Ryan’s Reform Ruling

November 23rd, 2015

On Nov. 1, newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan ruled out overhauling U.S. immigration policies while President Obama is still in office. Ryan claimed that the president cannot be trusted on this issue, as he has bypassed Congress with an executive order shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. This executive order includes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs. These programs would allow eligible undocumented immigrants to receive permits to temporarily stay in the U.S.

Another program effective in the summer of 2015 – called the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP — prioritizes some groups of undocumented immigrants for deportation. Convicted felons would be deported as a first priority, followed by those with serious misdemeanors and/or unlawful entry or re-entry. Finally, those with a removal order issued after Jan. 1, 2014 would make up the third, or lowest, priority. This revises Obama’s immigration policy proposed in November 2014.

Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., about 2 million are now categorized into one of these priority groups. The other 9.6 million immigrants are not currently seen as targets for immigration enforcement, which may improve their relationships with local law enforcement officers who are now less inclined to target them for deportation.

Many Sanctuary Cities rely on this lack of deportation to enable cooperation between undocumented immigrants and local law enforcement.

Lacking comprehensive immigration reform, many U.S. states are starting to implement their own state-based reforms – and they’re beginning to see positive results, according to Latin Post . States are experimenting with ways to bring these immigrants into the economy, aiming to benefit not only the immigrants themselves but also the state economies.

In terms of state-level reform, 12 states have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, trying to improve road safety while generating revenue from permit fees. New Jersey is discussing such a program, and projects netting between $5.2 million and $9.5 million in the first three years.

These state reforms demonstrate that making strides to incorporate undocumented immigrants can benefit the economy as a whole. Whether that means expanding driver’s licenses or ensuring immigrants are paid the minimum wage, states are seeing success with these programs. Politicians like Paul Ryan must take these successes into account when discussing the need for comprehensive immigration reform, as doing so can benefit local, state and national economies — and constituents. Pandering to the anti-immigrant restrictionists is not a policy solution. It is cowardice.

Comment » | Immigration reform

The War on Sanctuary Cities

November 3rd, 2015

On Oct. 20, the Senate voted to block a bill that would remove protections from illegal immigrants in cities where local police do not actively enforce immigration laws.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) penned the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146), gaining support varied support. The bill aims to remove millions of dollars in funding from sanctuary cities for not complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. Sanctuary cities generally restrict local law enforcement from complying with federal immigration laws.

The term “sanctuary city” came about in the 1980s when thousands of Central American refugees came to the U.S. to escape civil wars in their respective home countries, and were denied asylum upon their arrival. Several different religious institutions came together in the Sanctuary Movement to help protect refugees from deportation.

Some of the funding in question directly impacts programs designed to strengthen communities, such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). While sanctuary cities do not technically shield individuals from immigration authorities, they do improve community safety by empowering illegal immigrants to work with police without fear of deportation.

A number of Republicans, including presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, advocated for passing S. 2146, arguing that undocumented immigrants pose a safety risk for American citizens and communities.

Our country desperately needs comprehensive immigration reform that goes beyond partial fixes like S. 2146. While enough senators disagree with the bill to block it, they continue to ignore the underlying issue.

We have learned about the positive impact that H1-B visa holders bring to the U.S. economy, and reports show that these sanctuary cities are safer than believed by supporters of the bill. The only way to fully address the issues is through a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

Comment » | Immigration reform

Visa Bulletin Fiasco

October 15th, 2015

Over the past few weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps receiving flower deliveries at its offices. Each delivery bears a note reading, “Dear Honorable Jeh Johnson, DHS Visa Bulletin reversal has caused irreparable harm to our families. We ask you to not inflict injustice on us (legal immigrants) for no fault of ours. Please fix October Visa Bulletin. We wish you the very best.”

Many immigrants are sending the flowers to protest the October Visa Bulletin posted to the Department of State’s (DOS) website on Sept. 25. The bulletin contradicts an earlier Sept. 9 post stating that immigrants who had been waiting to file for the last step of the green card process — which allows for changing jobs and traveling outside the country — would be able to do so beginning in October.

For the thousands of immigrants waiting to get to this step of the process, the initial news was welcomed. Many of these immigrants waiting hold H-1B visas, the most common for highly skilled immigrant workers.

Just 16 days after the initial visa bulletin was posted, the DOS released a new bulletin stating that the prior bulletin contained an error, and the thousands of immigrants waiting were no longer eligible to file. To the many immigrants who have invested thousands of dollars in preparing their applications, the reversal was a giant blow. Now, they fall back into the green card backlog, which can equate to more waiting.

For the immigrants that are currently living here with H-1B visas, this was especially troublesome. These workers are typically highly skilled and work in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). The very concept of hiring these workers can cause a rift among Americans, but research has shown that these workers actually add more opportunities for native-born Americans. With that in mind, giving H-1B visa holders the opportunity to file for the last step of the green card process could open more doors for these workers, and by extension many Americans.

According to CNN.com, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry. While the court denied the plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit is proceeding.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has called for Secretary Kerry, Secretary Johnson and Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House Cecilia Muñoz to reconsider their decision and restore the original Sept. 9 bulletin, citing the hardships these affected immigrants have faced and stressing that the revised process will create additional struggles.

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

When H-1B Workers Complete a Team, Everyone Wins

August 18th, 2015

Finding the right employees is an ongoing challenge for most companies. As workers come and go, knowledge and skillsets shift across teams. And with more specialized skills, it’s even harder to find the right talent, especially when limited by geography.

As a result, many companies recruit highly-skilled H-1B visa workers to complement their existing workforces and fill the gaps that pose barriers to growth. Filling these positions helps companies unlock their full potential and increase productivity. The results? Increasingly, economists and companies report that more H-1B visa holders translate to more jobs for native-born workers, higher wages and overall economic growth.

Even when unemployment trends higher, the U.S. experiences a continuing shortage of knowledge workers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In response, Congress created the H-1B program in 1990 to help companies fill this need by sponsoring visas for qualified knowledge workers. Currently, 65,000 visas are granted annually, plus an extra 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees earned from U.S. universities. However, demand for these workers continues to far outstrip supply.

When companies need to fill STEM-related positions, they struggle to find native-born workers with the right skills. Based on 2011 data, the Brookings Institute found that 43 percent of STEM occupations with H-1B requests are reposted on job boards after one month, “implying that they are unfulfilled.” As a result, 90 percent of all H-1B visas seek to fill STEM-related positions. [1]

Once a company assembles a complete team that blends native-born talent with specialized H-1B worker skillsets, everything starts to click. The company can overcome hurdles that previously slowed growth and innovation, leading to greater productivity, higher wages and more jobs.

Economists found that between 1990 and 2010, “growth in foreign STEM workers may explain between 10 and 25 percent of the aggregate productivity growth.” Meanwhile, over the same period, the same study found that increasing foreign STEM workers by one percent of total employment increased wages of all native college-educated workers by four to six percent.[2]

According to the American Enterprise Institute and Partnership for a New American Economy, every 100 H-1B workers were associated with an additional 183 jobs for native-born workers, leading the study to conclude that more H-1B visas “correspond to greater job opportunities for U.S.-born workers.” Indeed, Bill Gates reported a greater effect within Microsoft, noting, “For every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities.”[3]

For smaller technology companies, the impact can be more extreme. Tech companies with fewer than 5,000 employees report that recruiting an H-1B visa holder unlocks the company’s productivity, to the tune of 7.5 new workers for every H-1B position.[4]

When a company has a team on the verge of great things, identifying the missing pieces – and filling those roles – can have a tremendous impact on the whole enterprise. Smartly leveraging the H-1B visa program to complement native-born employees can improve fortunes for all, resulting in greater productivity, higher wages, more jobs – and more success.




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[1] Rothwell, Jonathan and Neil G. Ruiz, “H-1B Visas and the STEM Shortage.” The Brookings Institute, May 10, 2013. http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/05/10-h1b-visas-stem-rothwell-ruiz

[2] Anderson, Stuart. “H-1B Visas Essential to Attracting and Retaining Talent in America.” National Foundation for American Policy – May 2013. Study conducted by Economists Giovanni Peri (UC, Davis), Kevin Shih (UC, Davis), and Chad Sparber (Colgate University).

[3] Anderson, Stuart. “H-1B Visas Essential to Attracting and Retaining Talent in America.” National Foundation for American Policy – May 2013

[4] Nowrasteh, Alex. “H1-B Visas: A Case for Open Immigration of Highly Skilled Foreign Workers.” – Competitive Enterprise Institute, October 2010. https://cei.org/sites/default/files/Alex%20Nowrasteh%20-%20H1-B%20Visas.pdf

Comment » | H-1B, Immigration reform

Children at the Border

August 4th, 2015

Each year, thousands of children enter the U.S. in search of asylum. These refugee children, who are fleeing violence, persecution or trafficking of some sort, oftentimes do not even know that they are refugees — and that because of this, they have some protection under the law.

Recently, a federal judge critiqued the 1997 Flores v. Reno settlement, which guaranteed minimum standards for detention and the release of unaccompanied children being held in immigration detention. He stated that the settlement referred to all minors rather than simply those who are unaccompanied, and that they should be released from custody.

Along with this critique, the judge called for accompanying parents to be released so long as it would not “create a flight risk or a safety risk.” Many of the fleeing men and women seeking asylum in the U.S. are doing so for the same reason that their children are — for their safety in one way or another.

On June 24, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that women who passed initial interviews establishing eligibility for protection under U.S. immigration law would be released. This was met with coercion from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers persuading the women to wear ankle monitors, intimidation from officials, unclear instructions due to language barriers in official documents and delayed access to counsel in bond hearings.

On top of these infractions, the detention standards guaranteed in the Flores settlement are far from being enforced. Many immigrants are kept in holding cells called “hieleras” or ice boxes due to their freezing cold temperatures. These cells are often overcrowded, unsanitary and do not provide detainees with the proper nutrition and hygiene required under the Flores case. These centers are set up to be for short-term detention lasting no more than 12 hours. There are cases, though, where Border Patrol agents have individuals detained for days and sometimes weeks.

The United States has obligations to international law in regard to allowing refugees coming here to seek asylum. The fact that children are often held in detention, given little to no legal representation is a problem in itself. On Aug. 3, the government will submit their reasoning as to why the ruling on the release of detained children and their mothers, especially those with no criminal records, should not be implemented. Until then, we will have to count on organizations like the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project and other advocates to push for immediate reform of this flawed system.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, Immigration reform

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