Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has drawn the line and vetoed a bill that would have deputized state law enforcement officials to act as immigration officers. Napolitano called the bill impractical and expensive. The New York Times praised Napolitano and also called the bill dangerous because it would make large numbers of citizens afraid to report crimes and cooperate with police in crime investigations.
No, it's not an April Fool's piece.
House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Former House Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have co-sponsored HR 5882, a bill that would recapture wasted green cards for the past 15 years. The bill also provides for the automatic recapturing of unused numbers in the future. The bill is a great first start to dealing with the inadequate number of green cards for skilled and professional workers in the US. The fact that James Sensenbrenner, long associated with restrictionist immigration bills, is a co-sponsor is an indication the bill has broad support. The bill can be downloaded here. Download hrn_5882.pdf
While I am not familiar with the details of this case, I've raised the point here many times that there are existing laws on the books that are designed to address abuses that could occur. The antis would rather you think there are no rules and anything goes.
The numbers were smaller than in years past, but anti-immigration groups also seem to have lost some of their steam. The public's ranking of immigration as their most important issue has dropped rapidly as other issues like the war and the economy occupy the public's attention. Only three percent of the public now considers immigration the most serious issue facing the country. That's a two-thirds drop from what the same poll showed just a year ago.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) have introduced H.R. 5924, the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. This bill has long been overdue. The US has a dire nursing shortage that is a serious threat to the nation's health care. Nurses lack a non-immigrant visa category and are now stuck in multi-year backlogs to get green cards.
I've been involved behind the scenes with advocacy work on Capitol Hill on this issue for several years and can tell you that an incredible amount of work by a number of people has gone in to producing this bill. And it is no small feat getting Congressman Sensenbrenner, known for being tough on immigration, to be a co-sponsor.
The bill will take nurses out of the green card caps until 2011 with a limit of 20,000 principle applicants per year. This means that nurses will not take green cards away from others currently queued up and if the green card recapture legislation I wrote about last week passes, removing nurses from the competition for those recaptured visas is even better news for those currently waiting on a green card.
Nursing unions and others concerned about training more US nurses will also be pleased with the addition of a $1500 fee in nurse immigration cases that will go toward nursing education initiatives to help make it possible the US to not be as reliant on foreign-born RNs. Employers in disaster areas or designated health professional shortage areas will be exempt.
One provision I like in the bill will allow nurses and doctors who go and work in impoverished countries after getting their green cards to get residency credit toward naturalizing.
Here's a copy of the bill. Download h.R. 5924.pdf
Ajay Royyuro has a boring title - Senior Manager of IBM's Computational Biology Center. But the Indian-born scientist's job is very cool. Here's an interesting passage from his bio at IBM that I found especially interesting:
Ajay will be the lead scientist for IBM on The Genographic Project, working closely with Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic and the distinguished team of field researchers assembled to conduct DNA testing on indigenous populations of the world. He brings to The Genographic Project exceptional, in-depth talent in the computational analysis, simulation, mining and management of scientific data for large-scale research programs in life sciences.
I learned about Ajay in an article describing how five scientists see the world in the year 2050. Here's what he had to say
He predicted that before 2050, everyone will have personal genome.
"We will figure out everything that can be told from the genome, but still struggle with the basis of disease," he said.
People will have access to a steady stream of genetic data, and they will use that information to make choices of what to eat, for example.
"We will teach ourselves when not to touch the 'trigger,'" he said. "Today, we don't know how the machinery works. The genome is a parts list. We will get to a point where we can re-create things so we understand how it works or fails." The result will be a personalized, predictive model of behaviors based on an individual's genome.
Stem cells and synthetic biology (design and fabrication of biological components) will cure diseases in specific places rather than tolerate the absence of an organ or other tissue, Royyuru predicted.
In 1996, a number of provisions were included in Welfare reform legislation that had an impact on immigrants and refugees. One of those provisions barred elderly refugees from receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if the refugee does not become a US citizen within seven years. The law has had harsh consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Refugees did not choose to be in the US. They fled their countries and the US is obligated both legally (through treaty) and morally to accept refugees. Honoring that obligation also means treating refugees humanely.
For many old and infirm refugees, the only way to survive is with help from the government. Most came to the US with no savings and many lack living family who can assist. Charities help as they can, but they cannot do it all.
The 1996 law was partially designed to encourage refugees to integrate in to American society and naturalizing is an important part of this process. The first problem is that naturalizing is a daunting process for many elderly refugees. Learning English is tough at any age, but most of us know that to learn a new language when one is older is very difficult. Yes there are medical waivers available. But those of us providing pro bono assistance to refugees know that USCIS examiners can be incredibly tough in permitting these waivers. Note to Congress: Just scrap the English language requirement for the elderly rather than putting people through an unworkable waiver process.
The next big problem is that the naturalization process can take a long time and refugees applying to naturalize are being cut off from their SSI benefits while they are stuck in line trying to naturalize. The problem is getting worse as USCIS backlogs for naturalizing are lengthening.
There was some good news yesterday, however. USCIS settled a class action lawsuit filed by elderly refugees who have lost or are about to lose SSI benefits. USCIS agreed to set up an expediting process that will apply to people at risk of losing SSI benefits who have had naturalization applications pending for at least six months.
ALL naturalization applications should be adjudicated in six months or less, in my opinion. USCIS has been promising this since the Clinton years. But until we get to that point, there needs to be at least a process to speed up life or death cases and this settlement recognizes that at least for one extremely vulnerable population.
Here's a copy of the settlement. Download expedite_of_naturalizations.pdf
Regular readers of this blog know that I've tried to call attention to the spate of deaths of immigrants in detention facilities around the US. I was very, very pleased to see prominent New York Times reporter Nina Bernstein cover this serious issue and that the Times gave her story a prominent above the fold spot on yesterday's front page. Definitely read the piece.
DHS has announced that it is making a three part enhancement to E-Verify that would decrease the mismatch rate for naturalized citizens. I've been blogging about this problem regularly since about 10% of naturalized US citizens show up in the system as being illegally present in the US. Obviously, this is a serious, serious problem.
DHS says that starting right away, the system will include naturalization data which will help instantly confirm the citizenship status of a naturalized citizen. According to DHS, this is the #1 reason for incorrect non-confirmations in E-Verify since the Social Security Administration needs to be notified of a naturalization in order to update their system and show a person is authorized to work. Naturalized citizens who receive a mismatch are being instructed to either call USCIS or resolve the issue in person with an SSA field office.
Another immediate change will be the inclusion of real time arrival data from the Integrated Border Inspection System. According to DHS, this will reduce the number of immigration related mismatches for newly arriving workers who have entered the country legally.
Finally, DHS has indicated that it plans on initiating information sharing with SSA to prevent nonconfirmations from happening in the first place. They also plan to check against Department of State passport records to further reduce mismatches.
These changes are all, in my opinion, welcome. I am not against E-Verify per se and believe that in the context of a reformed immigration system (that deals with enforcement, legalization and the future need for workers), electronic verification will be critical to enforcing our immigration laws.
But I still have a strong suggestion and that is that under both the E-Verify and proposed no-match systems, workers who contest a non-confirmation should be considered employment authorized until DHS or SSA actually resolve the dispute. That is the only way US citizen workers falsely identified will be protected (and this will probably be the only way to satisfy a judge that the system does not violate the Constitution's equal protection protection).
The Times is giving better coverage to problems in the immigration system than most newspapers in the country. And the editorial folks are to be congratulated for regularly letting our leaders know that thoughtful people are paying attention. Here's a key quote from today's editorial commenting on Nina Bernstein's piece:
Congress has failed repeatedly to enact meaningful immigration reform, and the prospects in the next year or so are slim. It can act on this. The government urgently needs to bring the detention system up to basic standards of decency and fairness. That means lifting the veil on detention centers — particularly the private jails and the state prisons and county jails that take detainees under federal contracts — and holding them to the same enforceable standards that apply to prisons. It also means designing a system that is not a vast holding pen for ordinary people who pose no threat to public safety, like the 52-year-old tailor, Boubacar Bah.
The Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee heard from a variety of witnesses today on the the impact of E-Verify. The testimony is now online.
Some of you may remember in March my comments on the ridiculous claim that Lou Dobbs now makes that he only opposes illegal immigration and is a champion for those who want to come to the US legally. As one who has watched Dobbs' show regularly for years, I knew this was a bunch of malarkey. But how to prove it?
And then it came to me. The great thing about the Internet (and the terrible thing as well in some cases) is that everything lives forever in cyberspace. I went to CNN.com and found that the network publishes transcripts for all of its shows and has them all posted for at least the last six years. I did an exhaustive search of all of the transcripts for Dobbs' show and found more than 100 episodes where legal immigration - non-immigrant visas, green cards and asylum topics - were discussed as opposed to the typical bashing of illegal immigration. And guess what, with one possible exception, every show had something nasty to say about a legal immigration category. I inventoried all of the transcripts and put up links to each story so people could take a look for themselves at each report.
Yesterday I was boarding a plane when I got a call from my assistant telling me that Mr. Dobbs' show had called asking me to be a guest. I had no idea why and while I was planning on declining (I don't think pro-immigration people should be appearing on the show for a variety of reasons), I was curious about why I was being invited. According to the show producer, I was being invited to discuss research on my blog and the show's coverage of immigration. While the chance to get to debate Mr. Dobbs might be fun, I politely declined the invitation. Despite the fact that some folks in the anti camp think I'm just a greedy immigration lawyer and appearing on the Dobbs show would probably be very good for business, I decided to go with my gut instinct.
Then this morning I learned about why I probably got the call from the Dobbs folks. A colleague congratulated me on being mentioned in yesterday's Wall Street Journal in a letter submitted by Douglas Rivlin:
It's the Welcome That Has Changed
May 5, 2008; Page A14
Pope Benedict's visit to the U.S. scratched a nerve with the deportation-only immigration lobby that is revealing. B.J. Khalifah's letter of April 25 says that the difference between today's immigrants and the Irish, Polish, and Italian immigrants of yesteryear is that the latter came legally. The immigrants haven't changed, but the welcome has. Unless you were Chinese, black, or had tuberculosis, you were relatively assured that you would pass the test at Ellis Island. Now we allow for just 5,000 low-skilled workers annually to come on permanent employment visas and scratch our heads when people go around our system, not through it.
Fred Medero's letter the same day claims that deportation advocates Tom Tancredo and talk-show host Lou Dobbs are opposed only to illegal immigration. Research by attorney Greg Siskind suggests that of 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about legal immigration on his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92 times he painted legal immigration in a negative light. Rep. Tancredo is a proponent of eliminating legal immigration altogether, thereby guaranteeing a high level of illegal immigration in an expanding economy with a retiring baby-boom generation.
Immigration happens. We are a nation of mutts from all over the world and we put together the greatest country on the planet. We should have a legal regime to regulate immigration in a 21st-century economy. Until we do, Pope Benedict is right that we should respect the humanity and dignity of individuals and families who are forced to come illegally because legal avenues are practically non-existent or take decades to access.
Douglas G. Rivlin
Director of Communication
National Immigration Forum
Well, that was kind of cool (though Mr. Rivlin was being generous - I believe there was only one non-negative story and it was basically a neutral mention of the O-1 visa category). And given that the National Immigration Forum is a really great organization, even better. And it explained why Dobbs' folks wanted to talk. But then the best part happened. Apparently, while I was on the airplane last night, Dobbs' "news" show aired and the host gave one of his famous holier-than-thou rebuttals to the Rivlin letter. Here's the transcript from CNN.com:
DOBBS: The pro-amnesty lobby at it again, telling all-out lies about my position on illegal immigration and our border security crisis. The latest example of the pro-illegal aliens' movements' lies coming in a letter to the "Wall Street Journal" today. Douglas Rivlin, director of communication for the National Immigration Forum, says quote, "research by attorney Greg Siskind suggests that 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about legal immigration on his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92 times he painted legal immigration in a negative light."
Well, Mr. Rivlin, here's a little research you might add to your own. The vast majority of Greg Siskind's analysis is based on my justified criticism of abuses in the system for temporary work visas, specifically H1B visas in nearly every case, not legal immigration. As for other cases cited by Mr. Siskind, who, by the way is, as you might guess, an immigration lawyer, we highlighted legitimate concerns about chain migration, terrorism, fraudulent asylum applications, as well.
For the record, I am absolutely supportive of legal immigration. In fact, I favor even higher levels of legal immigration when it suits public policy. Let me repeat -- we are the most welcoming nation in the world for immigrants and I've consistently called for an increase in legal immigration when warranted.
And also for the record, we should point out that the National Immigration Forum is supported by groups such as -- are you ready -- the National Restaurant Association, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all groups that we should point out, that have a vested interest in importing as much cheap labor into this country as possible, and by the way, the "Wall Street Journal" failed to note that. And, of course, that's understandable, too.
I would just respond to Mr. Dobbs by turning the question back to him - where out of the years and years of your nightly coverage of immigration is there a single positive story on immigration? Yes, a large number of your stories on legal immigration had to do with H-1B visas, but that's what you chose to cover and the H-1B is the main legal immigration route for skilled workers. And there are numerous other subjects in the coverage as well, all of which are critical. If you really do think legal immigration may be good for the country, surely in your years of nightly coverage of the subject, you could have found a couple of minutes to say something nice. You say you consistently have called for an increase in legal immigration "when warranted." Except you've never actually mentioned when it's warranted. You are against family immigration and have called it "chain migration." You have attacked the employment-based green card system. You've targeted the most common work visas - the H-1B and L-1. You've attacked our asylum system as basically being the immigration strategy of choice for terrorists.
You've got your nightly bully pulpit, Mr. Dobbs, with several hours each week to say exactly what you think with the depth you need. Yet you've had not a single report praising any aspect of legal immigration. And while you say you support more legal immigration "when appropriate" your coverage indicates that "appropriate" is only when a certain place freezes over.
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org