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Mexico, the border wall and new H-1B visa rules

Updated: Dec 07, 2018  | Tags: USA Immigration, USA Visa Requirements

US Supreme Court rebuffs challenge to Trump’s border wall

In a ruling seen as a victory for President Trump, the US Supreme Court has turned away a court challenge brought by three conservation groups. They claimed that the wall, a flagship of the administration's hardline immigration policies, was being constructed without regard for environmental laws. Lawsuits brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, claimed that the border wall would destroy rare habitats for both animals and plants, as well as threatening coastal birds such as the snowy plover. 

There have repeated clashes between President Trump and the country’s lawmakers, in particular, Democrats, over his scheme for a vast and expensive border wall to prevent illegal immigration via Mexico. Although Congress is controlled by Republicans, it has yet to provide him with the necessary funds and Trump has threatened to shut down the government unless it comes up with the funding he needs. During his election campaign, the President stated that Mexico would have to pay for the wall, but the Mexican government has refused to do so. 

In February of this year, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that the federal government had not exceeded its powers. The conservation groups appealed against the judge's decision and it is this appeal that the justices have now declined to hear. 

Their challenge was centred on a 1996 law that gave the federal government extensive powers to construct border barriers without the need to comply with environmental rules and which restricted the types of legal challenges which could be brought. The conservation groups claimed that the law was unconstitutional as it enabled officials to swerve laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. They say that giving the administration unfettered powers to waive environmental rules is open to abuse and could lead to the wall being built without adequate safety standards and even using child labour. 

Mexico copes with the impact of migrants to the US

As migrants wait for their asylum claims to be processed, the Tijuana government has closed a migrant shelter close to the US border. Because of unsanitary conditions at the Benito Juarez sports complex, the migrants are being moved to a venue further from the border. With up to 6.000 people packed into space only large enough for half that number, lice, respiratory conditions and mud were rife. 

Officials in Tijuana said that no one would be forced to move to the new shelter, which is located around 10 miles from the nearest border crossing, but that they would no longer be offering medical services or food at the Benito Juarez stadium. 

At the same time, the new Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has signed a pact with the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to create a development plan for the Central American area. The plan would seek to create jobs and tackle the structural reasons that cause migrants to flee their home countries. Many migrants from the region cite a fear of violence and extreme poverty as their reasons for seeking to enter the USA. 

New H-1B visa rules now favour workers with advanced degrees

Another central plank of the Trump administration’s hard line on immigration is reinforced by the latest ruling on H-1B visas. His 2017 Buy American and Hire American executive order requested reforms to ensure that only the most highly skilled and specialist workers should be allowed to enter the US on these visas. 

65,000 H-1B visas are awarded each year, with a further 20,000 allotted to holders of higher degrees. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced new rules that will require companies seeking to employ foreigners to pre-register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) electronically before the H-1B lottery. This pre-registration will require extra paperwork and companies will be subjected to new scrutiny. 

Up to now, holders of higher degrees have been chosen first, removing them from the general pool. USCIS will now choose the wider pool first, including advanced degree holders in it, while still reserving another 20,000 places for further higher degree holders. This ruling will thus impact negatively on workers without a higher degree who are seeking to enter the US on H-1B visas.