Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Castro Wants to Increase H-1B Visas as Trump Continues Crackdown

June 20, 2019, 6:21 PM

Presidential hopeful Julian Castro is seeking to distinguish himself from both President Donald Trump and his fellow Democratic ticket contenders on immigration, in part by promoting increases to employment visas.

Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development Department secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, said June 20 that he had “the first and most comprehensive immigration proposal of this 2020 campaign.”

That plan is “a completely different vision for immigration” than Trump’s, he said at the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Orlando, Fla.

Castro spoke in broad strokes about various aspects of immigration, from ending Trump’s travel ban to stopping border wall construction to breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement and putting immigration enforcement authority instead with the Justice Department.

But Castro also wants increases to employment visas to “allow people from around the world to contribute to the forward progress of this country,” he told Bloomberg Law after his speech.

“I believe in harnessing the skill of people from around the world,” and “I think that we’re missing great opportunity in the way that this administration has limited, sought to limit, legal immigration,” he said.

A representative for the White House couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Increasing H-1Bs

Castro envisions increasing the number of H-1B specialty occupation visas, the visa that has attracted the most scrutiny from the Trump administration. The scrutiny follows reports of U.S. tech workers being displaced by H-1B workers at companies such as Southern California Edison and Walt Disney World.

That scrutiny has resulted in increased paperwork, denials, and wait times for the skilled temporary visas, which the tech industry and other businesses say are vital to their operations.

In fact, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is sending employers requests for additional evidence proving visa eligibility 60% of the time, AILA First Vice President Jennifer Minear said during a hot topics session at the conference. Minear practices with McCandlish Holton in Richmond, Va.

AILA as an organization currently is fighting against what it sees as an “assault” on the H-1B visa by the administration.

A primary focus area for the 16,000-member association this year will be “impact litigation,” said newly installed AILA President Marketa Lindt, a Chicago-based immigration attorney with Sidley Austin. The litigation would target Trump administration policies as well as what the association sees as unreasonable processing delays.

The association currently is searching for a federal court litigator to help lead that effort, she said.

Reevaluate ‘Skilled Job’

But Castro doesn’t want to stop at H-1Bs.

“We need to reevaluate what we consider a skilled job,” he told Bloomberg Law. “It takes a heck of a lot of skill to do roof work for 10 hours in 102 degree Texas heat or to go into a field in California and to pick crops for 10 hours.”

“That takes skill, and it’s clear because there are a lot of people who have had the opportunity to do those kinds of jobs who drop out of that or never apply in the first place,” he said.

Castro’s plan, released April 2, includes greater labor protections for guestworkers as well as legal changes to allow them to become permanent residents and eventual citizens.

He’s also promoting work authorization for the spouses of guestworkers, likely a response to Trump administration plans to scrap an Obama-era program providing work permits to the spouses of H-1B workers waiting for green cards to become available.

The proposal to undo the program has been under review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget since February.

Per-Country Caps

Also on the employment front, Castro wants to end per-country caps on green cards, similar to a bipartisan bill pending in both the House and Senate.

The caps have resulted in decadeslong green card waits for skilled immigrants, particularly those from India and China.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the primary sponsor of the House bill (H.R. 1044), has filed a motion to place it on the House Consensus Calendar. Under House rules adopted earlier this year, placing the legislation on the calendar would allow a direct floor vote rather than going through committee.

The bill would eliminate per-country caps for employment-based green cards and double them for family-based green cards. Castro’s plan would eliminate per-country caps for all green card categories.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com