As the new H-1B filing season begins, both the president and the USCIS director are continuing to send unmistakable signals to immigrant communities, and agency adjudicators, that fair and unbiased decision making on petitions and applications for legal immigration benefits might not be looked on too kindly in the Donald Trump era - especially if this results in approvals.

This could, very possibly, make last year's blizzard of often unjustified, unnecessary, and in some cases very arguably biased RFE and denial decisions in H-1B cases (such as one which I will be discussion in more detail in an upcoming comment), seem like only a curtain-raiser to what might lie ahead this year.

And this could be the case, not only for H-1B petitions, but in USCIS cases of every variety. While the animosity toward legal immigrants in general reflected in the president's CPAC speech, which even a February 23 piece by Philip Klein in the conservative Washington Examiner called "Horrendous"

did not deal with H-1B or skilled/professional immigrants in particular, the hostile tone of Trump's false and malicious attacks on refugees, diversity visa and family-based immigrants in that speech could very likely affect agency attitudes toward all immigrants.

This is true especially of Trump's venomous assault on refugees, whom he compared to "snakes", (and not for the first time - this has been a recurring theme in his speeches, one which also recalls Nazi attacks against Jews, capitalists and communists). See:

This assault on a class of immigrants who have caused remarkably few problems in the United States and who are, very arguably, among the most deserving of all, could also turn out to be an open invitation to the federal courts at some point to strike down any further actions that Trump might take against refugees, based on the same finding of "animus" against immigrants that some federal courts have relied on to invalidate Trump's Muslim ban.

But as if this poisonous and dehumanizing attack on a category of immigrants who are among the most vulnerable and desperate for the safety and security that America has to offer of any people in the world, as well as being among the most strictly and thoroughly screened of all immigrants in the US, were not enough, Trump also launched into another one of his favorite anti-immigrants falsehoods, namely that diversity visa immigrants are allegedly picked by foreign governments intent on sending only their "worst" people to America.

This characterization of the diversity visa lottery is so utterly devoid of truth as to be far beyond any rational discussion of immigration policy. It recalls the infamous attack against Mexican immigrants as "criminals" and "rapists" with which Trump began his presidential campaign.

In the meantime, and very likely not by coincidence, Trump's new USCIS director has changed that agency's mission statement to eliminate the phrase "nation of immigrants", and substitute "protecting Americans" instead.

While this change, of course, does not constitute policy guidance, it changes that agency's fundamental perception of immigrants - viewing them as a threat to America instead of an essential part of our nation's traditions and values.

Ideally, one could hope that immigrant applicants and their American sponsors who are seeking legal immigration benefits for them will continue to receive fair and unbiased decisions based only on the facts, law and regulations governing each case.

But it would be unrealistic to think that USCIS adjudicators are likely to ignore or remain uninfluenced by the constant demonizing and scapegoating against legal immigrants by the head of the government which they serve, and the apparent willingness to fall in line with the approach by the head of the agency which pays their salaries.

These developments should be a warning to H-1B petitioners and every one else applying for legal immigration status to prepare their cases even more carefully, and advocate for them even more vigorously, than in the past. I will be providing some specific suggestions about the best ways to do this in upcoming posts to appear shortly.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world obtain H-1B and other work visas, as well as green cards through employment and family sponsorship. Roger's email address is