DHS Chooses Convenience for Aliens over Sound Decision-Making in L-1 Move

By David North on September 22, 2014

While the process in question does not deal with many aliens, a recent announcement by DHS about the L-1 and TN visas at the northern border revealed a clear-cut choice on the part of the administration.

Should we opt for alien convenience? Or for a framework for sound decision-making regarding individual applications for temporary legal status in the United States?

The department came down heavily for alien convenience.

As a result, if an alien wants to apply not only for admission to the United States, but for a long-duration visa — and wants to do so at 3 a.m. at, say, Sweetgrass, Mont. — that's okay with DHS. If the inspector handling the application may have only the vaguest notion of what's at stake, that's okay, too. What is important is that the alien not be inconvenienced by having to apply at a more reasonable hour of the day.

The decision, which I will describe in a little more detail below, is all too symbolic of the mindset of the administration, which at its highest levels is not terribly interested in vigorous enforcement of immigration law.

The population of interest is, frankly, both extremely pampered and not very threatening. It consists of Canadian white-collar types with promises of jobs in corporate America. These aliens claim they are eligible for either L-1 or TN visa status on the grounds of their job offers. They are pampered because, unlike other white-collar, employment-based migrants, they do not have to go to an embassy or a consulate to get a visa; they can obtain these at a port of entry. They are further pampered in that, without appointments, they can show up at any port of entry any time it is open, day or night, and seek this special service. Finally, this is a deal available only to Canadians; Mexicans with exactly the same qualifications must get their visas at a consulate or the embassy.

L-1 visas are for aliens with white collar jobs with multi-national corporations; TN visas are a kind of specialized H-1B visas for high-skilled aliens from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nations: Canada and Mexico. TN visa applicants must have a suitable job waiting for them in the United States. Both visas allow the applicant to work legally in the United States.

The DHS inspector general noticed these special arrangements (without using the word pampered), as we reported last September. The IG made the totally sensible suggestion that such applicants show up at the larger ports of entry during normal business hours to get their visas — at a time when specially trained inspectors would be available and (my notion, not theirs) during a time when the inspectors could make business-hours phone calls to the stated employers to make sure that job offers were genuine.

What has DHS done with these recommendations a year later?

Well, in a recently released document the department suggested that first-time L-1 and TN visa applicants should apply during specified hours at particular ports of entry, but did not, as it should have done, demand that applicants appear at those places at those times.

It certainly would make sense for a shaky applicant for one of these visas to hit an out-of-the way port of entry, rather than one of the major ones, and DHS has made it clear that this option is still open.

The announcement is yet another indication of how the DHS leans over backwards to be obliging to yet another population of aliens. There is, incidentally, no mention of the IG's report in the cited DHS document.