Senate Compromise’s Expanded Deportation and Detention Provisions

May 30th, 2007

The following is from Detention Watch Network (DWN): 

“On May 31, 2007, around the country, immigrants facing deportation under the current laws, legal experts, and community leaders will speak out against dramatically expanded deportation and detention provisions buried in the Senate “compromise” immigration legislation. Touted as the solution that brings immigrants out of the shadows, these provisions, in fact, will subject more immigrants to harsh conditions and unfair court procedures and, as a result, force more people, including legal residents, to remain hidden from view.

While there are some good provisions in the Senate bill, it is packed with unjust enforcement provisions that undercut the spirit and goals of real legalization.  The bill currently being debated on the Senate floor contains many of the same controversial provisions that were considered by last year’s Congress.  Not only do these provisions undermine the legalization program, they take away the right to a fair day in court, legalize the indefinite detention of noncitizens, dramatically increase detention beds and allow domestic military bases to be used for immigration detention, and turn local police into immigration agents.

Current immigration enforcement practices are very harsh. Already this year, thousands of families have been torn apart by raids, detentions, and deportations.  Giving more power to immigration agencies that reject responsibility for detention conditions and treatment undermines the checks-and-balances in our justice system and hurts our communities and families even more while ensuring the private prison industry locks up higher profits.  Real comprehensive immigration bill should incorporate principles of fairness, due process and the rule of law.”

USCIS Announces Filing Fee Increases for July 30, 2007

May 29th, 2007

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today a final fee structure that increases the filing fees for its applications and petitions.  It claims that the new fee structure includes benefits for some families with children and also expands the availability of fee waivers and exemptions

Applications or petitions postmarked or otherwise filed on or after July 30, 2007 must include the new fee.

It should be emphasized that although the Form I-485 application to adjust status is increasing from $395 to $1,010, including biometrics, this increased fee will INCLUDE the filing fees for the Form I-765 application for work authorization and Form I-131 request for travel permission, which currently cost $250 together.  Therefore, the real fee for those applying for these benefits actually increases by $265.

There Still is Hope for Positive Immigration Reform

May 25th, 2007

The following comments from the editor of from May 25, 2007, are welcoming and I hope that immigration reform turns in a more positive direction: 

“Some in the bar are misreading the Senate’s debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The Senate is not engaged in idle debate, it is determined to pass a bill.  This should not be news. The Senate was determined to act last year also, and despite setbacks the Senate did pass S. 2611, the McCain-Kennedy bill (some of the setbacks were severe, remember the Martinez-Hagel compromise which cut the legalization beneficiaries in half?). What has changed from last year to this year, is political control in Congress. And this affects CIR’s language, and its legislative twists and turns, decisively. Last year, the Republicans were in control of the House, and chose the path of confrontation rather than compromise. This was a political decision, and one which backfired on the Republican Party, being responsible in part for the GOP’s losing both Chambers of Congress. This year the Democrats are in charge of both Chambers – with consequences to CIR’s language which we spell out below.

In 2006, Senate Republicans could be certain that in passing a liberal bill like S. 2611, loaded with benefits (SKIL, AgJOBS, DREAM, etc), these benefits would be significantly watered down in a two step process. First, the House’s bill would have none of the generous benefits – as indeed, the Sensenbrenner bill H.R.3347, which the House had already passed, clearly showed. Second, the Conference to reconcile these widely different bills would be controlled by Republicans from both chambers. The likely result would be a middle ground with fewer benefits, and harsher language all around, than the Senate’s bill.

In 2007, the reality could not be more different than last year. This time, Senate Republicans can be certain that no matter how harsh a bill they craft, the bill will be significantly liberalized in a two step process. First, the House’s bill will likely be STRIVE, or something even more generous (and bear in mind that STRIVE is more liberal than McCain-Kennedy in the number of its beneficiaries, in addition to having SKIL, AgJOBS, DREAM, and other goodies). Second, the Conference to reconcile the Senate’s tough bill with the House’s liberal bill will be controlled by Democrats from both chambers, probably Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Conyers. The likely result will be something far more generous than anything the Senate will pass.

That is why Sen. Kyl has to get all the concessions from Sen. Kennedy in the bank now, while the issue is still in the Senate. This way, Sen. Kyl is assured that the final Act will be slightly tougher on enforcement than otherwise. And that is why Sen. Kennedy continues to make concession after concession necessary to move the bill along, knowing full well that during Conference, the CIR bill will become more generous.

To the great credit of the politicians of both parties, they are moving the legislative process forward in the Senate despite strong opposition from both ends of the political spectrum. And the House is doing more than waiting in the wings. As Rep. Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, has already let slip, the House is determined to act on immigration regardless of what the Senate does. The House’s bill, the first glimpse of which should be available during markup in the week of June 4th (the same week that the Senate will finalize its bill), will likely have so much good news that the bar will likely drop its collective jaw! A Conference is, therefore, very likely on this bill even if the Senate bill fails.

The bar should face up to the undeniable fact that our immigration law is broken, and badly in need of a total re-write.  That is the process that the Senate has so courageously begun. Those who cannot see the trees of the Senate bill’s language for the wood of the legislative process would be well counselled to heed Bismarck’s admonition that Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. Lets make improvements to the extent that is possible as the process unfolds, and prepare for a feast at the end. Bon Appetit!”

Senate Passes Amendment to Increase to $5000 H-1B Fees

May 25th, 2007

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Sanders amendment , which increases H-1B fees to $5000.  He originally requested an $8500 hike, but “compromised” on $5000 and therefore won the support of Specter and Kennedy.  This is utterly OUTRAGEOUS, especially to smaller employers that need H-1B employees.  If this increase remains in effect, essentially eviscerating H-1Bs and a needed workforce for many employers trying to compete in the global economy, then along with the other harsh measures, the bad outweighs the good. 

It is very important that we all contact our senators and stress that viable, beneficial and fair immigration reform be passed and that the American public will not be swayed by a minority of radical restrictionists. 

Update on Amendments to Senate Immigration Bill

May 25th, 2007

This week, there was a flurry of activity in the Senate over the immigration reform legislation, with many amendments being accepted and defeated.  There still are many harsh, unfair and nonsensical provisions in the legislation that need to be deleted or the legislation will not solve our immigration problems of undocumented workers.

According to the Immigration Forum, the following is a summary of the votes that have occurred so far in the Senate.  It is very upsetting that the Bingaman amendment passed, which cuts the number of Y guest worker visas in half. These visas will allow foreigners to work temporarily in the US and such temporary authorization to work in the US is at the crux of the undocumented worker problem in the US.  By halving the number, we are assured of growing another population of undocumented workers.

Votes on May 22

A Dorgan (D-ND) amendment, to strike the Y temporary worker program, was defeated by a vote of 31 to 65.

Votes on May 23

A Bingaman (D-NM) amendment, to reduce the cap on Y temporary workers to 200,000, was agreed to by a vote of 74 to 24.

A Feinstein (D-CA) -Martinez (D-NJ) amendment, to provide for the protection of unaccompanied minors, was agreed to by voice vote.

A Gregg (R-NH) amendment, to provide even more resources for border enforcement, was agreed to by voice vote.

A Graham (R-SC) amendment, to provide for minimum sentences for those who renter the United States after removal, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

A Leahy (D-VT) amendment, having to do with rules applicable to immigrants employed as dairy workers, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

A Hutchison (R-TX) amendment, providing local officials and the Secretary of Homeland Security greater involvement in decisions regarding the location of border fencing, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

Votes on May 24

An Akaka (D-HI) amendment to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas was agreed to by a vote of 87 to 9.A Coleman (R-MN) amendment, to bar localities from having policies that bar officials from asking about immigration status in the course of law enforcement or dispensing other services, was defeated by a vote of 48 to 49.

A Dorgan (D-NC) amendment, to sunset the temporary worker program after five years, was rejected by a vote of 48 to 49.

A Sanders (D-VT) amendment, to establish the American Competitiveness Scholarship Program, passed by a vote of 59 to 35.

A Vitter (R-LA) amendment, to strike the legalization program, was defeated by a vote of 29 to 66.

Family Immigration Invaluable

May 22nd, 2007

The comprehensive immigration reform package currently being debated before the Senate drastically shifts immigration policy away from family sponsorship with harmful results for our country.  Please see the article in the LA Times by Bill Ong Hing, a professor of law and Asian American studies at UC Davis.

Bad Immigration Deal

May 22nd, 2007

I wholeheartedly concur with the NY Times Editorial of May 20, 2007, denouncing the poison pills of the recent bipartisan negotiating teams’ immigration deal.  The more I read about it, the more I realize that this is just a temporary solution to the illegal immigrant population in the US and that it will only create more illegal aliens.  The point-based (merit) system will not stem the demand for relatively unskilled workers and positions, which will compose almost 80% of all new jobs created in the US in the near future.  The failure to remove the ten-year to admission to the US will essentially nullify the legal permanent residency component of the Z visa provision, since most of the Z visa holders will not be able to reenter the US for 10 years after departing to obtain their legal permanent residency.  It is a joke to think that the US government can investigate or enforce the employment verification requirements that will pertain to all US employers or to even build a well-functioning system in the near future.

Ultimately, the agreement as it now stands is harsh, unjust, mean-spirited and senseless.  Unless adequate amendments are made to remove these provisions, then this exercise in immigration reform is unproductive.

Immigration Compromise Reached by Senators

May 17th, 2007

A bipartisan group of senators reached a momentous compromise today on comprehensive immigration reform.  It would offer the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers a route to legal status. It will be brought to the floor of the Senate on Monday for debate and the senators hope to vote on it before they leave for the Memorial Day.  The House of Representatives will most likely offer their own bill after the Senate presents one.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a Fact Sheet summarizing the provisions of this reform legislation.  It includes the following:

1.  Border security and mandatory employment verification must first be met before other elements of the proposal are implemented. 

2.  Employers will be required to verify the work authorization of all employees using an employment eligibility verification system.  Workers will be required to present more verifiable identity documents.

3.  It creates a temporary worker program, under which the temporary workers will be limited to three two-year terms and will be required to leave the US for one year between renewals.  They will be able to bring immediate family members as long as they can show their financial ability to support them and that they carry health insurance.

4.  A “Z visa” will be created for illegal immigrants in the U.S.  They must pass a background check, remain employed, have a clear criminal record, pay a fine of $1,000 and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card.  Years later, the Z visa holder may apply for legal permanent residency, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine, completing English requirements waiting at the back of the visa backlog line, returning to their home country to file for their green card and demonstrating merit under a merit-based system.

5.  A merit-based system will be established whereby immigrants will be selected based on their skills and attributes.  They will be assigned points for skills, education, ability to speak English, level of schooling, training in math, science or technology, family ties, job offer in a high-demand field and employer endorsement.

6.  It will end sponsorship for certain family members.  Visas for parents of US citizens will be limited.  Immigrant visas for siblings and adult children will be eliminated.

7.  It will end the Diversity Lottery Program.

8.  It will clear the family backlog within 8 years (as opposed to some waits estimated at 30 years).

DOL Publishes Final Rule on Labor Certifications

May 17th, 2007

The following summary is from the Federal Register, May 17, 2007 (72 FR 27903): “SUMMARY: The Department of Labor (DOL or Department) is amending its regulations to enhance program integrity and reduce the incentives and opportunities for fraud and abuse related to the permanent employment of aliens in the United States. This Final Rule includes several major provisions. It prohibits the substitution of alien beneficiaries on permanent labor certification applications and resulting certifications. The Final Rule provides a 180-day validity period for approved labor certifications; employers will have 180 calendar days within which to file an approved permanent labor certification in support of a Form I140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I140 hereafter) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The rule prohibits the sale, barter or purchase of permanent labor certifications and applications. In addition, this rule requires employers to pay the costs of preparing, filing and obtaining certification. An employer’s transfer to the alien beneficiary of the employer’s costs incurred in the labor certification or application process is strictly prohibited. The rule makes clear an alien may pay his or her own legitimate costs in the permanent labor certification process, including attorneys’ fees for representation of the alien. The rule also reinforces existing law pertaining to the submission of fraudulent or false information and clarifies current DOL procedures for responding to incidents of possible fraud. Finally, the rule establishes procedures for debarment from the permanent labor certification program. Consistent with the proposed rule, the provisions in this Final Rule apply to permanent labor certification applications and approved certifications filed under both the Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) program regulation effective March 28, 2005, and prior regulations implementing the permanent labor certification program. This rule also clarifies the Department’s “no modifications” policy for applications filed on or after March 28, 2005, under the new, streamlined PERM process. DATES: This Final Rule is effective July 16, 2007.”

Senate Bipartisan Group Closer on Immigration

May 4th, 2007

According to the Orange County Register, the clock is ticking on the Senate bipartisan group on immigration to have a proposal ready for the full Senate.

According to the Register:

“The senators are trying to reach agreement on a bill that would: tighten enforcement at the border and in the interior of the country; create a foolproof workplace verification system, include a legalization plan for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living here and establish a program for future foreign workers.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said there was general agreement in the room about the enforcement provisions of an immigration bill, including a section that would forestall any new guest worker program or legalization plan until certain border and workplace enforcement improvements were put in place. Such a trigger was something that has long been suggested by some GOP senators.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor during the by the end of May. If the bipartisan group does not produce a compromise bill by May 14th, Reid is expected to introduce an immigration bill, perhaps the one the Senate passed last spring, to start debate the Senate floor.

Let’s hope that if any comprehensive immigration reform passes in this session with a trigger requirement, that it does not delay the implementation of the legalization and future worker program for years to come.  It has been projected that complying with the border security and employment verification requirements could take at least one year, and then actually implementing the legislation after the trigger has been switched could take another year.  Our nation cannot afford to wait that long for immigration reform.