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In episode 40 of “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast,” JoDee and Susan discuss the current state of affairs on U.S. Immigration policy with Jenifer Brown, Partner at Ice Miller. Topics include common misconceptions about our immigration system, the effect of the travel ban and NAFTA negotiations on immigration, and how to manage the needs of foreign national employees.
The United States immigration system is a complicated, bureaucratic maze that isn’t nimble enough to keep pace with the economy. Employers’ preference is to hire local talent, because foreign national sponsorship is complicated and expensive. However, we have a demand for sophisticated talent that we just aren’t able to meet with domestic employees in certain areas, especially in the areas of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). This has led to a need to recruit from abroad to fill those critical areas.
One misconception about our immigration system is that there’s a line for every immigrant, including unskilled/semi-skilled labor, to get into. In reality, the employment-based system is inadequate for our workforce demand, and virtually unavailable to unskilled and semi-skilled labor. There’s also a perception that for every immigrant we allow into the country there’s a swarm of family members permitted to come with them, which is just not accurate. To sponsor extended family members can take decades, and the system is limited to pretty close relationships, not aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
Jenifer discusses the effect of the travel ban, the Buy American, Hire American executive order, and NAFTA negotiations on immigration. The travel ban created a lot of fear, paranoia, and confusion, but on the whole, people are adapting relatively okay. The BAHA executive order directs all federal agencies to protect the American workforce and to raise wages, which are noble causes, but on a practical level has led to policy changes restricting an already strict immigration system. The thing to watch with NAFTA negotiations is the effect on the TN visa category, which only exits by virtue of NAFTA.
To manage the needs of your foreign national employees, you should do the same thing that good employers do with all employees: engage with them. Make sure they’re comfortable with and have an understanding of where they are in their immigration process, and that they’re checking their last admission record and giving timely notice of a personal change of address. It’s also important to have consistent internal immigration policies; know who you’re going to sponsor and when.
Get in touch with Jenifer:
In this episode’s listener mail, Nancy is on the board of directors of a non-profit whose executive director just resigned, and she wants to know whether they’re required to do an exit interview. JoDee and Susan discuss a 2018 study showing employers and workers don’t agree about how friendly the workplace is to older employees.