Amid all of Trumps bluster about Nationalism, building a wall at the Mexican border, and protecting American jobs, the Trump Administration has quietly and quickly raised the number of temporary unskilled labor visas to allow more Mexican farmhands, landscapers and hotel workers to legally work in the United States. In the past 9 months, the U.S. Labor Department has certified more than 160,000 H-2A agricultural visas, up 20% from last year. They then raised the cap on H-2B visas for unskilled laborers such as hotel housekeepers and restaurant workers, adding another 15,000 job openings for foreign and mainly Mexican workers. Trump’s real estate company and Mar-a-Lago annually apply for and receive H-2B visas to hire foreign labor to work in their hotels and private clubs. Raising the annual cap on H-2B visas is highly controversial, as some argue that it puts unskilled U.S. laborers out of work and keeps wages low.
Venezuela is now the top U.S. Asylum Seeking nation since the crash of the Venezuela economy and the government’s widespread persecution and harassment of opponents of Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela is in crisis, with its people enduring hyperinflation, scarcity of food and medicine, high crime and political corruption. Thousands of its citizens are fleeing to neighboring countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and also Spain and the United States. Since March 2017, 30 protestors of Maduro administration have been killed. Thousands of people have been arrested for political reasons since 2016. Over 14,700 Venezuelans sought asylum in the U.S. in FY2016. And halfway through FY2017, Venezuelan asylum applications are on pace to double again.
It should be noted that fleeing ones country due to hunger, the economy, or joblessness does not qualify you for asylum in the U.S. To qualify for asylum in the United States, you must meet the definition of a refugee, which means you are unable or unwilling to return to your own country because of persecution or well founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. An asylum seeker will need to provide credible testimony, and genuine documentation to prove past persecution or well founded fear of persecution. Know that the the consequences for filing a frivolous claim of asylum, or counterfeit or false documentation to support an asylum application are grave. If USCIS or an immigration finds that a person knowingly filed a frivolous or fabricated asylum claim, that person will be forever barred from gaining a lawful immigration benefit or status in the United States.
We recommend you see a qualified immigration attorney for a consultation before you proceed with an asylum application, to help you evaluate whether your claim has merit. Then you can decide whether you wand to proceed on your own, or retain an attorney to help you through the process.
On December 23, 2017, USCIS fees for most applications will increase by an average 21%. Any applications filed on or after December 23, 2016 will require the new fee. Be advised that there are significant increases for some applications. There is a new 3-level fee structure for Naturalization applications. The N-400 application fee will increase from $680 (including the biometrics fee) to $725 (including the biometrics fee). A reduced fee of $405 (with biometrics fee) will apply to applicants with household income greater than 150% but not more than 200% of federal poverty guidelines. No fee will be charged to certain applicants with military service or those with approved fee waivers. The fee for an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (N-600) for those applicants who derived citizenship through biological parents will increase by over $570- from $600 to $1,170 (without the biometrics fee.) Temporary Employment Authorization fees will increase from $360 to $575 (plus $85 biometrics fee). K-1 Fiance petitions will increase from $340 to $535 and I-130 immigrant petitions will increase from $420 to $535. The new fees are located on the USCIS.gov website.
If you have been putting off filing your application – the new President taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017, and the upcoming fee increases should give you incentive to file immediately for any immigration benefit you might qualify for. You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to see if you qualify for legal status by means of immigrant visas through family members – even if you entered this country without documentation or overstayed a visa. These things can sometimes be cured by a waiver for qualified applicants.
The Immigration Court system in the United States is notorious for its backlog of cases. This story gets attention every not and again from the national press. A little under a year ago, in order to help the chronic backlog facing the Immigration Courts, Congress provided funding for 55 new immigration judges. To put this is perspective, an immigrant rights group estimates that over 200 new immigration judges would be necessary to even make a dent in the chronic backlog of cases before the court. Fortunately, it appears there are plans to boost the number of immigration judges even more, but still short of the number necessary to reduce the persistent backlog of cases.
But despite these new judges, the backlog persists. According to the Hill, over 500,000 cases currently sit waiting to be heard by an immigration judge across the United States, the largest backlog in our nation’s history. In Illinois alone, there are over 20,000 cases waiting to be heard by an immigration judge. The average number of days cases have been pending in the United States is 672 days. Human Rights First also notes that the average number of days between when an immigrant files a case before the court and that case is actually heard is over 1,000 and just under 3 years. While these cases sit, the lives of the immigrants impacted by the case remain in immigration limbo.
Since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly since Donald Trump became a candidate, a lot of attention has been paid to immigration policy in the United States. Because presidential campaigns can sometimes (most of the time) use statistics and figures in an interesting fashion, we thought we should provide some information about immigration in the United States, particularly when it comes to undocumented immigrants.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign born population in the United States is around 40 million, or 13% of the entire U.S. population. Over 17 million of those foreign born are naturalized citizens, while the remainder are not. This 40 million number includes individuals that are undocumented and without status. Of the 159 million Americans in the workforce, 17% or 23 million are foreign born, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States is a number that is often difficult to calculate and varies from source to source. This number includes people that entered the United States without inspection as well as individuals that overstayed a temporary visa and therefore no longer have status. According to Pew Research, an organization that dedicates an entire portion of its studies to immigrant statistics, the unauthorized immigrant population is estimated to be around 11.3 million people. Pew goes on to state that this number has been pretty stable for the last five years and has actually gone down from its peak in 2007. 5% of the total U.S. workforce is made up of unauthorized immigrants.