Bloggings: November 29, 2007
Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.
November 28, 2007
REPORT: E-VERIFY FALSE POSITIVES ARE A "SEVERE" PROBLEM
November 27, 2007
USCIS officials were provided details details from an outside firm's report yesterday regarding the accuracy of the e-Verify system, the online government database used by employers to check the work authorization of employees. According to Carolyn Shettle, who led the investigative team for Westat Corp., the problems faced by foreign-born US citizens is severe and that nearly 10% of such naturalized citizens were incorrectly identified by the system as unauthorized to work.
According to the report:
The accuracy of the USCIS database used for verification has improved substantially since the start of the Basic Pilot program. However, further improvements are needed, especially if the Web Basic Pilot becomes a mandated national program – improvements that USCIS personnel report are currently underway. Most importantly, the database used for verification is still not sufficiently up to date to meet the IIRAIRA requirement for accurate verification, especially for naturalized citizens. USCIS accommodates this problem by providing for manual review that is time consuming and can lead to discrimination against work-authorized foreign-born persons during the period that the verification is ongoing, especially naturalized citizens.
The report showed that foreign-born employers were thirty times more likely to be subject to a false identification as unauthorized to work than a US-born employee which leads to the obvious conclusion that USCIS' records are either inaccurate or are not being properly integrated in to the e-Verify system. According to the report:
Foreign-born U.S. citizens are considerably more likely to receive erroneous tentative nonconfirmations than are work-authorized foreign-born persons who have not become U.S. citizens. Among foreign-born employees verified by the Web Basic Pilot, the percentage of ever-authorized employees found to be workauthorized after a tentative nonconfirmation was 1.3 percent for noncitizens compared to 10.9 percent for naturalized citizens. The erroneous tentative nonconfirmation rate for naturalized citizens is unacceptably high. Reducing it will take considerable time and will require better data collection and data sharing between SSA and USCIS than is currently the case.
Tentative nonconfirmations have negative consequences for work-authorized employees for two reasons. First, there are very real costs and burdens associated with adverse actions that some employers take against employees receiving tentative nonconfirmations, even though such adverse actions are prohibited by statute. Second, there are burdens associated with visiting an SSA office and, generally to a lesser extent, contacting USCIS.
The reports findings are highly disturbing because the federal government and a number of states are moving down the path of severely penalizing employers who fail to use the system. Provisions in four appropriations bills currently pending in Congress would require employers doing business with a variety of federal agencies to use e-Verify. And several state governments have passed laws either mandating employers use the system or providing "safe harbors" preventing loss of a business license or access to state contracts only for employers who use the system. One state - Illinois - has been disturbed enough by reports of inaccuracies to actually bar employers in the state from using the system until the false positives are down to less than one percent.
I have obtained a copy of the report and you can download it here.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: HELIO CASTRONEVES - RACE CAR DRIVER/BALLROOM DANCER
Now that's an odd combination! But Brazilian-born Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is one of America's top car racers and is also one of the three remaining contestants on the current run of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Good luck Helio!
[Update - Congrats on winning, Helio.]
BROOKS: "DOBBSIANISM IS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG"
New York Times columnist David Brooks paints a frightening picture of how Lou Dobbs is affecting public opinion and why the CNN "anchor" is simply wrong in his thinking.
ICE AGENT CHARGED WITH RAPE OF DETAINEE
November 26, 2007
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Broward County, Florida has been charged with raping a woman in his custody. Wilfredo Vazquez has since been fired by ICE.
IMMIGRANTS ECONOMIC ENGINE OF NEW YORK STATE
Immigrants are responsible for 25% of the economic output of New York State and are also overrepresented in a number of key occupations facing worker shortages. Is it really a surprise that New York City is booming?
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: PETER MAX - ARTIST
There are not that many contemporary American artists who are well known by the general public. One who many of you will know is Peter Max. Max was born in the 30s in Nazi-controlled Germany and his family escaped to Shanghai where he lived for ten years and then moved to Israel. His family immigrated to the US in 1953.
Max has been a major figure in the US art scene for decades and is still very relevant today. You may have seen his recent Newsweek cover or his famous paintings of the Statue of Liberty (including one below from a 1997 New York City conference on immigration organized by a once very pro-immigration Rudolph Guiliani).
November 25, 2007
ICE OFFICIALS REPORT INABILITY TO PROCESS 287(G) REFERRALS
One of the antis greatest hopes for massively increasing deportations is to get as many 287(g) agreements in place between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police departments around the country. These agreements allow police officers to refer persons they determine to be illegally present in the country over to ICE when they are caught in minor violations like traffic stops or misdemeanors. These agreements have been proliferating particularly as many local politicians see political gold in pushing the measures. Unfortunately, theory and reality have smacked against each other as ICE offices lack the resources to deal with all of the referrals. Case in point - Dallas, Texas. ICE officials are now telling local law enforcement (mainly suburb Irving, Texas which has a 287(g) agreement) only to refer over those accused of more serious criminal violations.
Part of the dishonesty of many of the politicians pushing these agreements and tougher enforcement in general is that the goals can be achieved without a cost. When the country is facing record budget deficits, ALL expenses of the government need to be scrutinized. Massive enforcement requires a massive increase in spending. I would suggest that if the case for massive new enforcement is so strong, then the politicians promoting it should also propose a tax increase to pay for it. That would separate those who genuinely believe in the cause from those just looking to score political points.
USCIS TELLING NATURALIZATION APPLICANTS NOT TO EXPECT TO GET CITIZENSHIP BEFORE NOVEMBER 2008 ELECTION
Unbelievable! USCIS is advising applicants who filed naturalization applications after July 2007, that they can expect waits of 16 to 18 months to process their cases. This potentially affects nearly one and a half million people.
This is, in effect, a stealth form of voter suppression and it is one that could have an impact on elections around the country. This is particularly suspicious this year as recent polls are showing Hispanic voters overwhelmingly shifting their votes to the Democrats and Hispanics making up a large enough part of the electorate to affect races in "purple" states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida that the GOP must hold to have any chance at winning the presidential race next year.
USCIS is blaming the surge in naturalization filings ahead of the July 31st massive 50% fee increase (it now costs more than $600 to file). The fee increases were coupled with a by USCIS chief Emilio Gonzalez to REDUCE processing times.
The New York Times is also reporting on the story.
WP PRAISES MCCAIN FOR HIS DECENCY...
November 24, 2007
...And takes the other GOP candidates to task for abandoning their prior immigration positions in order to inject a "toxic" tone to the campaign.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: VINOD DHAM - THE FATHER OF THE PENTIUM
There's a decent chance you're viewing this post in part due to the genius of Intel's Vinod Dham. The Indian-born Dham received an electrical engineering masters degree from the University of Cincinnati and then started his career at NCR. He later joined Intel and is credited as the "father of the Pentium processor." He left Intel in 1995 and helped found NexGen, a company acquired by the other big chip giant AMD.
DHS GIVES UP ON NO MATCH RULE; WILL RELEASE NEW RULE NEXT MONTH
November 22, 2007
The ACLU reports that the US government is dropping is ending its fight to implement the controversial "no match" rule issued last summer which would have effectively required employers to terminate employees unable to resolve Social Security Administration database discrepancies between their name and social security number within a 90 day time frame. A federal district court judge enjoined DHS from implementing the rule partly because of concerns that the Social Security Administration would not be able to resolve discrepancies in a timely manner for US citizens mistakenly identified as a "no match."
DHS now is focusing on issuing a new rule next month that the agency claims will pass legal muster.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: MICHAEL ANSARA - ACTOR
November 21, 2007
Syrian-born Michael Ansara came to the US as a child and by the time he was in his early 20s, he was acting in Hollywood in a career that has now spanned more than 60 years. Ansara's most memorable roles have been in westerns and science fiction films and television shows and he is one of only three actors to play the same role in three Star Trek series. Fans of Star Trek will remember Ansara's portrayal of Kang in the original Star Trek television series as well as in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Star Trek: Voyager.
ICE SENDING AMBULANCE DRIVERS IN TO SECONDARY INSPECTION
In this case, it was a first responder vehicle going from Windsor, Ontario across the border to a Detroit hospital for a patient needing emergency heart surgery. We've gotten to the point where Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are so afraid of being the one to mess up and let in a terrorist that common sense no longer prevails. We need to move past a CYA mentality to one that actually serves the public interest.
I was notified of a post on Immigration Voice today that warranted further comment and a specific request was made by an IV leader that I address the situation in my blog. So here goes. The post was from Mehul and reads as follows:
I have a unique position. couple of weeks back I was told that have
fatal cancer and won't live pass 4-6 months. After recovering from
initial shock I am wondering if my wife will be able to continue her
american dream or she will have to head home after me.
I have filed 485 with approved 140 back in june, 2007 with PD of March, 2003
First, I am deeply sorry to hear this news and will try and be helpful by providing you realistic information on your prospects and make some practical suggestions. Unfortunately, a few years ago a client and a friend passed away during the I-140 stage of processing and his widow was left with no realistic option but to return to her home country. So I know it is important to address the situation quickly.
Immigration law, unfortunately, requires the termination of a derivative petition for a spouse in an employment-based green card case in the event of the death of the principal applicant. An exception was made for widows and widowers of the 9/11 terror attacks. But the Skerritt INS letter of July 17, 1995 specifically noted that an employment-based immigration petition is automatically revoked upon the death of the petitioner or beneficiary. And I have no reason to believe a new position has been taken.
There's another problem and that is the retrogression of priority dates. I'm presuming you are Indian and if this is so, both the EB-2 and EB-3 categories are backlogged to considerably earlier than March 2003. If I'm wrong in my presumption, please let me know. The EB-2 category is only up to January 2002 and the EB-3 category is stuck at May 2001.
The only available solutions I see are to explore independent visa options for your wife. Obviously, you can look at non-immigrant and immigrant visa options and I don't have enough information to advise on that. Another category you might look at is the EB-5 investor visa . For a $500,000 investment in a qualified regional center, an green card can be obtained. Obviously, this is a lot of money, but if you have the means, it might be worth a look.
There have been attempts over the last few months to get legislation passed that would solve this problem. Senator Nelson (D-FL) introduced a bill that would have permitted the completion of green card applications for widows waiting on employment-based adjustments. Unfortunately, like many immigration bills this session, there is little good news to report. But you can read more at this web site.
Finally, there is always the private bill route. It's a long shot, but if you can garner support in Congress, this may be an option. And merely filing a private bill can potentially lead to the halting of any deportation proceedings during the two or three years these bills sometimes take to eventually pass. I am going to contact someone I know who is in an important position in Congress to see what he thinks.
For others reading this post, please remember that rules vary from one type of case to another. For example, there are different rules for family-based cases. So please make sure you consult your immigration lawyer before assuming anything from this discussion.
NEW STUDY SHOWS IMMIGRANTS RAISE WAGES FOR CITY DWELLERS
November 20, 2007
UC-Davis Economist Giovanni Peri has released a new study showing that immigrants have a major positive effect on educated workers in cities and a negligible effect on unskilled, lesser educated workers.
NEW POLL SHOWS AMERICANS BELIEVE BORDER SECURITY REQUIRES GUEST WORKER REFORM
Despite calls for an enforcement only approach by many anti-immigrant voices in the US, the American public has consistently taken a more pragmatic view. A new poll commissioned by the Krieble Foundation and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies surveyed 800 people and has a plus or minus error rate of 3.5%. The Krieble Foundation press release on the poll notes
Voters overwhelmingly agreed with the statement: "It is not possible to have absolute border control without a better system for handling temporary workers." A total of 76 percent agree with the statement, while only 17 percent disagree.
Similarly, when asked which would do more to strengthen our border, 53 percent said "creating a more efficient system for handling temporary workers" while only 36 percent said "increasing the presence of law enforcement officials."
"The bottom line," said Foundation President Helen E. Krieble, "is that people who call for border-only approaches to this national crisis represent a very small minority. Most people know that real border security requires a work program to efficiently handle our economy's labor requirements."
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: JUNYING YU - STEM CELL SCIENTIST
Two teams of researchers - one in Japan and one in the US - simultaneously have reported a major breakthrough in stem cell research today. Each team has managed to turn human skin cells in to stem cells. The ability to generate stem cells without having to use human embryos could help bypass the ethical concerns that have retarded stem cell research and history may look at today's announcement as sparking a "big bang" in research in to this extremely promising field.
The US team at the University of Wisconsin in Madison was led by Dr. Junying Yu, an American trained scientist who entered the US as a foreign student from China. Congratulations, Dr. Yu!
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: NEVE CAMPBELL - ACTRESS
November 19, 2007
Canadian actress Neve Campbell was a very successful teen actress who has now transformed her image and is taking on serious roles on stage and in film. She became well known as Julia Salinger on the television series Party of Five and then went on to star in the Scream horror film series. She went on to star in critically acclaimed films like Panic, with William H. Macy, and The Company, directed by Robert Altman. She recently made her West End stage debut in Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues.
SPITZER'S IMMIGRATION SURRENDER
November 18, 2007
Dan Kowalski has a very cogent post-mortem on the NY driver's license fight. Here in Memphis, I had calls from journalists covering a fatal car accident involving an unauthorized immigrant and the realization is dawning on people that people here illegally can't get automobile insurance without a drivers license. The antis will shrug their shoulders and simply say "too bad, they shouldn't be here anyway," but who are they really punishing to make this point?
THE PILGRIMS WERE NOT ILLEGAL ALIENS
Quoteth Bart Simpson who was forced to write this phrase on this evening's episode of the Simpsons. That should drive a few antis crazy for a day or two.
That's how conservative scholar Tamar Jacoby describes Republican hopes that playing the anti-immigration card will boost their electoral prospects in November. Jacoby is quoted in an excellent analytical piece in today's New York Times on how the issue of immigration could affect the Hispanic vote next year.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: DEREK WALCOTT - PLAYWRIGHT AND POET
St. Lucia native Derek Walcott is the 1992 Nobel Prize winner with a long and successful body of work that includes dozens of books of poetry and twenty plays mostly dealing with life in the Caribbean. An exception to this is his 1997 collaboration with Paul Simon on the Broadway play The Capeman, about the life of a Puerto Rican gang member in New York. I happen to own the CD for that show and remember being struck by the poignancy of the lyrics. But I never paid attention to who the lyricist was. While the show was not a hit, the Paul Simon CD Songs from The Capeman is one I've enjoyed over the years.
SEE LOU RUN
November 17, 2007
How do you feed the biggest ego in news? Why, you try and start a draft campaign for President. And I say - go for it Lou! But, uh, remember that you don't get to keep your television show when you're running.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: YOKY MATSUOKA - ROBOT CONNECTOR
The fourth immigrant to make Popular Science's Brilliant 10 list is Yoky Matsuoka, a Japanese native who is a robotics expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. Matsuoka was a promising young tennis player in Japan interested in turning professional, but injuries forced her to look at alternative careers. And that is good news for rest of us. Matsuoka, who also received a MacArthur genius grant, is pioneering research in to controlling devices through signals from the brain. She's now applying this research in creating an artificial hand controlled directly through brain impulses.
TARGET, WHOLE FOODS SUED FOR I-9 DOCUMENT ABUSE
I advise companies every day on how to comply with IRCA, the 1986 immigration law that mandates using I-9s to verify employment authorization. Many employers are sloppy in their record keeping and don't pay enough attention to properly verifying identify and work authorization. So I'm often assisting companies in being more diligent about the process.
But there are other companies that go overboard and try to be too strict in complying with the rules. In their zealousness to weed out unauthorized immigrants, they end up asking for inappropriate documents or making other demands that cross the line in to discrimination. Two household retail giants in California are being sued for just that reason.
The two firms are accused of terminating two employees authorized to work. One is the beneficiary of the TPS program for people temporarily permitted to remain in the US and work legally when they happen to be here when a crisis develops in their home country (such as a war breaking out or a volcano erupting). The other is a US citizen who was improperly asked to provide documentation of her work status well after providing the necessary documentation when she completed an I-9 form at the time of her hire. Because she had sent her naturalization paperwork to the State Department in order to get a passport, she was unable to prove her citizenship and she was fired.
Obviously, these are just accusations and the companies may have a different version of the facts. But they do provide a lesson to employers that the I-9 process needs to be taken more seriously and good training is an absolute necessity to ensure that government enforcement actions are avoided and lawsuits are avoided.
H-2B TECHNICAL FIX LATEST SIGN OF IMMIGRATION PARALYSIS
Despite immigration being in the news every day and the profile of immigration issues rising dramatically, the last two years have seen virtually no immigration legislation passing in Congress - either pro-immigration legislation or anti-immigration measures. And it doesn't matter if we're talking about bills regulating legal or illegal immigration.
One sign of this impasse involves a minor extension of a provision in the H-2B temporary worker program. In 2005, Congress passed a bill that took returning H-2B workers out of the annual cap on on H-2B visas (much like the H-1B program). That provision expired and despite the fact that there is little vocal opposition, Congress seems unable to move even the smallest and least controversial provisions.
The problems are not helped by some in the pro-immigration community who think no pro-immigration measure should pass unless the cause closer to their heart is dealt with first. Others are still dreaming of a comprehensive solution where all problems are dealt with together. And while that is a nice sentiment, problems fester and get worse while we wait on a solution that will likely not come for years and may never come at all.
Thanks go to a helpful reader in Colorado for pointing out this story.
DILEMMA OF THE MOMENT: DETAINING NEW MOTHERS
The New York Times has a provocative story this morning about the Honduran mother of a new born baby and the impact of separating a mother from the child. ICE, to their credit, is revising their policies to prevent cases like that of Saída Umanzor, the client of my friend David Leopold.
NUMBER OF STUDENT VISAS ISSUED REACHES RECORD LEVEL
November 16, 2007
Some good news from the State Department. Of course, we kick most of these students out when they're finished due to a dearth of H-1B visas. Regardless, foreign students are some of our best assets in our long term public diplomacy efforts since they know America better than most of their countrymen and usually feel warmly about our country.
Here's the DOS announcement:
We are pleased to mark the end of International Education Week, November 12 - 16, by announcing that the Department has issued a record number of visas to students to study in the United States, exceeding pre-9/11 levels. During Fiscal Year 2007, the Department issued more than 651,000 student and exchange visitor visas - 10 percent more than last year and 90,000 more than were issued in Fiscal Year 2001.
As Secretary Rice has noted, "In this celebration of international education and exchange, the U.S. Department of State joins with the U.S. Department of Education to highlight the critical role of education in our efforts to secure a bright future based on international partnership and understanding."
The number of foreign students attending American institutions of higher learning continues to grow and the Department of State, in partnership with the Institute of International Education, academic institutions, and American colleges and universities, continues to spread the word to international students that we welcome them. Embassy and consular officials meet with prospective foreign students to explain the student visa application requirements and process and they participate in overseas college fairs providing information about education opportunities available in the United States. All consulates offer special appointments in an effort to ensure that foreign students do not miss their classes in the United States while waiting for a visa interview. International students have heard us and are choosing the United States as a premier destination for higher education.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: EMIN GÜN SIRER - INTERNET REPAIRMAN
November 15, 2007
The fourth of the immigrants on Popular Science's Brilliant Ten list is Emin Gün Sirer. Sirer, an immigrant from Turkey who is a professor at Corneill, has his work described by Popular Science as follows:
In 2004, Emin Gün Sirer
figured out how to hijack the FBI's Web site. The problem wasn't with
the Feds; it was with the structure of the Internet itself. Anytime you
type an address like "www.fbi.gov" into your browser, your
request feeds through several servers that act as the phone booths of
the Internet. Sirer realized that many of these directories were
insecure and that a hacker could easily reroute all traffic meant for
the FBI to a malicious doppelgänger site. "No one even knew this
problem was there," says Ken Birman, Sirer's colleague at Cornell. "Gun
showed it was there, and he showed how to fix it."
His modest solution? Reorganize
the entire Internet. Sirer created a scheme that eliminates the need
for vulnerable central servers by distributing information among
thousands of smaller computers. The strategy now helps safeguard Web
sites through the PlanetLab worldwide academic network—and could
someday protect the Web as a whole.
Sirer is now working on a project to help identify doctored photos and emails.
DEMOCRATS TAKE ON THE ANTIS
Well, not all the Democrats. Hilary Clinton has backtracked and is now saying she opposes Governor Spitzer's driver's license plan - a plan that would improve public safety and also make it possible for all drivers to get insurance, something that is just as much a form of protection for American victims of accidents as for the drivers. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has come out in support of Governor Spitzer.
Of course, such laws would be unnecessary if we had a functioning immigration system where we had rigorous immigration enforcement coupled with a meaningful way to earn legalization for those here illegally and a workable visa system for employers wanting to bring workers in to the country in the future. Most of the antis lose interest after the first item and many of the pros forget about the first.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is publicly taking on Republican Tom Tancredo and is calling the Republican "an extremist." And he has voiced his support for a New Mexico law permitting unauthorized immigrants to get driver's licenses.
Despite the driver's license flap, Clinton and the rest of the Democrats have been consistent in supporting comprehensive immigration reform that includes rigorous enforcement, a path to legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a guest worker program and more numbers for family and employment-based immigrants. With the exception of Mayor Guiliani and Senator McCain, the GOP candidates have only been supporting more enforcement without the other needed reforms. And McCain recently announced he would no longer support a comprehensive approach due to pressure from the anti-immigrant wing of his party.
And the odds are that the GOP is going to be in quite a bind. Taking the anti-immigration position is necessary to get the party's nomination. But in the general election, they're likely to pay dearly. That's because most Americans rank immigration low on their priority list. Those that are anti-immigration were likely going to vote GOP. But Hispanics care greatly about immigration and the GOP had been making inroads in getting those votes. Now they are likely to be one of the groups that strongly support the Democrats. And the loss of those votes will likely make all the difference in the presidential race and in congressional races around the country.
THE BRITISH AREN'T COMING, THE BRITISH AREN'T COMING
Despite the fact that traveling to America is a major bargain for the Brits (the dollar is at an historically low point right now against the pound), UK travelers are electing to spend their quid elsewhere. In fact, travel to the US is still 11% off from 2000 when the UK economy was not nearly as strong as today. And it's not because British subjects aren't traveling. Travel to Turkey, India and New Zealand have doubled over that time.
The Discover America Partnership is highlighting this news in an effort to gain needed support for the Travel Promotion Act of 2007 (S. 1661).
OWNING THE TERMINOLOGY
I've spoken at length on this blog about why the words we use to discuss the immigration debate are so important. The antis know this as well so you'll see terms like "illegals", "amnesty", "lawbreakers", "anchor babies", etc. used over and over again. That is why it is important to find terms that are not emotionally charged to discuss the subject. If Americans react rationally, we win. If they react based on emotion and anger, we're going to have a harder time. Peter Brown has a nice piece at Politico.com discussing the issue.
LET YOUR TELEVISION STATIONS KNOW THAT TANCREDO'S AD CROSSES THE LINE
Immigrants' List has launched an online petition campaign to urge local television stations to reject Tom Tancredo's outrageous television ads that links unauthorized immigrants to terrorism. While free speech is an important value in this country (that's why I choose to ignore rather than censor many ridiculous comments on this blog), television stations regularly reject advertisements that are offensive. And it is their Supreme Court-recognized right. They ought to be exercising it in this case.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: FRANS PRETORIUS - SCIENTIST
Frans Pretorius is included on Popular Science Magazine's Brilliant Ten annual list of outstanding young scientists in America. He was born in South Africa and received his university education in Canada and at CalTech. Dr. Pretorius is being honored for his development of computer simulations predicting what happens when black holes collide.