Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

A potential slim House majority for moderate immigration reform

Thursday, May 24th, 2018


With help from a Washington Post article we can envision a very slim majority in the House of Representatives for any moderate immigration reform bill, one that will secure the future of Dreamers and perhaps make some further limited changes. This slim majority may block any restrictionist bill.

As of today, 214 members have signed on to vote, by way of a discharge petition H.R. 774, on a vote planned expressly to protect Dreamers. The details of the strategy are here.

This discharge petition requires 218 votes, per the Washington Post. As of today, the discharge petition is assured of 193 Democrats (100%) and 21 Republicans (9%) – or 214, four votes shy of 218.

In total, 13 of 21 signers represent districts that are either heavily Hispanic or that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 — in several cases both. Jeff Denham (R-CA), leading the discharge effort, has a district both of over 40% Hispanic and which voted for Clinton. Denham’s district is heavily involved with farming including wineries, including Gallo, the world’s largest winery.

Republicans hold 11 seats with an Hispanic population of at least 40%. Four of the 11 have yet to sign on. Leaving out these 11 seats, there are 18 remaining seats with a Clinton majority in 2016. Ten of the 18 have yet to sign on. Eight other Republicans signed on who did not have a large Hispanic population and whose district went to Trump in 2016. Three of the 8 signed on in support of dairy farmers in their district.

H.R. 4760 is the Goodlatte bill, which will severely restrict immigration without providing lasting security to Dreamers. It would give Dreamers a three-year visa with no right to permanent stay or citizenship, restrict family reunification to spouses and minor children (thus removing adult children and parents), shift the visa lottery to economic visas, and boost border security.

There remains H.R. 4796, a bipartisan bill filed on January 26. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-California) filed the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA) Act, H.R. 4796, with 48 bipartisan original cosponsors. The bill will protect Dreamers, and make sensible improvements to border control

The current bipartisan immigration bill

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

The current effort by some House of Representatives members to enact a bipartisan immigration bill draws upon a bill introduced on January 26. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-California) filed the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA) Act, H.R. 4796, with 48 bipartisan original cosponsors. The bill will protect Dreamers, and make sensible improvements to border control and to immigration courts.

Dreamer protection

The bill would create a renewable eight-year conditional permanent resident status that would allow Dreamers to earn the ability to be protected from deportation, work legally in the U.S., travel outside the country and apply to be a lawful permanent resident if they meet certain requirements.

They could apply for permanent status through one of three tracks: at least two years of college (education track); served in the military (military track); or have been employed for periods totaling at least 3 years and at least 80 percent of the time that the individual has had valid employment authorization, except periods in which the individual was enrolled in school (worker track).

Border security

A number of measures, including Develop a Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy. The bill would direct the DHS Secretary to submit within 12 months a comprehensive, mile-by-mile border strategy containing a list of physical barriers, technologies and tools that can be used to secure the border and their projected per mile cost estimate.

Also, the bill would authorize $110 million for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022 to increase collaboration between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and state and local law enforcement entities to support border security operations.

Immigration courts

The bill would increase the number of immigration judges by 55 each year from fiscal years 2018 through 2020, along with necessary support staff, to reduce the immigration court backlogs, which currently stands at about 660,000 cases. The average wait time for a case to be heard is about 670 days. The bill would also increase the number of Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorneys by 23 each year from fiscal years 2018 through 2020, along with necessary support staff.

Pervasive slowing of legal immigration

Friday, April 6th, 2018

The Migration Policy Institute, Pew Research and others note ways that legal immigration is declining.

Suspending and Reducing Refugee Admissions.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in fiscal 2016. A 110,000 ceiling was set by Obama. Trump almost immediately lowered the ceiling to 50,000, and then to 45,000. Since June 2017 monthly refugee admissions have most been under 2,000. This implies an annual volume of under 2,5000.

Slowing Family Immigration

In fiscal 2016, 804,793 people received family-based U.S. lawful permanent residence. Per the MPI, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processed 54% of immediate relative petitions in FY 2017, compared to about 67% in FY 2016. Non-immediate relative immigration processing was already low in FY 2016, with roughly 22% of applications adjudicated, but fell even further to 9% in FY 2017. Backlogs for non-immediate relatives increased. It seems likely that USCIS is delaying adjudication of non-immediate relative petitions because of lengthy visa availability backlogs in these categories.

Excluding Public Charges

Per the MPI, the administration has yet to officially unveil an expected policy designed to keep people at risk of becoming public charges out of the country. However, changes seem imminent. Two leaked draft documents—an executive order and a proposed regulation—outline substantive revisions. The policy could effectively reduce green-card grants for low-income individuals and make permanent residents more vulnerable to deportation.

Extreme vetting

The administration has taken steps to increase the screening of applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, which could have the effect of slowing down admissions. In June 2017, a supplemental questionnaire was rolled out, in which some visa applicants must detail their travel history, residential addresses, and employment information for the past 15 years. In February 2018, the President signed a national security memorandum establishing the National Vetting Enterprise to coordinate and manage the government’s vetting efforts, combining the work of the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice, and the Director of National Intelligence.

Temporary Protected Status

More than 320,000 immigrants from 10 nations have permission to live and work in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), because war, hurricanes or other disasters in their home countries could make it dangerous for them to return. Many are expected to lose their benefits in 2018 and 2019. The Trump administration has said it will not renew the program for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, who together account for about 76% of enrolled immigrants.

H-1B (skilled worker) visas

Under the Trump administration, the number of H-1B applications challenged by the federal government has increased. In addition, the administration has considered restricting the number of years foreign workers can hold H-1B visas.

Student visas

The State Department reports a total of 393,573 F-1 visas issued for the fiscal year ending 30 September 2017. This represents a 17% decline from the 471,000 F-1s issued in 2016, and a nearly 39% drop in F-1 visa issuance from the recent-year high in 2015.

Past versions of Trump’s “crime and rapists” speech

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

June 16, 2015 Donald Trump, about unoocumented Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

An echo from the past—

1893 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chae Chan Ping v. United States, upholding the denial of re-entry of a legal resident from China at a time a great hostility to Chinese immigrants: “To preserve its independence, and give security against foreign aggression and encroachment, is the highest duty of every nation, and to attain these ends nearly all other considerations are to be subordinated.”

1920s Henry Laughlin, leading eugenicist, provided reports on the “degeneracy” and “social inadequacy” of the racially inferioroty and unassimiability of southern and eastern Europeans, supporting passage of racist quotas in the Immigration Act of 1924.

Early 1950s Senator Pat McCarran, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on immigration, and leading force behind the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which continued racist quotas. He defended the Act “to preserve this nation, the last hope of western civilization,” to prevent it from being “overrun, perverted, contaminated, or destroyed.”  The Act, he asserted, kept communists out of the United States.

Immigration bills — today’s voting

Friday, February 16th, 2018


The Senate today (2/15) voted on four immigration bills, and fall failed to gain 60 votes. (Source: Vox).

The Common Sense Caucus proposal (led by Sen. Susan Collins). The plan had gained the endorsement of Democratic leadership and was technically sponsored by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

•Provided a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children
•Offered $25 billion for border security
•Prevented DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents for legal status

It failed 54 to 45. Democrats almost unanimously backed the plan, along with eight Republicans. But the rest of the GOP conference and a handful of Democrats blocked the bill.

Coons-McCain Bill by Sens. Chris Coons and John McCain (R-AZ).

• Provided a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children
• Offered no money for Trump’s border wall, though it did include some border security measures

It failed 52 to 47, with Democrats almost united in favor and Republicans mostly voting against it.

Toomey amendment to Coons-McCain bill. The second vote, on an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), did not actually address DACA or border security. The Toomey amendment would have penalized so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policy, by withholding federal funding from those municipalities.

It failed 54 to 45. Republicans and a few Democrats supported it, but most Democrats were opposed.

Grassley Bill. This one was closest to the White House’s preferences

• Provided a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children
• Offered $25 billion to fund a southern border wall
• Substantially curtailed family immigration and eliminated the diversity visa lottery program in such a way that would gut the legal immigration system

It failed, 39 to 60. Democrats opposed the bill en masse, joined by a notable number of Republicans, while most of the GOP conference and a couple Democrats supported it.

Republican point system for ranking immigrants

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue proposed in February 2017 an immigration bill which would introduce a system to prioritize green cards on the basis of merit. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act would according to the sponsors “lower overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its tenth year-a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.” A summary of the bill is here.

The bill includes a points system for merit-based green cards. Britain, Canada and Australia have point systems. In 2008, the Labor government introduced Britain‘s first points-based immigration system heralded by ministers as being based on the Australian system. It replaced a labyrinthine scheme which saw 80 different types of visa granted.

The Australian Labor government elected in 1972 decided migrants would be granted a visa based on their personal attributes and ability to contribute to Australian society – most obviously, through their occupational status. The points system – formalised in 1989 – has gone through several versions, and was most recently updated in July 2011. Canada was the first country to introduce a points-based system, in 1967.

The RAISE Act point system, in Section 5, would keep economic based visas at the current level of 140,000 and require an applicant to reach 30 points to be eligible for a green card. For example, a high school degree (foreign or U.S.) is 1 point, a U.S. professional degree is 13 points, and a foreign PhD in STEM is 10 points. Age 26 – 30 is 10 points, but age 41 – 45 is 4 points. English proficiency provides 6 to 12 points based on proficiency. If you have $1.35 million or more, you get from 6 up to 12 points. A high wage job offer provides 13 points. There is little or no room in this system for artists, authors, farm workers, and most health workers.


Digging into the Trump plan to cut immigration

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

The Migration Policy Institute published an analysis of the four point White House immigration plan of January 25. It wrote:

The Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts in legal immigration, unlike any seen since the Immigration Act of 1924, as part of its price tag to legalize the DREAMers

Family reunification:

Under the plan, Americans would lose the right to petition for their parents, adult or married children, or siblings to join them, allowing them only to reunite with spouses and minor children. [These account for 317,000 green cards issued in FY2016.] And legal permanent residents, who have had more limited ability to reunify with relatives, would no longer be able to petition for their adult children. The effects would be greatest for parents of U.S. citizens, who received 59 percent of the green cards [174,000 in 2016] in the categories slated for elimination under the White House proposal.

According to the State Department, as of November 1, 2017, there were 3.7 million individuals waiting in the categories listed for elimination.


The White House also is seeking to eliminate the diversity visa lottery, and repurpose those 50,000 green cards to reduce the family and employment-based backlogs. The lottery…is currently used primarily by nationals from countries in Africa, Central and Western Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Overall impact:

Together, these family-sponsored and diversity categories proposed for elimination made up one-third of all new green-card holders in fiscal year (FY) 2016. These cuts align with those proposed by the Trump-endorsed RAISE Act—whose authors estimated their bill would eventually lead to a 50 percent reduction in legal immigration.

While family-based and diversity visa applicants are not selected on the basis of high educational attainment, recent Migration Policy Institute (MPI) findings show that nearly half of all recent immigrants, through all streams, have a college degree—a significant increase over earlier arrivals and the U.S.-born population. Paradoxically, the ultimate effect of the White House’s proposed legal immigration changes would be to reduce immigration of highly skilled workers.

Republican initiative to boost skilled immigration

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

What about boosting skilled worker immigration?

Two immigration lawyers write, “In stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s xenophobic wish-list is the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2018, introduced by two Republican Senators, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bill does not address Dreamers, but rather focuses on employment-based visas. Although imperfect, the bill serves as a proper starting point when discussing sensible immigration policy. Specifically, the bill acknowledges the utility and benefit of foreign skilled workers, especially in the IT field.

“Hatch and Flake have both realized that these workers not only benefit US industries, but also help create jobs for American workers. In a global economy, all forms of capital, including intellectual capital, flow to their optimum destinations according to the laws of supply and demand. We can, if we think and act anew, transform immigration policy from an endless source of controversy to a flexible weapon in our economic arsenal so that everyone profits. I-Squared does provide the opening salvo.”

Polling results support compromise deal in midst of agreements, disputes

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

A Harvard-Harris poll on January 17-19 of 980 registered voters found a rare high degree of consistent support for an immigration package being proposed by the White House.

Voters were asked, “Would you favor or oppose a congressional deal that gives undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents work permits and a path to citizenship in exchange for increasing merit preference over preference for relatives, eliminating the diversity visa lottery, and funding barrier security on the U.S.-Mexico border?”

Every category of political leaning and demographics said it would support the deal by a majority of between 60% and 75%. Liberals like it by 63%; conservatives, by 68%.

When asked, not about a deal, but about specific features, 77% said yes to Dreamer access to citizenship. Even conservatives agreed by 64%.

As for giving more weight to education and skills, 79% said yes, with Republicans at 87% and Democrats at 72%

However, there is wide disagreement about the preferred number of permanent immigrants per year. The respondents were not told the current rate of about one million. Conservatives want a level of well less than 500,000, even below 250,000, while liberals want between 500,000 and million. College educated persons and those earning $75K or more tend to be more open.

The lottery system is unpopular by 32% in favor, 68% opposed.

16% of Republicans think that border security is adequate, compared to 60% of Democrats.

Deal on immigration reform?

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Ross Douthat in the NY Times points to possible negotiation between the White House and pro-immigration forces among Democrats:

“Especially since last week, Trump and Miller actually made an interesting offer: an amnesty and even a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers, more generous than what many restrictionists favor and with no promise of the new E-Verify enforcements conservatives often seek, in return for a shift (over many years) to a skills-based policy and a somewhat lower immigration rate. [The White House “framework” of January 25 would reduce immigration from about one million to about 700,000 a year.]

“If you’re committed to the view that restrictionists can and must be steamrolled, you’ll respond to this offer the way many Democrats have — call it a “white supremacist ransom note,” punt on policy, and use the issue to rally your base in 2018.

“But if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer: for instance, the same rough blueprint but with more green cards for skilled immigrants, so that Miller gets his cuts to low-skilled immigration but the overall rate stays closer to the status quo.”