One of my colleagues heard Ms. Murekatete speak last week in Memphis and highly suggested including her in the blog. Ms. Murekatete is a young woman who survived the genocide in Rwanda and now is devoting her life to educating the world about what happened in her land and why the US needs to stop similar tragedies in other countries. Her story is painful to hear, but certainly a wake up call for listeners. Check out Ms. Muraketete's web site to see what her organization is doing to heal the world.
Millions of people around the world could very possibly owe their lives to David Ho, a Taiwanese-born researcher who early on realized that HIV was a virus. He pioneered the use of protease prohibitors and led the development of the "cocktails" of drug treatments taken by HIV positive individuals. Ho is one of the few medical researchers ever to receive the Time's Person of the Year honor. He shares the title with Popes, Presidents, business magnates and Kings (and a few villains since the designation is given to the person deemed to have the greatest impact on the world in the prior year). My quick study of the list indicates that Ho is the only individual medical researcher ever to be selected.
Another high profile security snaf this time involving the president of Real Madrid. From the team's web site:
Ramón Calderón detained in a New York airport due to mistaken identity
Real Madrid President Ramón Calderón was accidentally detained for several hours in a New York airport after an immigration officer saw that one of the President's surnames was blacklisted.
This coincidence activated the typical security measures which have been stepped up in recent days due to the U.N. summit and President George Bush's visit to New York.
As soon as the incident was known, the Club contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.
Once the matter had been resolved, the President of Real Madrid, who is in New York for personal reasons, received an apology and continued about his business.
Ooh, this is getting good. Yesterday I reported how the Small Business Administration has gone on the offensive against DHS for breaking the law in the way it released the new "no match" rule. No response yet from DHS.
Today, DHS takes on the State of Illinois over a law the state passed BARRING employers from using the beleaguered Basic Pilot program until DHS has the number of "false positives" where US citizens and permanent residents are incorrectly identified as not being work authorized down to less than 1%.
While I'm sympathetic with Illinois on the facts, as a matter of law, I'm actually siding with DHS. I believe the Illinois law is unconstitutional because it preempts a federal immigration law and under the Constitution, that authority is reserved for Congress. Funny thing is that the anti-immigrants would be smart to side with Illinois on this one because if Illinois loses, state and local laws around the country seeking to enforce immigration laws will be in even greater trouble.
Now this was unexpected. The Small Business Administration has notified the Department of Homeland Security that it has violated federal law in releasing the final social security number no match regulation. The rule was set to take effect last week, but has been held up pending a federal judge's hearing on October 1st. This will no doubt give new ammunition to the plaintiffs in that case.
This is also surprising because it makes it clear that DHS was pretty sloppy (and, by the extension, so was the White House) and it looks like they rushed this rule out most likely for political reasons as opposed to being truly ready to go. The SBA is not ready to play ball.
Jerry Yang, a Hmong Laotian native, is the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. Yang, born in 1968, fled with his family from Laos to neighboring Thailand in the 70s and spent four years in a refugee camp where he lost a brother and sister. Yang came to the US as a refugee in 1979 and grew up in California. He quickly caught up with his American-born fellow students and went on to receive a masters degree in health psychology from Loma Linda University. He now is a therapist and father of six.
And, incidentally, he's a pretty good poker player. He's earned more than $8,000,000 in poker tournaments. Yang has pledged 10% of his winnings to three charities - Make-a-wish, Feed the Children and Ronald McDonald House.
Reader USC posted a
link to a disturbing article in this morning's Washington Post regarding just how much information the government is collecting on all of us as we travel in and out of the country. This raises the age old question of just how privacy we are willing to give up in the name of preventing a terrorist attack. One is reminded of the two way television monitors on the walls in George Orwell's 1984 where citizens of Eurasia were constantly being monitored. While the US is far from a totalitarian regime, every totalitarian regime justifies forcing the people to give up its rights - particularly the right to privacy - in exchange for security. Unfortunately, when people are scared, they are quick sacrifice their freedoms. Sure, many will say that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But life isn't that simple and we cannot always trust the integrity of those doing the snooping. The challenge is to set limits that allow our government to protect us without our becoming a police state. That includes ensuring that there are watchdogs watching the watchdogs.
James Ho, who wrote the excellent birthright citizenship opinion piece I posted last week, reports on a major development that could dramatically improve processing times for Freedom of Information Act requests from USCIS as well as other immigration agencies. While the Freedom of Information Act requires a government agency to provide requested information within 10 days, that deadline is routinely ignored by USCIS and the agency can take many months - sometimes years - to comply with the request. For many immigrants, this delay can mean the difference between deportation and a green card.
As Ho notes in a new article, there are signs of bipartisan cooperation in Washington, at least if you can get away from measures directly addressing immigration and Iraq. A bill already approved in the Senate, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act, or OPEN Government Act, is matched by a similar bill in the House that has already passed. Soon both Houses of Congress should be able to reconcile the two measures and send it to the President for signature. The new law would put some teeth into FOIA and force scofflaw agencies like USCIS to follow the law and meet the required deadlines. There's a bit of poetic justice here since USCIS is usually completely unforgiving when it comes to excusing tardiness by its customers. Oh well, live by the sword, die by the sword...
The bill also will grant "news media" status to bloggers and other online news sources - woohoo! Can't wait to hear readers' ideas for what we would like to learn from USCIS.
The current FOIA law allows for the payment of attorney fees, but because many cases don't involve actual measurable financial damages, agencies have gotten away with paying nothing. This, of course, has discouraged people from filing legitimate suits to challenge an agency. OPEN Government would require lawyers fees be paid if there are no monetary damages in a case.
I'll report when this bill becomes law and look forward to hearing from people regarding USCIS' implementation of the statute.
In one of the comments to a post, someone asked how I came by my particular views. I mentioned that I was greatly influenced by faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. One course that I especially enjoyed was one on the European Union offered by Professor Gerhard Casper. The late 80s was an exciting time in modern European history as the continent was gearing up the the integration of 1992. There have been discussions on my blog on whether labor is really an important aspect of trade policy or it should be considered something separate. But one of the things we studied in Professor Casper's class was how integrating of the various professions in Europe and freedom of movement of workers were key component in the movement toward a unified Europe.
Professor Casper, a German native, left Chicago in 1992 after spending nearly a quarter century at U of C. He took on the position of president of Stanford University and held that position until 2000. Since then, he has been a professor in the Law School at Stanford. Professor Casper. Thanks Professor Casper!
Well, this is the other argument you hear from anti-immigrants usually after they tell you how illegally present immigrants come to take our jobs. Hard to see how they can be here to do both, but that's another discussion.
A friend passed this NY Times article on to me and it serves as a sad reminder of just how much danger those immigrants put themselves through to get to this country. They're not that different than the immigrants of generations past who put themselves through similar ordeals to settle this country. And for those who say "they did it the legal way" I remind you that we had virtually no immigration controls in this country until the 1920s. If you could get to America, you could become an American.
While I get a kick out of telling a client they've won the green card lottery, I've always had mixed feelings about the annual program that sets aside 55,000 green cards to those selected in a random lottery designed to get more immigrants from countries traditionally underrepresented in the immigrant population. Only 140,000 green cards are set aside in the employment-based green card categories by way of comparison. Every few years there is a proposal in Congress to kill the lottery. Certainly a good case can be made for those numbers to instead go toward employment-based and family-based green cards. Now a new GAO report criticizes the lottery as vulnerable to fraud against applicants (gotten a green card lottery spam email lately?) as well as fraud by applicants. This certainly won't bode well for the long term survival of the lottery. Of course, the anti-immigrants will want to kill the program and take its numbers out of the immigration pool all together. Any move to abolish the lottery should be paired with moving the numbers to a more strategically important part of the immigration system.
Okay, I moved from Louisville when I was just four years old, but I love getting back there every few years. And I grew up rooting for the Louisville Cardinals (my mom's school) and the Kentucky Wildcats (my dad's school). It's a wonderful city and this article shows that its reputation for southern hospitality is well-earned.
Of British pop music stars. Glad to know we're being protected from the forces of evil.
The Dallas Business Journal reports that the construction industry fears "economic chaos" will result if the DHS social security number no match rule ultimately takes effect. The rule is currently being held up by a temporary court order, but it could go live as early as the middle of next month.
Employers in the Lone Star State fear that up to 2/3 of workers at construction companies could be affected by the rule and that construction projects across the state will come to a grinding halt.
My favorite part of the story is where the conservative and anti-immigrant Heritage Foundation spokesman blames the construction industry for becoming "addicted" to illegal workers. Given that 2/3 of the available workers are illegal aliens, this is like saying that I've gotten addicted to breathing oxygen and drinking water. Employers are dependent on illegal labor because that's the labor that's available.
I issue this challenge to the anti-immigrants - prove the availability of US workers who are qualified to do the work (and take out the unemployable such as those with drug abuse and criminal issues) or support a guest worker program allowing employers to legally bring in needed workers.
Otherwise, admit what that you're really anti-immigrant and not just anti-illegal immigrant.
The New York Post is reporting that Governor Elliot Spitzer will announce a reversal of NY policy and allow all residents, regardless of legal status, to apply for a drivers license. This will be accomplished through removing the requirement to have a social security number. Other identification documents, such as a valid foreign passport, will still be required.
This is a major smack in the face of the movement of anti-immigrants to force states, localities and employers to do DHS' immigration enforcement job. This also represents a major setback for efforts to keep REAL ID from being implemented. The measure would bar use of a state's drivers license for federal purposes if the license does not comply with REAL ID's immigration checking requirements. It seems pretty unlikely that the statute will be put in to force if every NY resident would be barred.
Iranian-born Bijan Pakzad, who immigrated in 1973, dresses some of the world's most powerful men including President Bush and Senator John Kerry (as well as Vladimir Putin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and Jay Leno). His store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is said to be the most expensive in the world. One of his fragrance bottles is on display in the Smithsonian Museum and a few years back he was on Vanity Fair's world's best dressed men list. Not too shabby.
Last year the US promised to admit 7,000 Iraqis in the fiscal year running from October 1, 2006 to the end of this month. But only 719 have been allowed to enter. Here are facts from HIAS on legislation that could be voted on in the next few days:
- There are more than 4.2 million displaced persons in and around Iraq
- Many have helped U.S. troops and are thus now targeted by insurgents
Vulnerable groups face exploitation and shortages of food and clean water
The United States has only admitted 940 Iraqi refugees so far this year
Expand the P-2 category to include Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or NGOs, and Iraqis who are members of a religious or minority community with close family members in the U.S.
Provide 5,000 special immigrant visas each year over the next five years for Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. government for at least one year
Allow persecuted individuals to apply for refugee status from within Iraq
Vulnerable refugees and those who have helped our troops deserve assistance
The bill should be included in the Defense Authorization bill, since the safety of refugees directly impacts the stability of Iraq
They should cosponsor and vote YES on this bipartisan, humanitarian bill when it is offered to the Defense Authorization bill today or next week.
Please phone, fax, or email your Senators now! Find your Senators’ phone/fax numbers and email addresses at www.senate.gov.
This kind of story makes headlines back home and makes the US look like a barbaric banana republic. Nalini Ghuman, a world renown musicologist specializing in the works of Edward Elgar, was recently subjected to the kind of treatment I described in my blog post of earlier today.
Ms. Ghuman, a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California had her H-1B visa was revoked last year upon her returning the country to participate in New York in the Bard Music Festival featuring Elgar's work.
The case is interesting because there is no known reason for the trouble and attempts to get to the bottom of it have proven fruitless. The only thing known is that her visa was revoked by the State Department:
After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.
Bard College president Leon Bottstein expressed his institution's frustration:
This is an example of the xenophobia, incompetence, stupidity and then bureaucratic intransigence that we are up against. What is at stake is America’s pre-eminence as a place of scholarship.
Ms. Ghuman's lawyer released to the NY Times an account of her experience with CBP:
In a written account of the next eight hours that she prepared for her lawyer, Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act erroneously described her as “Hispanic.”
Held incommunicado in a room in the airport, she was groped during a body search, she said, and was warned that if she moved, she would be considered to be attacking her armed female searcher. After questioning her for hours, the officers told her that she had been ruled inadmissible, she said, and threatened to transfer her to a detention center in Santa Clara, Calif., unless she left on a flight to London that night.
Outside, Mr. Flight [Ms. Ghuman's American fiance] made frantic calls for help. He said the British Consulate tried to get through to the immigration officials in charge, to no avail. And Ms. Ghuman said her demands to speak to the British consul were rebuffed.
“They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights,” she said. “For the first time, I understood what the deprivation of liberty means.”
[Thanks to reader babaganoush for this link]
Of all the gripes I have about the Bush Administration's management of the immigration process, one of the positive developments I've seen is its finally exercising some oversight over certain out of control asylum judges. Some of the Circuit Courts have been doing the same.
The NY Times reports today on one of those hostile judges (though to be fair, this particular judge seems to have just lost it in this case and did not have as bad a reputation as others). Judge Noel Ferris who actually wrote in her denial that the petitioner's crying was "out of proportion" and influenced her decision negatively. Read the report for yourself. The Third Circuit ruled that the applicant was entitled to a new hearing so there is some good news here:
“a credibility finding rooted in flawed reasoning cannot stand.” Besides rejecting the judge’s decision as “speculative and conjectural,” and faulting her exclusion of important documents in the case, it said her comments and her conduct raised doubts about the fairness and reliability of the record, requiring that another immigration judge hear Mr. Sun’s case.
Obama and Clinton promise comprehensive immigration reform as soon as they take office, but some are accusing the Democrats of doing just what the GOP is doing - telling its base what it wants to hear and having no intention of going to the mats to get the job done. Let's hope not.
Wow, a third article on this topic in two days. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post reports:
In politics, some acts are so emblematic and potent that they cannot be undone for decades -- as when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goldwater was no racist; his constitutional objections were sincere. Members of the Republican Party actually voted for the Civil Rights Act in higher percentages than Democrats. But all of this was overwhelmed by the symbolism of the moment. In his autobiography,
Colin Powell says that after the Goldwater vote, he went to his car and affixed a Lyndon Johnson bumper sticker, as did many other African Americans. Now Republicans seem to be repeating history with Hispanic Americans. Some in the party seem pleased. They should be terrified.
Thanks to Drew at Immigrants List for the link.
The damage CBP officers with a bad attitude do each day to this country is a travesty. Protecting the country from terrorists is one thing. But the mean-spiritedness exhibited by many officers is an embarrassment to this country and has been a nightmare for too many people for far too long. I could list one horror story after another but many of you probably have your own. The good news is that at least there is starting to be some recognition of the problem and at least the beginning of a process to address problems. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of real change yet at the airports. If anything, the situation seems to have gotten worse. And if we're talking about abusive treatment, how about looking at US consulates?
When I was 13 years old, the US was facing one of the most demoralizing periods in the country's history. The Russians had recently invaded Afghanistan and the US, unable to do much about it, decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics. Inflation was soaring and interest rates made buying a home or a car virtually impossible for many. Oil prices were skyrocketing and unemployment was high. President Carter was running for re-election and facing a primary challenge from Senator Kennedy, something rare for a sitting President, but not surprising given the mood of the country.
But the number one story in the news was none of these. It was the hostage crisis in Iran. 52 American employees of the US Embassy in Tehran were held captive by militant university students in the wake of a revolution in that country. The crisis went on day after day (lasting for nearly 15 months). ABC News was devoting so much time to covering the crisis that it rolled out a new news show called America Held Hostage that ran every night at 11:30 eastern time right after the news. The show was hosted by a young news anchor with a very distinctive (and much mimicked) voice. It was British-American Ted Koppel. The show later changed its name to Nightline and when the hostage crisis ended, Nightline went on to become an in depth news show covering a single topic each night. Koppel hosted the show for the next quarter century.
Most Americans would be surprised to learn that Koppel was born in the UK. Koppel's parents were German Jews who sought refuge in England after fleeing the Nazis. Koppel was born in 1940 and moved at the age of 13 to the US with his family. In 1963, Koppel became a US citizen. His broadcast journalism began shortly after that with Koppel becoming a war correspondent in Vietnam and then an ABC News foreign correspondent. His tenure on Nightline is well-known, but many people have not followed Koppel since signing off from that show. He's been writing regular columns for the NY Times, working as a managing editor at the Discover Channel and acting as a commentator on a number of National Public Radio shows. I wish he was on the air more given his tremendous credibility and his excellent interviewing skills. Very few journalists on the air today come close to matching Koppel.
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.