Articles Posted in Comprehensive Immigration Reform

washington-dc-1104221-m.jpgAfter the Senate successfully passed the bipartisan Senate bill, S.744 in June, it seems the Republican-led House of Representatives, via Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), has buried Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) alive, covering it with the ominous budgetary catastrophe and subsequent government shutdown.

Cataleptically focusing on immigration reform, the House has passed five piecemeal bills since June:

  • The Agricultural Guestworker Act (the “AG Act”) of 2013 grants a total of 500,000 eligible recipients H-2C status each year for a maximum stay of 18 months. Growers may either petition for an H-2C worker before admittance to the United States or, if designated as registered agricultural employer by the Department of Agriculture, employers may employ H-2C workers under the “At-Will” component of the AG Act.
  • The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (the “SAFE Act”) is designed to strengthen federal immigration enforcement and provide states and cities with congressional authorization to assist in enforcing federal immigration law and to enact and enforce their own immigration laws consistent with federal law. The SAFE Act also expands the types of serious criminal activity for which aliens are removable, including drunk driving, failure to register as a sex offender, criminal gang membership, rape and manslaughter.
  • The Legal Workforce Act seeks to deter illegal immigration by altering and expanding the E-verify program. For instance, the Legal Work Force Act replaces the current paper-based I-9 systems with an electron work eligibility check; phases-in mandatory E-verify participation for all employers; allows individuals and guardians to “lock” their social security numbers; and grants employers a safe harbor from prosecution of they use E-Verify in “good faith.”
  • The Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visa Act (the “SKILLS Act”) allocates green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, increases H-1B visas, repeals the employment-based per-country cap, establishes a new entrepreneur visa program and seeks to strengthen the investor visa program by replacing “nonessential immigration programs” with those that “better meet our country’s interest.”
  • The Border Security Results Act of 2013 requires DHS to develop a comprehensive strategy, including biometric exit capabilities, to gain knowledge and understanding of current illicit cross-border activity (“situational awareness”) and maintain a condition in which there is not lower than 90 percent illegal border effectiveness rate (“operational control”) by producing frequent reports and metrics to be reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GOA).

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889854_freedom_2.jpgThe Pathway to Legalization and Citizenship immigration bill that was passed in the U.S. Senate, Bill S. 744 (which has yet to be passed by the US House of Representatives) was recently analyzed by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. This is an organization that has serious concerns about nine major areas of the immigration reform and pathway to legalization and citizenship section of the bill. The reason for its concerns is that these provisions are draconian and would likely deny provisional immigrant status to an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants. These nine areas are as follows:

Must move to the back of the line
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889853_freedom_1.jpgIt comes as no surprise that the immigration system in the United States is broken. On Tuesday, April 16th the “Gang of Eight”, a bipartisan group of Senators, introduced immigration reform legislation, formally titled as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. There was much excitement from those who may benefit from the legislation if and when it is passed, however, we must realize that the bill will likely change before it is passed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began marking up the bill on May 9th. The mark up process could continue through the end of the month while amendments are submitted. The bill will eventually take its final form where it will go up for a vote in the Senate; if it passes it will move to the House for a vote and eventually to the President.

As the proposed bill currently stands, those who are unlawfully present in the United States will be able to adjust their status to that of Registered Provisional Immigrant. The eligibility criteria requires that the individual: 1) have resided in the United States before December 31, 2011,; 2) pay a penalty fee; 3) not have been convicted of an aggravated felony, felony, 3 or more misdemeanors; or any offense under foreign law.

1339420_washington_dc_capitol.jpgImmigration reform used to be considered a third rail issue that political candidates would not touch, but after last November, this view has changed. Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote in the last election, which may have been helped in part by the Obama administration’s new program of Deferred Action for Childhood Rivals (DACA), which was announced just months prior to election day.

Since then, President Obama, House Speaker Boehner, as well as other leaders have announced plans to move toward some sort of immigration reform this year. It is believed that Obama and Democrats in the Senate may have an immigration reform plan ready hopefully as soon as April 2013. Other reports say we could see a bill passed as early as June. It is also rumored that some Republicans may be working on their own kind of bipartisan immigration bill as well.
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889854_freedom_2.jpgImmigration reform was a hot topic in the past presidential election, albeit for a short period of time. Now that the election is over, many are looking ahead to the possible changes that could be taking place. There are several areas of possible reform where immigrants are eager to see changes. These areas include, people who entered without inspection, undocumented youth, highly educated immigrants and undocumented workers.

Obviously, the most important area of reform for those without status is legalization. It is estimated that there are about 11 million undocumented people currently in the United States. It will be interesting to see how difficult any path to citizenship will be, especially how long the undocumented person needs to be in the country before they can apply for the new hypothetical temporary status and for how long they must maintain that status before they can get their green card. The new roadmap to naturalization might be a long winding one, but many will probably be excited just to have a chance to become U.S. citizen, where before there was little legal recourse available to them and they were forced to live on the fringes of society.
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1339419_washington_dc_capitol.jpgA Republican bill, named the STEM Jobs Act, will come to a vote today that would grant 55,000 US permanent resident visas, otherwise known as green cards, to foreign nationals who graduate from US colleges with advanced degrees in the technology fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The bill is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. However, it seems likely the bill will die in the Democrat-led Senate. Democrats oppose the bill because they say it will offset the new STEM green cards by doing away with the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program that grants immigrant visas to foreign nationals of mostly African nations, which normally have low US immigration rates.
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India Flag.jpgIt is readily apparent that in the few weeks leading up the presidential election, neither President Obama, nor former Governor Romney are willing to commit themselves to any firm and unequivocal stance on employment based, legal, immigration. This reluctance to take a stand further frustrates the thousands of Indian nationals and their employers who have undertaken the emotional, financial and time investment of who have placed themselves at the mercy of the USCIS, US Department of Labor and US Department of State though use of the current employment based preference system. However, while explicit pledges will not be forthcoming from either the current or the potential future president until the elections have passed, their subordinates continue to make the true stance of the candidates known through their actions and interactions with foreign dignitaries. Recent comments from Timothy Geithner, secretary of the treasury (and fifth in the line of succession to the president) to his counterpart in the cabinet of India are indicative of this phenomenon.

Indications of Future Executive Policy toward PERM and H-1B Visas for Indian Nationals.
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Children of Undocumented.JPGState education officials are debating how to respond to a federal ruling that declared it unconstitutional for Florida colleges and universities to charge higher tuition to the dependent children of undocumented immigrants. The state could lose as much as $200 million a year if it has to offer lower tuition rates to all U.S. citizens whose parents are not legal residents, according to court documents filed by education officials.

Members of the state Board of Education, which oversees Florida’s 28 community colleges, will meet Monday to discuss the lawsuit filed late last year by five South Florida students. Florida’s public colleges and universities charge tuition based on a student’s legal residency, or in the case of dependent children, the parent’s residency. The state covers much of the cost of a public-college education for Florida residents and their dependents.
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vote.jpgA record number of Latinos are eligible to vote this November. Both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have taken notice and targeted Hispanic voters in recent months. However, it is unclear if the extra attention will result in voter turnout at the polls.

According to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center, “a record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election.” This is up by more than four million since 2008, when it was 19.5 million. There were nearly 52 million Latinos in the United States in 2011, about 16.7 % of the nation’s population. While the Hispanics make up the largest minority group in the country, the turnout rate among eligible Latino voters lags behind that of whites and blacks by significant margins.
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918333_u_s__capitol_building.jpgSecretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced the new prosecutorial discretion policy on June 15 in a memo entitled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.” The new policy aims to give relief to certain undocumented immigrants by giving them permission to live and work in the United States.

U.S. House Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked several questions in a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton on July 3 about how the Obama administration’s new prosecutorial discretion policy will be implemented. Smith blasted the new policy as “blatantly political” and an “unprecedented breach of faith” that “ignores the rule of law” and labeled it as “amnesty.”
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