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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.”

DHS estimates of illegal immigrant population in 2009

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that in January 2009 there were 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States, down from 11.6 million in January 2008. The estimated peak of illegal immigrants was 11.8 million in January 2007. Thus, the total number decreased by one million between 2007 and 2009. Go here for a complete report by DHS, which estimates the number of country of origin and by state of residence in the U.S.

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 23, 2010

Green card activity, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security reported on green card activity in 2009, in the process providing a succinct overview of green cards. Green cards are given to legal permanent residents. In 2009, a total of 1,130,818 persons became LPRs of the United States. The majority of new LPRs (59%) already lived in the United States when they were granted lawful permanent residence. Nearly two-thirds were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (15%), China (6%), and the Philippines (5%).

A legal permanent resident (LPR) or “green card” recipient is defined by immigration law as a person who has been granted lawful permanent residence in the United States. Permanent resident status confers certain rights and responsibilities. For example, LPRs may live and work permanently anywhere in the United States, own property, and attend public schools, colleges, and universities. They may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces, and apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements. This Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Flow Report presents information obtained from applications for LPR status on the number and characteristics of persons who became LPRs in the United States during 2009.1

Green cards can be awarded expressly for employment reasons, limited to 140,000 per year; thus about 13% of green cards in 2009 were awarded for employment “preferences.” The 140,000 applies to the workers – their spouses and children are in addition to the 140,000.

Employment preferences consist of five categories of workers (and their spouses and children): priority workers (about 41,000 in 2009); professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability (46,000) ; skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; special immigrants (e.g., ministers, religious workers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad)( 40,000); and employment creation immigrants or “investors” (3,000).

April 13, 2010

How foreign college students become American workers

From F-1 (student visa) to H-1B (temporary worker visa) to Green Card: this is the path which David North, of the Center for Immigration Studies takes us down, using Indian students as primary examples. Several quotes from his informative article:

“….The H-1B program is part of a nearly seamless web that starts in the undergraduate years at one of India’s technical colleges and ends, with luck and skill, as a green card-holder. As a second-prize one gets six to eight years of legal employment in one of America’s high-tech industries and as a third prize (my own judgment here) one becomes the holder of a valued U.S. university degree, an excellent thing to have if working in India.”

“I get a strong sense of a supporting international network functioning for many of the students, including the high-tech universities in India, American universities, American employers, and above all else, the American immigration system. The apparently smooth functioning of all parts of this system facilitates the entry into the American labor market of this population, in a way that many believe disadvantages U.S. workers.”

“I must say, though this may irritate some of my colleagues, that the potential H-1B workers I have been talking to constitute an attractive group of people: talented, well-educated, and the Indians among them, at least, have an excellent command of English. They have all survived a series of fitness contests on their way to nonimmigrant workers’ jobs. It is no wonder that employers are anxious to hire them.”

The article in full:

Looking at the H-1B Process Through the Eyes of the Participants

By David North

April 2010

It is often useful to look at an immigration program, step-by-step, through the eyes of the participants; in earlier years I did this with people seeking naturalization, legalization applicants, and green-card holders who lived in Mexico and worked in the United States.

Recently, I started doing this vis-à-vis the H-1B program; one gets a more nuanced view of the program that supplements reading studies, statistics, and statements made by supporters and opponents of the program.

My vantage point this time is my annual volunteer stint helping University of Maryland graduate students with their income tax filings; many of the international graduate students are involved in, or want to be involved in, the H-1B program. What follows are some essentially journalistic observations, as opposed to the results of a structured survey. Most of my informants, like the largest single group of H-1B participants, are from India.

From their eyes, the H-1B program is part of a nearly seamless web that starts in the undergraduate years at one of India’s technical colleges and ends, with luck and skill, as a green card-holder. As a second-prize one gets six to eight years of legal employment in one of America’s high-tech industries and as a third prize (my own judgment here) one becomes the holder of a valued U.S. university degree, an excellent thing to have if working in India.

I get a strong sense of a supporting international network functioning for many of the students, including the high-tech universities in India, American universities, American employers, and above all else, the American immigration system. The apparently smooth functioning of all parts of this system facilitates the entry into the American labor market of this population, in a way that many believe disadvantages U.S. workers. (See, for example, the CIS publications on the subject by my colleague John Miano.)

The H-1B process is gilded for some of these international students (the ablest and luckiest) and bumpier and more expensive for others. Some people get eliminated at various stages all along the way.

It should be noted that there are three categories of H-1Bs: those with at least a bachelor’s degree who face a 65,000 annual (congressionally-mandated) ceiling, those with advanced American degrees who can be hired within the 65,000 allocation OR can be hired within another 20,000 set-aside exclusively for people with those qualifications, and finally a third group who can be hired for work at universities, with no numerical ceiling. This Memorandum relates primarily to the second grouping, those with, or about to secure, advanced degrees in the United States; this is an elite group of nonimmigrant workers.

This is how it works: India has a collection of apparently quite competent technical universities that operate at the undergraduate level, apparently producing more graduates than the Indian economy can use. The more ambitious among the undergraduates quickly learn that rewards for their skills will be higher in the United States than in India, and that an American advanced degree will be helpful to their career whether they work in the United States or in India.

There are opportunities to secure advanced tech degrees in India, but my informants said that they carry less prestige than American ones, particularly those from top-ranking U.S. institutions, such as Maryland-College Park. They also hear about the H-1B program before they leave India.

This whole progression can be viewed as a five-step process.

Step One: The first step for these would-be migrants is to secure admission to a U.S. graduate program, which leads to a student visa (F-1 in most cases). It usually takes two years to obtain a master’s and much longer for a doctorate. Most of them study electrical engineering, telecommunications, or information management.

The best applicants to Maryland, and presumably other high-ranking institutions, get tuition remission and a graduate assistantship from the first day. Some others must pay their own way for the first term, and only then does financial assistance materialize. For still others, I suspect a small minority at Maryland (and a majority in some lesser institutions), they pay their own way throughout the program. Virtually all the grad students I talked to at Maryland do not have to pay tuition; most of the exceptions appear to be in the arts or literature.

Thus the population I am describing for the most part gets its graduate training at U.S. expense; I previously wrote a report for the Sloan Foundation, examining similar financing arrangements for a broader set of international students.

The payment or nonpayment of tuition, among the people I have been interviewing, sets up an interesting dynamic. The best students, with no bills to pay, get the most job offers while the least able students have a harder time getting jobs, but have a stronger motivation to stay in the United States than their more skilled colleagues — they often have substantial loans to repay, which they can do much more easily in the States than back home.

Meanwhile, in the case of Maryland, its international student office creates and runs information-dispensing seminars to make sure that arriving international graduate students know about the various ways that they can obtain short- or long-term jobs in the United States, including the complex arrangements in the H-1B program.

Further, the university hosts job fairs that help students land high-tech jobs and it has created an internet-based job bank for the same purpose.

Step Two: A crucial moment in the career of the would-be H-1B comes during the first summer, when the students are free to — and encouraged to — work off campus. (Their F-1 visas allow such employment, nominally if it has something to do with their graduate program.)

Some graduate students get all-summer jobs (or internships) with solid companies that pay a decent salary of, say, $4,000 a month. Some companies even go to the trouble of finding housing for their summer workers.

Other graduate students get shorter gigs and are paid considerably less well. The employers obtain some work, usually in software programs, from the students and get a chance to see the students in an employment context.

Some companies pay attention to the nuances of their payrolls and dutifully deduct federal and state taxes and avoid deducting FICA and Medicare taxes, which do not apply to F-1 students. Others deduct those taxes, when they shouldn’t, and still others make no deductions at all, claiming the students are consultants. This last maneuver, which is a deplorable practice, leaves the student with a sizeable tax bill the following April and short-changes the Social Security system.

As noted earlier, some would-be H1-Bs face a rockier road than others. I had one graduate student tell me that she had the misfortune of working for a software firm that went bankrupt in the course of the summer and it paid her only part of the wages owed. I found that no one had talked to her about how the Wage-Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department or the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts might be able to help her collect at least some of those currently lost wages.

More important than these payroll matters is the fact that some of the students make solid connections with their employers and go into their second year of their master’s program knowing that they will have a U.S. job upon graduation.

One of my income tax clients was an impressive young lady who had tuition remission and a part-time campus job from her first day at College Park. She had, in response to my questioning, eventually admitted that she had been the “topper” — had the best grades — in her information management graduating class in India. She had, at the end of her first summer in the United States, secured a promise of an H-1B job with the American arm of a renowned international financial institution as soon as she graduates. Others, with graduation a couple of months away, were still looking.

Step Three: Moving from the campus into an H-1B job immediately, however, was not the arrangement that most of the Indian grad students are contemplating.

They expect to go through a USCIS-defined period of “optional practical training” or OPT; this stretch of legal work in the United States applies to newly-graduating F-1 students. The duration of this period was 12 months for decades, until the spring of 2008 when USCIS, the open borders people, and the tech industry in the United States got creative.

The setting was the congressional cutbacks in the availability of H-1B visas. The Microsofts, Goldman Sachs, and other H-1B users were not content with the quotas of 65,000 new H-1Bs, plus 20,000 more new H-1Bs with advanced degrees, plus unlimited slots at the universities, plus the huge numbers of H-1Bs working on previously granted visas. These big employers and their allies presumably talked to the Bush administration and USCIS created a way to expand the population of temporary foreign workers without appearing to violate the various ceilings established by Congress.

Two years ago, on April 4, 2008, USCIS announced that instead of 12 months of OPT, F-1 visa holders who had at least a bachelor’s degree in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields may have an additional 17 months of OPT eligibility, for a total of 29 months. (The College Park students spoke of it as the “STEM extension;” at first this sounded like a bit of plastic surgery in a botany laboratory.)

Thus with the stroke of the pen, and totally ignoring the intent of Congress, USCIS made scores of thousands of recent college graduates from overseas eligible to work in the United States, while in many cases they waited for an H-1B visa.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has filed a federal lawsuit against USCIS on this issue, representing several organizations of U.S. workers potentially shouldered aside from jobs in the U.S. economy. Among the groups in the suit are the American Engineering Association and the Programmers Guild.

“Immigration law is very clear that student visas are for students to come to the United States solely and temporarily for study. Instead, DHS invented its own guest worker program to circumvent the annual H-1B visa cap,” said Mike Hethmon, General Counsel for IRLI. “DHS not only took this illegal action, but did it as an emergency measure to prevent American citizens from weighing in.”

The numerical impact of this innovation is not totally clear. The previously cited USCIS announcement estimated that 22,000 students would benefit from the new program, but the agency is notoriously loathe to publish numbers on its action. As John Miano told me, “That’s one of the things no one but USCIS knows. USCIS simply ignores requests for such numbers.”

Parenthetically, while a series of other immigration-related agencies, such as the Visa Office of State, the Executive Office of Immigration Review in Justice, and some other DHS agencies publish lots of useful statistics, USCIS is number-shy.

My own sense is that the 22,000 figure is an annual one, and that it should be multiplied by two and a half (29 months is just shy of 2.5 years) which would produce 55,000 more student workers at any given time. Since I suspect that the USCIS estimate is on the low side, perhaps as many as 100,000 additional person-years of science and engineering employment by aliens have been created by this governmental sleight-of-hand. If I am wrong, I would welcome a correction from USCIS on this point.

Back to the H-1B process, as it impacts individual applicants. When asked about the difference between working on the OPT program and as an H-1B, one would-be H-1B at Maryland pointed out that while the latter program tended to produce longer-term jobs than OPT, the tax rate on OPT work was lower than that in the H-1B program.

Step Four: Given the pent-up demand for the numerically limited H-1B slots, potential employers of such workers have a once-a-year chance to seek permission to hire these graduate students. The current practice is for all such employers to file their requests at the very beginning of April and then hope that they secure the needed papers. This traffic jam at USCIS leads to a lottery to allocate visas among those applying on time.

Last year at the time USCIS issued a statement on this subject, making it clear that those losing out in the 20,000-limit lottery (for those with advanced degrees) would be able to compete in the second, 65,000-limit lottery if they lost in the first one. This arrangement is thus favorable to the people I have been talking to, all with, or about to get, a master’s degree at Maryland.

With OPT, however, a student losing these two consecutive H-1B lotteries (which are not to be confused with the green card lottery) has other chances, in the next year or two, to obtain an H-1B visa as the process repeats itself.

I must say, though this may irritate some of my colleagues, that the potential H-1B workers I have been talking to constitute an attractive group of people: talented, well-educated, and the Indians among them, at least, have an excellent command of English. They have all survived a series of fitness contests on their way to nonimmigrant workers’ jobs. It is no wonder that employers are anxious to hire them.

Step Five: This final step, securing a green card through a permanent labor certification sought by the worker’s employer, is again the product of a process in which merit, career-building skills, and luck all play a role.

Does the overseas applicant get into a prestigious U.S. institution, or a lesser one? Does the student get financial assistance? And if so, how much?

Does that first summer job lead to 1) further employment, or 2) to no further job offers, or 3) worse, does the summer employer go broke?

Is the worker offered a chance at H-1B? And then does the employer actually secure the H-1B authorization?

Life for would-be H1B workers, as it is for many of us, is a series of challenges and uncertainties, and this is true for the last step as well as the first ones.

As Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has pointed out in a recent article, some employers of H-1B workers actively use the program as a bridge to green card status for some of their workers, and other simply use it as a source of relatively short-term, talented, but inexpensive labor.

My sense is that the very active grapevine among the would-be and enrolled H-1B workers probably carries a lot of information on who the good, bad, and mediocre employers are in this program. Many nonimmigrant workers, or course, cannot be choosers, and some thus wind up with green cards and many do not.

Speaking of employers, there is another dimension as well: the quality of work life. As two of my College Park informants told me, you might wind up as an H-1B working at Microsoft, where the pay is good but the work life is not remarkable — or, if you are very, very lucky, you might get a slightly less-well paid job at Google.

As far as these two were concerned, Google is heaven on Earth for software engineers.

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 7, 2010

Joel Kotkin on immigration

Koktin is a demographer who has studied trends in population in the U.S. and worldwide. He has a sunny view of the future for America because of its long term prospects for population growth – fueled by a high fertility rate and immigration.
Go to his website to find reviews of his books, including the most recent, The Next 100 Million: America in 2050.

For Kotkin, immigrants pay a huge role in business innovation here.

“Overall, some of the country’s highest rates of entrepreneurship are found among immigrants from the Middle East, Cuba, South Korea and countries of the former Soviet Union. These recent arrivals regularly build new businesses — from street-level bodegas to the most sophisticated technology firms.

Immigrants started one-quarter of all venture-backed public companies between 1990 and 2005. In addition, large U.S. firms are increasingly led by executives with roots in foreign countries, including 14 CEOs of the 2007 Fortune 100.”

Here is short presentation of his long range view, and his optimistic predictions for the U.S. compared to other countries:

What American Demographics Will Look Like in 2050

By Joel Kotkin March 15 2010
Appearing in:

To many observers, America's place in the world is almost certain to erode in the decades ahead. Yet if we look beyond the short-term hardship, there are many reasons to believe that America will remain ascendant well into the middle decades of this century.

And one important reason is people.

From 2000 to 2050, the U.S. will add another 100 million to its population, based on census and other projections, putting the country on a growth track far faster than most other major nations in the world. And with that growth -- driven by a combination of higher fertility rates and immigration -- will come a host of relative economic and social benefits.

More fertile

Of course the percentage of childless women is rising here as elsewhere, but compared to other advanced countries, America still boasts the highest fertility rate: 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany or Japan, and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, Korea and virtually all of eastern Europe.

As a result, while the U.S. population is growing, Europe and Japan are seeing their populations stagnate -- and are seemingly destined to eventually decline. Russia's population could be less than a third of the U.S. by 2050, driven down by low birth and high mortality rates. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of "the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation."

In East Asia, fertility is particularly low in highly crowded cities such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing and Seoul. And China's one-child policy -- and a growing surplus of males over females -- has set the stage for a rapidly aging population by mid-century. South Korea, meanwhile, has experienced arguably the fastest drop in fertility in world history, which perhaps explains its extraordinary, if scandal-plagued, interest in human cloning.

Even more remarkably, America will expand its population in the midst of a global demographic slowdown. Global population growth rates of 2 percent in the 1960s have dropped to less than half that rate today, and this downward trend is likely to continue -- falling to less than 0.8 percent by 2025 -- largely due to an unanticipated drop in birthrates in developing countries such as Mexico and Iran. These declines are in part the result of increased urbanization, the education of women and higher property prices. The world's population, according to some estimates, could peak as early as 2050 and begin to fall by the end of the century.

Younger and More Vibrant

Population growth has very different effects on wealthy and poor nations. In the developing world, a slowdown of population growth can offer at least short-term economic and environmental benefits. But in advanced countries, a rapidly aging or decreasing population does not bode well for societal or economic health, whereas a growing one offers the hope of expanding markets, new workers and entrepreneurial innovation.

In fact, throughout history, low fertility and socioeconomic decline have been inextricably linked, creating a vicious cycle that affected such once-vibrant civilizations as ancient Rome and 17th-century Venice and that now affects contemporary Europe , Russia and Japan.

Within the next four decades, most of the developed countries in both Europe and East Asia will become veritable old-age homes: a third or more of their populations will be older than 65, compared with only a fifth in the U.S. By 2050, roughly 30 percent of China's population will be older than 60, according to the United Nations. The U.S. will have to cope with an aging population and lower population growth, in relative terms, but it will maintain a youthful, dynamic demographic.

More Hopeful About the Future

The reasons behind these diverging trends is complex. In some countries, a sense of diminished prospects, combined with a chronic lack of space, appear to be the root causes for plunging birthrates. As Italians, Germans, Japanese, Koreans and Russians have fewer offspring -- one recent survey found that only half of Italian women 16 to 24 said they wanted to have children -- they will have less concern for future generations.

In contrast, in the United States roughly three-quarters of young people report they plan to have offspring. Such individual decisions suggest that America, for all its problems, is diverging from its prime competitors, placing its faith in a future that can accommodate 100 million more people.

As author Michael Chabon recently wrote, "In having children, in engendering them, in loving them, in teaching them to love and care about the world," parents are "betting" that life can be better for them and their progeny.

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


The LA Times article in full:

Senators announce framework for bipartisan immigration bill
Charles Schumer, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican, propose increasing resources for border enforcement and legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. President Obama praises the proposal.
By Anna Gorman
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2010

Days before a planned march in Washington, D.C., two U.S. senators announced their framework Thursday for a bipartisan immigration bill that would increase resources for border enforcement, create a biometric Social Security card to prevent forgeries and legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) laid out their proposal in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, saying that 'the American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation.' The plan also calls for creation of a program to admit temporary workers.

The announcement was immediately praised by President Obama, who pledged Thursday to help translate the framework into a legislative proposal and to continue working 'to forge a bipartisan consensus this year.'

The senators' plan 'thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders,' Obama said in a statement, 'and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system.'

As many as 50,000 faith, labor and immigrant rights advocates are expected at a rally in the nation's capitol Sunday to pressure the White House and legislators to take action on immigration reform. In a conference call Thursday, they called upon the senators to introduce a bill in coming weeks and begin deliberations in April. They warned that politicians could see the consequences in the midterm elections if progress isn't made.

'Immigration reform cannot wait another year, another term,' said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. 'The time is now and they are marching in D.C. to make that clear.'

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Thursday that Schumer and Graham understand that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

'The framework is an important step forward,' Noorani said. 'The likelihood of immigration reform is very, very strong given this strong start.'

Previous efforts to pass immigration reform legislation failed in 2007. Now, with the economic downturn and millions of Americans out of work, opponents said it was even less likely that the public would support the legalization of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

'Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house,' Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement.

Mark Krikorian, from the Center for Immigration Studies, who favors stricter controls on immigration, said he believed that there was 'zero chance' of legislation being signed by the president. 'This is just a way of pretending to show there is progress when there is nothing whatsoever new in what they have written,' he said.

The framework covers familiar territory: border security, interior enforcement, temporary workers and legalization. The legalization plan would require undocumented immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English. According to the plan, a bill would also give green cards to immigrants who earn a master's or doctorate in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university.

The unveiling of the plan follows a gathering last week of the president, both senators and advocates of reform. Since taking office, Obama and the administration have been reaching out to legislators and advocates to garner support for reforming the immigration system. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has held dozens of meetings with Senate and House members and has held round table sessions with state and local politicians and labor, business and faith groups throughout the nation, including in Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Tamar Jacoby, who runs ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of employers pushing for reform, said she was encouraged by the framework and that it included a plan for more workers to come legally when they were needed. Jacoby said that publishing a framework now shows the public and stakeholders there's momentum for the process.

'Part of passing any bill is about garnering public support,' she said. 'Voters will be paying attention to the issue this weekend.'