It's that time of year; CR season has arrived in Washington and that has immigration policy implications.
No, the initials do not stand for Crisp, Refreshing weather, which is welcome. Rather, they stand for Continuing Resolution, which is not welcome, as it has become a near-annual symbol of political deadlock.
If Congress neglects its duty and fails to pass budget bills for the various parts of government before the fiscal year ends on September 30, then the solution — other than closing the government, which happens from time to time — is to pass an omnibus continuing resolution to keep the government going for a stated period of time, with expenditures running at the current levels.
The budget bills have not been passed and September 30 is almost upon us, so a CR seems highly likely.
It so happens that five different segments of the immigration system are also due to sunset (a terrible Washington verb) on the same date. Each of the five should be considered separately on its merits and either be allowed to die, become a permanent part of government, or be extended for another period of time.
As with the budget bills, no action has been taken on these sunsetting provisions of the immigration law.
What is likely to happen is that some (or maybe all) of the five elements will be simply extended for the duration of the CR — now expected to expire on December 11. The extensions will be riders on that big spending bill and will get little public attention.
The five program elements that will sunset on September 30 are:
- E-Verify. This is the electronic data system that employers may use to check on the legal status of people they hire, an extremely useful part of the law.
- EB-5 Regional Centers. This issue is a key part of the current, broader immigrant investor program that allows conditional green cards to be granted to rich aliens. It is the segment that allows the mandatory creation of 10 jobs for each investment to be satisfied in part by estimates of the indirect creation of jobs, a hazy and controversial matter that has been heavily exploited by some business interests.
- Non-minister Religious Worker Visa Program. This allows a thousand or so alien church workers to convert from nonimmigrant to permanent legal status each year.
- Conrad-30 Waiver. This allows several hundred foreign medical graduates working as nonimmigrant physicians in under-served areas to become legal residents each year.
- Higher H-1B and L-1 Fees. This levies extra fees ($2,000 and $2,250, respectively) on employers whose workforce consists primarily of these workers, and thus it applies mainly to foreign-owned or international corporations.
A copy of the proposed CR is circulating on Capitol Hill and calls for the short-term extension of the first four of these programs, but not the fifth. The neglect of that provision will cost the Department of Homeland Security — and ultimately the taxpayers or other immigration fee payers — between $100 and $250 million a year, as noted in a previous posting.