A reader of the blog gets the credit for this great addition to the honor roll of Immigrants of the Day. Costa Rican native Franklin Chang-Diaz has been a NASA astronaut for 28 years and holds the record for the most space flights by an astronaut (seven missions amounting to 66 days in space). Chang-Diaz himself was the product of an immigrant household. In addition to being a successful astronaut, Chang-Diaz is a professor at Rice University and the University of Houston. It's no wonder he's a national hero in his native country.
Here's the link . And here's Chertoff's post. There's some interesting data on the pickup in work site enforcement.Myth vs. Fact: Worksite Enforcement
Opponents of immigration enforcement continue to propagate mythical objections to the Department's enforcement efforts. Some have claimed we are unfairly targeting low-level employees and not the employers who hire them. Others have misstated the facts about our E-Verify system, claiming it is riddled with errors and harms legal workers at the expense of identifying illegal ones.
For the benefit of journal readers, I'd like to take a few minutes to separate these myths from the facts.
1) Has the Department stepped up its worksite enforcement efforts?
Yes. As you can see in the table below, arrests in worksite cases have jumped from a total of 850 in 2004 to 4,940 last year, including 863 arrests based on criminal charges. We have already exceeded the number of criminal arrests this year and expect that figure to continue to rise.
|Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement|
2) Is it true that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is only arresting low-level employees and not managers and supervisors?
No. Of the 863 criminal arrests in worksite cases last year, 92 were in the company's supervisory chain. Already this year, ICE has arrested 80 individuals in the supervisory chain. This follows the arrests of 389 illegal aliens on administrative immigration violations, the most ever arrested in a single-site worksite enforcement operation. Additionally, 302 of those arrested have been charged with criminal offenses, including identity theft, false use of a Social Security number, illegal re-entry into the United States, and other crimes.
Of course, when comparing employer to employee arrests, it's important to keep in mind that in most companies there will be a larger number of employees than employers and top-level managers. Moreover, cases against supervisors and employers are more complex, and often depend on proving knowledge and intent. Therefore, it often takes time to build a criminal case against an employer, but the charges and penalties will likely be more serious as a result.
3) Are these worksite enforcement efforts random or do they unfairly target well-established employers, as some have suggested?
No. Our efforts focus on three priority areas. We target employers who have built their business model on hiring an illegal workforce. We also focus on disrupting the infrastructure that supports illegal immigration, which includes aggressively targeting those who engage in identity theft, document fraud and/or human smuggling. And we want to ensure that our nation's critical infrastructure sites, like our airports, seaports, military bases and nuclear facilities are staffed with individuals authorized to work in the country. The vast majority of ICE's worksite enforcement efforts fall into at least one of these categories.
4) Does ICE conduct its worksite operations in cooperation with state and local authorities?
Yes. When ICE conducts an enforcement action, it coordinates with state and local law enforcement and those responsible for public safety in a manner that will not compromise the operation. ICE goes to great lengths to identify and address any humanitarian concerns of the individuals it encounters. ICE's worksite enforcement operations are the result of long and careful criminal investigations, not random targeting or haphazard planning.
5) Is the Department's E-Verify program riddled with errors and does it hurt legal workers at the expense of identifying illegal workers?
No. E-Verify is a proven tool currently used by more than 73,000 employers nationwide, with another 1,000 employers enrolling every week. I'd venture to say that if the system didn't work or was riddled with errors, very few employers would want to use it.
Under E-Verify, almost everyone who is authorized to work in the United States is immediately verified by the system. Only about 0.5 percent of those queried who are ultimately confirmed as legal workers receive what is called a "tentative non-confirmation" and need to correct their records.
An employee who receives a tentative non-confirmation has a right to contest it and update his or her information while he or she continues working. E-Verify does not require these workers to be immediately fired.
Of course, many non-confirmations relate to employees who are not legally authorized to work in our country – estimated to be around 5 percent of all workers sent through the system. But those who employ illegal workers have no grounds to complain when the system uncovers that illegality.
6) Can worksite enforcement alone solve our nation's immigration problems?
An enforcement-only approach will not fix this problem. We must find a way to meet our nation's temporary workforce needs in a legal manner while also securing the border and enforcing the interior. Ultimately, this will require Congress to act on comprehensive reform. Nevertheless, our Department will not turn a blind eye toward illegality. We will continue to meet our obligations to the American people under the law, which includes enforcing the rules at worksites.
For the record, I think John McCain's birth abroad does not disqualify him from being President. But the arguments raised in this article in the NY TImes are interesting.
Here's an interesting blog post with an account of how the US Border Patrol is more aggressively checking buses and trains in the US, particularly near the border with Canada.
The embedded video is also interesting.
If you haven't read the great article in today's New York Times about Professor Eric Camayd-Freixas' bravely coming forward with his account of the Postville meat processing plant raid (see my post below), make sure you check it out. There's also a video of the professor's interview with the Times posted with the article. And you can read the essay that is the subject of the article here.
Professor Camayd-Freixas teaches at Florida International University in my hometown of Miami. According to his biography at FIU's Latin American and Carribean Center web site:
Erik Camayd-Freixas was born in Cuba, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and is currently Associate Professor of Latin American literature at FIU. He is the author of the books Realismo mágico y primitivismo and Primitivism and Identity in Latin America, as well as a frequent contributor to literary journals of the Americas and Europe. Dr. Camayd has lectured around the world on topics in literary and cultural studies, ethnic narrative and poetics, historiography of Latin America and the Caribbean, and linguistic analysis of discourse.
Well done Professor Camayd-Freixas.
The New York Times has a major story this morning regarding the recent raid of the meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. Nearly 400 illegally present workers were criminally prosecuted as a result of their work at the plant.
The Times interviewed translator Eric Camayd-Freixas after the Florida International University professor circulated a 14 page essay describing his experience working at the trials of the workers.
According to the Times, many of the workers did not understand the criminal charges and were not actually guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted.
Professor Camayd-Freixas said he was taken aback by the rapid pace of the proceedings and the pressure prosecutors brought to bear on the defendants and their lawyers by pressing criminal charges instead of deporting the workers immediately for immigration violations.
He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.
“The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on,” Professor Camayd-Freixas said in the interview. “The great majority were under the impression they were there because of being illegal in the country, not because of Social Security fraud.”
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee has indicated that she intends to hold a hearing on the Postville prosecutions and call Professor Camayd-Freixas.
You can read the professor's essay here. Download camayd.pdf
What happens when business groups, unions, workers, government officials, pro-immigration advocates and immigration restrictionist groups all put their heads together to craft a solution to a problem? Just look to Colorado.
I'm talking about an initiative in that state to make it easier for farmers to work through the incredibly difficult H-2A visa process for foreign agricultural workers. The H-2A agricultural worker program has no cap and should be a heavily used visa category. But it is not largely because of arduous recruiting requirements, transportation rules, housing requirements and lengthy processing times. Only 50,791 of the visas were used in 2007 despite the need for millions of workers in agriculture.
Colorado has just passed legislation that will help farmers work their way through the application process. The state will work with the Mexican government and a Mexican labor firm to recruit workers on behalf of Colorado farmers. And the United Farm Workers union will play a helpful role in working with the governments of Mexico and Thailand. The union has worked out agreements with authorities in those countries to expedite passport services, background checks and training.
NumbersUSA leader Roy Beck has given his restrictionist organization's backing to the plan and called it "encouraging."
I'm encouraged as well. The H-2A program still has a lot of problems and this plan by no means solves the much bigger issues in the immigration system. But if it is successful for Colorado, it could serve as a model for groups to work together to come up with a more comprehensive strategy to dealing with our immigration needs - both for enforcement and for legal immigration programs that work.
Arizona was one of the first states to pass a major employer sanctions immigration bill and nearly two dozen other states have followed suit. As workers have fled the state and employers are starting to re-evaluate whether it is worth doing business there, some are giving serious thought to trying to reverse course. And apparently a lot of Arizonans are concerned as well that they may have overreached. The pro-business group Stop Illegal Hiring has gathered enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot in November that will soften some of the harshest parts of the Arizona law including adding a provision requiring employers to actually know that workers are illegal before they can be sanctioned.
In the mean time, the anti-immigrant backers of the original bill have failed to gather enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot that would make the existing law even tougher.
And this is how it should be. It is the responsibility of the US Congress and the President to deal with immigration and they should not be permitted to shirk that responsibility and have states deal with this. Almost everyone agrees the system stinks. Most agree that we need foreign workers and most agree we need to enforce our immigration laws and secure our border. A vocal minority in each House of Congress have blocked progress and it will be the job of a President Obama or McCain and the leaders in Congress to finally make some headway on an issue that is not going to go away.
Civic leaders in Ohio's largest metro area have started an initiative to attract foreign students, workers and entrepreneurs. Why? Because they help drive the job creation engine that the region is trying to bolster. The Talent Blueprint Project is not the only initiative around the country with a mission of this sort. Chambers of commerce around the country get it. Why doesn't Congress?
That's how much consumer spending would decline and the number jobs that would be lost if the antis got their way and all illegally present immigrants suddenly were gone, according to a study by the Perryman Group, a Texas-based economic and financial analysis firm.
Argentine-born Rodolfo Acevedo started out 18 years ago in America as a busboy. Today, he's a partner at JMWA Architects in Boca Raton, Florida and he's been tapped by USCIS to redesign drab, unwelcoming USCIS offices in South Florida. Will friendlier-looking offices translate in to friendlier USCIS officers? We'll see.
In the mean time, here's to Mr. Acevedo who is looking to make the immigration experience just a little better for future immigrants who will process at USCIS offices in the Sunshine State.
I'm going to be taking my annual vacation starting Monday. Last year I had to skip it because we were in the middle of VisaGate and our firm was filing green card applications like crazy during the window that opened up for our employment-based applicants.
So I owe my family a real trip this year. I'm on the road for the next two weeks for a good old fashioned family road trip and will be hitting theme parks, mountains, beaches, historic sites, national parks and more.
I'll be doing light blogging during my time off and I'll even try and post some photos. But I welcome readers to send me their own contributions and I'll try and post many of them. Many of you already do this sort of thing in the comments section of the blog. Just email me your proposed post to email@example.com and put "guest post" in the subject header. Then include the proposed text in the body of the email. Feel free to include links to videos and pictures.
The Times has an editorial this morning discussing the essay of Professor Erik Caymard-Freixas, the translator I honored as yesterday's Immigrant of the Day. The Times editorial writers have strong words to describe their outrage:
Anyone who has doubts that this country is abusing and terrorizing undocumented immigrant workers should read an essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas,a professor and Spanish-language court interpreter who witnessed the aftermath of a huge immigration workplace raid at a meatpacking plant in Iowa.
The essay chillingly describes what Dr. Camayd-Freixas saw and heard as he translated for some of the nearly 400 undocumented workers who were seized by federal agents at the Agriprocessors kosher plant in Postville in May.
Under the old way of doing things, the workers, nearly all Guatemalans, would have been simply and swiftly deported. But in a twist of Dickensian cruelty, more than 260 were charged as serious criminals for using false Social Security numbers or residency papers, and most were sentenced to five months in prison.
What is worse, Dr. Camayd-Freixas wrote, is that the system was clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt. He said the court-appointed lawyers had little time in the raids’ hectic aftermath to meet with the workers, many of whom ended up waiving their rights and seemed not to understand the complicated charges against them.
Stewart Baker, DHS' Assistant Secretary for policy, is pretty harsh in how he describes the motives of SHRM - the Society for Human Resource Management which has opposed E-Verify. Maybe the fact that so many groups are criticizing E-Verify's reliability means there is a real problem, Mr. Baker. The shrill tone of this blog post makes it sound like the criticism is starting to hit home.
Mostly bad news with one important exception bolded below.
Family 1st - No movement except one month advance for Mexico.
Family 2A - Two month jump forward (but Mexico is still unavailable)
Family 2B - Six week advance for everyone except one week advance for Mexico and two weeks for Filipinos
Family 3rd - No movement except one month advance for Mexico
Family 4th - One week advance except two week advance for Mexicans and no change for Filipinos
EB-1 - All categories remain current
EB-2 - All current except India and China. However, those two nationalities jump forward from April 2004 to June 2006!
EB-3 - Skilled/Professional Workers - They remain unavailable
EB-3 - Other workers - The category moves to unavailable (it was January 2003)
EB-4 - Remains current
EB-5 - Remains current
Two month jumps in the Family 2A and 2B categories.
If you are a fan of ABC's Boston Legal (I count myself in that group), you already know British actress Tara Summers who plays Katie Lloyd, a junior lawyer. The talented young actress is a Brown University graduate and has written and starred in a one-woman play about her childhood.
As the August recess approaches (and with the reality of few bills likely moving once the presidential campaign gets in to full swing), immigration bills are seeing some progress. Here's what to watch -
1. HR 6034 - eliminates the widow penalty in family immigration cases. The House subcommittee has approved and the full Judiciary Committee is scheduled to move this week.
2. HR 5924 - the nurse immigration bill would temporarily allocate green card numbers for nurses and create a training fund to increase the number of American nurses. Markup could happen this week as well.
3. PEPFAR AIDS relief bill - there will be an attempt in the Senate possibly today to strike a provision in the bill that would eliminate the HIV ground of removal (I've been writing about this if you follow this blog).
4. S. 3257 - the extension bill. The bill, sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Specter (R-PA), would extend the life of the EB-5, special immigration religious worker, Conrad 30 and E-Verify programs. The bill has only been introduced, but as none of the bills make serious substantive changes to these programs, it could move quickly.
Though I'm on holiday, I'm keeping an eye on these and will report as there is news.
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