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Employment-based immigration faces widely divergent future possibilities, depending on whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes the next president of the United States.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has proposed curbing all types of immigration, including employment-based, while Clinton, the presumptive Democratic pick, has said she will expand immigration.
“Clinton has made it known that she wants to prioritize immigration reform and plans to introduce an immigration bill within the first 100 days in office,” said Rebecca Peters, director of government affairs at the Council for Global Immigration, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Peters spoke June 19 at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, held in Washington, D.C., in a Sunday Session focusing on what to expect in immigration for the upcoming year.
In addition to reforming employment-based immigration, Clinton has said she would extend President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, giving a broad group of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for a reprieve from deportation.
But whether Clinton would be able to do any more depends on an imminent Supreme Court ruling over the president’s authority in the matter. The ruling comes at a key time in the presidential election cycle, with Trump and Clinton throwing barbs over immigration policy following the June 12 mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub in which a gunman with foreign terrorist leanings killed 49 people.
“There’s a lot of anxiety about national security, and this is why an anti-immigrant message is getting traction and candidates are grabbing on to it,” Peters said.
Peters explained that if Clinton wins the election, it is likely that Democrats also would gain control of the Senate. In that scenario, senior New York Sen. Chuck Schumer would become the majority leader. He was one of the main architects of the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation that passed the chamber and was considered beneficial to hiring foreign talent.
“While I think that they could get a bill together, I think they will struggle with Senate Republican support,” Peters said. Other notable Republicans integral to the 2013 effort are vulnerable this year, like Arizona Sen. John McCain, who stands a real chance of losing his seat. Another architect of the 2013 legislation—who later backed away from it—Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had no plans to return to the Senate after failing in his campaign for president, but recent reports suggest that he will announce his re-election bid for his current seat shortly.
Even if Clinton’s effort were to move through the Senate, “it will hit a wall in the Republican-controlled House,” Peters said. “That said, Clinton will want to help us get more green cards” for foreign workers, she added. “But she will come up against the same problems we’ve always had in the debate. Many across the aisle want to transfer green cards from the family-based pool and give them to the employment-based side, which is a nonstarter on the Democratic side of the aisle.”
Peters said Clinton will also struggle to increase access to H-1B visas, because of concerns about U.S. worker displacement by foreign nationals.
Preventing U.S. worker displacement is at the core of Trump’s immigration proposals. Peters noted that Trump wants employers to hire an American before an H-1B worker. As president he would increase the prevailing wage for the H-1B visa, terminate the J-1 cultural exchange program and pause issuing green cards to foreign workers until U.S. employers hire from the pool of unemployed domestic workers.
“If we get Trump next year, we’re not going to have the best of times if he does not come more to the center on some of his immigration views before the election,” Peters said.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy
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