12 top visa bills of Trump Congress

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

IF the number and type of bills on visas and immigration would be the basis for judgment, President Donald J. Trump is not a scatterbrain but a focused, deadly scatter-shooter.

By opening as many battle fronts on immigration, as well incessantly harping on buying and hiring American, Mr. Trump was able to get the opposition (Democrats and the mainstream media) shooting fast and furious in all directions.

In the meantime, Trump’s legislative generals and field commanders have filed bills that would have long-term consequences and lasting impact than a dozen tweets a day.

When push comes to shove, Republicans can railroad the pet bills of the 45th President of United States to keep the alt-right and conservative base happy even as the outnumbered Democrats—especially in the House of Representatives—can only gaze haplessly as the red meat issues are introduced, swiftly tackled and approved in committees then forwarded to the plenary session.


The final nail in the coffin is the pen that President Trump signs with transforming the consolidated bill into law.

By issuing executive orders and implementing rules revising existing EOs that were controversial, inflammatory and divisive, attention was diverted away from the issues that will really matter in the long term, not over social media content that gets asphyxiated with the posting of tweet upon tweet.

Remember President Trump’s campaign pledge on immigration?

Here are the top 12 of the visa and immigration-related bills already introduced by duty-bound Republicans (and some well-meaning Democrats) culled from the official records at congress.gov. I call these obligatory pieces of legislation the “Duty Dozen”.

While most of the Duty Dozen bills are restrictive in nature, a few are actually family-sponsored friendly and in the case of employment-based immigrants—a remarkable Trump triumph—if passed.

Trump Congress’ Duty-Dozen bills
1. S. 232. This bi-partisan Senate bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein seeks to terminate the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. A prominent Republican, Chuck Grassley who’s been representing Iowa for the past 36 years, is the co-sponsor.

The program is administered by the USCIS for entrepreneurs and their eligible family members to apply for permanent residency through the current five employment-based immigrant (EBI) visas, if they meet capital investment and job creation requirements.

The EB1 (priority workers who are the best in their field of occupation or practice) shall get approximately 42,650 (an increase from 28.6 percent to 30.4 percent). The same reallocated numbers shall be given to the EB2 (aliens with advanced degrees – masters and PhDs); the EB3 – skilled workers, professionals and other workers. The EB4 – special immigrants including religious workers – shall have an increase from the current 10,000 to about 12,320 (from 7.1 percent to 8.8 percent). After introducing and being read twice, the bill is now with the House judiciary committee.

2. H.R.1125 – VISA Act of 2017. This bill seeks to implement advanced analytics software and other methods for “additional background checks and other screening requirements for the approval”* of a petition or a visa application. In its current form, the bill allows

Monitoring of applicants’ social media accounts and services and in-depth consular interviews;

Detect fraud and ensure that applicants in the following categories are not threats to U.S. national security:
a) Self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA);

b) Fiance(e) applications or petitions (K visas);

c) Special immigrant juvenile;

d) Victims of criminal activity, under U visas;

e) Special immigrant religious worker;

f) Political asylum applicants; and

g) Refugees applying for adjustment of status as permanent residents.

This bill, which has been referred to the House Homeland Security committee, was sponsored by Rep. Jim Banks, Republican, of Indiana’s third congressional district.

3. H.R.1129. Student Visa Security Improvement Act. Would require the Secretary of Homeland Security (or DHS) to strengthen student visa background checks and improve the monitoring of foreign students in the United States, and for other purposes. It also lays the groundwork for additional areas of cooperation between the Department of State (or DOS) and the DHS.

If this bill, sponsored by Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, Republican 12th congressional district, Florida, is passed in its current form would subject students in the F, (academic) J (exchange visitors) and M (vocational) visa classifications to:

Extreme vetting for national security and terrorist activities;

Close monitoring their status to ensure they are complying with conditions of their visas; and

Exposure of academic records to the Department of Homeland.

In addition, academic institutions found to engage in criminal activities or are a threat to national security shall be subject to sanctions.

4. H.R.643 – Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2017. Seeks to penalize aliens who stay in the United States beyond the validity of their visas. Being out of status will then be considered a criminal act. Sponsor is Rep. Lou Barletta, Republican, 11th congressional district, Pennsylvania. Bill is currently with the subcommittee on immigration and border security.

Penalties for violators may be waived for overstaying due to medical necessity, public safety, or national security:
a) First offenders;

b) A fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both; plus

c) Being barred from admission into the United States for 5 years or not be granted a visa for 10 years.

a) Repeat offenders

b) A fine or imprisonment of up to two years shall be levied for any subsequent overstay;

c) Permanent bar from entering the United States.

5. S.180 – H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017. Would amend sections of the US Immigration and Nationality Act concerning H-1B (specialty occupation) and L-1 (intracompany transferees) nonimmigrant visa categories.

If passed in its entirety, the bill seeks to implement the following changes among others:

Revise employer requirements to sponsor H-1B foreign workers and their beneficiaries;

Prioritize aliens who possess an advanced degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM courses) from a U.S. academic institution of higher education;

Work experience as an equivalent to completion of a degree will be eliminated. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed a U.S. degree or its foreign degree equivalent;

Impose a labor condition application fee;

6. H.R.178 – Religious Worker Visa Reciprocity Act of 2017. This bill by Rep. Steve King, Republican Iowa’s 4th Congressional District seeks reciprocal immigration treatment for the United States from some countries of certain immigrant religious workers.

7. S.281 – Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017. Would eliminate numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants per country while increasing the numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants.

In its current form, this bill by Utah Senator Mike Lee (Republican) would remove numerical limitations per country for employment-based immigrants over a three-year period while increasing the number of family-based sponsored applicants and implement new protocol to prevent unused visas.

8. H.R.392 – Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017. The House version would also eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, and increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants from 7 to 15 percent of worldwide total.

9. H.R.670 – High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Democrat, California-19). This is a bill similar to S.281 and H.R. 92 that seeks to revise the H-1B program including allocating 20 percent of the total H-1B quota to small and start-up employers. Referred to the subcommittee on immigration and border security.

10. H.R.1149 – Nuclear Family Priority Act. Would reduce the total number of of worldwide family sponsorship visas from 226,000 to 88,000. In addition, the parent category shall be removed from the present non-quota category to a new “W” nonimmigrant class.

Introduced by Rep. Hice, Jody B. (Republican, Georgia-10) on February 16, 2017, the bill has been referred to the House judiciary committee.

11. H.R.391 – Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017. This bill seeks to modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in federal custody by reason of their immigration status. These include unaccompanied alien minors, juvenile delinquents under court supervision, and those who are applicants for withholding of removal or political asylum.

Where countries—where the alien minors described here come from—refuse to accept them, the US shall immediately suspend all foreign assistance to recalcitrant countries. The bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican, Utah, 3rd congressional district, has been referred to the subcommittee on immigration and border security.

12. H.R.1178 —SAFE for America Act. Would eliminate the diversity immigrant program and reallocate the visas to other eligible qualified visa applicants in various categories. The diversity immigrant program is administered by the US Department of State allocating up to 50,000 immigrant visas yearly. These immigrants are randomly selected among countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

Current status: Introduced on February 16, 2017 by Rep. Bil Posey (Republican, Florida-8), referred to the House judiciary committee.

Are Democrats and the media afraid that they will run out of bullets in this firefight that has not even reached the 100-day mark?

No, they seem confident that President Trump will shoot himself on both feet.

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