Tough times likely for employed dependents

Their fate is back in the hands of the DHS, which does appear ready to terminate H4 EAD


Ritu Jha


Things look really grim for those on the H4 visas who have an employment authorization document.

Their troubles became acute when the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a motion to reschedule briefings and oral arguments in the case involving Save Jobs USA vs the Department of Homeland Security. It gave the Trump administration’s DHS 90 days to address its intention to eliminate the H4 EAD program.

indica approached the Department of Homeland Security to see if the DHS indeed plans to rescind the H4 EAD and, if so, would it provide some options for those on it.

Joanne F. Talbot of the DHS’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services, replied through an email: “The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programs. USCIS is focused on ensuring the integrity of the immigration system and protecting the interests of US workers and is committed to reforming employment-based immigration programs so they benefit the American people to the greatest extent possible.”

While it might appear to mean that those on H4 would not get a chance, Talbot said things were still up in the air.

No decision about H4 visas is final until the rulemaking process is completed,” she said, pointing out that each edition of the Trump Administration’s Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions includes agendas from all federal entities that currently have regulations under development or review.

But Murthy law firm, which focuses on immigration law, in their post asserted, “The Trump administration appears to be determined to do what the courts will not – terminate the program.”

Effective May 26, 2015, DHS on the order of President Barack Obama, implemented the H4 EAD program, given to the spouses of those with approved I-140 forms (the immigration petition for foreign citizens to get Green Card or Permanent Residency in the US).

According to the, USCIS has issued more than 104,000 visas employment authorization (EAD) since 2015, and in the fiscal year 2016, H4 EAD were given to 41,526 spouses.

Even David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the conservative Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity did not sound positive.

He expressed certainty that the administration would rescind the H4 EAD. However, he felt such workers would not be immediately banned from working but, as with DACA, would be allowed to continue till their work authorization expires.

Groups advocating for those with these visas, such as Immigration Voice, described as a “Movant-Intervenor for Appellee” (one who files a motion for the person making the case) in the Save Jobs USA v DHS case, supports the H4 EAD. But given the portents, it has been hedging its best by pushing hard for the passing of Bill HR 392 (the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act), which they believe could fix the problem.

Immigration Voice, which hosted a rally in Washington DC and has been reaching out to elected officials, also said its members would be willing to pay for “Trump’s dream wall.”

But experts on the wall issue think that might not be enough since the president is focused on reducing the number of legal immigrants, the wall being an aid and an excuse.

After the failure of bipartisan DACA bill on Feb 15, a post on the Immigration Voice website read, “We must not forget that in #HR392 we have a bill with 315 bi-partisan co-sponsors which raises $4 billion in revenue and as we have shared in our previous public calls, we have a strategy to get it done which we will continue to execute.”

Speaking about DACA, the Cato Institute’s Bier said that once the March 5 deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program expires, nothing would happen immediately.

“They are going to lose their status, over the next 700 days. People losing their status and not being able to work – that’s what is going to happen,” he said.

, Bier said.

Asked if this did not contradict with his avowed support for skilled immigrants, Bier agreed, and said, “Yes, it’s conflicting with a lot of different things. He is not consistent on immigration and changes his position day to day as he listens to his close advisers. Those advisers tell him that the most important thing is a cut to legal immigration.”

Bier felt there was no point to IV members being ready to pay for the wall.

“The wall is not what President Trump wants. More than anything, he is willing to turn down the wall if he doesn’t get these legal immigration reductions. So, it’s unfortunate. It makes so much sense to say, why don’t you let immigrant pay for the wall and let them get their Green Cards, but he doesn’t care to get the wall. There is other stuff.”

Pointing to the bipartisan bill that failed February 15, Bier said the debate that they (Senate) had last week, was not a debate on skilled immigrants. No one was really bringing that up in the Senate. There were a couple [of senators] who proposed amendments but that was not a major issue being debated by most people in the Senate. And none of the proposals included anything that would provide benefit to [skilled immigrants].”

Bier said HR 392 has plenty of co-sponsors but is being held up chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R, Virginia), who holds the authority to bring that bill up to vote and pass it along to the full house of representatives.

He said it would likely pass immediately because only 12 people would vote against it out of 435 representatives before it was sent up to the Senate.

“It’s really an issue of why Representative Goodlatte is not bringing this bill up for the vote when 315 people, including 146 Republicans, support this proposal,” Bier said. “It doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand it but representative Goodlatte is the reason this bill is not receiving the vote…. It’s one of the most popular bills in Congress today and it’s not getting a vote.”

Bier said another bill, one introduced by Senator Orrin Grant Hatch, is a great bill. It would both increase the number of available green cards, makes it easier for those on H-1B visas to change jobs, and their spouses to work, but it is a more complicated bill that does not have the 315 co-sponsors that the HR 392 does. He said its chances would be better if it were part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

Norman Saul Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California, Davis, told indica, “I personally do not support building a wall. I actually do think it would be somewhat effective, but I don’t like the symbolism of it.”

Matloff went on: “Keep in mind, though, that there was bipartisan legislation a few years ago to build a wall or at least a very formidable fence. So, the whole wall discussion has become absurd – just posturing by both sides.”

He thought little of Immigration Voice’s proposal.

“I think it’s hare-brained. It’s not going to work politically,” he said. “It will make them look mercenary.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications at the Migration Policy Institute, too echoed doubts about the wall.

“While fencing can be an effective deterrent when used in locations such as high-crossing urban areas, walling off the entire border will not resolve all challenges,” she said.

She pointed out that more drugs are trafficked into the US via ports of entry than between ports of entry. And border walls would not address that.

“As experience has shown, criminal syndicates will spare no expense to build tunnels through which contraband and people can be moved; they will also take to the seas to evade barriers,” she said, adding that the institute has yet to even consider the appropriateness of linking the wall with a green card backlog.

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