The US Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed regulatory change on Thursday that would take away the right of spouses of H-1B guest workers who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status to work legally while awaiting their green cards, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In 2015, the Obama administration introduced a program allowing these holders of H-4 visas (the visa granted to spouses of workers on H-1Bs so that they can live together in the United States) to obtain legal authorization to work. In a notice of intent to propose a rule next year, the department says it is proposing “to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorization.”
The notice cites the executive order President Donald Trump issued in April, titled “Buy American, Hire American,” which called on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to crack down on the abuse of guest worker visa programs like the H-1B and H-4, and to amend procedures for allocating H-1B visas that award them based on merit rather than through a lottery.
Opponents of the Obama administration’s rule letting H-4 spouses work contend that it was an act of executive overreach (and are challenging it in court on that basis); the Trump administration “appears to be signaling that it intends to overturn it rather than defend it,” the Journal reports. Critics also say the previous administration did not do enough to ensure that H-4B holders did not displace American workers.
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In two memos issued on Tuesday, the US Department of Homeland Security laid out new, stricter guidelines for enforcement of immigration policy, as the Trump administration’s effort to tighten America’s borders continues. According to the Associated Press, the new guidelines greatly expand the number of undocumented immigrants who could be targeted for deportation:
Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offenses — or simply having crossed the border illegally. The Trump administration memos replace narrower guidance focusing on immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, are considered threats to national security or are recent border crossers. …
The memos do not change U.S. immigration laws, but take a far harder line toward enforcement. One example involves broader use of a program that fast-tracks deportations. It will now be applied to immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the United States longer than two years. It’s unclear how many immigrants that could include.
The guidelines also call for hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, expanding detention facilities for those awaiting deportation, and beginning construction on a wall along the US-Mexico border, but Congress will still have to provide funding for these projects to move forward. It is unclear how quickly the department would be able to hire so many new agents; Customs and Border Protection already has 2,000 vacancies, the AP notes, and most applicants for these jobs fail polygraph tests.
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The market for digital talent is pretty tight across the board, and as organizations become increasingly aware of the importance of cybersecurity, many are finding that roles in this field are particularly hard to fill. The cybersecurity crunch has been a problem for both private and public sector organizations, including the US Department of Homeland Security.
Yet pointing to a hiring event the department held earlier this year, Angela Bailey, the Chief Human Capital Officer for the DHS, writes at CIO.gov that several widely-held assumptions about this segment of the labor market are not quite true, and that employers can find the cybersecurity talent they need if they just take the right approach to hiring them:
At DHS, we set out to dispel certain myths regarding cybersecurity hiring:
- DHS does not have enough flexibility to effectively hire for mission-critical positions. In fact, OPM’s government-wide direct hire authority for IT (security) professionals was critical for the success of our event because we were able to hire folks who walked in the door with key skills.
- There is not a lot of cyber talent available for hire. Actually, over 14,000 people applied for our positions, with over 2,000 walking in the door. And while not all of them were qualified, we continue to this day to hire from the wealth of talent made available as a result of our hiring event.
- You cannot hire people “on the spot.” We demonstrated that by having our hiring managers, HR specialists, and personnel security specialists together, we were able to make about 150 job offers within two days. Close to 430 job offers have been made in total, with an original goal of filling around 350 positions.
Computerworld editor Patrick Thibodeau throws some cold water on Bailey’s conclusions, however, noting that they run “counter to what industry studies say is actually going on”:
We’ve previously looked at how many organizations are having a hard time filling cybersecurity positions, indicating a shortage of qualified and certified IT security professionals in the US. Now, Ron Nixon reports in the New York Times that the Department of Homeland Security—which as you can imagine really needs that type of employee—is also coming up short in its recruiting efforts:
Recent disclosures that Iranian hackers with ties to the government in Tehran had launched a cyberattack against a dam in New York highlighted the need for the department, which is charged with protecting government and private systems from cyberintrusions, to have a staff capable of responding to sophisticated enemies. …
To counter these intrusions, the Obama administration and Congress approved the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014, which among other things emphasized recruitment of a cybersecurity work force for the government. But the Department of Homeland Security, even with 691 people staffing its cybersecurity division, has not been able to recruit a work force to match the threat.
DHS’s hiring woes aren’t just a matter of a talent shortage, however; it also seems to be suffering from a distinctly unsexy employer brand: