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Bloggings: November 1, 2007

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

October 31, 2007


Most of you probably don't know about America's "other" foreign-born governor unless you live in Michigan, the state  Canadian-born Governor Jennifer Granholm has run since being sworn in as the state's first woman governor on January 1, 2003. She was re-elected last year for her second term.

Granholm's family moved to California when she was a young child and she initially tried her hand at acting. But at the age of 21, she decided that an acting career was not in the cards and enrolled at UC-Berkeley where she was a Phi Beta Kappa and then went on to earn a law degree from Harvard.

Like Governor Schwarzenegger, she is ineligible to become President of the United States because of her birth in a foreign country.

Favorite fact: One thing Ms. Granholm has in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger is the fact that both were contestants on The Dating Game television show.

October 29, 2007

N_countdown_worst_071029thumbAre buddies at CBP have caught the attention of Cable news host Keith Olbermann who gives a daily award to the world's worst person. Usually it's just an individual, but today the award goes to a whole government agency - perhaps a first for the show. Well done CBP! Olbermann was talking about the story I covered yesterday on the detaining of British MP Malik. Watch the video here.


Most American viewers have no idea Rachel Griffiths is Australian. She's a brilliant Academy Award nominated actress (for her fine work in the 1998 film Hilary and Jackie) who has now played American characters in two very popular US television series - Brenda Chenowith in HBO's Six Feet Under and Sarah Walker Whedon in the ABC series Brothers and Sisters. Griffiths American accent is flawless.

I actually remember Griffiths for her memorable screen debut with another unknown Australian actress, Toni Collette (I'm saving her for a future post) in the hilarious film Muriel's Wedding.


Is this how you want the world to see America? DHS needs to explain how it s going to deal with its anger management problem. The problem is especially bad for artists seeking entry which is especially unfortunate since the foreign media love to cover these stories.

Thanks to reader legal-forever-waiting-forever for this link.


Upon conclusion of his doomed presidential campaign and conclusion of his current term, fringe anti-immigration Congressman Tom Tancredo will resign his seat in Congress. Tancredo told the Rocky Mountain News

"It's the fact that I really believe I have done all I can do in the House, especially about the issue which I care greatly about [immigration]."

Some in the Colorado political community are speculating Tancredo will seek to oppose Colorado's Democratic Senator Ken Salazar when that seat comes up for re-election in 2010.


Well, this doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that our inspectors are doing anything other than hassling people who look Muslim. Not only does this do nothing for our image in the world, it's not even effective. Terrorist groups by now know that we're focusing mainly on stopping people who look Muslim. So why not just recruit someone who is from a different ethnicity? Remember Richard Reid the shoe bomber, the Jamaican-born would be shoe bomber who only was discovered while he was trying to commit his crime?

There is a certain irony here as well. Mr. Malik was attending meetings with US government officials on tackling terrorism. Last year, he was detained at a different US airport after attending a Department of Homeland Security conference on working with Muslim communities to tackle extremism and terrorism.

It's hard to tell from the piece whether this was the Transportation Security Administration that detained Mr. Malik while going through security to leave the country or whether it involved another agency. In either case, I'd draw attention to Mr. Malik's comment toward the end of the article noting that the attitude he received was abusive.

Security officers at US airports have a job to do. That job description does not include anything about being rude or abusive. If one is to be subject to additional inspections based on good reasoning, then there is no reason to be anything other than to go about the business professionally.

October 28, 2007

Yesterday I blogged about the dismal view the world has of our Customs and Border Protection officers and how those officers just don't seem to get that they're seriously damaging the country they’re supposed to be protecting. Their often surly attitude is hurting our foreign policy as America seeks friends to fight with us for our security. And it's destroying American tourism.

A few days back I did see a little announcement that a few others made jokes about, but which I interpret as a hopeful sign. Disney and DHS' Customs and Border Protection officials have signed an agreement to try and make our entry points a little more welcoming. Here's information from the CBP press release:

“Travelers form their first impressions of America when they arrive at our borders,” said Stewart Baker, assistant secretary for policy, Department of Homeland Security. “Our global reputation therefore depends on making visitors feel every bit as welcome as they feel secure.”

“We are proud to partner with the U.S. government to extend a world-class welcome to America’s guests,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “This project showcases America’s greatest asset: the ordinary people who make this nation extraordinary.”

The film and still portraits showcase the diversity, friendliness and optimism of the American people. The film will be shown in the federal inspection areas of U.S. airports, and in U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, while the still portraits will be incorporated in posters, banners and other imagery welcoming visitors to the U.S. The video and images will not feature or promote any commercial entities.

Washington's Dulles and Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airports will be the first to get the videos (surprised that Orlando is not first?).

I'm extremely pleased that Disney is getting involved here. If there is one company in America that understands what it means to trash the reputation of our country for being decent and hospitable, it's Disney. They know what it means to protect your brand and if Disney employees exhibited behavior seen daily at entry points around the country, they wouldn't be Disney employees for very long. And guess what CBP folks? Disney has to maintain an incredible security operation as well since they run our highest traffic tourist sites. But they seem to have figured out how to be friendly while being vigilant.

Hopefully, the entry officers will watch the videos along with America's guests. And, uh, yes Mr. CBP officer that posted the nasty comment on the blog this weekend, persons entering the country on visitor and work visas are our guests and deserve to be treated accordingly.


I have not posted a lot of baseball players here since the list of possibilities is massive and it's nice to highlight lots of sports, not just the one (along with hockey) that probably constitutes the bulk of foreign athletes in this country.

But tonight I'm watching the World Series and in case it ends tonight (and it's looking like it at as the Red Sox lead here in the 7th), I should get at least one player mentioned.

So I'm picking Japanese star player Kazuo Matsui who came to the US as the first Japanese infielder when he joined the Mets in 2003. He had a rough season in 2005 and was traded to the Rockies last year. His season has been much better this year and he hit his first grand slam in the National League Division Series against the Phillies a few weeks ago which helped give the Rockies a lead they would not relinquish. Matsui also hit a double and a triple in the game, falling just a single short of becoming the only player to hit a cycle during a post season game.

October 27, 2007

NY Governor Spitzer made news a few days ago by announcing that unlawfully present immigrants would be able to secure drivers licenses. Today his office announced that a deal was struck with the Department of Homeland Security and New York State will now issue three kinds of drivers licenses. An "enhanced" license will be as secure as a passport and will suffice as a form of identification for travel in and out of Canada under new border restriction rules. A second form of license will meet REAL ID standards and will not be available to those unlawfully present in the US. A third form of license will be available that states that it is not a valid form of federal identification.

Some immigration advocacy groups are complaining that the governor has caved in and the new identification is basically an "arrest me for being an illegal immigrant" card. New York government officials would not confirm whether possessing the card would constitute probable cause that a person is in the US unlawfully.

I can speak from a little experience here, however, in saying that the third tier licenses are likely to be popular. Tennessee started a system like this a few years ago where a drivers certificate was made available to undocumented immigrants and those legally here, but not possessing a social security number (like the spouse of an H-1B). The document looked like a regular drivers license but was marked clearly with a statement indicating the card was not a legal form of identification. The drivers' certificates were extremely popular. The certificates were recently dropped as anti-immigrant political power in the state legislature intensified and legislation was passed scrapping them.

Thanks to the reader who sent me this tip.


And the drama continues...

October 26, 2007

Every once in a while I run across Cenk Uygur's Young Turks radio show while I'm driving my kids to school. The Turkish-born Uygur has a Muslim background and co-hosts with Jewish Ben Mankiewicz and Christian Jill Pike so you know you're going to have a little diversity in their experience. The show has a decidedly liberal bent, but no matter your politics, the three are entertaining. Uygur's got a super-impressive academic background that makes him a lot more educated than the typica radio show host - a Wharton undergrad degree and a law degree from Columbia University. Not what I was expecting when I was researching today's immigrant of the day.


California farmers are already under the gun. Workers are fleeing and the fires have destroyed livelihoods (apparently the state's avocado crop is ruined, for example). This won't help the situation.

UPDATE: Four migrant workers killed in the fires.


Wish this was an unintended consequence, but the immigrant advocacy organizations have been warning about this, police officer groups have been warning about this and anyone with common sense would realize that when you drive a wedge become immigrant communities and the police, crime victims won't report crimes and crime will rise. And that makes US citizens less safe since unchecked crime has the nasty habit of spreading all over town.


I'll be testifying on November 8th in front of the House Immigration Subcommittee on a provision in a proposed piece of legislation that would create an appeals board to at least have a little authority over the entry process. The measure is modest, but would represent an important start. In my written testimony, I refer to a study commissioned by the Discover America Partnership that had some incredible findings including the following:

  • Travelers rate America’s entry process as the “world’s worst” by greater than a 2:1 margin over the next-worst destination area.
  • The U.S. ranks with Africa and the Middle East when it comes to traveler-friendly paperwork and officials.
  • 54 percent of international travelers say that immigration officials are “rude.”
  • Travelers to the U.S. are more afraid of U.S. government officials (70%) than the threat of terrorism or crime (54%).

Find those numbers hard to believe? Check out this statement sent to the blog by a Customs and Border Protection officer in response to my posting this link and tell me if this guy fits the description above:

It's not about customer service at all, it's enforcing the laws of the United states. You people think entering the US is like going to the Burger king and getting it your way. Hate to tell you, been other places, US CBPOs are saints compared to experiences I had in Spain, UK, France and Germany. Get off your high horses.


Those of you who have been visiting this blog for a while know that I deliberately don't do much to promote my law practice here. I'm sure people can find me easily enough by following the link in my bio over to the left. But I don't have a new edition of my American Bar Association book The Lawyers Guide to Marketing on on the Internet come out very often. And it is, after all, a marketing book so I wouldn't be worth my salt when it comes to being a marketing expert if I didn't do at least a little marketing of the book itself. I co-authored the book back in 1996 (I remember having the book sent by overnight mail to me at the Atlanta Olympics and feeling like a bit of a champion myself at seeing it in print). My co-authors Rick Klau (now a pretty hoity-toity executive at Google) and Deb McMurray (definitely one of the nation's top legal marketing consultants) put out a second edition in 2002. And edition the third just arrived in my office this week.

I'm tickled that the first review of the book I've found  - at Kevin O'Keefe's Lexblog - uses a pretty amusing noun to describe my background. I'm sure the anti-immigrants that hang out here will start a whisper campaign that I'm involved with organized crime :-).


That's the figure being reported to me by experts at the National Foundation for American Policy. According to the immigration and trade policy think tank, the new Grassley H-1B tax included in the Senate HHS/Labor Appropriations bill represents a $3.1 billion tax increase over five years on America's fastest growing companies ($614 million a year).

Past taxes have been made somewhat more palatable by increasing the number of H-1Bs, but this time no increase in numbers is provided. NFAP experts believe that the fee will likely only accelerate the trend of American companies expanding operations overseas where professional workers are more readily available.  

October 25, 2007

If you can't figure out whether Rudy is pro-immigration or not, join the club. Historically, he's been great. But as John McCain admitted this week (and Sam Brownback learned the hard way), a very vocal xenophobic wing of the GOP doesn't take to kindly to anything short of the "execute, then deport" approach of Tom Tancredo.

Rudy has run to the fence over the past few months, though every once in a while he lets his guard down and says something that hints that there's still a brain and a heart somewhere in there.

Still, today's news that Guiliana has appointed two pretty extremist anti-immigrant politicians to an advisory board he's put together on immigration leaves one wondering. Nevertheless, he has not passed the Center for Immigration Studies acceptability test which means they suspect he's still at least 1% pro-immigration. So one can hold out some hope. 


When my friend Sam Udani, head honcho of, and I were discussing the DREAM Act, something interesting emerged and its not pretty. Just who were the 42 Senators who voted to kill the DREAM Act? Senators from the same states that gave us great memories like Rosa Parks being arrested in Selma, Alabama, the killing of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and lunch counter sit-ins in Greeneville, North Carolina continue their tradition of tolerance that has given the South its wonderful worldwide reputation. Sam wrote about in Immigration Daily today and I think it's worth a few more words.

Of the fourteen states that would self-identify as southern, 23 of 28 Senators voted against the Dream Act. I'm counting Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Virginia. I don't count Florida which ceased being a Southern state after it was re-populated by New Yorkers and Cubans over a period that began before I moved there with my family in 1971). Only 19 of the remaining 72 Senators sided with them. If you want to tell me racial politics have nothing to do with the immigration debate, I'll give you a nice lecture on states' rights (if you don't understand the reference, I'm sure readers will be explaining in the comments shortly).

Kudos go in particular to Republican Senators Trent Lott of Mississippi and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas who bucked the otherwise solidly anti-immigrant Republican vote in the South. They're presumably taking heat from their base today.

I'd like to think the South where I live today has gotten past the problems of the past. But immigration politics remind us that the region has a long way to go.


Maybe those pesky immigrants, annoying civil rights lawyers and nosy reporters will mind their own business next time.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down the notorious San Pedro Detention Facility (a facility with numerous problems including one particularly serious story I wrote about this summer). Two weeks ago the facility lost its accreditation. While ICE is keeping mum on the reasons, the facility has a reputation for being problem-ridden.

400 detainees have apparently been transferred not to one of the other detention facilities in Southern California (well, 20 were sent to other California facilities - how generous!), but to facilities scattered across the country. Forget about seeing family again. Think your pro bono lawyer is going to be able to help you (assuming he can even reach you)?

Here's a little example of the fun ICE officials are having acting on behalf of taxpayers:

Edgardo Quintanilla said he didn't know where his client, a deaf mute, was transferred and he didn't know if he would be able to continue on as the detainee's pro-bono attorney if the move was to an out-of-state facility.

"It is going to be very hard, almost impossible, to keep representing him," he said.

Remember, this was all caused by ICE's failure to do its job.

Thanks to the anonymous blog poster who provided this link.


This is a great story.  Catalino Tapia is a 63-year old Mexican immigrant who came to the US with $6 some forty-three years ago. Inspired by his son graduating from one of the nation's top law schools, Tapia established a non-profit company, the Bay Area Gardeners Foundation, and recruited a dozen other gardeners to raise money for college scholarships. This year, they awarded nine $1500 scholarships.

The anti-immigrants out there have tried to somehow make it sound like today's immigrants are somehow different than those that came before. But they're exactly the same in terms of striving to help their children achieve a better life. On the day after the DREAM Act died and the country let down millions of young people hoping to be given the opportunity to carve out a decent life in the only country they know, it helps to hear stories like Catalino Tapia's.

October 24, 2007

It passed by unanimous consent and no one spoke against it, but it's called a debate anyway. Here is what happened on the floor:

The Senator from Iowa [Mr. Harkin], for Mr. Schumer, for himself and Mrs. Hutchison, proposes an amendment numbered 3404 to amendment No. 3325.


   The amendment is as follows:

(Purpose: To increase the domestic supply of nurses and physical therapists, and for other purposes)

    On page 126, between lines 7 and 8, add the following:

    Sec. 521. Section 106(d) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-313; 8 U.S.C. 1153 note) is amended--

    (1) in paragraph (1)--

    (A) by inserting ``1996, 1997,'' after ``available in fiscal year''; and

    (B) by inserting ``group I,'' after ``schedule A,'';

    (2) in paragraph (2)(A), by inserting ``1996, 1997, and'' after ``available in fiscal years''; and

    (3) by adding at the end the following:

    ``(4) PETITIONS.--The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a process for reviewing and acting upon petitions with respect to immigrants described in schedule A not later than 30 days after the date on which a completed petition has been filed.''.


(Purpose: To increase the number of nursing faculty and students in the United States, to encourage global health care cooperation, and for other purposes)

   Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I call up the Durbin amendment.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

   The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:


   The Senator from Iowa [Mr. Harkin], for Mr. Durbin, proposes an amendment numbered 3449 to amendment No. 3404.


   (The amendment is printed in today's Record under ``Text of Amendments.'')

   Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, my second degree amendment reflects my belief that we cannot continue to import nurses from other countries without also taking steps to step up capacity for training nurses here in the U.S. We all know that the United States faces a serious shortage of qualified nurses. Projections show that by the year 2020, our country will fall short of the nurses we need by one million nurses.

   Why do we have this looming shortage? Certainly it is due in part to our growing and aging population. But there are also structural problems with the domestic nursing system that limit the number of nurses we educate and train in this country. The main structural problems are an insufficient number of nurse educators and a shortage of clinical space for training. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing survey showed that nursing colleges denied admission to nearly 43,000 qualified applicants in 2006 academic year. The top reasons these applications were not accepted were insufficient faculty and not enough admissions slots. This is a bottleneck that is stifling the supply of nurses in this country. And we need to fix it.

   We need to devote resources to training and hiring new nursing faculty and expanding clinical space for nursing schools so they can accept more qualified students. These investments will exponentially increase the number of trained American nurses. The Schumer-Hutchison amendment's approach to fixing our nursing shortage is to allow up to 61,000 foreign nurses to enter the country as green card holders. Importing these thousands of foreign nurses is only a band-aid solution to our projected nursing shortage of million. But it is also a step that deflates any momentum towards finding real solutions for our domestic nursing crisis. We have done these nursing visa recaptures before. In fact, 2 years ago in 2005, the President signed into law a recapture of 50,000 nursing visas as part of that year's Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. Did this 2005 visa recapture stop the nursing shortage? Of course not. It was a band-aid solution. But it did undermine momentum for efforts to undertake the real reform that we know we need. And so here we are again, 2 years later, with hospitals desperate for more nurses.

   My second degree amendment is a reasonable compromise that will help both the hospitals in the short term and the domestic nursing supply in the long term. My amendment would require employers who successfully petition for a recaptured nursing green card to pay a $1,500 fee.

   This fee would be used to fund a grant program that would provide grants to U.S. nursing schools for hiring nurse faculty, expanding training capacity, and recruiting more students. $1,500 is not a large fee--hospitals often spend many times that amount for the services of foreign nurse recruiting companies. However, under my amendment, hospitals that are in dire financial straits, like Health Professional Shortage Area facilities and Louisiana hospitals still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, would receive a waiver from paying this fee. Neither does my amendment also impose the fee on the dependents of any nurses who receive a recaptured green card.

   Again, the Durbin 2nd degree amendment is a reasonable compromise that will help both the hospitals in the short term and the domestic nursing supply in the long term. It will allow for the additional nursing green cards to address immediate needs, but it will also take steps that will put the American nursing profession on a path to sustainability. My amendment also contains two measured steps to enhance global healthcare cooperation and to safeguard against a crippling brain drain of foreign healthcare workers from countries where they are critically needed. The first provision would allow a healthcare worker who is a legal permanent resident in the U.S. to temporarily provide healthcare services in a country that is underdeveloped or that has suffered a disaster or public health emergency--like the 2004 tsunami--without jeopardizing his or her immigration status in the U.S. The second provision would require a foreigner who is petitioning to work in the U.S. as a health care worker to attest that he or she has satisfied any outstanding commitment to his or her home country under which the foreigner received money for medical training in return for a commitment to work in that country for a period of years. The goal of this second provision is to ensure that foreign countries do not invest money in healthcare workers who then renege on commitments to work in their country without satisfying their commitment in some way, such as by a new voluntary agreement. There is a waiver available in case of coercion by the home country government. My amendment is strongly supported by the American Nurses Association and the American Association of Nursing Colleges.

   I urge my colleagues to support the domestic nursing profession and support global healthcare cooperation. I urge passage of my amendment.

   Mr. HARKIN. All time is yielded back.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. If all time is yielded back, without objection the second-degree amendment is agreed to.

   The amendment (No. 3449) was agreed to.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the amendment, No. 3404, as amended, is agreed to.

   The amendment (No. 3404), as amended, was agreed to.

   Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.

   Mr. DURBIN. I move to lay that motion on the table.

   The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.

      The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time is yielded back. Without objection, the amendment is agreed to.


Thanks to Sid for suggesting this and USC prompting me to get back in to the "Immigrant of the Day" groove.

Dr. Khorana is an 85 year old Indian born American who won the Nobel in medicine in 1968 for his work in genetic code interpretation. He has worked at various universities in India, the UK and Canada, but has called the US his home since 1960. Since his arrival in the US, he has really become one of the fathers of DNA research and many of his discoveries helped paved the way for modern genetic science.


Remember recently I blogged about Microsoft deciding to open up a research center in Vancouver largely in response to the lack of H-1B visas in the US? Some of the protectionists who read the blog attacked Microsoft saying it was a big lie and even hysterically attacking the company's patriotism. But many companies are quietly expanding overseas operations partially in response to the H-1B crisis. Money Magazine reports on Google's operations in India. Here's a quote that should raise some concern:

Google chose Bangalore in 2004 as the site of its first R&D center outside the U.S., says Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, who heads Google's Asia operations from the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, in part "because so many Googlers who are Indian want to move back to India and participate in India's growth."

And with the U.S. now issuing half the H-1B visas for skilled high-tech workers that it did in 1999, combined with fewer foreign students coming to study at American universities, the newly minted versions of engineers like Narendran and Ram haven't been coming to the U.S. in the same numbers anyway. It used to be that you had to go to the U.S. to participate in technology's cutting edge. It used to be that Indians thought it was more prestigious to get a U.S. education and work in California. Not anymore.

Google is riding this trend, as are many other companies in India. Yahoo employs about 900 engineers at a research center in Bangalore, roughly nine times more than at Google's. And IBM has hired 53,000 people in India, becoming the nation's largest foreign employer. That's not to mention the 285,000 employed by India's four tech giants: Infosys Technologies, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, and Satyam.

It never hurts to repeat this truth - H-1Bs and high tech immigration SAVE jobs for Americans. The jobs  that might have been filled by Americans but instead go to India and elsewhere due to a lack of access to global talent exceed by far any jobs that might be saved if we bar foreign workers.


60 votes were needed out of 100 to stop debate and vote on the bill. 52 votes were secured. Some Republicans are suggesting they would support a watered-down DREAM Act bill. That may not be necessary since many GOP Senators will likely will be gone after 2008 when Hispanic voters have their say.