Top 5 Immigration Headlines of 2016

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer December 20, 2016
Top 5 Immigration Headlines of 2016

In 2016, the White House tried to improve employment-based immigration through the release of a new "smart" Form I-9 and finalizing regulations for foreign post-graduate student workers and skilled immigrants awaiting green cards.

The year also had its share of disruption for workforce planners following litigation around President Barack Obama's deferred deportation programs and heightened interest in President-elect Donald Trump's plans for business immigration.

[SHRM members-only Q&A: How do I hire a foreign national to work in the U.S.?]

2017 H-1B Visa Cap Filings Set New Record

Employers filed approximately 236,000 petitions for H-1B guestworker visas for fiscal year 2017, a lower total than some were predicting, but still surpassing last year's record by 3,000, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

For the fourth consecutive year, USCIS received far more petitions than are allowed under the statutory cap of 65,000 visas, plus 20,000 visa petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption.

Supreme Court Deadlock Kills Obama's Immigration Plans    

The U.S. Supreme Court's June 23 4-4 decision in a case challenging President Obama's proposed deferred deportation programs effectively blocked nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States from being granted work authorization.

The deadlocked decision left in place a November 2015 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding a lower court's injunction blocking the president's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program and expansions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump Immigration Policy Likely to Be Enforcement-Heavy

President-elect Trump campaigned throughout 2016 with an immigration enforcement-first message, focusing on border and worksite enforcement and protecting U.S. workers' jobs. 

Trump pledged mandatory E-Verify for employers, an overhaul of guest worker programs and rescinding some of President Obama's executive actions.

Trump Will Have Means to Limit Legal Immigration

While the Trump campaign for the White House was dominated by the debate over illegal immigration, he also promised voters to reduce legal immigration to "within historic norms," overhaul the U.S. immigration system and protect U.S. workers from displacement by temporary guest workers.

How HR Can Prepare for Workplace ICE Audits

With the incoming Trump administration poised to focus on immigration enforcement, employers can avoid big fines by developing a comprehensive I-9 compliance program, which should include training, self-audits and an investigation-day action plan.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has cut back on workplace audits over the last few years, but a recent increase in penalties for immigration-related workplace violations—including the employment of undocumented workers—and a new administrative direction for the agency may result in more investigations.

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