Inhumane US Immigration Bar for HIV Positive People

May 14th, 2008

Andrew Sullivan at the Washington Post has written a terrific editorial entitled “Phobia at the Gates,” which discusses the US government’s inhumane and irrational bar to admission of individuals who are HIV positive:

In this article he discusses the twelve countries that curent ban H-1V positive visitors:  Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan and . . . the United States. He notes that “China recently acted to remove its ban on HIV-positive visitors because it feared embarrassment ahead of the Olympics.”

He writes, “It seems unthinkable that the country that has been the most generous in helping people with HIV should legally ban all non-Americans who are HIV-positive. But it’s true: The leading center of public and private HIV research discriminates against those with HIV.”

He notes that while TB and leprosy are not absolute bars to admissibility under US immigration law, HIV remains the only medical condition permanently designated as grounds for inadmissibility to the US.  

He notes that the ban was proposed by Sen. Jesse Helms and that “President George H.W. Bush sought to drop the ban, but in 1993, after a scare about Haitian refugees, Congress wrote it into law.”

It should be noted that there is a waiver for nonimmigrants to enter temporarily.

Mr. Sullivan notes that it would not unnecessarily burden the US financially, since “all legal immigrants and their sponsors are required to prove that they can provide their own health insurance for at least 10 years after being admitted.  Making private health insurance a condition of visiting or immigrating with HIV prevents any serious government costs, and the tax dollars that would be contributed by many of the otherwise qualified immigrants would be a net gain for the government — by some estimates, in the tens of millions of dollars.”

However, Mr. Sullivan concludes that the primary reason to remove the ban is not to avoid a financial burden but to end the discrimination and phobia against those with HIV.  He notes that there is a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Gordon Smith and Richard Lugar and Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama, to repeal the ban in an amendment to the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  Also, he notes that removing the stigma against those with HIV will allow the US to treat more individuals with HIV and make our country more secure.

USCIS Announces Rule to Increase TN Stay

May 7th, 2008

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it is publishing a notice to increase the maximum period of admission for Trade-NAFTA (TN) professional workers from Canada or Mexico from one year to three years, the same term of admission for H-1B specialty occupation workers.

The proposed rule will also allow TN nonimmigrants to be granted an extension of stay in increments of up to three years, as opposed to the current maximum of one year.  There is no limitation on the period of stay for TN nonimmigrants and, therefore, they may seek multiple readmissions or extensions, provided their intended professional activity continues and they remain otherwise eligible. 

One of the great advantages of this rule is that TNs will no longer feel compelled to change their status to H-1B when they wish to start the process of applying for legal permanent residency (green card).  Currently, because the green card process is lengthly and usually takes several years, and because the TN is not a dual intent visa, which means that they cannot travel abroad and reenter in TN status if they are far enough along in the green card process, TNs must try to change their status to H-1B when starting the green card process.  Because of the cap on H-1B visas (65,000/20,000 for master’s degree from US), there is no guarantee that the TN will be able to change to H-1B status.  This rule allowing for an extended period of admission will allow many TNs to remain in TN status while the green card is pending without ever having to switch to H-1B status.

Mandatory E-Verify is Blasted as Overburdening SSA

May 7th, 2008

Today, the US House heard testimony on legislation to require all employers to participate in E-Verify, the federal electronic employment verification system that allows an employer to verify an employee’s work authorization online.  The system is notorious for its many flaws and today representatives and witnesses voiced concern that the law would overtax the Social Security Administration (SSA) when it is trying to reduce the backlog of disabilitiy claims. 

The following is a statement from MALDEF:  “MALDEF strongly supports fixing this nation’s broken immigration system, but forcing a deeply flawed system upon an unstable economy is not the answer. A mandatory EEVS will not only impose unnecessary financial burdens upon U.S. businesses, it will lead to unnecessary and unlawful terminations when employers receive tentative non-confirmation reports from the government and they or their employees do not complete the process. Further, EEVS will result in discrimination by employers who choose to not comply with the program. Additionally, a mandatory EEVS will drive the undocumented into an underground labor force without legal protections which will affect all U.S. workers and harm businesses that comply with the law. Recognizing the dangers that come with a mandatory EEVS which will increase discrimination against Latinos and other national origin minorities, present burdensome costs to businesses, and threaten the jobs of nearly 13 million native-born U.S. citizens, Congress should reject the pending legislation.”

According to Workforce Management, an alternative to mandatory E-Verify is the New Employee Verification Act, sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas. Johnson’s legislation would eliminate the current I-9 process and require that companies submit new-hire information electronically to the Social Security Administration through a child-support enforcement system that about 90 percent of U.S. employers use.

According to Workforce Management’s online article of May 6, 2008:  “Proponents of the Johnson bill say E-Verify is inefficient, prone to error and incapable of detecting identity fraud. The HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce, which is led by the Society for Human Resource Management, criticizes E-Verify for relying on the Social Security database, which has a 4.1 percent error rate and could mistakenly declare millions of people ineligible for employment.

The Johnson measure would address such problems through an appropriation that would clean up the Social Security database before the verification system goes into effect, according to Mike Aitken, SHRM director of government affairs. The bill also provides a safe harbor for employers who use the system, reduces the number of identification documents for new hires from 25 to four and allows people to put additional protections on their Social Security numbers.”