The debate over H-1B visas and immigration won’t end anytime soon, and major reforms to the system might prove a long way off. But that hasn’t stopped the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) from trying to speed the process by suing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
IRLI and FAIR want USCIS to give up information on the top 20 employers (and top 100 nonprofits) using H-1B visas, including salaries, visa approval rates, and more. “While H-1B employers are required to pay foreign workers at market value, the fact is that flooding the labor market serves to drive down wages and limit opportunities for American workers,” Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, wrote in a statement accompanying the announcement of the lawsuit.
“There is no shortage of Americans who have technical skills or are currently acquiring them in U.S. schools,” Wilcox added. “The H-1B visa program should not be exploited for business objectives while many qualified Americans are struggling to find employment.”
For those interested in actually plunging into the lawsuit’s wordy thicket, the case is FAIR v. USCIS, No. 18-0876 (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia).
Critics of the H-1B system saw Trump’s election as a huge chance at reform. But aside from a sweeping review of H-1B policy still underway at the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State, any changes to the visa have largely been incremental. For example, USCIS recently instituted a policy demanding that employers prove they’re using H-1B visas to fill specialized roles. In addition, the White House has moved to restrict the spouses of H-1B workers from obtaining their own visa to work, the H-4.
Some groups are also pushing in the opposite direction, trying to keep the H-1B system more open. For example, six members of Congress (representatives Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna, Mark DeSaulnier, Barbara Lee and Jerry McNerney) recently signed a letter asking the federal government to revisit its decision on H-1B spouses obtaining H-4 visas.
Whether or not IRLI and FAIR succeed in gaining access to that rich seam of USCIS data, the H-1B debate seems set to continue for years. And if that data is made public, it could provide quite the interesting snapshot into how the visa system is working.