The Migration Problems of the Rich and Famous Are USCIS's Concern

By David North on April 20, 2010

The USCIS has begun a comprehensive review of one aspect of its decision-making, and it starts in an interesting place – the migration problems of the rich and famous.

The agency has released a summary of the April 12, 2010, "listening session" which dealt with the "Request for Evidence Project," an examination of the agency's requests for information in connection with the three nonimmigrant visa classes, O, P, and Q, and one immigrant category, E 11.

If you don't immediately recognize these visa categories, it is because they are both obscure and, comparatively speaking, rarely used. The nonimmigrant classes are for, respectively: aliens "with extraordinary ability or achievement," their spouses, children and assistants (O); "internationally recognized athletes and entertainers," their spouses and children and some other artists (P); and "workers in international cultural exchange programs" (Q).

The immigrant program, E 11, is for “aliens for extraordinary ability,” a subset of those admitted with employment-related visas.

While the prime visa holders sound like an elite population, the numbers involved are, compared to the rest of the migrating population, tiny. In 2008 there were 137,507 admissions in the three nonimmigrant categories compared to a nonimmigrant admissions total of more than 175 million that year. Put another way, one out of every 1,280 nonimmigrants admitted to the States was in one of these three categories, with the data being secured from the 2008 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

Similarly, there were only 3,261 immigrants in the E 11 category in 2008, out of a total flow of 1,107,126 DHS-recognized immigrants that year.

Why start an agency-wide project by examining the evidence requirements in four of the tiniest migration categories? Four categories that, to my knowledge, have stirred up no controversy and which have rarely (perhaps never) been cited as causing problems to legal residents of the U.S.?

Why not look at the (I suspect looser-than-they-should-be) rules for the various H petition categories, which bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign workers each year who, in fact, compete with U.S. workers and, I strongly suspect, lower wages for everyone in their fields? These are the H-1B workers and H-2A workers, among others, whose adverse impacts on American labor markets have been examined in backgrounders by my colleagues John Miano and David Seminara.

If USCIS wanted to start its study of its own evidence requirements with a small program, why not choose the R-1 (religious workers) program, which has been found to be fraud-ridden by three separate investigations by three separate federal agencies, as I reported in an earlier blog? This is the only visa category in which the State Department denied more applications than it granted, an indication that another agency found the program to be troublesome.

The substance of the Request for Evidence (RFE) Project deals, according to the previously cited USCIS report, with that part of the application process when an adjudicator finds that there is missing information. At this point the DHS staff sends out an RFE for what appears to be needed. Sometimes the request is for material that has already been submitted; the USCIS response to complaints on that score tell something about how well it handles its paper files: "USCIS acknowledged that this is a challenge for the Agency as often times we do not readily have access to previously approved petitions."

So those applying for these petitions may have some grounds to grumble.

The Obama Administration, typically, does not have the Bush Administration's focus on the needs of the very rich (see, for instance, the Bushies' strong desire to eliminate the estate tax, something that only impacts the heirs of multimillionaires.) But in this instance, Obama's people at DHS seem to put a high priority on the convenience of an elite group of extremely talented aliens.

Why not start the examination of evidence requirements on a population that has a strong humanitarian interest, such as the Haitians being admitted under Temporary Protected Status, or the people applying for political asylum?

No, the decision was made to start the process with one of the least needy of all the groups of would-be migrants to the States. It is a tame and safe place for USCIS to begin.