4 in 10 green card holders had a prior illegal period of stay

In an astonishing report by the Public Policy Institute of California, we learn that 20% of legal permanent residents (green card holders) crossed the border illegally and 22% overstayed their visa terms!
The PPIC says, “Fewer than four in 10 (38%) legal permanent residents were new to the United States when they got their green cards and many had lived here illegally for at least some time. In California, more than half (52%) had lived in the country illegally. They either crossed the border illegally (35%) or violated the terms of their visas by overstaying a tourist visa or by working when they were not authorized (18%). In the United States, about four in 10 (42%) first lived in the country illegally. This group was more evenly divided between those who crossed the border illegally (20%) or violated their visa terms (22%).”
The study also looked into what the effect would be if the U.S. began to use a merit point system for rationing green cards, much like Canada does. The authors prepared a model to estimate how people, from PhDs to manual laborers, would fare. “An engineer with a PhD and English proficiency would not necessarily have enough points to become a legal permanent resident without some prior work experience in the United States.”
The press release in full:

Continue reading 4 in 10 green card holders had a prior illegal period of stay

News from Global Workers Justice Alliance

The Alliance, one of my favorite activist groups reported today on two of its initiative to support labor rights of immigrant workers. One, it launched a “defender network” involving representatives from 13 human rights organizations in Latin America. It trained them on worker rights in the United States which are often compromised for H-2 guestworkers. Two, it got the U.S. embassy in Guatemala to distribute to H-2 workers a leaflet it developed with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The leaflet educates these workers on their rights. The Alliance says that “due to the excessive recruitment abuses that are illegal under Guatemalan (and Mexican) law, the guestworker program has become a vehicle for human trafficking.”
The announcement in full:
Global Workers is proud to announce the formal launch of the Global Workers Defender Network. After two years of laying the groundwork, Global Workers invited 23 advocates from 13 human rights organizations from southern Mexico and Guatemala to Tapachula, Mexico from April 28-30 to the first Training on Defending Transnational Migrant Workers in the United States. The excitement for the launch of this unprecedented network was palpable.
Over three days, these seasoned human rights advocates learned about the legal rights of migrant workers in the United States. In addition, they learned how to identify cases of workers who have returned to Mexico and Guatemala after suffering labor and trafficking abuses in the United States. Time was also dedicated to the details of civil litigation so these Defenders can skillfully partner with US advocates to seek justice for individual workers in US courts. Finally, Mexican and Guatemalan legal experts explored the myriad of recruitment abuses H-2 guestworkers suffer before leaving to work the USA.
To read more about the Global Workers Defender Network inaugural training go to our blog at http://globalworkers.org/txp/.
On another note, Global Workers has achieved an important break through in its guestworker advocacy, the H-2 visa program that brings 180,000 workers to the US each year to work in temporary non-professional jobs. The US consulate is now handing out Know Your Rights flyers to Guatemalan workers bound to the US. The flyer, which Global Workers developed with the Southern Poverty Law Center, orients workers to their basic rights and where to seek assistance. In addition, two weeks ago the US consulate started to notify US employers of their obligations under Guatemalan law when recruiting Guatemalans to work in the US. Due to the excessive recruitment abuses that are illegal under Guatemalan (and Mexican) law, the guestworker program has become a vehicle for human trafficking. Global Workers applauds the consulate for its leadership and will soon launch an initiative to ensure that other consulates follow suit.

Immigration Malpractice by Citizenship and Immigration Services

The NY Times ran an editorial condemning the inefficiency of CIS, part of Homeland Security, in processing green card applications. The State Department encouraged people to file applications in a way that inundated CIS. Read here:
The prickliness and glacial ineptitude of the immigration system is old news to millions of would-be Americans. Immigrants who play by the rules know that the rules are stringent, arbitrary, expensive and very time-consuming. But even the most seasoned citizens-in-waiting were stunned by the nasty bait-and-switch the federal bureaucracy pulled on them this month. After encouraging thousands of highly skilled workers to apply for green cards, the government snatched the opportunity away.
The tease came in a bulletin issued by the State Department in June announcing that green cards for a wide range of skilled workers would be available to those who filed by July 2. That prompted untold numbers of doctors, medical technicians and other professionals, many of whom have lived here with their families for years, to assemble little mountains of paper. They got certified records and sponsorship documents, paid for medical exams and lawyers and sent their applications in. Many canceled vacations to be in the United States when their applications arrived, as the law requires.
Then they learned that the hope was effectively a hoax. The State Department had issued the bulletin to prod Citizenship and Immigration Services, the bureaucracy that handles immigration applications, to get cracking on processing them. The agency is notorious for fainting over paperwork — 182,694 green cards have been squandered since 2000 because it did not process them in time. That bureaucratic travesty is a tragedy, since the annual supply of green cards is capped by law, and the demand chronically outstrips supply. The State Department said it put out the bulletin to ensure that every available green card would be used this time.
After working through the weekend, the citizenship agency processed tens of thousands of applications. On Monday, the State Department announced that all 140,000 employment-based green cards had been used and no applications would be accepted.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, the definition of a hangdog bureaucracy, says the law forbids it to accept the applications. The American Immigration Lawyers Association says this interpretation is rubbish. It is preparing a class-action lawsuit to compel the bureaucracy to accept the application wave that it provoked.
The good news is that immigrants’ hope is pretty much unquenchable. Think of the hundreds of people standing in the rain in ponchos at Walt Disney World on Independence Day, joining the flood of new citizens now cresting across the country. They celebrated on July Fourth, but for many of them the magic date is July 30, when a new fee schedule for immigrants takes effect, drastically jacking up the cost of the American dream.
The collapse of immigration reform in the Senate showed the world what America thinks of illegal immigrants — it wants them all to go away. But the federal government, through bureaucratic malpractice, is sending the same message to millions of legal immigrants, too.
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Big trouble with temporary work visa for professional workers.

The likes of Micosoft, Google, Intel and the rest of the IT lobby in Washington have not been able to get Congress to add more slots. In fact, one lobbyist called the Senate reform bill of May a disaster. The point system plan worked against the interests of the lobbying firms because it stripped employers of picking the workers they wanted. And Washington is paying more attention to abuses in the current H-IB program whereby foreign holders of the visas are paid less than their American peers.
From the NY Times article of today, “High-Tech Titans Strike Out on Immigration Bill” –
High-tech companies want to be able to hire larger numbers of well-educated, foreign-born professionals who, they say, can help them succeed in the global economy. For these scientists and engineers, they seek permanent-residence visas, known as green cards, and H-1B visas. The H-1B program provides temporary work visas for people who have university degrees or the equivalent to fill jobs in specialty occupations including health care and technology. The Senate bill would expand the number of work visas for skilled professionals, but high-tech companies say the proposed increase is not nearly enough. Several provisions of the Senate bill are meant to enhance protections for American workers and to prevent visa fraud and abuse.
High-tech companies were surprised and upset by the bill that emerged last month from secret Senate negotiations. E. John Krumholtz, director of federal affairs at Microsoft, said the bill was “worse than the status quo, and the status quo is a disaster.”
In the last two weeks, these businesses have quietly negotiated for changes to meet some of their needs. But the bill still falls far short of what they want, an outcome suggesting that their political clout does not match their economic strength.
Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a co-author of a treatise on immigration law, said: “High-tech companies are very organized. They have numerous lobby groups. When Bill Gates advocates more H-1B visas and green cards for tech workers, everyone listens.
“But that supposed influence has not translated into legislative results,” Mr. Yale-Loehr, who teaches at Cornell Law School, continued. “High-tech companies have been lobbying unsuccessfully since 2003 for more H-1B visas. It’s hard to get anything through Congress these days. In addition, anti-immigrant groups are well organized. U.S. computer programmers are constantly arguing that H-1B workers undercut their wages.”
Many high-tech companies bring in foreign professionals on temporary H-1B visas. The government is swamped with petitions. On the first two days of the application period in April, it received more than 123,000 petitions for 65,000 slots.
The Senate bill would raise the cap to 115,000 in 2008, with a possible increase to 180,000 in later years, based on labor market needs.
Many high-tech businesses want to hire foreign students who obtain advanced degrees from American universities, and many of the students want to work here, but cannot get visas.
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, have a proposal that would overhaul the H-1 B program and give priority to American workers. Their proposal would also define, in great detail, the wages that must be paid to workers who have H-1B visas.
Mr. Durbin contended that some companies have used foreign workers to undercut the wages of American workers. And in some cases, he said, foreign workers come to this country for a few years of training, then return home “to populate businesses competing with the United States.”
“The H-1B visa program is being abused by foreign companies to deprive qualified Americans of good jobs,” Mr. Durbin said. “Some companies are so brazen, they say ‘no Americans need apply’ in their job advertisements.”
High-tech companies said that the wage standards in the Durbin-Grassley proposal would, in effect, require them to pay some H-1B employees more than some equally qualified American workers who are performing the same duties.
The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that thousands of H-1B workers have been paid less than the prevailing wage.
One company, Patni Computer Systems, agreed this month to pay more than $2.4 million to 607 workers with visas after Labor Department investigators found that they had not been paid the wages required by federal law. The company’s global headquarters are in Mumbai, India, and its American operations are based in Cambridge, Mass.

Green card disasters

“Sertasheep” from www.immigrationvoice.org wrote me to highlight growing problems with green cards: extremely long waits for green card issuance, and mounting shortage of skilled professional labor beyond computer engineering. Here is his posting:
“Contrary to popular belief, it is not just computer engineers but also high-skilled professionals from such diverse facets of industry as medicine, banking and insurance, finance, teaching and research who are among those affected by delays amounting to over 10 years.
Arcane annual quotas restrict the number of Green Cards available in two ways to the same pool of high-skilled applicants. The First categorization is based on skills and exceptional abilities. The second categorization is based limits assigned to each qualifying country. Thus, there’s currently a overall cap of 140,000 Green Cards in addition to a hard country limit of 9,800 Green Cards annually, despite countries such as India and China yielding more high-skilled professionals to meet burgeoning US demands.
The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Family
Practitioners (AAFP) have predicted a severe shortage of PCPs over the next decade, as the demand is outstripping supply rapidly. In a position paper published last April, the AMA suggested addressing the shortage of physicians in underserved areas by international medical graduates (IMGs,).
The position paper states that one out of every five adequately served non-metropolitan counties would become underserved, if all IMGs currently in primary care practice were to be removed. Last October, the AMA wrote to several Senators and Representatives asking for their attention towards the hardships faced by not only the physicians and their families in getting Green Cards, but also the communities that depend upon them for their medical care. The AMA asked for exemptions from immigration caps for these physicians, upon completion of their service requirement.”

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.

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.

Live-in domestic foreign in workers in the U.S.

Human rights Watch issued in June 2001 a 58 page report on the tens of thousands of foreign born workers to come to work in America as au pairs and maids. I am posting about it with thanks to Julie Ferguson for having brought it to my attention. These workers come under one of the following visa programs: A-3 if hired by diplomats, G-5 if hired by international organizations, and B-1 if hired by other foreigners or American citizens. Human Rights Watch finds that these workers are without legally enforceable work contracts, are not protected by American labor laws, and can easily be threatened with deportation by their employers. This report is a stunning expose of the problems these workers experience.