Musings on Immigration

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New Rules for Spouses of H-1B Workers

This morning the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced newly proposed rules that will allow the spouses of highly skilled workers to work in the United States.  This came as welcome news to many eagerly awaiting Obama’s promise of comprehensive immigration reform, which seems to have stalled in Congress. Proposed changes in the regulations aim to attract and retain highly skilled immigrants to the United States, and, as Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker stated, to “unleash more of the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have always made to America’s innovation economy.”  

Presently, spouses of these highly skilled workers are able to enter the U.S. to join their spouses but are not permitted to work.  DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the proposed change will help keep America strong, enhancing our country’s competitiveness and supporting economic growth by attracting highly trained workers in science, technology and engineering from other countries but stressed that Congress needed to work on a broader immigration solution to address serious deficiencies in the system. 

Critics to the proposed rule change claim it will only harm the millions of jobless Americans. They claim the proposals are an overreach by President Obama, and some assess the proposal as a move taken just to appease the Tech industry.


The proposals will soon be subject to a 60-day period of public comment that could lead to modifications, but DHS officials hope to issue final regulations before the end of 2014.  Proposals such as the one announced today are too small a step for supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, and for those opposed, they are one small step in the wrong direction.

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