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Bloggings: December 20, 2007

by Greg Siskind

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

December 18, 2007

PRO-BUSINESS REPUBLICANS ABANDONING PARTY OVER IMMIGRATION ISSUE

Businessweek reports that lifelong Republicans are upset that the GOP has taken anti-business positions in the immigration debate and are planning on voting for a Democrat in 2008.

NY TIMES SLAMS ARIZONA OVER LOOMING NEW LAW

On January 1st, Arizona will enact one of the nation's toughest immigration laws barring action from the courts. Employers found to have hired unauthorized immigrants will lose their business licenses and all employers will be required to use the E-Verify electronic employment verification system. The New York Times has harsh words for the state in its lead editorial today.

December 17, 2007
TRAVEL PROMOTION PROVISIONS INCLUDED IN BUDGET BILL

One of the few immigration-related measures to make it in to the Omnibus spending bill soon to go to the President's desk for signature is a section relating to improving the entry process for international visitors to the US. The Discover America Partnership, the travel industry alliance, describes the changes:

  • $40 million for "Model Ports":  This provision provides $40 million to fund a "Model Ports" program at America's top 20 inbound international airports that would streamline the visitor entry process and make it more welcoming to international travelers.
  • 200 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers: The funds allocated for Model Ports also will allow the hiring of 200 new officers to reduce processing times at the top 20 international airports.
  • Establishment of International Registered Traveler (IRT) Program:  This provision requires the Department of Homeland Security to establish an IRT program to expedite the inspection of frequent U.S. and international travelers arriving by air into the United States.  This would increase security by allowing CBP officials to target their attention on lesser-known travelers and bring the U.S. closer to productive negotiations with other governments successfully implementing IRT programs.
  • $26 million for Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA): This provision provides $26 million to fund the development and implementation of a fully automated electronic travel authorization system to collect basic biographical information to determine, in advance of travel, the eligibility of a foreign visitor to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  Construction of the ETA is a prerequisite for expansion of the VWP to additional countries such as South Korea and newly-admitted European Union countries.Enhancements of US-VISIT: The $475 million allocated for US-VISIT to improve entry and exit tracking of foreign visitors includes funds for deployment of new fingerprint devices and software to reduce false positives and to begin construction of a biometric exit program at U.S. airports required to allow further expansion of the VWP.
  • $5 million for mobile consular teams: This provision provides $5 million dollars to the Department of State to develop a capability to deploy mobile teams of consular officials to conduct visa interviews for would-be travelers who do not live near a U.S. consulate.
  • $225 million for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI): This provision provides $225 million for WHTI implementation and requires certification from the Departments of State and Homeland Security if WHTI documentation requirements are imposed on travelers before June 1, 2009.  It also conditions $75 million on the departments submitting material to Congress that the technical architecture is sound and privacy issues have been addressed.
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: LUCETTE LAGNADO - JOURNALIST/AUTHOR

Lagnado As some of you know, I serve on the board of America's oldest immigrant and refugee services agency, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. I was in New York today attending a HIAS board meeting (I'm writing this on my flight home). At our meeting, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Lucette Lagnado, a former client of HIAS who entered the US as a refugee in 1963. Lagnado's story is unusual because she is from a Jewish family that left Egypt, not the place many people associate with having a Jewish community. But tens of thousands of Jews once lived in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Most left in the years following World War II.

Ms. Lagnado is now a health care reporter with the Wall Street Journal. And she is the author of the critically acclaimed new book The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. The book is an immigrant story as described by the New Yorker:

This memoir of an Egyptian Jewish family’s gradual ruin is told without melodrama by its youngest survivor, now a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Lagnado’s story hinges on her father, "the Captain," who cut a dashing figure in mid-century Cairo, consorting with British officers and Egyptian royalty at French cafés while his family, neglected, stayed home. At first refusing to join the tide of Jews fleeing Egypt under the Nasser regime, the Captain finally yields, in 1963, when the family escapes to Paris and then Brooklyn. Deprived of wealth, status, and any means of coping, Lagnado’s father fades, but he never loses his air of chivalry, manifested in a regular outflow of tiny checks to charitable causes—orphanages, vocational schools, and dowry funds for poor girls—overseas. "As if the Captain were capable of rescuing anyone," his daughter writes.

JON GARRIDO TAKES ON FAIR

John Garrido of Hispanic.cc lays out the case that FAIR is a hate group.

CO-WORKERS: HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

Here's a story worth reading simply because it illustrates what is happening all over the country every day. This is not an unusual case and when you read it ask yourself how America is better off by keeping this family separated and whether it is consistent with the family values our leaders preach.

December 15, 2007
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: GABOR CSUPO - ANIMATOR

Hungarian-born Gábor Csupó is the successful animator who teamed up with his wife Arlene Klassky to bring us a number of animated television series including Nickelodeon's Rugrats, The Wild Thorberries and As Told By Ginger. He also was the executive producer of 36 episodes of The Simpsons. He has won two primetime Emmy Awards for his television work and certainly ranks as one of the top animators in the field today.

Czupo also directed the excellent film Bridge to Terabithia, a film I took my child to see and thoroughly enjoyed.

VIRGINIA EMPLOYERS FIGHT BACK ON IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Virginia employers are fed up with so-called pro-business, small government legislators promoting legislation that destroys businesses and costs Americans jobs. We need to keep reminding  Republicans and blue dog Democrats who claim to be pro-business that being pro-business means creating an orderly system for immigration that combines strong enforcement and legal ways to sponsor workers. Any politician who is in favor of the former and not the latter is NOT pro-business even if they try and wear that label.

December 13, 2007
DISCOVER AMERICA PARTNERSHIP CALLS ON STATE DEPARTMENT TO APPLY FEE INCREASE TO IMPROVING PROCESSING TIMES

The State Department is about to raise fees for processing non-immigrant visas by a third and waits on visa appointments at some consulates are pushing four months. The Discover America Partnership, an advocacy group comprised of many of the nation's leading companies and travel industry leaders, is urging the Department of State to use the money to improve service:

The Discover America Partnership today urged the Department of State (State) to couple its planned visa fee increase with a pledge to reduce wait times for visas, which exceed 115 days in some international locations, to no more than 30 days.  The new visa application fee of $131, up from the current $100, will go into effect on January 1, 2008.  State attributes the additional cost of collecting and reviewing finger scans under the new 10-fingerscan policy as the major reason for the 31 percent increase.

"We understand the Department of State's need to raise fees to cover appropriate costs, but applicants rightfully will demand better service in exchange for higher fees," said Geoff Freeman, Executive Director of the Discover America Partnership.  "State should pledge to improve service and reduce wait times at all consulates with unacceptably chronic delays."

The Discover America Partnership applauds State for visa wait time reductions in India and other locations.  However, wait times remain unnecessarily high in several locations.  In Brazil, wait times hover between 90 and 120 days.  In its "Blueprint to Discover America," the Partnership called on Department of State to provide regular reports to Congress on the steps it is taking to improve visa wait times. 

"In light of the reasonable, but often negatively perceived security policies America is adopting, it is imperative that we also let international travelers know that we want their business," Freeman said.  "America has lost millions of overseas visitors over the past six years.  The Travel Promotion Act, currently under consideration in Congress, is critical to restoring the United States as a premier destination." 

Were a travel promotion program in place today, State would have a ready-made mechanism to explain its increase to an international audience nervous about our security policies.

SPLC'S MARK POTOK EXPLAINS WHY FAIR IS NOW DESIGNATED AS A HATE GROUP
FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR TAKES ON DOBBS

Conservative political commentator Mort Kondracke, half of Fox's The Beltway Boys and a regular contributor to Special Report with Brit Hume, offers words of warning to buying in to Dobbsianism. But he holds out hope that Dobbs' message is not being heeded.

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: INDRA NOOYI - CEO

Well, yesterday I blogged about Muhtar Kent, the new CEO of Coca Cola. So it's only fair that I follow up with Indra Nooyi, the new CEO of Pepsi Cola. Ms. Nooyi, a native of India, is ranked fifth on Forbes Magazine's list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Time Magazine also has included her in its 2007 list of the most influential people in the world. Ms. Nooyi is another foreign student success story having entered the country to pursue an MBA at Yale University back in the 1970s.