Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

Merit based immigration system supported, criticized, by Right and Left

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

In 2015 14% of all green care awardees or about 140,000 persons received a green card on the basis of employment merits.

Republican Senator Cotton wants to increase the employment merit share and reduce total permanent awards by half, to about 500,000. His RAISE Act was filed in February, and was criticized by the conservative Cato Institute, for not helping low skilled native-born workers, and by liberals.

Former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, who served under Carter, advocated a merit system in an article on the website of the liberal-oriented Economic Policy Institute. He wants “points-based systems to give quantitative weights for preferred migrant selection characteristics. These systems are more objective than decisions made by immigration officials, and their flexibility allows the mix of characteristics and total point scores to adjust migration to changing conditions.”

The last attempt at comprehensive reform, in 2013, aimed to trim back family based award, by cutting out siblings, and eliminate caps on visas for certain employment-based categories. Use a point system for a new “merit based” visa, of which 120,000 would initially be awarded per year, with a maximum cap of 250,000 annually. It would have raised the annual cap on H1-B visas for high-skilled workers from 65,000 to 110,000, with provisions to prevent such workers from undercutting American wages.

Immigration: Trump’s cornerstone policy initiative

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The Trump administration speaks loudly and wields a big stick on immigration. It eyes an extremely attractive opening to deliver on its promise to Make America Great Again. It looks beyond the 2018 and 2020 election cycles to a leading a once in every 40-50 year cycle in the nation’s immigration policy.

The administration’s approach to immigration restrictions is catnip to conservatives in the way that universal health insurance coverage is to liberals. The constituents in favor feel vindicated, the opponents feel disparaged and weak. Liberals are fine for expanding benefits and rights. Conservatives are fine for instilling order.  Stephen Bannon and Attorney General Sessions are out to make history.

America wavers between a restrictive and permissive approach to foreign migration. It waxed permissive from the 1880s until an explicitly racist restrictive act in 1924. Lyndon Johnson extended the civil rights movement by engineering with liberal Democrats a permissive reform in 1965. Since then, Washington has been paralyzed from conveying a reputable style of leadership in goals and practical coordination, while legal and illegal immigration boomed. The public has become confused about what it wants. It appears to say that it likes immigrants but wants fewer of them.

The Trump administration in its first weeks in office showed that it learned from the Obama Administration the power of executive orders over immigration. Obama protected classes of unauthorized persons; Trump applies his discretion to bar admittance, and to expand deportations.Obama deported millions, but his deportations fitted in the narratives about him of neither supporters nor opponents. The quickly emerging narrative of this administration is more coherent, sharply defined.

Trump greatly pleases conservatives with his deportations and his entry bars. That its executive orders bypass Congressional oversight and to a lesser extent judicial interference gives flesh to his boast that only he can save the country. He is making the most of lurid images of rapist Mexicans and Muslims who practice honor killings.

Behind the narrative of law enforcement is a strategy, in a pilot now, of serious constraints on legal immigration. In the initial country ban of January 27, but missing in the replacement executive order of March 6, were instructions to Executive Branch agencies to consider in visa review “a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest.”

No executive branch in generations has formally addressed the national interest for immigration. Task forces formed in the late 1970s and in the 1990s to think through the national interest for immigration failed to make a dent on Congress.

Expect well-publicized tightening up of the nation’s temporary worker programs, which include both $12 an hour farm workers and $75,000 software engineers. Expect executive branch-sponsored reports on how immigration combines with unfair foreign competition to stymie the careers of native-born Americans.

Administration’s inconsistences on temporary work visas

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Justice in Motion (formally Global Workers Justice Alliance) says that a draft Executive order “cherry picks categories and continues a long tradition of allowing U.S. employers to hire an easily exploitable temporary foreign workforce over U.S. workers.”

Its report:

Another Executive Order (EO) that affects justice across borders for migrants, has yet to be released but was recently leaked to the press: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Program.

This EO calls for administrative reform to various temporary foreign worker visa categories to ensure that U.S. workers get priority access to jobs before foreign workers do. We support the premise, but when we look deeper into the details, we are concerned that the EO will not actually achieve this goal.

First, the H-2B foreign work visa — used regularly at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to hire cooks, waiters, and housekeepers — is entirely absent from the EO. As the Palm Beach Post reported, there were more than 35,000 local job seekers in Palm Beach County where the Club is located, yet Trump made only one request to the state employment agency for a single U.S. worker.

Next, the EO calls for “efficient processing” of employer petitions under the H-2A agricultural visa program. (In addition to employing H-2B workers, Trump family businesses also hire H-2A workers.) This so-called “efficient processing” is a euphemism for bypassing U.S. farmworker recruitment, enabling employers to more quickly and readily access the foreign labor pool. As Buzzfeed revealed in an award-winning expose, U.S. farmworkers are often considered differently and excluded access to these jobs in preference for foreign workers.

If protecting U.S. workers is a priority, then the H-2A and H-2B visa program should also be reformed to allow U.S. workers to have more access to these job opportunities — not less.

Finally, the EO also calls for reform of the J-1 Summer Work Travel visa, a J-1 visa category that allows foreign college students to work for three months in low-wage jobs. But Summer Work Travel is not the only J-1 visa category that needs reform. The lower wage subcategories of the J-1 exchange visitor visa are \chronically misused by U.S employers to avoid hiring U.S. workers, for whom they will have to payroll taxes, recruitment costs, and market-rate wages. If the administration was genuinely concerned about protecting U.S. workers, J-1 categories like interns, trainees, camp counselors and au pairs in hospitality and childcare would not have been conspicuously absent from the EO.

Sanctuary Cities: the legal battle

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Does the Trump administration have the legal power to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities? Below is an analysis of the legal battle. In sum, the battle is partly over whether sanctuary cities are in violation of federal statute for failing to detain persons arrested  (San Francisco says no), and whether all federal funds or only a very small segment of them is at risk.

The details:

On January 25, President Trump said, “And finally, at long last, cracking down on Sanctuary Cities. It’s time to restore the civil rights of Americans to protect their jobs, their hopes, and their dreams for a much better future. Congress passed these laws to serve our citizens. It is about time those laws were properly enforced. They are not enforced.”

A law suit by San Francisco filed on January 31, in response to a Trump Administration executive order signed on January 25 sets out the legal parameters of the sanctuary city issue. The suit says that the Executive Order threatens the loss of $1.2 billion in Federal funds, 13% of the city’s annual budget.

“Sanctuary city” is an informal term with no legal meaning The SF suit describes what local orders generally do: “They specifically prohibit local law enforcement officers from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detainer requests, which are voluntary, and limit when local law enforcement officers may give ICE advance notice of a person’s release from local jail.” SF is referring to its Administrative Code, Chapters 12H and 12I. A detainer request is a request by the federal government that a city detain in custody persons who have been arrested.

The Executive order says that sanctuary cites are in violation of Title 8, Section 1373 of the United States Code, “which provides that local governments may not prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from “sending to, or receiving from, [federal immigration officials] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status . . . of any individual.”

The SF suit says that it and other sanctuary cities are not in violation of this law. It cites a May 31, 2016 report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department on what constitutes a violation of Section 1373. The IG’s report includes examples of sanctuary city ordinances. It suggests that violation of Section 1373 puts at risk State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which for the top ten sanctuary jurisdictions came to $342 million in 2015.

The SF suit says that Section 1373 does not require cities to respond to requests by the federal government to detain persons. Further it says that “No federal funds received by San Francisco have statutory conditions specifically requiring compliance with Section 1373.”


Trump re-setting expectations about unauthorized population

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

The Trump administration appears to have a strategy to change public expectations about the future of the 11 million unauthorized persons in the country.

Coming into 2017, the public appears to strongly favor a policy of eventual citizenship for these persons, based on a poll published in the Atlantic. Such a policy is apparently supported even by conservative Republicans. Thus, the default position of Americans has been light on deportation and heavy on normalization, with an expectation that legalization is the assumed solution.

The Trump administration is trying to reverse the expectations, to induce the public to expect mounting deportation as the default approach, with legalization being the exception.

An Executive Order on January 25 basically criminalizes the eight million illegal workers, the vast majority of whom do not have a felony or major misdemeanor record, for abuse of social security card identification.

The arrest in Phoenix on February 8 and deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos marks the start of what I expect to be a pattern of strict enforcement of this Executive Order. De Rayos, who illegally entered in the 1990s with her parents when she was 14, was convicted in 2009 for felony criminal impersonation – using another person’s social security card. Federal felony categories are here. De Rayos’ conviction was a Level 6 felony in Arizona – the mildest in the state’s categories.

In 2013 she was the subject of a removal order, but she also was the subject of court-ordered supervision, which meant she wouldn’t be immediately deported. De Rayos is the mother of two children born in the United States.

Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old man who arrived in the U.S. at age 7 and had DREAMER (DACA) permission to stay in the country, was arrested who authorities say he violated DACA standards due to his being a gang member. DACA deferment is not allowed for those who “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department will, I expect, repeat many times these kinds of arrest and deportation, first taking on cases that allow for immediate deportation without chance of a check by a court.

It will then probably expand the scope of its arrests to include those for whom a check by a court is possible. The January 25 EO (“Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”) included persons with criminal charges, persons who “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense, persons who “ have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency”, and person who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”


Draft Executive Order on means testing of legal Immigrants

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

The American Progress released a draft executive order which vastly expands the power of the executive branch to control legal immigration among low wage earners by using an old concept of “public charge” in the current setting, where many means tested programs are used by wage earners.

“Under the draft order, individuals who are otherwise eligible for green cards could be denied admission to the United States if they could conceivably become eligible for any kind of means-tested assistance….Under the draft order, applicants who are otherwise eligible for a green card may be denied LPR status or admission to the United States if they are deemed likely to receive any means-tested public benefit. As currently drafted, the order would even allow federal officials to deport LPRs if they receive such benefits during their first five years in the United States.”

According to the Census, among non-high school graduates, 37.3% received means-tested benefits in 2014; also, 21.6% of high school graduates participated in one of the major means-tested government assistance programs.


The long shadow of the 1965 immigration act

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

When the Act was passed immigrants accounted for about 5% of the population, down from 14.7% in 1910. Today, they account for 13.5%

By Daniel Tichenor in the Atlantic

This sweeping immigration reform is one of the crowning—and most controversial—achievements of the Johnson years. Even by the standards of Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society juggernaut, the legislation that eventually passed—the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, known as INA—was monumental. Although few historians believe the law’s champions anticipated just how profoundly it would change the U.S. demographic landscape, Johnson seemed to recognize that its passage was especially significant—enough so that he oversaw the staging of an elaborate signing ceremony at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Fifty years later, this sweeping immigration reform is being commemorated alongside the Voting Rights Act as one of the crowning—and most controversial—achievements of the hard-driving Johnson years.

The law ended a draconian national-origins quota system that was explicitly rooted in eugenicist notions of Northern and Western European superiority. Yet it took 20 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany for Congress to remove these barriers in American immigration law, showing how effectively Cold War nativists knitted together national-security and race-based fears…..The INA marked a monumental watershed in U.S. immigration policy, but this kind of moment will not be easy to reproduce.

Decades later, presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton pursued a cautious, reactive strategy toward immigration reform, one in which they responded opportunistically to congressional initiative on the issue. Some presidents have failed spectacularly, including Jimmy Carter, who pursued employer sanctions-amnesty legislation, and George W. Bush, who hoped for comprehensive immigration reform. Most recently, the incoming Obama administration shelved immigration reform when it became clear that nearly every Republican member of Congress (and some Democrats) would derail legislation. Obama eventually followed precedents set by Truman and Eisenhower, taking unilateral executive action to provide deportation relief and economic benefits to particular undocumented immigrants, most notably young people who entered the United States as children (and, later, their parents, a move currently blocked in the courts).

Recent polling on immigration

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017


CNN’s exit surveys of voters

What is the most important issue facing the country:

Trump voters said immigration first, above terrorism, the economy, and foreign policy. Clinton voters placed immigration last, below foreign policy, economy, and terrorism.

Illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be:

Offered legal status: 70% (Clinton voters 61%, Trump voters 33%)
Should be deported to home country 24% (Clinton 14% Trump 83%)

(other responses = other/no answer)

On the Trump executive orders on immigration (“the ban”):

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll some 31% of people said the ban made them feel “more safe,” while 26% said it made them feel “less safe.” Another 33% said it would not make any difference and the rest said they don’t know.

Democrats were more than three times as likely as Republicans to say that the “U.S. should continue to take in immigrants and refugees,” and Republicans were more than three times as likely as Democrats to agree that “banning people from Muslim countries is necessary to prevent terrorism.”

Most Americans, however, don’t think the country should show a preference for Christian refugees, as Trump has suggested. Some 56%, including 72% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans, disagreed that the country should “welcome Christian refugees, but not Muslim ones.”

(reported by Fortune).


Refugees and domestic terrorism: the facts

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

The U.S. government thorough screens refugees’ background – an intensive process involving the Departments of Homeland Security and State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and national intelligence agencies. It takes 18 – 24 months for the checks for proposed refugees to the U.S. to be conducted (compared to four months in Canada). For the 784,000 refugees settled in the United States since Sept 11, 2001, three have been arrested for planning terrorist activities – two of whom were planning attacks outside the country. – from the Migration Policy Institute, “Ten Facts about U.S. Refugee Resettlement,” October 2015.


Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, of 180 people charged with jihadist terrorism-related crimes in the U.S. or who died before being charged, 11 were identified as being from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan or Somalia, the countries specified in Mr. Trump’s order, according to an analysis of data on the attacks by The Wall Street Journal.” – the Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2017


Trump admin stopped short of rescinding Dreamers executive order

Monday, January 30th, 2017

A leaked copy of the draft executive order rescinding the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order of June 2012) is here.

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies says that Trump broke a campaign promise to “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants,” one of which is DACA, the other DAPA (deferred action for parents of Americans).

The National Conference of Mayors supports the continuation of protection of DREAMERS  and implies resistance to Trump Administration’s expansion of deportation efforts (January 19)

The CEO of Starbucks endorses DREAMERS (January 19); “As I wrote to Senators Graham and Durbin this week, we are enthusiastically behind their work to support “Dreamers” across our country – including those young men and women who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There are nearly three quarters of a million hardworking people contributing to our communities and our economy because of this program. At Starbucks, we are proud to call them partners and to help them realize their own American Dream.”

DACA is covered here and here.