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The Weekly Round-Up: Skilled Immigrants Dominate Silicon Valley, White House Squares Off Against Sanctuary Cities, and Immigrant U.S. Soldiers Sue for Citizenship

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Immigrant Workers a Majority in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley, known around the globe as a technology hub with headquarters for many companies, including Google and Apple, is heavily dependent on foreign skilled employees.

Last year, the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Report noted that 57% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known as “STEM”) professionals in the region were foreign born.  Other regions also had high number of foreign-born professionals in STEM fields, including New York with 43%, Boston with 33%, and Southern California with 42%.  A recent review from the Seattle Times note that 40% of the employees in the information technology field in Seattle are foreign-born, and more than half of Seattle’s computer programmers come from outside the United States.  Numerous regions across the United States also have high percentages of immigrant tech workers, with several areas – including Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington D.C. – at more than 30%.

While groups like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group recommend increased immigration of foreign skilled labor, the Trump Administration has expressed a desire to put tighter limits on immigrant labor.  We will pay close attention to how the government’s new approach will affect the STEM industries across the country and keep you updated.

If you have a question about hiring a foreign employee to work in the United States, please contact an experienced immigration attorney.

Pressure on Sanctuary Cities

The battle between “sanctuary cities” and the Trump administration escalated on Wednesday when the Justice Department sent out letters to approximately two dozen cities and jurisdictions around the United States with threats of subpoenas over evidence and proof of compliance with immigration rules.  Many of the cities have already stated that they are in full compliance with the law, while other cities have already sued the Justice Department for threatening to cut off millions of dollars in funding for noncompliance with federal immigration requests.

The backlash to the Justice Department was quick.  Several members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan organization, which had previously been set to meet with the president to discuss topics such as infrastructure and drug overdoses, announced a boycott of the planned meeting.  Conference president, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said in a statement that “the Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again – and use cities as political props in the process – has made this meeting untenable.” He continued, the “U.S. Conference of Mayors is proud to be a bipartisan organization. But an attack on mayors who lead welcoming cities is an attack on everyone in our conference.”

U.S. Soldiers’ Lawsuit to Expedite Citizenship Moves Forward

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle denied the government’s attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by noncitizen U.S. Army recruits, which alleged the Department of Defense unfairly delayed naturalization for recruits who were promised expedited citizenship.

The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program was established in 2008 to offer speedy naturalization for foreign born military recruits with specialized language or medical skills.  The program had been created to fill positions that were much needed in the military, particularly for those with certain language skills, such as Arabic, Hindu, and Chinese.

The program started seeing problems in September 2016, when the government enhanced the security screening process, causing significant delays.  Then, in the fall of 2017, the Department of Defense announced it was canceling recruitment contracts for certain enlistees, subjecting many to possible deportation.  In October 2017, Judge Huvelle ordered the Defense Department to continue processing expedited citizenship applications, ruling that it would improperly upend people’s careers and lives to discontinue the program at this point.

We will continue to follow this case as it progresses.

If you have questions about this post or any other immigration topic, please feel free to contact me at wcmenard@nmmlaw.com.