Stricter Visa Screening to Include Social Media Scrutiny

In a Federal Register Notice from March 30, 2018, the State Department requested public comment on its proposal that includes adding several additional questions to the Online Application for Nonimmigrant Visa (Form DS-160). One of these additional questions requires applicants to list any social media accounts they’ve used during the five years preceding the date of the application. The notice says that this information will be collected for “identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.”

With the escalating tension between the State of California and U.S. immigration enforcement, California employers are expected to walk a very fine line, especially in agriculture. Many employees fear potential arrest and deportation, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents have recently focused more on neighborhoods and work sites due to the restrictions California’s sanctuary policies have placed on cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times last Saturday, March 31, 2018.

Potential Action Toward “Securing America’s Future Act” (H.R. 4760)

On March 13, 2018, Representative Jeff Denham from California introduced House Resolution 774 “providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4760 aka “Securing America’s Future Act” containing Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposed H-2C program) to amend the immigration laws and the homeland security laws, and for other purposes.” This “queen-of-the-hill” resolution would bring to the House floor four separate bills: Securing America’s Future Act, the DREAM Act, the USA Act, and an immigration bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s choice. According to Rep. Denham’s press release, “the rule would allow bill sponsors the opportunity to amend language prior to debate and, ultimately, a vote.” The bill that would receive the highest number of votes above 218 would pass the House. The resolution currently has 41 cosponsors, all Republican.

Herder Rule Under Attack

In Washington D.C., worker advocates have been filing cases attacking the H-2A Herder Rule that issued separate standards and procedures for occupations related to the herding or production of livestock on the range. As many of you may know, this occupation is unique because the jobs are usually located in remote areas and require employees to generally be on call for 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Thus, the DOL allowed deviations from the general H-2A program. Worker advocates are alleging that these employees are owed millions in wages.

Annual Update for Allowable Meal Charge

Yesterday, March 21, 2018, the Annual Update to Allowable Charges for Agricultural Workers’ Meals and for Travel Subsistence Reimbursement was published in the Federal Register here. Notably, the maximum amount employers may charge workers for meals has changes, as it is altered based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for Food, which is updated annually. This year, the change was 1.6 percent, altering the allowable meal charge from $12.07 to $12.26 ($12.07 X 1.016 = $12.26). H-2A employers are not permitted to charge a worker more than $12.26 per day for meals without the approval of the OFLC Certifying Officer.

HR 4760 Update

A quick update about HR 4760, “Securing America’s Future Act,” Representative Goodlatte’s bill that incorporates the proposed H-2C program: Though there has not been significant movement, as of February 26, 2018, HR 4760 has 95 total cosponsors. Agricultural organizations across the nation are still divided as to whether or not to fully support the bill, as there are still concerns about the viability of several provisions of the H-2C program. In fact, a number of agricultural groups sent a letter to House Leadership on Monday expressing these sentiments. For a brief summary on the H-2C program and its progress through the House, see our previous e-blasts on the topic here and here.

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