Monthly Archives: May 2018

Polyglot and Proud of It!

June 1st, 2018

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Yesterday, a male applicant from Mexico in his mid-50’s stopped by the office to drop off his documents. I overhead him speaking with a couple of our evaluators in Spanish. He had studied communications at the university and worked as a journalist for TV and print media in Mexico. I walked over and introduced myself, in Spanish. The life of a journalist or “periodista” in Mexico is hazardous, in fact, deadly. Outside of conflict zones, Mexico takes the No. 1 spot for journalists murdered in 2017. We spoke more about the dangers of being a journalist and how much he loved what he did but he also valued his life and the need to protect his family. He told us that he heads a professional association for “periodistas” who have been driven out of Mexico after either receiving death threats or seeing the writing on the wall before the grim inevitable was to pay them a visit.

English Only Scare Tactics

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Lately, the news chatter here in the U.S. is about citizens, tourists, visitors being harassed for speaking a language other than English. It’s what happens when a person reacts out of fear, out of ignorance, and I mean ignorance as in the not-knowing, or willfully choosing not to take the time to know and educate oneself. It brings out the ugly, the racist, the xenophobe in the person.

Embracing Multilingualism

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At, ACEI, we pride ourselves on being polyglots. We have native and non-native speakers of Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Farsi, Armenian, Russian, Italian, Moldovan, Croatian, Chinese, Turkish, and what we like to call “credentialese”. Our applicants appreciate our multilingualism and it is also good practice for those of us who don’t get to use their French, German, or whatever second or third foreign language it was we’d studied in college.

The expression on our Mexican applicant’s face was of pure joy when he heard not one but three people in our office who are not all native speakers of Spanish speaking to him in his native tongue, some haltingly, and some effortlessly. But everyone made the effort and that is how we learned about him and his plight. He, in turn, felt welcomed and more importantly, safe.

We don’t need to limit ourselves to speaking one language when engaging with people. We can keep English as our primary accepted language to conduct our business, but we need not feel afraid to switch to another language if we choose to do so. I don’t want to be intimidated or harassed when I chat in Armenian and Farsi interspersed with English with my mother in public, or French, or Spanish with an out of town friend or visitor.

Multilingualism and Brain Evolution

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Each day, studies show how knowing more languages is good for our overall mental health. As noted in a BBC report, most people in the world speak more than one language, suggesting the human brain evolved in multiple tongues. The human brain has evolved to be multilingual. I don’t claim to be a scientist, but I’ll hazard a guess that embracing monolingualism isn’t good for our brain; it impedes our brain’s evolution.

We need to put the ugly back inside the bottle load it into a space capsule and shoot into a galaxy far, far, and away.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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Where have all the international students gone? Far…far…away? Maybe not.

May 25th, 2018

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Every day, those of us who are in international education, especially, those of us working at institutions and organizations in the USA, hear nothing but negative news about the decline in the number of international students studying at our colleges and universities. Many of us anticipated that this was going to happen as soon as Donald Trump took office. Our concerns were confirmed with the first roll out of the travel ban in January 2018 which caused immediate confusion and havoc at our airports and borders. The anti-immigration sentiments and a general distaste for “internationalism” or “globalism” vocalized by the Trump administration has given many parents of potential international students pause and reason to consider another destination for their child’s study abroad experience.

We know that international students, as stated by Stuart Anderson states in his March 3, 2018 article in Forbes, have been “America’s golden goose” contributing billions of dollars ($39 billion to be exact) to the U.S. economy every year. In fact, it is these very dollars that have helped subsidize the education of U.S.(domestic) students and attract international talent to American tech companies who have been instrumental in innovations that make the U.S. the envy of the world.
Given the economic value of international students, it is baffling that the agenda of the Trump Presidency that ran on a platform to run the country as a business, is in fact hurting this revenue flow by driving away international students who had once hoped to study in the U.S.

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Source: National Science Foundation, Science Engineering Indicators 2018.

In his article for Forbes, Mr. Anderson breaks down the various measures taken by the Trump Administration which have negatively impacted international student numbers which I will highlight below:

•   Stricter guidelines to obtain H-1B visas, proposals to eliminate work authorization for the spouses of H1-B visa holders, and long waits to obtain employment-based green cards have led to a 21% drop in students from India enrolling in graduate level programs in computer science and engineering at U.S. institutions;

•  Proposed restrictions on Optional Practical Training (OPT); the ability of international students to work after graduation, which allows for 12 months of work for students, especially those in STEM fields;

•  Finally, individuals who previously worked for organizations or Senators with animus toward international students and employment-based immigration currently hold key positions dealing with immigration policy within the executive branch.

U.S. institutions of higher education are already feeling the sting. Sara Beverage with the Registrar’s Office at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD), confirms that her institution has experienced a slight decrease in the international student numbers which she attributes to “recent federal policy changes and the way that the global community less favorable perceives the United States.”

Zepur Solakian, President of the Center for the Global Advancement of Community Colleges (CGACC), attributes the decline in international student numbers to a number of factors such as: “…the current political climate as messaged by the Trump administration, as well as the termination of the Saudi and Brazilian scholarship programs and the rise in global competition.”
This was echoed by Melissa Goodwin, Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Idaho. According to Ms. Goodwin: “Since 2014, we have experienced a general decline due to changes in the government-sponsored programs in both Brazil and Saudi Arabia—this could still be having an effect on our numbers.”

When asked about international student numbers, a colleague who is involved in international admissions at a California-based private institution says that though “total enrollment has been steady, enrollment for the language program has significantly declined.” She believes this is because “markets for intensive English program seekers have shrunk and creating programs that are career focused have been slow.” When asked what her institution is doing to help international students feel welcomed, she notes “we have increased the amount of need-base scholarships, but I cannot say that we are doing anything new.”

The decline in international student numbers means loss in revenue which translates into budget cuts and a reduction in course offerings, and less financial support for domestic students. International students think with their feet and they think fast. They are looking at other “friendlier” countries to pursue their higher education and they are not disappointed. International competitors vying for the same pool of students have also intensified their recruiting strategies.

As the U.S. government pushes on with stricter and restrictive guidelines, other countries are stepping in and taking advantage of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric. Countries such as Canada, Australia, China, Spain, France, United Kingdom, and New Zealand are aggressively marketing their higher education institutions and recruiting the international student and faculty who would have typically come to the U.S.

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Just last week at the two-day Bilateral Seminar I attended at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, I listened to my French counterparts as they rolled out their country’s plans to lure scientists, researchers and students from around the world, including the U.S. by subsidizing their research (through President Macron’s Make Our Planet Great Again initiative) and by offering free tuition at their public institutions, paid internships, and other perks.

But, U.S. universities are not resting on their laurels and giving up. They are taking proactive measures by continuing their recruitment efforts and retention of international students. For example, Ms. Beverage shares her institution’s commitment: “UMD’s leadership has tasked the entire community to commit more energy, time, and resources to the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan. I think it is noteworthy that Goals 2 and 6 fully support UMD’s dedication to creating globally engaged citizens. Also, another concrete example of how UMD is promoting a welcoming environment for international students is the recent formation of the Commission on Equity, Race, and Ethnicity (CERE). The Commission on Equity, Race, & Ethnicity (CERE) works to create an equitable campus community for people of all racial, ethnic, and intersecting identities through providing education and advocating for institutional change.”

Ms. Goodwin cites that the University of Idaho and the city of Moscow “have a long tradition of embracing our international students and taking every step possible to ensure they feel safe.” Universities and communities working together are the key to ensure a welcoming and student friendly, whether domestic or international, campus. Ms. Goodwin notes: “Although our town has always been invested in the university and its diversity (most community members either attended, have family who attended, or work on campus—or all of these), signs began appearing in yards throughout Moscow last summer reading “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic.”

The University of Idaho has a robust plan to attract international students. “We regularly travel to and participate in recruitment fairs, conferences, and school visits, and our international agent network extends throughout the world. We also work to initiate and establish partnerships with high schools and universities throughout the world which allow international students to seamlessly transfer here, while also promoting the exchange of our local students in other countries,” cites Ms. Alicia Case, International Recruiter at the University of Idaho. In addition, Ms. Case notes that “In 2017, we signed on with global education partner Navitas, allowing us to establish our Global Student Success program which further prepares students for success at UI, providing intercultural training, learning strategies, and English language support alongside their classwork. More information here: https://www.uidaho.edu/news/here-we-have-idaho-magazine/past-issues/2017-fall/navitas.”

Despite the factors cited by Ms. Solakian that have impacted the international student numbers, she believes that the U.S. still provides more opportunities for higher education as well as OPT to international students. “It is high time for all U.S. institutions to advocate the opportunities in the U.S. and show parents and students that we are still very welcoming and the best choice,” she concludes.

I will close with the following statement reported by Politico from University of California President Janet Napolitano, who served as Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration:

“American education has always led the world — and it still leads the world, and it should lead the world. But we are leading the world in an atmosphere where the White House, at least, is sending a very kind of ‘stay away’ message — and that’s a challenge.”

If you work at a U.S. college or university, I invite you to share with us your institution’s experience in how it is responding to the current decline in international student numbers and steps taken to help international students feel welcomed.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative: Bilateral Seminar May 14-15, 2018 Embassy of France, Washington, D.C.

May 17th, 2018

transatlantic

At the invitation of the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of attending The Bilateral Seminar on The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative, on May 14-15, 2018. I was joined by my AACRAO colleagues, Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki, and fellow AACRAO IESC (International Education Standards Council) member, Robert Watkins from the University of Texas, Austin.

The Seminar was appropriately timed with the 70th Anniversary of the Franco-American Fulbright Commission (officially, the Commission franco-américaine d’échanges universitaires et culturels), a bi-national commission established between the United States of American and the French Republic by the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-256) and the Franco-American Treaty of May 7, 1965.  The Commission administers the Fulbright Program in France and operates the US State Department’s EducationUSA advising center for France. Those in attendance included representatives from the various branches of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), officials from the French Embassy and French Consular Officers in the U.S., University Vice-Presidents from French institutions, representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

From the onset, we learned that France is investing heavily in upgrading its university system and is aiming to position itself on the cutting edge of research and innovation. In his opening remarks, Frédéric Forest, Ph.D., the Deputy Director, Directorate General for Higher Education and Professional Integration at the MESRI, spoke of the importance the French President, Emmanuel Macron is placing on science and technology.  He noted that France is investing massively in its higher education.  It’s worth noting that in 2018, the French government spent roughly 72 billion euros for education; the second highest ranking expenditure on the budget after tax repayment and abatement and before defense.

Reforms also include access to higher education and reinforcing student mobility. France is committed to double the number of U.S. students studying at its HEIs and the same to have its students attending U.S. HEIs.  Dr. Forest concluded that France and the U.S. Department of State signed a declaration supporting these bilateral initiatives that encourage student mobility between the two countries.

Goals of the Bilateral Seminar

The goals of the Bilateral Seminar were laid out by Minh-Ha Pham, Ph.D., Scientific Counselor at the Embassy of France in the U.S.  Echoing, Dr. Forest’s remarks, Dr. Pham noted that in 2014, U.S. and France signed a declaration to double the numbers by doing the following:

  • promoting and opening access to a diverse student population.
  • increase research collaboration in higher education
  • increase student and faculty mobility
  • open study abroad opportunities
  • reduce the cost of study abroad
  • offer English as a medium of instruction at public universities
  • improve career relevance for students returning from the student abroad experience
  • facilitate mutual credit and degree recognition

Action Items and Success Stories

Nadine Van der Tol, Ph.D., North America Program Manager for Higher Education and Research, and Student Mobility, MESRI, noted that the U.S. has been France’s leading scientific partner.  In 2017, 16% of French scientific publications involve U.S. partnerships, yet while French students rank 17th on the list of countries sending students to U.S. HEIs, the number of American students studying at French HEIs is very low.   Finding out how France and U.S. can cooperate to help increase the number of U.S. students studying in France was a goal Dr. Van der Tol hoped to see accomplished by the end of the seminar.

The French representatives agreed on the importance of U.S. community colleges and indicated that their primary focus is on attracting this population of students who may not be aware of study abroad opportunities, don’t have the financial means and deserve access.

Ms. Christel Outreman, Higher Education Attaché, Director of Campus France USA, at the Embassy of France in the U.S., mentioned two projects in place to welcome community colleges:

  • Boot camp – With the help of CCID, the French set up a two-week program for community college students to visit France. This was an all-expenses paid two-week stay in France and the only obligation to the students was applying for a passport to travel. At the end of their two-week visit, Ms. Outreman noted that half of the students were considering studying abroad and most importantly, they were interested in studying in France.  The results of this boot camp were seen as so successful that plans are underway to host another. 
  • Pilot program – Another program Campus France USA had introduced was to select one student from a community college who entered a classe préparatoire, a two-year program intended for admission to the first year of the master’s in engineering or master’s in business degree program at a Grande École in Engineering or Business, respectively. This pilot program demonstrated that an exchange between a U.S. community college and a French HEI such as a Grande École is possible and successful.

Speakers also cited variety of programs already in place that offer funding and grants supporting study abroad opportunities.  One example is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship,  a program of the U.S. Department of State that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad.

Another program was introduced by James Hicks, Ph.D., Program Director, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).  Dr. Hicks reported that since its inception, LSAMP has helped over 600,00 students.  LSAMP’s overall goal as cited on its website is to “assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented in these disciplines: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders.” LSAMP is a congressionally mandated national science foundation program and offers help to two-year and four-year institutions. Undergraduate research is a key component of LSAMP and to achieve this, LSAMP supports study abroad by offering $5000 for a summer study abroad program that includes a visit to a national laboratory.

There is also the Chateaubriand Fund which was created in 1981 to encourage young American scientists to perform research in France.  Fellows receive a monthly stipend of up to 1400 euros, paid round-trip ticket to France and support for health insurance.  Each year, the Chateaubriand program gives about 50 grants.

The Thomas Jefferson Fund is a newly formed fund set up to address the world’s most challenging problems.  Since President Trump’s announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, France is amplifying its STEM, Health and research programs at the graduate and doctoral levels by launching several funds and grants to attract qualified talent. This is demonstrated in President Emmanuel Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative and by the 12million euros committed to the MESRI and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in achieving this goal.  Representatives from MESRI noted that in just one month they have received over 600 applications from scientists and researchers from around the world.  Needless to say, they had not expected such an overwhelming response in such a short time.

Since mutual recognition of degrees between the French and American HEIs was part of the discussion, my AACRAO colleagues Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki presented an overview of the U.S. system of accreditation of HEIs and explained the credit system at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Summary

As the Seminar came to a close, it was clear that France is serious about meeting its goal of doubling international student numbers both as a host country and for study in the U.S. The French government has allocated funds to support international student and scholar exchange, through its “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative, partnerships with U.S. community colleges and launching innovative programs such as the two-week all expenses-paid boot-camp for community colleges students to visit France, refining the visa application for students, providing English as a language of instruction to attract students to public universities, and exploring ways to offer paid internships to students enrolled in the exchange programs.  The U.S. in turn has several programs already in place that support U.S. students with their study abroad goals. In closing, the shared sentiment amongst several delegates was that universities in France and the U.S. can achieve their bilateral goals in student mobility through partnerships that foster mutual recognition of their degrees, offering dual degrees, and incentives such as paid internships and experienced-based learning objectives.

jasmin_2015

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)

President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)

Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

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Spotlight on Education News from Germany

May 11th, 2018

In this week’s blog, we’d like to spotlight Germany’s education system based on recent news we’ve been monitoring from here. The German secondary school matriculation exam, known as the Abitur, has been in the news lately, as has been the rise of partnerships between businesses and public universities that is of concern to a number of watchdog groups that worry about business meddling with institutions of higher education.

German Abitur Tackles Geopolitical Issues

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Drawing by the Indian cartoonist Paresh Nath. Photograph: Paresh Nath/Khaleej Times

While the United Kingdom is still grappling with the aftermath of its 2016 referendum that resulted in its exit from the European Union, aka Brexit, students in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg last week were actually addressing the reality of Brexit in the written part of the Abitur exam.  The exam is Germany’s equivalent to the UK’s A-levels or France’s baccalaureate is the final hurdle for students leaving secondary school for university.  It includes a combination of written and oral tests.  In an effort to test the students’ knowledge of sociopolitical issues, the recent Abitur exam included a drawing by the Indian cartoonist Paresh Nath depicting the British in a split screen in which one is the fantasy of Brexit and the other reality of the referendum.  (Source: The Guardian)

Students in Baden Württemberg Protest the Abitur

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Photo: Bernd Wüstneck/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press

It’s not unusual for students to complain about the unfairness and toughness of tests and exams.  But students in the same German State of Baden Württemberg had much to complain about the English-language portion of the recent Abitur examination.  Petitions have been signed protesting the use of archaic vocabulary which the students complained was incomprehensible.  The passage that is causing the collective grievance of the students is from the 1934 novel “Call it Sleep” by American writer Henry Roth. The passage (shown below) is describing the Statue of Liberty:

Against the luminous sky the rays of her halo were spikes of darkness roweling the air; shadow flattened the torch she bore to a black cross against flawless light — the blackened hilt of a broken sword. Liberty.”

(Source: The New York Times)

Strategic Partnerships between Higher Education and Corporations

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Transparency International Germany, is a nongovernmental organization that fights corruption and it is concerned about a troubling trend where more top-name German universities are entering strategic partnerships with corporations and commercializing their research.  Collaborations between German universities and business are not new and in the United States they are quite common. What is troubling is that more and more of the high ranking universities in Germany, experiencing a stagnant funding stream, are turning to the private business sector for help. Groups such the Free Association of Student Bodies which is a student union, and Die Tageszeitung, a left-learning newspaper are working with Transparency International Germany to expose the corporate influence on the public higher education sector.

(Source: The New York Times)

All You Need To Know About Higher Education in Germany

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The library inside Stuttgart’s Hohenheim University. Photo: DPA

There are close to 2000 post-secondary courses (out of 18,000) in Germany that are conducted in the English language and cater to international students. 12% of Germany’s students are from abroad. To learn more, click here:

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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USCIS Threatens to Destroy H-1B by Redefining “Specialty Occupation”. What Happened to Trump’s “Merit-Based” Hypocrisy?

May 4th, 2018

The following is an expanded version of my initial comment below, including some observations about the larger context of the Trump administration’s assault on the H-1B visa program as part of a concerted attack against other types of skilled and professional immigration, and legal immigration in general.

Around the beginning of this year, the Trump administration launched an intense and well-publicized attack on America’s legal immigration system by calling for the abolition of “chain migration”, i.e. extended family immigration (which Trump referred to as “horrible” in a December 29, 2017 tweet) and the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery.

Family immigration has been one of the main pillars of America’s legal immigration system for the past 50 years, and the DV lottery has enabled over a million immigrants from every part of the world to obtain green cards within the past two decades.

While both these programs very arguably had their origins in attempts to preserve at least some of the mainly white dominance in legal immigration that had been in effect prior to the landmark civil rights era 1965 immigration reform law, their actual effect was to open America’s legal immigration system to people from every part of the world, without discrimination based in race, color, religion or national origin, in contrast to the previous openly racist, “Nordics”- only 1924 immigration act which had been in effect for the previous 40 years.

In proposing to abolish these two important race-neutral immigration programs, Trump called for a “merit-based”immigration system instead, and proposed a 4-point framework which was purportedly designed to accomplish that goal. He also strongly supported two Congressional proposals, the so- called RAISE Act in the Senate, and a bill introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in the House, both of which would have ostensibly accomplished the same purpose and which were obviously designed to make drastic cuts in legal immigration from outside Europe.

However, while vigorously touting “merit-based” immigration as the cornerstone of his immigration policies for the future, Trump has also been hypocritically trying to undermine skilled and professional immigration, especially H-1B, which, ever since it assumed its present form in 1990, has been the essence of what merit-based immigration means.

The H-1B visa, which is another important avenue to opening America’s gates to qualified immigrants from every part of the world, and is especially popular with well-educated and innovative IT professionals from India and other Asian countries, has long been under attack by immigration opponents, on the specious grounds that these professionals allegedly take jobs away from qualified Americans by working for lower wages.

This charge has been shown by studies to have no more truth than Trump’s baseless charges that Hispanic immigrants have a higher crime rate than native-born Americans (while studies have also shown that the opposite is true).

Nor is the H-1B visa by any means limited to professionals from India or in the IT industry. It is used by college graduates from all over the world with bachelor degrees (or equivalent) working in finance, education, design, marketing, and a wide variety of other “specialty occupations”.

Trump’s own hostility to the H-1B visa is relatively recent. He initially supported this program at the beginning of his campaign and also defended Asian professionals working in Silicon Valley, many of whom are in H-1B status, in a 2015 interview with then Breitbart News Editor (and now Trump’s ousted former top adviser) Steve Bannon, who had attacked these professionals on explicitly racial grounds.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016…ley-inaccurate

But suddenly, midway in his campaign, Trump, reportedly under prodding from his chief immigration campaign adviser, then Senator and now attorney general Jeff Sessions, suddenly changed his mind and called for the abolition of H-1B.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news…ogram-in-wash/

True to his campaign promise (just as he also did not forget his campaign promises to take action against Hispanic, Muslim and other non-European immigrants), one of the first things that Trump did upon taking office was to launch an attack on skilled and professional immigrants in his so-called:Buy American-Hire American executive order.

However, while this attack was vague and limited to directing a “review” of H-1B and other skilled immigrant visa programs, USCIS has now issued the clearest possible warning, in the form of an April 4 letter from Director Lee Francis Cissna to Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) one of H-1B’s longest and most persistent antagonists, that this visa may now be on the Trump administration’s chopping block.

The following is the most ominous passage from the letter, as far as the future of H-1B is concerned in this administration:

“USCIS has also announced that it is working on two proposed regulations to improve the H-1B program…The second regulation will propose to revise the definition of specialty occupation, consistent with INA Section 214(i), to increase the focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B visa holders, and to revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to better protect U.S. workers and wages.” 
(Italics added.)

A direct link to the full letter is available through a thinkprogress.org article which describes a number of ways in which the Trump administration is trying to eviscerate the H-1B program:

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-immigrants-h1b-h4/

To any H-1B practitioner with even a moderate amount of experience in this field, the words: “revise the definition of specialty occupation” should be like a four alarm siren to a seasoned firefighter. Nothing is more central to the concept and the functioning of of the H-1B visa than the definition of a specialty occupation. Nothing, at least in this writer’s own more than 30 year experience as an H-1B lawyer, has been a bigger or more troublesome source of RFE’s for this visa.

The danger to the entire H-1B program inherent in revising the definition of a specialty occupation is underscored by the Orwellian reason that the letter gives for doing so:

“to increase focus on obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B program”.

The real intent, of course, is to keep as many of the best and brightest foreign nationals out of the Unites States as possible, especially of they come from India and other parts of Asia, as well as Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

The administration’s intent to try to destroy the H-1B program rather than to “improve” it, is also from the context of Cissna’s letter as a whole. The letter also states that USCIS plans to eliminate employment authorization for H-4 spouses and to “redefine” the employer-employee relationship, obviously to make it even narrower and more restrictive than recent USCIS memos have already done, especially in the area of off-site or third party employment.

The letter also mentions recent USCIS actions aimed at making H-1B extensions more difficult.

As Shakespeare’s Marc Antony says:

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

One might say the same thing about Cissna’s letter regarding the H-1B visa.

One is also reminded of the reason given in Trump’s four-point Immigration “Reform’ Framework for eliminating extended family immigration beyond the nuclear family, which was given as ostensibly to “Promote nuclear family migration”

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings…rder-security/

Just as Trump’s idea of “promoting” family immigration is to bar millions of currently eligible family members from coming to the US, his plan for bringing the “best and brightest” H-1B immigrants to America is to keep all but a few of them out.

Trump’s assault on skilled and professional legal immigration in general is
described in more detail in a chilling FWD.us report which can also be accessed through the thinkprogress.org link provided above.

Attacking skilled and professional immigration from India and other non-European countries is also, without any serious question, part of a larger long term agenda of turning the focus of America’s entire immigration system back toward the pre-1965 policy of favoring “Countries like Norway”, to quote Trump’s notorious January 11 statement (not to mention his European supremacist “Blood and Soil” Warsaw, Poland speech on July 6, 2017 – an openly white nationalist address which has received far too little attention in the US media, and which I have commented on previously).

The clear purpose is to maintain white majority dominance and supremacy through racial exclusion immigration policies for many more decades to come, long after the Trump administration itself becomes part of America’s past history.

See Yale Law School Professor James Q. Whitman’s January, 2018 article:

Trump’s quest to Make America White Again

https://www.project-syndicate.org/co…rier=accessreg

As Marc Antony also says:

“The evil that men do lives after them.”

To conclude, as indicated above, showing that a given job offer qualifies as a “specialty occupation” is already one of the most difficult and complex parts of the entire H-1B system. Last year, it was without doubt a major source of the politically motivated increase in openly biased RFE’s, and if last year is any guide, this year could very well be even worse.

In my next comment on this issue, I will discuss some recent examples of specialty occupation RFE’s from my own H-1B practice, including cases of egregious twisting and disregard of H-1B regulations and USCIS’s own well established policies and practices, and I will suggest some ways for dealing with this vital and contentious issue, which goes to the heart of the entire H-1B program.


Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been helping H-1B and other skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world receive work visas and green cards for more than 30 years. Roger’s email address is algaselex@gmail.com

This blog was originally posted on Immigration Law Blogs. It is shared here on ACEI-Global by permission from its author, Roger Algase.

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