H-1B Wage Rule Delayed
Yesterday, the DOL announced that, consistent with the Biden administration’s regulatory freeze, it will delay the application of a last-minute Trump Administration order meant to revise the computation of prevailing wages employers are required to pay H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 visa holders. The new effective date of the regulation is May 14, 2021. In the interim, the DOL will open a 15-day comment period starting on February 1st, with a subsequent 60-day review period.
If it goes into effect, the Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States rule would have a significant impact on sectors that rely on foreign workers, including the tech industry. While the Biden administration has signaled its intent to reverse the Trump administration’s H-1B policies, it is not clear that this regulation will be withdrawn. The Biden administration has expressed an interest to reform the temporary visa system so that “they are aligned with the labor market and not used to undermine wages.”
Secretary Blinken Confirmed at State Department
On Tuesday, Antony Blinken was confirmed by a bipartisan majority to take over the top job at the State Department. Blinken comes with a long resume of foreign policy positions, including as the top staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, National Security Adviser to then Vice-President Biden, as well as deputy Secretary of State. Blinken’s foreign policy approach has already drawn a contrast with the prior administration, placing a greater emphasis on multilateralism, rebuilding U.S. alliances overseas, and combating an upswing in authoritarianism around the world. His team will also be guiding consulates across the globe to expand their operations to include more routine services in the coming months, while ensuring the health and safety of consular officers as the pandemic continues its spread across the globe.
DHS Nominee Alejandro Mayorkas Being Filibustered, with Likely Confirmation Monday
Senate Republicans are planning to filibuster Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, despite him winning bipartisan approval in the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday. The Senate is taking procedural steps to overcome the filibuster, with the confirmation vote scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, February 1st.
A Cuban-born lawyer, Mayorkas served first as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and later as the Deputy Director for Homeland Security during the Obama Administration. During his time at USCIS, Mayorkas was one of the chief architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and also presided over a significant expansion in the EB-5 investor visa program, which offers a path to legal permanent resident status to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 into businesses that create employment opportunities in the United States.
Mayorkas’ confirmation will represent a shift in DHS priorities away from policing immigration and towards cybersecurity and responding to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, some of his first actions as the head of DHS are expected to include fortifying and preserving the DACA program, and developing civil enforcement alternatives to the prior administration’s immigration enforcement policy, consistent with the Executive Orders issued by the Biden administration on Inauguration Day.