The Cato Institute: “Immigration Application Denial Rates Jump 37% Under Trump”

by Joseph McKeown


According to new data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), denials for numerous immigration applications and petitions have significantly increased over the past fiscal year. In the first nine months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, denials for numerous immigration benefits have increased 37% since FY 2016. David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, notes that this “year has seen the highest denial rate of the years for which data is available since FY 2013…Denial rates increased from FY 2016 to FY 2018 in 19 of the 26 benefits categories.” He adds: “These include the most important benefits categories like those for requesting foreign workers, applying for green cards, and asking for authorization to work for travel.” The denial rate for 1-129 non-immigrant petitions alone, for example, increased from 16.8% to 22.6% from FY 2016 to now.

Immigration practitioners argue that the heightened scrutiny in recent months goes “beyond what’s required to asses an immigrant’s eligibility” and seem intended to make the entire immigration process more burdensome. Sandra Feist, an immigration attorney in Minnesota, shared a copy of a notice of intent to deny, pointing out that the USCIS comments and requests are “aggressive” and “far outside of the norm that I’ve seen in the past 17 years.” Stuart Anderson in Forbes attributes the increase in H-1B denials and scrutiny by USCIS despite no changes to the law in part to President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order signed on April 18, 2017.

Others support the increase in denials and scrutiny. Rennie Sawade, the communications chair of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, speaking to the increased competition in his field, tells ProPublica: “These visas should be used for what they are intended for, so you definitely need more scrutiny in how they are being used.”

Bier, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, notes that although Trump supposedly supports legal immigration, he is “[d]epriving immigrants of legal immigration options” and puts the facts into more tangible figures: “[B]y the end of the year, the United States Government will have rejected around 620,000 people—about 155,000 more than in 2016.” Bier concludes: “This month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell stated that fewer immigrants and foreign workers would slow economic growth by limiting the ability of businesses to expand. On some level, President Trump appears to understand this reality, but his policies are making the situation worse.”