Immigration policies affect UIndy Athletics

Each new presidential administration, brings new laws and regulations. Under the Trump administration, specifically, immigration regulations and restrictions have changed in a variety of ways. Managing Attorney from Indiana Immigration Law Group Clare Corado said the significant changes regarding immigration are based on several sources—the U.S. Constitution, executive orders, court decisions and others. However, Corado said, because some changes would need to be approved by Congress, the changes that have been seen are primarily due to reinterpreting existing laws and creating new procedures internally. This, she said, has caused a lot of trouble for immigrants trying to come to the United States.

“One thing that many Americans are unaware of is that there not only have been significant actions taken to reduce undocumented immigration, but it has also become significantly harder for immigrants to enter United States lawfully as well,” Corado said. “We have seen every possible tactic to create additional bureaucratic delays on all case types. For example, many forms have tripled in length and their processing time has been delayed by several months or more. There are widespread requests for additional evidence on cases where all of the initially required evidence has already been submitted. Legal immigrants and their families have been significantly affected. This has also impacted many work-based visa types and hurt employers.”

Since these changes, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey said she is struggling to hire qualified international assistant coaches, who are desperately needed at the University of Indianapolis.

The National Foundation for American Policy released data that found U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has begun to increase H1-B visa denials.

Willey and Director of International Services Mimi Chase have been helping international coaches to apply for the H-1B visa, which allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.

They said that recently they have found their applicants were being denied and the process taking double the amount of time, whereas in the past, applicants were approved.

“We currently have two head coaches that went through the process and had no problem. Now, we’ve had two more coaches that we want to stay here and be full-time employees, and they’ve been denied that right,” Willey said. “We’ve had coaches [who], in order to stay here, had to become graduate students, although maybe they’ve already had a graduate degree, and now they’re taking another graduate degree so they can stay and still be a part of the program.”

According to USCIS, the H-1B program is a program that temporarily employs foreign workers in the U.S. in “occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.”

Specialty occupations include fields such as science, teaching and engineering. However, collegiate coaching is not considered a specialty occupation under the USCIS’s specifications, despite the fact that most colleges require coaches to have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, according to Chase.

There are other visas that coaches can apply for, such as an O-1 visa. To obtain this visa, the coach must show he or she has received national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements as a coach. While this visa was considered as a possibility, the H1-B visa maybe the only visa for which some coaches coming to UIndy are eligible for. This situation, Willey said, has left her hands tied.

“Basically, it has become an issue when we have international employees and [are] trying to get them to be able to stay,” Willey said. “It seems to be more of a significant problem in athletics than maybe other areas on campus. From what I understand—from our lawyers, from our international division here—is the fact that for whatever reason, those folks [at USCIS] don’t believe our folks need specific training. It’s like anybody could be this coach or that coach or a sports admin.”

“We’ve had coaches [who], in order to stay here, had to become graduate students…”

Chase said that in the past, the university could argue that the coaches it wanted to hire were specially qualified.  Experts could be called upon to demonstrate that applicants were highly specialized to the USCIS and the DHS,  Chase said. But now, as the university has moved through hiring two new international assistant coaches, the experts were not accepted. Chase said she believes that under the Obama administration, the applications could have been accepted.

“So, even if we found someone who was perfect, had the perfect background for that [coaching], we still can’t argue that position throughout the United States requires such a level of specialty,” Chase said. “Even if our coaches, the applicants, had the best educational background specifically geared for this, it’s the position itself that the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services [is] saying is not a specialty occupation. It doesn’t require that level of specialty. Coaches will take assistant coaches who don’t have that background. So we could not prove that background or that specialty was needed.”

Now, Willey said, the problem is forcing her to stray away from hiring international coaching staff  members which consequently results in a less diverse staff. She said the situation has been disheartening, because if the university cannot find a solution, other than having coaches obtain a graduate degree, then the university will have to let them go. This can complicate things, Willey said, because switching coaches mid-season can be difficult.

“I understand people have to do their job. It’s just become very cumbersome….I hate it,” Willey said.  “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The best Willey and Chase can do for now, Chase said, is to advocate for change. She said that while she also understands why strict legislation is often needed, it should be easier for qualified international applicants to be employed in the United States to ensure diversity on campus and enhance the university’s program.

“The world is changing,” Chase said. “And hopefully we’ll move to a place where truly talented people can be hired by whatever organization, where they fit the best, where they can offer the most to those students.”

U.S. society has always been enriched by immigrants with a variety of backgrounds, Corado said, and the need for that continues.

“The fact remains that our country has an ongoing need for people with specialized skills as well as unskilled labor to work in certain industries to keep our economy running,” Corado said. “This is especially difficult when there are serious shortages of workers because the unemployment rate is so low, as is the case currently. Immigration is a political hot-button issue, but if [members of] Congress were able to sit down and have a rational discussion, they would find that it is definitely possible to reform our system so we can find the balance between immigration enforcement, humanitarian considerations, and business needs.”