US visa programs under scrutiny
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2019 - 12:00am

The US government is now on its third week of a partial shutdown – with indications that this could become the longest shutdown ever – but the impasse continues over the unwavering stance of President Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall over the US-Mexico border. While some government agencies continue to operate with staffing reduced to those considered as “essential” employees, a lot of transactions and processes have been delayed or put on hold. According to White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Kevin Hassett, the shutdown potentially reduces US economic output by 0.1 percent every two weeks. 

During a visit to the McAllen border patrol station in Texas, President Trump mulled the possibility of declaring a “national emergency” as a way to build the wall even without the approval of Congress, now controlled by Democrats who also wouldn’t budge on their refusal to give Mr. Trump the $5 billion budget to build a physical wall along the border. 

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Republican ally of President Trump, expressed support for the use of emergency powers to address the issue.  The White House is also looking at emergency funds to construct the wall.

During talks with officials, border patrol agents as well as locals to discuss security issues, the president reiterated the need for a “strong barrier” that would help deter crimes like drugs and human trafficking. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, Mexico is the largest source of immigrants at 26.6 percent. Of the 12 million Mexicans living in the US as of 2016, about 45 percent of them are illegals. 

Not surprisingly, the firestorm that has been created by the wall controversy has renewed the debate on illegal immigration. A report by CNBC disclosed that most illegal immigration does not come from the US-Mexico border but other nationals who overstay their temporary visas. 

An “overstay” refers to a non-immigrant lawfully admitted to the US for a specific authorized period, but remained in the US beyond the authorized or lawful admission period. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies two types of overstays: the suspected in-country overstay or individuals for whom no departure have been recorded and presumably continue to stay in the US; and the out-of-country overstays whose departure were recorded after the expiration of their lawful period of admission. 

The DHS “Fiscal Year 2017 Entry/Exit Overstay Report” issued in October last year recorded some 701,900 immigrants who overstayed their visas for the period covering Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017 – more than twice the 303,916 illegals and asylum seekers apprehended at the Southern border for the same period. 

In the past two years, the Trump administration has been taking steps to crack down on unauthorized immigrants or illegals in the US. In January 2017, the president issued an Executive Order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” with the order saying “many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” 

Data from the Department of Homeland Security revealed that students and exchange visitors – or those holding the F, M and J visas – had the highest rate of overstays among non-immigrant visitors in 2017. The F-1 is a non-immigrant visa for students taking up academic programs while the M-1 is for non-academic or vocational students. The J-1 or exchange visa is for research scholars, teachers, professors and even doctors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange. 

The Executive Order was followed by a policy memorandum from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that outlined stricter rules and penalties for foreign students and exchange visitors violating the terms of their admission or whose presence in the US turn out to be “unlawful.” 

Even while still campaigning, Trump had wanted to abolish the J-1 visa program. No surprise then that in August 2017, the White House said it will cut down five programs under the J-1 visa category, including those that allow foreigners to work in the US as au pairs providing childcare services to host families that participate in cultural exchanges.

Both Republicans and Democrats have also been critical of the J-1 program because of the abuses associated with it, aggravated by perceptions that they are used as “low-wage jobs programs to allow corporations… to replace young American workers with cheaper labor from overseas,” Bernie Sanders said in a Senate speech in 2013. 

Under the exchange visa program, employers spend less because they are not required to pay Social Security, Medicare tax and health insurance to foreign workers – unlike American employees who need to be covered by the said benefits.

Many Filipinos – mostly teachers and nurses – go to the US under the J-1 visa program. Sadly, many who wish to permanently stay in “the land of opportunity” end up being victimized by unscrupulous recruiters and so-called visa experts who promise to help them acquire green cards in exchange for enormous amounts of money. Unfortunately, many of these Filipinos get caught in a debt trap and worse, end up as illegals facing deportation. 

Our embassy in Washington, D.C. including all our US Philippine consulates have been consistent in advising Filipinos not to fall into this deadly trap. We remind them that once they break US immigration laws, they end up being in a situation where the only way out is to voluntarily go home.

*      *      *

Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

DONALD TRUMP US VISA
Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Recommended
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with