Democrats unveil border security plan, excluding wall.
January 31, 2019
Trump administration unveils changes to H-1B visa program. The Trump administration has unveiled changes to the coveted visa program for skilled workers that would increase the proportion of visa recipients that have advanced degrees, by reversing the order of the standard and masters visa lotteries. The current immigration system puts qualified applicants first in a lottery for advanced degree students, and if they fail to secure a visa, puts those applicants in a general lottery. The new system would put all applicants in the general pool, and qualifying applicants that fail to secure visas would get a second chance in the advanced degree lottery. The move will answer some of the concerns of high-tech industry, which have complained about a shortage of advanced-degree talent, at the expense of the staffing firms that dominate the H-1B system. [WSJ]
Democrats unveil border security plan, excluding wall. House Democrats unveiled a compromise funding proposal that failed to include any funding for physical barriers at the US’ southern border, despite the President’s insistence on such barriers and his threat to shut down the government once temporary funding expires February 15. The proposal does include several additional security measures, including “1,000 additional customs officers, new imaging technology to scan vehicles for drugs and contraband, repairs at ports of entry, and changes aimed at reducing detentions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Conference Committee Republicans echoed Democrats’ emphasis on technological solutions to drug importation and other security threats but argued physical barriers at the border should be part of the overall solution. [Washington Post]
Federal appeals court judges to hear FCC net neutrality case. After the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules in 2017, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups and states’ attorneys general filed suit, asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality protections. The proceedings begin Friday, and legal experts expect that the case may be decided by summer and may find its way before the Supreme Court this year. [The Hill]
Economic Indicators and News
Jobless claims jump to near 18-month high.Jobless claims, or the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits for the week ending January 26th, increased by 53,000 to 253,000, the highest level since September 2017. Claims had fallen below 200,00 the previous week, indicating the spike in claims may be due to the government shutdown. [CNBC]
New-home sales up in November. Sales of newly built homes rose nearly 17% in November to 657,000, according to new Commerce Department data. Despite month to month increases, overall new home sales are down 7.7% year over year, with 30-year fixed rate mortgages posting average interest rates nearly 5% in November, an increase of 1 percentage point since the start of 2018. [WSJ]