How ironic to find this out on a day when the President announced a policy to aid small businesses.

U.S. President Barack Obama will announce steps on Monday to make it easier for small business owners to borrow money, using $730 million in stimulus funds to cut lending
fees, boost loan guarantees and expand other programs, officials said.

"We know that small businesses are the engine of growth in the economy," said Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. "We absolutely want to do things to help them."

An immigration lawyer recently received an internal work sheet inadvertantly included with a petition denial that advises USCIS examiners when to refer cases to the Center Fraud Detection Operation (CFDO) for further investigation on the possibility of fraud. The document details many criteria that could potentially show fraud - multiple filings in comparison to the number of employees, suspect documents, questionable education credentials, etc. That's all well and good.

But the part that made my eyes pop open is the following language in the instructions:

Instructions: In order to ensure an actionable fraud referral is sent to the Center for Fraud Detection Operation (CFDO), all petitions that possess 2 of the 3  10/25/10 criteria must be referred to the CFDO:

__ Gross Annual Income less than $10 million
__ Company claims less than 25 employees
__ Company established for less than 10 years

In other words, a good portion of the nation's small businesses - one has to imagine that a huge portion will not meet two of these three tests (the 10/25/10 tests) - is subject to a much tougher H-1B application process than that facing large company employers.

In bold type on the bottom of the form are the words "DO NOT RELEASE UNDER FOIA". FOIA, for those of you who don't know, stands for Freedom of Information Act. And if I was institutionalizing discrimination against the nation's small employers, I probably wouldn't want pesky reporters and nosy immigration advocated asking questions either.

This is not really new policy for USCIS. Try filing an L-1 petition if you're a small company. The basic view of USCIS is that companies that are small are "fly-by-night" operations that don't deserve the same benefits as large emploeyrs. The last White House either didn't realize this was going on, didn't care or just couldn't get control over a USCIS that seems to often be completely out of touch.

I hope the Obama White House is serious when it says it is committed to helping small businesses succeed. Secretary Napolitano and President Obama need to make it clear to USCIS that policies that punish employer petitioners merely because they are small businesses will not be tolerated.