The one thing that unifies everybody in immigration debates is that nobody is happy with things as they are. It’s disheartening as an immigration lawyer that appeals to justice and American ideals barely move the needle, but perhaps industry can help bring about change when our ideals can’t. Recently, tech giants Google, IBM and Amazon and 14 other companies sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas requesting that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extend the status of family members of workers in the country on H-1B visas.
The current policy, the letter reads, “harms families and prevents our companies from attracting and retaining critical talent in the U.S.”
Right now, the family members of those in the U.S. on H-1B visas lose their legal status when they turn 21, and at that point they have to find their own path to maintaining lawful status or leave the U.S.
The processing backlog at DHS has become a problem brought on by COVID-related layoffs and changes to the department during the Trump administration. That backlog has created a bureaucratic nightmare with consequences showing up in countless situations. More than 200,000 children of H-1B visa holders will turn 21 and lose their legal status this year, which will force them to find another path to legal status or leave their families and return to their home countries even though in many cases they left those countries while children.
They can apply for green cards, but processing is so slow that 25 percent of the green cards set aside for employment-based applicants went unused last year, and those family members will end up out of status through no fault of their own.
“Their parents must either become separated from their children or abandon their careers and any plans to seek permanent residence in the U.S.,” the letter reads.
Their request for relief is part of a larger concern. The United States is in competition with other countries for workers in the tech sector, whose work tends to be good for economies and frequently leads to entrepreneurial activity. We have written before about steps previous administrations took that made the U.S. less appealing to those in STEM fields, and how the Trump administration found itself at odds with the major tech companies despite the proven value of these workers.
The tech companies’ voices get heard, and since DHS has found some imperfect solutions to the backlog this year, there’s cause for guarded optimism here.
If there’s anything you can do, it’s spread the word on theeconomic impact of immigrants. Right now, fear and myths carry too much weight in immigration conversations. We need to do what we can to insert some reality into the discourse.
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