BRENDAN O'BRIEN: Welcome everybody. My name is Brendan O'Brien, and I'm the Director of the International Students and Scholars Office. Unfortunately, we had invited-- our two main guests weren't able to come tonight. We had invited Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to come and explain their views on immigration. But unfortunately, they weren't able to make it.
But we do have an expert here who I think can fill in for them very, very well. And I will introduce our expert in just one moment. But before doing that, I want to give a special welcome to all of the international students and visiting scholars in the crowd. I know there might be some anxiety about the upcoming changes in the political scene and how that might impact your lives.
And I want to say very loud and clear, Cornell will not be building any walls around Cornell. We will still have international students and visiting faculty coming from all over the world. We really recognize the great contribution that you guys make to Cornell, and we know that will continue for a long time into the future.
So now I'd like to introduce our guest speaker, Professor Steve Yale-Loehr. I met Steve about 25 years ago. I was working in the International Students and Scholars Office. And my boss at the time, the previous director Gerry Wilcox, told me that I couldn't run at lunch that day, and that I had to go out to lunch to meet a new person in town, that there was a new immigration attorney who had moved into town. And I jumped at the chance for free lunch. And so we went over to the Statler, and we met Steve Yale-Loehr. And that was 25 years ago.
And we treated Steve to lunch, which was the Banfi's buffet, which I think cost us about $5.95 back then. And I think it was the best $5.95 that the International Students and Scholars Office has ever spent because Steve has just done a wonderful job helping us out of all kinds of difficult situations, helping the ISSO, helping the university, and helping many, many individual students and scholars with their own personal situations.
So it's just been amazing to have one of the world's foremost experts, or the country's foremost experts on immigration right here at Cornell. He's a member of the Cornell faculty. And we can call him up, and he's always very patient and kind and concerned for the people who are in difficult situations. And it's just great to have Steve here.
So Steve has practiced immigration law for over 30 years. He's testified before Congress as an expert witness on many occasions, and he's frequently quoted in the national media. And he's co-author of The Immigration Law and Procedure, which is the leading 21 volume treaties on US immigration law.
In addition to his research and teaching duties at Cornell Law School, Professor Yale-Loehr is also of counsel at the law firm Miller Mayer. And it's a great pleasure to introduce Steve Yale-Loehr. Thank you.
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Thanks, Brendan. It's great to be here. And delighted to talk with you tonight about immigration and how the presidential election may affect our immigration policy choices in 2017 and going forward.
So I'm going to be talking about three aspects. First, to understand what may happen, you have to understand our current immigration system and how it's broken and why it's broken. So I'll talk about that first. Then I'll get into what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton think about what they would do on immigration if they're elected president.
And then we'll talk about the possible impacts of either of them being elected on immigration with an emphasis, as Brendan noted, on the fact that a change will come slowly, it has to be implemented by both Congress and the agencies, and that we still are a welcoming nation.
So with that, let's get started and talk about our current immigration system. Immigration law is probably the most complicated area of law in the United States, as my students here in the audience can attest, partly because we have so many people coming to the United States. We are the largest immigration system in the world. Over 10 million people come to the United States temporarily each year. And over a million people immigrate permanently to the United States.
So what are some of these people? We have over 30 categories of people who can come to the United States temporarily to study, to work, to visit Disney World. There are a variety of reasons. And I've highlighted sort of the main categories up here on the screen, whether you are allowed to work in the category, whether you're not allowed to work, and then sort of special cases. And then yellow are ones that pertain particularly to international students and scholars, both while they're here at Cornell, and after they graduate.
Each of these categories have their own requirements, their regulations, how long you can stay here, whether your family members can come with you or not, whether your family members can study or work while they're in the United States. So this system alone is quite complex.
You add to it the fact that we have a million people a year, more or less, coming to the United States permanently. And I've divided these up into sort of four basic categories. Are they coming based on family characteristics? Are they the spouse of a US citizen, for example? Are they brother or sister of a US citizen?
Second, are they coming based on employment characteristics? Is there a US employer that's sponsoring this person for permanent work because they cannot find a US worker to do that job? Third are what I call humanitarian reasons for coming to the United States. They're fleeing persecution overseas, and we as a nation decide that we want to allow them to come to the United States. And that's called either refugee or asylum status.
And the last category is a diversity category that Congress enacted in 1990 that basically said we want to encourage more people to come to the United States even if they don't have family members to sponsor them, even if they don't have an employer who can sponsor them. And 50,000 people a year come that way.
So the numbers of people who come to the United States each year fluctuates, but it's about a million. And as you can see, family sponsored and immediate relatives, the red and gray areas, constitute about 75% to 80% of the people who immigrate to the United States. That's a lot of people. 750,000 people a year come in based on family characteristics.
And then our law says no more than 140,000 people a year can come in based on their employment characteristics, because an employer sponsors them, or because they have some kind of extraordinary ability that we want to allow them to be in the United States. And that 140,000 includes family members. So it's not 140,000 workers. It's actually about a third of that plus their family members who immigrate based on the employment characteristics.
Third, we have the people who come in based on the diversity green card lottery. That's 50,000 a year. And then the last one is in green at the top of the chart. And those are the people that immigrate based on either refugee status or asylum status.
Now, how many of you have seen a green green card? Raise your hand. Not green, no. Because they were green 50 years ago when they first came out. But if you get permanent residency, we call you a green card holder.
And this is what a green card looks like. It's much like your driver's license. It's counterfeit resistant. It's got your photograph in there-- I look much better than that-- your fingerprint, all sorts of numerals. And that's what you get that allows you to be in the United States permanently.
But it can take a long time to get a green card, partly because we have so many categories, and partly because the US Congress has set a cap or limit on the numbers of people that can come in most of the categories.
So for example, family based green cards are divided into four different ways. For example, this F4 stands for brothers and sisters of US citizens. That's a way that people can come into the United States. Congress said back in 1965 that 65,000 people a year could immigrate based on being a brother or sister of a US citizen.
That sounds like a large number, but over 1.3 million people already have applications in line to get that kind of green card. So if I, for example, have a brother or sister in Canada, and I want to sponsor them, right now it would be November 1 of 2003, 13 years ago that I would have to wait that long to sponsor my brother or sister to come from Canada.
Now, in addition to these sort of category limits, we also have what we call per country limits, limits on particular countries. And that means that countries that have large populations like China, and India, Mexico, and the Philippines have even longer backlogs.
So now instead of assuming that my brother sister is from Canada, really they're from the Philippines, I have to wait 23 years for my brother or sister to be able to immigrate from the United States, a quarter of a century. I'll be dead before my brother sister can get to the United States. So you see these categories are very backlogged, and it can be very hard to immigrate legally to the United States.
We also have backlogs when it comes to employment based green cards. Not all of these categories are backlogged. The Cs, for example, on this chart means that we do not have a backlog. It's called current, no backlog. And U means unavailable.
But some of these categories are backlogged. For example, if I'm a US employer and I want to hire someone who graduates from Cornell with a bachelor's degree who is from India, and I can show that I do not have a US worker who can do that job, there is a category for that. It's called EB3, the third category there.
But if you look across the chart there, for India, it's backlogged to March of 2005, 11 years backlogged. That's how long it would take me as a US employer to sponsor a person that I desperately need to help my work. So you can see this is pretty bad.
If you do get through the green card process, then you have to wait another three to five years before you can apply to become a naturalized US citizen. And that means it's going to be an awfully long time before new immigrants can actually vote in the elections.
In the mean time, they have to deal with the immigration bureaucracy. Part of the problem about our immigration system and why it's so complicated is we do not have one agency dealing with immigration. When you think about environmental problems in the United States, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency deals with all environmental issues. We do not have a similar agency for immigration.
The Department of Homeland Security is the main agency that deals with immigration. But within DHS, there are three separate immigration branches. One is US Citizenship and Immigration Services. That's the benefits of immigration. They approve petitions for green cards or temporary visas.
We also have Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That's the enforcement arm of immigration within DHS. They make sure that we do employer sanctions in the United States, for example. The third branch is Customs and Border Protection. And they're the ones you see on the border or at the airports. That's just the Department of Homeland Security.
We also have the Department of State. They have over 200 consular posts around the world. So if someone wants to apply for a visa from outside the United States, they have to go to one of those posts. The Department of Labor is also involved in immigration because if a US employer wants to sponsor someone, they have to first show that there are no US workers who can do that job. And it's the Labor Department's job to measure to make sure it's a fair test of the labor market.
So these three agencies are involved, and they do not agree on all the issues. So you can have inconsistent interpretations of the same legal issue depending on which agency you deal with.
To make matters worse, Congress has not revised our immigration categories in over 25 years. So the world has dramatically changed in that quarter century, but our immigration system has not. So as you can see, our immigration system is broken.
Because it's so long to get in through the front door legally, many people to come in through the back door illegally. About 11 million people are here illegally in the United States. And you may think that all of them entered illegally from Mexico, but that's not true. About half of them entered illegally. The other half did enter legally on some kind of visa, but then overstayed their welcome and then they're here illegally now.
So what are we going to do about that? Well, many people have to worry about how to deal with our current broken immigration system. Employers have a hard problem. For example, over half of all of the farm workers in the United States are undocumented from other countries. We cannot find US citizens who want to milk our cows or pick our crops. And so farmers have to deal with undocumented workers even though it's illegal to hire them.
On the legal side, there is a category for people who graduate from Cornell and other universities to work temporarily in the United States for a US employer. It's called the H-1B visa category. The problem with that category is that Congress limits the number of new H-1B visas that can be handed out each year to about 65,000. And that doesn't change depending on the economy. It's always 65,000.
Right now when our economy is doing pretty well, we have over 200,000 employers applying for one of these 65,000 H-1B visas. So the immigration agency has to conduct a lottery to determine which of those 230,000 employers can actually get a visa for their employee. That's no way to run an economy when you have to rely on a lottery to determine if you can hire someone or not.
We also have a broken immigration removal system. The immigration agency deports about 300,000 to 400,000 people a year because they are here illegally or committed some crime or something like that. That sounds like a lot, but it's certainly not all 11 million people who are here illegally.
Donald Trump, for example, has said that we need to increase our immigration enforcement. But it would cost billions and billions of dollars to be able to do that. Everyone who is deported has certain due process rights. So they have the right to go before an immigration judge to plead their case before they are deported.
We do not have enough immigration judges now to handle the caseload that we currently do. It takes, on average, 18 months for someone to get before an immigration judge. So for those of you familiar with the Veterans Administration scandal and getting an appointment there, it's nothing compared to how long you have to wait to get a hearing before an immigration judge.
And even if you do try to come in legally, as I pointed out before, you can have an awfully long wait. You're in your line, your waiting, but in some cases, it might be a quarter of a century before you can actually immigrate to the United States.
Congress is aware of this problem. They know our immigration system is broken. But so far, they've been unable to enact an immigration reform bill. The closest they came was in 2013 when the US Senate passed a law called S. 744. It was 1,200 pages long, and it would have tried to revise all aspects of our immigration system, both the legal front end, as well as the removal back end.
Unfortunately, it did not do very well in the House of Representatives, and so it died. And this year we're certainly not going to have immigration reform in our Congress. We'll have to wait to see what happens next year.
In the meantime, President Obama, frustrated by Congress's inability to do anything on immigration reform, has tried to do things administratively. And in 2012, he came out with what was called DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Saying look, I cannot deport all 11 million people in the United States. I have limited resources. So I'm going to focus my attention on removing criminal aliens.
And those children who came in and had no fault of their own when they were young, haven't done anything wrong, we're not going to say that they're legal, but I'm not going to deport them right now. I'm going to defer their deportation. And that was successful. Over 700,000 children were able to get that relief from deportation.
And based on that, in 2014 President Obama said, I'm going to now expand that DACA program to allow more children of a larger age to come in, and I'm also going to protect the parents of those children through a program called Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens, or DAPA.
That 2014 executive action was challenged in court, and the Supreme Court just this last June said, no, it cannot go forward. So even those administrative attempts to reform our immigration system have proven futile so far.
So what's going on in this presidential election? Well, as you can tell, immigration is a key issue in this election for a variety of reasons. First, there are more immigrants than ever in the United States. Over the last 20 years, the number of immigrants has increased from 9% of our population to 13% of our population, or 42 million. If you add in the children of immigrants, that means that one out of every four people in the United States is of immigrant stock. So immigration is bigger than ever.
Second, immigrants are settling more around different parts of the United States. They're not just going to the traditional immigration gateway states like California and New York and Florida. Now they're settling down in places like Iowa, North Dakota, Missouri et cetera. So more Americans are seeing more immigrants.
Third, Americans worry that immigrants might steal their jobs. Just last week the National Academies of Science released a report showing that, at the national level, immigrants are not taking jobs away from Americans. Professor Francine Blau, who is an economist here at Cornell, spearheaded that task force that came out with the 550 page report.
But they found that, at a micro level, some Americans can be hurt by immigration. For example, US born teenagers who do not finish high school have a hard time finding jobs. And it could be, in part, because immigrants are competing for those same jobs in the low-wage sector. But even there, Francine Blau and her team found that it was not immigration as the primary reason why they cannot find jobs.
The two presidential candidates reflect our ambivalence about immigration. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has called for a crackdown on illegal immigrants saying that they compete against vulnerable American workers. He wants to cut back on legal immigration to make sure that jobs go first to American workers.
Hillary Clinton, his democratic rival, takes a more optimistic view about immigration saying that immigrants help our economy. They create new jobs that employ US workers. So both of them are looking at the immigration issue, but one says it's half full, and the other says it's half empty. So let's explore the candidates positions on immigration more closely.
Here are Donald Trump's stated positions on immigration. For example, he wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that is so high that no Mexicans could cross over it or under it. It would cost an estimated $30 billion to do it. I'm not sure where he's going to get the money to do that, except he says that Mexico is going to pay. I'm sure they're whipping out their paycheck right now.
He also says that he wants to reverse President Obama's executive actions. He says that if he's elected president, on the first day, he's going to take a pen and undo the executive actions that President Obama has done.
He would also require all employers to electronically verify the legal status of their workers. We currently have a program in the United States called E-verify for electronic verification, but it only applies to certain large employers. Donald Trump would make sure that that applies to all businesses, even the pizza shop down the street in College Town. He would also make sure that we limit the number of visas that go to foreign workers so that US workers are hired first.
Now, by contrast, Hillary Clinton is much more pro immigrant. She would say, I want to keep President Obama's executive actions. I want to try to get more refugees into the United States. This year, this past fiscal year, the United States brought in 85,000 refugees from overseas, including 10,000 refugees from Syria.
This coming fiscal year, President Obama plans to increase that to 110,000. That sounds like a lot, but with more than 60 million refugees in the world, it's still a drop in the bucket. Hillary Clinton says she would increase the number of refugees that we take in.
She would screen them to make sure that they're not a terrorist threat. But she says once they've been properly screened, as they are now, we should welcome refugees. We should not impose a ban on refugees from certain Muslim countries.
She would also try to make sure that we have legal immigration reform. She has said that in her first 100 days of her administration, she would introduce a bill in Congress to reform our broken immigration system. And she would try to reduce visa backlogs by having more numbers available.
What would be the impact of these two candidates if they get elected as president? Well, President Trump would make sure that we reduce immigration overall. We'd have less immigration than we currently do. That would have a large demographic effect over long term in the United States. Reduce the population growth. It would be harder for foreigners to get jobs, and supposedly easier for US workers to get jobs.
He would want more vetting of people coming to the United States from certain Muslim countries, what he calls extreme vetting. It already takes two years for refugees to get vetted to come into the United States, but apparently he would like even more extreme vetting of those people and/or impose a temporary suspension on immigration from Muslim countries.
He would target Mexico as a major source of illegal immigration, and by building his wall, supposedly prevent illegal immigration from Mexico. He would decrease the number of refugees coming into the United States, and he would end the visa lottery.
And he would certainly increase enforcement of our immigration laws. He would try to make sure we deport more than the current 300,000 to 400,000 people a year. So he would have to increase the number of immigration removal agents in the United States. At the bottom of the screen there is where you could find more information about his position.
By contrast, the impact of a President Clinton on immigration is much more positive. She would try to expand immigration to the United States. She would reform our broken immigration system. She would try to make sure that we do enforce our immigration laws, but that we prioritize our enforcement on criminal aliens, and that we would not go after people who have violated our civil immigration laws, but have not committed any crimes in the United States.
She would try to make sure that we do more to help refugees fleeing the gang violence in Central America. 60,000 women and children recently came from those countries into the United States seeking asylum. And so far, we're detaining them to try to send a deterrent message to other people not to come to the United States.
She would say, if they meet the legal test to be a refugee, we should welcome them. We should not be detaining them. So she would continue President Obama's legacy on executive actions. And if she cannot get comprehensive immigration reform through the US Congress, she would try to expand the executive actions to see what she could do administratively. And you can get more information on her website about her proposed immigration policies.
Now, one of those two are going to be elected president, so the next question is, are all these changes going to happen right away? The answer is no. Our system of government is built on three legs of a stool.
We have three branches of government-- the executive branch, meaning the president; the legislative branch, meaning the US Congress; and the court branch, meaning all the courts, including the US Supreme Court. And our founders deliberately said, we want to have a little bit of power in each of those three branches so that no one branch has all of the power.
So whether President Trump gets elected or President Clinton gets elected, they cannot make changes unilaterally. For example, if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she'll try to reform our immigration laws, but she'll have to work with Congress to do that. And it's very likely that we're still going to have a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate. So it's not going to be easy for her to get comprehensive immigration reform through Congress.
Similarly, if Trump becomes president, he can take certain actions on his own like increasing enforcement, but many of his proposals like paying for the wall if Mexico doesn't will have to get congressional approval, and he may not do that. In addition, the courts may strike down some of his proposals as unconstitutional, such as limiting or banning Muslims coming into the United States.
Finally, even if anything gets through Congress and gets through court, it's still going to take time to have the changes actually implemented. The immigration agency is going to have to publish regulations implementing these legislative changes, and that takes time. So don't worry. Nothing's really going to happen in 2017.
Here are some things that could happen, however, administratively. President Obama is trying to do what he can administratively without having to go back to Congress. And so one thing he has done is he's come out with a proposed rule to help international entrepreneurs saying, if you're an international entrepreneur and you're starting a company in the United States, we want you to be able to stay here after you graduate from Cornell.
If you can't get an H-1B visa because of the lottery, I'm going to give you an alternative called parole. Parole is an administrative concept in US immigration law that allows people to be in the United States.
And this would allow entrepreneurs to be here for up to five years growing jobs for US workers. That rule came out as a proposal, and now it's getting comments from the public. And President Obama hopes to finalize that rule and have it in place before he leaves office in January of 2017.
Similarly, he's hoping to try to help H-1B workers who are changing jobs. If it takes a while for them to find a new job, he's going to give them a longer grace period before they would be out of status.
He wants to try to remove re-change our labor certification system. Right now the Labor Department measures whether a job is available to a foreign national, and it can take a long time to go through that process. So he wants to try to speed it up to help out at least a little bit for US employers who are looking for workers and cannot find them.
He's already implemented some changes when it comes to what are known as hardship waivers. People who are here illegally but have US citizen relatives can say that it would cause an extreme hardship to their US citizen relative if they are deported. And he's introduced new guidelines to make it easier to show that kind of extreme hardship.
All of those things he's doing administratively, but they really are just changes at the margins. They're not fundamentally overhauling our immigration system. He does hope that maybe after the election in the lame duck session, Congress will come back and passed the Dream Act, which stands for Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors. This is a law that would help undocumented children in the United States who've not committed crimes, who are going to school to legalize their status, and be able to eventually get a green card.
It's a bipartisan bill that's been pending in Congress for over a decade, but for a variety of reasons has not passed yet. So maybe at least that small immigration reform bill can be passed.
So where does that leave us? Well, remember it takes time to make changes in our immigration system. You don't have to worry that these things are going to occur overnight. Congress is going to have to enact changes. Agencies are going to have to implement those changes. Courts are going to have to rule on the constitutionality of any changes.
Moreover, every person in the United States, whether they're here legally or illegally, has due process rights. We cannot kick you out of the country without a hearing. So everyone will be able to go to an immigration judge. Right now may take 18 months to get to that immigration judge, but you do have a right to go to that judge.
Also you have to focus on what the actual changes might be rather than what the sound bites and the rhetoric are. There are a lot of rhetoric about building a wall or deporting all illegal aliens, but those are just sound bytes for TV. When it comes down to actually making changes, you can't do something that easily or that quickly. So don't worry about that as well too.
Remember also that the United States is a land of immigrants. We always have been and, as far as I know, we always will be. There have been times where we've had anti-immigrant fervor in terms of people saying, well, these immigrants are not good, but these other immigrants are bad.
For example, 100 years ago, people were saying we should not have Italian or Irish immigrants. Then we said, well, we shouldn't have Asian immigrants. Now we're saying we shouldn't have Hispanic immigrants. But research and history consistently show that within one to two generations, immigrants assimilate into US culture and become just like the rest of us.
So the other thing you should remember is the great motto on the seal of the United States, "E Pluribus Unum." Out of many, one. We are a country of one made up of many strands from many different countries. And as long as we remember that and remember the diversity and the benefits that immigration bring to us, we will do better.
So you need to remind each other of that, remind the presidential candidates of that, and remind members of Congress of that. So write your members of Congress, write the presidential candidates, tell them your personal stories about how immigration has benefited you, or a neighbor, or your company, or how a refugee has been rescued because of our US immigration system. The more that people learn about the benefits of immigration, the more we can get over this rhetoric and go on to becoming a better country for all.
With that, I'll stop and take questions. This is being videotaped, so just remember that when you ask your questions. We do have resource pages if you want to learn more on the things there, so you can get that. And the PowerPoint for this will also be on the videotape as well too. So let me start with a question here in the front.
SPEAKER: Thanks for the talk. On Hillary Clinton's website, she mentioned that she wants to give graduate from STEM degrees from verified institutions a green card, so that sounds like a lot to hope for. So how plausible or implausible is it?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Sure. Let me repeat that question for the people in the back. Hillary says that, among other things, she wants to make it easier for people who graduate with advanced degrees from the United States to be able to get a green card quickly.
Some people have called this the Staple Act because you would physically staple a green card to somebody's forehead because they have an advanced degree. It's a great idea. It's been introduced in Congress. It was part of the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill. So I think it'll be part of the overall effort to reform our immigration laws. But it remains to be seen exactly what it will look like when it gets enacted.
It certainly is not going to happen in the first part of 2017. Even if she introduces a bill in early 2017, it's still going to take Congress a long time to wade through it and to enact it.
SPEAKER: Has either candidate said anything about EB-5, whether they like it or don't like it?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: OK, so the question is, has any candidate said anything about EB-5? EB-5 is the employment based fifth immigrant category. It allows people who invest $500,000 in the United States, and thereby create 10 jobs for US Workers, to be able to get a green card. And 10,000 people a year can get that kind of green card. And the answer is, no, it's such a small program, $10,000 out of a million, that no one has focused on that in the presidential campaign yet.
SPEAKER: Could you comment on the federal and state relationship on immigration, or the federal and city relationship on immigration? It seems that some states are-- or some local jurisdictions are enforcing federal laws that have not been particularly enforced, whereas some cities are not honoring federal laws.
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Sure. So the question concerns the relationship between federal and state laws when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws. Immigration law is a federal responsibility because it deals with sovereignty, who we admit to the United States. But many states and localities are frustrated because of the fact that the federal government is not doing a very good job in enforcing our immigration laws. Some cities and states have said, like Arizona, we're going to take matters into our own hands and try to enact state laws that allow state police to arrest illegal aliens and deport them. Those efforts have largely failed in the courts because the courts have said that, because the federal government is in charge of this, states cannot jump in. We have to speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with foreign nations, not 50 different voices. And so they said most of those state laws are preempted from going into effect.
Some cities and states have gone the other way and tried to enact pro immigrant measures. For example, the city of New Haven in Connecticut has given out identification cards to undocumented people to make them feel safer, even though they don't have any legal benefit.
So it's a complicated situation because cities and states feel like the federal government is not doing enough, and they should be doing more. And they should be. But on the other hand, we need to really get Congress to do more. It's not good for states to try to do immigration enforcement on their own.
SPEAKER: How plausible is it if Trump becomes the president that those registered under the DACA, that they will face deportation because their [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: So the question is, so those children who benefited under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program of President Obama and are here studying their Cornell or in our workforce legally, do they worry if Trump becomes president? The answer is, yes. An executive action means that an executive can act without having to wait for Congress. So what President Obama did on their behalf, President Trump or any other president could, with the same swipe of the pen, take that away. And he has said that on his first day in office, he would undo those executive actions on immigration. So it is a big concern for those people who have received that benefit. Way in the back.
SPEAKER: Thank you for the talk. Could you say more about the parole [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Parole for entrepreneurs?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: OK. So the proposed rule says, if you are an international entrepreneur and you meet certain criteria, such as you receive $345,000, I think, in venture capital funding, and you have a good business plan, et cetera, you can apply to the immigration agency. And if they like your business plan and think that you're really going to grow jobs for US workers over the two or three year period that you can initially get parole, they'll give you this status called parole. It's not a visa. It's not a pathway to citizenship. But it does allow you to be in the United States, even if you don't have some other status like F-1 or H-1B to allow you to be here. It's a proposed rule, and so the agency is now accepting comments on that proposed rule. So we'll have to wait until they finalize the rule before we see the final details. But that's sort of the large picture of what it could look like.
SPEAKER: What will be, in your opinion, the future of per country quota in terms of the employment based visa? And let's say there's a bill in the House that is known as the House Resolution 213, which attempted to lift the per country quota in terms of employment based visa for people from China or India. Do you think, will that change in the near future?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Yes, so your question concerns the fact that we have per country limits on immigration as well as overall category limits. I'm just going back to the slide here to talk about that. So people understand that right now countries like China, and India, Mexico, and the Philippines because of these per country limits, have to wait a lot longer to get the same green card as people from other countries. And there have been efforts to say, this doesn't make any sense. Why does Butan or some other small country get the exact same number of green cards per year as a huge country like China?
And so as part of comprehensive immigration reform, I think there will be efforts to remove this per country limit, and just say, we've got a total of 100,000 visas for this category, and whoever applies first can get them. I think, again, comprehensive immigration reform is going to take a long time, unfortunately. It's sort of like reforming our health care system. President Clinton started-- and this is the original Bill Clinton back in the 90s-- started health care reform, and that failed. And then it wasn't until President Obama came in, and it took him two years to get health care reform through Congress. So immigration reform is one of those huge laws like tax reform or bankruptcy reform that's going to be very complicated and very hard. So I can't predict exactly what's going to be in it or whether per country limits will be removed, but it's certainly one of the issues on the table. Yes, over here?
SPEAKER: Based on your numbers that you're giving-- I mean, you identified the immigration system as being broken-- but based on the numbers, it almost seems like the people who are trying to do it the right way are being penalized, whereas the people who have made the decision to handle it illegally are being protected, and their class situation elevated by this current administration. And if Hillary got into, she would expand on that more. Can you speak on that?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Yes. It's certainly important that we try to do things legally, and our current legal system is broken. That's why so many people are entering illegally. But the people who do enter legally don't get a leg up in the sense of they can get a green card. They are here illegally, and so they live in fear of deportation. And they often have to take jobs that they don't want to take. They may be a doctor in their home country, but they're a janitor in the United States. So we need to reform our immigration system in lots of different ways. One is to make sure that the right kind of people can come in legally without a backlog, and that we do enforce our immigration laws so that if people do come in illegally, we are deporting them. So we need to balance both systems. And right now, neither system is working well. And that's why we need immigration reform.
SPEAKER: Could you explain what an E-1 visa is?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Sure. An E-1 visa is one of those non-immigrant visa categories that allows people who are from countries that we have treaties of investment with to enter the United States legally. And we have about 45 countries. Unfortunately, not China or other major countries, but United Kingdom, France, et cetera, that have signed these investment treaties with the United States. And it allows those nationals to come in. E-1 is for people who are trading with the United States, trading goods or services back and forth. And E-2 are for people who are coming in temporarily to invest. That differs from the EB-5 green card category where you're coming permanently to invest. So we have lots of different categories. But even with all these categories, not everyone can qualify for one of the categories. Brendan?
BRENDAN O'BRIEN: Could you speak about the H-1 temporary worker visa? You frequently hear reports in the media, different kinds of stories of somebody who's been an engineer for 20 years, and then they're laid off for an H-1 worker, and then have to train the H-1 worker, how that impacts the US job market, and kind of talk about the H-1 in general.
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Sure. So the question is about this H-1B visa category, you read newspaper reports about US workers being laid off in favor of these foreign workers. What are we doing about that? I talked about the fact that we have a labor market test for people who are coming permanently to the United States. And in that instance, US employers have to show to the satisfaction of the Labor Department that we do not have foreign workers who can do that same job. On the temporary side, we do not have that same labor market test. And so a US employer can hire a foreign national for an H-1B visa even if there is a US worker equally well qualified. That has been a bone of contention, and that's why we have had news articles about people being laid off.
Now, the H-1B workers are supposed to be paid the same amount as US workers. There's not supposed to be a fiscal, financial advantage to hiring a foreign worker on an H-1B visa. But the Labor Department doesn't necessarily have all the resources to enforce that provision.
So some members of Congress have proposed that we have the same kind of labor market test applied to the H-1B temporary worker category as we currently do in the green card category. And Donald Trump has said that he would have that kind of labor market test imposed on H-1B workers if he becomes president.
SPEAKER: Could you explain, under the Trump side, what the green card freeze meant?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Green card freeze is that he thinks that we're just generally handing out too many green cards each year. He thinks that if you look at, for example, this chart, we typically have been around a million a year, and he thinks that's all too high. He thinks if you go back to the 1930s and 1940s, it was more like 500,000 a year. And so when he calls for a freeze, he's basically saying, we should go back down to that sort of historical average, that we've been having too many immigrants in recent decades. So that's what he means by a freeze. He wouldn't stop immigration, but he might squeeze the category numbers.
SPEAKER: On that note, could you explain a little bit more on you said that even once you have your green card, there's this huge backlog to transfer them to citizenship? Will either of the candidate's policies affect that process?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Right. Right now about 65,000 people a year go through the naturalization process. If you get a green card, you don't have to become a naturalized US citizen. But after five years, you're allowed to apply to become. You have to know English, you have to know enough about US history and civics to be able to pass a simple test.
It takes about six months to go through that naturalization process in most parts of the United States, so that's not particularly backlogged. But it does mean that people have to wait before they can participate in the electoral process by voting.
Donald Trump hasn't really said anything about naturalization. Hillary Clinton has said she wants to be more welcoming of immigrants to make naturalization easier because she thinks that by becoming a naturalized US citizen, you're more likely to assimilate into our culture. So she wants to make the naturalization process easier and faster.
SPEAKER: Could us a little more about the labor market test and how companies prove that they can't find [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Sure. The normal labor market test in the green card category basically says, I'm looking for a computer programmer, and maybe you've already hired someone from Cornell on an H-1B temporary visa, and you like that person, and you'd like to sponsor them for a permanent green card.
But the labor market test requires you to pretend that that person does not exist and put an ad in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal saying, I'm looking for a computer programmer, and they have to meet certain minimum requirements for the job.
The Labor Department oversees that recruitment process. And if they find US workers that meet those minimum objective requirements of having two years of experience with COBOL programming or whatever, then they say, sorry, you cannot hire the foreign national because there is a US worker, even if the US worker is not as well qualified overall as the foreign worker.
So that's the current labor market test. And it can be difficult to get through that. It depends a lot on the economy and where you are in the United States. In 2008 and 2009, it was almost impossible for a US employer to be successful at labor certification because there were so many US citizens looking for jobs, as it should be.
Now with the economy improving, some employers are trying to hire as many US citizens as they can, but they're still short. And that's why they're going to the labor certification test to also find foreign nationals to hire.
SPEAKER: Could you speak about the refugees situation in terms of the numbers the US is admitting compared to other countries? And also the process-- if some of feel that refugees are going to be a threat, how that process works to try to protect against that [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: First, not everyone qualifies as a refugee. There is a United Nations Convention that protects refugees. It was signed in 1951. Over 160 countries in the world have signed that convention. And says that countries cannot send back someone to a place where they have a well-founded fear of persecution.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is the UN agency that handles all refugees around the world. And they estimate that there are about 60 million refugees in the world who meet this legal test. It's the highest number that we've had since World War II.
Each country decides for itself how many refugees it wants to take in or resettle. And in terms of quantity, the United States takes in more than any other country. This year we took in 85,000, and next year, President Obama has proposed we take in 110,000.
Now, it's not the highest number in terms of per capita. Canada, for example, takes in more refugees per person than the United States does. But the United States does take in the highest number of refugees per any country in the world.
Once the United Nations agency identifies someone as meeting the legal test to be a refugee, then they have to go through a background screening test. And actually in the United States, it's a 21-step process. They get vetted three times separately by the US State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services.
They do it three times because these steps take so long that somebody may have gone through the process a year ago, but they're halfway through now, and so we have to do this step again too. So refugees are screened more intensely than normal green card applicants. It takes about two years to get through the refugee screening process before they finally come to the United States.
Once they come to the United States, then there is a resettlement agency like the Catholics or the Lutherans or the Jewish organizations that will take them in and help them acclimate to the United States. So for example, here in Ithaca, we are in the middle of applying to become a refugee resettlement center through the auspices of the Catholic church. And we hope that that application will be approved relatively quickly, so that then we can officially take in refugees through this long, cumbersome process.
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] why a nation of immigrants hates immigrants so much?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Why what?
SPEAKER: Why a nation of immigrants hates immigrants so much.
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: That's a good question. I'm not a sociologist. I think it's sort of, I got here, I'm good, but I don't want other people to come and take away what I've got. Here in upstate New York, we've got plenty of land. But if you go to places like Southern California or New York City, it's very crowded, and you worry about more and more people coming here and taking away your job or outbidding you for an apartment or whatever. So I think people say--
SPEAKER: But those aren't the places that hate immigrants.
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Every city, to a certain extent, has people who hate immigrants and those who love immigrants. It's not one size fits all. So I think we are sort of ambivalent about immigration. We like individual immigrants, people that we get to know because we see them at our workplace or in our school, and we know what they're like.
But public opinion polls show consistently over the years that Americans think that we accept too many immigrants to the United States. So if you just went by a national public opinion poll, there'd be fewer immigrants coming into the United States each year. It's not a good answer, but that's the best I can do. Way in the back.
SPEAKER: Is there any country that can provide a helpful framework for immigration reform?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Is there any country that can provide a helpful framework for immigration reform? Yes, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom all have recently reformed their immigration system. I think one of our problems in the United States is we have these laws that are sort of set in stone, and they're very hard to change. The last major change in immigration law was 25 years ago.
These other countries, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, delegate more authority to their immigration ministries. So if they see this year, oh, we need more computer programmers, they can make some administrative changes and say we want more computer programmers this year or more nurses next year or whatever.
We don't have that flexibility built into our system. And so I think that's one of the problems why we have this broken system, and why it's so hard to change the broken system.
SPEAKER: Could you talk more specifically about how the UK framework is better?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: OK, so the question is, how is the UK framework better? I think because of that built in flexibility. They can adapt to changing situations much more quickly and easily than we can. Canada, Australia, and the UK also have a point system for selecting immigrants. So they'll say you get a certain number of points because you speak English or because you are working in a field in which we need more people, et cetera.
And so they can say this year, the point number is 85. Or next year, because we have a recession, point you have to have 100 points before you can get in. So that kind of built in flexibility in the system allows them to adapt more quickly than our system of laws and then having to have regulations to implement the laws, et cetera. One last question. Well, I guess three questions over here, and then I'll stop.
SPEAKER: You mentioned Australia, the UK, Canada-- flexibility, do they have more flexibility built into to their system to deal with problems associated with immigrants coming in?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Yes, in two ways. Number one is, if they feel that there's a recession coming on, they can say, we're not going to admit as many immigrants next year. So they can lower the number. So that's one way to deal with that kind of problem.
The second is, because the enforcement mechanism is built into the ministries, if they need to have more enforcement, they are doing that. So the United Kingdom, for example, has built up its enforcement system to try to deal with people coming in from the Middle East, et cetera. So they've got that flexibility on both sides of the equation to help them out. Back there, yes?
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] more qualified citizens from those countries. So how does that impact those countries over the long run who are losing all of their top notch people?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: Right. So your question deals with what I call the brain drain. Are we taking the best and the brightest from other countries such that we're hurting those countries by having them come to the United States?
On the refugees side, I'm not as worried about that because these are people who are fleeing persecution. They're already fearing for their lives. They want to get out of their country. What we're doing is giving them a safe haven. If they want to go back after they get safe haven in the United States, there's nothing to prevent them from doing that.
It can be more of a concern in terms of giving green cards to people who are at the top of their field. Are we taking the best physicists from other countries, et cetera. But again, that's an individual choice of the individual as to whether they want to go to a different country to pursue their career. Last question, back there from Berkeley.
SPEAKER: In the case of Brexit, how much did immigration play a role and what does the US think about that?
STEVE YALE-LOEHR: So the question's about Brexit in the United Kingdom, and how much did immigration play in that election? I'm not a political scientist, but what I've read in the newspapers is that immigration was a fairly large contributing factor to the decision by the UK citizens to exit the European Union.
They're worried about an influx of immigrants, and they wanted to do something about that. I'm not sure that leaving the European Union is going to solve their immigration problems, but I understand that was a big factor. Still has to be negotiated in terms of what the actual terms are of their exit from the European Union, so we'll see what happens.
With that, I want to thank everybody. And if you want to pick up the resource materials, feel free to do so. And if you have any individual questions, feel free to see me.
BRENDAN O'BRIEN: And a big thanks to Steve. We're really, really thankful.
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Professor Steve Yale-Loehr of the Cornell Law School analyzes the immigration policy positions of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Sponsored by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), the Vice Provost for International Affairs, the Dean of Students Office and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.