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Trump's 'extreme' anti-terrorism vetting may be H-1B nightmare

By Patrick Thibodeau and Sharon Machlis | Aug. 17, 2016
Many people from 'dangerous and volatile regions' work in the U.S. on H-1B visas, and Trump's plan would penalize these workers because of birthplace

Source: USCIS data for approved applications in fiscal year 2014

Trump's plan to admit only people "who share our values and respect our people" didn't indicate how it would be applied. It also didn't say whether all visa holders -- visitor, H-1B and green card -- would be subject to an ideological litmus test.

And what is the correct answer to such a question about American values?

"If you ask people born in this country what is an American ideology, I'm not quite sure that we would come out with one answer," said Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, a professor and chair of the political science department at Pace University in New York.

"The immigration system, as it currently stands, could not process additional vetting without creating backlogs and increasing wait times for applicants. At the same time, it is unclear how these policy changes would increase safety against a terrorist attack," said Lavariega-Monforti.

John Lawit, an immigration attorney in Irving, Texas, said the U.S. already has a vetting process that begins as soon as someone applies for a tourist visa. There are different levels of threat, such as being a citizen of Syria, that trigger a much higher level of vetting, he said.

"There is a huge financial commitment that must be made in terms of human resources in order to carry on such a vetting program, and a huge, huge increase in fees,” Lawit said.

Requiring oaths of some kind is "a lot of posturing with very little substance," he added, and are ineffective in improving security.

Lawit said he once assisted H-1B workers who were employed in non-classified jobs at the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. The processing time for security checks could run months. That's an example of extreme vetting, while "extraordinary detailed security investigations are conducted," he said.

 

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