Where The Candidates Stand on Immigration

June 12th, 2015

Immigration has become a hot topic in the 2016 presidential campaign, thanks to the presidential executive actions on immigration. But as you look at both parties, there is a clear divide.

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, defends Obama’s executive actions and wants to take them further, citing “sympathetic cases” of illegal immigrants should be considered for citizenship. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who’s expected to run, views mirror Clinton’s, recently saying, “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has long supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but remains skeptical of guest-worker programs and their impact on native workers.

After the 2012 GOP defeat, party officials pushed for immigration policy changes to appeal to more Hispanics. Ironically, GOP immigration views have shifted to the right. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are the original GOP “purists” on immigration—remaining steadfast in anti-amnesty beliefs.

Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker have done an about-face on past views that supported granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Walker said his views have changed and he no longer believes in amnesty. Rubio says he would support some, but not all, of the executive actions. He would remove protections for undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and permanent resident, (DAPA), but keep protections in place for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Texas governor Rick Perry was criticized in 2012 for being soft on immigration. Recently, Perry voiced support for stronger border security and said illegal immigration is a “clear and present danger to the health and safety of all Americans.”

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, was previously a supporter of the DREAM Act that provides immigrants a path to citizenship if they were children brought into the country illegally. But earlier this year, Huckabee signed a pledge that opposes citizenship to anyone in the U.S. illegally.

Like Huckabee, business executive Carly Fiorina supported the DREAM Act in the past. Since entering the presidential race, her views have changed to be more about “enforcement first,” saying a path to citizenship for undocumented youths would encourage more illegal immigration.

In his 2012 book, Dr. Ben Carson questioned the morality of exploiting “cheap labor from illegal immigrants while denying them citizenship.” In 2014, he said illegal immigrants should “apply for guest-worker status from outside the country. This means they would have to leave first.” This mean people complying would have to stay outside the U.S. for 3 to 10 years, under current laws.

 In February, former Florida governor, Jeb Bush remained supportive of a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants—making him the only Republican candidate to support some form of amnesty.

Regardless of the candidate, expect immigration to play a part in their campaign. There’s still a long time to the election, so keep an eye on your candidate’s immigration stance before casting your ballot next year.

Comment » | Immigration reform

DHS/DOL Regulatory Agendas Hint at Obama’s Executive Action on Business Immigration

May 30th, 2015

The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) are planning to issue regulations that implement aspects of President Barack Obama’s executive action on business immigration, including additional immigration avenues for foreign entrepreneurs, an overhaul of the permanent labor certification program (PERM), and expanded job mobility for certain I-140 beneficiaries waiting for their green cards.

According to DHS’s spring regulatory agenda, released May 21, the department is planning to issue a proposed rule in August that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. via parole. The parole authority, contained in Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows for the admission of certain immigrants through other-than-normal channels if it would promote a “significant public benefit.”

DHS said the proposed rule would allow such admission, on a case-by-case basis, of “certain inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs who will establish a U.S. start-up entity, and who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.”

Under the proposed rule, the entrepreneur could be eligible for temporary parole into the U.S. based on “investment, job-creation, and other factors,” DHS said.

The proposed rule is one of several elements contained in the president’s executive action on immigration, announced in November. The action also suggested bringing in immigrant entrepreneurs through the national interest waiver process—which allows such immigrants to be awarded green cards without going through the labor certification process—but that doesn’t appear in the current regulatory agenda.

Job Mobility for I-140 Beneficiaries

Another aspect of the executive action that is contained in the regulatory agenda is the planned October release of a proposed rule that would provide certain benefits to the beneficiaries of approved I-140 immigrant petitions for an alien worker.

DHS said the proposed rule would allow certain I-140 beneficiaries to obtain work authorization while awaiting their green cards and “remove unnecessary restrictions on the ability to change jobs or progress in careers, as well as provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.” It also would clarify the meaning of “portable work authorization,” the department said.

The DHS regulatory agenda also includes a proposed rule, planned for August, that would expand optional practical training for foreign graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees.

DHS did not describe what that expansion would entail, but a memorandum from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued as part of the president’s executive action called for an expansion of the degree programs eligible for OPT as well as the length of time foreign graduates can work in the U.S. in OPT status. Johnson’s memo also stated that the OPT program should require stronger ties to degree-granting institutions and should include labor market protections to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers.  The DHS regulatory agenda also would allow the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degrees to apply to prior or most recent degrees.

PERM Overhaul in the Works

New to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda is a proposed rule, slated for release in December, that would overhaul the permanent labor certification program. The action also was announced as part of the president’s executive action.

DOL said the department hasn’t “comprehensively examined and modified” PERM in 10 years, and “much has changed in our country’s economy, affecting employers’ demand for workers and the availability of a qualified domestic labor force.” Furthermore, the DOL said, technological advancements “have dramatically altered common industry recruitment practices, and the Department has received ongoing feedback that the existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM process frequently do not align with worker or industry needs and practices.”

The proposed rule therefore is intended to “consider options to modernize the PERM program” to make it “more responsive to changes in the national workforce, to further align the program design with the objectives of the U.S. immigration system and needs of workers and employers, and to enhance the integrity of the labor certification process,” DOL said.



Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

Turning the Corner? Draft Memo Points to Limited Progress on L-1B Visas

April 28th, 2015

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a guidance memo on L-1B visas for “specialized knowledge” workers, finally fulfilling a promise made in 2012. Issued as a draft, the agency will accept comments through early May and the final version will go into effect at the end of August 2015.

Employees are said to hold “specialized” or “advanced” knowledge if their expertise isn’t easily transferrable to another employee. The L-1B visa category is one of few tools available to multinational companies to transfer staff with specialized knowledge from a foreign branch to a related U.S. office, but recent dramatic increases in L-1B denial rates have frustrated many businesses. This guidance offers modest clarification to the current USCIS concept of “specialized” and “advanced” knowledge and includes a checklist of acceptable conditions for L-1B applications.

Recent denial rates for L-1Bs have been staggering. Based on recently released data from USCIS, the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that the denial rate for L-1B petitions increased from six percent in 2006 to an historic high of 35 percent in 2014, even as applicable laws and regulations remained unchanged.1 Incredibly, the denial rate for L-1B petitions for Indian employees stood at 56 percent for 2012 through 2014, compared to an average denial rate of 13 percent for all other nationalities. The NFAP report also found that the number of applications received by USCIS dropped by 23 percent between 2012 and 2014, demonstrating that denials have discouraged U.S. employers from transferring these skilled individuals into the United States.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the draft of the long-awaited policy memo. “Uneven adjudication of L-1B visa applications over the last several years have stymied businesses trying to ramp-up production or services in the United States, hurting the economy and costing American jobs,” notes AILA President Leslie Holman. “The tenor and tone of the memo is a positive step forward, reiterating and expanding on many of the principles in previous memos. We hope for a more seamless, straightforward, and consistent adjudication system for L-1B visas. Training USCIS staff on the guidance laid out in this memo will be critical to making a real difference in how applications are evaluated, and essential to bringing common sense back to this process.”2

The principal concerns about the memo are whether certain restrictive adjudication practices will become institutionalized and if Service Center personnel will follow the guidance on recognizing an earlier approval for the same employer and employee when the approval was granted by a U.S. Consulate for a blanket L-1B petition.



1“L-1 Denial Rates Increase Again For High Skill Foreign Nationals.National Foundation for American Policy, NFAP Policy Brief, March 2015.


2 “Welcome Changes to Business Visas but Implementation Means Everything.” American Immigration Lawyers Association, March 25, 2015. http://www.aila.org/advo-media/press-releases

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, I-129, L-1

Immigration Inaction: What Congressional Gridlock Means for Immigration Reform

March 26th, 2015

Last November, Obama exercised executive action to create substantial changes to the immigration system and enforcement, extending protection from deportation to over four million undocumented immigrants, expanding legal immigration of skilled workers, and providing temporary deportation relief to immigrants meeting certain criteria.

While the Obama Administration and other Democrats are attempting to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, beginning with deferred action, ultimately, only Congress can decide who should qualify for legal status.

Congressional Republicans set the stage for a massive showdown over the President’s immigration action last December. When striking a deal to authorize federal spending, Congress extended the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) funding through March of 2015, despite extending funding for most other departments through September of 2015. By cutting off the DHS’ funding in March, it provided Republicans with the opportunity to use the nation’s border and homeland security as a political tool to prevent the implementation of the President’s executive actions on immigration.

Ultimately, the Republican-controlled Congress sent legislation to Obama funding DHS without the immigration-related concessions they had demanded, avoiding the potential, partial shutdown of DHS. This decision was, in part, due to the Homeland Security Department’s anti-terrorism responsibilities. It would be hypocritical of the Republican party to support the fight against terrorism abroad, while not funding our homeland security efforts just to make a political point.

At the same time, presidential hopefuls aren’t offering many ideas, choosing to focus on enforcement and border security rather than real reform. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the general consensus among candidates, often contradicting past views, was that an enforcement-first approach must be taken on immigration policy: no comprehensive reform makes sense without first securing the border. Yet none have defined what a secure border looks like.

Most Americans understand the importance of an improved immigration system, and our economy only benefits from creating employment opportunities for highly skilled immigrants and other immigrant workers. Sadly, Congress lags far behind public opinion in the importance of moving forward on immigration reform.


Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

Legislators Look to Highly Skilled Immigrants to Revive Startup Activity

February 23rd, 2015

Despite the buzz surrounding Silicon Valley, startup activity in the U.S. has been in decline. In fact, business “deaths” have been outpacing business “births” for several years. That’s bad news for the U.S. economy, which depends on the large share of jobs created by new businesses every year.

However, highly skilled immigrant workers could help reverse this trend. And the latest version of the Startup Act, if passed, might help open some doors.

Proposed by Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the Act is intended to revive America’s entrepreneurial economy. The Act would create an “entrepreneur visa” that would allow up to 75,000 non-citizens to start and grow a business in the U.S., meeting certain benchmarks over a three-year period. The Act also includes a new visa category for up to 50,000 foreign-born students who graduate from U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (known as STEM skills). Currently, these students—the world’s best and brightest—are required to leave after completing their studies here. The Act would also eliminate caps on the number of work visas that can be granted to individuals from each country.

Critics say the U.S. is already saturated with high-skilled STEM workers who could siphon off jobs or lower wage scales and salary expectations. However, even in the current system, visas designed for foreign workers with STEM expertise are portable; these are often highly skilled professionals, well compensated and free to move on to other positions. A study from the Harvard Business School found that the program for foreign workers “has played an important role in U.S. innovation patterns” over the past 15 years. In fact, patents increase when visa caps are higher. And of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that even immigrants who have earned degrees in non-STEM areas are vital to creating new businesses. The founders of PayPal, YouTube and Skype are just a few examples.

With the current immigration climate in Washington, the Start-Up Act has had trouble gaining traction—even after three iterations since 2011. But the fourth time may be the charm. And if it passes, the U.S. economy and its workers stand to reap the benefits.

Comment » | Immigration reform

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