Bloggings On Immigration Law And Policy
by Greg Siskind
Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.
August, 11, 2009
Texas Republican Senator Jon Cornyn is publicly complaining that Senator Obama should finish immigration reform in 2009. That's an unexpected source of pressure and if it means Senator Cornyn is a full convert and plans on supporting a CIR bill, this is great news.
Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed Friday as the new director of USCIS. Not a lot is known about Mr. Mayorkas since he doesn't come from an immigration-related law or government background, but he appears to be very capable. His skills will be critical in turning around an agency that has had a lot of challenges over the decades and which will no doubt be transformed by immigration reform legislation.
A few readers have posted links already to a statement made by President Obama at the North American leaders summit that immigration reform is a priority for early 2010. Some see that as a retreat from efforts to move the bill this year. But 2009 was not really realistic anyway not because the votes aren't there but because there is a very practical logistical problem of getting a bill done in just four months. The immigration bill is likely to start out at close to a 1000 pages and the drafting is going on behind the scenes right now. Senator Schumer is targeting Labor Day for the introduction of a bill. It has to then go through Senate committee markups. It will then will need several weeks in a floor debate. Then the process needs to be repeated in the House. Everything would need to go at a super-accelerated pace in order for an immigration bill to happen this calendar year (which has just four full months left). Early 2010 is probably a more realistic completion date and even thought 2010 is an election year, the politics of the bill won't change that much if it is delayed a few weeks or months. So I really don't see the President's announcement as changing anything in the works.
August 09, 2009
US CHAMBER SEEKS SUPREME COURT REVIEW OF ARIZONA EMPLOYER SANCTIONS LAW
The US Chamber of Commerce is seeking a review by the nation's highest court of the Arizona law that calls for the revocation of business licenses for employers found to have knowingly hired illegally present immigrants and also mandates all employers in the state use E-Verify. The case could settle the basic question of what authority a state or local government has in regulating immigration.
The antis regularly trumpet the argument that we need to slash visa numbers to protect jobs for Americans looking for work. But if employers are seeking to slash payrolls and immigrants were a source for cheap labor, shouldn't we see visa applications increasing?
The numbers tell a stark story - visa applications in key categories are plummeting.
Eighteen months ago, H-1B applications for university educated workers were in such high demand that nearly 200,000 applications were received on the first day the annual allotment opened up. This past April, only 40,000 applications for the basic H-1B quota were received and demand since has been so light that only about 5,000 more applications have been received. At the current pace of applications, the entire fiscal year could pass without all the numbers being used.
This past week, USCIS made the extraordinary announcement that it was REOPENING the H-2B quota because only 40,000 out of 66,000 visas for skilled and unskilled workers have been used. Employers must use the visas up by September 30th, the last day of the fiscal year.
And we've also just learned that employment-based green card applications are also way down. Applications received in 2008 and 2009 are only half the number as received in earlier years.
What this tells us is that the market works. Visa petitions increase when it is hard to find qualified American workers. When Americans are available, employers don't bother with recruiting overseas workers. And it also tells us that employers - properly - perceive that foreign workers are MORE expensive than American workers. Expensive visa fees, prevailing wage requirements, lawyer fees, travel costs, communication challenges and more all make foreign workers an expensive proposition best utilized when addressing a serious worker shortgae.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said many times in the past that the GOP needs to move back to the middle on immigration reform. He's putting his money where his mouth is and is leading the GOP's pro-immigration wing as they work behind the scenes shaping the bill likely to be introduced in the next few weeks. The support of at least half a dozen Republican Senators will be critical since there will no doubt be Democrats who don't vote with their party.
August 07, 2009
ICE TARGETS ANOTHER DONUT COMPANY
Unfortunately, there are lots of these characters ripping off innocent people around the country. Fortunately, prosecutors around the country are starting to act.
The country's best known Hispanic GOP politician, Florida Senator Mel Martinez, announced this morning that he would not be returning to the Senate after the August recess ends. Martinez had already announced he was retiring in 2010 and it is not clear why he accelerated his departure.
Martinez has been a consistently pro-immigration voice and he has criticized his party numerous times for alienating Hispanic voters. Many say that this criticism led to his being replaced as the chair of the Republican National Committee a couple of years ago.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist and state legislator Marco Rubio have already been campaigning for Martinez's seat. Both are considered to be pro-immigration which is good news. The interesting question for now is who will fill the seat. Crist could appoint himself. That would give him the advantage of running for 18 months as an incumbent Senator, though it could also come with a backlash from people who think this is just a political move. Of course, Crist is already claiming to be the best qualified since he's been running for the position presumably on that basis.
Crist could also appoint a caretaker Senator and that's more of a wildcard. Presumably, it would be someone whose views are similar to Crist since Crist will have to defend the appointment. Florida Republicans include a sizeable Cuban population and the last thing Crist will want to do is have to defend an anti-CIR vote by his appointee to one of the group's that Marco Rubio, whose family is Cuban, will already be heavily courting.
August 06, 2009
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES PLANS TO REFORM ICE DETENTION SYSTEM
Those of you who have been reading this blog awhile will recall the many posts I've written regarding major problems in the system of detention for immigrants facing potential deportation. Nina Bernstein of the New York Times reports this morning that the White House will enact a series of reforms designed to curb abuses. Some of the promised changes are vague, but an immediate step will be an end to sending families to the Hutto detention facility in Texas, a location that has been the source of many complaints.The Administration is apparently looking at more alternatives to detention for non-violent immigrants. From the Times:
The ACLU is happy about the announced changes, but remains cautious:
August 05, 2009
SHERIFF JOE UNDER THE GUN
What's our little sheriff gonna do? His old nemesis Janet Napolitano has changed the rules for the 287(g) program that has allowed him to get on television A LOT. Now he's being told he can only be able to target actual criminals. But he's claiming that HE makes the law, not some legislators in DC.
Well, I guess it's not really a surprise that CNN blinked and decided to block Media Matters ads criticizing Lou Dobbs from running on the network. What is more amusing is that they are so freaked out about the ads that they're apparently pressuring local stations not to air the ads either.
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
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.