The year began with political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. – Mexico border. Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in history. The shutdown caused substantial backlogs and postponements for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court.
H1B Visa Program Changes
The change reverses the order by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.
H-4 Employment Authorization Rescission
The Department of Homeland Security published a notice seeking to rescind employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers seeking permanent residence. As it stands, the implementation of the rule has been delayed until Spring 2020.
Presidential Memorandum to Reduce Visa Overstays
The Trump administration issued a memorandum to eliminate nonimmigrant overstays for nationals of “countries of interest.” The President directed DHS to suspend, limit, target suspension of visa issuance, or limit the duration of admission to individuals from Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Conga, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Interim Rule Limiting Asylum Eligibility
The Trump Administration targeted the asylum population once again by placing additional restrictions on the asylum process and limiting the eligibility of individuals applying for asylum.
The most incendiary policy change of the year could make migrants ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant visa. The new rule would enable officials to deny green cards to migrants if they believe the recipients have or will receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, or housing vouchers. However, before the rule was to go into effect, three federal judges blocked it nationwide pending lawsuits. Consequently, the public charge rule may not be enforced until a final determination is reached in these lawsuits.
Policy Terminating Automatic Citizenship of Certain Children of US Service Members Stationed Overseas
USCIS issued a policy affecting some children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed overseas. Under the new policy, certain children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members, employed or stationed outside the U.S., would not be entitled to automatic citizenship.
The Trump administration continues to make changes to immigration policies, both small and drastic. The efforts made in just one year have transformed the immigration system, and will contiune to reshape it in the new year.