The Future of Immigration for High-Skilled Workers Under Trump
November 16, 2016
Discussion Forum (Webinar and In-Person) Wednesday, November 30th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
The Russ Building 235 Montgomery St., 7th Floor Conference Room San Francisco, CA 94104
During his campaign, Trump promised to make several unprecedented and far-reaching changes to U.S. immigration policy. If implemented, these changes would have a significant impact on foreign workers, and the U.S. companies that employ these workers. We invite our clients and colleagues to a lunchtime discussion on the likely direction of U.S. employment-based immigration policy under President-Elect Trump.
The areas covered by this discussion will include:
Impact on Foreign Workers from Predominately Muslim Countries. Trump has promised “extreme, extreme vetting” of visa applicants from predominately Muslim countries, and at times during his campaign, suggested a complete ban on issuing visas to Muslims. The extent to which these statements are mere rhetoric is unclear, but his anti-Muslim stance could negatively impact the ability of U.S. companies to employ thousands of top STEM graduates from U.S. universities, as well as high-skilled workers already employed by U.S. companies.
Impact on Foreign Workers Receiving DACA Benefits. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has granted work authorization to over 700,000 undocumented foreign nationals who entered the United States before the age of 16, and who met certain other eligibility requirements. Many DACA beneficiaries are employed by U.S. employers in high-skilled positions. Trump has vowed to end the DACA program, which may prevent these individuals from extending their work authorization, and may even subject them to deportation.
Impact on Foreign Workers Under the NAFTA and Other Free-Trade Agreements. Protecting U.S. workers from free-trade agreements has been a key feature of Trump’s campaign message. His stated intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and threats to “rip up” other free trade agreements negotiated under the Bush and Obama administrations, could impact thousands of skilled workers from Canada and Mexico currently working in TN status under the NAFTA, as well as workers from Australia, Singapore and Chile, who are employed in the U.S. pursuant to other free trade agreements. Many of these workers may be ineligible for other forms of work authorization and may leave the U.S. if Trump withdraws from these agreements.
Reform of the H-1B and other Temporary Worker Programs. Trump promised to reform the H-1B temporary-worker program to eliminate what he has characterized as “rampant, widespread H-1B abuse.” Although his campaign has offered few specifics, U.S. employers may be subjected to higher prevailing wage requirements, increased investigations and unannounced site visits by immigration authorities, as well as increased compliance and record-keeping burdens. Trump’s “Hire American Workers First” plan also suggests that he will pursue some form of labor market test for H-1Bs and other skilled worker categories.
Prospects for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Since the last significant immigration reform passed in 2000, comprehensive immigration reform has failed to materialize due to partisan dispute over the scope of the proposed reform. Obama has stated that he would veto any immigration reform bill that did not include some form of relief for undocumented foreign nationals, while Republicans in Congress have opposed such relief. Now that the presidency and both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans, the chance of comprehensive immigration reform may be more likely. However, this may not be good news for employers of high-skilled workers: while many Republicans favor employment-based immigration, Trump’s anti-immigration and protectionist rhetoric and appointment of well-known anti-immigration leaders to his transition team, suggest that the shape of comprehensive immigration reform under his veto power may look very different than the pro-business immigration reform bills that were favored by Senate Republicans in the past.
“Mass Deportations”? The media has reported extensively on Trump’s promise to deport millions from the United States. While immigration plans outlined on Trump’s website and in his 100-day action plan offer little in the way of specifics, his plan does not appear to be targeted at foreign skilled workers who are maintaining valid status. His website and recent interviews suggest that his deportation plan would be aimed at foreign nationals who are undocumented and/or have been convicted of criminal offenses. The “two to three million” he says he plans to deport may not be any more than the number that were deported under the Obama (2.5 million) and Bush (2 million) administrations.