I wrote a few days ago about the state of arts immigration in America. The picture isn't pretty. I ran across this news item today which illustrates why many artists from around the world are simply bypassing America. And it's Americans who lose the most as a result.
I remember testifying in front of the House Immigration Subcommittee a couple of years ago and Steve King sat directly facing me. My topic of testimony - the need for an appeals board for consulate decisions - wasn't juicy enough for the Iowa Republican and he went after a friend testifying on an illegal immigration reform measure. At the time, I didn't know much about King, but in the years since he's clearly taken on the most vocal anti-immigration role in Congress, only rivaled by his Iowa counterpart in the Senate, Charles Grassley.
But while King has coasted to reelection in prior elections, re-districting has added a lot of independents to his district. And a high profile Democrat has decided to take him on. The race is shaping up as one of the more interesting ones in the House this year.
I represent a lot of artists and am glad the Times is covering this topic. USCIS Director Mayorkas has been holding town hall meetings and expressing concern, but, really, little seems to be getting better.
The case of Mr. Álvarez is not an isolated one. In the decade since the attacks on the twin towers, American visa procedures for foreign artists and performers have grown increasingly labyrinthine, expensive and arbitrary, arts presenters and immigration lawyers say, making the system a serious impediment to cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.
Some foreign performers and ensembles, like the Hallé orchestra from Britain, have decided that it is no longer worth their while to play in the United States. Others have been turned down flat, including a pair of bands invited to perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., last month, or have ended up canceling performances because of processing delays, as was the case last month with the Tantehorse theater troupe from the Czech Republic, which was booked to perform in suburban Washington.
Overall, according to Homeland Security Department records, requests for the standard foreign performer’s visa declined by almost 25 percent between 2006 and 2010, the most recent fiscal year for which statistics are available. During the same period the number of these visa petitions rejected, though small in absolute numbers, rose by more than two-thirds.
Frustrating statistics. While it is true that the memo is being followed for people not yet in proceedings, if a person is already in deportation proceedings, the chances of getting relief through prosecutorial discretion are so far pretty bleak.
We know Mitt Romney is in serious trouble in November due to his incredibly foolish efforts to become the most anti-immigrant major party candidate since World War II. The recent Fox News poll showing him losing by 56 points with Latino voters is the latest evidence of this and if those numbers don't shift dramatically, Romney can say goodbye to any chances of winning Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida and probably other states we're not even thinking about yet.
Winning those voters back won't be easy even for a candidate famous for flip-floppery. He promised to veto the DREAM Act, he condemned Rick Perry for showing some compassion and allowing illegally present kids access to in state tuition at Texas universities, he hired extreme anti-immigrant Kris Kobach to be his immigration advisor and he praised the Arizona immigration law as he was trolling for endorsements in that state.
How do you reverse all of that? Can you? It looks like Romney is at least going to do what he's famous for and completely erase his most recent positions and transform in to the pro-immigration Mitt. A private meeting was recently recorded where Romney told big donors that he was in trouble with Hispanics and needed to figure out a way to get their support. So get ready.
In the last few days, we've gotten a little preview of what to expect:
1. Senator Marco Rubio has been touting a DREAM Act proposal and Mitt Romney has been saying he might consider a Republican version of the DREAM Act.
2. He now claims Kris Kobach is not part of the campaign.
3. His campaign aides are now saying Romney was only praising the E-Verify portions of the Arizona law and not most of the objectionable parts.
4. He is emphasizing business immigration options.
5. Rumors abound of Romney considering bringing on a Hispanic vice presidential nominee.
To be fair, he's been pretty good on the business and employment immigration issues since the outset of his campaign and he's been more consistent than President Obama on that issue. Furthermore, even though the President's rhetoric over the last year has been good and his new emphasis on making the immigration system friendlier to entrepreneurs is welcome, the reality at USCIS, the Labor Department and the Department of State is worse than it has been in years.
On the DREAM Act, the Rubio proposal isn't bad and with some fixes Senate Republicans can probably agree on, it could be even better. The problem is that the bill has virtually no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Rather than attacking the Rubio proposal for not being good enough, Democrats would do better politically if they welcomed Rubio to the negotiating table, but made it clear that they will only take up the bill once the House either passes it or the Republican whip can produce proof that the votes are there.
But Romney may not support the Rubio bill anyway. Kris Kobach just told the Washington Post that he doesn't believe Romney will support the Rubio proposal as it amounts to an "amnesty." Kobach is also claiming his role with the campaign has not changed.
Latino voters would be wise to be skeptical of Romney at this point. And while a Latino vice presidential candidate might be in the works, the lesson of the McCain campaign may be that you can't make a group love you just by choosing someone from their ranks as a Veep candidate.
If Romney is correct in his claim that he's now the leader of the Republican Party, let him prove it and get House Republicans to start changing their tune. Until then, there's no reason to believe Romney's done anything other than shake the etch-a-sketch.
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.