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The Weekly Round-Up: Department of Justice Sues California Over “Sanctuary Cities,” USCIS Likely to Suspend Speedy Processing for Skilled Foreign Professionals, and Employees, Employers, and Congress Discuss Visas for Farm Workers


Justice Department Sues California

On Tuesday night, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of California, as well as Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General of the State Xavier Becerra, asserting that California’s “sanctuary city” laws improperly interfere with federal immigration enforcement.

The DOJ challenged three specific California laws: The first limits employers from cooperating with worksite immigration investigations without judicial warrants and requires employers to notify workers of pending inspections; the second requires state officials to inspect immigration detention facilities; and the third restricts local law enforcement from turning over detained individuals to federal immigration officers without a warrant for that person’s arrest, unless that person is accused of a serious crime.

The White House argues that these laws interfere with immigration enforcement.  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told California law enforcement officers on Wednesday that a “series of actions and events has occurred that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers,” and that a “refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open-borders system.”  In response to the suit, Governor Brown is prepared to battle in court, noting in a statement that at “a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America.”  He further fired back at Mr. Sessions’ comments, stating that this “is basically going to war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy.  It’s not wise, it’s not right, and it will not stand.”

USCIS Likely to Suspend Fast-Track Processing for Skilled Workers

At a national stakeholder conference on Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicated that it will likely suspend speedy processing procedures for H-1B visas, which are reserved for skilled foreign professionals.  This would have an immediate impact, as most applications for H-1B visas are filed each year in the first week of April.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, several immigration attorneys who were a part of the conference indicated that USCIS will discontinue “premium processing,” in which an employer can pay an additional fee to have a visa application processed in 15 days or less.  Without this service, decisions can take months, leaving employers in limbo over whether they will be able to meet staffing needs.

Premium processing was also suspended in April of 2017 during the H-1B filing season.  USCIS will be making an announcement shortly as to its final decision and we will continue to cover this issue as it develops.

Farmers and Employees Discuss Immigration on Capitol Hill

This week, multiple farm owners and their employees traveled to Washington to discuss the need for an immigration plan that works with the employment needs of the agriculture industry.  Both employers and workers expressed deep concerns about a significant drop in foreign farm workers.  Federal Policy Manager for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) Josh Rolph stated that the “farmers have a problem.  The workers have a problem.  And they’re more together than we like to place it in our minds.  It’s not a Republican-protecting-business or Democrat-protecting-worker issue.  Everyone is suffering.”

While Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte has proposed a bill to limit regulations on farm worker visas to cut down on processing times, the CFBF has opposed this legislation because it allows for only 450,000 annual agriculture visas nationwide, falling well short of what it sees as necessary to meet employer demands.

Meanwhile, this discussion comes in the wake of a raid conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last week in northern and central California in which more than twenty immigrant farm workers were arrested and detained.  These arrests were part of a larger raid in California and Oregon that saw more than 200 immigrant arrests.  We will continue to provide updates on any new rules, regulations, and enforcement policies here.

If you have questions about topics covered in today’s weekly round-up, or other immigration matters, contact me at