We should not expect in 2019 that Donald Trump will visit the Statue of Liberty and deliver a speech about America’s great tradition as a nation of immigrants. But here’s a look at what we should expect to happen on immigration in 2019.

By Stuart Anderson

Continued Attacks on H-1B Visa Holders and Their Employers: In interviews, employers and immigration attorneys cannot name any favorable actions the Trump administration has taken toward high-skilled immigrants. Expect this two-year streak to continue into 2019. In December 20, 2018, testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made it clear U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would keep viewing high-skilled foreign-born professionals more as threats to U.S. workers than as assets to the U.S. economy.

Many H-1B visa holders are afraid to change jobs because of administration policies. They fear the suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions (scheduled to resume February 19, 2019), the increase in denials and processing times that can take up to 10 months could leave them out of status.

In one of his first actions, in 2017, USCIS Director Francis Cissna directed adjudicators to no longer defer to prior determinations of facts, which has contributed to the denial problem. A National Foundation for American Policy analysis of USCIS data found Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order helped lead to a 41% increase in the proportion of H-1B petitions denied between the 3rd and 4th quarter of FY 2017.

Expect the high denial rates to continue and attorneys to file more lawsuits in 2019. As noted in an October 2018 article, “Employers report receiving H-1B visa approvals that last for as little as one day, 12 days or, quite amazingly, even expire before they receive them.” (See an example here.) Unless stopped by a court, USCIS will likely continue the practice. Attorneys and employers report multiple denials based on USCIS claiming a job is not in a specialty occupation or that it fails to meet a USCIS definition of an employer-employee relationship.

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