Many things needed to control international migration take months or years to implement (such as The Wall), but here are two suggestions that could be useful almost immediately:
- Let's prevent alien women in their third trimester of pregnancy from coming to the United States; and
- Let's drop a note in the mail (or email) telling foreign students that their legal time in the United States is about to expire and they need to leave or, in a few cases, get their status changed. With cc's to their employers when appropriate.
At the moment, the United States does not take either of these sensible actions.
The first suggestion deals with birth tourism, the practice, often among well-to-do Chinese families, of bringing the mother to the United States just in time for her to give birth to a little U.S. citizen, thus stealthily adding to the citizen population and setting up chain migration 21 years later.
The second deals with the overstay rate among foreign students; it is, according to the most recent DHS study of overstayers, four times as high as the rate of nonimmigrant visa holders, generally.
Birth Tourism. This practice creates fewer (and more distant in time) problems than student overstayers, but it would be best if DHS and the Department of State issued a joint press release saying that after, as the lawyers say, a date certain, the United States will neither issue nonimmigrant visas for women in their third trimester nor, and more importantly (because there are millions of visas outstanding), that ports of entry will no longer admit women in this condition. If State drags its feet, DHS could issue the notice by itself.
The international airlines, though they would initially object, would become major implementers of this move because if an arriving passenger is not admitted they are forced to fly the passenger in question back to the homeland without further payment. So the airlines would refuse to carry non-U.S. pregnant women on their flights to the States. The airlines would complain that they should not be carrying out a governmental directive; there might be problems detecting pregnant women by sight, if they were wearing loose garments, including traditional ones. There would be charges of sexism, as males whose wives were pregnant, would not be barred, and so on.
Despite these arguments, DHS could swiftly end the practice of birth tourism with a simple press release and its implementation at the ports of entry.
Student Overstayers. DHS has taken one useful (if partial) step forward: It has brought up to date its old rules on when a student becomes a visa overstayer or, as DHS puts it in a recent policy memorandum, "starts accruing unlawful presence".
We need not get into the complexities of the new policy memorandum except to say that under the old rules, students remained in more or less lawful presence until DHS noticed that they were not legally present; now, the termination of legal presence is automatic.
That's all very well, and long overdue, but DHS should do more.
USCIS put on one of its teleconferences recently, designed for those directly impacted by the new rules, and I was one of those hanging onto the phone until I could ask my question. It was:
Does the government routinely inform the student and the employer (through the Optional Practical Training Program) by either email or postal mail, when the student's lawful presence is about to end?
The answer was a clear "No."
With alien students' termination dates available in ICE databases, and the names and addresses of the former students' employers also known, why doesn't the government simply tell the students or former students: "Greetings, student, your time will be up in 30 days; glad that you have had your U.S. experience, but it's time to go," or more formal words to that effect.
The note to the employer would indicate that if the alien worker stayed on the payroll beyond the terminal date, that the worker would be subject to deportation, and the employer would be possibly subject to a criminal investigation.
Apology: I can see on re-reading the above that I kept calling the aliens in question "students", a failing on my part. Most of these people are, in fact, alien alumni, foreign workers using the government-subsidized OPT program for a year (or more if they were STEM students). When their terminal date arrives, DHS still calls them "students", and I have fallen into the practice of using that same verbiage. The new leadership of DHS and ICE should drop the term "students" in the OPT program and call them either "foreign workers" or "alien alumni". As the Economist says in similar circumstance, sorry.