On October 8, 2017, the White House released a list of immigration priorities addressing border security, interior enforcement, and a merit-based immigration system. The priority list calls for the hiring of 10,000 ICE agents, 300 federal prosecutors, 370 immigration judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys. The Department of Homeland Security would be authorized to raise and collect fees from visa services and border crossings to fund border security and enforcement activities.
As stated by the White House, the border security measures include funding the southern border wall, ending the abuse of the asylum system, discouraging illegal re-entry by enhancing penalties and expanding categories of inadmissibility, and improving expedited removal of undocumented individuals. The interior enforcement priorities include making E-Verify mandatory, putting an end to sanctuary cities by authorizing and incentivizing states and localities to help enforce federal immigration laws, and improving visa security.
With regards to the merit-based immigration system, the White House's priority list reiterates what was previously announced on August 2, 2017, when President Trump unveiled the revised RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act. This law would reduce the number of eligible family-based green cards and create a new point-based system for awarding green cards. Specifically, the RAISE Act would establish a 30-point threshold for green cards, awarding an applicant higher point totals for higher-salaried jobs, professional degrees, English-speaking ability, younger applicant age, higher future salary, extraordinary achievements, and an applicant’s investing $1.35 million or more in the United States.
Some of these priorities were first previewed in the form of executive orders, proclamations and memos:
- January 23, 2017 draft executive order: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs
- January 25, 2017 executive orders: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States and the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
- February 20, 2017 memo: Implementing the President's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies
- March 6, 2017 executive order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States
- March 6, 2017 memo: Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits, Ensuring Enforcement of All Laws for Entry into the United States, and Increasing Transparency Among Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and for the American People
- April 18, 2017 executive order: Buy American and Hire American
- September 24, 2017 presidential proclamation: Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats
What does this mean for employers?
If this list of proposals becomes law, employers will face higher costs in sponsoring foreign workers for visas. Individuals holding a nonimmigrant work visa would have to meet a high point-based system threshold in order to obtain a green card, and there will certainly be additional delays in visa issuance due to the additional screening required.
We will continue to monitor these proposals and will report on any pertinent developments.