This has been one of the most eventful months in immigration in many years. For some, the news has been promising. For those focused on aiding the undocumented, the President's announcement on deferred action and the Supreme Court ruling in the Arizona case are largely good developments. But this has also been a month that reminds us how poorly our skilled immigration system is working. The H-1B cap was hit in early June, nearly a half year ahead of last year. Employers now face a 15 month black out bringing on critical workers even if they can document a strong need for them. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, we have backlogs in the EB-2 category for advance degree workers and complete unavailabilty for workers from India and China for at least several months.
A report being released today by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the non-profit group co-founded by NY Mayor Bloomberg, showing that immigrants played a role in nearly 3/4 of patent applications filed at the nation's elite universities is just more evidence that the country needs these talent workers if we are to remain competitive. This should be the low hanging fruit in the immigration debate. The President has spoken out in favor of liberalizing immigration rules for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). So has Mitt Romney. And there are numerous bipartisan proposals in Congress focusing on STEM workers. We've also seen the House pass by a ten to one margin the 3012 bill that removes discriminatory per country quotas and moves the immigration system to a fair first come, first serve system.
Yet nothing seems to be moving. I've heard in the last few days of a deal on 3012 but one that comes at a steep price. The protectionist Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has insisted on adding provisions giving new and extraordinary powers to the Department of Labor in the H-1B process, something that should be deeply troubling to those who already are concerned that the Department of Labor's immigration enforcement officers are playing a destructive role in helping America's businesses remain globally competitive. In many cases, their actions actually cost American workers jobs as companies not able to find key workers end up delaying and even abandoning projects that employ Americans alongside foreign workers.
And that also makes me wonder why one Senator gets to have so much power in the Senate, particularly a Senator from the minority party and a Senator whose positions directly contradict many in his own party. A hold by a Senator is a way to delay a bill, but if the leadership wants to move a bill through normal channels, then a hold should eventually fail. With such overwhelming support for 3012, Grassley's hold should not have been enough to stop the bill from eventually passing.
There is no legitimate reason we can't see one of the several very good STEM bills pass this session. We just need good leadership from both parties.
Now it's refusing to signify whether he thinks the Arizona immigration law is good policy. Simply saying Obama is to blame is not an appropriate response when specific questions are asked regarding your views of immigration policies.
Here are some questions that just require a simple yes or no.
- Do you think the Supreme Court should have invalidated three sections of the Arizona immigration law?
- Do you think the part of the Arizona law upheld regarding police checks is a good idea?
- Would you keep President Obama's DREAM policy in place while you pursued the long term solution you claim you'll be able to get passed by Congress?
- Do you still back up your vow to veto the DREAM Act?
- Do you still think the best policy to deal with illegal immigration is to get people to "self-deport" by making life as tough as possible for them here in the US?
Reporters shouldn't move on when Romney or his spokespeople try and dodge the question. Ask for a one word answer and if you get more than that, just ask again and ask again.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.