During the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump focused on immigration reform as a major campaign issue. As president, Trump further promised to step up border security and enforce U.S. immigration laws, including worksite enforcement. In fact, on April 18, 2017, President Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, directing the attorney general and the secretaries of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “propose new rules and issue new guidance . . . to protect the interests of [U.S.] workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud and abuse,” and “suggest reforms to help [e]nsure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Since then, the Trump administration has kept up with the president’s promises, and efforts have been made to crack down on immigrant workers and employers in general.
The biggest focus to date has been on employment of U.S. workers. In July, the DOL and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) joined forces in an effort to get tough on employers that allegedly prefer to hire foreign workers over qualified American workers. A statement released on July 31 indicates that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the DOL have “expanded their collaboration to better protect U.S. workers from discrimination by employers that prefer to hire temporary visa workers over qualified U.S. workers. This new partnership . . . establishes protocols for the agencies to share information, refer matters between them, and train each other’s employees, with the goal of better protecting U.S. workers.” The statement also references the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which was launched by the Civil Rights Division in 2017 and is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement measures against companies that discriminate against American workers in favor of foreign visa workers. U
The partnership between the DOJ and the DOL highlights the recent increase in overall immigration enforcement actions. In 2017, the DOJ entered into similar agreements with the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to combat visa fraud and abuse. Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued an increased number of I-9 audit notices to businesses throughout the United States this year. These partnerships are further proof that immigration enforcement is a top priority for the Trump administration.
Moreover, the Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare. Although details of such a plan are still being finalized, it is yet another sign of the administration’s strict and extreme immigration policy. There have also been reports that temporary visa applicants have been asked questions further evincing the administration’s new focus on protecting U.S. workers, such as “Why can’t an American do this job?”
In light of these actions by what many have labeled an “enforcement-minded” administration, it is imperative that employers keep an eye out for possible new immigration proposals and legislation and closely monitor any developments. Given the president’s emphasis on immigration and focus on bringing jobs back to Americans, there is no doubt that employers need to be on alert and wary of new rules and changes to avoid any problems down the line.
Sara Nasseri is an associate with Fortney & Scott, LLC, in Washington, D.C. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.