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Bloggings: January 24, 2008

by Greg Siskind

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

January 23, 2008


American_idol_girl OK, I don't know Carly's last name and the tattoos were scary, but she represents a very typical immigrant story. Two years ago Irish Carly was selected to go to Hollywood by Simon, Randy and Paula, but USCIS delays on her green card application caused her to be disqualified (and I have no idea of the actual story so am just presuming processing delays were the only problem). She was back last night with a green card and some determination and she'll be in the next round of the wildly popular talent show.

January 22, 2008

Well maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but why would you establish a policy of limiting drivers licenses only to green card holders and US citizens? Legal immigrants on visas (such as H-1Bs, F-1 students, J-1s, etc.) can no longer get drivers licenses in Michigan.

So if you're a multinational corporation operating in Michigan, you need to immediately begin thinking about moving your operations to another state. And all those American workers at your plants are just going to have to deal with it. If you're a US company in Michigan and think you're going to be able to recruit top global talent, sorry folks. And if you're a premiere university planning on attracting top students, researchers and scholars, you're out of luck.

Congrats Michigan! </sarcasm off>

January 21, 2008

People who knew me in law school might be surprised that I turned out to be an immigration lawyer. Because for a while there I was convinced I wanted to practice environmental law. I was heavily involved in environmental activism while in law school and helped to found an environmental law society at the University of Chicago Law School. But, alas, while environmental law in law school was interesting and the policy issues were exciting, when I actually practiced in the field briefly at the beginning of my career, I found it - well - a little dry. Fortunately, my first immigration case came in right around the same time and that was far more interesting to me.

But I've remained concerned about the environment over the years and was an enthusiastic purchaser of a hybrid car a few years ago when they became available in my area. And I've followed the developments in the auto industry and related public policy when it comes to promoting alternative vehicles and fuel efficiency. With oil costing more than $100 per barrel, reducing dependence is also critical to our economy (not to mention the security implications)

Shay_agassi So I was quite happy to read this morning's New York Times and see that Israel is planning on becoming the first country in the world to test becoming an electric car nation. The government of that country announced a venture between Renault, Nissan and Project Better Place, a venture owned by Shai Agassi, an American-Israeli entrepreneur, to subsidize the sale of electric cars and provide readily available charging stations throughout the country.

Renault and Nissan will supply the cars. Israel will provide tax incentives to purchasers of the cars and begin construction of facilities to recharge the cars and replace empty batteries quickly. Mr. Agassi's company will supply the batteries which will be able to go 124 miles per charge.

Mr. Agassi hopes to have 100,000 electric cars on the road in Israel within two years. He believes that concentrating on infrastructure to support the cars is more important than concentrating on car production. If the Israel test project is successful, the venturers hope to duplicate the model in small countries like Denmark and in major cities like London, Paris, New York and Singapore.

Congratulations and good luck, Mr. Agassi.

January 20, 2008

The John McCain win is part of the story. Some attributed his win in New Hampshire to the votes of independents and Democrats who were permitted to vote in the Republican primary. Not so in South Carolina. Just a few days ago, I posted on some of the rabid xenophobia that's taken hold in South Carolina and elsewhere in the South. But the Republicans of South Carolina seem to be showing that this type of nonsense is limited to the fringe and they are willing to support a pro-immigration candidate. If I had to rank the Republicans on immigration, I would probably rank the candidates from most pro-immigration to least in this order: McCain, Guiliani, Huckabee, Thompson, Romney, Paul, Hunter.  The actual order of votes in South Carolina was McCain, Huckabee, Thompson, Romney, Paul, Guiliani, Hunter. With the exception of Guiliani's bad performance (and he didn't campaign in the state), this is the worst possible result the antis could have hoped for.

And there was another very bad piece of news. While Tom Tancredo hogged most of the spotlight for being a one-issue anti-immigration candidate, Congressman Duncan Hunter really has run a very similar campaign. After garnering just 114 votes in South Carolina yesterday, Hunter dropped out. The dismal electoral performances of Tancredo and Hunter should be one of the bigger stories in this campaign where the media accepts the conventional wisdom that anti-immigration rhetoric is a winner.

There was better news for anti-immigrants in Nevada where Mitt Romney won easily. He secured 51% of the vote with Ron Paul taking second. But while Nevada Republicans ranked the economy and immigration high on their list, it appears that ethnic pride dramatically boosted Romney. He won 94% of Mormon Republicans and Mormons make up a quarter of Republican voters. Nevertheless, McCain's poor performance in a state neighboring Arizona was certainly not welcome news.

The next test for the GOP will be in Florida and this will certainly be tricky for Romney and Huckabee. Both desperately need to win the state and cannot afford to right off any Republicans. But the huge Cuban Republican constituency in South and Central Florida will not react favorably to their anti-immigration rhetoric. On the other hand, if Thompson drops out of the race this week as many are predicting, that could help Huckabee win evangelical Christian Republicans while Guiliani and McCain split the pro-immigration Cuban vote.

January 19, 2008

The Arizona employer law that allows the state to revoke the business licenses of employers who knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized workers went in to force on January 1st. The law also mandates that employers use E-Verify, DHS' electronic employment verification system.

The new law has been the subject of litigation and the judge reviewing the case said yesterday that he will issue a decision in the case in early February. The State of Arizona also agreed to hold off on any prosecutions under the new law until March (assuming the law is upheld by the judge).

January 18, 2008

The CEO of Marriott International makes the case for a guest worker program.


AILA noted today a new link on the Customs and Border Patrol web site that addresses what to do when you have left the US and your I-94 card was not collected. The issue is important because you risk showing up in the CBP system as having overstayed when the card is not collected and the exit entered in CBP's database.


Though I haven't thought about Bobby Fisher in some time, I was still very surprised to hear about his death on this morning's news. I was a kid in the 70s and remembered Fisher as the young chessmaster who defeated Soviet icon Boris Spassky in the "Match of the Century" at the championship in Iceland. And then Fisher, known for his turbulent personality, spent much of the next thirty-five years making headlines for controversial political positions and strange personal behavior.

Today's chess champions don't seem to have Fisher's flair for making the news. The exception seems to be Gary Kasparov who has become a political thorn in the side of Russian leader Boris Putin.

One chessmaster that stands out from the crowd and is trying to be a role model for today's youth is Jamaican immigrant Maurice Ashley, the first black International Grand Master of Chess. Ashley travels the country speaking to young people to promote chess and recently returned to his native Jamaica where he was the first Grand Master ever to play a tournament in that country. Ashley cites greats like Tiger Woods, Arthur Ashe and Jackie Robinson as his inspiration. For young African-Americans who are chess enthusiasts, Ashley is presumably their Jackie Robinson.


This is hardly a shocker, but USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez told the House Immigration Subcommittee yesterday that processing times for naturalization cases would be much longer for the foreseeable future.

Gonzalez blamed the slowdown in naturalization cases on the fee increases that went in to force last summer. According to the USCIS Director, the number of naturalization applications received soared by 350% over the prior year. 1.4 million naturalization applications were received in the 2007 fiscal year compared to 700,000 the year before. Gonzalez also would not guarantee that immigrants who applied before the July 30th fee increase last summer would be naturalized in time to vote in November (something that should bring a sigh of relief to Mitt Romney and a few other presidential candidates).

Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren told Gonzalez that the situation was unacceptable.

The news wasn't all bad, however. Gonzalez promised to spend between $450 million and $480 million from the fees to hire 1,800 new workers (in addition to 1,500 already slated for expansion of the USCIS work force). Gonzalez's written testimony also included the following promises:

- green card renewals and employment authorization document extension applications would move faster in 2008 as a new technology initiative that stores user information in an account that stays with an immigrant from application to application takes effect

- more technology will be introduced in to the background checking process to speed up and improve processing

- USCIS is considering having civics and language tests administered by separate officers from the ones adjudicating the cases

Unfortunately, the expected processing times over the next year will increase dramatically. Naturalization processing times are going to jump from seven months to eighteen months (which is really intolerable since Gonzalez promised a five month turnaround when USCIS sold the fee increase to Congress) and a doubling of family based adjustment times from six to twelve months. Gonzalez promised that within two years, processing times for both types of cases would be back to six months.

Funny, I remember going to an AILA conference about a dozen years ago and hearing INS Commissioner Doris Meissner promise six month turnaround times on naturalization cases. That must be some sort of Holy Grail for USCIS since it doesn't seem to be something they've ever been able to achieve.