Several immigration-related developments on Capitol Hill today. First, a provision extending E-Verify and the EB-5 regional centers until September was included in the big omnibus spending bill coming tomorrow. Also, Congresswoman Lofgren introduced HR 1127, a separate bill extending the Conrad 30 and religious worker bills past the March deadline until next September as well. Finally, Congressman Stupak (D-MI) introduced HR 1136, a bill that would bring back the H-2B returning worker provision.
Under the prior rules, you had to be in H-1B status and your six years of H-1B time had to be ending within 60 days. As of March 2, 2009, you are also eligible if you're no longer in H-1B status and your six years are finished. So, for example, if you used up your H-1B time and switched to another non-immigrant status or you left the country, you should be eligible. The press release and fact sheet can be found here.
February 23, 2009
Two biggies today. John Morton, a career prosecutor with experience in immigration enforcement at the Department of Justice was named by President Obama to head up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
More interesting to me is the appointment by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano of Esther Olavarria as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy. The pro-immigration community should be cheering loudly over Esther's appointment. She worked closely with Senator Ted Kennedy for a decade fighting for immigrants and she was one of the major architects of the comprehensive immigration reform efforts of recent years. I have no doubt Ms. Olavarria was appointed because the President and Secretary Napolitano are quite serious about designing and pushing a major immigration reform package and also making sure it is effectively implemented by DHS. Here's a little more about Esther's background:
Esther Olavarria brings nearly 20 years of experience on immigration policy to her new job at the Department of Homeland Security. Most recently, she was a Senior Fellow and Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, where she was responsible for planning, developing and administering the organization’s work on immigration issues, with a principal focus on policy and advocacy strategies on comprehensive immigration reform; planning and convening roundtables and other venues for discussion, and conducting research and write on immigration issues.
Prior to that, for nearly ten years, she was Counsel to Sen. Edward Kennedy and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees. In that capacity, she served as Senator Kennedy’s chief counsel on immigration, border security, refugee and nationality matters, working on myriad immigration proposals, including comprehensive immigration reform.
She has also served as the Managing Attorney of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Directing Attorney of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Pro Bono Project, and staff attorney at the Haitian Refugee Center, all based in Miami, Florida.
Finnish-born Harri Kulovaara is designing what will be the largest cruise ship in the world when it is completed later this year. Royal Carribean's Oasis of the Seas will carry 6,300 passengers, 2,000 more than any other ship. The ship is unusual in that it is divided in to two halves, each with a six story tower of cabins with enough space between the two towers to fit a football-field sized park. And there are many other features that make this ship more of a city than a boat.
"You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha..."
Vizzini, from The Princess Bride
Aside from not getting involved in a land war in Asia (I think the US has found that out a few times in the last few decades), another classic blunder is starting a trade war when your country is in a recession (or, day I utter the word, depression). The knee jerk reaction to cut of imports of goods to save your domestic manufacturers or barring from workers to protect your domestic labor market may feel good. But they have the complete opposite effect of what is intended. They invite retaliation which kills leads to trade wars and has the effect of deepening an prolonging global downturns. Surely, we learned that in the 1930s with the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff policy in this country. World trade declined 66% in five years during the trade war of the 1930s and Smoot-Hawley certainly was one of the reasons why.
The UK's Prime Minister seems to have flunked world history. Why else would they be announcing plans to halve the number of high-skilled work visas in that country? Perhaps some people don't consider work visas a form of trade, but I would counter that labor is THE most important component of production at many companies. Payroll is often a company's most expensive overhead item and finding suitably skilled workers is frequently a company's biggest challenge in remaining competitive. Visa policy IS trade policy.
February 22, 2009
Oscar has an Indian-accent tonight with the UK/Indian production Slumdog Millionaire the big winner of the evening - including joining the ranks of the greatest films of all time with the coveted Best Picture award. Foreign-born artists were again richly rewarded for their work at the 81st Academy Awards. Here are some of the winners:
- Simon Beaufoy - UK - best adapted screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire.
- Penelope Cruz - Spain - best supporting actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Heath Ledger - Australia - best supporting actor for The Dark Knight
- Danny Boyle - UK - best director for Slumdog Millionaire
- A.R. Rahman - India - best score and best song for Slumdog Millionaire
- Anthony Dod Mantle - UK - best cinematography for Slumdog Millionaire
- Michael O'Connor - UK - best costume design for The Dutchess
- Ian Tapp - UK - best sound mixing for Slumdog Millionaire
- Richard Pryke - UK - best sound mixing for Slumdog Millionaire
- Kate Winslet - UK - best actress for The Reader
- Resul Pookutty - India - best sound mixing for Slumdog Millionaire
- Glenn Freemantle - UK - best sound editing for Slumdog Millionaire
- Tom Sayers - UK - best sound editing for Slumdog Millionaire
- Chris Dickens - UK - best film editing for Slumdog Millionaire
[Note: I know that some of these folks probably don't reside in the US, but I'm going with a technicality here. All were in the US in at least one type of immigrant status last night even if it was a visitor classification. My point was to honor the contributions that international artists make to Hollywood and the American film industry].
The Academy Awards are on now and immigrants are being showered with awards as was the case last year (more on that later). But the show kicked off with an immigrant theme with Australian-born host Hugh Jackman becoming the first foreign-born host in several years to host. But there have actually been a dozen foreign-born hosts. Some are icons from American film including Italian immigrant Frank Capra, British immigrants Bob Hope, Laurence Olivier, Dudley Moore, Michael Caine and David Niven, Frenchwoman Claudette Colbert, Canadian-born comedian Mort Sahl and Australian Paul Hogan. But Hogan in 1987 was the last foreign-born host. The Oscars host is arguably the most prestigious gig on television and one that comes with some of the toughest critics. Most of the hosts in recent years have been comedians, but Jackman, a star of action films and Broadway musicals - is a change from the recent past. Jackman has won an Emmy Award for his television work, a Tony for his work on Broadway and a Golden Globe for his role in the film Kate & Leopold.
My friend Margaret Stock has prepared a highly detailed document outlining the requirements to participate in the new non-citizen recruiting program for health care professionals and translators.
February 21, 2009
Here's a town in California that has decided it will ignore federal law and do its own I-9 audits of local employers to determine whether they should be able to keep their business licenses. Even the anti-immigrant groups pushing state laws on immigration enforcement don't go this far in terms of letting a municipality take matters into their own hands. They at least rely on federal authorities to make a determination of whether IRCA has been violated before imposing their own sanctions.
If a city wants to pass a sanctions law, at least do it the legal way. Isn't there a bit of irony in a city trying to pass a law to punish alleged lawbreakers and then completely ignoring the law in enacting the ordinance?
February 20, 2009
The National Law Journal reports on an interesting case involving the Virginia assistant attorney general and his "mail order" Colombian bride. The case involves a divorce action that involves some sordid accusations against the US citizen husband. But the interesting part for me is the question of whether a judge can bar the US citizen from contacting USCIS regarding the immigration status of his wife. The divorce judge tried to bar the husband claiming that he would likely libel his wife. But an appeals court says that this infringes his constitutional right to freedom of speech.
This is actually a fairly common issue. I am contacted not infrequently be a US citizen who is often very angry and is looking to report a spouse to USCIS. Some of these folks are clearly seeking revenge and hoping to get their husband or wife deported. Some are probably genuine in their belief that their spouse was only marrying them for a green card. But in this group, my sense is that they are just deluding themselves because they refuse to admit that they aren't quite the catch that they would like people to think they are. And there are also some that probably are right that they were taken advantage of and the spouse only wanted a green card and the marriage was a fraud.
The problem, of course, is that it is often very, very tought to make the correct call and a DHS officer has to be a bit of a psychologist. No easy task.
February 20, 2009
Thanks to America's Voice for the update:
DC – In an interview
with radio show host El Piolín this week, President Obama renewed his
campaign pledge to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform legislation
this year, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who go
through background checks, pay taxes, and get at the back of the citizenship
line. Following on the heels of comments by White House Chief of Staff
Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Obama’s remarks
make it clear that his Administration plans to follow through on the
President’s campaign trail promise to take up immigration reform during his
first year in office.
On Tuesday, President Obama told Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, “We’re going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that’s broken. We’re going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it’s cheaper, that it’s faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members. And then we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.”
In addition to the President, prominent voices from the Obama Administration and other key allies have offered support for tackling immigration reform this year. In a recent interview with Hispanic journalists, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel noted the debate over the immigration-related components of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and stated that “the arrow is pointing in a different direction in relation to immigration politics in this country.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) highlighted his intention to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in 2009, stating “I hope that we can get it done in September, and I feel confident that we can get this done.” And labor leader John Wilhelm, President Hospitality Industry, UNITE HERE! said the “American people have embraced the proposition that has always been true about our country: that we will succeed as a nation if we put our divisions aside and work together. As we work to rebuild this country, it is important that all workers and all employers are on an even playing field.”
“We applaud President Obama for recognizing that common-sense immigration reform is urgently needed,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “He clearly understands the urgency of dealing with an issue that has become a symbol of how politicians in Washington duck tough problems rather than solve them. He also gets that a smart approach to reform is consistent with the drive to right the economy. That is why we expect the President’s approach to comprehensive immigration reform will be pro-worker, pro-taxpayer, pro-rule of law, and pro-family.
“We believe that the 2009 version of comprehensive reform should prioritize the following key elements: 1) mount an aggressive crack down on bad actor employers who engage in wage theft, misclassification of independent contractors, and other forms of exploitation, practices which conspire to undermine the working conditions of all lower-wage workers; 2) devise and implement a workable employee verification system that significantly reduces illegal hiring, combined with aggressive enforcement against those who end run the system; 3) institute a program that ensures immigrants in the U.S. without authorization will come forward, pass background checks, study English, pay taxes and get to the back of the citizenship line; and 4) reduce the family reunification backlogs to address the legitimate equity concerns of those waiting in line outside the country.
“This combination will help end illegal immigration, level the playing field for law-abiding workers and employers, reduce worker exploitation and abuse, lift wages for all lower-wage workers, generate billions in tax revenues from both employers and workers who have been operating off the books, and unite families in a timely fashion. Other components will and should be considered, but the priority should be to deal with presence of 12 million undocumented workers already here, restore integrity to low wage labor markets, treat all workers fairly, increase tax compliance, and enforce labor and immigration laws in a way that supports these objectives rather than undermines them.”
The Washington Post is reporting a couple of obscure names as the likely people to head USCIS and ICE. Readers who know more about these folks are encouraged to speak up:
Immigrant advocates say the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have nearly finalized their choices to lead two major immigration agencies. For DHS assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, all signs point to John T. Morton, a career Justice Department official who has overseen complex immigration and terrorism cases -- most recently as chief of the Domestic Security Section.
For Citizenship and Immigration Services, sources tell our colleague Spencer Hsu that Maryland Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez appears to be the pick. Perez, a key player in Obama's transition, was a top official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton.
February 19, 2009
Immigration advocacy group America's Voice is sponsoring an online petition drive calling on the Justice Department to investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the virulently anti-immigrant sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, one of the most populous counties in America. Here's the letter they're asking folks to sign:Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530We, the undersigned, respectfully request that you direct your office to investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, for gross civil rights violations in the name of immigration enforcement. No official is above the law, and yet Sheriff Arpaio has engaged in racial profiling and civil rights abuses for years with impunity.The case against the publicity-hungry Sheriff is well documented and horrifying. Joe Arpaio has made a mockery of our justice system by:
Relying heavily on racial profiling and double standards: routinely stopping drivers for minor violations and only forcing "Latino-looking" drivers to produce Social Security cards.
Engaging in sidewalk “crime sweeps” in low-crime communities – detaining those who cannot prove their citizenship status on the spot, while allowing dangerous felons to roam free.Promoting horrifying detention conditions that have been condemned by health agencies and human rights organizations.
Arpaio’s prisons have been stripped of their health standards accreditation, the Mayor of Phoenix and other law enforcement officials have denounced the Sheriff's tactics, the Governor of Arizona has pulled some of his key funding, and over 2,700 lawsuits have been filed against him. Meanwhile, crime has surged. The Sheriff's office has over 40,000 outstanding warrants for real felons that it simply hasn't had time to tackle.
Mr. Attorney General, elected officials are subject to our nation's laws. Sheriffs should be held accountable for fighting crime, not rewarded for spreading fear. We request an immediate Department of Justice investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his appalling tactics.
February 18, 2009
ICE is investigating its Baltimore office over orders to switch from emphasizing deporting criminals and people who were evading deportation orders and instead to target Hispanic-looking workers gathering at day laborer sites.
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at email@example.com