Legislation Watch

August 1, 2021 § Leave a comment

While immigration remains a divisive topic among Americans, one thing is for certain: year after year, and poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. This bipartisan support is evident in a recent poll by Quinnipiac University in February 3, 2021 in which two-thirds of Americans favored allowing all unauthorized immigrants to obtain legal status and apply for citizenship. In that same poll, there was even more support for Dreamers and agricultural workers receiving citizenship.

Despite this widespread support among Americans, Congress has made little progress in its efforts of codifying a legal pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. Currently, there are a handful of major pieces of legislation sitting idle in Congress that would offer extensive immigration reform and provide a comprehensive pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who work hard, contribute to our country’s prosperity, and often know of no other home. And while these legislative solutions remain in limbo, current patchwork solutions, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), continue to be dismantled and invalidated in the U.S. Judiciary system. It is for this exact reason that Congress must move forward in passing these reform bills that Americans overwhelmingly support.

Here is a current list of pending immigration legislation in Congress:

The Dream Act of 2021 (S.264), and The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R.6)

Both of these Acts would provide a permanent solution and a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose fate remains unclear due to ongoing litigation. H.R.6 would also provide a path to citizenship to beneficiaries of two humanitarian programs: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). H.R.6 would also repeal the 1996 law which penalizes states that grant in-state tuition to undocumented students on the basis of residency and would allow Dreamers to access federal financial aid. Lastly, H.R.6 would allow eligible Dreamers deported under the Trump administration to apply for relief from outside the country. H.R.6 passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and S.264 was introduced in the Senate in February 2021 where it has yet to see a vote.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, FWMA, (H.R.1603)

The FWMA would offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers, revise the H-2A agricultural worker program and impose mandatory employment verification through the E-Verify program in agriculture. These improvements would stabilize the farm labor force and ensure greater food safety and security for the country. This Act passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and awaits a vote in the Senate.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (H.R.1177)

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 hews closely to the outline that Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office. The proposal includes an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., bolsters the nation’s refugee and asylum systems, reforms the immigrant visa system, addresses the root causes of migration and responsibly manages the Southern border. This Act was introduced in February, 2021.

Getting Employment-Based Visas is Becoming More Difficult

October 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

The importance of global connectivity in current job markets is growing rapidly. Employers can now hire their staff from all over the world, expanding their specializations and talent. However, American employers have been having a hard time getting visas approved for their new hires. When employers experience these hardships, they consider relocating their company to a different country. Not only does this affect the company, but it takes away American jobs.

The difficulty in obtaining a visa for an employee is caused by what the government expects of visa applicants and what is legally required of visa applicants. When an employer files a visa on behalf of their employees, the burden of proof (of eligibility) lies on the employer, not the government. Legally, the employer’s claim must meet the standard of being “more likely than not” to be true, which is also referred to as being true “by a preponderance of the evidence”.

Due to increasingly difficult circumstances to get visa approvals, it appears that the government’s expectations of the employers have raised to prove the claim is true “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is by no means equal to “by a preponderance of evidence.” The unspoken standard has made it nearly impossible for employers to create an application that matches the potential that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is looking for.

L-1 visas are particularly difficult to get approved. L-1 visas are reserved for specialized individuals working in management or executive positions that are transferring roles within a company in the United States. The rules of L-1 visa approvals state that the applicant must prove that each employee they supervise is a “professionals,” which means they have a degree. They must also provide very detailed job descriptions and qualifications to prove that their position is either in a management or executive role.

If you consider Steve Jobs or Henry Ford, you’ll be able to acknowledge that they were very successful executives that made an effort to stay in contact with the hands-on aspect of their work. If they were applying for L-1 visas today, it’s likely they would not get approved because their responsibilities in their executive roles did not fit the USCIS description.

Lawmakers and USCIS employees don’t realize that they are pushing away hard-working employees and reliable American companies. Companies and employees are relocating and finding fits that make their line of work easier to be productive in. Visa reform is crucial in keeping jobs in the United States.

True or False? Presidential Debate Fact Checking

October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

During Tuesday night’s presidential town hall debate, Romney and Obama went head to head on several issues, including immigration. A lot of statements were made by both sides but who was telling the truth and who might have been stretching it just for argument’s sake? The New York Times ran a Fact-Checking segment that answers some of these questions.

On immigration, Romney said Obama failed to deliver as promised a comprehensive immigration reform legislation during his first year in office. In fact, President Obama did make the promise, particularly to Latinos, during the summer of 2008. In an interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision, the Spanish-language network, he said, “What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.” Last month in Miami, President Obama said his lack of progress on immigration legislation was his “biggest failure so far.” He attributes this failure largely to the Republicans and expressed that he had not anticipated that Republicans who previously supported reform “suddenly would walk away.” With no prospect of passing legislation in Congress, President Obama used executive authority in June to offer reprieves from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. This is not the Dream Act but an exercise of the government’s prosecutorial discretion, now known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, so that young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country due to no fault of their own would not be subjected to deportation and would also be able to obtain temporary work authorization for two years at a time.

Mr. Romney’s stance on providing relief to young undocumented immigrants in general is less clear. During the debate he said that he also wanted to help those young people. However, during the Republican primary, Mr. Romney had stated that he would veto the Dream Act that would allow these young people to have a chance. More recently, in June, Mr. Romney had softened his stance on this issue and had said that he would support giving permanent residence to “illegal immigrants who served in our military” — one group who would be eligible under the Dream Act. In a town hall meeting last month in Miami with Univision, Mr. Romney said he would also consider giving green cards to “kids that get higher education,” echoing another part of the Dream Act. Mr. Romney indicated that he supported Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s version of the immigration bill, an alternative version to the Democrats’ Dream Act on which he started working last spring. However, few details are known of Mr. Rubio’s proposal, because he never offered a written blueprint.

As of October 10, 2012 and a report issued by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) , the agency has accepted more than nearly 180,000 DACA cases and approved over 4,500 requests. We may expect to see monthly report from USCIS.

Politiking

September 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you ever wonder where you fall along the party line and whose political stance is more aligned with yours, it might be worth doing a little self-quiz and get educated at the same time. Ontheissues.org is an American non-partisan and non-profit organization based in Cambridge, MA that has been around since 1996. According to Wikepedia, the organization aims to help voters make educated decisions and pick the right candidates. The online VoteMatch quiz comprises of 20 questions, and the site matches one’s answers against Candidates for President and for Congress. Although the questions may be somewhat simplistic and tend to invite users to answer without fully understanding the complexity of each issue on which the question is based, the quiz is nevertheless a quick and easy way to inform someone of the relevant issues and at least who are all the candidates in the running.

I found it particularly interesting to read up on the site’s summary of our 2012 presidential and vice presidential candidates’ progressive stance on immigration. All four candidates agree that “rounding up” and removing the 11 some undocumented immigrants is impractical, although in last week’s Convention in Tampa the Republican Party stands firm behind Attrition Through Enforcement, the idea that by making life so hard for the undocumented they would “self deport”. Meanwhile, the Democratic Convention opens tonight, and all eyes and ears will be trained on the incumbent party to see what messages to take away two months before the elections.

The Elephant in the Room

April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides on SB1070 this month on April 25. As I read and got through to the end of the transcripts for the hearing, it became unfortunately clear that the government was simply not going to talk about the elephant in the room – the racial discrimination caused by the law. In particular, Section 2(B) of SB1070 allows police officers to stop individuals and investigate them if there is probable cause to suspect that the individual is an undocumented alien. The question becomes what would arise to give an officer probable cause to conduct the investigation? The person’s appearances seem to be a pretty telling sign. If we were to go one step further, as Solicitor General Verrilli points out during the hearing, about 60 to 70 percent of individuals removed every year have been removed to Mexico, if a person stopped looks Mexican would police officers be encouraged (or even obligated) to conduct an investigation?

At one point during the hearing Chief Justice Roberts stopped to ask Solicitor General Verrilli whether he was going to argue racial or ethnic profiling, to which the government counsel promptly said no. However, later in his arguments the government counsel started talking about racial harassment and how the State of Arizona has already made tens of thousands of stops that results in inquiries to the federal government about someone’s immigration status. General Verrilli adds that this is harassment because in a state with a population of 2 million Latinos and of that only about 400,000 are there unlawfully, the proportion of the stops being made simply doesn’t make sense. This line of arguments was soon cut off by Justice Scalia after pointing out that the government wasn’t arguing racial profiling. I would have loved to hear more of these arguments as to so many in the community that’s where the heart of this entire debate resides.

Unfortunately, the actual debate during the hearing left much to be desired. There’s also predictions that certain enjoined provisions will no longer be barred after the justices reach a decision in June, mainly because the justices spent most of the hearing questioning counsels about Section 2(B) and not much about any of the other three enjoined provisions. Meanwhile, community activists continue to rally against what states like AZ are calling attrition through enforcement with laws like SB1070. It’s an uphill battle but there is no letting up anytime soon.

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