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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Immigration attorneys expect thousands of recently graduated international students who've been hired by U.S. companies to be forced out of their jobs today due to delays in processing H-1B high-skilled worker visas and strict new policies imposed by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Recent grads are allowed to remain in the U.S. if they've applied for H-1B employment visas. But they are no longer allowed to work while their applications are pending, likely making it difficult to afford to stay.

"The best case scenario is that the failure to get all of these applications processed by October 1 was a mistake. The worst case is that it was intentional. In either case, there's a lot of unnecessary human carnage inflicted on people who have not violated any point of immigration law."
— Leon Fresco, attorney at Holland & Knight and former immigration lawyer at the Justice Department, told Axios.

What's happening: Any student with an expired F-1 student visa who continues working will risk accruing "unlawful presence." This could result in a ban from the U.S. for various amounts of time, according to new, strict policies introduced by the Trump administration earlier this year.

  • The only alternative to waiting jobless while an H-1B visa is pending is to re-enroll in certain classes and maintain student visa status. But that also is costly.

One potential backfire: International students have "dumped a lot of money into our current university system that's starving for funds," often with the expectation of finding employment, Katie Fields, a manager for international recruiting at a large staffing agency, told Axios.

  • "In a round-about way, it's going to ruin some of the reputations for these schools that have been marketing to these students."

How we got here:

  • Immigrants with expired F-1 visas or recent tech graduates who worked under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program were given an extension — known as a "cap gap" — until October 1. This allowed them to continue working while their employment visa was pending.
  • The Trump administration also eliminated "premium processing" — a system that allowed visas to be fast-tracked in time-sensitive cases for an extra fee.
  • But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is dealing with a long backlog of cases, according to a spokesperson. It failed to process all of the cap-gap visas by the deadline, even though it said ending premium processing would allow the agency to expedite their review.
“If the government can’t process an application in six months then it should consider allowing companies to pay $1200 to speed things along."
— Lynden Melmed, attorney at Berry Appleman & Leiden and former USCIS chief counsel, tells Axios

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

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