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Bloggings: January 10, 2008

by Greg Siskind

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

January 09, 2008


While the GOP race is still wide open, one thing is clear - the anti-immigration message of Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul did not resonate with voters enough to get them to change who they supported. Pro-immigration candidates Hilary Clinton and John McCain won the Democratic and Republican primaries.  Exit polls showed that voters did not make immigration their top priority so the expected pay off from trying to make immigration a wedge issue did not happen. The question now is whether voters in other states will send the same message.

January 08, 2008

With the New Hampshire primary very likely to mean a resurgence for the McCain campaign, expect to see conservatives start to soften the rhetoric on immigration. Here's a prime example. The National Review's Victor David Hansen has been a leading anti-immigration proponent. But he's now taking a different tone.

January 07, 2008

The trend continues. The Kansas bill would go after business licenses or employers hiring unauthorized immigrants and fine landlords for renting to those workers. The Missouri bill imposes a host of measures similar to Oklahoma and also fines employers for hiring unauthorized workers. Fining employers and going after landlords are dicey from a constitutional viewpoint so look for litigation. Going after business licenses is probably easier to defend given IRCA's specific language on employer sanctions.

January 06, 2008

Blavatnik Here's an All-American rags to riches story. "Len" Blavatnik emigrated to the US from the former Soviet Union as a refugee in 1978 at 21 years of age with not a dollar to his name. He managed to get in to Harvard Business School and then partnered with a few school friends to create Access Industries, Inc. and started buying stakes in Russian companies when that economy started opening up. He merged one company in to British Petroleum. He's now worth over $7 billion dollars and serves on the board of Warner Music.


Every January I trade my immigration lawyer hat for that of tech writer. Yes, I'm off to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Super Bowl of gadgetry, where I'll be checking out the latest wonders from the world's electronics manufacturers. I always follow CES up with articles geared toward law office technology and will start things off with blogging on my favorite finds. I'll try and post an immigration item here and there, but it's gonna be light this week.

January 03, 2008

So much for telling employers to do it the legal way. According to USCIS, the non-immigrant guest worker visa available to employers to bring in lower skilled seasonal and short term visas is officially gone until October of this year. Green cards for these workers are backlogged seven years. Yet the antis tell employers that they just want them to do it the legal way. There IS NO legal way. People who say employers should just do it the legal way are either poorly informed or deliberately trying to mislead.


Here's an interesting new book from Jacob Funk Kirkegaard warning of the dilemma America faces as our skilled workers are retiring faster than they're being replaced and our immigration policies won't keep up with the demographic changes. Here's the gist of the book's conclusions:

America rose to economic prominence on the shoulders of the most highly skilled workforce in the world. However, during the last 30 years, skill levels in the US workforce have stagnated. Americans aged 25–34 today do not possess higher skills than do their baby boomer parents. So when American baby boomers retire, they will take as many skills with them as their children will bring into the US workforce. While their parents may have been “the brightest kids on the global trading block” when they entered the workforce, Americans entering the workforce today barely make the global top ten. America is no longer a skill-abundant country compared with an increasing share of the rest of the world. As a result, in the coming decade, America could face broad and substantial skill shortages.

Successful implementation of education policies will produce more high-skilled Americans only in the long term. In the short to medium term, America will increasingly need foreign high-skilled workers and will therefore have to reform its high-skilled immigration policies and procedures not only to welcome the best and the brightest but also to make it easier for them to stay.

Meanwhile, as America debates the merits of immigration reform, other rich countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, have rapidly revamped their high-skilled immigration systems, turning the United States into only one of many destinations for high-skilled immigrants. Moreover, traditional origin countries of high-skilled emigrants to the United States, such as China and India, have actively begun luring their nationals back with special offers.

For America to regain its leadership in global talent, it must urgently reform its high-skilled immigration programs, particularly the H-1B temporary work visa and legal permanent resident (green card) programs. The two programs play a substantial role in bringing in foreign high-skilled workers and permanently keeping them here and could play an even bigger role as demand for high-skilled workers in the US economy increases.

This study verifies that concerns for the plight of American high-skilled workers in the face of significant inflows of foreign high-skilled workers are unfounded. Kirkegaard investigates empirically the labor-market situation faced by US software workers—the group that is usually depicted in the US media as facing the greatest risks from globalization—and reveals that these occupations enjoy full employment at record levels in today’s US economy.

New firm-level data on L-1 (intracompany transferees) and H-1B usage for 2006 show that a dozen Indian information technology (IT) companies are the top petitioners for these visas. Several US IT companies are also heavy users of the two visa programs. Beyond the top ten, a very broad range of US and multinational companies, as well as US public institutions from different sectors of the US economy, account for the demand for foreign high-skilled workers on temporary work visas. Data on visa issuance reveal that Indian nationals dominate both the H-1B and L-1 visa categories.

The legal permanent resident (green card) program is important predominantly as a tool to maintain rather than expand the existing high-skilled workforce in the United States. More than 90 percent of the green cards are issued via adjustment of status (e.g., from H-1B temporary worker to legal permanent resident) requested for high-skilled foreigners already residing and most likely employed in the United States. But national bottlenecks in the current green card system (e.g., per-country limits for countries such as India and China, long waiting periods, and costly and time-consuming application process) may force many employed high-skilled workers to leave the United States once their temporary visas expire.

Based on these findings, Kirkegaard offers a coherent package of proposals to reform the US high-skilled immigration system in a manner that enjoys broad political support:

• drop the Department of Labor (DOL) Foreign Labor Certification (i.e., obtaining DOL's approval for hiring foreign workers) for high-skilled green card recipient categories E-2 (professionals holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability) and E-3 (skilled workers, professionals with bachelors’ degree, and unskilled workers);

• exempt green card recipient categories E-1 (priority workers), E-2, and E-3 from the annual per-country national limit;

• drop the DOL Labor Foreign Labor Certification for H-1B workers;

• increase and target enforcement of prevailing wages in intensive users of H-1B visas;

• abolish the annual congressional cap of 65,000 for H-1B visas;

• abolish the annual 20,000 congressional cap and grant automatic H-1B visas to interested foreign master's and doctoral graduates from US universities;

• restrict the share of foreign high-skilled workers that a single business entity over a certain size can employ on temporary work visas—including both H-1B and L-1—to a sensible level of maybe 50 percent;

• strike a bilateral immigration agreement with India and create a new visa category for workers in the IT services/software sector; and

• regularly publish official firm-level immigration data and detailed data on the characteristics of all high-skilled immigrants.


On this official beginning day of the presidential election cycle, why not include a political pundit for the Immigrant of the Day. Whether you're left or right, you probably agree that Arianna Huffington is someone who is prominent in the Washington political talking head community. The Greek-born proprietor of the Huffington Post has a quick wit and is a favorite on the political talk show circuit (especially on Bill Maher's Real Time on HBO).


While the excitement builds today in Iowa in 2008's first major test for the presidential election, one group of folks will have to sit out the voting. I'm talking about the 1.4 million naturalization applicants waiting on USCIS to complete processing on their cases. While I am sure there are a couple of candidates in the race who would be chipper if all of these people were sworn in as citizens the day after the election next November, there is no legitimate reason why people should have to wait an average of 18 months after paying $600+ to get a USCIS examiner to look at the application. Let's just hope that the situation is improved by the time the November elections roll around.