December 2, 2014

Arguments pro and con re legality of Executive Actions

The Department of Justice issued a paper on November 19, “The Department of Homeland Security’s Authority to Prioritize Removal of Certain Aliens Unlawfully Present in the United States and to Defer Removal of Others.”

The Center for Immigration Studies published today an article against the Executive Actions, “President Obama's "Deferred Action" Program for Illegal Aliens is Plainly Unconstitutional”, by Jan Ting.

November 27, 2014

Pew Hispanic Center's estimates for the Executive Action

The Pew Hispanic Center performs the following arithmetic to explain the impact of Obama’s Executive Action:

Current undocumented population: 11.2 million

Pre-Action protected through Deferred
Action For Childhood Arrivals: 1.5 million

Per the Executive Action:

Additional protected by DACA 0.3 million

Parents with minor US-born children
and here for at least 5 years: 2.8 million

Parents with adult US-born children
And here for at least 5 years: 0.7 million

These estimates result in 3.5 million adults coming under provisional work authorization due to the Executive Action. Assuming a workforce participation rate of 65% (which is probably low), this means that about 2.25 million current members of the workforce shift from unauthorized to authorized to work.

The large majority of these workers are in agriculture, hospitality, institutional, and transportation.

The Pew Hispanic Center expects “44% of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico could apply for deportation protection under the new programs, compared with 24% of those from other parts of the world.”

It goes on to say that “Among the other policy changes announced in the president’s action are an increased number of visas for skilled workers and spouses of green card holders. There are several changes, including immigration enforcement that will now focus on recent arrivals and serious and repeat criminal offenders.”

November 22, 2014

Some specifics about the Obama Administration’s “Executive Actions”

The White House prefers to refer to “Immigration Accountability Executive Actions.” In a Fact Sheet issued November 20, the following was disclosed. This is a very incomplete list of actions but probably are the actions of most interest to low income undocumented workers.

DHS is establishing a new deferred action program for parents of U.S. Citizens or LPRs [lawful permanent residents] who are not enforcement priorities and have been in the country for more than 5 years. Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of this announcement.

Expand DACA to cover additional DREAMers. Under the initial DACA program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. DHS is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. Going forward, DACA relief will also be granted for three years.

Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting LPR status and their spouses. Under the current system, employees with approved LPR applications often wait many years for their visa to become available. DHS will make regulatory changes to allow these workers to move or change jobs more easily. DHS is finalizing new rules to give certain H-1B spouses employment authorization as long as the H-1B spouse has an approved LPR application.

DHS will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S., to ensure that our system encourages them to grow our economy. The criteria will include income thresholds so that these individuals are not eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

Strengthen and extend on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities. In order to strengthen educational experiences of foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at U.S. universities, DHS will propose changes to expand and extend the use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and require stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.

November 21, 2014

How Obama devised his Executive Order

Politico published an article today detailing how Obama and Jeh Johnson, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security, put together his policy to provide provisional protection to millions of undocumented persons. The article describes, among many things, how Congressional efforts to craft an immigration bill fell apart this summer.

The article:

How Obama got here

The president, the Homeland Security secretary and their secret 9-month project to remake America’s broken immigration system.

Nine months ago, the new Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, received a request from the White House. President Obama wanted him to personally take on perhaps the administration’s toughest political assignment: looking for creative ways to fix America’s immigration system without congressional action—or executive overreach.

Just four months into the job, Johnson had been prepared to take on tough security issues: Bombs on planes. Deadly diseases. Radical Islamists carrying U.S. passports. As the Pentagon’s chief counsel, Johnson had routinely dealt with contentious national security matters, finding himself in the midst of sensitive political fights like whether and how to close Guantanamo Bay, allowing gays in the military, and the rapid expansion of America’s killer drone program.

He wasn’t prepared for a crisis of purely political making.

Just days earlier Obama had been labeled the “deporter in chief” by a top Hispanic leader and ally, furious over the inaction by a president who seemed trapped between the demands of his supporters to allow millions of long-time residents who lacked documentation to stay in the country, and the seemingly endless foot-dragging of Republicans.

That request to Johnson would prove critical: a moment when the president set on the path of a much more ambitious change than the narrow changes in civil enforcement policy he and his aides had initially explored. In the remaining months of 2014, Obama would come to support a sweeping executive action to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, as Congress lurched from willingness to consider changes to strained immigration laws to refusing to tackle the issue at all. Meanwhile, interest groups from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to the Business Roundtable, from K Street’s shrewdest lobbyists to the most hard-nosed union bosses, intervened to try to shape the direction of the order.

Continue reading "How Obama devised his Executive Order" »

Impact of the Executive Order on workers' compensation

The Obama administration’s Executive Order today Nov 21, 2014) will affect many aspects of work life. This is a slightly revised version of an article of mine published on November 18, in anticipation of the Order, in WorkCompCentral.

I analyzed the impact of workers’ compensation. The Order will force the workers’ compensation field to address issues that have been lying in plain sight for some time. After all, one-fifth of work injuries are likely sustained by a foreign-born workers, 10% by undocumented workers, whether or not they are reported.

Will the administration’s policy cause a jump in claims? Will it close down grey market labor abuses or open up a Pandora’s box? Will it make it easier to enforce work safety standards or sow confusion?

An initial analysis leads me to project that the impact on workers’ comp claims will likely be smaller than many may think but the impact on employer, insurer and regulator practices may be pervasive.

Here are six questions worth asking, with their tentative answers:

Q. Does the Administration plan to provide legal protection to all undocumented workers?

A. No, but the practical effect of protecting an estimated somewhat less than 3 million out of eight million workers may well complicate the entire workers’ compensation system. Regulators, courts and employers will now have three legal classes of workers (existing legal, newly protected and undocumented). That could create a legal nightmare. It might also induce many decision makers to reset their approaches to immigrant workers as a whole.

Q. Who are the workers the plan appears to target?

A. According to media reports, it focuses on undocumented persons who have been here for a long time and have children who, mostly by being born in the United States, are citizens.

The plan addresses a fundamental demographic shift during the past 15-20 years in undocumented households. The average tenure of these households in the United States has increased. Over 60% of undocumented adults have been in the country for at least 10 years, and one-fifth have been in the U.S. for two decades or more.

These households have always produced relatively more children than native-born households by virtue of adults being more concentrated in childbearing age ranges. Their children include some “DREAM Act” beneficiaries, minors born outside the country. But the great majority of their children – over four million of them – are born here, and are therefore citizens.

Public data suggests that perhaps a third of undocumented workers have children who are American citizens. Some 87% of these workers come from Latin America; the rest from Asia and elsewhere.

Q. Where do these parents work?

A. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers form the highest share of workforces in Nevada (10%), California (9.7%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8.6%). California has the largest number of people in the labor force who are unauthorized immigrants (1.85 million), followed by Texas (1.1 million), Florida (600,000) and New York (450,000.).

Q. What industries are most affected?

A. I have analyzed federal data to locate not only which industries employ undocumented workers, but those jobs that result in a high number of lost-time compensable injuries.

Among the largest 100 jobs, undocumented workers account for about 4.5% of all workers. Because they tend to hold more injury-prone jobs, they likely incur about 8% of lost-time compensable injuries – or would if they filed claims at the same rate as authorized workers do.

For example, about 12% of janitors and building cleaners are undocumented, but virtually no elementary and middle school teachers. Janitors are over four times more likely to be injured than teachers.

Major sectors with undocumented worker employment are farming, construction, hospitality, and institutional (building and grounds maintenance). About four out of every 10 farm workers are undocumented, hence the expectation, of which we will hear more, that providing work rights to these workers will cause food prices (especially fresh produce) to increase. However, farming’s size is dwarfed by the combined size of these other sectors, in which an average 12% of workers are illegal.

Take construction. A fifth to one quarter of lost-time compensable injuries sustained by all undocumented workers are sustained in construction. The typical image of the illegal construction worker is the low skilled laborer. About a fifth of them are estimated to be unauthorized. But a fair number of painters and other skilled workers are also illegal.

Take hospitality, which includes lodging and restaurants. About 20%-25% of room cleaners and cooks are undocumented workers.

For every 10 lost-time compensable injuries sustained by undocumented workers, about five of them take occur in either construction or hospitality. Maybe only one takes place in farming.

Q. Will workers’ compensation claims increase?

A. This may happen in earnest in selected situations, where undocumented workers have reported relatively few of their injuries and now feel empowered to file claims, with claimant bar and activist group encouragement. For the workers' compensation field as a whole, the impact could be modest. Even if the number of lost-time compensable claims of undocumented workers increased by 50%, the total increase of such claims in the workers' comp field would be, I expect, a couple of percentage points, spread over several years.

Q. How will the new policy impact employers?

A. Undoubtedly, employers, insurers and regulators will take greater care in addressing the direct and indirect ramifications of a legally more empowered workforce.

For example, undocumented workforces are entangled in the underground economy and in independent contractor abuses. As these workers gain more legal protection, and law enforcement agencies, in alliance with workers’ compensation regulators, may begin to attack these challenges with greater vigor.

In the key industries (farming, construction, hospitality and institutional services), employer associations which have fretted over what they see as unfair competition by law-skirting companies that exploit undocumented workers, may prod law enforcement agencies more aggressively. In some industries, such as hospitality and transportation, labor organizing may blossom, with worker health and safety a key campaigning topic.

And, wages will likely trend upward as workers seek jobs in other industries now open to them (such as health care and government), putting pressure on employers. Expect to see greater investment by employers in labor-saving, injury-avoiding technology.

Impact of the Executive Order on workers' compensation

The Obama administration’s Executive Order today (Nov 20, 2014) will affect many aspects of work life. This is a slightly revised version of an article of mine published on November 18, in anticipation of the Order, in WorkCompCentral.

I analyzed the impact of workers’ compensation. The Order will force the workers’ compensation field to address issues that have been lying in plain sight for some time. After all, one-fifth of work injuries are likely sustained by a foreign-born workers, 10% by undocumented workers, whether or not they are reported.

Will the administration’s policy cause a jump in claims? Will it close down grey market labor abuses or open up a Pandora’s box? Will it make it easier to enforce work safety standards or sow confusion?

An initial analysis leads me to project that the impact on workers’ comp claims will likely be smaller than many may think but the impact on employer, insurer and regulator practices may be pervasive.

Here are six questions worth asking, with their tentative answers:

Q. Does the Administration plan to provide legal protection to all undocumented workers?

A. No, but the practical effect of protecting an estimated somewhat less than 3 million out of eight million workers may well complicate the entire workers’ compensation system. Regulators, courts and employers will now have three legal classes of workers (existing legal, newly protected and undocumented). That could create a legal nightmare. It might also induce many decision makers to reset their approaches to immigrant workers as a whole.

Q. Who are the workers the plan appears to target?

A. According to media reports, it focuses on undocumented persons who have been here for a long time and have children who, mostly by being born in the United States, are citizens.

The plan addresses a fundamental demographic shift during the past 15-20 years in undocumented households. The average tenure of these households in the United States has increased. Over 60% of undocumented adults have been in the country for at least 10 years, and one-fifth have been in the U.S. for two decades or more.

These households have always produced relatively more children than native-born households by virtue of adults being more concentrated in childbearing age ranges. Their children include some “DREAM Act” beneficiaries, minors born outside the country. But the great majority of their children – over four million of them – are born here, and are therefore citizens.

Public data suggests that perhaps a third of undocumented workers have children who are American citizens. Some 87% of these workers come from Latin America; the rest from Asia and elsewhere.

Q. Where do these parents work?

A. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers form the highest share of workforces in Nevada (10%), California (9.7%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8.6%). California has the largest number of people in the labor force who are unauthorized immigrants (1.85 million), followed by Texas (1.1 million), Florida (600,000) and New York (450,000.).

Q. What industries are most affected?

A. I have analyzed federal data to locate not only which industries employ undocumented workers, but those jobs that result in a high number of lost-time compensable injuries.

Among the largest 100 jobs, undocumented workers account for about 4.5% of all workers. Because they tend to hold more injury-prone jobs, they likely incur about 8% of lost-time compensable injuries – or would if they filed claims at the same rate as authorized workers do.

For example, about 12% of janitors and building cleaners are undocumented, but virtually no elementary and middle school teachers. Janitors are over four times more likely to be injured than teachers.

Major sectors with undocumented worker employment are farming, construction, hospitality, and institutional (building and grounds maintenance). About four out of every 10 farm workers are undocumented, hence the expectation, of which we will hear more, that providing work rights to these workers will cause food prices (especially fresh produce) to increase. However, farming’s size is dwarfed by the combined size of these other sectors, in which an average 12% of workers are illegal.

Take construction. A fifth to one quarter of lost-time compensable injuries sustained by all undocumented workers are sustained in construction. The typical image of the illegal construction worker is the low skilled laborer. About a fifth of them are estimated to be unauthorized. But a fair number of painters and other skilled workers are also illegal.

Take hospitality, which includes lodging and restaurants. About 20%-25% of room cleaners and cooks are undocumented workers.

For every 10 lost-time compensable injuries sustained by undocumented workers, about five of them take occur in either construction or hospitality. Maybe only one takes place in farming.

Q. Will workers’ compensation claims increase?

A. This may happen in earnest in selected situations, where undocumented workers have reported relatively few of their injuries and now feel empowered to file claims, with claimant bar and activist group encouragement. For the workers' compensation field as a whole, the impact could be modest. Even if the number of lost-time compensable claims of undocumented workers increased by 50%, the total increase of such claims in the workers' comp field would be, I expect, a couple of percentage points, spread over several years.

Q. How will the new policy impact employers?

A. Undoubtedly, employers, insurers and regulators will take greater care in addressing the direct and indirect ramifications of a legally more empowered workforce.

For example, undocumented workforces are entangled in the underground economy and in independent contractor abuses. As these workers gain more legal protection, and law enforcement agencies, in alliance with workers’ compensation regulators, may begin to attack these challenges with greater vigor.

In the key industries (farming, construction, hospitality and institutional services), employer associations which have fretted over what they see as unfair competition by law-skirting companies that exploit undocumented workers, may prod law enforcement agencies more aggressively. In some industries, such as hospitality and transportation, labor organizing may blossom, with worker health and safety a key campaigning topic.

And, wages will likely trend upward as workers seek jobs in other industries now open to them (such as health care and government), putting pressure on employers. Expect to see greater investment by employers in labor-saving, injury-avoiding technology.

November 17, 2014

Reagan and Bush Sr. used executive orders for immigrants

The Associated Press reports on Presidents Reagan’s and George W.H. Bush’s use of executive orders to greatly increase legal protections of unauthorized residents.

In 1986, Congress and Reagan enacted a sweeping overhaul that gave legal status to up to 3 million immigrants without authorization to be in the country, if they had come to the U.S. before 1982. Spouses and children who could not meet that test did not qualify, which incited protests that the new law was breaking up families.

Early efforts in Congress to amend the law to cover family members failed. In 1987, Reagan's Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner announced that minor children of parents granted amnesty by the law would get protection from deportation.

Spouses and children of couples in which one parent qualified for amnesty but the other did not remained subject to deportation, leading to efforts to amend the 1986 law.

In a parallel to today, the Senate acted in 1989 to broaden legal status to families but the House never took up the bill. Through the INS, Bush advanced a new "family fairness" policy that put in place the Senate measure. Congress passed the policy into law by the end of the year as part of broader immigration legislation.

"It's a striking parallel," said Mark Noferi of the pro-immigration American Immigration Council. "Bush Sr. went big at the time. He protected about 40 percent of the unauthorized population. Back then that was up to 1.5 million. Today that would be about 5 million."

November 14, 2014

Chronology of recent news about Executive Orders to come

Two days ago, Fox News predicted that the Obama Administration will soon issue a 10 point plan for immigrants by executive order. The plan will include deferred deportation for young persons and protection plus work permits for undocumented adults who are parents or citizens or legal permanent residents.

Yesterday the NY Times predicted that President Obama will issue executive orders in a very few days to protect millions of undocumented parents of children:

President Obama will ignore angry protests from Republicans and announce as soon as next week a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration enforcement system that will protect up to five million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits, according to administration officials who have direct knowledge of the plan.

Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation’s laws with discretion, Mr. Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government’s 12,000 immigration agents. One key piece of the order, officials said, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.

That part of Mr. Obama’s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington. But the White House is also considering a stricter policy that would limit the benefits to people who have lived in the country for at least 10 years, or about 2.5 million people.

NY Times today profiles big foundations as having funded the livelihood of immigrant advocacy groups:

Over the last decade those donors [Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, and others] have invested more than $300 million in immigrant organizations, including many fighting for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The philanthropies helped the groups rebound after setbacks and financed the infrastructure of a network in constant motion, with marches, rallies, vigils, fasts, bus tours and voter drives. The donors maintained their support as the immigration issue became intensely partisan on Capitol Hill and the activists grew more militant, engaging in civil disobedience and brash confrontations with lawmakers and enforcement authorities.

Also today, the Washington Post profiles GOP positioning for a stand-off:

Congressional Republicans said Friday they are considering a series of showdowns over funding the government if President Obama goes ahead with his expected plans to unilaterally overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

When Congress reconvenes in the new year, Republicans would then pass other short-term bills, each designed to create a forum to push back against the president and, possibly, to gain concessions. Republicans are also planning to file a lawsuit against the president over his use of executive authority, according to the lawmakers and aides.

The efforts are seen as ways to pressure the president to relent and pull back his expected executive orders to change immigration policy, which are likely to include protecting millions from being deported. They are also designed to placate conservatives, who have urged an aggressive response against what they see as an unconstitutional overreach by the president.

By floating the ideas, senior Republicans said they hoped the president understood that if he moves forward he would face a climate of fiscal standoffs over immigration in the new year

June 21, 2014

Undocumented workers ensnared by workers comp

Law enforcement agencies are booby-trapping workers’ comp benefits for undocumented workers. Below is my column with reference to a news article. Both were published on June 16 by WorkCompCentral.

Ensnared by workers’ comp

We may look back to this time as a period when one out of every ten injured worker faced the risk of criminal prosecution and deportation for the act of submitting a legitimate workers’ compensation claim.

Michael Whiteley of WorkCompCentral [see at end for access] reports that law enforcement agencies in at least two states recently adopted strategies to arrest undocumented workers on the grounds that in using an invalid social security number in their claims submission they defrauded the insurer.

First report of injury forms include a field for a social security number. The number links the claimant to personnel and payroll data on the employer’s books. Normal payroll deductions are taken for the number to hold for future social security and Medicare benefits, to which the claimant may never be able to enjoy. By definition, the social security number on an undocumented worker’s claims record is invalid.

The eight million undocumented workers comprise about 6% of the total civilian workforce. By studying estimates of undocumented worker penetration by occupations ranked by injury risk, one can reasonably project that undocumented workers sustain one out of every ten work injuries. This high volume is invisible to almost everyone except for adjusters, case managers, lawyers and others who work directly with injured workers and have learned their work and life patterns. The rate varies greatly, from maybe 2% in West Virginia, a low foreign-born population state, to over half within the fruit and vegetable producing counties of southern California.

At my request, the Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group asked if its members were aware of intimidation, claim denials or arrests that arose from the use of other persons’ social security numbers. Within a few hours my email inbox lit up like a Christmas tree.

A Florida attorney with whom I had spoken earlier sent adjuster notes obtained through discovery for a June, 2012 injury at a dairy. The adjuster wrote on June 27, 2012, “claimant, three children, obtained SSN from his brother when his brother returned to Mexico. Married, 9th grade educ in Mexico.” In March, 2013, the adjuster wrote: “SIU check found that SSN was issued in Porto Rico some time between 1936 and 1950.”

In March, 2013, the adjuster wrote that the case had been referred to a West Palm Beach, Florida, investigator. On April 4 the notes state that the claimant was arrested for using a false number to gain employment and false filing of workers compensation claim. The legal basis for the arrest was not given but was most likely insurance fraud statute, 440.105 (4)(b), currently being challenged in superior courts (Florida v Brock].

This worker’s guileless comments about the passed down number shows how accustomed undocumented workers, their employers and workers’ compensation claims payers are to tacitly accommodating illegal work status while in processing workers’ compensation benefits. In all but a few jurisdictions, undocumented workers can legally obtain benefits, a right assured by state law and state superior courts.

What’s changed, it appears, is the climate. Perhaps tacitly going along is viewed by some as a form of amnesty. Maybe workers’ compensation fraud teams are hungrier for results and see identity theft as easier to document than traditional fraud such as faking disability.

Step back to consider the implications on the industry’s commitment, as phrased by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, to “help foster a healthy workers compensation system.”

Some applicant attorneys allege that defense lawyers sometime ensnare their undocumented clients by teasing out during depositions information they then package over to law enforcement. Sometimes, they tell me, there is a threat. “Retaliation and threats of retaliation have created a culture of fear,” The National Employment Law Project asserts, citing its recent survey that illegal immigrant workers are hesitant to file workers’ compensation claims or assert other rights out of fear of retaliation.

Workers’ compensation benefits and work safety join in a circular flow of cause and correction. Len Welch, Chief of Workplace Safety for California’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, the State Compensation Insurance Fund, says that immigration reform could be the most important work safety advance in the next five to 10 years. “When you have undocumented workers, the odds of accidents go way up. It’s the tip of the iceberg of the massive underground economy in the state,” he said.

James Baldwin, debating William Buckley at Cambridge University in 1965, described the legacy of slavery as the tragedy of “when one has absolute power over another person.” To the undocumented worker, her or his employer holds nearly absolute power over safety. A work injury could result in jail time and deportation. Neither workers’ compensation system and worksite safety are healthy when one tenth of injured workers can are in a constant state of vulnerability.

Mike Whiteley’s article is behind a paywall. If you are not a subscriber, you can purchase access to the article.

February 15, 2014

Trends in state immigration laws, from punitive to constructive

There has been a major change in state immigration legislation patterns State legislative activity rose in the late 2000s, taking on a punitive color, and rising to passage of the comprehensive Arizona law in 2010. That passage lead to other state laws aimed to driving out undocumented residents. All of these acts were challenged in court and some revisions results.

More recently, the focus of state legislatures is more constructive. There is a salutary recognition that states, their economies depending on undocumented workers, needed to provide these workers legal protections to drive. Also, state legislatures increasingly petition Congress to pass immigration reform at the federal level. For a detailed review of legislation, go here and here. The content below comes from these pages.

Latino Decisions notes that As of June 30, 2013, 43 states had enacted 146 laws and 231 resolutions focused on immigration. This is reflective of a larger pattern where state activity on immigration issues spiked from just 300 proposed bills and 39 enacted laws in 2005 to over 1,500 proposed bills and over 200 enacted state laws in 2009.

Omnibus laws.

The first omnibus act was Arizona’s 2010 legislation, SB 1070.

Omnibus legislation related to immigration enforcement has largely disappeared. In 2011, 30 states introduced more than 50 bills, with Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah enacting laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. Each was challenged in court. In 2012, five states considered similar bills: Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island and West Virginia. None of these bills were enacted. Alabama amended its 2011 law, HB 56, enacting HB 658 in 2012. In 2013, only Georgia acted, by amending E-Verify requirements, public benefit definitions, and driver’s license requirements, and required agencies or political subdivisions to comply with federal law on public benefits for postsecondary education (S 160).

Driving protections

Driver’s licenses and IDs continued to be a top issue for states, with 35 laws enacted in 21 states, comprising 19 percent of all enacted laws on immigration.

Eight states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont—joined New Mexico, Utah and Washington in extending driver’s license eligibility to unauthorized residents. Georgia and Maine enacted more limited laws in 2013. Georgia allows for a temporary driving permit for those with pending visa extensions. Maine exempts certain older or long-term driver’s license holders from the legal presence requirement. (A law passed in the District of Columbia is pending review by Congress.)

Formal resolutions in support of immigration reform

Resolutions spiked in 2013, with 31 states adopting 253 resolutions, up from 111 in 2012. The largest contributor was Texas, adopting 96 resolutions commending the contributions of immigrants and seeking federal action. Resolutions encouraged action by the president, Congress or federal agencies, including at least 11 resolutions related to passing comprehensive immigration reform (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania).

December 4, 2013

Lazarus - like resurrection of immigration reform?

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post noted yesterday that House Speaker Boehner has hired Rebecca Tallent, a seasoned advisor to Republicans on immigration reform. The hire signals a possible decision by Congressional Republicans to push immigration reform – defying report that reform was dead going into 2014.

Tallent came from The Bipartisan Policy Center, where she was director of immigration policy and coordinated the publication of several pro-reform reports, such as this one on the economic benefits of immigration reform.

Rubin writes:

Although it is an election year, 2014 may afford a better opportunity than previously imagined for accomplishing something on the immigration front. The Dems and White House are more desperate than ever for some achievement, and their fear the Senate may flip in Nov. 2014 should encourage some flexibility. Meanwhile, the House right wing is not the force it was before the shutdown, while the speaker’s popularity has grown among his troops.

A final factor may play a role in pushing immigration reform to the fore. Center-right business leaders and groups, who mostly favor comprehensive immigration reform as an economic boost, are plainly alarmed about the 2014 election and have entered the fray both to unseat hard-line gadflies like Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and bolster mainstream Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That gives reform-minded lawmakers some confidence they will get cover in 2014 if they take some political heat for backing immigration reform. It also may persuade GOP skeptics to take another look at the polls, which generally show immigration reform including an earned path to citizenship to be popular, even among Republicans.

November 23, 2013

Business and Labor Leaders send letter to Washington

Open Letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Members of Congress:

New York is a great world city, thanks in large part to the steady stream of immigrants who make up almost 40% of our current population, own more than a third of our small businesses, and keep our diverse neighborhoods thriving. Unfortunately, restrictive U.S. immigration policies have reduced the net flow of global talent into our city by 32% in the last decade and forced many foreign-born New Yorkers to either leave or live in the shadows.

Continued delays on comprehensive immigration reform will have dire economic consequences.

Right now, there is an opportunity to fix our nation's broken immigration system if you, our leaders in Washington D.C., can reach agreement on a fair and balanced approach to reform. We are convinced that this will benefit America's workers and employers alike and have immediate and substantial economic benefits for our entire country.

Business and labor certainly do not agree on every issue, but we are united in urging you to reach agreement on comprehensive immigration reform, including the following provisions:

· A broad pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who already reside in our country, so long as they have been responsible and contributing members of their community.

· Talented, young "dreamers"—aspiring citizens who were brought here as children—should have all the educational opportunities and benefits enjoyed by other young Americans.

· A flexible system of allocating work visas and green cards on the basis of a regular assessment of labor market demands.

· Allowance for foreign students to stay in the U.S. when they earn advanced degrees in subjects where the U.S. has a skills shortage.

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math ("STEM" fields) are growing three times faster than other jobs in our economy, and we need to tap global labor pools to fill them. Other countries are attracting great entrepreneurs who build successful companies and create jobs through their aggressive immigration policies—the type of talent that the U.S. once welcomed but now turns away.

Employers and organized labor were once on different sides of these issues, but we have come to understand that to grow jobs at home, we need to welcome job creators and workers from all over the world.

Leaders in Washington, D.C. promised action on immigration reform after the last Presidential election, but a year has gone by and it never happened. It is inexcusable to move this issue into the 2014 election year, when politics will again intrude on the country's best interests. We urge you to enact practical and humane immigration reforms now.


Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW)
Candace K. Beinecke, Chair, First Eagle Fund & Chair, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
Philippe P. Dauman, President and CEO, Viacom Inc.
Laurence D. Fink, Chairman & CEO, BlackRock, Inc.
Alan H. Fishman, Chairman, Ladder Capital Finance LLC
George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU
George Miranda, President, Teamster Joint Council 16
Michael Mulgrew, President, United Federation of Teachers
Harry Nespoli, Chairman, Municipal Labor Committee; President, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association
Steven Roth, Chairman, Vornado Realty Trust
Kevin Ryan, Chairman & Founder, Gilt Groupe
Jerry I. Speyer, Chairman & Co-CEO, Tishman Speyer
Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Chairman and CEO, Boston Properties

September 17, 2013

Migration of skilled workers from under-developed countries: is it harmful?

The Migration Policy Center has issued a policy paper on the brain drain problem – and says it is a more nuanced issue than commonly believed.

About one quarter of immigrants into developed countries (OECD countries) have advanced degrees.

MPI says that countries that try to restrict out-migration of talent, such as healthcare professionals, fail to achieve the gains they desire. Migration of skilled workers can and does result in reverse transfer of money, technology, and democratic ideals. Also, in developing countries, skilled workers are often under-employed. Lack of skilled labor in developing countries, MPI says, is due to “structural causes” and out-migration is not the demon it is thought to be. Laws to restrict out-migration are, MPI says, are harmful. Origin countries need to pay more attention of the use of skilled workers in government, non profit and for profit communities.

The report says that skill flow from developing to developed countries:

Seeds new industries and transfers technology,
Causes more investment of education,
Generates remittances which greatly exceeds the cost of the skilled person’s education in the originating country, and
Massively improves migrant’s opportunities.

MPI recommends “bilateral” planning to improve skill training and skill flow.

June 17, 2013

Strategies of opponents to immigration reform

Devin Burghart has written an insightful analysis of how the Tea Party and other anti-immigration forces are organizing a campaign to kill immigration reform.

Among their tactics is a search for an epithet against reform analogous to Sarah Palin's "death panel" characterization of an obscure passage in the Affordable Care Act.

June 7, 2013

House Republicans to Undocumented Residents: Drop Dead

House Republicans are promoting a provision in the immigration bill that will demand, on the penalty of deportation, that undocumented individuals pay for their own healthcare through privately purchased health insurance. They would be required to reimburse hospitals, and presumably also be refused treatment at federally-funded community health centers.

In sum, mandatory health insurance, privately paid for, for 11 millions people who can afford it least.

April 16, 2013

Key points in Gang of 8's immigration reform bill

NBC News reported today the following summary of the Gang of 8’s immigration bill, to be released shortly:

Allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States continually since before December 31, 2011 to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant Status” if they pay back taxes and $500 in fines, and if they have not been convicted of a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors or voted illegally. Individuals with this status can work for any employer and travel outside the country but are not eligible to receive means-tested federal public benefits.

After 10 years in Registered Provisional Immigrant Status, individuals will be eligible – pending border security measures and a clearing of existing backlogs for legal immigrants – to earn a merit-based green card if they have worked in the United States, demonstrated knowledge of the English language and paid an additional fine of $1000.

Allow eligible DREAM act applicants and certain agricultural workers to apply for green cards within five years

Regarding border security, the bill would set a goal of “90% effectiveness” – meaning the rate of apprehensions and turnbacks of potential entrants – per fiscal year in the most high-risk areas of the southern border. If that goal is not met within five years, a bipartisan “Border Commission” made up of border state governors and experts will be formed to issue new recommendations on how to achieve it.

Allocate $3 billion for increased surveillance and manpower along the country’s southern border and an additional $1.5 billion for fencing.

Include a border security “trigger” requiring that no undocumented immigrant can achieve legal “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status until strategies for border security have been submitted by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress.

Require an additional “trigger” that prevents those with “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status from becoming eligible to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status until the Department of Homeland Security and the Comptroller General certify that border security strategies are operational and a mandatory employment verification system has been implemented.

Create a new “W” visa program to allow non-agricultural temporary workers to come to the United States to work for registered employers.
Eliminate family-based visas for siblings of United States citizens as well as the Diversity Visa program while eliminating 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. Points will be awarded based on criteria including education, employment and length of residence in the U.S.

Require an “enhanced E-Verify” system to prevent ineligible workers from taking jobs in the United States. Employers with more than 5,000 employees will be phased in within two years; employers with more than 500 employees will be phased in within three years.

Raise 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. Set a maximum cap at 180,000 such visas.

March 19, 2013

Latino voters and immigration

Latino Decisions released new polling data today highlighting why immigration reform has become the number one political issue for Latino voters, and the answer is close personal connections between Latino voters and Latino undocumented immigrants.

The poll was funded by immigration reform advocates.

The poll finds that 58% of Latino registered voters now cite immigration reform as the top priority for the Congress and President, up from 35% in November 2012. One reason is that 63% of Latino voters say they personally know someone who is an undocumented immigrant, either a member of their family or a close personal friend. Further, 39% of Latino voters say they personally know someone, or a family who has faced deportation or detention for immigration reasons, and increase of 14 points over 2011, when 25% of Latino voters said they personally knew someone who had faced deportation or detention.

The poll asked Latino voters if they knew any young immigrants who had applied for the 2012 "deferred action" program that would allow DREAM Act-eligible immigrants to live in the U.S. and attend college with temporary visas. More than one in five Latino voters (22%) knows someone who has already applied for deferred action, with 18% saying they know someone who is eligible, but not yet applied.


Latino Decisions interviewed 800 Latino registered voters via landline and mobile phone, across all 50 states, from February 15-26, 2013. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, and all interviewing staff was fully bilingual. The survey averaged 20 minutes in length and has an overall margin of error or +/- 3.5%. On split sample questions the margin of error is +/- 4.9%. For questions about the results, please contact Gary Segura

The poll was sponsored by America's Voice, National Council of La Raza, and SEIU.

February 16, 2013

Congressional seats: ready to go Red with slight change in Hispanic voting

The Georgetown [University]Public Policy Review carefully analyzed each Congressional district for the potential of gains by Republicans if the percentage of Hispanic voting Republicans went up. It concluded that there are many more competitive races in heavily Hispanic areas for Democrats to lose than to gain. A shift of Hispanics from Dem to Rep would produce a lot more Rep wins than a shift of the same percentage from Rep to Dem would create more Dem wins.

“There are two different lenses through which to consider the Republican perspective. First, most incumbent Republicans will not have a strong incentive to vote for an immigration bill containing a path to citizenship if a significant Hispanic population appears to be lacking in their districts. In fact, many conservatives may be far more concerned about primary challengers than Hispanic backlash.

On the other hand, the Republican Party as a whole has a tremendous opportunity to turn districts in their favor. If they can redefine themselves to the Hispanic population, starting with comprehensive immigration reform, they will be doing more than pouring water on the DCCC’s gunpowder—they will be stealing it for themselves.”

February 1, 2013

Is the STEM problem a fiction?

The blog of the Economic Policy Institute questions if the United States needs more foreign science, technology, engineering and math degreed people from abroad, given as two thirds of native born STEM graduates apparently work outside the fields for which they were educated.

The posting:

Fixing a problem that doesn’t exist: Special interest STEM immigration bills are not needed

Business groups and their allies, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and various non-profit advocacy organizations, have been arguing for years—without real evidence—that the United States is losing a race to attract the world’s best and brightest young scientists, engineers, computer techies and mathematicians. In a report entitled, Immigration of Foreign Nationals with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees, Ruth Wasem of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently reviewed the statistics regarding these highly skilled migrants and concluded: “The United States remains the leading host country for international students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields.” The United States has been and continues to be extraordinarily welcoming to foreign students, and especially to those in the STEM fields. CRS reports that the number of foreign graduate students in the STEM fields increased by 50 percent since 1990:

“The number of full-time graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields who were foreign students (largely on F-1 nonimmigrant visas) grew from 91,150 in 1990 to 148,923 in 2009, with most of the increase occurring after 1999. Despite the rise in foreign student enrollment, the percentage of STEM graduate students with temporary visas in 2009 (32.7%) was comparable to 1990 (31.1%). Graduate enrollments in engineering fields have exhibited the most growth of the STEM fields in recent years. About 40,000 graduate degrees were awarded to foreign STEM students in 2009, with 10,000 of those going to Ph.D. recipients.”

But Microsoft and the Chamber of Commerce claim that we’re losing those graduates, that our immigration system doesn’t let us keep the talent our universities have trained. That claim is untrue. CRS reports that in the decade from FY 2000 to FY 2009, the U.S. granted legal permanent residence to almost 300,000 STEM workers, in addition to granting temporary work permits (for up to six years) to hundreds of thousands of others.

Continue reading "Is the STEM problem a fiction?" »

January 29, 2013

President Obama’s immigration reform plans Jan 29 2013

The Administration is proposing a “provisional” category or undocumented immigrants, as does the Senate’s statement. The White House Press Office issued this statement today:

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country. It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continue reading "President Obama’s immigration reform plans Jan 29 2013" »

January 28, 2013

Senators’ statement of principles on immigration reform

As published by the Washington Post this morning....this is the most important single document to start off the immigration reform effort in 2013.

Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet, and Flake


We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don't have a functioning immigration system. This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We
will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.

Four Basic Legislative Pillars:

o Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;

o Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;

o Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,

o Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

1. Creating a Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Immigrants Already Here that is Contingent Upon Securing the Border and Combating Visa Overstays

Our legislation will provide a tough, fair, and practical roadmap to address the status of unauthorized immigrants in the United States that is contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.

To fulfill the basic governmental function of securing our borders, we will continue the increased efforts of the Border Patrol by providing them with the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.

Additionally, our legislation will increase the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment, improve radio interoperability and increase the number of agents at and between ports of entry. The purpose is to substantially lower the number of successful illegal border crossings while continuing to facilitate commerce.

We will strengthen prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force, enhance the training of border patrol agents, increase oversight, and create a mechanism to ensure a meaningful opportunity for border communities to share input, including critiques.

Continue reading " Senators’ statement of principles on immigration reform" »

January 18, 2013

Introduction to H-2A temporary agricultural worker program

The following is an introduction to the H-2A program for temporary agricultural workers. The introduction is drawn mainly from Congressional Research Service. Immigration of Temporary Lower-Skilled Workers: Current Policy and Related Issues.


Foreign agricultural workers have been a recent focus of attention in Congress, with the immigration subcommittees of both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees holding related hearings in 2011 and 2012. A number of legislative proposals on agricultural guest workers have likewise been put forward in the 112th Congress. Some bills would amend INA provisions on the H-2A visa, while others would establish new temporary agricultural worker programs as alternatives to the H-2A program. Still other proposals would couple a legalization program for agricultural workers either with H-2A reform, as in the traditional AgJOBS formulation, or with other changes to current law on agricultural labor.

Of the 79,000 certified H-2A positions in 2010, 40% were in the top five states (in order of size): North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida. [Table A-1, pg. 28]

How it works

The H-2A program allows for the temporary admission of foreign workers to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services of a seasonal or temporary nature, provided that U.S. workers are not available. In general, for purposes of the H-2A program, work is of a temporary nature where the employer’s need for the worker will last no longer than one year. Thus, an approved H-2A visa petition is generally valid for an initial period of up to one year. An employer can apply to extend an H-2A worker’s stay in increments of up to one year, but an alien’s total
period of stay as an H-2A worker may not exceed three consecutive years. An alien who has spent three years in the United States in H-2A status may not seek an extension of stay or be readmitted to the United States as an H-2A worker until he or she has been outside the country for three months.

Prospective H-2A employers are required to submit a job order to the state workforce agency (SWA) serving the area of intended employment before filing a
labor certification application. Once reviewed and cleared by the SWA, the job order becomes the basis for recruiting U.S. workers to fill the employer’s job openings. The employer can then file the labor certification application with DOL. In the DOL application the employer must first apply to DOL for a certification that (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and available to perform the work; and (2) the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers who are similarly employed.

Prospective H-2A employers must attempt to recruit U.S. workers and must cooperate with DOL-funded state employment service agencies (also known as state workforce agencies) in local, intrastate, and interstate recruitment efforts. Under the H-2A program’s fifty percent rule, employers are required to hire any qualified U.S. worker who applies for a position during the first half of the work contract under which the H-2A workers who are in the job are employed.

Continue reading "Introduction to H-2A temporary agricultural worker program" »

January 12, 2013

Chamber of Commerce for comprehensive immigration reform

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue gave his annual state of business address on January 10, and said the following about immigration reform (excerpted). I’d say he is calling for comprehensive reform, including normalizing the status of undocumented immigrants.

…..But we still need immigrants. We are locked in a global competition for the world’s best talent. This is the competition that will separate the economic leaders from the laggards in the 21st century.

The Chamber is already teaming up with the labor unions, faith organizations and ethnic groups, and law enforcement to build a coalition for comprehensive reform.

We believe immigration reform should include the following inter-related components:

We need to secure our borders. It is imperative that people and commerce flow efficiently and lawfully through our nation’s ports and across our borders.

In addition, our laws must be revised to welcome needed labor and talent into our economy through thoughtfully-designed guest worker programs. This includes provisional visas for lesser-skilled workers. It also includes expanding the caps for high-skilled visas, and, expanding green cards for foreign nationals who graduate from our colleges and universities with advanced degrees.

We also need a workable, reliable national employee verification system. And, we need to provide a path out of the shadows for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States today—provided that they meet strict conditions.

Introduction to H-2A temporary agricultural worker program

The following is an introduction to the H-2A program for temporary agricultural workers.The introduction is an excerpt from Congressional Research Service. Immigration of Temporary Lower-Skilled Workers: Current Policy and Related Issues 12/13/12 report.


Foreign agricultural workers have been a recent focus of attention in Congress, with the immigration subcommittees of both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees holding related hearings in 2011 and 2012. A number of legislative proposals on agricultural guest workers have likewise been put forward in the 112th Congress. Some bills would amend INA provisions on the H-2A visa, while others would establish new temporary agricultural worker programs as alternatives to the H-2A program. Still other proposals would couple a legalization program for agricultural workers either with H-2A reform, as in the traditional AgJOBS formulation, or with other changes to current law on agricultural labor.

Of the 79,000 certified H-2A positions in 2010, 40% were in the top five states (in order of size): North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida. [Table A-1, pg. 28]

How it works

The H-2A program allows for the temporary admission of foreign workers to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services of a seasonal or temporary nature, provided that U.S. workers are not available. In general, for purposes of the H-2A program, work is of a temporary nature where the employer’s need for the worker will last no longer than one year. Thus, an approved H-2A visa petition is generally valid for an initial period of up to one year. An employer can apply to extend an H-2A worker’s stay in increments of up to one year, but an alien’s total
period of stay as an H-2A worker may not exceed three consecutive years. An alien who has spent three years in the United States in H-2A status may not seek an extension of stay or be readmitted to the United States as an H-2A worker until he or she has been outside the country for three months.

Prospective H-2A employers are required to submit a job order to the state workforce agency (SWA) serving the area of intended employment before filing a
labor certification application. Once reviewed and cleared by the SWA, the job order becomes the basis for recruiting U.S. workers to fill the employer’s job openings. The employer can then file the labor certification application with DOL. In the DOL application the employer must first apply to DOL for a certification that (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and available to perform the work; and (2) the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers who are similarly employed.

Prospective H-2A employers must attempt to recruit U.S. workers and must cooperate with DOL-funded state employment service agencies (also known as state workforce agencies) in local, intrastate, and interstate recruitment efforts. Under the H-2A program’s fifty percent rule, employers are required to hire any qualified U.S. worker who applies for a position during the first half of the work contract under which the H-2A workers who are in the job are employed.

Continue reading "Introduction to H-2A temporary agricultural worker program" »

Temporary worker programs: Introduction

In December the Congressional Research Service issued a report on two key temporary worker programs, H-2A and H-2B. This posting excerpts from the report's introductory overview of both programs. Later postings will address the programs in greater detail. These postings will bring you up to speed on the basics of temporary foreign worker programs in the U.S.

There are many temporary work visa programs. A comprehensive list of them in contain in a 2009 report by the Migration Policy Institute, "Aligning Temporary Immigration Visas with U.S. market needs." In 2008, some 262,000 temporary visas were issues for high skilled labor, and 158,000 such visas for low skilled labor, almost entirely H-2A and H-2B. In addition there were 168,000 "mixed skilled" temporary visas issued.

The report excerpted below and in later postings is: Congressional Research Service. Immigration of Temporary Lower-Skilled Workers: Current Policy and Related Issues. 12/13/12.

The [Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952], as originally enacted, authorized an H-2 nonimmigrant visa category for foreign agricultural and nonagricultural workers who were coming temporarily to the United States to perform temporary services (other than services of an exceptional nature requiring distinguished merit and ability) or labor. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) amended the INA to subdivide the H-2 program into the current H-2A agricultural worker program and H-2B nonagricultural worker program and to detail the admissions process for H-2A workers. The H2A and H-2B programs are administered by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The H-2A and H-2B programs are administered by DOL and DHS, with DOL making a determination on the labor certification application and DHS adjudicating the non-immigrant visa petition.

While there are many differences between the H-2A agricultural worker program and the H-2B nonagricultural worker program, the process of importing workers under either program entails the same steps. Employers who want to hire workers through either program must first apply to DOL for labor certification, as discussed in the next section. After receiving labor certification, a prospective H-2A or H-2B employer can submit an application, known as a petition, to DHS to bring in foreign workers. If the application is approved, foreign workers who are abroad can then
go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an H-2A or H-2B nonimmigrant visa from the Department of State (DOS). If the visa application is approved, the worker is issued a visa that he or she can use to apply for admission to the United States at a port of entry.

In both the H-2A and H-2B programs, there is a tension between providing protections to U.S. and foreign workers on the one hand and making the programs responsive to legitimate employer needs on the other. While these competing interests are longstanding, the current environment— with relatively high levels of U.S. unemployment; discussions about expanding the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system (as discussed below); and concerns about
shortages of legal workers, especially in agriculture—has heightened the tensions.

Temporary Labor Certification

DOL’s ETA is responsible for administering the labor certification process under the H-2A and H2B programs. Under both programs, employers submit applications in which they request the certification of a particular number of positions.

INA provisions on the admission of H-2A workers state that an H-2A petition cannot be approved unless the petitioner has applied to DOL for certification that

(1) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified … and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and (2) the employment of such alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed. [INA §218(a)(1)(A), (B)]

There is no equivalent statutory labor certification requirement for the H-2B program. The INA, however, does contain some related language. For example, it defines an H-2B alien, in relevant part, as an alien “who is coming temporarily to the United States to perform other temporary service or labor if unemployed persons capable of performing such service or labor cannot be found in this country.” [INA §101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b)] The H-2B labor certification requirement instead appears in DHS regulations. These regulations state:

“The petitioner may not file an H-2B petition unless the United States petitioner has applied for a labor certification with the Secretary of Labor ... and has obtained a favorable labor certification determination ...[8 C.F.R. §214.2(h)(6)(iii)(C)].

The H-2A and H-2B labor certification requirements are intended to provide job, wage, and working conditions protections to U.S. workers. They are implemented in both programs through a multifaceted labor certification process that requires prospective H-2A and H-2B employers to conduct recruitment for U.S. workers and offer a minimum level of wages and benefits that varies by program.

December 20, 2012

The "Texas Immigration Solution": Guest worker programs

The Texas Immigration Solution is a self-described conservative organization focused on immigration reform. It describes its mission to “enact conservative, market-based immigration reform into law,” and to “provide a voice for conservative job creators by educating the broader community on the urgent need for comprehensive, conservative, market-oriented reforms of the immigration process.”

Its solution is guest worker program-based for both skilled and unskilled workers, with conservative approaches to immigration in general:

Secure Our Borders – We demand the application of effective, practical and reasonable measures to secure our borders and to bring safety and security for all Americans along the border and throughout the nation.

Modernize the United States Social Security Card – We support the improvement of our 1936 Social Security card to use contemporary anti-counterfeit technology. The social security card will not be considered a National ID card for U.S. citizens.

Birthright Citizenship – We call on the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the United States to clarify Section 1 of the 14th amendment to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a citizen of the United States with no exceptions.

Create an Effective and Efficient Temporary Worker Program – A national Temporary Worker Program should be implemented to bring skilled and unskilled workers into the United States for temporary periods of time when no U.S. workers are currently available. The program should also require:

Self-funding through participation fees and fines;

Applicants must pass a full criminal background check;

Applicants with prior immigration violations would only qualify for the program if they paid the appropriate fines;

Applicants and/or Employers must prove that they can afford and/or secure private health insurance;

Applicants must waive any and all rights to apply for financial assistance from any public entitlement programs;

Applicant must show a proficiency in the English language and complete an American civic class;

Temporary Workers would only be able to work for employers that deduct and match payroll taxes;

All participants would be issued an individual Temporary-Worker Biometric Identification Card that tracks all address changes and both civil and criminal court appearances as a defendant.

December 19, 2012

The Colorado Compact

Colorado — with an estimated 180,000 undocumented immigrants — has created a compact on immigration, following Utah’s lead of a few years ago, which itself was in response to Arizona’s draconian legislation. According to the Greeley Tribune, the Colorado Compact arose out of 200 meetings throughout the state. The need for immigrant labor is most acute among the state’s farms, which “like many others nationally, have lost workers to the better-paying jobs of the oil and gas field, while also struggling to find local residents willing to do agriculture’s physical labor….Signers of the Colorado Compact span faith organizations, law enforcement agencies, the business community, immigrant-rights advocates and institutions of higher education, as well as agricultural interests.”

The Colorado Compact:

The Colorado Compact is an effort to convene and promote a reasonable conversation on immigration in Colorado that could lead to real and lasting federal reform. The Compact brings together leaders and community members of diverse backgrounds and politics who are committed to fostering a more rational and collaborative approach to immigration policy than exists today. We believe that the growing consequences of a broken immigration system must be addressed in a bipartisan effort that considers the principles outlined in this compact.


Immigration policy is a federal issue between the U.S. government and other countries. We urge the Colorado congressional delegation to work to enact immigration policy at the federal level that improves our immigration system, keeps our communities safe, and protects our borders.


Colorado is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. Our immigration system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses while protecting the interests of workers. This includes a visa system that is both responsive and effective at meeting the demands of our economy. It should also acknowledge the beneficial economic contributions immigrants make as workers, taxpayers, and consumers.


We believe that maintaining the safety and security of the United States is an utmost priority. Our immigration system must ensure the protection of our communities and national borders.


Strong families are critical to developing successful individuals and cohesive communities. Our immigration policies, where possible, should prioritize keeping close families together in order to ensure the most supportive home environments for all children across our state.


We support a law enforcement strategy that focuses on public safety, targets serious crime, and safeguards witnesses and victims. We further urge a reasonable and predictable regulatory environment that considers the interests of, and unintended consequences to businesses, workers, and consumers. Furthermore, the broader reform effort should eventually include a way to accurately, reliably, and affordably determine who is permitted to work, ensuring an adequate labor force for a growing economy.


Immigrants are part of our communities across Colorado. We must adopt a commonsense approach to this reality that reflects our values and recognizes the critical role immigration has played in our nation's history and economy. Our immigration policies must provide a sensible path forward for immigrants who are here without legal status, are of good character, pay taxes, and are committed to becoming fully participating members of our society and culture.

November 24, 2012

Immigration reform prospects for 2013

Why immigration reform in 2013? Muzaffar Chishti and Claire Bergeron cite the following:

• The Republican Party was jolted by the surprisingly low Latino support for presidential nominee Mitt Romney
• nearly two-thirds of American voters (65 percent) now support giving most unauthorized immigrant workers a chance to apply for legal status.
• recognition in both political parties that reforming the current legal immigration system is critical to advancing the United States' global economic competitiveness.
• For a bill to stand a chance of passage, it must get through Congress before House members gear up for the 2014 mid-term elections. Most interpret that political reality to mean that a bill's best chance would be in 2013.

The article in full: “US Election Realigns Stars for Immigration Reform, But Significant Hurdles Remain”

Published on 11-23-2012

In one sweep, the re-election of President Barack Obama has transformed immigration reform, an issue that for years has largely been seen as a third rail of American politics, into a first-tier legislative agenda item for the 113th Congress. In perhaps the clearest sign that the calculus on immigration has dramatically shifted, a chorus of Republican Party leaders and conservatives who have traditionally opposed immigration reform efforts voiced support for enacting legislation that would include legalization for some of the country's 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

Backers of such a measure are moving quickly to turn ambitious goals into legislative reality. On November 11th, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that they were re-initiating efforts to draft a broad, bipartisan immigration reform bill. Three days later, President Obama, in his first post-election press conference, told reporters that he expected movement on immigration reform "very soon after [the] inauguration".

Continue reading "Immigration reform prospects for 2013" »

November 11, 2012

Ten politicans to watch on immigration reform

Daniel Strauss of the Hill lists “10 players to watch on immigration:” President Obama, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen.John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The list in depth:

President Obama. Even before he was elected to a second term, Obama had already been laying the groundwork for immigration reform. Over the summer, he issued a new directive protecting immigrants who came to the country illegally from being deported provided they meet certain criteria. After failing to pass a bill in his first four years, Obama said that immigration reform would be one of the highest priorities of his second term. But will he push a comprehensive approach, or a scaled-down version of the measure, such as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act?

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Goodlatte is considered the favorite to be the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction on immigration. In 2011, he introduced legislation to get rid of the immigrant visa lottery program. He has been a vocal critic of the DREAM Act. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week has opened the door to passing immigration reform, attracting criticism from conservatives.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has been proponent on comprehensive immigration reform and his voting record includes support for establishing a guest-worker program, opposing limiting welfare for illegal immigrants and allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security.

Continue reading "Ten politicans to watch on immigration reform" »

October 21, 2012

Dream Act: employment and economic impact

The Partnership for the New American Economy issued an important report in October on the economic results of the Dream Act, if enacted.

“The Economic Benefits of Passing the DREAM Act," by Juan Carlos Guzmán and Raúl C. Jara, draws upon the current versions of the DREAM Act submitted by Sen. Richard Durbin (S.952) and Rep. Howard Berman (H.R. 1842).

To be eligible, an undocumented person has to have come to the United States at age 15 or younger, be currently age 35 or younger, have been present in the country for at least five years, completed high school, and completed at least two years of higher education or honorably served in the armed forces for at least two years.

Eligible immigrants per the Act first receive conditional legal status for a period of six years, under which they can complete their studies and work legally in the United States. After that period, if they have met all of the requirements, they can apply for permanent legal status (a green card) and eventually citizenship

The authors forecast that by 2030 the Act will create 1.4 million new jobs, and increase by 19% the total compensation of all eligible youth. How will this happen?

First, enacting the law would provide an incentive for their further education because for most of those who would be eligible the legalization provisions can only be attained through completion of high school and some college. Receiving more education opens access to higher-paying jobs, enabling these undocumented youth to become much more productive members of our society.

Second, gaining legal status itself translates into higher earnings for these youth since legal status allows DREAMers to apply to a broader range of high-paying jobs rather than having to resort to low-wage jobs from employers who are willing to pay them under the table.

According to the authors, this will not take away jobs from native born Americans:

First, many economists find that immigrants tend to complement the skills of native workers rather than compete with them, especially as immigrants move up the education and skills chain. Increasing the education of immigrant workers would therefore decrease the competition between DREAMers and the native-born.

Second, research shows that an increase in college-educated immigrants directly increases U.S. gross domestic product—the largest measure of economic growth—which correlates to more jobs for American workers. In the 1990s, for example, the increase in college-educated immigrants was found to be responsible for a 1.4% to 2.4% in U.S. GDP.

June 16, 2012

Labor force impact of new Obama policy will be large

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that most of the persons to be protected by the administration are 18 to 30, thus in the labor force.

In a report issued on June 15, the Center said that up to 1.4 million children and young adults who are in the United States illegally could potentially benefit from today's announcement by the Obama Administration about changes in deportation policies, according to an estimate from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

The 1.4 million estimate includes 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who are ages 18 to 30 but arrived in the U.S as children and are currently enrolled in school or have graduated from high school; and an additional 700,000 who are under the age of 18 and are enrolled in school. This includes 150,000 who are currently enrolled in high school.

Overall, the 1.4 million estimate represents about 12% of the 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as of 2010, according to an estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center. Among the 1.4 million potential beneficiaries of the new policy, some 70% are from Mexico. For details on the numbers and characteristics of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S, see the Pew Hispanic Center report "Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010."

A Pew Hispanic Center survey taken late last year found that by a margin of 59% to 27%, Latinos oppose the deportation policies of the Obama Administration. Among Latinos, some 41% are aware that the number of deportations of unauthorized immigrants annually has been higher during the Obama Administration than during the George W. Bush Administration, while 36% say the two Administrations have deported the same number of unauthorized immigrants, and 10% say fewer have been deported under the Obama administration.

Nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants were deported annually during the first two years of the Obama Administration----about 30% more than the annual average during the second term of the Bush Administration. Among those deported in 2010, nearly all (97%) were Hispanic. By comparison, among all unauthorized immigrants, 81% are Hispanic.

According to the same 2011 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 91% of Latinos support the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant legal status to unauthorized immigrant children if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military for two years. And 84% of Latinos favor granting in-state tuition at public colleges to unauthorized immigrants who graduated from high school in their states.

December 8, 2011

Alabama now reaping the harvest of its immigration law

I am back, after two months of extensive travel

The chickens are coming home roost in Alabama. Two legally working foreign workers in auto plants have been arrested.

According to Fox News, “Before the auto workers' problems, in early November, [Alabama Governor Robert] Bentley told a Birmingham business audience that the law had not hurt Alabama's image with industrial prospects. But Bentley now says the two arrests involving foreign auto workers "theoretically" could hurt Alabama's ability to recruit foreign industries.”

The article in full:

Alabama Governor to Foreign Biz: Don't Worry About Immigration Law

After local police recently detained employees of Mercedes-Benz and Honda under the state's immigration law, Alabama's governor is reaching out to foreign executives to let them know that the state welcomes them.

"We are not anti-foreign companies. We are very pro-foreign companies," Bentley told reporters at the Capitol.

The Republican governor and other supporters of Alabama's new immigration law -- aimed at driving undocumented immigrants out of the state -- have described it as the nation's toughest. Some parts of it were put on hold by the federal courts, but major provisions took effect in late September, including allowing police to detain motorists who can't produce a valid driver's license.

Before the auto workers' problems, in early November, Bentley told a Birmingham business audience that the law had not hurt Alabama's image with industrial prospects. But Bentley now says the two arrests involving foreign auto workers "theoretically" could hurt Alabama's ability to recruit foreign industries.

Since then, two foreign workers with the Mercedes-Benz and Honda auto assembly plants in Alabama have run into problems.

Continue reading "Alabama now reaping the harvest of its immigration law" »

August 31, 2011

NY Times editorial about Alabama Law

The Nation’s Cruelest Immigration Law

The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members “wisdom and discernment” to do what is right. “Not what’s right in their own eyes,” he said, “but what’s right according to your word.” Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders — an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop — have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.

It effectively makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with federal registration laws that are largely obsolete. It nullifies any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant. It requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally.

The new regime does not spare American citizens. Businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants will lose their licenses. Public school officials will be required to determine students’ immigration status and report back to the state. Anyone knowingly “concealing, harboring or shielding” an illegal immigrant could be charged with a crime, say for renting someone an apartment or driving her to church or the doctor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department have also sued, calling the law an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government’s authority to write and enforce immigration laws. The A.C.L.U. warns that the law would trample people’s fundamental rights to speak and travel freely, effectively deny children the chance to go to school and expose people to harassment and racial profiling.

These arguments have been made before, in opposition to similar, if less sweeping, laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. What is remarkable in Alabama is the separate lawsuit by the four church leaders, who say the law violates their religious freedoms to perform acts of charity without regard to the immigration status of those they minister to or help.

“The law,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in The Times, “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.”

You’d think that any state would think twice before embracing a law that so vividly brings to mind the Fugitive Slave Act, the brutal legal and law-enforcement apparatus of the Jim Crow era, and the civil-rights struggle led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But waves of anti-immigrant hostility have made many in this country forget who and what we are.

Congress was once on the brink of an ambitious bipartisan reform that would have enabled millions of immigrants stranded by the failed immigration system to get right with the law. This sensible policy has been abandoned. We hope the church leaders can waken their fellow Alabamans to the moral damage done when forgiveness and justice are so ruthlessly denied. We hope Washington and the rest of the country will also listen.

August 30, 2011

Alabama’s Immigration law dissected

On June 9, 2011, Alabama enacted H 56, the most aggressive state law to date to control immigration. Federal judge has stayed the implementation of the law until at least late September. Most of the media discussion has been about non-work-related provisions of the law, for instance, police questioning, access to church-related services, and public education. Here, we look at the business –related provisions, which are excerpted below. The key provisions are:

Section 9 - Government contractors prohibited from hiring unlawful aliens

Section 11 - curb-side hiring prohibited

Section 13 – Harboring an unlawful alien

Section 15 prohibiting private sector hiring of unlawful aliens, at penalty of permanent revocation of licenses and permits


Section 26 - State of Alabama to provide E-Verify service to small employers

I have included below key passages in each of these sections.

“….the court shall direct the applicable governing bodies to forever suspend the business licenses and permits, if such exist, of the business entity or employer throughout the state….” (Section 15 (f)

Section 9 - Government contractors prohibited from hiring unlawful aliens

(a) As a condition for the award of any contract, grant, or incentive by the state, any political subdivision thereof, or any state-funded entity to a business entity or employer that employs one or more employees, the business entity or employer shall not knowingly employ, hire for employment, or continue to employ an unauthorized alien and shall attest to such, by sworn affidavit signed before a notary.

……Violations of Section 9 (a)

Continue reading " Alabama’s Immigration law dissected " »

May 31, 2011

IT CEOs pitch for a better immigration policy

Four IT industry leaders called on May 19 for a new immigration policy. They touch on a number of issues, including dysfunction in our relations with foreigners who earn graduate degrees here. “Today foreign nationals account for 50% of master’s degrees and 70% of Ph.D. degrees in electrical and electronic engineering in the U.S. Yet, our antiquated immigration laws numerically limit the numbers of these individuals, by the thousands, from entering our country annually. What kind of strategy is it to train the world’s best and brightest in our great universities – and then require them to leave?”

The authors are members of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

Their statement in full:

America needs a 21st century immigration policy

President Obama’s recent focus on immigration highlights America’s “broken” system and its impact on our economy. Fixing it requires Republicans and Democrats to show political courage and implement reforms to expand and strengthen the American economy. As members of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, we share his deep concern that our nation’s ability to compete economically is being damaged by the two parties battling over immigration laws and policies.

To some, the link between immigration reform and economic growth may be surprising. To America’s most innovative industries, it is a link we know is fundamental.

Continue reading "IT CEOs pitch for a better immigration policy" »

April 21, 2011

More on Utah's new immigration related laws

On the heels of Utah’s passage of an immigration – related law, Farmer Justice’s president Bruce Goldstein wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune saying that the state should be paying more attention to reforming an existing guest worker program, the H-2A program. Goldstein is concerned that guest worker programs tend to be inadequate in protecting the interests of both guest and American workers. He plugs for AgJOBS, which was part of the failed immigration reform effort in Washington in 2007.

The article in full:

Paying for a guest worker law already in place

Published: April 14, 2011 12:10AM

Bruce Goldstein is president of Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that works to improve living and working conditions for migrant and seasonal farm workers.

Amidst the debate and controversy surrounding Utah’s new immigration laws, state legislators in Salt Lake City seem to think they’ve created a model for America. They portray their pilot guest worker program as a compromise that others might use as a model.

They must think Utah’s taxpayers aren’t paying careful attention, because they’ll be saddled with spending money to duplicate a program that largely already exists.

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law four bills heralded by some commentators as a holistic and comprehensive state approach to immigration reform. One of the bills would create a pilot program to bring guest workers from the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, to perform temporary work. (Another would create a guest worker status for undocumented workers already working in Utah.)

If the pilot bill for managing guest workers in Utah sounds familiar, that’s because, in spite of the media attention and self-congratulation that accompanied the state law, we have had a federal system in place since the 1940s that does virtually the same thing. In fact, the United States already has two such programs for temporary or seasonal jobs, the H-2A visa for agricultural work and the H-2B for nonagricultural work. Each visa already requires state involvement.

Continue reading "More on Utah's new immigration related laws" »

March 28, 2011

The Utah Compact on immigration

Business, religious and community leaders in Utah signed on November 11, 2010, the following Utah Compact. This Compact set the stage for a package of immigration bills enacted this month.

Utah Compact:

A declaration of five principles to guide Utah's immigration discussion

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS: Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah's congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement's professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES: Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY: Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah's immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY: Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Supported by the Mormon Church

Statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

As a worldwide church dealing with many complex issues across the globe, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints promotes broad, foundational principles that have worldwide application. The Church regards the declaration of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform. It is consistent with important principles for which we stand:

* We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The Savior taught that the meaning of "neighbor" includes all of God's children, in all places, at all times.

* We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.

* We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation's laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.

Public officials should create and administer laws that reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society. Such laws will properly balance love for neighbors, family cohesion, and the observance of just and enforceable laws.

New guest worker and other legislation from Utah

Utah has enacted in March a law that attempts to set up, on a single state basis, a guest worker program allowing illegal workers to participate. Though of doubtful constitutionality – it will take a waiver from Washington for Utah to effective write a guest worker program – it is an example of creative thinking about immigration.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Utah has about 110,000 illegal immigrants, of which 75,000 are in the workforce.

The legislation follow up on the Utah Compact, which business, religious and community leaders in Utah agreed to in late November. I am posting on that compact in another post.

The Deseret News editorialized it support of the legislation, saying that “This year, Utah's lawmakers have managed to accomplish legislatively what has eluded Congress: increased enforcement that weeds out dangerous criminals while providing a guest worker program coupled with tough but common-sense safeguards.”

One report describes the guest worker law, HB 116, as follows:

On Tuesday March 15, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert signed immigration bills including HB 116 into law, which addressed immigration enforcement, guest-worker visas and employment verification by employers in Utah. Utah became the first state to enact laws to let illegal workers remain in the state along with their families.

Governor Herbert called it “the Utah solution.” He said, “Utah has taken a thoughtful, rational approach and found common ground.”

While most acknowledge immigration is primarily a federal issue, Governor Herbert said these bills provide him some leverage at the federal level to engage the federal government in addressing Utah’s challenges, according to the press release.
The federal government would have to grant a waiver, since the U.S. Congress can only enact immigration laws and enforce them. If the federal government fails to grant a waiver, Utah might engage in a legal challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The guest-worker program under HB 116 will take effect in two years. It would allow the Utah Department of Safety to issue state visas to more than 110,000 undocumented immigrants in the state. Immigrants would have to pay $2,500 for permits or pay $1,000 for overstaying a visa in the U.S. Their families would be included in the permits. Undocumented workers would have to go through a background investigation once they sign up for the guest-worker program. They would be expected to learn English, but would not be required.

Another new law, HB 466, allows the governor to enter into a pilot program with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to supply legal workers through existing federal guest-worker programs.

A third bill, HB 497, requires police to check the immigration status of suspects who are arrested for felony or serious misdemeanor charges, placing an immigration enforcement activity in the hands of local police officers. This law is expected to face immediate legal challenges.

January 1, 2011

State house battles in 2011 over illegal immigration

Count on 2011 to see a lot of “Arizona-plus” legislative initiatives at the state level. These will be opposed by business lobbies, Democrats, and the Hispanic community. Below is an article in today’s NY Times:

Political Battle on Illegal Immigration Shifts to States

Legislative leaders in at least half a dozen states say they will propose bills similar to a controversial law to fight illegal immigration that was adopted by Arizona last spring, even though a federal court has suspended central provisions of that statute.

The efforts, led by Republicans, are part of a wave of state measures coming this year aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

Legislators have also announced measures to limit access to public colleges and other benefits for illegal immigrants and to punish employers who hire them.

Next week, at least five states plan to begin an unusual coordinated effort to cancel automatic United States citizenship for children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.

Opponents say that effort would be unconstitutional, arguing that the power to grant citizenship resides with the federal government, not with the states. Still, the chances of passing many of these measures appear better than at any time since 2006, when many states, frustrated with inaction in Washington, began proposing initiatives to curb illegal immigration.

Continue reading "State house battles in 2011 over illegal immigration" »

August 31, 2010

Farm Workers' "Take our job" campaign

This July, the United Farm Workers launched a campaign on behalf of immigration reform by inviting Americans to take on a farm worker’s job for a week. My thanks to Becki Shafer for alerting me to this. The UFW wants immigration reform primarily in the AgJobs provision, a version of which was in the failed immigration reform bill of 2008.

A UFW press release says that it has negotiated the AgJOBS bill with the agricultural industry that would give undocumented farm workers presently here the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Lugar (R-IN) are the principal co-authors in the Senate and Congressman Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA) in the House.

Go here to enroll in the program. That website says that “Job may include using hand tools such as knives, hoes, shovels, etc. Duties may include tilling the soil, transplanting, weeding, thinning, picking, cutting, sorting & packing of harvested produce. May set up & operate irrigation equip. Work is performed outside in all weather conditions (Summertime 90+ degree weather) & is physically demanding requiring workers to bend, stoop, lift & carry up to 50 lbs on a regular basis.”

August 17, 2010

Another analysis of the Bolton ruling on the Arizona Law

The Migration Policy Institute issued an brief analysis of Judge Bolton’s ruling against portions of the Arizona law, Senate Bill 1070. Read below:

Breakdown of the Ruling

Bolton did not enjoin all of SB 1070, which the federal government had requested. Instead, she found that four key provisions warranted a preliminary injunction for two reasons: the government's arguments that federal law preempted SB 1070 were likely to prevail at the full hearing on the merits, and the government was "likely to suffer irreparable harm" if they were not enjoined.

The four sections Bolton stopped are

* requiring local law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of an individual stopped by the police if an officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an unauthorized immigrant; requiring officers to verify the immigration status of anyone arrested before releasing that person from detention
* making it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry proof of their immigration status
* making it a state crime for unauthorized immigrants to solicit or perform work
* allowing police officers to arrest without a warrant anyone suspected of having committed a public offense that renders him or her removable from the United States.

Specifically, Bolton found that the provisions related to law enforcement's mandatory inquiries into immigration status and the warrantless arrests of removable immigrants would impose a "significant burden" on legal residents, many of whom could be wrongfully arrested or detained for extended periods if they could not produce proof of their immigration status.

The judge also noted that the task of determining whether an immigrant has committed a crime rendering him or her removable is a task of "considerable complexity," and state and local law enforcement officers do not receive adequate training to be able to make such a determination.

She found that the portion of SB 1070 making it a state crime for unauthorized immigrants to solicit or perform work contradicted the federal government's carefully balanced system of penalties for unauthorized employment.

In agreeing with the federal government that federal law likely preempted four sections of SB 1070, Bolton found that implementing the four provisions would require the federal government to shift resources away from law enforcement priorities.

Finally, Bolton also recognized that allowing SB 1070 to take effect would undermine the ability of the United States to "speak with one voice" on immigration matters, with implications for a uniform national foreign policy.

Bolton declined to block the various other provisions of SB 1070, finding that they were not likely to be deemed preempted during a full hearing on the law. These provisions include

* prohibiting Arizona officials, agencies, and subdivisions from limiting the enforcement of federal immigration law
* making it a crime to hire day laborers if the practice impedes normal traffic flows
* making it illegal to transport, conceal, or harbor unauthorized immigrants
* amending the definitions of crimes of human smuggling.

Ruling in Context

Many immigration experts and constitutional scholars have argued the lawsuit against Arizona was necessary to reassert the federal government's authority to set a national immigration policy.

Since the 1800s, courts have held that regulating immigration policy is primarily a federal responsibility, though the Supreme Court has recognized that not every state law dealing with immigrants is "a regulation of immigration, and thus per se preempted."

Continue reading "Another analysis of the Bolton ruling on the Arizona Law" »

August 15, 2010

What Judge Bolton ruled what was unconstitutional in the Arizona law

Below is a good summary of the provisions of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 that Judge Susan Bolton of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona ruled unconstitutional. Her reasoning was largely but not only focused on the matter of federal preemption.


Senate Bill 1070 took effect in Arizona on July 29, 2010. Judge Susan Bolton only blocked certain parts of the bill from taking effect with the rest of the bill. Such a legal challenge and outcome was fully anticipated by the drafters of SB1070, who made certain aspects of the bill severable, or able to be separated, without destroying the entire bill. The US Department of Justice, the adversary to SB1070 in this instance, specifically chose certain aspects of the bill to challenge, leaving other aspects unopposed. Some of the most important aspects of SB1070 that remain in effect or fully enforceable by officers in Arizona are as follows:

* Provision allowing residents of the state to sue any state official or agency that restricts enforcement of federal immigration law to any extent less than the maximum allowed by federal law;
* Creating a crime for stopping a vehicle to pick up day laborers if the stopping creates an impediment to normal movement of traffic;
* Creating crimes for intentionally or knowingly employing unauthorized aliens; and
* Transporting or encouraging unlawfully present aliens to come to Arizona.

Interestingly, law enforcement officers and public employees are caught in a catch 22 situation regarding their role in Arizona's immigration scheme. Specifically, all agencies of the State of Arizona are required to carry out federal law in regard to federal immigration rules or risk being sued. However, it is reasonable to believe that most employees of the state of Arizona are not experts in Federal Immigration law, leaving such agencies and employees potentially open to suit for actions they do not know are unlawful.

The following are aspects of the bill that have been enjoined, or stopped from enforcement, by the federal court:

* Requirement that under reasonable suspicion of unlawful presence in the United States, that police officers make a reasonable efforts to ascertain the immigration status of the person, and ascertain the immigration status of a person upon release from arrest;
* Creation of a crime for failure to apply for or carry immigration papers;
* Create a crime for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for or perform work; and
* Authorize the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a public offense that makes the person removable (formerly called deportable) from the United States.

Continue reading "What Judge Bolton ruled what was unconstitutional in the Arizona law" »

July 27, 2010

Legal analysis of the Arizona law

The Congressional Research Service recently issued aa legal analysis of the Arizona state law authorizing enforcement of criminal laws regarding unauthorized immigrants (SB 1070, as amended by HB 2162). The analysis is focused on the Federal preemption question but also addresses the civil rights aspects of racial profiling.

This thoughtful analysis notes that “the most serious preemption arguments likely exist where state law attempts to reach past traditional police powers to regulate matters closely related to the entry and removal of aliens from the United States, and the conditions of their lawful presence within the country. State laws addressing such matters appear most susceptible to preemption challenges, as federal law is arguably intended to wholly occupy this field.”

The analysis concludes that it is difficult in the absence of information about how the Arizona law is implemented to determine whether it is unconstitutional based on Federal preemption.

July 7, 2010

DOJ sues to void new Arizona immigration law

The Department of Justice filed suit on July 6 to prevent implementation of Arizona's new law to mandate state and local police involvement in immigration law enforcement (S.B. 1070). Below is the announcement by DOJ of this action:

Citing Conflict with Federal Law, Department of Justice Challenges Arizona Immigration Law

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice challenged the state of Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, S.B. 1070, in federal court today.

In a brief filed in the District of Arizona, the Department said S.B. 1070 unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s authority to set and enforce immigration policy, explaining that “the Constitution and federal law do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.” A patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement. Having enacted its own immigration policy that conflicts with federal immigration law, Arizona “crossed a constitutional line.”

The Department’s brief said that S.B. 1070 will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from high-priority targets, such as aliens implicated in terrorism, drug smuggling, and gang activity, and those with criminal records. The law’s mandates on Arizona law enforcement will also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, who cannot readily prove their lawful status.

Continue reading "DOJ sues to void new Arizona immigration law" »

July 1, 2010

Text of Obama's speech on immigration reform 7/1/10

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 01, 2010
Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
American University School of International Service, Washington, D.C.

11:12 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Everyone please have a seat. Thank you very much. Let me thank Pastor Hybels from near my hometown in Chicago, who took time off his vacation to be here today. We are blessed to have him.

I want to thank President Neil Kerwin and our hosts here at American University; acknowledge my outstanding Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, and members of my administration; all the members of Congress -- Hilda deserves applause. (Applause.) To all the members of Congress, the elected officials, faith and law enforcement, labor, business leaders and immigration advocates who are here today -- thank you for your presence.

I want to thank American University for welcoming me to the campus once again. Some may recall that the last time I was here I was joined by a dear friend, and a giant of American politics, Senator Edward Kennedy. (Applause.) Teddy’s not here right now, but his legacy of civil rights and health care and worker protections is still with us.

I was a candidate for President that day, and some may recall I argued that our country had reached a tipping point; that after years in which we had deferred our most pressing problems, and too often yielded to the politics of the moment, we now faced a choice: We could squarely confront our challenges with honesty and determination, or we could consign ourselves and our children to a future less prosperous and less secure.

I believed that then and I believe it now. And that’s why, even as we’ve tackled the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, even as we’ve wound down the war in Iraq and refocused our efforts in Afghanistan, my administration has refused to ignore some of the fundamental challenges facing this generation.

We launched the most aggressive education reforms in decades, so that our children can gain the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a 21st century global economy.

We have finally delivered on the promise of health reform -– reform that will bring greater security to every American, and that will rein in the skyrocketing costs that threaten families, businesses and the prosperity of our nation.

We’re on the verge of reforming an outdated and ineffective set of rules governing Wall Street -– to give greater power to consumers and prevent the reckless financial speculation that led to this severe recession.

And we’re accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy by significantly raising the fuel-efficiency standards of cars and trucks, and by doubling our use of renewable energies like wind and solar power -- steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.

So, despite the forces of the status quo, despite the polarization and the frequent pettiness of our politics, we are confronting the great challenges of our times. And while this work isn’t easy, and the changes we seek won’t always happen overnight, what we’ve made clear is that this administration will not just kick the can down the road.

Immigration reform is no exception. In recent days, the issue of immigration has become once more a source of fresh contention in our country, with the passage of a controversial law in Arizona and the heated reactions we’ve seen across America. Some have rallied behind this new policy. Others have protested and launched boycotts of the state. And everywhere, people have expressed frustration with a system that seems fundamentally broken.

Continue reading "Text of Obama's speech on immigration reform 7/1/10" »

June 28, 2010

Obama Administration to sue Arizona

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the suit may come as early as next week:

Washington, DC -- A White House showdown with the state of Arizona over its tough new immigration law is likely to unfold next week, when the Obama administration is expected to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking the state's bid to curb illegal immigration on its own, according to people familiar with the administration's plans.

Arizona officials are girding for the legal challenge. The state has raised $123,000 in private donations to defend the law, according to Gov. Jan Brewer's office. Money has come in from all 50 states, in donations as little as $1.

Obama administration officials declined to reveal the basis for the suit. But legal experts say the challenge is likely to include the argument that in passing the law, Arizona violated the Constitution by intruding on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration.

To date, the state has been hit with five lawsuits. The law, SB 1070, was signed in April and is scheduled to go into effect July 29.

By confronting Arizona, the Obama administration would be making a political statement as much as a legal one. Obama has already criticized the Arizona law as 'misdirected.' Criminal action against illegal immigrants is not, by itself, a satisfactory solution to the nation's dysfunctional immigration system, the White House says.

Obama has said that part of the remedy must include a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. But with mid-term elections approaching, the president has not made the politically explosive issue a legislative priority for 2010.

Brewer and other Republican officials have recoiled at the prospect of a federal suit.

'Perhaps the administration should focus on getting the assets they promised to the border region rather than wasting time and taxpayer dollars on suing the state of Arizona,' said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Obama administration tipped its hand on its plans earlier this month when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an Ecuadoran television interview that a lawsuit was coming. Outraged, Brewer said the administration should 'inform us before it informs the citizens of another nation.'

The Arizona law empowers police, after making a lawful stop, to verify the immigration status of people they reasonably suspect are in the country illegally.

Opponents warn that the law could be easily abused — enforced in a fashion that unfairly targets Latinos.

Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and an attorney who is part of a group of civil rights organizations contesting the law, said: 'A legal challenge by the Justice Department would help ensure that Arizona's renegade state law, which will cause racial profiling and undermine effective law en

April 30, 2010

The new Arizona law outlined

In a posting which is sympathetic to the new Arizona law pertaining to illegal aliens, the Center for Immigration Studies describes key provisions of the law, and essentially summarizes the rationale for the law – which is both the high number of illegal immigrants (a number which has recently declined) and reports that illegal immigrants are proportionately more likely to commit crimes, including violent crimes. Go to the report itself here, as it includes links to supporting documentation.

The CIS study summaries the key legal provisions as follows:

Among the new law’s provisions:

* The new Arizona law mirrors federal law, which already requires aliens (non-citizens) to register and carry their documents with them (8 USC 1304(e) and 8 USC 1306(a)). The new Arizona law simply states that violating federal immigration law is now a state crime as well. Because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, they can now be arrested by local law enforcement in Arizona.

* The law is designed to avoid the legal pitfall of “pre-emption,” which means a state can’t adopt laws that conflict with federal laws. By making what is a federal violation also a state violation, the Arizona law avoids this problem.

* The law only allows police to ask about immigration status in the normal course of “lawful contact” with a person, such as a traffic stop or if they have committed a crime.

* Estimates from the federal government indicate that more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants come from Latin America.12 Thus, there is concern that police may target only Hispanics for enforcement.

* Before asking a person about immigration status, law enforcement officials are required by the law to have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal immigrant. The concept of “reasonable suspicion” is well established by court rulings. Since Arizona does not issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, having a valid license creates a presumption of legal status. Examples of reasonable suspicion include:

o A driver stopped for a traffic violation has no license, or record of a driver's license or other form of federal or state identification.
o A police officer observes someone buying fraudulent identity documents or crossing the border illegally.
o A police officer recognizes a gang member back on the street who he knows has been previously deported by the federal government.

* The law specifically states that police, “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” when implementing SB 1070.

* When Arizona’s governor signed the new law, she also issued an executive order requiring the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to provide local police with additional training on what does and what does not constitute “reasonable suspicion.”

April 29, 2010

Fact sheet on Arizona and Hispanics

The ever-resourceful Pew Hispanic Center has published a fact sheet on Hispanics, Arizona, and Hispanic perceptions. Among the findings are the following:

Hispanics in Arizona. According to Pew Hispanic Center tabulations from the 2008 American Community Survey, there are 2 million Hispanics in Arizona, representing 30% of the state’s population. One- third (33%) of Arizona Hispanics are foreign born.

Undocumented Immigrants in Arizona: The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants resided in Arizona in 2008. Nearly all (94%) of these undocumented immigrants are from Mexico. Moreover, approximately 10% of Arizona’s workforce is undocumented (Passel and Cohen, 2009).

A majority of Hispanics worry that they, or someone they know, will be deported. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) Latinos, in a 2008 Pew Hispanic Center survey, said they worried that they themselves or a family member, or a close friend may be deported. The foreign born were more likely than the native born to say this—73% versus 35%.

April 12, 2010

What Reid said to predict immigration reform

This is what Senate President Harry Reid said in front of a large pro-immigration reform rally in Las Vegas on Saturday:

“We are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Reid told the crowd. “We need to do this this year. We can’t let excuses like a Supreme Court nomination get in the way.”

Reid promised the legislation would include provisions to secure both the north and south borders, revisions to a guest worker program, and provisions to deal with illegal immigrants already in the country.

“There are no excuses. This is something America needs,” Reid said. “We’re going to do immigration reform just like we did health care reform.”

April 2, 2010

Schumer / Graham plan for immigration reform

Two weeks ago, Senators Schumer and Graham wrote an Op-Ed article in the Washington Post in which they propose a solution for immigration reform. I have copied the entire article below, and below that is a Los Angeles Times article on the Schumer / Graham plan.

Here is the money pitch: “Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”

The article in full:

The right way to mend immigration

By Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey O. Graham
Friday, March 19, 2010

Our immigration system is badly broken. Although our borders have become far more secure in recent years, too many people seeking illegal entry get through. We have no way to track whether the millions who enter the United States on valid visas each year leave when they are supposed to. And employers are burdened by a complicated system for verifying workers' immigration status.

Last week we met with President Obama to discuss our draft framework for action on immigration. We expressed our belief that America's security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies.

The answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies.

Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.

Besides border security, ending illegal immigration will also require an effective employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. A tamper-proof ID system would dramatically decrease illegal immigration, experts have said, and would reduce the government revenue lost when employers and workers here illegally fail to pay taxes.

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person's identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.

We propose a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally. We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol's staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.

Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases.

Ending illegal immigration, however, cannot be the sole objective of reform. Developing a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity.

Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest. Our legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy.

Our blueprint also creates a rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers. Our current system prohibits lower-skilled immigrants from coming here to earn money and then returning home. Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.

For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.

The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation. We urge the public and our colleagues to join our bipartisan efforts in enacting these reforms.

Charles E. Schumer is a Democratic senator from New York. Lindsey O. Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolin

Continue reading "Schumer / Graham plan for immigration reform" »

March 2, 2010

Immigration reform "on ice"

The NEw York Times had an editorial on 3/1 which addresses the stall in immigration reform. This is going to take some time to get unstuck. All we get today is enforcement, no reform.

The editorial in full:

Published: March 1, 2010

President Obama gave immigration reform only one vague sentence in his State of the Union address. Despite that, and the poisonous stalemate on Capitol Hill, the White House and Democratic Congressional leaders insist that they are still committed to presenting a comprehensive reform bill this year — one that would clamp down on the border and workplace, streamline legal immigration and bring 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows.

The country needs to confront the issue, to lift the fear that pervades immigrant communities, to better harness the energy of immigrant workers, to protect American workers from off-the-books competition. What’s been happening as the endless wait for reform drags on has been ugly.

The administration has doubled down on the Bush-era enforcement strategy, unleashing the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies and setting loose an epidemic of misery, racial profiling and needless arrests. The intense campaign of raids and deportations has so clogged the immigration courts that the American Bar Association has proposed creating an independent court system that presumably would be better able to command adequate resources.

Tensions and anger in immigrant communities are rising. Religious and business groups are urging change — for moral reasons and because they believe that bringing immigrants out from the shadows would help the economy. Young students who have patiently waited for the Dream Act — a bill to legalize immigrant children who bear no blame for their status — are frustrated. Groups across the country are planning to march on Washington this month, demanding action on reform.

At least one advocacy group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, has declared the dream of comprehensive reform dead. It is urging incremental change, with modest reforms like the Dream Act. Other groups may follow. It is too soon to give up.

Representative Luis Gutierrez has submitted legislation in the House that contains the right elements of comprehensive reform. Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham are working on a Senate version. Let’s hope Congress and Mr. Obama are paying attention and will find the spine to fashion a fair, comprehensive bill and then fight for it.

Mr. Obama should remember the promise he made often during the campaign but left out of his State of the Union: that the undocumented deserve a chance to make Americans of themselves.

January 6, 2010

NY Times editorial on immigration reform

The New York Times started off the 2010 season of campaigning for immigration reform in an editorial. Nothing substantively new from 2009, when the reform issue seemed buried six feet under. I don’t hold out much hope for much constructive action this year.

Immigration’s New Year

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, at his inauguration, pledged to help the Obama administration pass immigration reform. Mr. Bloomberg is a force to reckon with, as he proved with his national campaign against illegal guns. On the same day, four young people in Miami, current or former students at Miami Dade College, began their own determined march to Washington in an effort to bring pressure from the grass roots.

Three of the four were brought to this country illegally as children. Like thousands of other young people, they bear no blame for their status, and they are frustrated that their hard work and bright promise lead to a brick wall. Their protest for a chance to become Americans is courageous because it exposes them to possible arrest and deportation. “We are risking our future because our present is unbearable,” one of them, Felipe Matos, told The Times.

Continue reading "NY Times editorial on immigration reform" »

October 16, 2009

“Wrong Paths to Immigration Reform”

Joe Arpaiom sheriff of Maricopa County, is always in the news. Here is a New York Times editorial on federal policy to delegate authority to enforce immigration laws – the 287(g) program:

All last week the people of Phoenix witnessed public outbursts by their sheriff, Joe Arpaio, as he railed against the Department of Homeland Security for supposedly trying to limit his ability to enforce federal immigration laws. He vowed to keep scouring Maricopa County for people whose clothing, accents and behavior betrayed them as likely illegal immigrants. He said he had already nabbed more than 32,000 people that way, and announced his next immigrant sweep for Oct. 16.

The spectacle raises two critical questions that the Obama administration is in danger of getting wrong.

Continue reading "“Wrong Paths to Immigration Reform”" »

September 1, 2009

Immigration reform priorities of the administration

The Dallas Morning News carried an interview with Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona and now head of Homeland Security. Read what she had to say. Note how regularization of the status of 12 million illegal immigrants (about 7 million of them workers) she keeps in the background. I have a hard time imagining that immigration reform will happen in 2009 or 2010. I support the guest worker program concept, which she does not mention.

The article:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that she was optimistic that a bipartisan immigration-policy overhaul would, at some point, get through Congress.

'This is not a new issue,' she said in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News' editorial board. 'It's just putting together a comprehensive package that covers the immigration issues from A to Z. ... It's a priority for both me and the president.'

Napolitano expressed hope that the effort, which has bogged down in Congress in years past, would not be as contentious as it was under former President George W. Bush.

She did not say when a bill would ultimately be considered since Congress and the White House are now consumed with health care legislation. So changes to immigration policy could be further down the road, though she has had meetings with Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat expected to take the lead on the issue.

'There is a bipartisan recognition that the current law is outdated and needs to be brought up to date with our current needs,' she said.

Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, has dealt with the effects of illegal immigration for much of her career in public service.

She said an immigration bill should focus on the following:

*Developing or bolstering the penalties for employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants.

*Stamping out the new tactics human traffickers and money launderers are using to exploit the border.

*Developing programs that would allow seasonal workers to legally enter the country.

*Updating the visa process to allow students with capabilities the country needs to remain in the U.S.

Napolitano added that there needed to be a way to deal with illegal immigrants in the country and their desire for citizenship, including having them pay a fine, pay taxes, and not have criminal records.

'Nobody is in favor of amnesty,' she said.

August 10, 2009

Obama expects immigration reform legislation later this year

He looks forward to it being passed in 2010. Such from his press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico today. Here is the article from the Washington Post:

By William Branigin, Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

President Obama, attending a North American summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, vowed Monday to pursue comprehensive U.S. immigration reform later this year with a view to enacting legislation in 2010 that would provide a "pathway to citizenship" for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.

In a joint news conference in Guadalajara with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama also pledged continued support for Mexico's war on powerful drug cartels, saying he was confident the battle could be waged "in a way consistent with human rights."

In their two-day summit, the three leaders said they discussed those and other topics, including trade, a recent coup in Honduras and efforts to combat the spread of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Questioned about criticism in Latin America that the United States has not been doing enough to support restoration of the ousted president of Honduras, Obama pushed back, accusing such critics of hypocrisy.

"The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and Yankees need to get out of Latin America," Obama said. "You can't have it both ways. . . . If these critics think that it's appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think what that indicates is that maybe there's some hypocrisy involved in their approach to U.S.-Latin America relations that certainly is not going to guide my administration's policies."

Asked about the prospects for immigration reform in view of the blows to his administration over health care legislation and mid-term elections next year, Obama dismissed the idea that the elections would play a role, saying he would not act "on short-term political calculations."

He said he regards immigration reform as being in the long-term interest of the United States. "We have a broken immigration system," he said. "Nobody denies it." Continuing on the current path means tensions with Mexico, danger for those trying to cross into the United States illegally, unfairness for those trying to immigrate legally, exploitation by unscrupulous employers, the depression of U.S. wages and other ills, Obama said.

"It's not fair, and it's not right, and we're going to change it," he said. But he said it was "very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in way where they don't all just crash at the same time." He said meetings have begun on immigration reform among House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano coordinating the discussions.

"I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and Senate, who are ready to move this forward," Obama said. Then, next year, "we should be in a position to start acting," he said, although he acknowledged that "this is going to be difficult." The overhaul would give illegal immigrants in the United States the opportunity "to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows," Obama said. "So I'm confident we can get it done."

June 26, 2009

Immigration reform: Republicans demand guest worker program

At a bipartisan meeting yesterday at the White House on immigration reform, Republicans including John McCain said that a reform bill must include a guest worker program. The New York Times article Obama’s first public meeting on immigration:

Guest Worker Program Poses Obstacle for Obama on Immigration Push
By Jeff Zeleny

President Obama said on Thursday that he was committed to passing a comprehensive immigration plan, but Republicans attending a bipartisan meeting at the White House expressed skepticism a deal could be reached unless Mr. Obama endorsed a guest worker program that Democratic-leaning labor unions oppose.

“What I’m encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue,” Mr. Obama said, “we’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now.”

In the State Dining Room, Mr. Obama met with nearly three dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers for the first substantive discussion on immigration since he took office five months ago. Mr. Obama named a working group to be led by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Mr. Obama singled out his former Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for his commitment to changing the nation’s immigration system.

“I want to specially commend John McCain who is with me here today,” Mr. Obama said at the end of the closed-door meeting when reporters were briefly allowed inside. “He has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing. I stand with him.”

Mr. McCain, speaking to reporters outside the White House, said comprehensive immigration reform has a fresh urgency because of the surge in violence along the border with Mexico. But he suggested a bigger sticking point could be the guest worker program, which he said must be part of any immigration bill.

“I can’t support any proposal that doesn’t have a legal temporary worker program and I would expect the president of the United States to put his influence on the unions in order to change their position,” Mr. McCain said. “Without a commitment to a legal temporary worker program for our high-tech community and agriculture sector, there is no such thing as comprehensive immigration reform.”

As he walked to a waiting car, Mr. McCain said the president needed to stand up to labor unions and show leadership, saying: “That’s why he was elected president.”

With unemployment rising, several labor unions have opposed a temporary guest worker program. The president made no commitments, according to several participants in the room, but has signaled that he is open to discussing such a program. Several Republicans told Mr. Obama that they had taken political heat in their own parties and it was time for him to do the same.

“We’ve got one more chance to do this,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “If we fail this time around, no politician will take this up for a generation.”

June 7, 2009

Immigration reform prospects are up

An article in the Congressional Quarterly explains why immigration reform has a better chance of passage today than in recent past. Tomorrow, June 8, Obama meets with a bipartisan group of congressman and senators to set the stage for legislative action. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are in close agreement on most issues.

Republican John Cronyn of Texas opposed reforms in 2006 and 2007 and appears now in favor of a compromise. McCain has been silent and Kennedy is not longer involved in immigration.

The 2008 election results shifted Congress mor towards reforms. Hispanic voters went from 5.4% of the electorate in 2000 to 7.4% in 2008. They may have provided the margin in states where Republicans lost seats, such as New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. Also, moderate or more reform republican senators were not punished in their re-election fights.

The 2008 strengthened the Democratic majority in the House. The key house member on immigration now is Democrat Lois Gutierrez from Illinois, who has been working his colleagues to pass a bill this year.

Organized labor is shifted somewhat more towards reform. The AFL-CIO, which stayed of the reform fights in 2006 and 2007, has signed on with the SEIU to support the idea of an official commission which would monitor the labor market and determine changes in visa policy. The cosmetics of this shift by the AFL-CIO is more important than the actual content.

Religious groups, such as evangelicals, are showing more support for reform.

April 15, 2009

Unions are supporting immigration reform

The AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation (SIEU and six other unions) threw their support behind legalization of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants and the creation of a panel to analyze the labor market's needs. But business may oppose the creation of a panel to oversee temporary work visa programs, which the unions want in order to control year by year the influx of temporary workers.

From the LA Times:

By Anna Gorman
April 15, 2009

The nation's top two labor federations announced a framework Tuesday for comprehensive immigration reform, setting aside differences with the hope of pushing legislation through this year.

The agreement, supported by the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation, supports the legalization of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants and the formation of an independent commission to analyze the labor market's needs and assess shortages for the admission of future foreign workers. The unions oppose any new guest worker programs that would allow employers to bring foreigners in on a temporary basis.

Continue reading "Unions are supporting immigration reform" »

April 10, 2009

Will Obama push immigration reform?

So it would appear from a NY Times article which cites an unnamed administration official. But I’m not so sure. I expect we will see no serious action until healthcare reform is agreed to, and that can take two years.

The article in full:

Obama to Push Immigration Bill as One Priority

Published: April 8, 2009

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.
Skip to next paragraph

Mr. Obama will frame the new effort — likely to rouse passions on all sides of the highly divisive issue — as “policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system,” said the official, Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.

Continue reading "Will Obama push immigration reform?" »

January 23, 2009

White House website posting of immigration policy

Here is the statement in full. It's the first statement since 1/20 on immigration reform.


"The time to fix our broken immigration system is now… We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace… But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America… Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should."

-- Barack Obama, Statement on U.S. Senate Floor
May 23, 2007

For too long, politicians in Washington have exploited the immigration issue to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. Our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our border, enforces our laws, and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

Create Secure Borders: Protect the integrity of our borders. Support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.

Improve Our Immigration System: Fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally: Remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Bring People Out of the Shadows: Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Work with Mexico: Promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.

December 27, 2008

Is the Obama team prepared to protect immigrants?

The top level of the Obama team is including people who understand the need to protect the rights of immigrant workers, according to an editorial in the New York Times. “In simplest terms, what Ms. Solis and Mr. Obama seem to know in their gut is this: If you uphold workers’ rights, even for those here illegally, you uphold them for all working Americans. If you ignore and undercut the rights of illegal immigrants, you encourage the exploitation that erodes working conditions and job security everywhere. In a time of economic darkness, the stability and dignity of the work force are especially vital.”

The entire editorial, published December 26:

Getting immigration right

It’s way too early to tell whether the United States under President-elect Barack Obama will restore realism, sanity and lawfulness to its immigration system. But it’s never too early to hope, and the stars seem to be lining up, at least among his cabinet nominees.
Skip to next paragraph

If Mr. Obama’s team is confirmed, the country will have a homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, and a commerce secretary, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who understand the border region and share a well-informed disdain for foolish, inadequate enforcement schemes like the Bush administration’s border fence. And it will have a labor secretary, Hilda Solis of California, who, as a state senator and congresswoman, has built a reputation as a staunch defender of immigrants and workers.

The confluence of immigrants and labor is exactly what this country — particularly, and disastrously, the Bush administration — has not been able to figure out.

In simplest terms, what Ms. Solis and Mr. Obama seem to know in their gut is this: If you uphold workers’ rights, even for those here illegally, you uphold them for all working Americans. If you ignore and undercut the rights of illegal immigrants, you encourage the exploitation that erodes working conditions and job security everywhere. In a time of economic darkness, the stability and dignity of the work force are especially vital.

This is why it is so important to reverse the Bush administration’s immigration tactics, which for years have attacked the problem upside down and backward. To appease Republican nativists, it lavished scarce resources solely on hunting down and punishing illegal immigrants. Its campaign of raids, detentions and border fencing was a moral failure. Among other things, it terrorized and broke apart families and led to some gruesome deaths in shoddy prisons. It mocked the American tradition of welcoming and assimilating immigrant workers.

But it also was a strategic failure because it did little or nothing to stem the illegal tide while creating the very conditions under which the off-the-books economy can thrive. Illegal immigrant workers are deterred from forming unions. And without a path to legalization and under the threat of a relentless enforcement-only regime, they cannot assert their rights.

It’s a system that the grubbiest and shabbiest industries and business owners — think of the hellish slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, running with immigrant child labor — could not have designed better. Through it all, the Bush administration’s response to criticism has been ever more enforcement.

Ms. Solis, whose father immigrated from Mexico and was a Teamsters shop steward and whose mother, from Nicaragua, worked on an assembly line, promises a clean break from that past. She lives in El Monte, a Los Angeles suburb where two compelling stories of immigrants and labor have emerged in recent years.

The first was tragic: a notorious 1995 raid at a sweatshop where Thai workers were kept in slave conditions behind barbed wire. The second is less well-known but far more encouraging: a present-day hiring site for day laborers at the edge of a Home Depot parking lot. The Latino men who gather in that safe, well-run space uphold an informal minimum wage and protect one another from abusive contractors and wage thieves. It’s good for the store, its customers and the workers.

Ms. Solis is a defender of such sites and has opposed efforts in other cities to enact ordinances to disperse day laborers and force them underground. She understands that if day laborers end up in our suburbs, it is better to give them safe places to gather rather than allow an uncontrolled job bazaar to drive wages and working conditions down.

That’s a bit of local wisdom that deserves to take root in the federal government.

December 1, 2008

What will the Obama administration do?

Shusterman’s Immigration Update speculates about the incoming administration’s policy on immigration, and forecasts that it will be supportive of expanding the H-1B program (Bill Gate’s programmers). Since the Bush administration has been supportive of H-1B against Congressional resistance, this does not herald a change in White House policy.

Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona, will head the Department of Homeland Security. Arizona has been perhaps the most contentious state in dealing with illegal immigrants. I hope that she has learned from that how to craft reform legislation that will appeal to moderates. Credibility of enforcement will be a key element in getting a reform bill enacted.

Excerpt from the Update:

We believe that the fact that Hispanics and Asian-Americans voted two-to-one to elect Senator Obama, and supported many other pro-immigration legislators, the new administration and Congress will take steps to acknowledge this support including passage of the DREAM Act and other long-stalled legislation.

President-Elect Obama was not specifically asked his positions on easing immigration restrictions on high-skilled workers. However, just after the election, Computerworld magazine had this to say about Obama's likely policies concerning H-1B visas:

"President-Elect Barack Obama has supported the H-1B visa program and wants to make changes to green cards that would help tech firms. There wasn't much said about this issue during the presidential campaign, especially after Wall Street collapsed. It also never came up in the debates between Obama and Republican John McCain. Now we're in a recession and unemployment is rising. Can Obama push ahead on tech-related immigration issues at this time? He might, and in this FAQ, here's an explanation of how that might happen."

Google's CEO Eric Schimdt, an economic adviser to Obama would clearly like to see the H-1B program expanded according to Computerworld:

Continue reading "What will the Obama administration do?" »

September 4, 2008

Our broken immigration system

Reason Magazine has published a devastating critique of barriers for legal immigrants to the United States – replete with a chart which shows the complicated ways and huge time delays in getting permission to stay here and become a citizen.

Two paragraphs –

What's the best-case immigration scenario? Five or six years: If you are the spouse or a minor child of a U.S. citizen, you should be able to enter the country and get a green card. Then, after three to five years, you can apply to become a citizen.

The worst case scenario? You are an unskilled worker hoping to make a better life for yourself in America. "Unlike previous periods in our history, there is virtually no process for unskilled immigrants without family relations in the U.S. to apply for permanent legal residence," the chart by Reason Foundation and the National Foundation for American Policy states.

Its press release is below. You will find at the bottom links to the chart.

News Release

Can You Navigate the Immigration Maze to U.S. Citizenship?
Chart shows how complicated becoming an American is for even the most skilled workers

Los Angeles (August 21, 2008) - The immigration debate is often reduced to - why don't immigrants just get in line and come into this country legally? If only it were that simple.

A new chart details how complicated the immigration maze is, demonstrating the countless requirements that must be met, and the red tape that must be navigated, by everyone from English soccer star David Beckham to an Indian engineer.

Continue reading "Our broken immigration system" »

August 28, 2008

Another large ICE raid

It took place on 8/25, in Mississippi. It is not yet clear if federal prosecutors will run the 350 odd arrested workers through a mass criminal conviction meat grinder as they did in Postville in June.

The complete NY Times article:

LAUREL, Miss. — In another large-scale workplace immigration crackdown, federal officials raided a factory here on Monday, detaining at least 350 workers they said were in the country illegally.

Howard Industries, one of the largest employers in the region, manufactures electrical transformers, among other products.

Numerous agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement descended on a factory belonging to Howard Industries Inc., which manufactures electrical transformers, among other products.

As of late Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed, said Barbara Gonzalez, an agency spokeswoman, but she said that dozens of workers had been “identified, fingerprinted, interviewed, photographed and processed for removal from the U.S.”

Continue reading "Another large ICE raid" »

July 21, 2008

Employers pushing back against anti-immigration crowd

Immigration Works USA is a new business coalition with a goal to enact meaningful immigration reform, for both low skilled and high skilled labor. It is trying to push back against the anti-immigration, or at least anti-illegal immigration, movement which has resulted in, among other things, chaining an illegal woman to her hospital bed while she delivered her baby.

The organization’s strategy is as follows:

Strengthen and expand our network. Jumpstart employer coalitions in states where they don't exist. Provide fledgling chapters with toolkits, templates and other how-to advice. Help with recruiting and, where needed, modest seed funding for new coalitions.

Messaging - local and national. Conduct public opinion research, develop messages, provide local chapters with talking points and media training. Help the coalitions document the economic benefits of immigration to their states. Help them speak out about the damage done locally by enforcement-only policies. Create an arsenal of tailored TV and radio spots.

An early warning system: mapping and tracking local battles. Which state immigration bills are moving,which local candidate is gearing up to use immigration as a wedge issue - ImmigrationWorks' local roots put us in a position to know before anyone else. Our state-based chapters are our eyes and ears on the ground, tracking ongoing battles and predicting where others are about to break out.

Building a grassroots database. The key to winning is an army of engaged, articulate employers prepared to contact their members of Congress and make the case for immigration reform. These troops must be recruited state by state, business by business, peer-to-peer. Key tools: regional training and mobilization sessions, electronic town halls, web "microsites," then sustained follow-up communication to maintain interest and engagement. The goal: a national database that can produce both quantity and quality - the e-mails, faxes and phone calls to Congress we need to win.

On July 6 the New York Times reviewed efforts by businesses to push back, in states like Arizona:

Last week, an Arizona employers’ group submitted more than 284,000 signatures — far more than needed — for a November ballot initiative that would make the 2007 law even friendlier to employers.

Also in recent months, immigration bills were defeated in Indiana and Kentucky — states where control of the legislatures is split between Democrats and Republicans — due in part to warnings from business groups that the measures could hurt the economy.

In Oklahoma, chambers of commerce went to federal court and last month won an order suspending sections of a 2007 state law that would require employers to use a federal database to check the immigration status of new hires. In California, businesses have turned to elected officials, including the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, to lobby federal immigration authorities against raiding long-established companies.

While much of the employer activity has been at the grass-roots level, a national federation has been created to bring together the local and state business groups that have sprung up over the last year.

“These employers are now starting to realize that nobody is in a better position than they are to make the case that they do need the workers and they do want to be on the right side of the law,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of the new federation, ImmigrationWorks USA.

May 30, 2008

A conservative's endorsement of liberal immigration policy

Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, has written a book supporting liberal immigration policy. The WSJ’s editorials on immigration reform have been favorable towards reforms envisioned by the defunct McCain/Kennedy initiative. Riley criticizes Republican conservatives who have wrapped themselves in the anti- illegal immigrant flag, calling this cause a non-starter at the polls.

Some excerpts from this review which appeared in the May 16 issue of the WSJ (subscription required):

“Immigrant workers tend to act as complements to the native U.S. workforce rather than substitutes. There is some overlap, of course, but this skill distribution is the reason immigrants and natives for the most part aren't competing for the same positions.”

“Americans may rail against illegal aliens in telephone surveys, but election results have shown time and time again that it's seldom the issue that decides someone's vote. The lesson for the GOP is that hostility to immigrants is not a political winner.”

“Reasonable people agree that illegal immigration should be reduced. The question isn't whether it's a problem but how to solve it. Historically, the best results have come from providing more legal ways for immigrants to enter the country.”

The review in full:

Continue reading "A conservative's endorsement of liberal immigration policy" »

Incremental immigration reforms held up by Hispanic caucus

Recent Congressional attempts to increase the number of temporary workers allowed under the H-1B program (i.e. Bill Gates' programmers) and to pass an AgJobs program (aimed primarily to benefit California farmers) have been stalled by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. the caucus is holding out for comprehensive reform. Both House and Senate members of the Caucus are using procedural rules to keep proposals from coming to a vote. The Caucus is holding out for comprehensive reform.

April 8, 2008

NPR story of a new illegal immigrant returned to El Salvador

National Public Radio's Morning Edition is running a two part series on the impact of immigration law enforcement on immigrant households. The first of the series was aired on April 7, describing the devastating effect of Julio Cuellar’s return to El Salvador after being caught by the Feds shortly after being taken across the border by a coyote. The story reveals the desperate situation of poor households in Latin America.

On another radio new broadcast, I heard an immigration expert say that despite the recession most or all of illegal workers will stay in the U.S. Even one day of work at $60 as a day laborer yields as much income for an entire month back in Mexico. That’s shows you how important it is for workers to get into and stay in the U.S.

the transcript:

As the U.S. intensified its illegal immigration crackdown in recent years, deportations to El Salvador increased dramatically. Last year, according to El Salvador's immigration ministry, 20,000 Salvadorans were sent back home from the U.S., compared to 3,500 who were deported in 2004.

On a recent blazing hot afternoon, security guards escorted 33 men and nine women from the tarmac at Cuscatlan International Airport in San Salvador into a cramped processing room.

Some deportees look defiant. Others look destroyed and lost. But they all seem to brighten as they file into rows of plastic chairs and find on each one a warm pupusa — the thick tortilla that is El Salvador's national dish. Officials try to bolster the group with speeches welcoming them home.

"Thank God you are here and in much better shape than many others," a police officer tells them. "Some return wounded or dead. But you are very much alive, ready to set off on your next trip if you choose!"

Quiet laughter fills the room as the deportees nod and cheer. Some say they do plan to go back to the U.S. as soon as possible. With few prospects in El Salvador and family still in America, they say they have nothing to lose.

But not Julio Cuellar.

Continue reading "NPR story of a new illegal immigrant returned to El Salvador" »

March 30, 2008

H-1B year to begin again April 1

...and with it another round of frenzied applications for 65,000 slots, which are typically oversubscribed in the first day or two after April 1.

This Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) reports that “The visa stalemate has prompted some companies to expand overseas. In September, Microsoft opened its first software-development center in Canada, saying it enabled the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people "affected by immigration issues in the U.S."

The article in full:

Quota on Foreign Workers Worries Companies
March 31, 2008

U.S. businesses are bracing for another round of visa roulette, as applications for high-tech professionals -- accepted by the government starting Tuesday -- are expected to far outstrip supply.

The H-1B visas enable U.S. companies to hire skilled foreign workers for certain jobs that are difficult to fill domestically. Attorneys who help employers file petitions say they haven't seen a decline in interest despite the economic downturn. Last year, the U.S. government received 124,000 applications for H-1B visas, nearly double the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000, so the visas were awarded by lottery.

This year, visas will be granted to 65,000 individuals randomly chosen from a pool of petitions filed in the first five business days in April, as stipulated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees the process. Selected foreign professionals can begin work at the employer that filed for them in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Continue reading "H-1B year to begin again April 1" »

March 24, 2008

New York City area losing jobs due to visa barriers

According to the NY Times, The New York City metropolitan area is losing financial sector and other high paying jobs which are filled overseas because visas are so difficult to obtain. The primary visa category is the three year H-1B visas for professionals, of which 65,000 visas are awarded annually, plus 20,000 for graduates of American universities. Last year the quota was filled up on the first day, April 1. The article says, “Officials of large investment banks on Wall Street said the difficulty in obtaining visas for foreign workers, many of them graduates of American universities, had caused them to shift dozens of jobs to other financial capitals this year. In some cases, foreign-born professionals have grown weary of the struggle to get and renew a work visa in the United States and moved on to cities like London, where they say they feel more welcome.”

The article in full:

Businesses Say New York’s Clout Is Emigrating, With Visa Policies to Blame

New York officials have long taken pride in the city’s status as a global gateway. But lately, senior executives of some of the country’s biggest corporations, like Alcoa, have been complaining that American immigration policies are thwarting New York’s ability to compete with other world capitals.

Every big employer in the city, it seems, can cite an example of high-paying jobs that had to be relocated to foreign cities because the people chosen to fill them could not gain entry to the United States.

In Alcoa’s case, one of its chief financial executives, Vanessa Lau, who is from Hong Kong, is working from the company’s offices in Geneva when she should be at headquarters on Park Avenue, according to Alain J. P. Belda, the chairman and chief executive.

Continue reading "New York City area losing jobs due to visa barriers" »

March 20, 2008

New Bedford raid follow up: Boston millionaire puts up bail for 40

Last year ICE raided a textile factory in New Bedford, MA, hauling away hundreds and splitting families apart. (I have posted on this.) The Wall Street Journal (sub required) reported on 3/19, “Boston Financier Steps In to Bail Out Illegal Immigrants; Textile-Factory Raid Spurred Him to Act; 'Un-American' Images”. Bob Hildreth, who runs a financial company in Boston, had spent time in South America, He put up $200,000 to release 40 people from jail. “The raid broke families apart," says the diminutive 57-year-old, who once taught high-school history. "This was extremely un-American."

The full story:

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- One frigid March morning last year, federal agents raided a factory in this old whaling town, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants as they sewed vests and backpacks for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most were shackled and sent to a detention center in Texas, where they faced rapid deportation unless they could post thousands of dollars in bail -- money they didn't have -- to buy time to mount a defense.

Then, a mystery benefactor appeared. The anonymous donor ponied up more than $200,000 to spring 40 people from detention.

The payments, which until now haven't become public despite extensive news coverage of the raid itself, came from Bob Hildreth, a Boston financier who made his millions trading Latin American debt. He was "infuriated" at the televised images of workers being shipped to Texas, he says. Helping them make bail is "payback."

Continue reading "New Bedford raid follow up: Boston millionaire puts up bail for 40" »

March 14, 2008

Seasonal immigrant workers severely cut back, pawn in immigration bill struggle

According to the NY Times, a Congressional confrontation has resulted in a severe reduction of seasonal immigrant workers, badly hurting the summer hospitality and restaurant industry. These workers enter through H-2B visas, 66,000 in a year. The times reports that since 2005 an override as been authorized by Congress allowing over 120,000 such workers. These include the Poles and Brazilians who staff the local summer ice cream parlor and wait at summer resort restaurants and stay at employer-provided housing. Cape Cod alone will be almost entirely bereft of 5,000 such workers, who cannot be replaced easily by Americans, as few candidates live nearby due to high housing costs. The Hispanic Congressional caucus has engineered to cripple this override this summer in order to put pressure on Congress to enact an comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The article:

Businesses Face Cut in Immigrant Work Force

HYANNIS, Mass. — For years, William Zammer Jr. has relied on 100 seasonal foreign employees to turn down beds, boil lobsters and serve cocktails at the restaurants, golf course and inn he owns on Cape Cod and in nearby Plymouth.

This summer, however, the foreign workers will not be returning, and Mr. Zammer, like other seasonal employers across the nation, is scrambling to find replacements.

“It’s a major crisis,” he said. “We’re very short on work force. We’ll be looking at opening a little later, closing a little earlier, looking at how we do our menus.”

Mr. Zammer is caught up in a Congressional standoff over immigration overhaul that is punishing employers who play by the rules and that, advocates of change say, could cost small companies billions in lost business.

Continue reading "Seasonal immigrant workers severely cut back, pawn in immigration bill struggle" »

February 6, 2008

Bush trying to grow the temporary farm worker H-2A program

The Bush administration is set to make regulatory changes to the temporary farm worker – H-2A – program, changes that do not require legislation. The plan is designed to increase the use of legal temporary workers, which today account for about 2% of American farm labor. Upwards of 70% of farm workers today are estimated to be illegal.
Senator Diane Feinstein had sought to enact her AgJobs program either as part of comprehensive immigration reform or separately, to help California farmers. That program, on which I have posted, would legalize the status of hundreds of thousands of illegal farm workers.

A Los Angeles Times article says, in part, “The proposed changes, which would take effect after a 45-day period of public comment, would modify how foreign laborers are paid and housed, and slightly expand the types of industries that can use the program. The administration would also ease the standards farmers must now meet to show they have tried to hire U.S. citizens first.”

The article also reports:

“In addition to the Labor Department, the departments of State, Homeland Security and Agriculture have a role in the program. Labor and Homeland Security focused on making the program easier for growers to use, strengthening worker protections and improving enforcement, but critics questioned how these proposals would actually work.

'It's going to be a question of execution,' said a Senate aide briefed on the changes. The aide, who was not authorized to speak on the record, expressed concern about some proposals, including a change to the way workers are paid.

One of the proposed changes would set wages based on a worker's occupation and skill level. 'Depending on how it's done, it has the potential to lower farmworkers' wages, potentially significantly,' said the aide. [Wages are not set to local prevailing wages.]

Other changes would give workers more time to search for a new H-2A job after their existing one ends. Employers would have to certify under penalty of perjury that they wouldn't change the terms of work after they hired the temporary workers.

Homeland Security would create a pilot program to track whether H-2A workers leave the country when their visas expire.

Employers that violate the program's regulations would face substantially higher fines and penalties. Growers would also be forbidden from passing along to workers any costs incurred from participating in the program.

December 28, 2007

Legal analysis of AZ and TN illegal immigrant laws

The very informative Siskind Immigration Bulletin issued this informative analysis of laws going into effect 1/1/08. I have posted on the Arizona law but not the Tennessee law so far. Siskind writes,” The Arizona and Tennessee rules are similar in sanctioning employers who violate immigration laws with the revocation of their business licenses. This punishment is seemingly much more serious than the federal punishment of a fine since loss of a business license is really the death penalty for a business….2008 is likely to be a year of considerably more enforcement against employers violating immigration laws and we intend to cover the issue in great depth.”

The analysis:

On January 1st, employers in Arizona and Tennessee will begin having to comply with controversial new immigration laws that make those states enforcers of immigration law right along with the federal government. Whether state and local governments have the legal right to be doing this is the subject of many court battles around the country since the Founding Fathers clearly gave Congress the sole authority to regulate immigration. But with a Congress seemingly paralyzed in its attempts to get a handle on immigration policy and with 1400 bills pending around the country, the new reality is that employers will need to comply with a whole new set of laws on top of the existing federal rules.

The Arizona and Tennessee rules are similar in sanctioning employers who violate immigration laws with the revocation of their business licenses. This punishment is seemingly much more serious than the federal punishment of a fine since loss of a business license is really the death penalty for a business. Both rules provide a defense if employers have been complying with I-9 rules. Tennessee provides an additional safe harbor if employers have used the new E-Verify electronic employment verification system. Arizona goes a step further in actually mandating that all employers use E-Verify. This will represent a major expansion in the number of employers using E-Verify and it is far from clear whether the E-Verify system can handle the additional load. A recent report commissioned by the DHS itself noted that there is an unacceptable false positive rate and that as many as 10% of naturalized citizens show up in the E-Verify as being unauthorized to work.

Employers in Arizona had fought the new law and had been attempting to keep it from taking effect on the 1st. However, a judge has just denied an injunction order and the law will, in fact, take effect. An injunction is still holding in another measure aimed at employers – DHS’ social security number no match rule. DHS’ rule would sanction employers who are notified that their employees’ social security numbers and names do not match. One of the key issues in that case is also the high rate of false findings in the Social Security Administration database and the inability of that agency to resolve questions in a timely manner. However, DHS is promising to re-release a modified rule any day now that would attempt to meet the objections of the judge.

2008 is likely to be a year of considerably more enforcement against employers violating immigration laws and we intend to cover the issue in great depth.

To all of our readers around the world, all of us here at Siskind, Susser, Bland wish you all a year of peace, happiness and good health.

Greg Siskind

December 20, 2007

Arizona about to implement draconian law

Arizona’s draconian measures to root out illegal labor are the subject of this editorial on 12/18 by the New York Times. “On Jan. 1, Arizona intends to become the first state to try to muscle its way out of its immigration problems on its own. That is when, barring a last-minute setback in court, it is to begin enforcing a new state law that harshly punishes businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. It is a two-strike law, suspending a business’s license on the first offense and revoking it on the second. It is the strictest workplace-enforcement law in the country.” -- and today's papers (12/20) say that immigration is the most important topic among voters in Iowa.

The editorial goes on….

We have always said that workplace laws should be enforced vigorously — as part of a comprehensive, nationwide immigration system that doesn’t just punish, but tries to actually solve the problems that foster and sustain the breaking of immigration laws. The boosters of the Arizona law, including the Minutemen border vigilantes who have made “January First!” an anti-immigrant rallying cry, have a much narrower goal: the biggest purge of illegal immigrants in the Southwest since the federal government’s Operation Wetback in 1954.

If that happens, the immigrants will take a big chunk of Arizona’s growth and economic vitality with them — and not necessarily back across the international border. The collateral damage will be severe as citizens and legal immigrants are also thrown out of work, as businesses struggle to find workers in a state with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and as sleazy employers move more workers off the books, the better to abuse and exploit them. And the national problem of undocumented immigration will be no closer to a solution.

There are many compassion-and-common-sense criticisms of Arizona’s Fair and Legal Employment Act: stories about families torn apart, breadwinners deported and citizen children on public assistance. They make little headway with the law-and-order crowd. Nor does the fact that many hard-line defenders of workplace enforcement show a lopsided devotion to federal laws; they seldom complain when employers abuse undocumented immigrants and steal their wages, even though those violations worsen job conditions and pay for American workers, too.

For now, let’s just point out that Arizona’s plunge into enforcement-only immigration policy highlights the folly and inadequacy of that approach, particularly when it is left to a crazy quilt of state laws. America is a country where millions of illegal immigrants have entered for years all but invited and mostly not pursued. They have become integral to our economy, although now — thanks to harsher enforcement and the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress — most have no way to become legal, no options except slipping back into destitution on the other side of the border.

There is no way for Arizona or any other state to get businesses back on a legal footing without exacting a great economic and human toll.

It could be that Arizona’s enforcement of the law will be calm and measured. But we worry about Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and two-thirds of the state’s population. Maricopa’s county attorney, Andrew Thomas, and county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, are prone to media-driven stunts. Sheriff Arpaio makes a show of his meanness, hounding and humiliating prisoners and forming his deputies into squads that check people’s clothes and accents before demanding their papers.

Arizona is home to many moderate politicians, like Gov. Janet Napolitano, who were all too aware of the bill’s problems, and yet it became law. Many say the Minutemen and their allies had offered an ultimatum: approve this bill or face a citizen’s initiative on the 2008 ballot that would be even harsher and blunter, and all but impossible to repair. That promise was reneged on; petitions for the Minutemen’s initiative are being collected now.

As Arizona exacts its punishment on the undocumented workers who have made it so prosperous, it runs the risk of proving itself tough but not smart.

November 24, 2007

Searching for farm labor in California

The agricultural industry is heavily dependent on immigrant labor, and it is widely accepted that many – perhaps most – of their immigrant workers are here illegally (I have seen estimates of up to 70%). Western Growers Association has been way out in front of the political effort to ensure an ample supply of labor during the critical few weeks of harvest time. It describes itself this way: “Western Growers' members grow, pack and ship nearly one half of the nation's fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.” The association has membership in California and Arizona. On 11/20 the CEO wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the federal no-match program, which a court blocked in October, and advocating AgJobs, which was inserted in the immigration reform bill expressly to address the west coast farm industry.

Here is the text of Tom Nassif’s column:

In the midst of the combustive debate over immigration reform, we in agriculture have been forthright about the elephant in America's living room: Much of our workforce is in the country illegally -- as much as 70%.

Faced with the option of economic ruin, as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our livelihood rots in the fields, or the embrace of a fatally flawed immigration system, our industry and farm families opt to survive. Who wouldn't? For those who have a 10-20 day harvest window to make or break their entire business year, government promises to fix the system don't work. We can't wait for rules to change. We need reform and we need it now.

Continue reading "Searching for farm labor in California" »

November 22, 2007

Immigrants in Arkansas

Arkansas businesses such as Tyson Foods, ministers and others have founded The Arkansas Friendship Coalition to promote the role of 100,000 immigrants in the state’s economy and offset anti-immigration initiatives.

For Arkansas there is an in-depth analysis of the immigrant population, prepared by in-state and national specialists in immigration studies. Among the findings: (1) Arkansas experienced the greatest growth (48%) in Hispanic immigration of any state during 2000-2005. (2) One quarter of immigrants are engaged in food processing (beef and poultry), and (3) in 2004-5, half of the 100,000 immigrants were undocumented.

Most immigrants, the study reports. As employed in the manufacturing sector, which includes meet processing. Overall, for the past ten years the state has experienced a reduction in manufacturing employment, and without this new source of worker the report estimates that manufacturing would have declined further.

Neighboring Oklahoma enacted anti-illegal immigration legislation, The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007 [HB 1804], in May. It denies illegal immigrants state identification, and requires all state and local agencies to verify citizenship status of applicants before authorizing benefits. The law also require public employers to enter job applicants into an electronic immigration database to verify legal status.

October 29, 2007

Illegal immigration and Dem-Rep competition

The Washington Post last week ran an article on how illegal immigration has become a political football. “GOP Finds Hot Button in Illegal Immigration” focused on a special election for Congress in the Lowell, MA, area of Massachusetts – typically very Democratic. The race was won (after the article was printed) very narrowly by the Democratic candidate, despite her being 10 ahead only a few days before the election. According to the article, “On immigration, the Republicans hold a 49 to 44 percent lead.” Elsewhere last week, Republican senators blocked the passage of the Dream Act, which would permit children of illegal immigrants who themselves are illegal residents from gaining citizenship through military service. A Senate procedural vote requiring 60 yes votes ended 52 yes, 44 no. The military today provides for accelerated citizenship to legal residents; the Dream Act would have opened doors to the illegal population.

The article in full, October 23 07

Continue reading "Illegal immigration and Dem-Rep competition" »

October 15, 2007

Bring back AgJobs? 500,000 workers may be affected

One of the casualties of the immigration bill debacle last summer was the failure to pass a specially crafted provision to cover farm workers. According to the New York Times, the farm industry wants Washington to relax worker protections for the exiting H-2A visa program, that covers only 50,000 immigrant workers, compared to the well over 500,000 illegal workers said to be employed in farm work. The Times wants the AgJob provision of the immigration bill passed.

Here is a description of AgJobs’s impact on illegal farm workers:

AgJOBS provides a one-time program under which farm workers who can demonstrate a
substantial past commitment to agricultural work in the U.S. can, by meeting specific future work requirements over a period of 3 to 6 years, qualify for adjustment to permanent resident status. It is estimated that about 500,000 farm workers will be eligible under the program. This adjustment of status program will enable full-time, permanent farm workers – the most valuable workers on many farms – whose jobs are not eligible for the H-2A program, to earn legal status. It will also provide a transition period during which employers not now using the H-2A program can construct housing.

The TImes' editorial includes:

The main legal route for agricultural guest workers — the H-2A visa program — has serious problems that need fixing. But the government, which has solicited recommendations from farm groups on how to streamline the program, must not let industry lobbyists dictate the changes. Doing so could erode an already thin layer of protections for workers who do some of the country’s most punishing, backbreaking jobs.

Farm lobbyists have sent the administration a wish list of regulatory and administrative changes that they say will lift unduly cumbersome barriers to participating in and expanding the H-2A program. That program now hires about 50,000 people a year, about 2 percent of the agricultural work force. But the barriers are there for good reasons. They require farmers to give guest workers free housing and decent wages, and to take certain steps — like running newspaper ads — to prove they have tried to hire Americans first. The industry wants to relax those hiring requirements, to charge workers for housing, to pay them less and to widen the range of jobs they do to include poultry processing and meatpacking.

Labor advocates who have spent years fighting for basic protections for farmworkers believe, with good reason, that the industry is looking to exploit the immigration crisis. There is a better way.

Congress should pass a bill known as AgJobs, a bipartisan measure with broad support in the farm industry and among farmworker organizations. It streamlines the H-2A program, but also includes a path to earned citizenship for farmworkers, an important step to curb exploitation in an industry overwhelmingly made up of easily fired, easily abused undocumented workers. Its carefully negotiated compromises are just the kind of approach to immigration reform the country needs — not the heavy-handed half-measures that make up the current shambles of federal policy.

September 3, 2007

for the record: how the Senate killed immigration reform -- the votes

here are the votes re: Immigration Reform Act S. 1348, "A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes."

This is the major immigration reform bill of 2007. The cloture vote 6/28/07 failed,
YEA 46 NAY 53 not voting 1. I have listed below votes alphabetically by senator then by state.

Alphabetic by senator

Continue reading "for the record: how the Senate killed immigration reform -- the votes" »

August 30, 2007

Resistance to illegal immigration crackdown

The Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have joined ranks to combat the Bush Administration’s plan to crack down on illegal immigrants. A well researched article does into depth as to what the crackdown could do to cripple some industries.

According to the Washington Post, “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO this week separately assailed a new White House-backed crackdown on illegal immigration, warning of massive disruptions to the economy and headaches for U.S. citizens if the proposal goes ahead as planned in the coming days.”

The Bush administration intends to begin writing to 140,000 employers on Tuesday regarding suspect Social Security numbers used by an estimated 8.7 million workers, as a way of pressuring them to fire illegal immigrants. President Bush disclosed the plan three weeks ago as part of a repackaged, 26-point enforcement program after Congress failed to overhaul U.S. immigration laws this summer.

But leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of trade groups representing the politically influential construction, lodging, farming, meatpacking, restaurant, retail and service industries appealed on Monday to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to postpone the plan's implementation for six months.

Continue reading "Resistance to illegal immigration crackdown" »

August 27, 2007

Senate roll call vote data S. 2611 5 25 2006

summary of 62 - 36 vote:

Question: On Passage of the Bill (S. 2611 As Amended )
Vote Number: 157 Vote Date: May 25, 2006, 05:39 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Bill Passed
Measure Number: S. 2611
Measure Title: A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.
Vote Counts: YEAs 62
NAYs 36
Not Voting 2

for the detailed information by senator:

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Attempt to revive AgJobs portion of Immigration bill

“Feinstein to push guest-worker bill; Senator to assure that farm legislation is a priority in today's Fresno appearance.” – The Fresno Bee, 8 23 07

One of the casualties in the immigration bill fiasco was the “AgJobs’ provision in the bill, crafted to solve a major labor shortage in Californian farms. The Bee reports:

Dubbed AgJobs, the legislation first introduced in September 2003 culminated years of negotiations among farmers and the United Farm Workers. It would offer legal residency, and eventually U.S. citizenship, to 1.5 million illegal immigrants now working in agriculture. It also would streamline an existing guest-worker program.

Step one in the plan for passage calls for farmers and their allies to emphasize anew the dangers of losing an agricultural work force.

One-third or more of U.S. farmworkers are in this country illegally, according to conventional estimates.

'You can't pick peaches or operate a canning plant if you don't have the people,' Cunha said.

An active player in immigration negotiations, Cunha will be watching Feinstein's appearance today at Fresno's Sunnyside Country Club. Recently, Cunha took part in an immigration conference call with White House officials who are maneuvering in their own way.

Step two relies on the latest promise by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that he will help pass an agricultural guest-worker bill this year. With Senate floor time limited, and the legislative calendar running out, a commitment like this becomes essential.

Step three in the AgJobs game plan relies on employer anxiety over a new Bush administration plan for cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants. Two weeks ago, the White House announced plans to send out tens of thousands of so-called 'no-match' letters.

These letters will notify employers that an employee's name and Social Security number don't match government records. Potentially, employers could be fined for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. More than one agricultural lobbyist believes the White House hopes that angry business leaders will now lean on Congress to change the immigration laws.

The full story:

Continue reading "Attempt to revive AgJobs portion of Immigration bill" »

August 12, 2007

New crack down on illegal workers: what it means.

A new get tough policy is to be launched. In this posting, I am addressing three questions: What is the new program? – it aims to scare and punish a lot of employers. Which employers are affected? A huge number in some industries. What are the motivating politics behind it? The White House decided to give up on immigration reform and check in with the conservatives.

The Washington Post reported the new policy on 8/10:

The federal government today announced a new plan to crack down on illegal immigrants and their employers using existing laws, while also streamlining current guest worker programs.

Under the plan, the government will step up interior enforcement of the nation's immigration laws and strengthen a program aimed at identifying illegal-immigrant workers who use false documents to gain employment. The effort involves bolstering an electronic system to verify eligibility for employment and increasing penalties for employers who deliberately hire illegal workers.

"Obviously there are employers who deliberately violate the law, and we will come down on them like a ton of bricks," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a news conference to announce the new measures.

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, appearing alongside Chertoff at the news conference, said the package of administrative reforms would "sharpen the tools we have" against illegal immigration while also helping employers who have legitimate needs for foreign workers. He said the government will overhaul regulations that implement existing guest worker programs for agricultural and other seasonal employees to make the programs more "workable." The administration will also study possible administrative changes to visa programs for highly skilled workers, he said.

Every employer is exposed: Any in which mismatches exceed 0.5% of the workforce. This means in effect that the entire home residential construction, agricultural, landscaping and hospitality industries are under siege, because each of these probably has at least 10% of their workforces are illegal.

The NY Times takes another shot at this:

Employers in low-wage industries were critical but guarded, reluctant to admit openly that they hire illegal immigrants. Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the measures were “one more kick in the pants” for meat-packing, construction and health care companies that employ immigrant workers in unskilled jobs.

Farmers were less shy, saying at least 70 percent of farmworkers are illegal immigrants.
Ms. Torrey, the New York farmer, and other growers expressed their distress to White House and Homeland Security Department officials during a conference call with the National Council of Agricultural Employers, arranged by the administration to explain the new plan. Ms. Torrey warned that dairy cows would die from lack of milking if New York farmers had to fire immigrant dairy workers.

Luawanna Hallstrom, a tomato grower in Oceanside, Calif., who also participated in the conference call, called the measures “a train wreck.”

The politics – David Brooks wrote a column a few days about Mitt Romney’s candidancy. I think that Romney’s focus on conservative ideology in contrast to efficiency and excellence in administration (his business track record) is a clue what the Bush Administration wants from this policy shift from accommodation with the goal of legislative reform to shoring up chances of keeping the White House Republican in 2008.

Brooks writes:

This electorate has changed, even in the past 10 years. As a study by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates demonstrates, Republicans are more conservative than even a decade ago. Seventy-one percent are self-declared conservatives, compared to 55 percent in 1997. Republicans are much older. Forty-one percent of Republicans are over 55, compared to 28 percent a decade ago.

Republicans are also much less economics-oriented. A decade ago, the party had thriving deficit hawk and supply-side factions. Now the thriving groups, as the study indicates, are organized around issues like immigration, terrorism and stem cell research.

July 29, 2007

The bill that will not go away

Senator Arlen Specter of PA says he is fashioning a new immigration reform bill, one that will not have the Z visa provision of the failed measure, which would give blanket protection to 12 million illegal immigrants. This adjustment may mollify the anti-amnesty crowd, but will rile businesses who want to hire these 7 million - plus workers without incurring legal liability. I'm skeptical.

June 30, 2007

"I think that is something that can be dealt with at a later time.”

That was Senator Elizabeth Dole’s rationalization about how she expects the illegal immigrant population in the United States to be addressed, after voting against immigration reform.

Below is the Washington Post’s editorial on Friday 6 29 about the defeat of the bill.

An Immigrant's Lament: 53 senators vote to keep 12 million people in the shadows.

AFTER SEN. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina joined 36 of her Republican colleagues, 15 Democrats and one independent in the Senate yesterday in squashing the last, best hope for now of overhauling the nation's bankrupt and busted immigration laws, she was asked what she proposed for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. "I think that is something that can be dealt with at a later time," she replied airily.

Tell that to Ernesto, Mrs. Dole. He's a 31-year-old Salvadoran handyman in Wheaton who sneaked over the border through California four years ago after paying thousands of dollars to a migrant smuggler, to whom he remains in debt. Mrs. Dole and her colleagues may imagine that Ernesto will simply evaporate now that the Senate has decided to avert its gaze, but he won't. Although he earns barely $1,200 a month, he does better here as a painter, carpenter, landscaper and electrician than he ever could in Cabañas, his hardscrabble native region of northern El Salvador, which is rich in beans and sugar cane but bereft of jobs.

Ernesto, who spoke with us on the understanding that his last name would not be published, was on Capitol Hill with a small group of immigrants yesterday. He watched ruefully as the senators dealt their lethal blow to his prospects for a normal life on the right side of the law. But he's staying put. With the help of Casa of Maryland, a local nonprofit, he finds work several days a week and sends $200 a month home to his family in El Salvador. His worldly possessions here, which he keeps with him in a tiny rented room, consist of a power saw, a few hand tools, a television and the cellphone he uses to talk to his wife and 5-year-old daughter every day.

It's enough, better than what he left behind in El Salvador, and plenty to nourish an immigrant's dream of earning a little more, of working full time, of maybe bringing his family to live with him one day. Ernesto does not intend to leave, but even if he were to be deported, there are still about 12 million people representing 5 percent of the nation's job force who cannot be ignored, hounded, harassed, wished or deported into nothingness. At some point Congress will come to its senses, steady its nerves and recognize that unimpeachable reality. Mrs. Dole and her colleagues may think they killed immigration reform yesterday. In fact the problem will just keep coming back, bigger each time than the last.

June 25, 2007

Senate to try again on immigration reform

As early as this week, with a somewhat more conservative bill.

June 7, 2007

Legislative update

Bloomberg reports that the Senate's proposed overhaul of U.S. immigration law failed a critical test vote today.

The 33 votes to limit debate were 27 short of the 60 needed to move toward a final vote on legislation granting legal status to 12 million undocumented aliens. Democrats scheduled another vote for 7:30 p.m. Washington time. Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that if a second vote fails, ``the bill's gone.'' He added, ``What else can I do?''
One of the deal breakers was apparently a 49-48 vote on an amendment put forth by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan to terminate the guest-worker plan in five years unless Congress renews it.
The guest-worker plan is a cornerstone of the fragile agreement worked out between Democrats and Republicans, which also would impose tougher sanctions on employers who knowingly hire undocumented aliens.

Negotiators today sought agreement on a list of amendments that Republicans would be allowed to offer, while Republicans tried to resolve concerns about Dorgan's amendment, lawmakers said. In addition, Democrats were looking for changes in an amendment that would let immigration officials give information to law enforcement officials about applicants for legal status.

Another account of today's immigration vote can be found in AP's coverage

Newsday lists Senate votes by state.

June 5, 2007

Do we need a point system? We cannot avoid it.

My sense is that a point system will only incrementally alter permanent immigration flows from their existing structure. But it will add transparency, and – I expect – make the system more predictable, and therefore more legitimate.

We need more workers at both the highly skilled (engineers) and low skilled (nursing home aides) levels. A point system is a partial solution to making the flow of high skilled workers into the country more transparent. It makes public policy more explicit. And it is part of a larger context of global workflows, wherein millions of skilled American jobs are being exported thanks in large measure to advances in information technology.

Per the New York Times, “The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research center, analyzed the likely effects of the Senate bill by examining Census Bureau data. It reached these conclusions”:

¶Immigrants from many Asian countries would do well. In the last 15 years, more than three-fourths of immigrants from India, and more than half of those from China, the Philippines and South Korea had bachelor’s degrees or higher. Most immigrants from India and the Philippines report speaking English well.

¶Immigrants from Latin America would “face more difficulties” in getting green cards. More than 40 percent of recent immigrants from this region are in the preferred age range, 25 to 39, but many lack educational credentials and English language skills. More than 60 percent of adult immigrants from Mexico have not completed high school. Just 5 percent have college degrees. Only 15 percent of recent Mexican immigrants are proficient in English.

¶The United States has received comparatively few immigrants from Africa, but many of them have characteristics that would help them earn points.

About two-fifths of recent African immigrants are in the preferred age group. Two-thirds are proficient in English. And 38 percent have a bachelor’s or higher degree.

According to the Times,

An applicant could receive a maximum of 100 points. Up to 75 points would be allocated for job skills and education, with 15 for English-language proficiency and 10 for family ties.

The criteria favor professionals with graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the point system would also reward people who work in 30 “high demand” occupations, like home health care and food service.

Spouses and minor children of United States citizens would still be allowed to immigrate without limits. But siblings and adult children of citizens and lawful permanent residents would be subject to the point system. They could get a maximum of 10 points for family ties, provided they had already earned 55 points for job skills, education and English language ability.

Under the bill, Congress would set the number of points for each attribute. The selection criteria could not be changed for 14 years. Decisions on individual cases would be within the “sole and unreviewable discretion” of the secretary of homeland security.

June 4, 2007

Immigration debate resumes

The immigration debate will reopen this week as Congress returns to session. While the proposed legislation is drawing a lot of heat, particularly from the Bush base, new polls seem to indicate that momentum for legislation to deal with immigration is gaining public support. On Friday, The new York Times reported that a New York Times/CBS News Poll that indicated that "two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who have a good employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as the bill proposes: by paying at least $5,000 in fines and fees and receiving a renewable four-year visa."

And in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 52 percent of those polled indicated they would support a program giving illegal immigrants the right to stay and work in the United States if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. Opposition to that proposal was 44 percent. The Washington Post reports that the backers of the bill are optimistic:

"After a week at home with their constituents, the Senate architects of a delicate immigration compromise are increasingly convinced that they will hold together this week to pass an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, with momentum building behind one unifying theme: Today's immigration system is too broken to go unaddressed.

Congress's week-long Memorial Day recess was expected to leave the bill in tatters. But with a week of action set to begin today, the legislation's champions say they believe that the voices of opposition, especially from conservatives, represent a small segment of public opinion. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who led negotiations on the bill for his party, said the flood of angry calls and protests that greeted the deal two weeks ago has since receded every day."

That's not to say that it will be smooth sailing. The New York Times indicates that there are about 100 potential amendments floating, many of which could disrupt the delicate balance that has been forged. There are a few significant challenges that lead the pack. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey seeks an increase in the number of green cards available to families. And in an amendment that the New York Times editorial called "immigration sabotage" and an "amendment that could have been drafted by Kafka," Senator John Cornyn of Texas seeks to broaden crimes that would bar eligibility, a proposal so broad and punitive in scope that it would effectively be a poison pill to the existing legislation.

May 31, 2007

Accuracy in media coverage

It was gratifying to see New York Times columnist David Leonhardt take on the issue of media accuracy and immigration in his recent column Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs. The public discourse about immigration can be heated enough without the TV talking heads stoking the fires.

Dobbs is an anchor at CNN with the station's second largest audience; he also has a syndicated radio show and has authored books. In recent years, he has morphed from a conservative economist to a self-styled populist and champion of the middle class. One of his frequent themes of late has been his "war on the middle class" focusing on such issues as outsourcing, minimum wage, and job protection. He also has a taken a strong and prominent anti-immigration stance, demonizing undocumented workers and citing them as the source for wage suppression, crime, health hazards, and a host of other ills plaguing the middle class.

But as Leonhardt notes, Dobbs often gives a nod and a wink to the most racist of anti-immigration spokespeople who frequent his show. And he is frequently fast and loose with his facts - sometimes out and out wrong. Such is the case with his recent propagation of the idea that cases of leprosy are rising alarmingly largely due to immigrants, an assertion he has made repeatedly both on his show and in other media such as 60 Minutes.

“The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans,” Mr. Dobbs said on his April 14, 2005, program. From there, he introduced his original report that mentioned leprosy, the flesh-destroying disease — technically known as Hansen’s disease — that has inspired fear for centuries.

Mr. Dobbs argues that the middle class has many enemies: corporate lobbyists, greedy executives, wimpy journalists, corrupt politicians. But none play a bigger role than illegal immigrants. As he sees it, they are stealing our jobs, depressing our wages and even endangering our lives.

That’s where leprosy comes in.

According to a woman CNN identified as a medical lawyer named Dr. Madeleine Cosman, leprosy was on the march. As Ms. Romans, the CNN correspondent, relayed: “There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.”

“Incredible,” Mr. Dobbs replied.

Mr. Dobbs and Ms. Romans engaged in a nearly identical conversation a few weeks ago, when he was defending himself the night after the “60 Minutes” segment. “Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy,” she said, again attributing the number to Ms. Cosman."

Leonhardt followed up to verify this information with James L. Krahenbuhl, the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program, an arm of the federal government, only to learn the cited "facts" were totally wrong. The 7000 cases of leprosy cited occurred over a span of three decades, not the three years that Dobbs asserted. But despite having aired this false and damaging claim on several occasions, neither Dobbs nor CNN have issued a correction or retraction. In fact, Dobbs' defensiveness when confronted about the matter sent Leonhardt to the archives to examine show transcripts, where he discovered other instances of false information being disseminated about immigrants. Here's a case in point:
"For one thing, Mr. Dobbs has a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. He has said, for example, that one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants. That’s wrong, too. According to the Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens (compared with 7 percent of the population). For a variety of reasons, the crime rate is actually lower among immigrants than natives."
Leonardt also discusses how the line between news and opinion/advocacy blur frequently on his show. Dobbs often plays to emotions and fears, fanning the fires of hatred and discord by giving a forum to white supremacy sympathisers and using highly charged terms such as "invasion."

Mr. Dobbs should do a better job of getting his facts straight and should turn the rhetoric down a few notches. CNN should do a better job of drawing a line between news and opinion. Both should take pains to correct the record for their damaging errors. And kudos to David Leonhardt for holding Dobbs' feet to the fire. Reasonable people can disagree on matters surrounding the immigration issue, but there should be no place for inflammatory rhetoric and factual distortions - particularly from those who we trust for our news.

May 29, 2007

“Make a Bad Bill Better”

The New York Times wants massive revisions to the Senate bill – but fears that the coalition behind the bill will collapse if too much pressure it put on it.

Published: May 29, 2007

The great immigration struggle of 2007 has moved from the Senate chamber in Washington to the continent at large. With Congress taking the week off, it’s time for constituents to weigh in. You can be sure of this much: The debate will get louder before it gets better.

The problems with the restrictionist provisions of the Senate immigration bill are serious and many. It includes a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants, which is a rare triumph for common sense, but that path is strewn with cruel conditions, including a fine — $5,000 — that’s too steep and hurdles that are needlessly high, including a “touchback” requirement for immigrants to make pilgrimages to their home countries to cleanse themselves of illegality. The bill imposes an untested merit-point system that narrows the channels through which family members can immigrate.

And it calls for hundreds of thousands of guest workers to toil here temporarily in an absurd employment hokey-pokey — you put your two years in, then one year out, then repeat that twice and go home forever. It would be massive indentured servitude — colonial times all over again, but without any hope of citizenship for those taking our most difficult and despised jobs.

Those who want this bill to be better are horribly conflicted by it. Their emotions still seem vastly overmatched by the ferocity of the opposition from the restrictionist right, with talk radio lighting up over “amnesty,” callers spitting out the words with all the hate they can pour into it.

It is encouraging that the bill survived several attempts by that camp to blow it apart, including an amendment that would have stricken the legalization section outright. The center held last week. But it will take a real effort to make the Senate bill much better, given that a core group of senators are bound to the ungainly architecture of their “grand bargain” and that any progress in significantly altering or improving it could unravel the deal.

The Senate bill is repellent in many ways. Its fragrant blossoms are grafted to poisonous roots. But it is also bipartisan, and there lies the kernel of possibility that may ultimately redeem it. A good bill may yet emerge if enough lawmakers, with encouragement from the White House and Americans at large — whose moderate views on immigration were reflected in a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Friday — realize that striking hard-line poses matters less than drafting legislation marrying reality, justice and decency. Advocates of comprehensive immigration reform — which this bill is not — should not give up the fight.

Americans, meanwhile, should look closely at what they have been offered, and to imagine what a strange country this would be if the bill passed as is, if it morphs into a harsher one, or if it is shot down and we are left with the dismal status quo. We would rattle around in our fortified chunk of North America, bristling at our southern border — nothing is stopping that process — as we check our turnstiles carefully for those bright enough to merit entry, bask in the labor of a churning class of serfs, check people’s ID’s, raid workplaces and fill our detention centers. The anti-amnesty fringe will be pleased with itself, but it won’t be an America the rest of us will want to brag about

May 28, 2007

Some provisions in Title IV, Temporary worker program

This is a partial review of the initial version of the immigration reform bill submitted in the Senate (Secure borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007). The program is described on pp. 143 – 187 of the text of the bill. I am excluding from the review a special provision for temporary agricultural workers.

The temporary work program does not replace existing temporary worker programs. It creates a Y visa. The visa is available for any full time work except in counties where the unemployment rate exceeds 7% (the limitation can be waived by the government).

Employers must show a valid offer for employment. They can use labor contractors, who must be registered. The visa is portable among employers.

The alien worker must pay an administrative fee of $500 plus $250 for every dependent with a maximum of $1,500.

Wages must be prevailing wages, and at least 150% of the poverty level in the area of employment.

The worker must be an employee and not an independent contractor.

The worker must have health insurance. The law does not say who will pay for the health insurance; given the probability that most Y visa workers will be low paid and have large self-pays and deductibles for insurance, this itself may kill off many employment opportunities.

The employer must provide workers compensation insurance, even for jobs which by state law are not covered by workers compensation. The law sets federal fines for the employer’s failure to pay back wages and benefits.

May 23, 2007

Tracking the aftermath

Hello to the readers of Working Immigrants. While Peter is traveling, I will be following some of the news stories about the immigration law - or any other related matters that I might find - and posting them here. I'm not the topic expert that Peter is, but my colleagues and I at Workers Comp Insider do keep our eye on issues related to immigrant workers and post on the topic from time to time.

Finally, an immigration bill is on the table, although we are now at the point in the process when Otto Von Bismarks's famous quote comes into play: "People who enjoy sausage and respect the law should not watch either being made."

The New York Times reports that the Immigration Bill Clears Its First Hurdle in Senate. To invoke cloture, 60 votes were needed and the measure had 69 votes. With Memorial Day looming, a decision was made not to continue debate post-holiday. The Times reporters noted that "The many obstacles that must be overcome before the bill becomes law were evident in the passionate speeches on the Senate floor in advance of the vote."

It didn't take long for critics from both sides of the aisle to be taking their case to the media, with Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, and David Vitter of Louisiana spearheading the opposition. While there are critics on all fronts, The Washington Post discussed the particular rift that that the legislation is opening in the GOP.

The Los Angeles Times looks at the bill through the lens of how it might impact both businesses and immigrant families, summarizing a few key provisions of the legislation:

"The proposed shift is included in a massive immigration reform bill unveiled last week by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, and Jon Kyl, a Republican. It would introduce a point system immediately as a basis for the 140,000 permanent visas awarded annually for workers and, after about eight years, increase that number to 380,000. Point systems are used in countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Under the proposed system, green card applicants could earn a maximum of 100 points. Job qualifications would account for nearly half the points, with the highest numbers assigned for specialty or high-demand occupations such as engineering, as well as smaller credits for technical expertise, a U.S. job offer, U.S. work experience and youth. Educational background could add 28 points, while those who speak fluent English could earn 15.

Family connections could bring 10 more points, but only for applicants with 55 points or higher.

For families, the Senate proposal would eliminate most of the backlog of 4.5 million relatives waiting for green cards over eight years. In a provision that has sparked outcry among immigrant rights groups, however, the bill's May 2005 cut-off date would leave out 800,000 applicants, according to Karen K. Narasaki, president of the Asian American Justice Center in Washington.

... After the backlog is reduced, family-based visas subject to numerical caps would drop from about 226,000 annually to 127,000. The system would eliminate preferences entirely for adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

The proposal would also place a cap of 40,000 on parents of U.S. citizens for the first time. Only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens would continue to have unlimited access to green cards."

Employment Eligibility Verification System
One point of controversy for critics is in the proposed Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS). Technology publications are interested in the issue of mandatory employment verifications, which expands the current voluntary system that now has about 17,000 participants checking employees against Social Security and immigrant data. CNet news and PC World weigh in with discussions on concerns surrounding this component.

On Thursday 5/24/2007, the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law of the U.S. Representatives will be holding a hearing on immigration reform with an emphasis on Labor Movement Perspectives. The witness list has not yet been named - follow the developments on this hearing.

May 22, 2007

The Senate has done what it needed to do....

...which was to bring all interests together for am ambitiously written bill.

As I noted in an earlier post, the Senate Bill is at its core a long range workforce plan for America in the context of globalization of work, through migration and information technology. Every one including myself has a problem with some aspect of the bill. (For me, the most troubled part is probably the guest worker program for low wage workers, with limits of 2 years).

Workingimmigrants will be tracking the bill over the summer. Julie Ferguson will join me in posting for the next few weeks.

May 19, 2007

What the Senate Bill is trying to do

It is Saturday 5/19 and I have not seen the bill yet. It is apparently 350 pages long. I’ve only read very short commentaries and seen an outline. But from these I have formed a mental picture of what the sponsors are trying to do, which I will lay out in five steps.

This is primarily a workforce plan for the country. The net effect of the bill if enacted will be to put to rest the illegal immigrant issue, expand temporary work immigration, and shift long term immigration more towards work skills.

First, and most important, they have sought to forge a consensus of where the American workforce and within that immigration should be heading for the next 25 years. There is a high skilled talent and low skilled component.

In this period the developed world will scramble for high skilled talent. The EU, Japan and increasingly China will retain put big demands on worldwide talent. The developing world will supply a good deal of this talent. Within a few years, an American employer, such as a hospital chain in Chicago, will solve its talented worker scarcity through a blend of American citizen recruitment, immigrating knowledge workers, and offshoring. Half of Accenture’s staffing is now in India. Maybe 20% of knowledge work in the U.S. can be offshored. I suspect the actual amount being offshored today is well less than 3%.

Thus in the background of this bill is a worldwide labor pool with strongly increasing demand for high skilled talent and increasing ease at placing much but no all work anywhere in the world.

The sponsors see that if America is going to keep a lot of high skilled work in the U.S., it has to import more of this talent. There may be some scary scenarios being presented in Washington that America must develop a much bigger high talent labor pool to keep and grow the jobs which cannot be offshored easily.

Then there is the low skilled talent. A poorly recognized aspect of the domestic labor market is the continued demand for low skilled labor in food processing, agriculture, maintenance and low end service jobs such as retail and health aides. There are a lot of low skilled jobs which cannot be offshored.

The Senate bill sponsors must have the figures before them such as I have seen: steady upward job growth in the next ten years at least. There is as active an employer’s lobby for this labor (such as hotel chains) as there is an employer’s lobby for high skilled talent (such as Microsoft).

Second, the sponsors want to shift long term immigration more towards drawing in highly skilled workers. The awarding of green cards (permanent non-citizen status) will shift somewhat to a points system, which Canada has been refining and about which I have posted several times.

Third, the sponsors are opening up more temporary high skilled slots and making it easier for narrow discipline-specific channels to work, such as nurses. I only surmise this – the truth is in the details. We have I think dozens of special interest worker importation programs, ranging from doctors to professional sports players.

Fourth, they want to put the low skilled illegal immigrant issue behind us. In this bill they ware essentially granting amnesty which, in contrast with the amnesty in the 1980s which resulted in million of new citizens but still porous borders, will have more border controls. The sponsors have no stomach for massive deportations. (The “Return to Sender” raids of ICE in the past six months were made, I believe, to demonstrate that large scale deportation will work only with massive dislocations and political protest.) These folks are ultimately on a green card / citizen track but it will take years.

Fifth, the sponsors are assuring a stream of low skilled temporary workers, about 400,000 a year for two years, in effect 800,000 at any time in the country. In addition there will be a very large, 1.5 million agricultural worker program, highly desired by California.

May 17, 2007

What is an immigration point system?

The Senate bill will include a point system to sort out and prioritize persons seeking to immigrant – or to change their status from temporary to permanent in the U.S. A pint system is reported to be a keystone for bipartisan support of immigration reform. So, what is it?

I have posted on it before regarding Canada, and to a lesser extent Australia and France.

A sympathetic analysis of the point system concept was presented on May I before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee which is drafting the Senate bill. The presentation was made by Demetrios Papademetriou, President of the Migration Policy Institute.

He believes that a point system can help steer immigration but it should not be a centerpiece.

“Point systems are first and foremost human capital accrual mechanisms” he said. Pints are given to what a country wants to value at a specific point in time among all the possible attributes.

Five criteria tend to be applied in point systems of other countries: education, occupation, work experience, language and age.

Sometimes lower values are applied to these other criteria: employer job offer, prior wages, prior work or educational experience in the country, presence of close relatives, certain special considerations, and involvement in job creation.

Canada started a point system by focusing on areas of shortages of certain jobs (not shortages of workers for jobs). That did not work. It revised the system to focus on broader criteria of economic advancement.

One quarter of Canadian immigrants are processed through its point system; rest immigrant based on traditional criteria.

To some degree a point system shifts the talent search away from employers using temporary visa programs and towards government driven selection processes. One can have a hybrid system of some temporary programs filled by employer sponsorships alongside a point system.

The political advantages of point systems start with their appearing to use quantitative, objective selection criteria to advance clearly defined economic and labor market goals. The system comes in effect with a grand plan seal.

Also, if the point system is designed to focus on long term economic growth, there is less concern about the system causing of a displacement of native workers.

And also, the system appears flexible, adaptable and simple, so that is can be maintained and stay legitimate over time.

A point system can be refined to govern the passage of illegal immigrants into legal status and then

Senate Bill expected for test vote Monday

See here and here for NY Times articles. The bill is expected to include (1) a guest workers program, (2) means for illegal immigrants to gain permanent status over time, (3) triggers for moving the program forward for illegal immigrants, in the form of progress in border control, and (4) moderate shifting of immigration priorities from family towards skill/education factors.

May 16, 2007

Chronology of Senate immigration reform bill this year

A bill is about to be brought to the floor. From Migration Information Source on May 15, here it is:

January 2007

* Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) begin formulating a new comprehensive reform proposal.
* President Bush includes immigration reform in his State of the Union address, renewing his call for a temporary worker plan and a path to legalization for unauthorized immigrants.

March 2007

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vows to "take up a bill before the August recess."
* Attempts to introduce a bill in the Senate falter, and Senator Kennedy proposes using legislation produced last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee as a starting point for negotiations.
* Group of GOP senators begins meeting with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez to craft a Senate immigration reform bill. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are among those looking to create a united position among Republican senators.
* On the House side, Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduce the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act.
* White House immigration reform principles leaked to press.

(For more information on the Strive Act and the White House proposal, see the April 2007 Policy Beat.)

April 2007

* President Bush reaffirms his push for comprehensive reform that, in addition to improved border and interior enforcement, includes "resolving without amnesty and without animosity the status of the millions of illegal immigrants that are here right now."
* Majority Leader Reid sets a deadline of May 14th to begin debate on an immigration reform bill in the Senate.
* On the House side, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, and Border Security, embarks on a series of hearings on immigration reform components.
* A meeting between Republican and Democratic staff ends abruptly when negotiations turn sour, causing Republican staffers to walk out. Senators decide they will negotiate in person to overcome the stalemate.

May 2007

* Majority Leader Reid vows to bring the immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2006 to the floor and bypass the committee process, unless a reasonable alternative to the bill is proposed by May 14th.
* Senators scramble to reach consensus before the May 14th deadline.
* Key Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham (SC), Mel Martinez (FL), John McCain (AZ), and Arlen Specter (PA) threaten to vote against last year's Senate-passed bill if brought to the Senate floor. Senators urge Reid to allow time to finish negotiations and introduce a new bill. Reid finally relents and postpones the vote until the 16th.
* In the House, subcommittee hearings on immigration continue.
* President Bush uses his May 12th weekly radio address to continue his call for comprehensive immigration reform.

May 9, 2007

Ranking economics over family in immigration

A New York Times editorial last week and an AP story (further below) both address the White House plan to reduce the volume of immigration based on family ties in favor of recognizing the potential of applicants to add to the economy. As I have posted before, Canada is trying to do this; so is Australia and France.

Family values, betrayed

Published: May 4, 2007

When George W. Bush was running for president in 2000 as a new kind of Republican — the caring kind — he had a ready answer for those skeptical of his moderate views on immigration. “Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande,” he said, again and again. He was standing up for immigrants who come here seeking better lives for their children, and he repeated the message so often that it stuck.

Now, like so much else in Mr. Bush’s tattered slogan file, it’s in danger of coming unstuck. Negotiators struggling to draft an immigration bill in Washington are being pressured by the White House and Republican leaders to gut the provisions of the law that promote the unity of immigrant families in favor of strictly employment-based programs.

Details are still being sweated out in private, but a draft proposal circulated by the White House and the G.O.P. would eliminate or severely restrict whole categories of family-based immigration in favor of a system that would assign potential immigrants points based on age, skills, education, income and other factors. Citizens would no longer be able to sponsor siblings and children over 21, and their ability to bring in parents would be severely limited.

Unattached workers with advanced degrees and corporate sponsors could do all right, but not families, not the moms, pops, sons and daughters who open groceries and restaurants, who rebuild desolate neighborhoods and inspire America with their work ethic and commitment to one another. The plan would also shut out hundreds of thousands of people who have applied for family visas under current rules and are patiently waiting because of long backlogs.

The goal seems to be to end what immigration restrictionists call “chain migration,” a tendentious term that recasts in a sinister light one of the fundamental ways America was built, and a decades-old cornerstone of our immigration policy. It’s a cruel distortion that feeds fears of outsiders and fails to acknowledge that healthy immigration levels keep the economy running, particularly in a country with low unemployment and birth rates and workers who shun backbreaking, entry-level jobs.

America needs immigrants. Last year’s bipartisan Senate bill recognized this, and raised quotas for both family and employment-based immigration. Congress should do so again. Closing the door to families would be unjust and unworkable, and a mockery of the values that conservatives profess. It would only encourage illegality by forcing people to choose between their loved ones and the law.

Compromise is necessary with any bill, particularly on an issue as complex as immigration. But if a deal hews so closely to the new harsh line of the White House and G.O.P that it fundamentally distorts America’s pro-immigrant tradition, it would be better to ditch the whole thing and start over.

Immigration talks bog down over family ties

May 3, 2007
BY Julie Hirschfeld Davis Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Who should get a preference when it comes to immigrants?

For decades, relatives of those already in the United States have moved to the front of the line.

The White House and senior Republican lawmakers now want to strictly limit the influx of family members and give preference to skilled workers sought by employers.

Democrats say that is inhumane and impractical.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., says the issue has become "one of the most contentious" in pulling together a broad immigration bill upon which Republicans and Democrats can agree.

The idea is to give many of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship and create a guest-worker program for new arrivals.

"It would be a huge mistake to expand employment-based immigration at the expense of our historic tradition of family-based immigration," Kennedy, one of the key negotiators, said in a speech this week.

Nearly two-thirds of legal permanent residents admitted last year were family-sponsored immigrants, while less than 12.6 percent came in based on employment preferences, according to the Homeland Security Department. Roughly one-fourth fell into other categories, such as refugees and aslyum seekers.

Reshaping immigration laws is a priority for President Bush, who wants it as part of his domestic legacy. It also would be a popular achievement for Democrats to take to voters in the next election.

Senate Democratic leaders have promised to bring up a measure, with or without GOP agreement, within two weeks.

Bush put in a plug Wednesday for a swift compromise. "I will work with both Republicans and Democrats to get a bill to my desk before the summer is out, hopefully," he told a contractors' trade group in Washington.

Under the White House proposal, legal immigrants would lose the right to petition to bring adult children and siblings to the U.S. They could do so for spouses and minor children, but their ability to sponsor parents would be severely limited.

The proposal would limit or end preferences for people who had family members living legally in the U.S., and award many more visas based on employability criteria, such as education and skills.

May 2, 2007

guest worker program and all immigrant workers

A guest worker program, introduced within a broader immigration reform act, will deliver much needed worker protections to millions of currently undocumented / illegal workers. The legislation being proposed now, such as the STRIVE Act (about which I have posted) prescribe worker protections in order to prevent these workers from being exploited and from driving down compensation for all low wage jobs. What is not really understood today is the positive effect that these worker protections will have on the millions of legal immigrants working today in low wage, low skill jobs. I believe this spill over effect will take place and positively improve the working conditions of ten to fifteen million workers. We native born Americans do not realize how many immigrant workers -- legal and illegal -- have marginal access to jobs with benefits and pay most of us assume. How this spill over effect will work - through state minimum wage laws, better overall enforcement of worker protections, union activity -- is yet to be seen.

April 27, 2007

Can OSHA protect low wage immigrant workers?

This is a question we have to ask after its abject failure to address toxic exposures in microwave popcorn plants, as described this week in the New York Times. “The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency,” said Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert at George Washington University who has written extensively about workplace safety. “If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.”

Sure, OSHA has made efforts, including some alliances with local organizations close to immigrant-driven industries such as home building. I have posted on some in the past. But like much of America, OSHA seems to be unable to grasp the significance of the huge multi-lingual labor presence in our economy. Mentally, the country thinks as if a tiny fraction of workers are immigrants. Well, over 12% are, and in numerous job sectors the percentage is over 50%.

A main reasons I strongly support the introduction of a guest worker program is that it will provide a foundation for more focused attention to work protections of immigrant workers – not just currently undocumented workers, but all low wage immigrant workers.

April 22, 2007

Progress on Immigration reform law

The New York Times says that a bill is closer to reality than appeared just a few weeks ago. It credits both parties as coming to a compromise over to provisions insisted on by Republicans – (1) triggers, or milestones in tightening up border controls first, and (2) a touchback provision, requiring illegal immigrants to leave the country and then return.

Other news reports says that enough Senate Republicans may change from opposition to support in order to provide a basis for Republican support in the House. The Senate may move on a bill in May' the House in July.

Here is the editorial:

Two important words to remember in the immigration debate in Congress are “triggers” and “touchback.” During last year’s ill-fated wrangling, the terms made the supporters of comprehensive reform bristle. The first refers to tough border-security benchmarks that the nation would have to meet before other parts of reform would kick in. The second refers to the requirement that illegal immigrants leave the country — even if only touching down briefly over the border — before re-entering on a legal footing.

Opponents of both concepts saw them as ways to sabotage a good bill. Triggers were seen as a way to start right away on the popular fence-building and other border-sealing measures sought by Republicans while delaying, possibly forever, the more humane elements of reform: a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and temporary visas for new workers. The touchback provision was seen as just another unnecessary hurdle for immigrants, proposed to satisfy hard-liners.

The good news is that in this year’s debate, triggers and touchback have become potential areas of compromise. It remains true that maliciously devised triggers can be too onerous, but as The Wall Street Journal reported, Democrats are now saying that they are open to well-written trigger provisions, since that could give a bill broader support among Republicans. Reassuring Americans that border security is improving is reasonable, as long as achieving the benchmarks is not the sole and ultimate aim. Republican leaders, to their credit, have backed away from the narrow, enforcement-only approach that disgraced their efforts last year.

Triggers and touchback have already been conceded by the supporters of comprehensive reform; a bill in the House, the Strive Act, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, would require immigrants to leave the country and return within a six-year span. It’s not ideal, but if a touchback provision is manageable and reassures people that illegal immigrants are indeed going to the back of the line, then it will be defensible.

The possible breaking of the stalemate was only part of the good news in recent days. The other part came in the form of research showing Americans way ahead of the hard right on immigration reform. The USA Today/Gallup poll found that 78 percent favored earned citizenship.

If passion and conviction were all it took to make good legislation, this problem would have been solved long ago. But progress on an issue this difficult requires hard compromises. With the 2008 presidential election barreling up like a semi — objects in mirror are closer than they appear — time pressures have focused people’s attention. Difficult details still need to be worked out, such as whether illegal workers will have to wait years for the current immigration backlog to clear before getting on a citizenship path, and whether family members will be excluded. But the outlines of a bipartisan deal are becoming clearer.

April 17, 2007

House and White House proposals compared

The Migration Policy Institute issued the other day a comparison between proposals. The Strive Act, proposed by Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in March, is the only bill being actively promoted in either the House or Senate at this time. The White House proposal is known only through a Powerpoint presentation which was leaked.

Six Republican senators are working with the White House. Four Democratic senators are putting together a Senate bill. Majority Leader Reid wants a Senate bill on the floor in the last two weeks of May.,

To see a more complete comparison of the proposals, go here. I am now going to focus on just the work-related aspects of the bills. Generally speaking, the Strive bill is more generous (or less draconian) than the White House proposals, in terms of current illegal and future legal low wage immigrants will be handled. Both push for more high tech temporary workers (H-1B visas. The White House proposal, modeled in part after Canadian and Australian systems, will place more emphasis on educational achievement of immigration applicants and less on family affiliations.

Here below are some comparisons.

New Temporary Workers. The Strive Act would create a new visa, the H-2C visa, for the entry of immigrant workers. The visa would be valid for three years and renewable for another three years. To become a permanent resident, an H-2C worker could either be sponsored by an employer or could self-petition after five years of US employment. After gaining permanent residency, the worker could petition for family reunification.

The White House proposal, in contrast, would allow workers, but not their families, to enter the United States on a new Y visa to work in a list of approved jobs. The Y visa would replace the current H-2A and H-2B visas (see sidebar).

Those in the main temporary worker program could enter for two years, then would have to return home for six months before returning for another two years. After six years in the United States, some foreign workers could be eligible for adjustment to permanent resident status through the normal channels, but they would not be able to reenter on a Y visa and could not stay in the country if a permanent visa remained pending when their Y visa expired.

H-2C (under Strive Act) — for temporary workers and their families. Capped at 400,000 initially, subject to annual adjustment.

Y (under White House plan) — for temporary workers, with separate conditions for seasonal and nonseasonal workers. Unspecified initial cap, subject to biennial adjustment.

Z (under White House plan) — for current unauthorized population, permitting indefinitely renewable, three-year periods of stay. Number set to accommodate current unauthorized population.

Seasonal workers on a Y visa could enter the United States for up to nine months before returning home for three months. Seasonal workers could renew their visas for as many years as desired.

Both the Strive Act and White House proposal would require various background checks for temporary worker applicants. However, the Strive Act would require a $500 fee, while the White House proposal would require a $1,500 fee.

For the complete analysis, I have pasted it below.

Continue reading "House and White House proposals compared" »

April 15, 2007

Republicans continue to be divided.

The NY Times ran last week an editorial congratulating President Bush for his support of immigration reform while noting retrograde proposals by Senate Republicans. It seems this division is holding up a reform package by the Administration. Reform cannot happen without bipartisan support.

Here it is:

President Bush went to the Mexico border in Arizona on Monday and showed once again that immigration is an issue he understands. He said America suffers from a system that exploits people who come to do jobs that citizens won’t do. He said the country needed “a practical answer” that promotes an orderly flow of legal immigrants, eases pressure at the border and opens a path to citizenship for the hidden 12 million who keep our economy humming. And he urged Congress to find that answer through a “serious, civil and conclusive debate.”

It was good that Mr. Bush made these points, as he periodically does. But there was a dissonance in his speech, because it came only two weeks after he and a group of Senate Republicans circulated a list of “first principles” about immigration that amounted to a huge step backward for efforts to fix a broken system in a reasonable, humane way.

It proposed new conditions on immigrant labor so punitive and extreme that they amounted to a radical rethinking of immigration — not as an expression of the nation’s ideals and an integral source of its vitality and character, but as a strictly contractual phenomenon designed to extract cheap labor from an unwelcome underclass.

New immigrant workers and those already here would all be treated as itinerant laborers. They could renew their visas, but only by paying extortionate fees and fines. There would be a path to legal status, but one so costly and long that it is essentially a mirage: by some estimates, a family of five could pay more than $64,000 and wait up to 25 years before any member could even apply for a green card. Other families would be torn apart; new workers and those who legalize themselves would have no right to sponsor relatives to join them.

In a country that views immigrants as its lifeblood and cherishes the unity of families, the Republican talking points were remarkable for their chill of nativism and exploitation. They were also unrealistic. The hurdles would create huge impediments to hiring and keeping a stable work force, while pushing the illegal economy deeper underground.

The thrust of Mr. Bush’s speech leaves little room for a vision as crabbed and inhumane as the one he and his party have circulated. It’s hard to tell whether his plainspoken eloquence in Yuma was meant to distance himself from those earlier and benighted talking points, or whether he has simply been talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Mr. Bush should clear up the confusion. He should reaffirm the importance of family-based immigration and of an achievable path to citizenship for those willing, as he put it, “to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.”

Clarity and forcefulness from Mr. Bush are important because the prospects for a good immigration bill this year are so uncertain. The Senate plans to take up the issue next month, but there is no bill yet, and the talking-points memo shows the debate drifting to the hard right. Edward Kennedy, the Senate’s most stalwart advocate of comprehensive reform, has been left in the lurch as the Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Sam Brownback have run away from sensible positions to court hard-line voters. A decent bipartisan House bill, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, may not get the hearing it deserves.

Mr. Bush made a strong case for comprehensive reform on Monday. He should keep it up — publicly and forthrightly, as he did this week, and forget about backroom negotiations that produce harsh political manifestoes to appease hard-liners.

April 6, 2007

Huge demand for H-1B visas this month

The media (including this article) reported that within two days of the beginning of the new year for temporary H-1B working visas (April 1), 133,000 applications were filed for the 65,000 available slots. These visas are generally designed for computer scientists and engineers. There are other, much smaller, channels for foreign high tech workers to enter the U.S. – for instance through academia. But the immensity of the application volume indicates how much American employers want these foreign workers. These visa applications require sponsorship by American employers. Right now, about half of computer programmers in the U.S. are foreign born.

Immigration reform legislative packages usually include a large increase in the H-1B slots.

April 4, 2007

Senate to address immigration reform in late May, per Sen Reid

The Houston Chronicle reports that in late May “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends for the Senate to kick off what's sure to be a contentious debate over fixing the nation's dysfunctional immigration system. The Nevada Democrat says he's reserving the last two weeks of May to take up legislation that would have a powerful effect on employers and millions of immigrants, legal and illegal. But as that date nears, there's still no consensus among the differing factions, no bill and no plan yet for action in committee.

“And last week's leak of a White House immigration draft that proposed less generous treatment for illegal immigrants and future arrivals than what's under consideration by Democrats further muddied the waters as both parties grope for an as-yet elusive compromise.”

April 1, 2007

STRIVE Act introduced in House, 3/22

Shusterman’s Immigration Update provides a summary of a House bill introduced on 3/22 by two pro-reform Congressman, Luis Gutierrez and Jeff Flake - H. 1645. find a copy of the bill here.

“The STRIVE Act is clearly a political compromise between those who want tougher border and interior immigration enforcement, and those who maintain that our immigration problems cannot be solved solely by increased enforcement,” writes Shusterman.

Per Schusterman:

On March 23, the STRIVE (Security Through a Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007) Act of 2007 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.

Border: The bill would create a "virtual" fence along the border between the U.S. and Mexico; increase the number of border patrol agents and immigration inspectors at the border; allow for cooperation between the border patrol and the Department of Defense as well as the government of Mexico. The bill would increase the size of the Border Patrol between 2,000 and 2,400 each year between 2008 and 2012.

Interior Enforcement: It would increase the number of ICE agents by 1,000; increase penalties for gang violence, failure to depart, alien smuggling, drunk driving, firearms possession and sale, unauthorized employment of illegal aliens, and money laundering; and expand expedited removal.

Employment Verification: The bill would create a system for employers to electronically verify workers' employment authorization; establish criminal penalties for employers and workers who operate outside the system; and would implement strong enforcement mechanisms. It would create significant criminal penalties for individuals who falsely attest to being authorized to work and create significant civil penalties for employers who do not comply with the new system's requirements. It would establish serious criminal penalties, including a possible three-year prison term for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized aliens.

Guest Workers: It would create an "H-2C" guest worker program with an initial cap of 400,000 guest workers annually. 2,000 additional inspectors from the Department of Labor would be hired to enforce the labor standards portion of the law.

Earned Citizenship: Persons who worked in H-2C status for five years would be able to apply for conditional permanent residency and eventual citizenship. They would have to meet the following requirements: (1) show physical presence in the U.S. and evidence of employment; (2) complete criminal and security background checks; (3) pay $500 application fee; (4) meet English and civic requirements; and (5) show admissibility (certain bars to admission related to undocumented status are waived; security- and criminal-related bars may not be waived).

The bill also incorporates the DREAM Act and the AgJobs bill. It would provide for significant increases in the number of H-1B, employment and family-based immigrant visas.

March 30, 2007

White House PowerPoint outline of its proposal

Thanks to the Immigration Portal we have a copy of a Powerpoint presentation of the White House's legisaltive plans. I am posting it now without comment. go to "tools - rotate" if you need to straigthen it out.

Overview of non-immigrant visa activity

The Congressional Research Service published an update overview of non-immigrant visa activity, inlcuding business, student temporary guest worker, etc travel. This is a lucid introduction to the lierallty dozens of kinds of visa arrangements.

March 29, 2007

No immigration reform bill yet

According to the Washington Post and LA Times, Republicans in Congress and the White House have been trying to put together a bill that Senate Republicans can support, expecting the bill’s passage in the Senate will have a positive effect on the more anti-reform House. Democrats are waiting to see what the Republican come up with. The Senate bill passed last year – S.2612 – will not work as it will not be accepted by the House.

March 24, 2007

slow movement on immigration reform bills

The NY Times reviews the status of immigration reform legislation in the House and Senate and finds progress wanting in both chambers. “Three months into the new Congress, immigration legislation is hitting some unexpected roadblocks. A mix of presidential politics and unforeseen fissures between Democrats and their Republican allies has stalled movement in the Senate.

“Key lawmakers in both chambers seem to be moving to the right to assuage conservatives who helped derail immigration legislation last year. Now there are doubts as to whether Congress will actually send an immigration bill to President Bush this year. “

March 23, 2007

Trafficking in identity papers - a case study

The NY Times ran an article which gets into the underbelly of the trafficking of personal identifications for use by illegal immigrants. The article links a worker who was caught up in the Swift raid in Marshalltown, IA in December with a drug addict in Bakersfield, CA. Reportedly, the drug addicted American woman has replaced her social security card twenty times, presumably to sell it.

“Ms. Eloisa Nuñez Galeana said she paid a woman $800 for official copies of Ms. Violeta Blanco's birth certificate and Social Security card.” How Blanco’s papers, by inference sold by her, got into the hands of Nunez is through a lot of hands and possibly multiple uses of them.

Here are excerpts from the article.

Continue reading "Trafficking in identity papers - a case study" »

March 16, 2007

Senator Kennedy leading Senate effort to pass immigration reform bill.

Earlier this week the NY Times profiled Senator Ted Kennedy’s current efforts to enact an immigration reform bill. He is using the language which was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate as S. 2612 last Spring in order to improve the chances for passage. (I have posted several times on S. 2612.) The article said that Kennedy is hoping for a floor vote by May. It also says that Senator McCain may backing off from supporting immigration reform.

I am increasingly concerned that a bill will not be passed due to the vocal anti-immigration lobby and both Dem and Rep concerns about the 2008 election.

There are some serious problems with this Judiciary bill including an unworkable provision requiring many illegal immigrants to leave the country and apply for entrance. Specifically, according to an outline of the bill, it “Authorizes mandatory departure and immigrant or nonimmigrant reentry for a qualifying illegal alien who has been present and employed in the United States since January 7, 2004.”

The article:

Continue reading "Senator Kennedy leading Senate effort to pass immigration reform bill." »

March 15, 2007

Senator Kennedy on New Bedford sweat shop raid

Senator Kennedy is using the New Bedford raid as a platform for moving immigration reform forward. I have posted below his statement, in which he allegaes that Homeland Security's ICE unit swiftly transfered hundreds of the arrested workers to holding areas in Texas while not caring for some children left in New Bedford. Meanwhile, the owner of the employer, Michael Bianco, Inc, is free on bail and vacationing in Puerto Rico.

"This is the haphazard way DHS handles the problem of illegal immigration. They have said that they had planned this raid for months, but had made no provision to house the workers they arrested. Instead, the workers were rounded up and immediately transported by DHS to Texas and other states, far from their families, without even an opportunity to say goodbye. The DHS knew that many of these workers had children at home, but they did not do nearly enough to protect them. As a result, children came back to empty homes; at least one nursing baby went to the hospital with dehydration; and hundreds cried themselves to sleep, wondering where their loved ones were and why they had disappeared."

Continue reading "Senator Kennedy on New Bedford sweat shop raid" »

March 13, 2007

More on expose about current guest worker programs

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted on its website today a summary of its report that Bob Herbert of the NY Times wrote about. “The report — Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States — comes as Congress is about to begin debating immigration legislation that could greatly expand guestworker programs to cover hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new temporary foreign workers.

“The most fundamental problem with the H-2 system is that employers hold all the cards. They decide which workers can come to the United States and which cannot. They decide whether a worker can stay in this country. They usually decide where and under what conditions workers live and how they travel.”

The report summary:

New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

March 12, 2007 — Guestworkers who come to the United States are routinely cheated out of wages; forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs; held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents; forced to live in squalid conditions; and denied medical benefits for injuries, according to a new report released by the Center today.

Continue reading "More on expose about current guest worker programs" »

New expose on H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs.

Bob Herbert of the New York Times devoted his Monday, March 12 column to a forthcoming report by the Southern Poverty Law Center about guest worker program abuses. The title of the report: “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” I have not been able to find it yet so am posting below Herbert's column. Herbert is talking about The H-2A and H-2B programs.

Indentured Servants in America

A must-read for anyone who favors an expansion of guest worker programs in the U.S. is a stunning new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that details the widespread abuse of highly vulnerable, poverty-stricken workers in programs that already exist.

The report is titled “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” It will be formally released today at a press conference in Washington.

Workers recruited from Mexico, South America, Asia and elsewhere to work in American hotels and in such labor-intensive industries as forestry, seafood processing and construction are often ruthlessly exploited.

They are routinely cheated out of their wages, which are low to begin with. They are bound like indentured servants to the middlemen and employers who arrange their work tours in the U.S. And they are virtual hostages of the American companies that employ them.

The law does not allow these “guests” to change jobs while they’re here. If a particular employer is unscrupulous, as is very often the case, the worker has little or no recourse.

Continue reading "New expose on H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs." »

March 11, 2007

2008 Elections and immigration reform

Focus on three things. One, the share of voting age population that is Hispanic went from 7% in 2000 to 9% in 2006. Two, four states with populations at least 25% Hispanic hold 104 of the 270 electoral votes needed for presidential candidate victory. Three, the immigration issue unites pretty much the entire Hispanic population in America.

These states are AZ (28% Hispanic), CA (35%), NM (43%) and TX (35%). And we’re not counting the 58 electoral votes in FL (19% Hispanic) and NY (16%).

The Politico website talks about the political perils of the Republicans in immigration reform. “….Another high-profile Capitol Hill debate, coming right after the bitter 2006 discussion, over treatment of the thousands of legal and illegal immigrants in the country could crystallize Hispanics' views about the political parties for a generation, providing a critical advantage to one of them."

It goes on:

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization, Hispanic voters represented nearly 9 percent of the voting-age population in 2006, up from just over 7 percent in 2000. A 2006 study by Strategic Telemetry, a Democratic research group, predicted that Hispanics will remain the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, accounting for 44 percent of the growth in the nation's voting-age population by 2020, compared with 14 percent for blacks.

-- PFR: Both McCain and Giuliani (in a February 2000 Meet the Press interview) has spoken out strongly in favor of inclusion of Hispanic immigrants through immigration reform.

Back to Politico:

The Democratic National Committee supported a move by Nevada to insert its primary caucuses between those held in Iowa and New Hampshire largely because it would give Latinos a greater voice in the nomination process.

Indeed, Democrats are convinced that if their party can gain an edge with Hispanic voters, they can break the Republican presidential-year hold on several western states, including Nevada and Colorado. That could offset their own party's loss of strength in the South.

March 9, 2007

Regional sources of Mexican workers in U.S.

The Atlantic Monthly (subscription required) has an article in its April 2007 edition called “The Mexican Connection.” I have posted on this before (search for “remittance”). The main contribution of this article is to pinpoint the regional sources of many of U.S. based workers -- states immediately northwest of Mexico City: “ Five predominantly rural Mexican states—Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas—send a disproportionately large number of emigrants to the United States. Their links to the U.S. date back a century, to when American mining and railroad companies recruited workers from these regions to offset reductions in Chinese and Japanese immigration. Home to less than a third of Mexico’s population, they receive 44 percent of Mexico’s remittances.”

The Mexican Connection
by Matthew Quirk

Among the crumbling adobe shacks of rural Mexico, two-story California- style housing developments are rising. In the tiny city of Tlacolula, plots of land that sold for about $10,000 in 1994 now cost $60,000. Like the towns where they are going up, the new developments are partly empty. The home owners are among the many Mexican workers—nearly one in seven overall, and half the adult population of some communities, such as La Purísima and San Juan Mixtepec—who are in the United States. Typically working low-wage jobs, they send home much of their pay (41 percent on average, or $300 a month) to support families left behind and build a better life for their return.

Remittances to Mexico exceed $20 billion a year.[Actually $25B – PFR] By 2003, they had become the nation’s second-largest source of external finance, ahead of tourism and foreign investment and just behind oil exports. That same year, then-President Vicente Fox noted that the roughly 20 million Mexican-origin workers in America create a larger gross product than Mexico itself. [This cannot be a correct figures – it is too large. There may be 20 million total Mexican-born people in the U.S. including children. – PFR]

Worldwide, remittances have surpassed direct aid in volume, and international development institutions (along with the governments of many less- developed countries) have recently seized upon them as a key to economic growth in the global South. The United States is the largest source of remittances—Saudi Arabia, with its armies of serflike guest workers, is No. 2—and Mexico the largest recipient of U.S. funds.

Continue reading "Regional sources of Mexican workers in U.S." »

February 28, 2007

The IFCO guilty pleadings: what was behind them

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on Tuesday 2/27 ran an article about how ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) went after the executives at IFCO, the pallet manufacturer raided last year, for systematically hiring illegal workers. The article contains nuggets of information about ICE’s new strategy – which I have excerpted here. They include patiently collecting information in several states on manager communications; getting Social Security to cooperate in revealing huge mismatches of Soc Sec numbers; and planting an informant. (I have previously posted on IFCO.)

According to an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, five managers pleaded guilty:

James Rice, 37, of Houston, an executive regional general manager of the Netherlands-based IFCO Systems, pleaded guilty to conspiring to employ illegal workers. Robert Belvin, 43, of Stuart, Fla., a former general manager of the Albany IFCO plant, pleaded guilty to two felony conspiracy charges. They face up to 2 years in prison. Dario Salzano, 36, of Amsterdam, N.Y., Scott Dodge, 44, of Elmira, N.Y., and Michael Ames, 44, of Shrewsbury, Mass., each pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor. They could face up to six months in jail and $3,000 in fines for each undocumented worker employed, though they likely will get reduced terms because they cooperated, Sciocchetti said. Charges were pending against two other IFCO managers in Houston and Cincinnati.

Here in addition are some figures from the ICE Fact Sheet on the net:

* The number of criminal arrests in worksite enforcement cases has increased from a mere 25 in Fiscal Year 2002, the last full year under the old INS, to 716 during Fiscal Year 2006 under ICE..

* The number of individuals arrested on administrative immigration violations in worksite enforcement cases has increased from 485 in Fiscal Year 2002, the last full year under the old INS, to 3,667 during Fiscal Year 2006 under ICE.

Continue reading "The IFCO guilty pleadings: what was behind them" »

Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program

“Low Pay and Broken Promises Greet Guest Workers” in the New York Times reports abuses on the United States guest worker program for agricultural workers, the H-2A program. I have posted on H-2A workers before, and also on a special H-2B forestry workers program. The articles focuses on recruitment abuses. “The guest worker program is not for contractors who feel they might be able to find work for other people,” said Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s for people who have a compelling need to bring in workers from abroad. There’s an enormous incentive for contractors to bring in as many people as possible, even when there isn’t enough work, because they often make money from recruitment fees.”

The article says, “Each year 120,000 foreign workers receive visas to do farm work or other low-skilled labor, usually for three to nine months. These programs grew out of the World War II bracero program, in which hundreds of thousands of Mexicans worked on farms and railroads, often in deplorable conditions.”

Labor experts say employers abuse guest workers far more than other workers because employers know they can ship them home the moment they complain. They also know these workers cannot seek other jobs if they are unhappy.

“I’d say a substantial majority of U.S. guest workers experience some abuses with their paycheck,” said David Griffith, a professor in the anthropology department at East Carolina University and author of the new book “American Guestworkers: Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U.S. Labor Market.” “It’s the recruitment process especially where they get cheated.”

The abuses take many forms. Guest workers often pay exorbitant fees and are frequently given fewer weeks of work and lower wages than promised. Many employers fail to make good on their commitment to pay transportation costs. The Thai workers, who were supposed to be paid $16,000 a year for three years, ended up earning a total of just $1,400 to $2,400. Most of the Thai workers had their passports taken away after they arrived, leaving them trapped.

“The program has been rife with abuses, even during the best of times,” said Cindy Hahamovitch, a history professor at the College of William and Mary, who is writing a book about guest workers. “There will never be enough inspectors to check every labor camp, contract and field.”

The article in full:

Continue reading "Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program" »

February 26, 2007

California labor law enforcement in the underground economy

There are at least two enforcement efforts at work in California to protect low wage immigrant workers, including illegal workers, from employer abuses. One I have already posted on here – an initiative to combat workers comp fraud. Another is the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition. Both of these initiatives enforce state and/or federal employment laws without necessarily closing down the targeted businesses.

Workcompcentral reported today an EEEC action: “Garment Industry Sweep Nets $454,600 in Fines.” The report: “A garment industry enforcement sweep by California's underground economy task force netted $454,000 in fines and found five employers who lacked workers' compensation coverage for 95 employees, the state Department of Industrial Relations announced Friday. The Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition's (EEEC) Feb. 7-8 sweep resulted in 24 of 32 businesses inspected receiving a notice to discontinue and $454,600 in citations and projected penalties. Inspectors found five businesses that lacked comp coverage for workers.

Those businesses and other garment manufacturers were also cited for a variety of labor law violations.

After the sweep, Korean Garment Industry Association President Steve Kim initiated an outreach seminar to answer labor compliance questions and to help local garment manufacturers into compliance, the EEEC said. The seminar was held Thursday in Los Angeles.

The EEEC presentation included expert speakers from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The Employment Development Department and U.S. Department of Labor were also on hand to answer questions and provide information on workplace safety, wage and hour, payroll taxes, registration and other labor-related issues, the coalition said in a press release.

Below is a desription of the EEEC from its website:

Continue reading "California labor law enforcement in the underground economy" »

February 24, 2007

Executives indicted for tax evasion re: illegal employees

A new strategy to attack employer use of illegal workers has emerged: indicting corporate executives for tax evasion when they pay their employees off the books. We already know about failing to buy workers compensation insurance. This tax evasion attack will I expect be a potent tool against the medium to large sized employer. About half of illegal workers are estimated to be paid in cash without tax or social security payments being made.

The Wall Street Journal carried a story on 2/23 about indictments against a cleaning and maintenance company with commercial customers throughout the U.S. (“Homeland Security Strategy Hits Executives, Illegal Workers”). Per the article “ Pressing ahead with its new strategy to 'attack the economic engine' that fuels most illegal migration into the U.S., Homeland Security agents arrested three top executives of a national cleaning service for allegedly employing illegal immigrants and defrauding the government. The sweep also netted nearly 200 employees believed to be illegal immigrants."

Nevada-based Rosenbaum-Cunningham International Inc., or RCI, provided cleaning and maintenance services to popular hospitality venues and restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN Zone and House of Blues, taking in more than $54.3 million between 2001 and 2005, Homeland Security officials said yesterday .

According to a 23-count indictment unsealed yesterday, the company knowingly hired illegal immigrants, intentionally failed to withhold taxes and created shell accounts to line the pockets of top executives. RCI co-owners Richard M. Rosenbaum and Edward Scott Cunningham and firm controller Christina Flocken face criminal fraud, immigration and tax charges.

More from the article…

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Wealth of statistics on illegal immigrants in the U.S.

This is a quick guide to postings I have made in the past. These and other postings are listed in the right hand column segment called “popular posts.” You will find even more information if you go to the hyperlinks in each of these postings.

Go here to find estimates of the number of illegal workers by state and their share of the state’s workforce. Data drawn in part from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Go here to find federal government estimates of illegal immigrants, by country of origin and by when they arrived in the U.S.

Go here to find recent research findings on the impact of all immigrant as well as illegal immigrant labor on native born American wages.

And here for types of work performed by illegal immigrants and other data on these workers, from the Pew Hispanic Center.

February 23, 2007

AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department’s statement on immigration reform.

Here is the statement, thanks to Jim Platner. I will summarize:

“Mass unregulated illegal immigration into the United States creates unfair wage competition.” There needs to be tougher border enforcement. “A mandatory electronic work-eligibility verification system is needed, which can effectively detect the use of fraudulent documents and significantly reduce the employment of unauthorized immigrants.” This system is “the lynchpin” to comprehensive immigration reform.

A new temporary worker program “would be particularly harmful to the long-term interests of the building and construction industry, because of its negative effect on bona fide apprenticeship and training programs.”

Union sponsored hiring halls and joint labor/management training programs work, and should be supported as the means to provide qualified labor to this industry.

The H-2B visa system in place should be used for foreign labor. This visa program “is currently available to full employers’ temporary needs resulting from either on-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent labor shortages that do not last for more than one year…it is uniquely appropriate” to fill employer needs in building and construction that cannot otherwise be met be hiring halls.

The H-2B system should be modified to allow for joint labor-management programs to sponsor temporary employment of “trained skilled workers from abroad.” This will assure protection of labor standards of U.S. workers.

There should be a “path to earned legal status” for illegal immigrants here now, as many have been “law-abiding, tax-paying and hard working” participants in the economy. They should pay an appropriate penalty and get in line behind those legally in line from the start. [The term “citizenship” is not used.] Once they “adjust their status”, they should receive federal labor and civil rights protections but not receive federal entitlements.

February 18, 2007

New York Times editorial on immigration reform.

A New York Times editorial, “They Are America,” is trying to shake the country into paying attention to what was going to be a major legislative thrust this year: immigration reform. At least, that seemed probably before Iraq fell apart. This editorial goes down a long list of small and large missteps and outrages upon immigrants, from fence-bulding and factory raids by ICE to DNA testing. the authors stop short of describing what precisely they want in immigration reform, beyond management remedies to some practicef of the Bush Administration.

The entire editorial is below.

Continue reading "New York Times editorial on immigration reform." »

February 14, 2007

Essential Worker Immigration Coalition: Reform platform

This lobbying group / business association is gearing up for immigration reform this year. It wants more immigrant workers, the more legal the better.

Here is its platform for reform:

Reform should be comprehensive: addressing both future economic needs for future workers and undocumented workers already in the United States.

Reform should strengthen national security by providing for the screening of foreign workers and creating a disincentive for illegal immigration.

Reform should strengthen the rule of law by establishing clear, sensible immigration laws that are efficiently and vigorously enforced.

Reform should create an immigration system that functions efficiently for employers, workers, and government agencies.

Reform should create a program that allows hard working, tax paying undocumented workers to earn legal status.

Reform should ensure that U.S. workers are not displaced by foreign workers.

Reform should ensure that all workers enjoy the same labor law protections.

The policy platform goes on….

Continue reading "Essential Worker Immigration Coalition: Reform platform" »

January 7, 2007

Major problems in immigration and future guest work info systems

A Washington Post article reports on an inspector general audit of Citizenship and Immigrant Service computer system weaknesses. These weaknesses are contributing to huge backlogs now for legal applications. It sounds like a guest worker program with amnesty will crush the system.

Per the article:

As the White House and Congress prepare to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, U.S. officials have concluded that they lack the technology and resources to handle the millions of applications for legal residency that could result from the changes and that several efforts to modernize computers have gone astray.
A report released Dec. 20 by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner cited a long list of setbacks and concurred with internal USCIS reviews that the bureau "lacks the processing capacity, systems integration and project management resources needed to manage a potential increase in workloads." A project to replace the nationwide computer network has been halted because the agency lacks $72 million to complete it. A staff reorganization was frozen because of deficiencies "that hinder day-to-day IT operations," according to the report.

A quote from the audit itself:

Our September 2005 report discussed inefficiencies in USCIS’ IT environment that hindered its ability to carry out its immigration benefits processing mission successfully. Specifically, USCIS’ processes were largely manual, paper-based, and duplicative, resulting in an ineffective use of human and financial resources to ship, store, and track immigration files. Adjudicators used multiple and non-integrated IT systems to perform their jobs, which has reduced productivity and data integrity. IT software and hardware systems also were not well configured to meet users needs.
Further, although federal guidelines require effective planning and management of IT to increase efficiency of business operations, USCIS has not had a focused approach for updating its legacy systems and manual workflow practices. Rather, IT planning and implementation were conducted in a reactive and decentralized manner across the organization. Additionally, USCIS relied on personnel rather than technology to meet its backlog reduction goals.

The article in full:

Continue reading "Major problems in immigration and future guest work info systems" »

January 4, 2007

“Open Doors Wider for Skilled Immigrants”

A columnist commented on the new study of immigrant entrepreneurs in high tech, which I posted on below, and referred to his and others’ study of this matter over the years. He concludes: “My view: Let's build really high [immigration] fences, but have big gates. Let's be very selective in whom we admit, but open the doors to as many as we need.”

Skilled immigrants provide one of the U.S.'s greatest strengths. They contribute to the economy, create jobs, and lead innovation. A new study I helped lead at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, where I am an executive-in-residence, shows they are fueling the creation of hi-tech business across our nation and creating a wealth of intellectual property. To keep our global competitive edge, we need to attract more of the world's best and brightest. And we need them to come here and put down deep roots

Vivek Wadhwa, the founder of two software companies, is an Executive-in-Residence/Adjunct Professor at Duke University. He is also the co-founder of TiE Carolinas, a networking and mentoring group.

December 31, 2006

From the Economist: government policies to attract the highly talented worker.

In its special report on the search for the talented worker, the Economist noted: “Two economists, Frédéric Docquier and Hillel Rapoport, estimate that average emigration rates worldwide are 0.9% for the low-skilled, 1.6% for the medium-skilled and 5.5% for the high-skilled. These rates have been accelerating far faster for the high-skilled group than for the rest. Skilled immigrants accounted for more than half of all admissions in Australia, Canada and New Zealand in 2001.”


Germany has made it easier for skilled workers to get visas.

Britain has offered more work permits for skilled migrants.

France has introduced a “scientist visa”.

Many countries are making it easier for foreign students to stay on after graduating.

France is aiming to push up its proportion of foreign students from about 7% now to 20% over time.

Germany is trying to create a Teutonic Ivy League and wants to “internationalise studies in Germany”.

A survey of Indian executives living in America found that 68% were actively looking for opportunities to return home, and 12% had already decided to do so; and a survey of graduates of the elite All India Institute of Medical Sciences who were living abroad found that 40% were ready to go home.

Beijing has an office in Silicon Valley

The section of the special report on government policies, in full:

Continue reading "From the Economist: government policies to attract the highly talented worker." »

Capitol Hill analysis of immigration reform prospects for 2007

Rachel Swarns of the New York Times reviews the variables for immigration reform in early 2007:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 — Counting on the support of the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.

The Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill next month with an eye toward passage in March or April, officials said. The House is expected to consider its version later. President Bush said last week that he hoped to sign an immigration bill next year.

The major lawmakers drafting the legislation include Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, along with Representatives Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, and Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois. The four met this month, and their staffs have begun working on a bill.

Hispanic voters, a swing constituency that Republicans covet, abandoned the party in large numbers. Several Republican hardliners, including Representatives John Hostettler of Indiana and J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, lost their seats. After the dismal showing, House Republicans denied F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the departing chairman of the Judiciary Committee and an architect of the House immigration approach, a senior position on any major committee in the new Congress.

Continue reading "Capitol Hill analysis of immigration reform prospects for 2007" »

December 26, 2006

DREAM Act proposal: citizenship through military service

What is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act? This proposed federal legislation will incent immigrants, legal and illegal, to enroll in the U.S. military. Simply stated, “Immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S., graduated from high school here, and can demonstrate good moral character would initially qualify for "conditional lawful permanent resident" status, which would normally last for six years. During the conditional period, the immigrant would be required to go to college, join the military, or work a significant number of hours of community service. At the end of the conditional period, those who meet at least one of these requirements would be eligible for regular lawful permanent resident status.” (From here.)

I have posted before on legal immigrant enrollment in the military. A summary of the legislation (as of April 2006), analysis, list of supporters, etc., is found at The National Immigration Law Center.

Max Boot, of the Council of Foreign Relations, has the most articulate advocate of such a program, such as in this
2005 op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times. He would open up the program for all foreigners:

The DREAM Act is a great idea, but I would go further and offer citizenship to anyone, anywhere on the planet, willing to serve a set term in the U.S. military. We could model a Freedom Legion after the French Foreign Legion. Or we could allow foreigners to join regular units after a period of English-language instruction, if necessary…..

In the past, the U.S. military had many more foreigners than we do today. (During the Civil War, at least 20% were immigrants. Now it's 7%.) The British army, among many others, has also made good use of noncitizens. Nepalese Gurkhas still fight and die for the Union Jack despite not being "culturally bonded" to it. No doubt they would do the same for the Stars and Stripes.

December 14, 2006

Things are heating up for a reform bill

Two items: the possible fallout from ICE raids of meat processing plants, and a comment on my posting of a Wall Street Journal story about immigrant workers on Hilton Head Island. In my view, the ICE raids, as reported in the Los Angeles Times and commented on in the Seattle Times, will have a net effect of spurring a reform bill. An anti-reform advocate has it right: these kinds of raids provide a kind of cover for White House / Congress collaboration on a reform bill. (It should be clear that I strongly favor a bill with a good guest worker program in it).

But this is more than just about immigration workers: it has to do with low wage workers. As commentor James Albers notes, employer abuses to lower its costs of doing business adversely impacts legal and illegal workers. We have here not a 7.5 million worker problem (the number of illegal workers) but more like a 30 million worker problem, exacerbated by exploitation of illegal labor.

James Albers' comment:

Some observations. First, any contractor can gain a competitive advantage by not complying with required labor standards, be they workers' comp, social security, or health and safety compliance. This is not exclusively an 'illegal' worker problem, though it may be exacerbated (i.e., more exploited) when workers don't have legal status. Second, Mr. Hairston comments regarding his assuming the "moral and ethical high ground" with his proposed ordinance are hollow. He didn't have a problem subcontracting work to undocumented workers as long as he could sit back and make an easy profit paying just 25% of the contract. (Guess he needed more time to enjoy the 'luxury' home he built.)

I don't believe this type of cut-throat competition is desirable, as it can lead to a dilution of labor standards. However, hiring workers' "off the books" is pervasive in certain types of construction work, especially small residential and remodeling projects. Illegally designating workers as 'idependent contractors' is another way builders and contractors reduce their costs and gain a competitve advantage. In general, there should be stronger enforcement of labor standards that reduce the opportunities for contractors to dilute standards to reap a competitive advantage. But it's not fair to characterize this problem as an 'illegal' worker issue.


November 28, 2006

Two reservations about an immigration reform bill

Darrell Schapmire sent in a comment from which I have extracted a few passages and am placing here. He has some serious reservations about an immigration reform bill. I have placed below two of his concerns. I think that advocates of immigration reform along the lines of the Senate bill – of which I am in favor – need to address his concerns.

Schapmire says that “the sinkhole” nature of the low wage labor market in the United States will result in debasement and erosion of any immigration controls Washington legislates.

We are also ignoring the sinkhole nature of the demand for cheap labor. This, to me, is the great sucker punch for the American public. Twenty years before Simpson-Mazzoli, we had similar legislation passed in Congress for a small number of immigrants. The law passed in 1986 was supposed to eliminate the problem of illegal immigration and the problems that go along with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I would predict that when the current group of illegals is given amnesty, businesses will not only hire----but in many cases actively recruit----more illegal workers because they are "cheaper." We need to understand that business demand for "cheap labor" is insatiable. We also need to understand that there is no limit to the number of people who would come here, given the opportunity.

Comment: to avoid this scenario this time around, I believe the following must happen. First, labor protections for workers/employers in guest worker status and enforcement against workers/employers in illegal status need to be clearly superior to the status quo of today, in order that these measures sharply discourage both the supply and demand for illegal workers.

It will take five to ten years to get the protection and enforcement measures right, perhaps capped by Supreme Court decisions over the constitutionality of mandatory identity cards. In the past under Presidents Johnson and Reagan, the immigration reforms were sold to the public on the cheap. Border fences alone, and uniform driver licenses alone, are ideas coming from the let’s fix this cheap mindset.

Schapmire’s other concern I want to highlight deals with lack of commitment to an American way of life:

Beyond all of these it is disturbing to me that the current debate on immigration has simply centered around the economic and security aspects. These issues are, most assuredly, vital to our future. But this debate ignores one central fact: the perpetuation of our democratic republic does not depend so much on having a ready supply of workers as its existence depends on having a citizenry that is committed to our way of life. We need new residents to have not only their stomachs, but also their hearts and minds, fully invested in being Americans first. I am not personally satisfied that this is the case with some many of the people now coming to this country as illegal workers. I need only see pictures of tens of thousands of people demanding rights in the streets while waving the flags of another country.

Only 3% of Hispanic day laborers say they speak English very well. Given the vast transborder traffic in labor and jobs today, it is not clear to me if Schampire’s concerns about a immigrant working family commitment to an American way of life is translatable into a clear litmus test of commitment vs. lack of commitment.

The glue holding American society together is composed of (1) widely shared, core expectation that one’s way of life can improve, (2) access to educational resources, (3) mobility in the job market, and (4) skepticism towards ideologies. If these conditions hold, severe social isolation of groups cannot persist. I am not concerned if large numbers of Americans feel in their bones that they remain true to Mexico, Ukraine, or Laos.

November 24, 2006

Guest workers in the future: union organizing

A new book assesses the potential for organizing immigrant workers, citing examples among Los Angeles area building maintenance, trucking, construction, and garment production workers. If a guest worker program is enacted, it is very likely that the enrolled workers will have the right to collective bargaining. According to the publisher, “Los Angeles’ recent labor history highlights some of the key ingredients of the labor movement’s resurgence—new leadership, latitude to experiment with organizing techniques, and a willingness to embrace both top-down and bottom-up strategies.”

L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement, released this past August by the Russell Sage Foundation, is written by Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology and director of the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The publisher’s blurb:

Continue reading "Guest workers in the future: union organizing" »

November 13, 2006

Senate Bill 2612: Guest worker provisions

Following on my last posting which summarized provisions for currentl illegal workers in the Senate immigration reform bill, I look today at the guest workers provisions. My personal comments are under "PFR"

Title IV Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Reforms

H-2C visa program for “up to 200,000 workers annually. (Originally the language called for 350,000 visas annually, which is the approximate number of new illegal working immigrants per year). This program provides a path towards legal permanent residence.

PFR: I bet that the 200,000 worker cap will be relaxed.

The bill establishes worker protections for the worker, including the same benefits and working conditions as similarly situated workers, workers’ compensation insurance, a provision that no H-2C worker may be treated as an independent contractor, whistleblower safeguards, and other protections.

PFR: This provision has implications going far beyond guest workers. The independent contractor prohibition means that guest workers will have privileged status over Americans, because many workers – such as FedEx drivers, are independent contractors.

Employers must petition for approval to hire H-2C workers, certifying that American workers are not available at prevailing wages.

The federal government can deny an application from an employer if (1) the work is not agricultural AND (2) the unemployment rate of non-high school graduates in the metropolitan area location of the work has an unemployment rate of at least 9%. This provision is somewhat disingenuous because the problem for this workforce not fully reflected in the unemployment rate – many of these individuals, especially blacks, have withdrawn from the job market.

Prior illegal status can be overlooked “for prior conduct” and be eligible for H-2C Status.

November 12, 2006

Senate Bill 2612: rights of current illegal workers

Immigration reform with a guest worker program may come up early next year in Congress. Let's look at what the Senate bill from this Spring says. Below is a summary of Title VI in Senate 2612, the bill passed by the Senate but stalled due to the House’s draconian, enforcement only bill. This title deals with the rights of current illegal workers. Where I comment, I start with “PFR”.

The National Immigration Forum is the source of this analysis.

There are 7.5 million illegal workers in the U.S, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Roughly 5 million of these workers have been here for at least five years. They are allowed to stay so long as they meet the requirements for the 5 year plus workers below. Roughly 1 million have been here between two and five years. They can stay per the rules below. That leaves 1.5 million workers who are out of luck. All these figures are really soft.

Title VI Work authorization and legalization of undocumented individuals

For those in the U.S. for more than five years:

They had to have worked for at least three years during the five year period. The applicant must speak English. And, they need to pay $2,000, plus a $750 “state impact fee”, for a total of $2,750, “in addition to application fees.”

The bill’s language creates a path for these individuals to gain permanent residence status.

PFR: The 3 out of 5 years requirement will not be a problem for men, who have an employment rate estimated to be over 90%, For Hispanic women with children, the employment rate is estimated at below 60%; however, spouses and children of the principal applicant are OK.

For those in the U.S. under five years but more than two years:

These people will come under a new Deferred Mandatory Departure (DMD) status. They had to have been in the U.S. and working before 1/7/06 (this date will obviously be adjusted forward). They must pay $1,000 per application plus $500 for each spouse and child, and the applicant must also pay a $750 state impact fee. The application must be filed within six months of the first day on which the application form is made available (there appears to be no such timeliness standards for the over five year applicant).

The awardee will be able to work in the U.S. for three years. There is no clear path for these individuals to gain permanent residence status.

For those who entered the U.S. after 1/7/06:

On the face of it, these individuals must leave the U.S. However, they can apply for the AgJobs provision, which creates and agricultural worker program that includes earned legalization for undocumented farm workers. They can also apply for H-2C status (which I will describe in the next day or two).

PFR: I have posted on AgJobs before. This is a major concern of Californian farmers: they need the workers.

The dog that didn’t bark: failure of anti-immigration as a campaign position

Immigration reform with a guest worker program is on track for being one of the most important issues in 2007 -- in part because the anti-immigration candidates were beaten, across the country.

The National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration organization, analyzed the elections results where a Senate, House or gubernatorial candidate voiced anti-immigration positions. Its assessment: “First and foremost, [the electorate] defied the pre-election conventional wisdom that had immigration emerging as the wedge issue that would help the Republicans either limit their losses or even retain control of the House of Representatives. Candidates that backed broad and practical reforms performed much better than candidates who espoused a hard enforcement-only or enforcement-first position.”

Perhaps the sentinel event was the defeat of a strenuously ani-immigration candidate in AZ. “In Arizona-8 Republican Randy Graf lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords by 54% - 42%. This was a closely watched race for a toss up district along the U.S.-Mexico border in a state in which immigration is the number one issue. Graf made the prophetic statement, "If this issue can't be won in this district [by hard-liners], the argument can be made that it can't be won anywhere in the country."

Further xcerpts from the Forum’s analysis…

Continue reading "The dog that didn’t bark: failure of anti-immigration as a campaign position" »

November 8, 2006

Electoral result: We'll enact a guest worker program next year

1. The House is now run by people who want it. 2. The Senate, whichever way it goes (it is 5 AM on 11/8) is even more liking it, and 3. Bush wants it. But especially, the Dems want it to court the Hispanic vote in 2008. Count on it happening next year.

November 1, 2006

Immigration reform - for 2007?

President Bush and a Congress controlled in part or whole by Democrats will most likely collaborate in passing a liberal immigration reform package, with a guest workers program.

Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Nov-Dec issue of Foreign Affairss, sizing up the case for immigration reform that is basically pro-immigration. I have excerpted from his article,.

Here is his summary

The United States is far less divided on immigration than the current debate would suggest. An overwhelming majority of Americans want a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Washington's challenge is to translate this consensus into sound legislation that will start to repair the nation's broken immigration system.

Continue reading "Immigration reform - for 2007?" »

October 31, 2006

Arizona, microcosm of views on immigration: candidates positions

The Christian Science Monitor ran an extensive report on how the immigration issue is playing out among Nov. 7 political; candidates. Bottom line: immigration is a big issue, but cutting both ways. Read this about polling results:

"Our surveys show that immigration is the most important issue for likely voters in this state," says Fred Solop, a political scientist at Northern Arizona University and director of the Social Research Laboratory there. But voters aren't distinguishing between competing proposals, he adds: "They just want something to be done."

And read this from the Chamber of Commerce

"Arizona is a microcosm of the nation when it comes to views on this issue. We're ground zero for the debate," says Farrell Quinlan, a spokesman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix. "Our economy is growing, and a lot of industries have grown to rely on that source of labor."

And this dose of reality:

In peak migration season, more than 8,000 immigrants cross from Mexico into Arizona every day, according to the National Border Patrol Council. Many find jobs in the state's booming construction, tourism, and farm industries. But the surge in newcomers exacts a heavy toll on schools, hospitals, and law enforcement, as well as on the migrants themselves, who in summer months perish by the scores in Arizona's harsh border regions.

The article goes on….

The state's all-Republican congressional delegation - some of whom are in unexpectedly close contests for reelection - is deeply divided on the immigration issue. Sharing [retiring Republican Representative [Randy] Kolbe's [moderate] view are Rep. Jeff Flake, in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Mesa, and the very popular Sen. John McCain. They'd like to see an approach to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for some of the 12 million people now in the US illegally.

On the other side are Graf and Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who represents the also-upscale Fifth Congressional District in Scottsdale. They say their colleagues' plan amounts to amnesty for illegal immigrants and would reward people for breaking the law. The nation must secure its borders first, they say. Then there's Sen. Jon Kyl, up for reelection this year, who favors expanding a guestworker program but who would also require undocumented workers to leave the US before applying for citizenship.

Senator McCain's approach is to put party loyalty ahead of immigration differences. He has endorsed both Graf and Representative Hayworth, rather than candidates whose views on immigration are closer to his own. He is also stumping for Senator Kyl.

October 20, 2006

The Hispanic vote and the next Congress

It’s worth pausing to think about the November Congressional elections, the Hispanic vote, and the next few years of working immigrant policy. Will the elections results improve chances of a guest worker program being enacted?

There are about 200 million eligible voters in the U.S. About 8.6% of them are Hispanic. The Hispanic population is booming, though more of it is underage compared to white and black populations. Between 2002 and 2005, The Pew Hispanic Center reports that the Hispanic population grew by 21.5% compared to 1.6% among whites, 7.4% among blacks, and 24.6% among Asians.

In 2005, Hispanic comprised at least 5% of eligible votes in 15 states: AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, IL, MA, NV, NJ, NM, NY, RI, TX, UT and WY.

Democratic takeover of Senate and/or the House will shift power to those who agree with Bush’s guest worker program ideas. Would the prospect of a guest worker program improve if the Hispanic vote on November 7 was more dominant than in the past? I say yes, especially if Hispanic turnout suggests a pattern of increasing participation trending towards white levels of participation.

A recent Pew Hispanic Center study on the 2006 elections reports that Hispanics increased as a share of eligible voters from 7.4% in 2000 to 8.6% in 2006. There are now 17 million Hispanic citizens over the age of 18.

The big question is if the historically low rate of Hispanic registration among eligible voters will improve. According to the Center, in 2004 the registration rates among eligible voters were 58% for “Latinos”, 69% for blacks, and 75% for whites.

This November, if Latinos register according to 2004 patterns, there will be 10 million registered Latino voters. If they register at the 2004 white rate, there will be 12.3 million registered Latino voters.

October 10, 2006

I'll bet the fence is never built

Here's why:

1. Building it creates mighty bad eminent domain problems.

2. It is disliked by many border area Americans who depend on Mexican labor crossing over daily.

3. The Hispanics middle class is ever bigger, ever richer, and more politically vocal. (The number of Hispanics earning over $100,000 grew by 64% between 2000 and 2005, compared with 40% for all other groups on average.)

October 3, 2006

Ten top migration issues of 2005

According to Migration Information Source, several of the “top ten migration issues" of last year were related to U.S. immigration in general and working immigrants in particular.

The most relevant ones were:

US Immigration Reform Moves Forward
This year, members of Congress have sponsored numerous reform proposals that have pushed the debate forward and generated significant media coverage.

Temporary Work Programs Back in Fashion
The legacy of guest-worker programs has kept most Western countries from considering new schemes even when faced with low-skill labor shortages. But those attitudes began to shift in 2005.

Remittances Reach New Heights
In 2005, research into the size of remittances and their role as a development tool reached a new peak.

Growing Competition for Skilled Workers (and Foreign Students)
The intensifying competition for professionals such as doctors, nurses, and IT workers, as well as foreign university students, was on the minds of media pundits and policymakers this year.

Others were:

Challenges of Immigrant Integration: Muslims in Europe
Only recently have European politicians and public opinion leaders talked about the need to focus on the integration of immigrants and their children.

Linking Security and Immigration Controls: The Post-9/11 US Model Goes Global
Since 9/11, the United States has helped push its border inspection and security agenda and a focus on biometric solutions onto the agendas of other countries.

EU Disunion: Immigration in an Enlarged Europe
Only the UK, Ireland, and Sweden have allowed accession-state nationals to work without permits since May 1, 2004 — and hundreds of thousands from Eastern Europe have arrived.

September 23, 2006

Canada’s use of skills based point system for immigration: do we need it?

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held hearings on September 14 to explore the merits of skills based point system for managing much of permanent immigration. Canada has been using such a system for years. Here is what I gleaned from a presentation by Queen's University professor Charles M. Beach.

Beach said that Canada has “the highest per capita immigration rate in the world” – about 225,000 persons per years out of a population of 30 million. Our legal permanent immigration is somewhat under a million a year; Canada’s rate is over double of ours.

Canada has three immigration tracks: economic, family, and humanitarian (mainly refugees). The economic track has grown relatively to the others as Canada’s immigration rate has grown from the 1980s. The economic category accounted for 35% of immigrants in 1980, but 59% in 2000.

The country’s Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has considerable legal latitude to set target levels and make changes to the skills base system.

This system was introduced in 1967. Originally it was focused in part on trying to target immigration to meet periodic labor gaps, but that approach being cumbersome was abandoned towards a more generic skills scoring protocol. It had an effect: changes early in the 1990s led to a large increase in the rate of higher educated immigrants. The strategy: don’t fill labor shortages, but foster labor productivity and growth.

Since the mid 1990s, three factors in the scoring system dominant: education, age and French/English fluency. Maximum points for these categories respectively are a four year university degree, 21 - 49 age range, and fluency in both languages. If you get these maximum points you earn 59 of the 70 out of a 100 points you need for acceptance. Of these factors, education carries the greatest weight.

Douglas S. Massey of Princeton University also testified. I have posted on him before and find his a voice of reason. Massey noted that employment based immigration is about 20% of total American immigration. We gave much more weight to family affiliations. Canada and Australia have more employment-focused immigration policies needed to compete with the United States. We don’t need such a system. “In the long run, the primary source of America’s stock of skills, talents and education must come from investments made init sown human capital” – through education, training and research. Immigration to Massey is a “poor substitute” for investments in education and training. Massey also noted that many immigrants have problems earning enough, and that the highest educated immigrants are not necessarily the happiest. Massey recommended, in effect, an approach which balances employment focused immigration policy with one of family integration and fuller implementation of the population aspects of NAFTA.

September 5, 2006

House Republicans to stop beating the immigration reform drum

This, as reported through several media in particular the New York Times, is pleasant to hear, at the very least. I suspect that the decision was made on the basis that House Republicans and Senate Republicans were at odds over immigration reform, and that the get-tough House approach ran counter to the White House's view.

August 15, 2006

Why the Basic Pilot program is a failure

Earlier this month, James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., a scholar at the Heritage Foundation, took apart the basic Pilot Program, created in 1996, as an ineffective tool to confirm legal status of workers. He proposed instead that Homeland Security be given access to IRS taxpayer files, which he says will nab employers that persistently hire illegals because it will more accurately determine fake and borrowed social security numbers. I am posting here to address the critique of the Basic Pilot Program.

The program works voluntarily by employers setting up an account with the Social Security Administration. The employer enters online the SSN number a new employee has given it. If the feds come back with a report of no match, then the employers needs to either get better proof from the worker or fire the worker.

The author notes that 10% of all submissions create mismatches. I contend that any verification program—whether to catch illegal workers, catch student truancy or confirm theater reservations – with an exception rate of 10% and is shot full of ambivalent motivations will never succeed on a big scale.

He contends:

Essentially, Basic Pilot could not and cannot identify imposters or stop unauthorized workers from creating false documentation, nor can it hinder employers from illegally hiring unauthorized workers.
Basic Pilot does not address the prin­cipal means illegal workers use to get jobs. There are many ways an undocumented worker can get around the issue of work authorization. These include:

* using fraudulent documents;
* using information that belongs to another, thereby committing identity theft; and
* being hired by an employer who does not follow the law.

Basic Pilot did not prove efficient at eliminating any of these. Basic Pilot cannot stop undocumented workers from falsifying information or using some­one else’s information, thereby disallowing those legitimate workers whose information was stolen the authorization to work.

The report in full:

Continue reading "Why the Basic Pilot program is a failure" »

July 31, 2006

Immigration Voice, or "Green Card applicants unite!"

Here is an activist organization worthy of the times: Immigrantion Voice I doubt there is another web source of infotmed information about professional working visa problems that is as informative as this site..

Immigration Voice is a non-profit organization (501 (c) (4) pending) working to alleviate the problems faced by legal high-skilled foreign workers in the United States. We act as an interface between this set of immigrants and the legislative and executive branches of the government.

The mission of Immigration Voice is to organize grassroots efforts and resources to solve several problems in the employment based green card process including (a) delays due to Retrogression (visa number unavailability for certain employment-based categories) (b) delays due to USCIS processing backlogs and (c) delays due to Labor Certification backlogs. We will work to remove these and other flaws by supporting changes to immigration law for high-skilled legal employment-based immigrants. High-skilled legal immigrants strengthen the United States' economy and help maintain American technological superiority.

Under the tag “IV team” you’ll read about the activists in Immigration Voice: talented professionals caught in some small but interminable Kafkaesque nightmare. See this profile:

Aman Kapoor is the co-founder of Immigration Voice and is our liaison with other groups and agencies. Mr. Kapoor has been working in US for the last eight years. The prolonged employment-based immigration process has continued to hurt Mr. Kapoor’s career growth prospects. Mr. Kapoor possesses strong technical skills and has contributed in many high profile projects with large clients across the country. He has a Bachelors’ degree in Engineering and is presently pursuing his MBA in the U.S. His permanent residency application is being processed and the I-485 approval has been pending for more than 28 months. Mr. Kapoor and his family are now on third year EAD and continue to await approval of their Green Card application. Mr. Kapoor’s handle is WaldenPond and his email is

July 13, 2006

Two loopy proposals to control those pesky illegals

Here are two actual proposals to control the illegal immigrant population in America. One is to implant into each immigrant a computer chip. The other is to stretch an electrified fence along the Mexican border, set at a below – fatal level of power. Both proposers were apparently sober at the time.

According to one account, “Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has alarmed civil libertarians by promoting the company's subcutaneous human tracking device as a way to identify immigrants and guest workers. He appeared on the Fox News Channel [on May 18, 2006], the morning after President Bush called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigrants.

The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated Radio Frequency Identification tag that is injected into the flesh to uniquely number and identify people. The tag can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves from up to a foot or more away, right through clothing. The highly controversial device is also being marketed as a way to access secure areas, link to medical records, and serve as a payment device when associated with a credit card.
VeriChip's Silverman bandied about the idea of chipping foreigners on national television Tuesday, emboldened by the Bush Administration call to know "who is in our country and why they are here." He told Fox & Friends that the VeriChip could be used to register guest workers, verify their identities as they cross the border, and "be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level." He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it...."

Thanks to Stephanie King, a staffer on the Hill, for sending this excerpt from the publication, The Hill (no direct link available)

Steve King (R-IA) equates immigrants to livestock
It was prop time on the House floor Tuesday night when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), making the case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, showed a miniature version of a border wall that he "designed."
He had mock sand representing the desert as well as fake construction panels as C-SPAN focused in on the unusual display. But it got really interesting when King broke out the mock electrical wiring: "I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top."
He added, "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time." King spokeswoman Summer Johnson disputed the notion that it was an immigrant-livestock comparison, saying, "He was comparing a fence to a fence - a border fence to an Iowa farm fence." The outspoken proponent of border security, however, did not mention an Iowa farm fence during his show-and-tell performance.

July 8, 2006

Bloomberg: Economy would fail if illegal immigrants deported

The AP reported that NYC Mayor Bloomberg told a Senate hearing on July 6th that New York City has a half million illegal immigrants. That suggests there are about 300,000 illegal workers in the City. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 475,000 illegal workers in the entire New York State in 2005.

The AP story goes on:

The economy of the country's largest city and the entire nation would collapse if illegal immigrants were deported en masse, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a Senate committee hearing today. New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants, and a half-million of them came to this country illegally, Bloomberg testified. "Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders ... our city's economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it would collapse if they were deported," he said. "The same holds true for the nation."
The hearing, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in Philadelphia, was one of several held nationwide as congressional Republicans take to the road to discuss overhauling immigration laws.

July 7, 2006

Why the hotel industry wants a guest worker program

This I got from Workforce Management Online, or -- no link available. The website says that “the lodging industry is particularly concerned about issues of liability, both pertaining to the verification of worker documentation and to the use of subcontractors, says Shawn McBurney, vice president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association in Washington, D.C.”

The 10,000-member trade and advocacy organization worries about of the accuracy of the Department of Homeland Security's Basic Pilot Program, which is a database used for verifying the legal status of workers. Homeland Security's database has an average error rate of 1.4%, McBurney says. This rate, however, could increase once more participants join the system, potentially exposing hospitality employers to inadvertently hiring undocumented workers, he explains.

I have blogged before that the error rate problem is actually much worse. One third of all positives (i.e. "the worker’s illegal") are false – and hence the employer liability.

Another source of anxiety for the hospitality industry stems from proposed language in the House’s current version of the immigration reform bill that suggests employers could be liable for the actions of their subcontractors. Should this aspect of the bill come become law, it would virtually be a 180-degree departure from the current protocol in which subcontractors carry the responsibility of hiring decisions.
This could be a hard blow to the hospitality industry, where subcontracting is widely practiced to meet demand for large volumes of workers. Many of the 1.5 million workers in the hospitality industry were hired through subcontractors, allowing employers to save money, reduce paperwork and avoid the hassle, McBurney explains. Subcontracting can get quite convoluted because, oftentimes, subcontractors hire other subcontractors, muddying transparency and hindering accountability.

July 5, 2006

Industries lobbying for a guest worker program

Employers anxious to normalize the legal status of undocumented workers and to expand working immigration have come together in an organization active since 2001, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC). The list of business associations affiliated with EWIC provides an excellent overview of those industries that depend heavily on undocumented workers. They are in effect lobbying for a guest worker program. I have pasted this membership list below.

EWIC appears to be run out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. (202) 463-5931 contact:

It describes itself as “a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and other organizations from across the industry spectrum concerned with the shortage of both skilled and lesser skilled ("essential worker") labor. EWIC stands ready to work with the Administration and Congress to push forward on important immigration reform issues.

“EWIC supports policies that facilitate the employment of essential workers by U.S. companies and organizations. Current immigration law largely prevents the hiring of foreign essential workers. EWIC supports reform of US immigration policy to facilitate a sustainable workforce for the American economy while ensuring our national security and prosperity.”

The following membership list, taken from the WWIC website, is complete except for the roughly 10 individual employer names (the most notable of which are Tyson Foods and Marrriott).

American Health Care Association
American Hotel & Lodging Association
American Meat Institute
American Nursery & Landscape Association
American Road & Transportation Builders Association
American Staffing Association
American Subcontractors Association, Inc.
Associated Builders and Contractors
Associated General Contractors
Building Service Contractors Association International
California Landscape Contractors Association
Farm Equipment Wholesalers Association
Federation of Employers & Workers of America
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
International Franchise Association
National Association for Home Care
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds
National Club Association
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Roofing Contractors Association
National Tooling & Machining Association
National Wooden Pallet and Container Association
Outdoor Amusement Business Association
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association
Professional Landcare Network
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Society of American Florists
Travel Business Roundtable
Tree Care Industry Association
Truckload Carriers Association
United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association
US Chamber of Commerce

July 4, 2006

Bush may shift more towards House’s immigration proposal

The New York Times reported that the White House may be willing to back off from the Senate bill, and support a bill which focuses on enforcement and moves onto a guest worker program in a few years. If he does that, the Senate's reaction will be important to watch for -- especially the Senate Democrats, whose support may be essential to get any bill passed in the Senate. Delaying a guest worker program is bad news for illegal immigrants and businesses, both of whom are subject to more aggressive law enforcement.

The Times reports:

Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.
"He thinks that this notion that you can have triggers is something we should take a close look at, and we are," said Candi Wolff, the White House director of legislative affairs, referring to the idea that guest worker and citizenship programs would be triggered when specific border security goals had been met, a process that could take two years.

The Times summarizes a plan identified with Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence:

In a sign of that willingness, the White House last week invited a leading conservative proponent of an enforcement-first bill, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, to present his ideas to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office. Mr. Pence would require illegal immigrants — even those in the United States for decades — to leave the country briefly before returning, with proper documentation, to participate in a guest worker system. Private employment agencies would set up shop overseas to process applications; after six years in a guest worker program, an immigrant could apply for citizenship.

June 28, 2006

Senate immigration bill to lift ceilings on foreign nurses

I like to follow the issue of nursing immigration because it shows how U.S. immigration policy deals with a specific, large, and well defined class of professional workers. The Senate immigration reform bill removes caps for nurses for seven years.

According to the NY Times, foreign nurses have to pass U.S. nursing tests to qualify for visas. The articles goes on to say:

Last year, American nursing schools rejected almost 150,000 applications from qualified people, according to the National League for Nursing, a nonprofit group that counts more than 1,100 nursing schools among its members. One of the most important factors limiting the number of students was a lack of faculty to teach them, nursing organizations say. Professors of nursing earn less than practicing nurses, damping demand for teaching positions. Under the current immigration system, experts estimate that 12,000 to 14,000 nurses have immigrated to the United States annually on employment visas.
The primary sources for American employers will be the Philippines, India and China. Typically, nurses who enter the U.S. under the special J category for nurses obtain a green card for permanent residency and can bring their immediate family.
A nurse in the Philippines would earn a starting salary of less than $2,000 a year and at least $36,000 in the United States, said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a medical professor at the University of the Philippines who led the country's National Institutes of Health.
Britain is reportedly making financial compensation to Malawi to recognize that country’s loss of nurses to migrate to the U.K. If any nation has demanded such compensation or financial aid from the U.S., it has not been reported.

June 26, 2006

Phased immigration reform?

Phased immigration reform?

Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post

June 20, 2006

Republican Senator: REAL ID is a real stinker

Senator John Sununu represents NH, one of the states intending to be an early implementor of the REAL ID program -- creating a national standard of high tech driver's licenses. He roundly criticized the program in a recent column in the 5/17 Manchester Union Leader (no link available). "The flaws of REAL ID are fundamental and are slowly being realized by observers across the country." Here it is, somewhat excerpted. I have posted on it in the past.

WHEN THE 9/11 Commission released its report nearly two years ago, the commissioners made several recommendations which they believed would, if implemented, make us safer. One such recommendation stated, "The federal government should set standards for the issuance of . . . sources of identification, such as drivers' licenses."

Continue reading "Republican Senator: REAL ID is a real stinker" »

June 18, 2006

George Will on short vs long term politics on immigration

Washington Post columnist George Will writes today about the Republicans' temptation to attack Democrats for the Senate bill on immigration reform, calling it an amnesty sell-out. This attack we may see more of despite the fact that 33 Republican senators voted for the bill. Will notes that short term goals may yield long term losses:

Republicans very much want to pass an immigration bill as proof their party can govern. For that reason, there is no reason to expect Senate Democrats to compromise by passing something like the House bill. Nothing very different from it has any chance of being accepted by the House. So, safely assuming that the House-Senate conference fails to produce a compromise acceptable to both houses, when Congress returns to Washington after the Labor Day recess, the House may again pass essentially what it passed in December, just to enable Republicans to campaign on the basis of a clear and recent stance against exactly what Santorum's ad stands against.

The cost of this, paid in the coin of lost support among Latinos, the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority, may be reckoned later, for years. Remember this: Out West, feelings of all sorts about immigration policy are particularly intense, and if John Kerry had won a total of 127,014 more votes in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, states with burgeoning Latino populations, he would have carried those states and won the election. But for now, the minds of Republican candidates are concentrated on a shorter time horizon -- the next 4 1/2 months.

June 15, 2006

Poll: Senate's immigration bill more popular than House's

A Wall Street Journal poll taken 6/6 reports that 50% of respondents preferred the Senate bill, while 33% preferred the House bill. Answering the question "does immigration help more than it hurts?", 44% said yes vs. 37% who said yes on 12/5/05. Negatives were 45% and 53% respectively.

June 11, 2006

How the Senate bill increases worker immigration

What you see below is taken from an anti-immigration website, which quotes from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. You will see a brief description of the actual provisions in the Senate bill 2611 which passed the Senate, then you will see Session’s extrapolation to forecast total household related immigration in the next 20 years. I do not understand how Sessions came to some extremely high estimates.

Guest worker program: He estimates that the initial guest work program cap of 325,000 plus the amnestied numbers already in the U.S. could result in over 60 million people coming into the U.S. in the next 20 years. The only way on can get these figures is to assume that the guest workers stay beyond expiration and new ones continue to come in. It is impossible to square this with the realities of the American and Latin American economies.

Green care issuance: Sessions says that the bill increases green card issuance from 140,000 to 450,000 a year, and increases household member and relative green cards by several hundred thousand. Another source estimates that the green card cap will by 650,000.


H-2C Workers: By creating a new (H-2C) visa category for "temporary guest workers" (low skilled workers) with an annual "cap" of 325,000 that increases up to 20 percent each year the cap is met, the bill allows at least 6.5 million, and up to 60.7 million new guest workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years. There is nothing "temporary" about these workers. Employers may file a green card application on their behalf as soon as they arrive in the United States, or the worker may self-petition for a green card after four years of work.

H-4 Family Members of H-2C Workers: By creating a new visa category (H-4) for the immediate family members of the future low-skilled workers (H-2C), and allowing them to also receive green cards, the bill would allow at least 7.8 million, and up to 72.8 million immediate family members of low-skilled workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years.


H-1B: The bill would essentially open the borders to high-skilled workers, as well as low-skilled workers. By increasing the annual cap of 65,000 to 115,000, automatically increasing the new cap by 20 percent each year the cap is hit, and creating a new exemption to new cap for anyone who has an "advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math" from any foreign university, the number of H-1B workers coming into the United States would undoubtedly escalate. The 20-year impact of this escalation could be anywhere from 1 million to 20.1 million. H-1B workers are eligible for green cards and would be allowed to stay and work in the United States for as long as it takes to process the green card application.


Family Based Green Cards: The bill would increase the annual cap on family based green cards available to non-immediate family members (adult sons and daughters, adults siblings, and the spouses and children of adult siblings) by more than 100 percent, upping the current cap of 226,000 to 480,000 a year. Immediate family members are already able to immigrate without regard to the family based green card caps. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 5.1 million non-immediate family member green cards.

Employment Based Green Cards The bill would increase the annual cap on employment-based green cards by more than 500 percent, upping the current cap of 140,000 to 450,000 until 2016 and to 290,000 thereafter and exempting all immediate family members that currently count against the cap today (spouses, children and parents) from the newly escalated cap. The new exemption would result in an average of 540,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the first 10 years, and an average of 348,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the second 10 years. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 13.5 million employment-based green cards, for a total of 16.3 million employment-based green cards issued over the course of the next 20 years.

June 8, 2006

Colorado split on immigration reform

The state has one of the higher rates of illegal immigrants – 6.5% of the labor force, well above the 4.9% average for the country. Washington delegation members embrace aggressive anti-immigrant positions; the legislature has passed new policing laws; yet on March 25, 50,000 people showed up for a pro immigration rally in Denver.

Congressman Tom Tancredo, Chairman of the 97-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, attacked the Senate’s amnesty bill. According one profile of him, Tancredo believes that “immigration is a life-or-death issue in the culture war to save America”.

At the federal level, Senator Allard voted against the Senate’s immigration bill. Senator Salazar did not vote. A reportied by the Rocky Mountain News, The state legislature passed and Governor Bill Owens signed a bill to create a small immigration enforcement unit in the state police, and to require state contractors to sign up for the federal government’s online program to check a worker’s immigration status. Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Frederico Pena has been organizing a pro-immigration group.

Gov. Bill Owens this week signed into law bills that will create an immigration unit in the Colorado State Patrol and require state contractors to sign up for an online federal program that checks a worker's immigration status.

Continue reading "Colorado split on immigration reform" »

May 30, 2006

Working in the military to gain U.S. citizenship

In 2003, 2.6% of the American military were non-citizens. There were over 37,000 non-citizen active duty members of the armed forces, out of a total of 1,414,000 on active duty. About 6,000 enroll each year. Until recently a non-citizen had to serve three years, have already permanent resident (green card) status, to become naturalized. That is today reduced to one year. Normal minimum wait time for green card holders for naturalization is five years. These rules for military members are laid out in section 328 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

May 26, 2006

Roll call vote for S. 2611 62 yes 36 no

Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Allard (R-CO), Nay
Allen (R-VA), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Bennett (R-UT), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Nay

Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brownback (R-KS), Yea
Bunning (R-KY), Nay
Burns (R-MT), Nay
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Chafee (R-RI), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay

Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Coleman (R-MN), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Dayton (D-MN), Yea
DeMint (R-SC), Nay

DeWine (R-OH), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Dole (R-NC), Nay
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Nay
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feingold (D-WI), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea

Frist (R-TN), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Gregg (R-NH), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Hutchison (R-TX), Nay
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Inouye (D-HI), Yea

Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Jeffords (I-VT), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kennedy (D-MA), Yea
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea

Levin (D-MI), Yea
Lieberman (D-CT), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Lott (R-MS), Nay
Lugar (R-IN), Yea
Martinez (R-FL), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea

Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Nay
Obama (D-IL), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Not Voting

Salazar (D-CO), Not Voting
Santorum (R-PA), Nay
Sarbanes (D-MD), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay

Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Sununu (R-NH), Nay
Talent (R-MO), Nay
Thomas (R-WY), Nay
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

May 25, 2006

Senate passes S. 2611 62 to 36

The vote by region. I am trying to get the vote by senator:


Midwest, 16,8, 0
Northeast 16,2, 0
South 13,18,1
West 17,8,1
Total 62,36,2

Senate ready to vote on final S.2611 with guest worker provision intact

Go to for amendment by amendment summaries of the bill. I could not find any that materially affected the guest workers provisions. In fact, the Senate decisively turned down on 5/16 an amendment to remove the guest worker title to the act (see below). As I have noted before, the whole issue of identification requirements is held hostage by bureaucratic delays and confusion about getting these IDs in place, and that will take yearsto resolve.

The Liberty Post summarized the floor debate and final vote 69- 28 against an amendment to repeal the guest worker provision.

Senator Dorgan then offered amendment #4017, to repeal the guest worker program in S.2611 (Title IV).

Continue reading "Senate ready to vote on final S.2611 with guest worker provision intact" »

May 24, 2006

Summary of Senate Bill 2611

This is the bill passed by the Senate. The summary below, taken from the Library of Congress' leigslative website, is for the 4/7/06 version of the bill. I copy from below the critical section missing in the House bill: a guest worker program: Establishes a temporary guest worker program (H-2C visa). Provides: (1) that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall determine H-2C eligibility; (2) for a three-year admission with one additional three-year extension; (3) issuance of H-4 nonimmigrant visas for accompanying or following spouse and children; (4) for U.S. worker protection; (5) for implementation of an alien employment management system; and (6) establishment of a Temporary Worker Task Force.

Continue reading "Summary of Senate Bill 2611" »

May 22, 2006

My prediction for an immigration reform bill this year

I predict that Congress will not resolve in conference committee its bicameral differences over the legilsation. Thus, every member of Congress will be able to report to her or his district at least one vote on immigration reform, without there being a bill that gets to the President to sign.

All parties now, having taken the measure of public sentiment and having inspected their voting constituencies, feel that being on record for passing a bill is at least marginally better in terms of the November Congressional races than not being on record for passing a bill. A conference committee deadlock allows everyone to say that she or he has tried to pass a bill.

I have a very hard time with the notion that House Republican conservatives will retreat from their anti-guest worker stance. And the Senate will nevet drop its relatively strong guest worker program.

May 16, 2006

House, Senate and Bush ideas on illegal immigrants compared

The NY Times published today a checklist comparison of these three points of view. You can find the president’s address in here.

Full Text of House Bill (H.R.4437) here

Full Text of Senate Bill (S.2611) here

Temporary Worker Program

House (passed): No such provisions. Eliminates the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.

Senate (not yet passed): Creates a temporary worker program, with a potential path to legal permanent residence for individuals currently outside the U.S. Employers seeking to hire foreign workers would first have to try to recruit an available American worker.

President in speech: Has called on Congress to pass a guest worker program for more than two years. Said that "to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program."

Legalization of Undocumented Immigrants

House: No such provisions.

Senate: Provides legalization criteria for three different groups. The major one, called the "Earned Legalization Program," would provide a path to legal permanent residence for undocumented immigrants who have been here for five years and employed for three of those and who meet other requirements.

President: While rejecting "an automatic path to citizenship," Mr. Bush said that immigrants should be given a chance to gain citizenship after they "pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law."

Worksite Enforcement

Continue reading "House, Senate and Bush ideas on illegal immigrants compared" »

Bush's May 15 speech on illegal immigration in outline and full text

President Bush in his May 15 speech for the White House presented a five point plan – four substantive and one rhetorical – to resolve issues with illegal immigration. He did not address any other immigration issues, such as changing the quota for legal immigration

POINT ONE: Beef up border controls and handling of arrested persons. He said that by the end of his presidency the size of the Border Patrol will have doubled from 9,000 to 18,000. State and local law enforcement authorities will be given special training. He will assign 6,000 National Guardsmen, drawn apparently from border states. More detention center beds will be created.

Proper training and coordination with state and local law enforcement is a difficult undertaking. I have addressed this a bit in an analysis of a recently passed illegal immigration bill enacted by Georgia.

POINT TWO: Temporary worker program. He clearly wanted to keep this topic low profile. Out of a 2,700 word speech he devoted on paragraph, about 200 words, to this program. I have covered this topic extensively. Search under “guest worker” and “Judiciary” with my pessimistic assessment of passage potential this year.

POINT THREE: Tamper proof identification to verify legal status of workers. I have addressed the tamper proof card issue here, and – regarding driver license “Real ID”, here. Also, go here for how federal agencies do not cooperate.

POINT FOUR: A path to citizenship for illegal immigrants here already for more than a few years. “They will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules…” The Pew Hispanic Center at one place estimated that 40% of unauthorized persons (4.4 million) as of March 2005 have been in the United States since 2000 which means that 60% (6.6 million) have been here since before 2000.

It has also made these tenure estimates: Time in the US: Five years or more: 6.7 million; Two to five years: 2.8 million; Less than two years: 1.6 million, Total: 11.1 million

POINT FIVE: a rhetorical flourish – requiring immigrants to speak English. This point sort of sailed in from nowhere.

Only 3% of unauthorized Hispanic persons say they speak English “very well.”

Continue reading "Bush's May 15 speech on illegal immigration in outline and full text" »

May 3, 2006

Illegal Immigrants, Immigration Reform and the Catholic Church

Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, a key advocacy group, wrote on 5/1 about the church’s positive, perhaps even militant stand, in regarding undocumented workers rights. He write about recent events and gives a short history of the experience of Catholic immigrants in the early decades of the 20th Century, when they often suffered from discrimination. “Cardinal Roger Mahony electrified the US immigration reform debate by announcing on March 1, 2006 (Ash Wednesday), that he would instruct archdiocesan priests and lay Catholics to ignore provisions in a House-passed “enforcement only” bill (H.R. 4437) — were they to pass — that would make it a crime to assist unauthorized immigrants.”

In February 2003….bishops in the United States and Mexico released Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope, a pastoral statement that called for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Strangers No Longer built on themes established in other pastoral statements by US bishops (One Family Under God in 1995 and Unity in Diversity in 2000), annual statements by the Holy Father on migration, and a long history of Catholic teaching documents. The US bishops have conducted extensive rollout of these documents through public gatherings, within the relevant church structures, and to lay Catholics, in response to what it sees as increasingly harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation.

Kerwin provides an historical perspective: “….The church sees parallels between the last great wave of immigrants to the United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the current wave.”

Continue reading "Illegal Immigrants, Immigration Reform and the Catholic Church" »

May Day Immigrant rallies and aftermath

The media appears to be bemused by the May Day rallies. What is their impact? My guess is that the rallies may have hardened the get-though sentiment among Republicans in the House of Representatives, while they also may have moved forward political organization among Hispanics. It may result in higher voter registrations among Hispanics.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer starts with: “A day after more than 1 million immigrants and supporters skipped work to march in rallies across the nation, some advocates say the mixed messages surrounding the "Day Without Immigrants" show a need for a unified front and the movement's own Cesar Chavez. An estimated 400,000 people marched in both Chicago and Los Angeles, but fewer than 10,000 turned out in cities including Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, which all have large Hispanic populations.

With so many organizers pushing their own plans for the May 1 rallies, and no single group at the forefront, there wasn't a unifying plan. And there were conflicting signals from various leaders questioning whether a boycott that disrupted the economy would do more harm than good. Even individual immigration-reform leaders are torn over how best to keep the momentum going. The grass-roots flavor of the recent demonstrations has generated excitement and publicity, but empowering an umbrella organization or dynamic figurehead could galvanize the effort the way Chavez did for farm workers and Martin Luther King Jr. did for the civil rights movement.
"It's always good to have a figure that melds it together," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, a major organizer and supporter of rallies Monday. "But right now, we are seeing hundreds of leaders coming together. Many of them are people nobody had ever heard of," Medina said. "This organic organization will outlive any one charismatic figure." Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, director of immigration studies at New York University, said he believes any consolidation of local groups won't happen until leaders see what comes out of Congress. "Clearly the ball now is in the court of the political class," Suarez-Orozco said. "But in the long run, the elephant in the room is how (the marches) will be translated into political muscle."
Organizers in many cities see that effort already under way. Reform activists in Oklahoma, California, Alaska and Illinois said they have started voter registration or citizenship drives in recent weeks - making good on the promise emblazoned on thousands of marchers' signs that read: "Today we march, tomorrow we vote." Medina said SEIU planned to sponsor citizenship forums in major cities and work with churches and activist groups to do voter registration drives.

April 23, 2006

Federal government unable to enforce immigration laws effectively

The National Journal has run an analysis of Bush Administration’s struggle to enforce laws pertaining to illegal immigrants. These are 11 to 12 million people, and the government has 325 agents dedicated to rounding them up, and 28,000 holding cells for them. According to the article, the government reported that last year it deported 200,000 persons. However, some 500,000 slipped in illegally. And some 100,000 caught by the government last year disappeared prior to deportation – they were released pending deportation proceedings. Washington is trying to get more expedited deportations (without an judicial review). I doubt the 200,000 figure. I suspect that it includes a lot of people who were nabbed at borders and thus had not penetrated into the United States. The article excerpted below has information on resources used, persons arrested, and the judicial system.

The article, “Washington’s immigration law mess,” reports:

Continue reading "Federal government unable to enforce immigration laws effectively" »

April 19, 2006

New Georgia law on undocumented workers S. Bill 529: worth a look

Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue signed Senate Bill 529, Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, on April 17. This law includes some very interesting provisions which, in effect, codify the role of states in immigration status verification, employer and employee responsibilities, and the provision of public services to undocumented persons. The law surely contains some problematic language. However, I am impressed by the evenhandedness and reasonableness of many of the provisions. For instance, local law officials must be certified by the state in order to enforce federal immigration law; undocumented persons under 18 can presumably continue to receive public benefits; and persons 18 and over can continue to receive Good Samaritan services. There is a special section devoted to stemming human trafficking.

This may well become a model for other states. I have excerpted large sections of the law.

For a complete copy of the law, go here. For the summary provided by the Governor’s office, go here.

Governor’s Office fact sheet on the law: go here:

Excerpts from the law:

Continue reading "New Georgia law on undocumented workers S. Bill 529: worth a look" »

April 16, 2006

Congressional poll on immigration bill

The National Journal surveyed Congressional members about their preferences for an immigration bill. Only 7% of Republicans want the guest work-focused bill approved by the Senate Judiciary committee; compared to 53% of Democrats. To me, this signals the death of prospects for a bill to be passed this year, as I have noted before.

Here are the results: first, the option, then the Republican response, then the Democrat response.

enforcement bill only: 32%, 11%
temporary guest worker program plus tighter borders: 54%, 11%
path to citizenship plus tighter borders: 7%, 53%
enact nothing: 2%, 26%
other: 5%, 0%

April 12, 2006

Economic impact of a guest worker program on American agriculture

Fox News
carried on 4/10 a story, “Farmers Keep Wary Eye on Immigration Debate” which has some good interview quotes. The nub of the article is that farm owners need Hispanic workers and they need them cheap ($10 and hour). A guest worker program will provide the workers, but I expect at a noticeably higher cost. I have noted that the bill sent out by the Senate Judiciary Committee had an “AgJobs”

Here is my posting about my own remote state of Vermont depending on Hispanic workers to keep its diary industry alive --if only for the tourism industry.

From the Fox News article:

Cutting farmers' access to cross-border workers without giving them an alternative could cost the industry up to $9 billion in annual production, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has long lobbied for a streamlined temporary worker program.

Continue reading "Economic impact of a guest worker program on American agriculture" »

This week’s immigrant demonstrations make big impact

"People Power" is how the New York Times painted the large and many orderly demonstrations this Monday. In Washington DC, Ted Kennedy addressed the crowd like a modern day Henry V, evoking future memories of that day. Demonsrtators read from sheets the following phonetized pledge of allegiance: “Ai pledch aliyens to di fleg, Of d Yunaited Esteits of America, An tu di republic for wich it stands, Uan naishion, ander Gad, Indivisibol, Wit liberti an yostis, For oll”

The immigration rallies of recent weeks have drawn an astounding number of people around the country: Monday's "national day of action" was attended by an estimated 180,000 in Washington, 100,000 each in Phoenix and New York City, 50,000 each in Atlanta and Houston, and tens of thousands more in other cities.

Adding in the immense marches last month in Los Angeles and Chicago, the immigrants and their allies have carried off an amazing achievement in mass political action, even though many of them are here illegally and have no right to vote.
The marchers in white T-shirts poured out of the subway doors and merged into a stream, flowing like blood cells through the tubular innards of the Washington Metro, past turnstiles and up escalators and out into the delicate brilliance of a fine spring day. On the street, they met up with the others — young parents, old people, toddlers in strollers, teenagers in jeans and jewelry — and headed to the Mall, where they and their American flags dissolved into a shimmering sea of white, red and blue.

The AP reported the following:

"This is bigger than the civil rights movement in the sixties. This is huge," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show." "What this is building is enormous pressure on the Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill _ tighten border security, more border patrol agents, secure the border from drugs and illegal traffic, but also a sensible legalization plan that brings the 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows," he said.

Out of Many, One: The Far-Reaching Touch of the Crowd” was the title of an analysis in the Washington Post on 4/11 by a reporter clearly impressed by the orderliness of the demonstration. “The crowd as historical actor is acting again.”

April 11, 2006

Lessons from immigration reform in 1986

David North closely analyzed the 1986 reform effort – IRCA, or the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and found lessons for today. In his paper published at an immigration lawyer website, he lists six attributes of IRCA worth noting:

1. Large numbers—often much larger than anticipated—of aliens sought legalization and the overwhelming majority of applications were accepted.

2. The compromises leading to the passage of the legislation led to an extremely complex program, full of internal inconsistencies. [This is already evident in the guest worker and amnesty provisions proposed in 2006 – PFR]

3. There was a great deal of many different kinds of fraud in the program; much of the apparent fraud did not lead to the denial of applications.

4. The promised balance—of a large legalization program for currently illegal aliens joined with a strict enforcement program against the future arrival of illegal aliens—did not eventuate. Yes, there was much legalization, but there was little enforcement of the law forbidding the employment of the undocumented (employer sanctions). [It may well be that the law enforcement system in the U.S. is so poorly acculturated to personal identity enforcement (“big brother”) that it will always be messy – PFR]

5. Within the legalization process there was a built-in (if probably unconscious) bias toward Hispanics and away from other undocumented populations. [We will see a lot of Europeans and Asian computer specialists coming out of the woodwork – PFR]

6. Demographic considerations (are there too many of us?) and equity in the labor market (are we widening the disparity between rich and poor?) were largely overlooked. [These issues have of course been much more openly addressed, especially in the past few months. There is a lot of research on these issues, serving as a foundation for books and articles. - PFR]

April 9, 2006

Opinions by Washington Post, NYT's Nicholas Kristoff

I am excerpting two opinion pieces from this weekend: the Washington Post’s editorial 4/8/06, 'Nirvana,' Lost Thanks largely to Democrats, the Senate missed an opportunity, and Nicholas Kristoff’s column today 4/9/06 in the New York Times, “Compassion that hurts.”

The editorial says that the compromised bill was working in the right direction and that Democrats killed it. I have a problem with an unstated premise of the editorial, that the compromise bill would not be savaged on the floor of the Senate. More likely, no bill will come out of conference with the enforcement-focused House of Representatives. Sure, Democrats at the time would very much like to run in November with a partisan pro-Hispanic position and no legislation enacted with a Republican majority in Congress.

Kristoff essentially repeats arguments made and cited before by me, that massive immigration by poorly educated Hispanics are to the detriment of America’s poorly educated. (To find the several entries, search for Borjas and Camarota.)

The Washington Post’s editorial (link not available):

Continue reading "Opinions by Washington Post, NYT's Nicholas Kristoff" »

April 7, 2006

U.S. Senate struggles on April 6 with immigration bill compromise

The Senate this week came up with a compromise which in my judgment is doomed to fail, for at least two reasons. First, the anti-amnesty lobby wants to shred it. Second, it will be incredibly hard to enforce. To me, this is a means by some Senate Republicans to record a pro-business, pro Hispanic voter vote for a McCain-like bill before such a bill is mauled in conference committee by the House. The business lobby and Hispanic community appears to be strongly in support of the McCain-like bill as it will provides for a continuity of residence and work.

The Senate is (as of right now) proposing in effect to modify the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is modeled after the MeCain bill. This bill pretty much allows all illegal immigrants to stay in the country for a nominal penalty and sets them on the road to long term residency or citizenship. I addressed the Committee’s March 27 work here.

The compromise creates artificial categories of immigrants defined by duration of illegal residency so far in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center quickly came out with an estimate of the duration of illegal residency so far. It says it has “produced estimates of the unauthorized population according to the categories established in the legislation now before the Senate. These estimates are based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey. For a full report based on that data please go to” here.

Time in the US

Five years or more: 6.7 million
Two to five years: 2.8 million
Less than two years: 1.6 million

Total: 11.1 million

Based on analysis of other data sources that offer indications of the pace of growth in the foreign-born population, the Center developed an estimate of 11.5 to 12 million for the unauthorized population as of March 2006.

April 2, 2006

Anti-guestworker panel argues its case

I have condensed the transcript of a March 3 2006 panel discussion called: Guestworker Programs: Do They Make Sense for America? The meeting was sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies, and the transcript came from its website. All the panelists are vocal critics of the guestworker program. I have divided the posting into major segments: (1) 1986 IRCA failed in processing, enforcement, and numbers of evaders, (2) economics of farm labor and what happens when labor costs rise (we adjust) (3) net cost to taxpayer even after guestworker program of $10B, and (4) How to deal with current 12 million illegal immigrants (attrition).

Continue reading "Anti-guestworker panel argues its case" »

AgJobs bill passes Judiciary Committee March 27

AgJobs legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27. This bill significantly revises the government’s H-2A guest worker program for farm workers. Key is an earned legal immigration status provision which the Fund estimates will cover several hundred thousand undocumented farm workers. The bill creates a “blue card” status which can lead to a green card.

According to a Farmworker Justice Fund press release,

AgJOBS contains two basic programs. First, the earned legalization program would allow many unauthorized immigrant farmworkers to earn legal immigration status by demonstrating their recent agricultural work experience in the U.S. and by continuing to work in agriculture for three to five years. Second, it would revise the H-2A agricultural guest worker program to streamline the process for employers while retaining major protections for workers.

All of the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Senator Edward Kennedy, supported AgJOBS. The Committee Republicans who voted for AgJOBS were Senators DeWine, Brownback, and Specter. Senators Hatch and Graham “passed,” choosing not to vote on the AgJOBS amendment. The Republican opponents were Coburn, Grassley, Kyl, Sessions, and Cornyn.

Provisions include

* To enter the earned legalization program, farmworkers will have to show that they performed at least 150 days of agricultural work in the U.S. during the 24-month period ending December 31, 2005. (This is not a per-year requirement; it is a total of 150 days.)

* Once the person shows eligibility, he or she gets a "blue card" to demonstrate temporary resident status. Previously, there was no special card or color.

* Once the farmworker obtains a blue card, the farmworker's spouse and minor children obtain temporary resident status and the spouse gets work authorization. These family members may also then travel across the U.S. border.

* To earn a green card, the farmworkers must perform agricultural work for at least 100 work days per year for five years, or perform 150 days per year for three years. Participants may work outside agriculture but only if they continue to meet the annual agricultural work requirement.

* Disqualification will occur due to conviction of a felony or three misdemeanors or a single crime that involves bodily injury or injury to property in excess of $500.

* In addition to an application fee, farmworkers will have to pay a fine of $100 upon obtaining a blue card.

* To obtain a green card, farmworkers must pay a fine of $400 and must be current on their income taxes.

* The earned legalization program has a cap of 1.5 million.

* The H-2A temporary foreign worker program will allow employers in the dairy industry to hire workers even if they are year-round workers.

April 1, 2006

David Brook’s illuminating column about immigrants

New York Times columnist David Brooks penned what may turn out to the most interesting pro-immigration argument by a moderate conservative. He says that he supports Hispanic immigration for four reasons.

"My first argument is that the exclusionists are wrong when they say the current wave of immigration is tearing our social fabric...My second argument is that the immigrants themselves are like a booster shot of traditional morality injected into the body politic. Immigrants work hard...My third argument is that good values lead to success, and that immigrants' long-term contributions more than compensate for the short-term strains they cause...My fourth argument is that government should be at least as virtuous as the immigrants themselves."

I have quoted his column in full:

Continue reading "David Brook’s illuminating column about immigrants" »

Large Los Angeles immigration rally echoed protests about Proposition 187 in mid 1990s

On Saturday, March 25, a huge, largely Hispanic attended rally in Los Angeles protested anti-illegel immigrant proposals in Congress. Some compared the rally to Hispanic protests against a mostly Republican-backed crack-down law passed by California in 1994, which a federal court later overturned. As noted below, Prop 187 had "devastating impact" on Republican access to Hispanic votes.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times,

A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday [March 25] to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.' southern border. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa briefly addressed the rally. "We cannot criminalize people who are working, people who are contributing to our economy and contributing to the nation," Villaraigosa said.
Spirited but peaceful marchers — ordinary immigrants alongside labor, religious and civil rights groups — stretched more than 20 blocks along Spring Street, Broadway and Main Street to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting, "Sí se puede!" (Yes we can!). Saturday's rally…. coincides with an initiative on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, spearheaded by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, to defy a House bill that would make aiding undocumented immigrants a felony. And it signals the burgeoning political clout of Latinos, especially in California.
"There has never been this kind of mobilization in the immigrant community ever," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "They have kicked the sleeping giant. It's the beginning of a massive immigrant civil rights struggle."
Largely in response to the [immigration] debate in Washington, hundreds of thousands of people in recent weeks have staged marches in more than a dozen cities calling for immigration reform. In Denver, police said Saturday that more than 50,000 people gathered downtown at Civic Center Park next to the Capitol to urge the state Senate to reject a resolution supporting a ballot issue that would deny many government services to illegal immigrants in Colorado. Hundreds rallied in Reno, the Associated Press reported. On Friday, tens of thousands of people were estimated to have staged school walkouts, marches and work stoppages in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta and other cities. In addition, several cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions opposing the House legislation. At least one city, Maywood, declared itself a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

Proposition 187

Californian Hispanics may be smarting from the attempt, Repblican-led, to crack down illegal immigrants . Wikipedia recounts this 1994 legislative adventure as follows:

California Proposition 187 was a proposition introduced in California in 1994 to deny illegal immigrants social services, health care, and public education. A number of people and organizations were involved in bringing it to the voters. It was introduced by assemblyman Dick Mountjoy (Republican from Monrovia, California) as the Save Our State initiative. It passed with 59% of the vote, but was overturned by a federal court.
Proposition 187 included several additions to the law, falling into two categories.
* All law enforcement agents who suspect that a person who has been arrested is in violation of immigration laws must investigate the detainee's immigration status, and if they find evidence of illegality they must report it to the attorney general of California, and to the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Local governments are prohibited from doing anything to impair the fulfillment of this requirement. The attorney general must keep records on all such cases and make them available to any other government entity that wishes to inspect them.
* No one may receive public benefits until they have proven their legal right to reside in the country. If anyone applies for benefits and is suspected by government agents of being illegal, those agents must report in writing to the enforcement authorities. Emergency medical care is exempted as required by federal law but all other medical benefits have the same test as above. Primary and secondary education is explicitly included.

The LA Times' story went on:

Some Republicans fear that pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as with Proposition 187. Strong Republican support of that measure helped spur record numbers of California Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters subsequently helped the Democrats regain political control in the state. "There is no doubt Proposition 187 had a devastating impact on the [California] Republican Party," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant. "Now the Republicans in Congress better beware: If they come across as too shrill, with a racist tone, all of a sudden you're going to see Republicans in cities with a high Latino population start losing their seats."

March 29, 2006

Study asserts H-1B visa program undercuts American computer programmers

The Center for Immigration Studies just released a critique of the H-IB visa program. The core message of the study is that employers use the visa program to hire professional workers at wages well below the actually prevailing wages of comparable workers – despite a statutory prohibition. I have entered below the executive summary of “The Bottom of the Pay Scale: Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers” by John Miano and, following that, a useful primer of the program from his study.

H-1B visas by occupation are computer 28%, education 14%, administrative 13%, engineering 12%, health 9%, managers 8%, all others 18%. Visas by country of origin are mainland India 36%, China 9%, Canada 5%. all others 50%.

Executive Summary

The temporary visa program known as H-1B enables U.S. employers to hire professional-level foreign workers for a period of up to six years. Employers must pay H-1B workers either the same rate as other employees with similar skills and qualifications or the "prevailing wage" for that occupation and location, whichever is higher….The analysis demonstrates that…actual pay rates reported by employers of H-1B workers were significantly lower than those of American workers. ….[R]ather than helping employers meet labor shortages or bring in workers with needed skills, as is often claimed by program users, the H-1B program is instead more often used by employers to import cheaper labor.

Key Findings

On average, applications for H-1B workers in computer occupations were for wages $13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and state.

Wages on approved Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for 85% of H-1B workers were for less than the median U.S. wage in the same occupations and state.

Applications for 47% of H-1B computer programming workers were for wages below even the prevailing wage claimed by their employers.

Employers can easily manipulate their need to show that the H-1B worker will be paid a prevailing wage. The Department of Labor is hamstrung in enforcing more rigor into this part of the application process.

Employers making applications for more than 100 H-1B workers had wages averaging $9,000 less than employers of one to 10 H-1B workers.

The report goes on to say that many U.S. employers use “bodyshops” (labor service providers) for H-1B workers, thereby making it easier for the employer to obscure how it may be firing American workers in order to hire H-!B workers. And the report says that any investigation of H-1B abuses must be personally approved by the Secretary of Labor.

A primer of H-1B visa program

Continue reading "Study asserts H-1B visa program undercuts American computer programmers" »

March 28, 2006

Senate Committee approves McCain bill on March 27

The Washington Post reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 6 in favor of the McCain bill, which combines a guest worker program, citizenship options, and immigration enforcement. The voting took place under a strict deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and as demonstrations erupted across the country against tough enforcement of immigration laws. The 12 vote majority included 4 Republicans (Specter, Graham, Brownback and DeWine and all 8 Democrats.

The Post described the amended legislation as follows:

The panel's bill would allow the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country to apply for a work visa after paying back taxes and a penalty. The first three-year visa could be renewed for three more years. After four years, visa holders could apply for green cards and begin moving toward citizenship. An additional 400,000 such visas would be offered each year to workers seeking to enter the country.
Senators also accepted a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would offer 1.5 million illegal farmworkers a "blue card" visa that would legalize their status. The committee also accepted a provision by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would shield humanitarian organizations from prosecution for providing more than simple emergency aid to illegal immigrants, rejecting an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to require humanitarian groups providing food, medical aid and advice to illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security.

The Post described popular demonstrations:

At least 14,000 students stormed out of schools in Southern California and elsewhere yesterday, waving flags and chanting to protest congressional actions. About 100 demonstrators, including members of the clergy, appeared at the Capitol yesterday in handcuffs to object to provisions in the House bill that would make illegal immigrants into felons and criminalize humanitarian groups that feed and house them. More than a half-million marchers protested in Los Angeles on Saturday, following protests in Phoenix, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

March 27, 2006

Paul Krugman on immigration reform

The New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugram, expresses today deep his caution on immigration reform and a guest worker program. In “North of the Border,” he writes that a guest worker program will likely have the effect of creating a formal sub-class of non-voting workers. Repeating some content some of my prior postings, Krugman writes:

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.
Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.

Krugman ends with these comments about Bush’s guest worker plan:

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's plan for a "guest worker" program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages. And because guest workers would face the prospect of deportation after a few years, they would have no incentive to become integrated into our society.
What about a guest-worker program that includes a clearer route to citizenship? I'd still be careful. Whatever the bill's intentions, it could all too easily end up having the same effect as the Bush plan in practice — that is, it could create a permanent underclass of disenfranchised workers.
We need to do something about immigration, and soon. But I'd rather see Congress fail to agree on anything this year than have it rush into ill-considered legislation that betrays our moral and democratic principles.

March 24, 2006

Immigration bill debate heats up in Washington; filibuster threatened

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had front page articles today in the immigration debate in Congress. A bush proposal for a guest worker program is still very much alive; so are proposals from McCain, Specter and Frist. The McCain and Specter bills have guest worker provisions; the Frist bill is focused on closing the Mexican-U.S. border to illegal workers, which are now 7.5 million in number.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said to the Associated Press, "Rarely have I seen an issue that divides people so clearly, with so little possibility of seeking a middle ground." The article printed in the Washington Post refers to the illegal immigrant debate as “an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week's immigration showdown in the Senate…. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced that he will not accept [a guest worker] program until "we have proven without a doubt that our borders are sealed and secure. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) promised this week to filibuster Frist's enforcement-only bill.”

The New York Times, also today, says that Bush said Thursday that his message is: ''If you are doing a job that Americans won't do, you're welcome here for a period of time to do that job”… “The president is working hand-in-hand with employers who want cheap labor to clean hotel rooms, pick crops and do other tasks that they say keep their businesses competitive. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says he understands those economic issues, but his focus is on the main concern voiced by the social conservatives -- national security.

''The most important thing is that we keep our borders safe, we keep America safe,'' said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call. ''It's obvious there are drugs, there are criminals coming through those borders. There are also people from known terrorist organizations coming through those borders.''

The Times article goes on: Three-quarters of respondents to a Time magazine poll in January said the United States is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Roughly the same amount said they favor a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, but 46% said those workers should have to return first to their native countries and apply. About 50% favored deporting all illegal immigrants.”

March 23, 2006

Washington Post columnist: "We don't need guest workers"

Robert Samuelson in the 3/22/06 edition of the Washington Post argues that a guest worker program will lock more poor workers into the American economy, taking jobs away from Americans and disincenting employers from making labor saving improvements. He cites as an example the California tomato industry as one which innovated after cheap labor Mexican labor dried up. Two comments: 1. A guest worker program such as the McCain or Specter bill will increase the cost of immigrant labor, thus to some extent rebalancing the labor costs which Samuelson sees as having gone askew. 2. He does not address what we do with today's 7.5 million undocumented workers.

Below are some excerpts.

Economist Philip Martin of the University of California likes to tell a story about the state's tomato industry. In the early 1960s, growers relied on seasonal Mexican laborers, brought in under the government's "bracero" program. The Mexicans picked the tomatoes that were then processed into ketchup and other products. In 1964 Congress killed the program despite growers' warnings that its abolition would doom their industry. What happened? Well, plant scientists developed oblong tomatoes that could be harvested by machine. Since then, California's tomato output has risen fivefold.
We'd be importing poverty. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line (about $19,300 in 2004 for a family of four) has risen 162 percent. What we have now -- and would with guest workers -- is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico.
It's a myth that the U.S. economy "needs" more poor immigrants. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." In 2004, the median hourly wage in Mexico was $1.86, compared with $9 for Mexicans working in the United States, said Rakesh Kochhar of Pew. With high labor turnover in the jobs they take, most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages slightly below prevailing levels.
Hardly anyone thinks that most illegal immigrants will leave. But what would happen if new illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Well, some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers. Facing greater labor costs, some industries would -- like the tomato growers in the 1960s -- find ways to minimize those costs. As to the rest, what's wrong with higher wages for the poorest workers? From 1994 to 2004, the wages of high school dropouts rose only 2.3 percent (after inflation) compared with 11.9 percent for college graduates.
Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What's more perplexing is why liberals, staunch opponents of poverty and inequality, support a program that worsens poverty and inequality. We've never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that's shown to be ineffective, we shouldn't adopt guest worker programs that don't solve serious social problems -- but add to them.

March 21, 2006

Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform

In keeping track of published opinions about immigration reform, I will cite from a 3/21/06 David Broder column on Bill Gates’ efforts to increase temporary professional work visas, and from a 3/15/06 Wall Street Journal column by a conservative think tank about immigration reform. Bottom line messages: liberalize immigration. The only problem: no politician wants to be accused of somehow backing an amnesty program, and their panic about this means that all immigration liberalization is stalled.

Gates wants a lot more foreign programmers here. He says there is a tight employment market now for computer and mathematical operators (less than 3% unemployment rate), and wants to ceiling on temporary professional worker visas to go from 65,000 to 115,000. An H1B visa holder is a “specialty worker” admitted for a temporary term (including extension possibilities) on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience. In 2003, the ceiling went from 195,000 to 65,000.. I have previously posted a plea by the chairman of Intel to raise the H1B ceiling.

The Manhattan Institute fellow, Tamar Jacoby, in “Bitter Sweet Spot,” says we need to do something about “an underground economy the size of Ohio that makes an ass of the law and endangers our security.” However, Jacoby is clearly at a loss as to how Congress will pass legislation allowing most or all illegal immigrants to stay and not have that called amnesty.

That is a rock upon which no Republican wants to run his or her boat -- which is what happened in the past 48 hours to Senator Frist. Out of the blue he proposed a get tough bill without solving the long term status of illegal immigrants, and was slapped down by Senator Specter, intent on getting his own bill through. I posted already an analysis of the worker protections in the Specter bill.

Jacoby sharply critiques the Specter bill because while it provides as the McCain bill does for an adjustment from undocumented worker to form guest worker status, the Specter bill keeps the work permanently in guest status, not offering a citizenship path.

Follow her essentially liberal reasoning:

Continue reading "Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform" »

March 17, 2006

Stalemate for Immigration reform this year?

Per the 3/17/06 Christian Science Monitor (link not available),"Steven Camarota [research director for the Center for Immigration Studies] doubts that Congress will agree on an immigration bill this election year. He sees too great a divide between the views of "elites" and the "public" over the economic and social merit of a massive inflow of foreigners. A legislative stalemate would result in a continuation of what a study for the conservative Heritage Foundation calls "a policy of benign neglect."

The elites, including business leaders, would like an amnesty for the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States - though it wouldn't be called an amnesty but a "guest worker program," perhaps. They welcome cheap immigrant labor. Contrariwise, polls show the public is strongly opposed to letting undocumented immigrants (many with fake papers) obtain citizenship.
The Republican Party is divided on how to deal with the issue, making a resolution even less likely. Democrats are also divided, but they can just sit back and watch the fuss. Fear of terrorism has led to more calls for reform. Almost four of every 100 people in the country today sneaked across the borders or overextended their visa, according to numbers in a new Pew Hispanic Center report. Some 850,000 illegal immigrants have entered the country annually for each of the past six years. If so many illegals can get in, the theory goes, couldn't terrorists use the same routes and get in as well?
On Dec. 16, the House passed a tough border-security bill. It includes a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, the first-ever criminal penalties for illegals, and a requirement that businesses check the status of new hires on a federal electronic database. If enforced, the bill could stem the flow of new illegal immigrants. If Mexicans, Central Americans, and others can't get jobs in the US, they won't come. The Senate is still working on legislation. But proposals include a guest-worker program that would include what Mr. Camarota regards as amnesty in disguise for illegals living here now.
In rich nations, no program of guest or temporary workers has ever led to such workers going home after their time was up. To think they will is "just silly," Camarota says. In Germany, most Turkish "guest" workers have remained. The same is true of South Asians in Britain and North Africans in France. If a tough law is passed to limit illegals, any plan to send them home would not be enforced, Camarota predicts. Politically powerful business and religious groups would block such action. Making matters more difficult, illegals bear some 380,000 children a year. These babies become US citizens automatically.

March 13, 2006

Sen. Specter Guest Worker bill to expand foreign worker programs for professionals

Per Schusterman's Immigration Update, these are (1) Employment-Based (EB) Immigration -- the “green card” permanent immigration program. A current cap of 140,000 would be raised to 290,000 per year. The other (2) is the H-1B non-immigration program. The cap is now 65,000. It would be to 115,000 annually. Thereafter, the cap would be controlled by a "market based escalator mechanism". However: persons with advanced degrees in math, science, technology and engineering would be exempt from the cap.

EB in depth: See for a for in-depth treatment by Stephen Yale-Loehr and Michael J. Bayer. An excerpt:

The U.S. immigration system has five employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories that allow up to 140,000 people a year obtain permanent residence (also known as “green cards”) in the United States through their work or skills. These categories are set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which codifies most but not all U.S. immigration laws. This article summarizes the five employment-based categories.
The INA gives first preference to “priority workers,” including noncitizen workers of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives. Second preference goes to professionals with advanced degrees and workers with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The third employment-based category includes professionals without advanced degrees, skilled workers, and unskilled workers. The fourth EB category provides visas for certain “special immigrants,” such as religious workers. Finally, the fifth EB category reserves a certain number of visas for immigrant investors seeking to enter the United States to start a commercial enterprise that will create or save at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.

The H1B program is overviewed here.

Continue reading "Sen. Specter Guest Worker bill to expand foreign worker programs for professionals" »

March 6, 2006

More than 70% of Congress supports a guest worker program

According to The Washington Times, 3/4/06, “The National Journal Insiders Poll, a survey of members of Congress, found both parties are ready to accept a plan that would allow more foreigners to legally come to work in the United States. Support was 73% among Republicans and 77% among Democrats."

In July the Insiders Poll found that immigration and border security topped the list of issues 'most on the minds of your constituents these days' for Republicans in Congress. In that poll, 17 of 37 Republicans put immigration tops, far above the No. 2 issue of the economy. For Democrats, though, immigration was at the top of the list for just two of the 35 members who responded.

March 5, 2006

Employer obligations in Sen. Specter's guest worker bill

Thanks to Tony Herrera for giving us the URL of Sen. Specter's bill, which as posted is unnamed and unnumbered. The meat of employer obligations is in Title IV, Section 403, "Employer obligations", starting on page 204. Without having carefully compared the language with that of Sen. McCain's bill, I surmise that the employer's obligations and penalties in some respects seem either identical or similar. For instance 204 (b)(3) states that "All workers in this H2C category will be provided the working conditions and benefits that are normal to workers similarly employed in the area of intended employment." The employer must provide workers comp insurance, regardless of what is normally done.

Sen. Sepecter's bill does not have the foreign labor contractor provisions of Sen. McCain's S.1033. Instead, the employer appears free to hire directly or through contractors, but bears per Title III all the legal liability of employer failures to comply. The bill expects to roll out the program throughout the entire economy starting with employers with workforces of at least 5,000. I cannot yet find a prohibition of independent contractor status, which is a remarkable feature of the McCain bill as I pointed out in an earlier posting.

March 3, 2006

Sen. Specter bill on illegal immigrants: some key provisions

I have not located an actual copy of the 300 page –plus bill so I am quoting from a New York Times article. His bill treats workers here before 1/4/04 (my estimate: 6.7 million) more generously than those who have since come (my estimate: 600,000), and all future applicants.

Senator Introduces Bill Creating Guest Worker Program, by Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times, February 25, 2006.


The proposal would require employers to attest that they had tried to recruit American workers before bringing in additional foreigners from abroad and to pay prevailing wages. The plan would not place a restriction on the number of foreigners who could take part in the guest worker program. Those workers would not have the right to become permanent residents or citizens.
Under Mr. Specter's proposal, the guest worker program would be open only to foreigners living outside the United States. Applicants would be sponsored by employers - though they would be allowed to switch employers during their time here - and would undergo background checks and medical screening. If approved, applicants would be allowed to bring their spouses and children to the United States.
Work permits would be granted for three years, after which the worker would have to return to his country for a year and apply again. The guest worker could then be authorized for a second and final work permit for three years.
Illegal immigrants already here
The draft would also authorize millions of illegal immigrants who arrived in this country before Jan. 4, 2004 to remain here indefinitely, along with their spouses and children, as long as they registered with the Department of Homeland Security, paid back taxes and remained law-abiding and employed, among other conditions.
Illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States after Jan. 4, 2004 could also participate in the guest worker program, but only if they returned home and applied from their countries. Those illegal workers who arrived in this country before Jan. 4, 2004 could stay in this country indefinitely, provided that they underwent background checks and did not remain unemployed for 45 days or more.

The undocumented worker debate in Washington this week

The Center for Immigration Studies has brought together several newspaper articles about the current status of immigration reform in Washington. The debate is 99% focused on undocumented workers, and involves internal divisions among Republicans. Some want a get tough program alone; others like Specter and Frist want to ensure a continued supply of labor.

Specter trying to forge a consensus

Congress to Debate Illegal Immigration” by Suzanne Gamboa of the AP, 3/2/06 as printed in the Washington Post writes that “Pressure to move forward intensified this week as governors meeting in Washington said they consider immigration one of their major concerns and made them an agenda item in their private meetings with Bush and his Cabinet.

The House managed to pass a border security bill last year - pleasing conservatives clamoring for an immigration crackdown. But that came only after House leaders beat back an attempt by some GOP members to include President Bush's proposal for a temporary worker program.

In contrast, the Senate is wading right into the thorny guest worker issue. Debate was starting Thursday with the Senate Judiciary Committee taking up an immigration reform bill drafted by the committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Specter told fellow senators in advance that the bill is 'a framework for building a consensus.' Specter's plan would allow immigrants who entered this country before Jan. 4, 2004 and who have jobs to participate for up to six years in the temporary worker program.

[My guess is that since then there has been a net increase of 600,000 in the number of undocumented workers – PFR]

Continue reading "The undocumented worker debate in Washington this week" »

March 1, 2006

Failure of existing guest worker programs as seen in FL figures

The failure of existing guest temporary visa programs can be summarized in these figures: the number of workers under them in Florida is probably equivalent to 1% of all undocumented workers in that state.

These programs are designed to attach each worker to a particular employer for a specified period of time – in months. The Palm Beach Post ran on Dec. 9, 2003, as part of an extensive series on farm labor, an analysis of how the federal governments guest worker provisions for temporary farm labor have worked in Florida. Farm employers rarely use these programs. According to the federal government only 2,423 H2A and H2B visas were issued to Mexican for work in Florida. I have previously estimated, drawing on Urban Institute figures, that as of 1/1/06 there were roughly 600,000 undocumented workers in Florida. Assume that total figure in 2002 was 450,000: H2 visa programs were equivalent to less than 1% of Florida’ undocumented workers.

According to the Post:

Continue reading "Failure of existing guest worker programs as seen in FL figures" »

February 27, 2006

McCain Guest Worker bill S 1033: strong worker rights provisions

The current draft of S. 1033 probibits non-immigrant aliens using the Act to work in the U.S. from being employed as independent contractors. They will instead be employees of a foreign labor contractor. This provision is decidedly helpful to the worker in any industry that sees a lot of sub-contractors of questionable financial competence and sees aggressive use of independent contractor status to lower worker costs. Best example: construction, in particular residential construction. Jon Coppelman of WorkersCompInsider considers the independent contractor provision is very beneficial to the worker and questions if it will survive the legislative process. (He himself is a formeer union carpenter.)

My summary of some provisions:

Recognizes role of foreign labor contactor.

The term `foreign labor contracting activity' means recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, or furnishing, an individual who resides outside of the United States for employment in the United States as a nonimmigrant alien described in section 101(a)(15)(H)(v)(a).

The worker will not be treated as independent contractor

Notwithstanding any other provision of law-- A) a nonimmigrant alien is prohibited from being treated as an independent contractor; and (B) no person may treat a nonimmigrant alien ….as an independent contractor.

Enjoys all labor “rights and remedies”

A non-immigrant alien shall not be denied any right or any remedy under Federal, State, or local labor or employment law that would be applicable to a United States worker employed in a similar position with the employer because of the alien's status as a nonimmigrant worker.

February 24, 2006

Line up of endorsers of McCain guest worker bill

McCain's bill calls for gradual conversion of undocumented workers to a legal status. It is free of the Rube Goldberg complexity and get-tough approach of proposals of Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

According to the Phoenix Business Journal

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is teaming with top labor unions, other business interests and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in support of a guest worker program and legal way for undocumented workers already in the U.S. to stay in the country. Arizona Congressmen Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, as well as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, behind the bill

Also behind the bill are U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) are the Service Employees International Union, the second largest union, the Laborers International Union, the American, bishops group and the American Health Care Association. The Arizona state chamber also backs that guest worker effort. The ALF-CIO has taken a position in opposition to guest worker legislation.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) officially endorsed a guest worker program.

Other heavyweight business interests backing guest worker include the Travel Industry Association of America, Ford Motor Co., Eastman Kodak, DaimlerChrysler and the California Chamber of Commerce.

Go here to get a copy of the bill, Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act – S. 1033

The New York Times today carried a profile of Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union, the nation's second-largest union, and an advocate of Bush’s guest worker program proposal.

H-2A visas - snapshot of wage and worker comp rules

The wage or rate of pay must be the same for U.S. workers and H-2A workers. The hourly rate must also be at least as high as the applicable Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), federal or state minimum wage, or the applicable prevailing hourly wage rate, whichever is higher. The AEWR is established every year by the Department of Labor. For 2005, the minimum wage set by DOL for Washington State is $9.03.

The employer must provide workers' compensation insurance where it is required by state law. Where state law does not require it, the employer must provide equivalent insurance for all workers. Proof of insurance coverage must be provided to the regional administrator before certification is granted.

February 10, 2006

Time Magazine poll on views about illegal immigration

Time Magazine February 6 2006 issue’s cover story is “Inside America’s Secret Workforce."

Here are some Time Magazine polling results:

How serious a problem is illegal immigration into the U.S.? - Extremely 30% Very 33% Somewhat 26% Not very 8%

Concerned that providing social services for illegal immigrants costs taxpayers too much - 83%

Concerned that illegal immigrants increase crime – 71%

Illegal immigrants are taking jobs that citizens don't want – 56%

Do you pay less for some items or services because of low-wage illegal immigrant labor? Yes 17% No 71%

Had hired a contractor or company that may have used illegal immigrants – 14%

Is the government doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.? -- Yes 21% No 74%

All illegal immigrants should be deported – 50%, but ----

Illegal immigrants should be able to earn citizenship – 76%

Favor guest-worker registration for those already here – 73%

Favor issuing temporary work visas for seasonal work – 64%

H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel

Craig Barrett, Chair of Intel, recently wrote a commentary for the Financial Times (payment required) and afterwards responded to reader questions.

Begun in 1998, the H-1B program has annual caps which in 2003 was 195,000. In 2004 the cap was cut to 65,000. As of 2004, close to 1,000,000 H-1B visa holders were believed to be working in the United States, up from about 360,000 in 1998. This means an annual addition of about 150,000 workers a year into the American workforce.

Compare this stream to the supply of engineers coming from American higher education (many of whom are foreigners)? In 2004, there were about 70,000 bachelor, 40,000 master, and 6,000 doctoral degrees were awarded by American colleges and universities. This is from the American Society of Engineering Education

H1B Visa (Professional in a Specialty Occupation) allows a U.S. employer to fill a position requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate in the particular field with a qualified worker from abroad. The foreign worker must possess that U.S. degree or an acceptable foreign alternative. In some cases, a combination of studies and relevant experience may substitute for the degree if it is determined by a credentials expert to qualify the foreign professional. The large majority of H1B visa holders are believed to be engineers.

Per Barrett:

Continue reading "H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel" »