custody, it continues to hold more than 26,600 across the country and is proceeding with deportation flights.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

The World on Twitter, 5/31/2020: One of the most anticipated rulings of the Supreme Court’s current term concerns the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. A decision could come any day. Story by The World’s @mfederis https://t.co/O5qNg2NukE

FWD.us on Twitter, 5/31/2020: “Of the nearly 700,000 #DACA recipients nationwide, there are 200,000 essential workers in the health care, food & education industries…their future in the US remains uncertain.” ‘It’s Time To Protect Those Who Are Working To Protect Us’ via https://t.co/05w55u73xV #HomeIsHere https://t.co/IGcOuCSsHz

Jake Sherman on Twitter, 5/07/2020: SEN. TOM COTTON (Ark.) is leading a letter signed by Sens. JOSH HAWLEY (Mo.), TED CRUZ (Texas) and CHUCK GRASSLEY (Iowa) to press TRUMP to suspend “all new guest worker visas” for 60 days, and others for a year “or until unemployment has returned to normal levels.

Cato Institute on Twitter, 5/31/2020: The Trump Administration is reportedly working on an executive order to ban the issuance of new H-1B visas, expected to be issued this month. That would be a huge blow to the U.S. economy and hit American economic innovation the hardest. https://t.co/9QYHZ2Y6Z2 #CatoImmigration https://t.co/E2E0rtrYs7

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