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.

 

 

 

Access resources

http://immigrationimpact.com/2015/08/03/h-1b-workers-compliment-native-born/

http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/05/10-h1b-visas-stem-rothwell-ruiz

http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/h-1b-visa-program-primer-program-and-its-impact-jobs-wages-and-economy

[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

Decreasing American Unemployment by Hiring Foreign Workers

June 23rd, 2015

In the U.S., the topic of employing foreign-born workers can cause a bit of a divide, with some leaning more for it and others against it. For those who may oppose employing these workers, it often comes down to the belief that they are taking jobs away from U.S.-born citizens. Recent research, however, finds that this is not necessarily the case.

The H-1B visa program aims to offer employment to foreign professionals whose occupations call for highly-educated candidates. Each year, the U.S. makes 65,000 visas available to foreign-born workers, with an additional 20,000 for those who hold a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university.

This may seem like enough visas, especially considering the recent high levels of unemployment in the U.S., but research shows that increasing the number of visas for foreign-born workers would actually increase the total number of jobs. In fact, estimates show more than 230,000 jobs could have been created for U.S. born workers between 2007 and 2008 had the hundreds of thousands of visas that were to be put in a lottery not been rejected. Looking ahead, it is estimated that 1.3 million new jobs may be created by 2045 if the numbers of H-1B visas per year is increased.

The reason for this? Many of these jobs are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Not only is unemployment is extremely low in STEM occupations, showing an unmet need for labor, but the economic impact of these knowledge jobs increases both the overall number of jobs and the GDP. According to a report prepared by Regional Economic Models, Inc., an increase in H-1B visas could create an estimated 1.3 million new jobs and add around $158 billion to the GDP by 2045.

It is not solely STEM jobs that are calling for H-1B employees. Along with research universities, many companies across the country have a demand for these workers — companies like Caterpillar Inc., Bank of America and the Mayo Clinic to name a few. And with more H-1B petitions comes more wage growth. According to the American Immigration Council, the Computer Systems Design and Related Services category saw a “5.5 percent wage growth since 1990” and a “7.0 percent wage growth since 2009.”

With issues such as unemployment at the forefront of many Americans’ minds, perhaps its time to change how we look at foreign-born workers. Allowing for more H-1B visas isn’t a complete solution, but it would definitely create more positive effects for all involved.

Comment » | H-1B, Immigration reform

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