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Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has continued its visa crackdown, recently releasing memos that make it easier for immigration officials to deny visa applications and begin deportation proceedings for those whose extensions or renewals are denied.

Between the lines: Family separation and ICE raids may be one of the more visible ways the Trump administration has created a hostile environment for immigrants, but with fewer headlines and more internal memos, the Department of Homeland Security has been making even legal, high-skilled immigration processes more difficult.

Where it stands: On Friday, USCIS released a memo telling officials they can deny visa applications right away, instead of first issuing a "request for evidence" (RFE) asking for more information if the application wasn't good enough on the first try. The number of RFEs have dramatically increased under Trump, but now officials can simply deny those applications.

  • Earlier this month, officials were given greater authority to start deportation proceedings by issuing "Notices to Appear" to any immigrant in the U.S. who has been denied an extension or renewal of their visa, taking them out of legal immigrant status. Before, these notices were only given in instances of fraud or criminal activity.

The memos "are intended to further restrict and discourage much-needed legal immigration," Mark Roberts, CEO of TechServe Alliance told Axios. "This abrupt change in policy will have the perverse effect of discouraging businesses from having work performed in the U.S. — a highly undesirable outcome for all workers, businesses and the economy as a whole.”

The other side: The Trump administration and many advocates for cutting immigration levels believe that these kinds of visas take jobs from American workers, and accuse companies of taking advantage of the programs in order to pay less for labor.

  • "USCIS is simply starting to enforce the law,” Mark Krikorian, executive director for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, tells Axios. “Given the bottomless demand for the 1 million green cards we give out each year, holding applicants to strict standards is just common sense.”

Big picture: USCIS under the Trump administration has already:

"This administration said they would roll back President Obama's immigration policies and they are staying true to their word. But that objective rings hollow for many U.S. companies that are playing by the rules and struggling to meet their workforce needs."
— Lynden Melmed, partner at BAL and former USCIS chief counsel, told Axios

Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

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