Green card policy change could affect San Diego biotech companies

Keeping in line with President Donald Trump’s demand for increased scrutiny of potential immigrants, the federal government announced this week that all workers seeking green cards through their jobs will have to go through in-person interviews.

People who have called for more intense vetting of immigrants and refugees celebrated the policy change, saying that any additional checks are a good idea. Immigration attorneys who specialize in employment-based visa applications critiqued the decision, saying that requiring interviews will only further clog a sluggish system without giving any real benefit. San Diego’s biotechnology and research industries could be particularly affected, the attorneys said.

“This will definitely impact the STEM community,” said Anita Rusch, executive director of the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego, by email.

Diana Vellos Coker, a San Diego-based immigration attorney, said that the federal agency that processes green card applications does not have the resources to accommodate a large increase in demand for interviews. The agency had about 138,000 applications nationwide waiting for a decision at the end of March, its most recently available data.

Interviews at the local office take about 20 minutes, Coker said, and she didn’t think they could be streamlined much further and still be effective.

“We are anticipating tremendous delays in an already extremely lengthy process for these green card cases to be completed,” Coker said.

She thinks that the policy move is more about sending a message to hopeful immigrants that they’re going to face a lot of obstacles if they want to come to the U.S. and less about protecting national security.

“I think that this is more for show, and I don’t know if we’re necessarily going to get the benefit out of this,” Coker said.

Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California who supports…

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