The USCIS Ombudsman's office has released its 2009 report to Congress. It's got a lot of analysis of problems at USCIS, some interesting statistics not previously available and a number of useful recommendations.
June 29, 2009
Thomas Friedman has a great op-ed piece in today's NY TImes that emphasizes that the US is going to have to innovate like crazy if we're going to emerge from this recession on top. And a liberal skilled immigration policy has got to be part of our strategy. Here are some of the key quotes:
Now is when we should be stapling a green card to the diploma of any foreign student who earns an advanced degree at any U.S. university, and we should be ending all H-1B visa restrictions on knowledge workers who want to come here. They would invent many more jobs than they would supplant. The world’s best brains are on sale. Let’s buy more!
June 28, 2009
I just had a consultation this week with an engineer working on an H-1B for several years with one of America's best known companies. He's got an unusual skill set that makes him highly valuable to the company and he is a good candidate for eventually getting a green card, something he and his company both want to see happen. Unfortunately, he's in a green card category that will be backlogged for several yaers.
But this fellow is facing a real problem. He has three teenage children and is facing paying out of state tuition costs for the universities in his state, something that will end up costing him more than his house by the time he's finished paying. Private universities are even more expensive. And he's not interested in saddling his kids with massive debt. But until he gets the green card, this is what he's facing.
It's not a dilemma that is very unusual in this country. But at least American citizen and permanent resident parents have the option of claiming in state tuition rates. My taxpaying engineer client doesn't get that choice.
And that's why I was really happy to hear Washington state gets the problem and is now going to treat non-immigrant workers, such as those on H-1Bs, who have been in the state for at least a year, as residents for purposes of claiming in state tuition rates. Companies like Microsoft and Amazon will have a major new incentive to help them recruit top talent. And Washington state's universities will now have a bumper crop of extremely talented kids (I can tell you from experience that these families produce a lot of very gifted children).
Hopefully, other states will take note and pass similar measures.
[hat tip to Dan Kowalski for the link].
June 27, 2009
This is a long time coming and wonderful news for many who have been waiting for years for this. The Office of Management and Budget has completed review of a regulation which will remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases barring admission to the US. DHS will publish the rule for comment before it goes final, but the end is now in sight.
June 26, 2009
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Good news for religious workers who now get the same benefit available to I-140 applicants.
Court Notice to Pending I-360s Applicants
Ruiz-Diaz v. U.S., No. C07-1881RSL (W.D. Wash.)
On June 11, 2009, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an order in Ruiz-Diaz v. U.S., No. C07-1881RSL (W.D. Wash.). The court found that 8 CFR § 245.2(a)(2)(i)(B), which does not allow religious workers to concurrently file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), was invalid and unenforceable.
The court ordered USCIS to accept a properly filed I-485 and I-765 from a beneficiary of a religious worker I-360. The court order also allows individuals whose concurrent filings were previously rejected to reapply for adjustment of status. The order accords a spouse and children of I-360 beneficiaries the same benefits. Below is the court notice regarding the decision and information about the filing of applications for individuals with pending I-360s.
According to our records, you have a pending Form I-360 religious worker petition with USCIS and may be eligible for benefits under Ruiz-Diaz v. United States, No. C07-1881RSL (W.D. Wash. June 11, 2009).
Persons with pending Form I-360 religious worker petitions are immediately eligible to file a Form I-485 and/or Form I-765. Individuals whose applications are properly filed with appropriate filing fees and supporting documentation with USCIS by September 9, 2009 will have any period of unlawful presence or unauthorized employment tolled until USCIS issues a final administrative decision. Failure to file prior to September 9, 2009, will result in the accrual of unlawful presence or unauthorized employment time.
Persons who want to file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) and/or an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765)1 must mail the applications, with the required fees, to:
California Service Center
P.O. Box 10485
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677-1048
1 Applicants may also file an Application for Travel Document, Form I-131, as long as they are eligible and properly
file the application.
Any person who has a Form I-360 religious worker petition pending with USCIS as of June 11, 2009, will have any period of unlawful presence that began accruing as of the date of filing of the I-360 tolled until September 9, 2009. In addition, any period of unauthorized employment that occurred after filing of the I-360 will be tolled until September 9, 2009. Persons who properly file the Form I-485 and Form I-765 applications on or after June 11, 2009 and have their applications received by USCIS prior to September 9, 2009 also will have the accrual of unlawful presence and unlawful employment tolled until USCIS issues a final administrative decision.
Spouses and children who are the beneficiaries of properly filed Forms I-360 by religious workers may be accorded the same status and order of consideration as the principal, unless the spouse and child are already entitled to another immigrant status and immediate issuance of a visa under section 203(a), (b), or (c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1153(a), (b), or (c).
For additional information please see the USCIS webpage at www.uscis.gov.
I'm glad we've got Republicans like John McCain who told President Obama at yesterday's White House meeting that he needs to stand up to labor unions and support an expansion of guest worker programs. If we're going to avoid a re-run of 1986's legalization program - which dealt with the problem of illegal immigrants in the US in the 80s but failed to have any impact on stopping the flow of illegal immigration that has brought us to where we are now - then we need to have a guest worker program that will meet the needs of employers and the country in the years to come. Otherwise, we'll be talking about immigration reform in 2025 or so wondering how we got to the point where we need another legalization program.
We don't have actual legislation to examine yet, but Senator Schumer has outlined the major components of the bill he'll introduce:
2. Operational control of our borders--through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel--must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.
3. A biometric-based employer verification system—with tough enforcement and auditing—is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States and to provide certainty and simplicity for employers.
4. All illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of our bill must quickly register their presence with the United States Government—and submit to a rigorous process of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship—or face imminent deportation.
5. Family reunification is a cornerstone value of our immigration system. By dramatically reducing illegal immigration, we can create more room for both family immigration and employment-based immigration.
6. We must encourage the world’s best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create the new technologies and businesses that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers; and finally
7. We must create a system that converts the current flow of unskilled illegal immigrants into the United States into a more manageable and controlled flow of legal immigrants who can be absorbed by our economy.
And the last point - creating a system to convert the flow of unskilled illegal immigrants into a controlled flow sounds great. Maybe we'll get an actual guest worker system - something that was lacking in the 1986 immigration law that many blame for the failure of that law to end the problem of illegal immigration. But the last phrase - "can be absorbed by our economy" - is pretty broad and could mean extreme limits on numbers or something more flexible with the market determining numbers.
When the bill comes out, all will be revealed, of course, but in the mean time we'll have to keep guessing.
June 25, 2009
Sounding good:THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release
June 25, 2009REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION State Dining Room 3:17 P.M. EDT THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We have just finished what I consider to be a very productive meeting on one of the most critical issues that I think this nation faces, and that is an immigration system that is broken and needs fixing. We have members of Congress from both chambers, from parties, who have participated in the meeting and shared a range of ideas. I think the consensus is that despite our inability to get this passed over the last several years, the American people still want to see a solution in which we are tightening up our borders, or cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages -- and oftentimes mistreat those workers. And we need a effective way to recognize and legalize the status of undocumented workers who are here. Now, this is -- there is not by any means consensus across the table. As you can see, we've got a pretty diverse spectrum of folks here. But what I'm encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now. My administration is fully behind an effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. I have asked my Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Janet Napolitano, to lead up a group that is going to be working with a leadership group from both the House and the Senate to start systematically working through these issues from the congressional leaders and those with the relevant jurisdiction. What we've heard is through a process of regular order, they would like to work through these issues both in the House and in the Senate. In the meantime, administratively there are a couple of things that our administration has already begun to do. The FBI has cleared much of the backlog of immigration background checks that was really holding up the legal immigration process. DHS is already in the process of cracking down on unscrupulous employers, and, in collaboration with the Department of Labor, working to protect those workers from exploitation. The Department of Homeland Security has also been making good progress in speeding up the processing of citizenship petitions, which has been far too slow for far too long -- and that, by the way, is an area of great consensus, cuts across Democratic and Republican parties, the notion that we've got to make our legal system of immigration much more efficient and effective and customer-friendly than it currently is. Today I'm pleased to announce a new collaboration between my Chief Information Officer, my Chief Performance Officer, my Chief Technologies Officer and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to make the agency much more efficient, much more transparent, much more user-friendly than it has been in the past. In the next 90 days, USCIS will launch a vastly improved Web site that will, for the first time ever, allow applicants to get updates on their status of their applications via e-mail and text message and online. And anybody who's dealt with families who are trying to deal with -- navigate the immigration system, this is going to save them huge amounts of time standing in line, waiting around, making phone calls, being put on hold. It's an example of some things that we can do administratively even as we're working through difficult issues surrounding comprehensive immigration. And the idea is very simple here: We're going to leverage cutting-edge technology to reduce the unnecessary paperwork, backlogs, and the lack of transparency that's caused so many people so much heartache. Now, we all know that comprehensive immigration reform is difficult. We know it's a sensitive and politically volatile issue. One of the things that was said around the table is the American people still don't have enough confidence that Congress and any administration is going to get serious about border security, and so they're concerned that any immigration reform simply will be a short-term legalization of undocumented workers with no long-term solution with respect to future flows of illegal immigration. What's also been acknowledged is that the 12 million or so undocumented workers are here -- who are not paying taxes in the ways that we'd like them to be paying taxes, who are living in the shadows, that that is a group that we have to deal with in a practical, common-sense way. And I think the American people are ready for us to do so. But it's going to require some heavy lifting, it's going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policymaking over short-term politics. That's what I'm committed to doing as President. I want to especially commend John McCain, who's with me today, because along with folks like Lindsey Graham, he has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing. I stand with him, I stand with Nydia Velázquez and others who have taken leadership on this issue. I am confident that if we enter into this with the notion that this is a nation of laws that have to be observed and this is a nation of immigrants, then we're going to create a stronger nation for our children and our grandchildren. So thank you all for participating. I'm looking forward to us getting busy and getting to work. All right? Thank you. Oh, and by the way, I hope everybody has got their Hawaiian shirts -- (laughter) -- and their mumus for our luau tonight. 3:24 P.M. EDT
Rahm's management rule: When you have the votes, you don't need a meeting.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2009
BACKGROUND ON MEETING WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION REFORM:
The President and the Vice President will meet with a small group of Senate and House members from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue to discuss immigration reform in the State Dining Room at 2:00 PM today. The meeting is intended to launch a policy conversation by having an honest discussion about the issues and identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year. There will be a pool spray at the bottom of the meeting.
Below is a list of expected attendees at today's meeting on immigration reform:
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
Deputy Attorney General David Ogden
Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:
Senator Richard Durbin
Senator John Cornyn
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Jon Kyl
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Mel Martinez
Senator John McCain
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Jeff Sessions
Senator Arlen Specter
Representative Xavier Becerra
Representative Howard Berman
Representative Anh Cao
Representative James Clyburn
Representative John Conyers
Representative Joe Crowley
Representative Lincoln Diaz Balart
Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Representative Luis Gutierrez
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Representative Zoe Lofgren
Representative Adam Putnam
Representative Silvestre Reyes
Representative Loretta Sanchez
Representative Heath Shuler
Representative Lamar Smith
Representative Nydia Velazquez
Representative Anthony Weiner
Speaker Pelosi wouldn't commit to a date, but said that when the Senate is finished with CIR, she was prepared to move the bill in the House.
Still hard to fathom how this sort of thing happens, particularly when the citizen is trying to fight it. Hat tip to Dan Kowalski for the link.
The problem isn't the head count. It's finding floor time, according to the Senate Majority Leader.
Tomorrow President Obama meets with members of Congress to talk about kick starting immigration reform efforts. I'm curious about what readers would tell President Obama if they were in the room. Share in the comments section what you would tell the President and members of Congress about immigration reform efforts this year.
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 email@example.com