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

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

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

Donald Trump’s call for “extreme vetting” of visa applications, as well as the temporary suspension of immigration from certain countries, would raise fees and add delays for anyone seeking a visa, including H-1B visas, immigration experts said.

In particular, a plan by Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, to stop issuing visas -- at least temporarily -- "from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world" may make it difficult for a significant number of people to get visas.

Data assembled by Computerworld through a Freedom of Information Act request shows foreign workers come from all corners of the world, including "dangerous and volatile regions." Trump outlined his immigration enforcement plan in a speech Monday.

In 2014, the U.S. approved more than 370,000 H-1B applications. Some were new entries, and others were for previously approved workers who were either renewing or updating their status.

Of that number, 2,234 of the H-1B visa holders were from Pakistan, a country that might appear on a Trump list. Another 1,102 approved visa holders were from Iran. There were 658 H-1B visa holders from Egypt, and 256 were from Syria.

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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