The Trump administration put a hold Monday on an Obama-era policy that was designed to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to settle in the U.S. to build their companies, saying immigration officials are already overwhelmed with more important work.
It’s the latest of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to be unwound by President Trump, and it comes a week before the new policy was to take effect.
Under the now-delayed program, foreigners who were trying to build or invest in startup companies were to be granted “parole” into the U.S., which is special permission to be here with legal status and a work permit — and a potential chance at eventual citizenship.
The Obama administration had called the parole another use of discretionary authority.
Mr. Trump, though, has been skeptical of those grants of discretionary power, and ordered his Homeland Security Department to revoke areas where his predecessor was too generous.
In a notice Monday, the department said it was delaying the rule until March 2018, and would likely cancel it altogether.
The department said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for granting legal immigration benefits such as business visas, tentative deportation amnesties and work permits, is already overwhelmed with those duties and can’t spare time to hire and train officers for the entrepreneur parole program.
“Those resources are otherwise needed for USCIS to effectively and efficiently carry out its many existing immigration benefit programs facilitating lawful migration into United States,” the department said.
Obama officials had predicted about 3,000 entrepreneurs would be eligible each year for parole.
The level of investment was fairly low — just 10 percent of companies with as little as $250,000 in capital would have been enough to qualify. Startups had to show they created at least five jobs in order for investors to get a renewal of their parole.
Immigrant-rights groups complained that the Trump administration was being short-sighted.
“This is unquestionably a setback for the United States in the global race for talent - we should be encouraging innovators to bring their new ideas, expertise, and unique skills to our country, rather than incentivizing them to put their talents to work for our competitors abroad,” said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group powered by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.