In contrast to the well-publicized and not-yet successful attempts to build a wall (at Mexican expense), or to cut off immigration from several of the smaller Muslim countries (over the bitter opposition of the courts) the administration has moved ahead successfully and quietly to limit immigration in two other quite separate categories.
In both instances the Department of Homeland Security has made micro adjustments in its policies to limit quite specific abuses of the ongoing system without, as far as I can tell, even issuing a press release on the matter.
In one case, reported only in the Indian press, it has made it harder for the big outsourcing companies to hire alien alumni of U.S. colleges in the OPT/STEM program.
In the other, regarding permanent immigration rather than temporary status, it has narrowed a loophole used in one of the most obscure of our collection of immigration victim programs, that of special juvenile immigrants in the EB-4 category. This program, as we have reported before, exploded from causing the adjustments of a couple of hundred people a year in 2004 to over 8,000 in 2015. There is now a waiting list for some of those seeking to use this program, young people from Mexico and from three of the Central American nations.
OPT/STEM. All alien alumni of U.S. colleges can secure full-time, legal, federally-subsidized jobs for a year following graduation through the Optional Practical Training program, the subsidy being one that no American can secure: The waiving of payroll taxes, thus rewarding the employer with an 8.25 percent discount for hiring the OPT worker rather than a citizen or green card holder. For more on how alien-hiring employers are favored in this program, see here.
The administration has made no visible moves to limit the main OPT program, but it has taken a useful step in a subset of it. Alien college grads who received degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields can extend their period of legal employment with federal subsidies by two years, after the conclusion of the first twelve months in OPT.
It is within this subset of OPT workers that the administration, apparently on January 24 of this year, moved to redefine the program in a restrictive manner through this bulletin. What the government did was to rule that the STEM extension would only be available to workers who actually worked for their employers in their employers' own workplaces. What that ruling meant was that the big outsourcing companies (most of which are controlled by Indian interests) could no longer use OPT to hire these workers who were routinely assigned to tasks in other companies.
This ruling is apparently taking effect, somewhat slowly, but it has startled some Indian OPT workers, and their reactions to it were the subject of a recent article in the Times of India. The Indian press, which pays much more attention to this issue than the American press, regards this as a workers' rights issue and never reports on the subsidies paid to employers of aliens in the OPT program.
Special Juveniles. This is an ongoing, specialized amnesty program for young aliens, illegally in the U.S., who can claim that somewhere in the world they had been mistreated. The more formal description of it in a USCIS publication is:
If you are in the United States and need the protection of a juvenile court because you have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification. If SIJ classification is granted, you may qualify for lawful permanent residency (also known as getting a Green Card).
Presumably hundreds of millions of young people around the world could claim this status, and it is a miracle that only a tiny fraction of them have noticed it. There is a legislative ceiling of about 10,000 for aliens using this program.
What the government has done in this regard is to note the phrase "protection of a juvenile court" and to decide that in states that confine the jurisdiction of such courts to persons under 18 only people of that age can apply. The Obama administration had routinely allowed people under 21 (not 18) to file, and then did not disqualify them if they were more than 21 when a decision was reached on their case.
The New York Times published an unhappy piece about this new practice on April 18.
There are probably scores of similar small moves that could be made to restrict immigration in totally appropriate situations but have not been made because of the Trump administration's unwillingness to fill political positions in the government.
Were there enough people in the administration to notice such things, one of them could have issued a press release saying that the prior administration's overuse of the juvenile court dependents' program had crowded out the admissions of religious workers, who are also in the Fourth Employment-Based category. They have been denied admission because of the surplus of the special juveniles.
The hypothetical press release might have asked: "Should America admit religious workers with clean records, or aliens involved with the juvenile courts?"
But the political staffing of USCIS is so slim that this question may never be asked.