On December 18th, the Senate passed the FY2016 omnibus spending package on the heels of House passage the day before and sent the bill to the White House. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill, making it law.
The bill includes the following immigration-related provisions:
- Department of Labor funding would increase by 2%–we expect increase wage-and-hour and worksite audits by the agency
- DOL is directed to make changes to the H-2B Visa program, including wage determinations, enforcement provisions, and definitions, and to cap exemptions for returning H-2B workers. The Legislature demanded:
- Greater flexibility for H-2B workers in the seafood industry regarding when they can start working;
- That the agency permit the use of private wage surveys even where Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data is available (the current DOL regulations limit the use of private wage surveys only to when OES data is not available);
- An expansion of the definition of “seasonal” to ten months (instead of the nine months under the current DOL regulations);
- Further limitations on the DOL’s ability to implement certain parts of its interim final rule (DOL will not use appropriated funds to implement its H-2B rules on corresponding employment and the three-fourths guarantee – Congress has effectively rendered these provisions unenforceable by DOL); and
- An exemption for H-2B returning workers from the 66,000 annual cap for FY2016; and
- Authorization to USCIS to continue the EB-5 (foreign Investor), Conrad 30 (foreign doctors), Special Immigrant Religious Worker, and E-Verify programs (supplemental verification compliance).
Predictions that the bill may provide an avenue to restrict refugee admission, defund or harm “sanctuary” cities, or block provisions of President Obama’s DACA and DAPA Executive Orders did not come true.