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Immigration News: USCIS H-1B Cap Exhaustion Suggests Improved US Job Market But Will Cap Be Raised?

First Posted: Apr 12, 2016 02:09 AM EDT
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Some are convinced applications for H-1B visas hitting their maximum limit of 85,000 over the first five days of being made available is emblematic of an improving U.S. job market, particularly in the highly skilled area of technology.

"It's been very typical for the cap to be exhausted every year since 2001," American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) President Bill Stock told the Latin Post of the foreign workers visa program. "It hasn't lasted for an entire fiscal year since then, but the pace at which the visas went this year is far quicker quicker than other years."

Stock also based his reasoning on comparing this year's pace to that between the years of 2009 through 2011, a time when the U.S. economy was in the depths of a prolonged recession and applications for the visas were still available much later in the process.

All Additional Applications for This Year to be Handled by Random Lottery

U.S. Citizens and Immigrations Services (USCIS) officials recently announced that additional applications for the skilled-worker visas for this year will be handled via a random lottery system, but the date of which remains undetermined

While Stock and others maintain the most recent development is yet another indication that lawmakers need to reform immigration policy, so that companies will have the authority to hire even more skilled immigrants, critics argue the program is simply another way for businesses to force Americans into competing with foreigners for jobs, thereby driving down wages for all U.S. workers.

They further contend that such programs pave the way for outsourcing because companies bring in foreigners to train them here, and then ship the jobs back overseas.

(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
One of the three federal immigration agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it has reached its cap for the foreign workers visa program known as H-1B.

Presidential Candidates Weigh in on H-1B

Indeed, immigration has become among the most critical issues this 2016 presidential election season, with the debate over the H-1B program right at the center of much of the wrangling.

Even while acknowledging that he has used the program to employ workers for his many business ventures, Republican front-runner Donald Trump recently went on record in asserting that the program is "very bad" for workers and should be totally obliterated.

Still, the fact remains, Trump the businessman has made liberal use of the program and is now even being sued by Jamaican model Alexa Palmer, who alleges Trump lured her to New York with the promise and fame and riches at the age of 17 then treated her "like a slave."

Fellow GOP hopeful and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has echoed many of Trump's sentiments, recently arguing that many low-skilled workers are being allowed into the U.S. which has produced a drag on wages for all workers.

Policy wise, Cruz is advocating for a six-month suspension of the H-1B program, time he insists would allow for a "comprehensive investigation and audit of pervasive allegations of abuse of the program."

Beyond that, he only wants to allow individuals into the U.S. on H-1B visas that have advanced degrees in select fields, with a preference given to those who have earned their degrees at American universities.

Meanwhile, top Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have carved out positions on the issue that call for a raise on the cap limit and the implementation of whatever programs best assure wages for workers will start to tick upward..

Stock too supports such a program, though he worries that the polar opposite positions taken by the respective parties on the issue of immigration as a whole make it highly unlikely anything along at all will be done anytime soon.

"All pieces of the immigration puzzle have become tied together," he said. "There is very little appetite in Congress for anything to be done on immigration on a piecemeal basis."

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