Western Hemisphere Final Passport Rule from the US Dept. of State

November 24th, 2006

“This rule finalizes the first phase of a joint Department of Homeland Security and Department of State plan, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, to implement new documentation requirements for certain United States citizens and nonimmigrant aliens entering the United States. As a result of this final rule, with limited exceptions discussed below, beginning January 23, 2007, all United States citizens and nonimmigrant aliens from Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico departing from or entering the United States from within the Western Hemisphere at air ports-of-entry will be required to present a valid passport.” 71 Federal Register 226, p. 68412, Nov. 24, 2006.

According to the USCIS’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding the final rule, “U.S. citizens will need a passport to enter the United States by air from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, South and Central America, and the Caribbean (otherwise known as the Western Hemisphere).

Also under this rule, citizens of Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda will now have to have a passport when entering the United States by air.”

Even with Democratic Win, No Guarantees on Immigration Reform

November 24th, 2006

“Just because we have the majority doesn’t mean we have enough votes for an immigration reform bill,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana). “We’re going to have to take the temperature” on how to proceed. Los Angeles Times, Nov. 23, 2006. According to this article, it is unclear whether Representative Nancy Pelosi will be able to garner sufficient Democratic support to guarantee comprehensive immigration reform, including guest worker legislation.

A Renewed Push for Raising the H-1B Cap & Immigrant Visa Numbers

November 17th, 2006

According to the New York times, a coalition of business and education groups, called Compete America, is renewing the initiative to persuade Congress to raise the number of H-1B visa numbers and employment-based green cards for skilled foreign workers to enter the United States this year.There is a current cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per year with an additional 20,000 for those aliens with an advance degree from an American institution.  It is a top priority of technology companies to increase the H-1B and immigrant visa numbers of skilled workers, since without them they cannot grow and remain competitive.   Microsoft’s Bill Gates is one of many technology executives advocates of increased flexibility to hire educated foreign workers like engineers and scientists.

Discouraging Illegal Immigration is Not Enough

November 17th, 2006

According to an editorial in the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), November 17, 2006:  “Those who believe that if you prosecute the businesses that hire illegal immigrants you will essentially be putting a giant cork in the Arizona-Mexico border are in for an enormous surprise. As long as poverty and economic desperation persist in Mexico, that cork will pop like the stopper in a champagne bottle. Over and over. Discouraging illegal immigration is a good idea, but not without coming up with an alternative solution for people who find themselves stuck in economically hopeless living conditions.” Editorial, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) – Nov. 17, 2006.

Midterm Elections and Immigration from the ILRC

November 16th, 2006

The following is an article from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) about the immigration opportunities posed by the November elections:

The November mid-term election was a repudiation of the Republican majority and a strong protest against the status quo — whatever the status quo voters were registering their opposition to: the war in Iraq, Congressional corruption, the economy, or terrorism.  And this mid-term election was largely focused on national, not local, issues. 

Immigration Not A Wedge Issue: Republican leadership tried, but failed, to make immigration the wedge issue that would ensure their continued control of Congress after aggressively promoting an enforcement-only measure (H.R.4437) as their solution to reforming our broken immigration system. In fact, exit polling as reported by the Washington Post found that fewer than one in three cited immigration as extremely important in influencing their decision, and they only narrowly favored Republican candidates.  About six in 10 voters said that they believe illegal immigrants working in the United States should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.. Democratic candidates won support from 61 percent of those who backed a path to citizenship, according to the poll.

Election Results: As a result of this election, a significant number of candidates were defeated who, given their records, would have supported anti-immigrant and anti-immigration measures in the new 110th Congress that will convene next January. Who were they?  Minuteman Randy Graf (R-AZ — who ran for the seat of retiring Representative Jim Kolbe); J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), John Hostettler (R-IN — the chair in the 109th Congress of the House Immigration Subcommittee), Chris Chocola (R-IN),  Anne Northup (R-KY), Melissa Hart (R-PA),  Bob Beauprez (R-CO — who lost his race for Governor), Charles Taylor (R-NC), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), and Richard Pombo (R-CA).  Many of those defeated are members of the so-called Immigration Reform Caucus (headed by Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO)) whose ranks have been reduced by the results of this mid-term election. 

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), the third ranking Senate Republican who attacked the victorious Bob Casey (D-PA) over his support for immigration reform, lost his re-election bid by a huge margin. Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ) lost his race to Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a strong supporter of immigration reform when he was a Member of the House and as a Senator appointed to fill the seat vacated by former Senator Corzine when he became Governor of New Jersey.  Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) easily defeated challenger Katherine Harris, who attacked the Senator for his position on immigration. And Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) decisively defeated challenger Jan Ting, a former INS official who labeled immigration reform as “amnesty.” However, Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) also were defeated: both are supporters of effective and fair immigration reform. It also is important to note that several Democratic candidates for governor (in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Wisconsin) were attacked during their campaigns for supporting “illegal immigration,” yet they all won their races. Nonetheless, many Representatives and Senators who support anti-immigrant and immigration measures will return to the 110th Congress including Representatives Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Steve King (R-ID), John Culberson (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI — the later NOT as chair of the House Judiciary Committee or any other House Committee), and Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV). 

Democratic Control of the House: What does this all mean?  The Democrats will control the House in the 110th Congress, with Representative Nancy Pelosi soon to become the first woman Speaker. Democratic control of the House will lead to the selection of new House committee chairs and some new members on these committees. The House Judiciary Committee is especially important: this committee has jurisdiction over many issues that impact immigrants and has been, under Chairman Sensenbrenner (who would have been term-limited out of this chairmanship if the Republicans had prevailed.), the source of many of the negative measures immigration advocates have had to fight over the last years. Democratic control of the House means that Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who had been next in line under a Republican-lead House, will NOT become the next chair of the House Judiciary Committee.  This is significant because he is a smart and committed anti-immigrant activist. Instead, Representative John Conyers (D-MI), a strong supporter of pro-immigration and immigrant measures, most likely now will chair the Judiciary Committee.

Democratic control of the House also means that the House Republican leadership no longer will control what measures go to the House floor for a vote and the procedures under which these votes are taken.  This also is extremely important.  Equally important is the fact that the Democratic House “tent” is now very broad, with some Democrats including in their platforms immigration proposals that pro-immigrant advocates would oppose. Speaker Pelosi and the new Democratic leadership will have to find ways to accommodate an extremely diverse caucus on immigration and other issues. With the Democratic victory in the House, House Democrats will be jockeying for leadership posts to join Speaker Pelosi.  Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), one of the architects of the Democrats House victory, might seek the role of majority whip.  Whether or not Representative Emanuel assumes this position, he will be an influential force on immigration and other issues.

House Republicans: Given this defeat, it is when, not if, House Republicans will begin their leadership fights.  House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) already has indicated that he will not remain in leadership, but Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has made no statements about his continued ambitions. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), chair of the Republican Study Group, the largest conservative caucus in the House GOP, already has indicated that he will make a run for Minority Leader. (Representative Pence authored, along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), an immigration reform proposal that he characterized as a compromise.  Among other provisions, their bill mandated that people in the U.S. without papers would have to return to their countries of origin, a measure some called a “touch-base” proposal.)  With the Democratic take-over of the House, anti-immigrant House Members lost the advantages that accrue by being part of the majority party. It remains to be seen what they will do to regenerate themselves and their base in Congress. 

Democratic Control of the Senate: The balance of power in the Senate rested on results from one race, Virginia. Having now been called for the Democrats, the Senate in the 110th Congress will consist of 51 Democrats (including two Senators caucusing with them from Vermont and Connecticut) and 49 Republicans.  Given Democratic control of the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), a strong supporter of effective and fair immigration reform, will become the new Majority Leader and Democrats will control the Senate floor and chair the committees. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) likely will chair the Judiciary Committee, with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) chairing the Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee. Republican control of the Senate would have meant that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has not been a supporter of good immigration reform, would have been the next Majority Leader and Republicans would have controlled the Senate floor and the committee structure.

Clearly, the margins between the two parties are very close.  An important player in the immigration debate who will be returning to the Senate is Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Although he was never expected to lose his seat, Senator Kyl’s re-election was closer and more hotly contested than had been anticipated.  Senator Kyl and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) are the chief architects of the anti-immigrant measures and amendments in the Senate-passed S. 2611, and are expected to continue to work in support of measures that immigration advocates will oppose. Equally interesting will be the role that Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will be playing in the 110th Congress.  Running as an Independent after being defeated in the Connecticut Democratic primary, Senator Lieberman will be courted by both parties, and will be enjoying this courtship.

What is the future of Immigration Reform? With Democrats taking control of Congress, can we expect the 110th Congress to debate and pass a good immigration reform measure?  That is uncertain. Why?  Because of the diversity of the Democratic Caucus, especially given the positions of some new Representatives, that reflects different views on immigration and immigration reform and the need for both Democratic and Republican leadership to push through issues that unite, not divide the party.  On the other hand, Senators like John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy ((D-MA) will be pushing their colleagues to pass immigration reform

In addition, both Democrats and Republicans will be studying the significance of the fact that 76% of Latinos voted for Democrats (vs 23% for Republicans) in 2006, versus 40% to 44% who voted for President Bush in 2004. We will have to get more information on specific races, but in past elections, Latinos voted against candidates they perceived as anti-immigrant and anti-immigration and used immigration as the lens through which they viewed candidates on other issues. Thus, any party that wants to capture this important sector of the electorate needs to be “right” on immigration.  Furthermore, and this may be the bottom line, Americans through this election sent a strong signal that they want problems solved.  Clearly, the current immigration system is one of these problems, and the 109th Congress, under Republican leadership, made a mistake by making immigration an issue in the election rather than a problem for Congress to address. Finally, by their choices in this election, voters also demonstrated that they no longer view the Republican Party as the party of national security.  This gives Democrats the opportunity to frame immigration as an issue, if handled appropriately, which can help enhance our security. If the past is any indicator of the present and future, immigration measures pass Congress with bipartisan support.  Given this election, we will have to wait and see how each Party determines its relationship to the other will it be cooperation or gridlock?  We also will have to wait and see how both the Senate and House each work with the Bush Administration. Also yet to be seen is how President Bush will position himself on specific issues, including immigration, and how he will work with a Congress no longer controlled solely by his Party. The President indicated during a press conference held after the election that immigration is a vital issue and he hopes to get something done, especially given the progress being made on the border in terms of security.

As Democrats and Republicans look to the 2008 election, which they already have begun to do, they both will position themselves as problem solvers. Our immigration system is one of the big problems that needs to be solved. They need to take up this challenge, and we need to be clear with them that now is the time for real, not fake, solutions. Everyone agrees that our current system does not work for our nation, for our security, for our families and for our economy. What kind of immigration system would work for America?  One that reunites families, allows people who are here to earn the opportunity to stay and achieve legal status as permanent residents, gives American employers the workers they need, creates a legal pathway for people to come here in the future, and enhances our security.  What should NOT be included in any reform package are measures that are spun as “enforcement”but really are “poison pills” that eliminate due process and civil liberty protections for noncitizens.

The ILRC will continue to advocate with our immigrant partners and colleagues in support of fair and effective immigration reform.  For more information, contact Judy Golub at JGolub@ilrc.org and 415-255-9499, ext. 465.

USCIS Announces Transfer of I-129F Fiance Visa Petitions For K-3 Spouses

November 16th, 2006

As of October 23, 2006, the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) has transferred Form I-129F fiance visa petitions for K-3 spouses of US citizens to the California Service Center (CSC) for adjudication.  This transfer is in preparation for Phase 3 of the USCIS’s centralized filing and bi-specialized adjudication.  All other processing procedures will remain the same.  Please visit the USCIS website for more information about the transfer.

Sex Offender Bill Restricts Family-Based Petitions

November 16th, 2006

On July 27, 2006, President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which bars US citizen and legal permanent resident convicted sex offenders from obtaining approved family-based immigrant visa petitions.  In particular, section 402 bars US citizens and legal permanent residents convicted of a specified offense against a minor from ever obtaining green card status for any family member through an immigrant visa petition.  The one exception is where the Secretary of Homeland Security, in his sole and unreviewable discretion, determines that the US citizen or legal permanent resident petitioner does not pose any risk to the family member being sponsored.  Please see the text of the Adam Walsh Act.

Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages

November 16th, 2006

In a report entitled “Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on wages:  New Data and Analysis from 1990 – 2004,”  issued by the Immigration Policy Center, Dr. Giovanni Peri, Ph.D., writes:

“A crucial question in the current debate over immigration is what impact immigrants have on the wages of native-born workers. At first glance, it might seem that the simple economics of supply and demand provides the answer: immigrants increase the supply of labor; hence they should decrease the wages of native workers. However, the issue is more complicated than this for two reasons that have been largely overlooked. First, immigrants and natives tend to differ in their educational attainment, skill sets, and occupations, and they perform jobs that often are interdependent. As a result, immigrants do not compete with the majority of natives for the same jobs. Rather, they complement the native-born workforce which increases the productivity, and therefore the wages, of natives. Second, the addition of new workers to the labor force stimulates investment as entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to organize these new workers in productive ways that generate profits. When these two factors are included in the analysis of immigration and wages, it becomes clear that immigration has a positive effect on the wages of most native-born workers.

Among the findings of this report:

 

  • Immigrants are increasingly concentrated among workers with the lowest and highest levels of education, but comprise a relatively small share of workers in intermediate groups.
  • During the 1990-2004 period, immigration accounted for 20 percent of employment growth among workers without a high-school diploma and 14.1 percent among workers with at least a college degree. In contrast, immigration accounted for 9.9 percent of employment growth among workers with only a high-school diploma and 6.5 percent among those with some college.
  • The share of foreign-born workers within each educational group varies according to years of experience, sometimes by wide margins. In 2004, for instance, 34.1 percent of workers without a high-school diploma were foreign-born, but the foreign-born share ranged from 11.6 percent to 49.3 percent depending on years of experience.
  • Since workers with different levels of experience tend to fill different types of jobs, even if they have comparable levels of education, this pattern suggests that natives are in direct competition only with a subset of immigrants within a given educational group, while benefiting from complementarities with workers in other experience groups.
  • Immigrants tend to choose different occupations than natives. Since the services provided by different occupations are not perfectly substitutable for each other, this implies that natives and immigrants are not perfect substitutes for each other even if they have similar levels of education and experience.
  • During the 1990-2004 period, the 90 percent of native-born workers with at least a high-school diploma experienced wage gains from immigration that ranged from 0.7 percent to 3.4 percent depending on education. Native-born workers without a high-school diploma lost only 1.1 percent of their real yearly wages due to immigration.”

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) is dedicated exclusively to the analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States. The IPC is a division of the American Immigration Law Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational foundation under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

For more information about the report go to http://www.ailf.org/ipc/infocus/infocus_10306.shtml.

US Tightens Screening of 2006 Nursing Board Passers

November 16th, 2006

The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing (CGFNS), an American organization that determines the eligibility of foreign-trained nurses to work in the United States, is not yet accepting applicants from among the passers of the tainted June 2006 nursing licensure exams.

In a statement posted at its website, the CGFNS said it was still reviewing “whether the licensure process followed in light of the challenged results of the June 2006 exam is comparable with that required for nurses licensed in America, as required by U.S. law.”

The CGFNS will first conduct an evaluation and determine “in the near future” whether the June 2006 batch applicants were eligible for VisaScreen certification.

VisaScreen is the program provided by the CGFNS’ International Commission on Healthcare Professions that helps foreign health care professionals qualify for certain occupational visas. It does so by “verifying and evaluating their credentials to ensure that they meet the government’s minimum eligibility standards.”

“Any VisaScreen applications that CGFNS receives from June 2006 passers will be accepted but deferred for a final decision until this assessment process is complete,” the CGFNS said in the statement.

“If the assessment concludes that the license is not comparable, the VisaScreen application from a June 2006 passer will be denied.”

 Please see the most recent article about the tainted licensure results.

New Restrictions on Fiance Visa Petitions

November 15th, 2006

Under the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA), the petitioner of a K-1 fiance visa petition or K-3 petition for an alien spouse must submit information on any criminal conviction for specified crimes with the Form I-129 nonimmigrant visa petition. Also, IMBRA imposes time and numerical filing limitations, establishes a waiver of these limitations (including a general waiver, an extraordinary circumstances waiver in cases involving a history of violent offenses, and a mandatory waiver in cases where the petitioner was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty), and requires the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to track repeated petitions. Please see the USCIS website.