The Right to (American) Dream: How states are slowly helping DREAMERS afford college

March 17th, 2014

Each year, roughly 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools. And up until fairly recently, many of these gifted young people lived in a state that didn’t allow them to take advantage of in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. But in 2014, additional states — particularly those in the Southeast — have enacted legislation that levels the playing field for all students and makes college more affordable

In a bold move, the Washington House has moved to take tuition equity a step further — voting 75-22 to expand eligibility for state financial aid to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Rep. Zack Hudgins (D), the bill’s House sponsor, understands the economic importance of investing in the state’s immigrant youth.

“This is about keeping our best and brightest here in Washington, and giving everyone a shot at the American Dream,” Hudgins said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Three other states — California, Texas and New Mexico — are also taking the extra step to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid.

But many low-income, undocumented students are still exempt from state-funded scholarships, and that’s an issue that Donald E. Graham, former Washington Post owner, hopes to address through his fund, “TheDream.US.” The fund aims to award full-tuition college scholarships to 1,000 students in the next academic year.

“I’m not wise enough to know what is the right immigration policy for the United States of America,” said Graham, who contributed an undisclosed amount to the fund, as did his brother, Bill. “I know these students deserve a chance at higher education.”

And that sentiment — the idea that all hardworking students in America deserve an opportunity to earn a quality education — is the driving force behind the state policy shifts we’re seeing around the country. And while these policy shifts are positive, many feel they are only a temporary fix to a much more massive problem — one that the federal government needs to step up and address.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more. 

Comment » | Immigration reform

Why Businesses Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

February 14th, 2014

As the debate over comprehensive immigration reform rages on, the business community remains one the issue’s strongest supporters. In fact, according to a recent survey of 500 business leaders in the Midwest conducted by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, nearly 65 percent of business leaders strongly support the Senate immigration reform bill.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, that businesses stand behind comprehensive immigration reform. Tech giants such as Microsoft and Facebook have long championed the cause – hoping to make it easier to recruit highly skilled employees from abroad. In 2013, Mark Zuckerberg started FWD.us, an advocacy group for immigration reform. While in 2007, Microsoft opened new offices in Canada, a country where it’s far easier to hire foreign employees. Nor is this push restricted to individual organizations – Governor Rick Snyder recently announced his plan to bring 50,000 immigrants to the struggling city of Detroit over a period of five years.

Since the 1950s, Detroit’s population has fallen more than 60 percent, from 1.8 million at its peak to just 700,000 today. Should the federal government approve Snyder’s plan, Detroit would offer visas to 5,000 highly educated immigrants in the first year ramping up to 15,000 visas in the fifth year, all under the stipulation that the recipients live and work in Detroit. Snyder’s thinking is not that unusual either, as similar pushes are already underway across the Midwest in Chicago, St. Louis, and Dayton, Ohio.

The thinking behind this goes as follows: the easier it is for educated immigrants to enter or remain in the country the more the national economy will benefit from their work and innovation; producing new enterprises, new jobs and a more stable tax-base — a change that advocates claim would also benefit long-term residents, such as the 38% of Detroit’s residents currently living below the poverty line.

America was built on the hard work and ingenuity of immigrants, and as the baby boomers steadily leave the workforce there is ample opportunity for a new generation of workers – both domestic and foreign – to lead the way. With 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country and many more interested in working here, comprehensive immigration reform could represent a key aspect of the country’s long-term economic growth. And as business leaders already know, the sooner comprehensive immigration reform is passed the more drastic its benefits will be.

Comment » | Immigration reform

Are House Republicans Finally Ready for Immigration Reform?

January 18th, 2014

2013 was supposed to be the year America finally saw comprehensive immigration reform. The American people gathered behind it, the President called it a “top priority” and the Senate passed their own bill just halfway through the year. But 2013 did not live up to everyone’s expectations, thanks in no small part to a long, drawn out process led by a powerful group of House Republicans. As we look to a new year, however, public opinion is radically shifting and House Republicans may find themselves unable to make excuses any longer.

According to a recent Pew Research survey, a 5 to 3 margin of Hispanics are now saying it is more important for unauthorized immigrants to be able to live and work in the US without fear of deportation than it is to get them on a path to citizenship. Seeing as the path to citizenship has been one of the most contested sections of the Senate’s June bill, the ability to circumvent that issue could be grounds for a serious compromise on both sides of the aisle. Moreover, with nearly 400,000 people deported annually since Obama took office, relief from deportations would go a long way towards alleviating the widespread pain brought on by a broken immigration system.

Compromise is never easy, and there is no telling just yet how the House Republicans (and even the House Democrats) will take to this idea. On the one hand, politicians need to come to terms with the fact that unauthorized immigrants are deeply ingrained in the fabric of America’s economy and communities. While on the other hand, many will be quick to point out that offering unauthorized immigrants only some rights could create a “caste” of second class citizens: people who can work and stay, but cannot vote or take advantage of the same privileges as full-fledged citizens.

So does a shifting public opinion mean House Republicans are finally running out of excuses for putting off immigration reform? Yes and no. While compromise of this sort would put a lot of pressure on House Republicans to quit making excuses, it would also anger politicians on both sides of the aisle. Some complaining it goes to far, and others claiming it doesn’t go far enough. Whatever the case, though, time is short for action. For with mid-term elections quickly coming up, immigration reform groups only have a few months left to put pressure on House Republicans for a long overdue immigration reform. And no one wants a repeat of 2013.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law.  We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goal

Comment » | Immigration reform

Understanding E-Verify: What is It, What Are Employer’s Obligations, and What Does Your Data Tell the Government

December 20th, 2013

E-Verify is a free, Web-based program that allows employers to verify the employment eligibility of their new hires and certain other workers electronically. Operated as a partnership between DHS and the Social Security Administration (SSA), the program is administered by USCIS.  The program was established to reduce unauthorized employment, reduce employment-verification-related discrimination, reduce the burdens on employers, and protect employers from civil and criminal penalties related to claims of hiring unauthorized workers. While the program is mostly voluntary, some employers are required to use the program to ensure their employees are work authorized. Those required to use E-Verify include most federal contractors and subcontractors who enter into or continue contracts with federal executive departments and agencies for all new hires and/or all persons performing services for certain federal contracts. In addition, some states require E-verify for their contractors, and Arizona requires it for all of its employers. There is little doubt that E-Verify will become mandatory for all employers as part of any comprehensive or even piecemeal immigration reform that is enacted in the future. In the meantime, employers considering registering for the program now should understand the requirements that attach to their participation and some of their potential liabilities:

Employers who use E-verify have a number of obligations that commence after an employer registers and signs an electronic E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which explains the terms and conditions. Under the MOU, the employer agrees to: (1) use E-verify only after new hires have accepted employment offers and completed their Form I-9s, Employment Eligibility Verification; (2) use E-Verify within three days of their new hire’s actual start date; (3) use E-Verify  only for new hires, not existing workers, unless otherwise required; (4) use the data obtained on Form I-9 to enter information into the E-Verify system; (5) display federal notices for E-Verify at their workplace; and (6) accept only “List B” identification documents with photographs as part of I-9 procedures.  Employers who use E-Verify also agree to comply with other responsibilities related to record-keeping and response procedures when information provided by the new hire does not match federal records. This includes reviewing “tentative nonconfirmation” (TNC) responses issued by SSA with their employee and reporting back to SSA/DHS with details on resolving the TNC. Participating employers also agree to permit DHS or SSA to make periodic visits to review its E-Verify records and share information with other government agencies.  During those periodic visits, DHS or SSA officials are permitted to interview employees directly. Employers who participate in E-Verify can terminate the program but only after giving 30 days notice.

In early December, E-Verify released new and revised MOUs that bind existing users and new users to changes made to the program. Most of these changes are not substantive but instead appear to reflect improved language and organization, as well as some enhanced privacy protections and instructions for reporting privacy and security breaches. While existing users do not need to execute new MOUs, they are bound by these changes. The effective date for existing users is January 8, 2014.  For new users, the effective date of the revised MOUs is December 8, 2013.

A new feature of E-Verify is that the system now can lock Social Security numbers (SSNs) that appear to have been used fraudulently, like a credit card company can lock a credit card that appears to have been stolen. If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, a TNC will be generated.

As mentioned above, participating employers agree to governmental information sharing. Three years ago, DHS formalized such information sharing and entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the division in DOJ that prosecutes claims of discriminatory hiring practices. Under the agreement, DHS shares with OSC citizenship status and documentation data, which initially was to be used to identify trends that may indicate an employer’s discriminatory practices. However, once the DHS/OSC information sharing program was up and running, OSC began using this data to initiate investigations of employer discrimination, even in the absence of employee complaints.  And, such investigations are on the rise.

With more and more employers enrolling in E-Verify — either because they want greater confidence in the validity of the documents presented by their employees and less risk of fines for making mistakes, or because they are now required to do so — it has become increasingly important for employers to understand all aspects of the program and ensure that their staff are well versed and trained in the program’s requirements. For starters, employers who use E-Verify are strongly encouraged to review and familiarize themselves with the new or revised MOU that applies to them. Employers should also adopt best practices, which include preparing a policy-and-procedure manual for I-9 and E-Verify compliance; providing annual and mandatory training for all individuals who complete the company’s I-9s; and periodically auditing and reviewing the company’s processes to ensure that they are being followed properly.

Comment » | Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Worksite enforcement policies

The American Public is Adamant: We Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now

December 5th, 2013

As House leaders continue to reject the broad framework of the Senate immigration bill, the American public remains strong in its support of comprehensive immigration reform. The source of its determination: empathy for the people affected by a broken immigration system.

As 100 children marched on the Capitol last month, they met up with members of the 1963 Children’s Crusade to share stories of family members being arrested and deported right before their eyes. Each group had experienced firsthand the effects of the broken immigration system, and echoes of the civil rights struggle proved a powerful backdrop to the children’s call for a real solution.

Outside of Washington D.C., protesters continue to gather at a number of public locations to support the reform effort; often risking arrest just to have their voices heard. When asked why they do this, many of the protesters say they are fighting for others, including friends, families and aspiring citizens.

Perhaps most revealing, however, is the public’s ongoing support of the pathway to citizenship, one of the most controversial points of the Senate’s bill. According to a recent report from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, nearly 63% of Americans across all religions and parties support the pathway, including 60% of Republicans. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, only 18% of Americans favor a tougher enforcement strategy of identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.

As tiring representatives begin to consider a divided legislation, perhaps they should look closer at what the American public is actually saying. Immigration laws don’t need a few small fixes, or to be drawn out over months or years, they need comprehensive reform and they need it now. Otherwise, millions of immigrants and citizens alike will continue to suffer under the burden of a broken system.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law.  We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Immigration reform

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