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Immigration News
April 16, 2014

Attorney Brian Getson’s book titled “Obtaining a US Visa Based on Achievement” is now available for purchase at Thomson Reuters’ online store.  Click the following link for purchase information and a description of the book:  http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-products/c/Obtaining-a-US-Visa-Based-on-Achievement-What-You-Need-to-Know-Quick-Prep/p/100251489

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March 9, 2014

In response to a FOIA request, USCIS released statistics for FY2012 and FY2013 on the number of L-1B nonimmigrant petitions received, approved, and denied, as well the number of L-1B petitions for which an RFE was issued. These new statistics, when compared with USCIS statistics and a National Foundation for American Policy report, both released in 2012, reveal that the L-1B denial rate increased from 27% in FY2011 to 30% in FY2012 and 34% in FY2013.

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The American Immigration Council reported that research and knowledge are becoming key to economic growth worldwide, increasing the importance of intellectual work. And for the United States in particular, immigrants play an important role in science and engineering (S&E) research. Indeed, a February report from the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Science and Engineering Indicators 2014, notes that the United States is the world’s preeminent producer of scientific research thanks partially to immigrants. Writing for Pacific Standard, Michael White, a systems biologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, summarized the report’s findings. As he put it, the U.S. “funds the most research in academia and business, it publishes more science than any other nation, and its scientific papers are disproportionately among the world’s best.” And immigrants play a crucial role in those activities.

The NSF report found that a large proportion of workers employed in science and engineering fields in the United States are foreign born. “Compared to the entire college-educated workforce, college graduates employed in S&E occupations are disproportionately foreign born,” the report states. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, over 26 percent of all college-educated workers in engineering and science occupations were foreign born. Additionally, over 43 percent of workers in these occupations holding doctorate degrees are foreign born. But as White points out, these numbers understate the “crucial role these scientists play in sustaining U.S. preeminence in basic research.” He notes that “a better number is 49 percent: foreign scientists fill nearly half of the mid-level positions that make up the backbone of the scientific labor force at U.S. research universities.” These postdoctoral researchers are fulfilling an important role in the larger research process while honing their skills and expertise necessary for more advanced positions. As White states, “Most higher-level jobs in scientific research require some postdoctoral experience after graduate school, so university faculty can easily staff their labs with well-trained, newly minted Ph.D.-holders” in exchange for career mentorship.

White also explains that foreign postdocs come to the United States

because of the international reputation of U.S. universities, but they themselves are a big reason for that reputation. Because of the federal government’s major investment in academic research over the past six decades, well-funded U.S. universities successfully compete for the best scientific talent around the world. Many of these talented scientists remain here in higher-level research jobs in academia and industry. Those that leave still maintain relationships with colleagues they met, which helps keep U.S. science well-connected internationally.

While the U.S. has had little trouble attracting international talent in the past, global competition for scientific talent is growing as more places increasingly transition to knowledge economies. While the U.S. continues to fund more research and development than any other country, its global share is shrinking. According to the NSF report, knowledge economies “rely on sustained investment in research and development that produces useful innovations” as well as on higher education to prepare students to develop and use their skills. Science and research are collaborative enterprises. They are most successful through the exchange of ideas. As White concludes: “Science has always been most successful when countries exchange ideas, talent, and resources, which is why one of the National Research Council’s ‘ten breakthrough actions’ recommended to Congress is to ‘ensure that the United States will continue to benefit strongly from the participation of international students and scholars in our research enterprise.’ Our scientific preeminence relies heavily on migrant scientists, and that’s a good thing.”

 

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March 3, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that immigrants are helping to grow the economy all across the nation. Take Charlotte, North Carolina for example, where immigrant restaurant owners have opened businesses across the city catering to increasingly eclectic tastes. Tacos El Nevado is one example. Heriberto Mali and Vianey Juarez, immigrants from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, opened the restaurant around five years ago. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce recognizes the importance of  immigrants and their entrepreneurial endeavors for the area. “Immigration is a good thing. Economies grow when populations grow. Immigration is a key way we keep our population and economy growing,” Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan told the Charlotte Observer Thursday. That is why the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce was one of more than 600 businesses, chambers of commerce, and industry organizations to sign a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week encouraging him to take action on immigration reform legislation this year.

The letter, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was signed by 246 businesses of every size and sector across the country—including well-known brands such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Hilton, Intel, Marriott, and Microsoft—and 390 business associations, bureaus, federations, or chambers representing a wide cross-section of industries and commercial interests.

Specifically, the letter said:

We are united in the belief that we can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system. Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity. […] Failure to act is not an option. We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest.

The Chamber’s letter is the latest example of mounting support for national immigration reform from all sectors of society. Within the past year, letters from higher education administrators, Catholic and evangelical leaders, faculty and scholars, mayors from around the country, and other coalitions, have made their way to Congress.

In addition to letters and petitions pushing for reform, recent research shows broad support for fixing the nation’s immigration system among business owners. In particular, as Immigration Impact previously reported, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently released results from a survey of 500 Midwest business leaders representing a broad mix of business sizes and industries. Their report found that 65 percent of Midwest business leaders overall—and 75 percent of Republican business leaders—strongly support the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, S. 744.

At the same time, a growing number of states, cities and metropolitan regions recognize how important immigration and entrepreneurship can be to their local economies and are pursuing proactive immigrant welcoming and integration initiatives. Charlotte, for example, has an inter-agency Immigrant Integration Task Force that aims to “maximize immigrants’ economic and civic contributions to the city of Charlotte.” But for such new initiatives  to truly be successful, the U.S. needs immigration reform at the federal level to modernize our nation’s immigration system and bring it into the 21st century. So as the letters pile up, how many more calls to action and shows of support for reform from leaders across the country will it take? It’s time for House leaders to listen and take legislative action on immigration reform in 2014.

 

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(1) A lawful permanent resident who has accrued 7 consecutive years of lawful unrelinquished domicile in the United States and who is removable or deportable by virtue of a plea or conviction entered before April 24, 1996, is eligible to apply for discretionary relief under former section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c) (1994), unless: (1) the applicant is subject to the grounds of inadmissibility under sections 212(a)(3)(A), (B), (C), or (E), or (10)(C) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182(a)(3)(A), (B), (C), or (E), or (10)(C) (2012); or (2) the applicant has served an aggregate term of imprisonment of at least 5 years as a result of one or more aggravated felony convictions entered between November 29, 1990, and April 24, 1996.
(2) A lawful permanent resident who has accrued 7 consecutive years of lawful unrelinquished domicile in the United States and who is removable or deportable by virtue of a plea or conviction entered between April 24, 1996, and April 1, 1997, is eligible to apply for discretionary relief from removal or deportation under former section 212(c) of the Act unless: (1) the applicant’s removal or deportation proceedings commenced on or after April 24, 1996, and the conviction renders the applicant removable or deportable under one or more of the deportability grounds enumerated in section 440(d) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1277 (as amended); or (2) the applicant is subject to the grounds of inadmissibility under sections 212(a)(3)(A), (B), (C), or (E), or (10)(C) of the Act; or (3) the applicant has served an aggregate term of imprisonment of at least 5 years as a result of one or more aggravated felony convictions entered between November 29, 1990, and April 24, 1996.
(3) A lawful permanent resident who is otherwise eligible for relief under former section 212(c) of the Act may apply for such relief in removal or deportation proceedings without regard to whether the relevant conviction resulted from a plea agreement or a trial and without regard to whether he or she was removable or deportable under the law in effect when the conviction was entered.
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USCIS provided notice that the Secretary of Homeland Security is extending the designation of Haiti for temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months from 7/23/14 through 1/22/16. Individuals who already have TPS, the re-registration period runs from 3/3/14 through 5/2/14. (79 FR 11808, 3/3/14).

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The Supreme Court denied certiorari in City of Hazleton v. Lozano, in which the Third Circuit held that Pennsylvania local ordinances which would deny permits to businesses that hire undocumented individuals and fine landlords who rent to them, were unconstitutional on federal preemption grounds.

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February 27, 2014

Politico reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce increased pressure on House Republicans to make a move on immigration reform on Tuesday, sending them a letter from more than 600 businesses and other groups urging lawmakers to pass an overhaul this year.

The powerful business lobby spearheaded the letter, which applauded House GOP leaders for releasing a set of reform principles last month. The businesses called on Republicans to build on that, saying: “We can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system.”

“Failure to act is not an option,” the letter reads. “We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy.”

A chamber spokeswoman said the letter is signed by 246 businesses nationwide, as well as 390 business-oriented organizations.

Conservatives advocating for an immigration overhaul have so far declined to engage in adversarial tactics favored by progressives in the reform movement. But in recent days, the Chamber has stepped up its public advocacy efforts.

In addition to Tuesday’s letter, Chamber President Tom Donohue penned an opinion piece Monday that was set to run in the Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner, pressing Congress on overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

Separately, a coalition of Catholics and evangelicals will release a letter Wednesday to prod lawmakers on immigration reform.

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February 24, 2014

The Hill reported that President Obama is coming under fire to do more with his executive power to slow record-level deportations of illegal immigrants now that immigration reform legislation is almost certainly dead until after the election.

But that is a tough call for the president, since it would give ammunition to GOP critics who say they do not trust he will enforce immigration laws.

Obama’s party benefited handsomely in 2012 after Obama sidestepped Congress to halt deportations for some illegal immigrant youngsters. The move helped boost Hispanic turnout at the polls, and Obama carried more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Pew Research exit polling.

In a midterm election year where Obama is not on the ballot and turnout by Hispanic voters is expected to be lower, however, it is not a sure thing the same kind of tactics will benefit Democrats this year.

Calls for action are nonetheless taking place, with immigration reformers on and off Capitol Hill pressing Obama to expand the 2012 program targeting “Dreamers.”

“They can extend it [for current eligibles]; they can extend it to other people; they can extend it for a longer time. We’d like him to do it [all],” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which backs immigration reform. “Yes, it will be controversial, but only with Republicans.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said recently that he hoped Obama would explore unilateral steps while still prioritizing a legislative package.

“I would hope that administratively, the president will do what he can to take a look at deportations, but he is being burdened by the law as it exists, and we need to change it,” Reid told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week.

Some Democrats acknowledge the move could backfire with Republicans.

“Right now is a sensitive moment,” said a House Democratic aide. “[Acting unilaterally] plays right into their far-fetched narrative about him being an imperial president who doesn’t care about the laws governing the country.”

Marshall Fitz, an immigration expert for the Center for American Progress who has consulted with the White House on policy, says Obama faces a paradox.

“The more he does, the less likely we are to get legislation, which is the goal of both the White House and those on the outside pushing for an end to deportations,” Fitz said. “Everyone understands there has to be a legislative solution. But the more he does administratively, the more challenging that legislative tack becomes.”

Furthermore, Fitz warned that it is not clear that executive action on immigration would move the needle enough in pivotal 2014 swing states and districts.

“I do think it would generate a lot of excitement among progressives, and would certainly energize the Latino electorate and the Asian electorate, but I don’t know if it does enough to change the map,” he said. “What does the immigrant electorate look like in those purple districts and swing district? It’s hard for me to see that this changes things electorally in advance of 2014 elections.”

Obama must work with Republicans while placating intense anxiety from Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists who complain Obama has presided over 2 million deportations — more than any administration in American history.

Obama also needs to make sure that Republican leaders are not simply stringing him along.

While administration officials have said they want to give House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) space to operate on the issue, Democrats worry that Republicans could be stalling until after midterm elections where they are expected to pick up seats in the Senate.

While the Senate passed a bipartisan proposal last summer — and House GOP leaders unveiled a set of reform “principles” last month — the conservative outcry quickly caused Boehner to suspend any plan to bring legislation to the floor. Boehner cited a distrust in Obama as his reason for shelving the issue.

“The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” Boehner said.

To drive their message home, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have scheduled a hearing Wednesday entitled, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.”

The struggle to strike that balance has been evident in Obama’s approach to executive action.

In the face of similar congressional inaction, Obama took executive steps in 2012 to allow millions of illegal immigrants brought to the country as kids to obtain two-year work visas.

But, addressing the Democratic Caucus this month, Obama pushed back against the notion that he can expand those benefits to a broader population without congressional action. He urged that lawmakers must understand that there are “outer limits to what we can do by executive action.”

In a radio interview Obama granted Univision last Friday, he downplayed his executive authority, calling his 2012 move “just a temporary action.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), among the loudest critics of Obama’s deportation policy, conceded that the president is restrained by House GOP leaders who have shown little appetite for bringing a comprehensive reform bill to the floor.

But the Illinois Democrat also warned that advocates will soon lose patience with the waiting game, and then they will focus their pressure on the White House to act unilaterally.

“The White House and Democrats want to keep the focus on what the Republicans are not doing for as long as possible,” Gutierrez said in an email. “However, in reality, the focus is already shifting in the community, among many advocates and among some Democrats towards the White House and what the president must do to keep families together and stop the indiscriminate deportations.”

Sharry says the focus will shift to Obama as it becomes clear that Republicans will not bend.

“If Congress doesn’t act they’re going to leave him no option. And it’s going to leave the immigration reformers no option — it’s on the president,” he said.

Fitz says that one way Democrats can ratchet up pressure on Republicans in the Senate is by forcing them to vote on the issue of immigration.

“They can start putting Republicans more on the record, begin to show one side is more for reform than the other,” he said. “Those are the kid of pressure tactics we anticipate will occur at some point.”

 

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February 23, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that according to the latest government statistics, over half a million DREAMers have received two-year deportation reprieves under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The first wave of these DACA recipients carry work authorization cards that are set to expire in the summer and fall. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made clear that individuals who have not committed certain crimes or otherwise violated the DACA guidelines will be able to renew their DACA for two more years. What remains unclear, however, is just what the renewal process will look like. USCIS offered a glimpse into their thinking two months ago when it released a proposed new DACA application form and instructions. Though the agency clarified some aspects of the renewal process, more work must be done. USCIS should heed advocates’ suggestions from earlier this week to make the renewal process more streamlined, cost-effective, and accessible for the benefit of not only DACA recipients, but the communities in which they reside.

One of the biggest concerns is that tens of thousands of DACA recipients will fall out of status despite filing timely renewal applications. USCIS’s current plan is to allow renewal requestors to apply only within 120 days of the expiration of their current deferred action period. However, USCIS ordinarily take longer than 120 days to process DACA requests. The agency can expect a deluge of renewal applications in the months leading up to the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015—the period when nearly a quarter of a million people’s deferred action will expire. If it can’t keep up with the applications, the ramifications will be enormous for DACA recipients and their families because losing DACA means losing work authorization and the possible accumulation of unlawful presence, which could impact eligibility for future immigration benefits. Businesses will be impacted, too, as those that employ DACA recipients may have to terminate or suspend valued employees. And, if DACA recipients lose their jobs, this also means fewer customers for some businesses.

An easy fix would be to automatically extend a renewal requestor’s deferred action until the agency makes a decision on the request. Yet this week USCIS hinted that it is not inclined to adopt this fix. In a notice regarding renewal for a very small subset of individuals who received DACA through ICE (primarily between June 15, 2012 and August 15, 2012), USCIS took the position that those individuals would fall out of status and lose work authorization if their renewal was not approved by the expiration date of their initial DACA grant. Another potential solution is for the agency to allow and affirmatively encourage DACA recipients to request renewal prior to 120 days before their DACA expires.

As we and others have reported, perhaps the biggest obstacle to applying for DACA is the $465 filing fee. USCIS is poised to require that same amount for renewal, even though adjudication costs should be substantially reduced. USCIS should consider a range of options to make DACA renewal more accessible to eligible low-income individuals, including lowering the renewal fee, instituting a less-stringent fee exemption policy, and allowing for an installment payment plan.

USCIS’s smooth roll-out of the DACA program has thus far been marked by transparency and clarity. To help the public understand the then-new program, USCIS quickly created a user-friendly website, complete with videos and flowcharts, and it drafted an application with understandable, plain-language questions. The renewal process should similarly be transparent and straightforward. Yet, unless USCIS makes changes to its proposed renewal process, renewal requestors will be required to complete a lengthy application which not only contains extraneous questions, but which fails to neatly delineate which questions renewal requestors must answer and which questions are only for those making an initial request. DACA recipients should know exactly what questions they need to answer and what evidence they need to provide in order to seek renewal.

DACA recipients live, work,  and attend school across the entire country. Many communities will be adversely impacted by a turbulent renewal process. As USCIS further reflects on how to shape DACA’s future, the agency should consider the suggestions put forward by stakeholders who share USCIS’s goal of the continued smooth implementation of DACA.

 

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