Obama Administration Eases Immigration Rules for Certain Spouses

The Obama administration said it would ease work restrictions for spouses of certain visa holders, even as Republican lawmakers are fighting the president on earlier actions regarding undocumented immigrants.

The new presidential action allows work permits and longer stays for some spouses of those in the U.S. legally with H-1B visas, Leon Rodriguez, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters Tuesday in Washington.

“The inability of those spouses, until now, to apply for employment, to seek and obtain employment, has imposed, in many cases, significant hardships on the families of H-1B visa holders,” he told reporters.

The citizenship agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which faces a partial shutdown after Friday if Congress doesn’t approve a funding bill. Republicans in Congress have threatened to withhold money for the agency if President Barack Obama’s November actions easing deportations for about 5 million undocumented immigrants aren’t overturned. Obama is also fighting a ruling by a Texas judge that temporarily blocked some of his executive actions.

Obama’s administration is pressing ahead with remaking the immigration system even with growing opposition from lawmakers.

“The administration remains confident that executive actions that the president took are fully within his authority under the law and we expect to prevail in the courts,” said Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, on a call with reporters.

Obama Travel

Obama will travel to Miami on Wednesday to discuss immigration during a televised town hall at Florida International University. He’ll talk about his executive actions, his call for Congress to overhaul immigration laws and the debate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, said Munoz.

H-1B visas allow U.S. employers to hire foreign skilled workers. The rule could allow as many as 179,600 people to apply for employment authorization in the first year, USCIS said in a statement.

The rule “helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

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