The White House announced that President Obama will sign an Executive Order and announce new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010 – with international travel to the United States supporting 1.2 million jobs alone. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market. Today’s announcement offers important steps to bolster job creation through a range of steps to better promote the United States as a tourism destination and improve secure visa processing. This is the most recent of a series of executive actions the President has announced to put Americans back to work and strengthen the U.S. economy. “Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” said President Obama. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $134 billion in U.S. exports in 2010 and is the nation’s largest service export industry, with 7% of total exports and 24% of service exports. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job. According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or “long-haul” travelers spend on average $4,000 on each visit. Today’s announcement calls for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135%, 274%, and 50% respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010. Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. The Department of State has made tremendous progress in processing non-immigrant visas from these key markets, allowing them to issue more than 7.5 million visas in the last fiscal year, a 17% increase from the previous fiscal year. In the 2011 fiscal year, consular officers adjudicated more than a million visa applications in China and more than 800,000 in Brazil, representing 34 % growth in China and 42% growth in Brazil. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth. KEY HIGHLIGHTS: Today’s Executive Order charges several agencies to take part in efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior will be charged with: Co-leading an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel & Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. This Task Force will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion (currently doing business as BrandUSA), a non-profit corporation established by Congress through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 to promote travel to the United States, and the Tourism Policy Council to ensure private sector participation and cross-agency coordination. A particular focus of the Task Force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. The Department of the Interior manages iconic destinations in our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe. In 2010, more than 400 million visits were made by American and international travelers to these lands, contributing nearly $50 billion in economic activity and 400,000 jobs. Eco-tourism and outdoor recreation also have an outsize impact on rural economies, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security will be charged with: Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012. Ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application. Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and expanding reciprocal trusted travel programs for expedited travel (such as the Global Entry program). The Department of Commerce will be charged with: Establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States. Additional initiatives announced today include: New Pilot Program and Rule Change for Visa Processing in China and Brazil: Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as individuals from any country renewing non-immigrant visas, or, in Brazil, younger or older first-time applicants. Link to fact sheet HERE for more information. Final Rule to Expand and Make the Global Entry Program Permanent: Global Entry is a program within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection that was created as a pilot in 2008 to facilitate expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. Due in part to innovative public-private partnerships, the Global Entry program now has more than 246,000 members, more than one million trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits, and efforts are underway to expand enrollment even further. There are currently 131 Global Entry kiosks at 20 airports and since launching, members have used Global Entry kiosks over 1.7 million times, saving CBP officers over 36,450 inspection hours—staff hours that CBP has then re-allocated to expedite regular passenger queues. This final rule will allow the program to be expanded to an additional 4 airports in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix, making the Global Entry program and expedited clearance available in airports that service approximately 97% of international travelers. Appoint new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board: A new membership of 32 private sector CEOs have been appointed by Commerce Secretary Bryson to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will build upon the work undertaken by the past Board addressing travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues. This Board consists of corporate executives across the nation, representing all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed to a two-year term to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. See the full list of new members HERE. Nomination of Taiwan to Visa Waiver Program: Currently, more than 60% of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program. The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to promote travel and tourism with our foreign partners, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. Since November 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has added nine countries to the Visa Waiver Program, bringing the program total to 36 countries.
The American Immigration Law Council reported that during its nine-year history, issues have arisen with respect to restrictions on counsel by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agencies. Tuesday, in response to calls from the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued immediate, comprehensive changes to their policies to ensure an appropriate role for attorneys in the immigration process. Many noncitizens are forced to navigate the immigration process without representation because they cannot afford an attorney. But even persons who can afford one, or are represented by a pro bono attorney, have at times faced severe restrictions on their representation. This is particularly troublesome given the significant power USCIS officers wield. For example, they decide whether a noncitizen is entitled to stay in the U.S. or not. The assistance of an attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law can help safeguard the rights of these noncitizens and ensure just outcomes. By revising its guidance, USCIS has responded to some of the most serious access concerns. For example, the new guidance provides that an attorney generally may sit next to his or her client during an interview, may be permitted to submit relevant documents to the USCIS officer, and may raise objections to inappropriate lines of questioning. Everyone applying for benefits before USCIS should have knowledgable counsel.
The El Paso Times reported that U.S. Border Patrol officials announced Tuesday what may be the toughest policy aimed at deterring illegal immigration since Operation Hold the Line began 19 years ago. Details on the new policy or strategy are expected to start filtering out today. Essentially, the Border Patrol plans to curtail the practice of using voluntary returns to send undocumented immigrants back to their home countries without punishment. Immigration advocates in the border region said the new plan appears misguided and impractical. Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher in San Diego said the drop in Border Patrol apprehensions over the years is allowing the agency to develop the “Consequence Delivery System,” a key part of the Border Patrol’s new national strategy, according to The Associated Press. “What we want to be able to do is make (voluntary returns) the exception and not necessarily the norm,” Fisher said. David Aguilar, acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection who visited El Paso on Tuesday, said, “This is not a cookie-cutter approach.” Aguilar, who answered questions about the new policy during a news conference, added, “We have not, by the way, done away with voluntary departures. In addition, there are several administrative approaches to deportation, depending on the criminal background of the undocumented immigrant. “If the individual is a recidivist, we may choose to prosecute. If the individual is a recidivist, but just not that high of a recidivist, we may choose to go with the formal deportation,” Aguilar said. Formal deportation does not allow a person to have any kind of immigration benefits for a certain period. While returning voluntarily remains an option, officials said, the new Border Patrol initiative calls for finding ways to break the smuggling cycle. Part of the initiative calls for returning undocumented immigrants to their home countries through ports of entry that are farther from the ports where they were caught. “An individual who we apprehended today in El Paso, that has been smuggled into El Paso, if we return him or her back into Juárez, then we’re returning that individual right back into the hands of the smuggler who is going to try and smuggle him or her back into the (United States),” Aguilar said. The number of Border Patrol apprehensions in the El Paso sector has dropped by 10 percent every year recently, officials said. In fiscal year 2011, which ended Oct. 31, the Border Patrol-El Paso sector had 10,345 apprehensions compared with 12,251 in 2010. Doug Mosier, spokesman for the Border Patrol in El Paso, said his office did not have statistics available on how many apprehensions were ultimately processed as voluntary returns and how many were processed as criminal cases. Before Operation Hold the Line was put into effect in 1993, as well as other enforcement actions taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the number of yearly apprehensions in the El Paso sector had reached nearly half a million. Operation Hold the Line, which began in El Paso, placed Border Patrol agents along the border in close proximity to each other. The strategy was credited with reducing the number of undocumented immigrants who crossed through the El Paso area, and also with driving undocumented immigration to more hazardous border regions. Officials of Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights, a government agency, said that 3,000 Mexican migrants died while crossing the border between 2000 and 2010, many of whom got lost without food and water in the desert. The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, where the latest new initiative was tried first and which had high levels of illegal immigration, ended the 2011 fiscal year with 123,000 apprehensions compared with 600,000 in the year 2000. El Paso lawyer Carlos Spector, who specializes in immigration and asylum issues, said he does not believe there are enough federal prosecutors and judges to handle all the potential cases that could be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We have about 5,000 cases on the docket of the Downtown courthouse,” Spector said. “We are waiting two to three years to get a hearing for some cases. “With the apprehensions being down so much, the Border Patrol really needs to justify all the money it’s been getting for its budget,” Spector said. “It’s like bringing the soldiers back from Afghanistan, and then once they’re here, what do you do with them?” Spector said Mexico’s drug cartel wars also have created new dangers for immigrants seeking to cross the border illegally. Mexican authorities have implicated violent cartels in the kidnappings and murders of hundreds of immigrants, usually stemming from disputes between rival human smugglers associated with the drug cartels. Jose Escobedo, policy director for the Border Network of Human Rights based in El Paso, said he would like to see the new policy’s final details. “From what I’ve heard so far, it has no basis in human rights or humanitarian policies. It is a punitive strategy to decide the appropriate level of punishment for people who are here only because they are seeking work,” Escobedo said. Mexican Consulate officials referred all queries to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., where a representative was not available late Tuesday. “We have already seen some of these practices by the Border Patrol,” said Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House, a center for refugees from other countries. “The U.S. does not have the capacity to handle all the potential criminal proceedings,” Garcia said. “And you’re still not dealing with the root causes of illegal immigration. The economy is a greater driver of illegal immigration than anything else. “This is all very sad. You’re simply antagonizing a neighbor,” Garcia said. Border Patrol apprehensions are down, and the Border Patrol is looking at what else it can do, Garcia said. “They have 30,000 immigration detention beds (nationwide), and there is just no way they can process them all through the existing federal judicial system and jails,” he said. Filed under: Uncategorized
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has extendedApplication for Temporary, Form I-821. TPS re-registrants must also submit an Application for Employment Authoriztation, Form I-765. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of El Salvador for an additional 18 months, beginning March 10, 2012, and ending Sept. 9, 2013. Current Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs through March 12, 2012. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to register as soon as possible within the 60-day re-registration period. Although the Federal Register notice erroneously states that re-registration applications must be filed January 9, 2012 through March 9, 2012, USCIS will accept applications filed January 9, 2012 through March 12, 2012. USCIS is working to correct the public information on the re-registration filing dates. The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries who re-register on time will receive a new EAD with an expiration date of Sept. 9, 2013. USCIS recognizes that all re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire. Therefore, USCIS is extending the current TPS El Salvador EAD bearing a March 9, 2012, expiration date for an additional six months, through Sept. 9, 2012. To re-register, current TPS beneficiaries must submit an Protected Status Employment Authorization EAD. Re-registrants do not need to pay the Form I-821 application fee, but they must submit the biometric services fee, or a fee waiver request, if they are age 14 or older. TPS re-registrants applying for an EAD must submit the Form I-765 application fee, or a fee waiver request.
The American Immigration Council reported that immigration creates jobs for native-born Americans. That is the fundamental finding of a new study from the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership For A New American Economy, entitled Immigration and American Jobs. The study—authored by Madeline Zavodny, a professor of economics at Agnes Scott College—reinforces the findings of numerous other studies which have demonstrated that there is no correlation between immigration and unemployment. Specifically, Zavodny analyzes Census data with the aim of answering one pivotal question: “In states with more immigrants, are US natives more or less likely to have a job?” Zavodny focuses on two groups in particular: immigrants with advanced degrees, and immigrants of any skill level who are in the country on temporary visas.
The Associated Press reported that the Obama administration plans a rule change to help reduce the time illegal immigrant spouses and children are separated from citizen relatives while they try to win legal status in the United States, a senior administration official said Thursday. Currently, illegal immigrants must leave the country before they can ask the government to waive a three- to 10-year ban on legally coming back to the U.S. The length of the ban depends on how long they have lived in the U.S. without permission. The official said the new rule would let children and spouses of citizens ask the government to decide on the waiver request before the illegal immigrant heads to his or her home country to apply for a visa. The illegal immigrants still must go home to finish the visa process to come back to the U.S., but getting the waiver ahead of time could reduce the time an illegal immigrant is out of the country. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposed policy change had not been made public. The waiver shift is the latest move by President Barack Obama to make changes to immigration policy without congressional action. Congressional Republicans repeatedly have criticized the administration for policy changes they describe as providing “backdoor amnesty” to illegal immigrants. Immigrants who do not have criminal records and who have only violated immigration laws can win a waiver if they can prove that their absence would cause an “extreme hardship” for their citizen spouse or parent. The government received about 23,000 hardship applications in 2011 and more than 70 percent were approved, the official said. Applications for the waiver can take as long as six months to be acted upon, the official said. The new rule is expected to reduce that processing time to just days or weeks, the official added. “This would streamline the process (and) reduce the time of separation between family members,” the official said. The proposal will be published in the Federal Register on Friday. The official said the administration hopes to change the rule later this year. Immigration has become a difficult issue for Obama ahead of the November election. As a presidential candidate, he pledged to change what many consider to be a broken immigration system. To that end, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced plans last year to review some 300,000 pending deportation cases in an effort to target criminal illegal immigrants, repeat immigration law violators and those who pose a national security or public safety threat. Napolitano said the DHS would delay indefinitely the cases of many illegal immigrants who have no criminal record and those who have been arrested for only minor traffic violations or other misdemeanors. A pilot program to review about 12,000 cases pending in immigration court in Baltimore and Denver was launched in November and ends next week. The review is expected to expand to other jurisdictions later this year. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton also issued a memo in June outlining how immigration authorities could use discretion in deciding which illegal immigrants to arrest and put into deportation proceedings. Morton wrote in the memo that discretion could be used in a variety of cases, including for people with no criminal record and young people brought to the country illegally as children. Congressional Republicans have decried the policy changes, arguing that the Obama administration is circumventing Congress to essentially provide amnesty to countless illegal immigrants. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has been among the most vocal critics and has accused Obama repeatedly of not enforcing immigration law. Several attempts at an immigration law overhaul have failed in recent years, including the so-called DREAM Act, which would have allowed for some young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to earn legal status if they went to college or joined the military.
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