COVID-19 Town Hall: Immigration Planning for 2020 and Beyond with Miller Canfield

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With the election of 2020 seemingly in the rearview mirror, the focus has now shifted to President-elect Biden’s plans for an economic recovery. An area of interest for our region and state is Biden’s plan for immigration policy. Though immigration policy was traditionally determined by Congress, it has shifted in the past 10 years to be a prerogative of the President, with President Obama creating the DACA program and President Trump drastically overturning many of the executive actions taken. Since many of the topics of this presidential candidacy were focused on the opponent and the state of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, clarity on what a Biden immigration plan looks like were not clearly answered.

Julianne Sharp, a principal of Miller Canfield, joined her associates Elizabeth Baker and Lu (Kevin) Wang for a discussion with Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, for a discussion of what employers should expect heading into 2021 and a Biden administration.

Expected Changes

While many of the expected actions that President-elect Biden will take are purely speculative, Sharp noted, most of what will be done will be reversals of what President Trump did in his four years.

“We would also expect to see the end of prolonged detention, re-investment in case management systems, protecting dreamers and their families, maintaining their employment authorization and creating a path to citizenship for them and their families, rescinding travel and refugee bans,” said Sharp.

President Trump ran on a campaign in 2016 that increased border security and prioritized Americans for domestic jobs. To accomplish this, his department of labor was focused on delaying visa applications, scrutinizing employers that were sponsors for those employees, and generally requiring more effort than was necessary when it came to hiring a migrant worker.

Overall, a Biden administration will bring an overall modernization to the immigration system, Sharp continued. You should expect to see a more humanitarian approach to who is accepted into the country, and businesses should begin to see fewer regulations when it comes to hiring non-citizens.

Fewer Regulations?

Wang, on the topic of fewer regulations for employers when hiring a non-citizen, listed off what his research has provided on the Biden plan. He believes that the Biden team will establish a local wage comparison system that would allow employers to hire immigrant workers at locally competitive wages, instead of wages decided by the federal government. He also expects the cap on H-1B visas for the STEM field Ph.D. students to be lifted.

“This proposal to exempt those Ph.D. program graduates in STEM fields from being counted against the caps so that they can get the visa without going through the lottery,” said Wang.

On a topic that would directly affect some of Michigan’s industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, Wang said he would not be surprised to see the ability for localities to establish their own local caps on immigrants.

“Some other proposals that Biden is making is to reform the visa program for temporary and seasonal workers, including cultural and agricultural industries, and to provide a path to legalization for agricultural workers who have worked for years on US farms and continue to work in the agriculture industry,” said Wang.

Getting Involved

Closing the session, Baker said that the administration and the Department of Labor are always looking for feedback. While she suggested that individuals can reach out on their own to the administration via regulations.gov, she pointed towards organizations like the Chamber that will be able to lead the way in creating change in immigration.

If you have a specific question to ask the Miller Canfield team on immigration, you can email them at any time at immigration@millercanfield.com. If you want to provide feedback to the Chamber and its government relations team heading into 2021, please contact Brad Williams at bwilliam@detroitchamber.com.


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