U.S. Immigration Updates on Government Shutdown, Asylum Policies and H-2B Cap

Published on: Dec 29, 2018, Last Edited: Dec 29, 2018 | Tags: USA Immigration, USA Visa

Introduction

President Donald Trump has informed Republicans that he refuses to accept a stopgap bill that excludes funds for his border wall. Just a few weeks ago, President Trump appeared to soften his stance in the interests of fulfilling his hardline stance on immigration policy and border security. Now, however, a deal to avoid a shutdown of parts of the government over the holidays has been torpedoed by the President and House conservatives. Trump also expressed his rage at a further agreement that falls short of providing $5 billion required by Trump to enhance border security.

The days of a Republican-majority House are drawing to a close n the matter of days and as Democrats are now set to take control, Trump is not likely to see a funding bill that meets his requirements for the wall over the next two years. The president is sending out mixed signals on whether or not he will sign a temporary measure that would prevent the upcoming shutdown of several federal agencies, including the Secret Service who provide him and his family with protection. He tweeted that he would not sign any legislation that did not include “perfect border security” but lawmakers now appear uncertain as to how to proceed. Conservatives in the house are demanding that the President should oppose the legislation and he appears to be listening: however, the stock market fell sharply at the news of the continuing uncertainty and it is as yet unclear how the issue will eventually be resolved. 

White House policy denying asylum to victims of domestic and gang violence blocked by San Francisco judge

In a further legal blow to the President’s attempts to tighten USA immigration law, San Franciso judge Emmett Sullivan has extended an attempt to ban the granting of asylum to anyone crossing the US-Mexico border illegally.

The new policy would have prevented refugees from claiming asylum on the grounds of fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence. The judge stated that the White House policy on asylum seekers violated federal laws on immigration and that the benchmarks for expedited removal should be set by Congress rather than at the whim of the President. 

A second rebuke to the administration’s efforts to tighten immigration law came from Judge Jon Tigar, who this week extended his ban on the enforcement of a ban on asylum for immigrants who have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally. He ruled in favour of maintaining the ban while awaiting the result of a lawsuit that challenges it; the case could take many months to resolve. Meanwhile, the White House has requested the supreme court to permit their asylum policy to be implemented.

H-2B cap for the first half of FY 2019 already reached

The H-2B visa is used by businesses in the USA to employ temporary workers in non-agricultural roles. The number of visas granted each year is decided by Congress. This year, USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has already reached the H-2B cap mandated for the first half of FY (fiscal year) 2019. 

The final date for receipt of new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before 1st April 2019 was 6 December 2018. New cap-subject H-2B petitions received later than December 6th requesting an employment start date before April 1 2019 will be rejected.

By 6th December, the number of petitions to USCIS for H-2B visas had exceeded the number available according to the H-2B cap for the first half of the financial year 2019. In accordance with their rules and regulations, USCIS then used a computer-generated lottery to ensure the orderly and fair allocations of H-2B visas to comply with but not surpass the first half year cap on numbers. This lottery was conducted on 11th December 2018 and USCIS assigned a recept date of 11th Dec to all the petitions allocated via the lottery.

Certain types of H-2B applications are exempted from the cap (which is determined by Congress) and may still be considered. These include:

  • Workers employed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or Guam from 28th November 28 2009, up to 21st December 2029 
  • Fish roe technicians, fish roe processors, supervisors of fish roe processing 
  • H-2B workers currently employed in the United States requesting an extension of their stay and, if applicable, a change in their terms of employment and/or their employers

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