Archive for the ‘Immigration, General’ Category.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees in the Immigration Debate

shutterstock_229516540U.S. immigration law is a myriad of statutes, regulations, policies, memos, practices and procedures which span a wide variety of practice areas. The immigration debate playing out in the media is largely focused on the refugee, humanitarian, and family-based areas of immigration law. But this is only part of the picture. Immigration law also includes employment- and investment-based immigrants, seasonal/agricultural workers, the transfer and employment of high-skilled and professional workers, and short- and long-term visas for executives of global organizations, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs.

This dichotomy of the perception of immigration law is not unique to the U.S. The Guardian recently examined this issue in the U.K., suggesting the main divide is whether someone is an expat or an immigrant; and concluded that the distinction is based on race. Looking at the issue in Hong Kong, a Wall Street Journal blog attributes the divide to differences in social class, country of origin, and economic status. In the U.S., the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report entitled The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, a comprehensive look at US immigration, which, probably most accurately, points to status in understanding this divide. Legal status, or more acutely, the lack of legal status limits opportunities of integration, access to social services, housing, education, and employment. The key difference in the perception of immigration may therefore be an effect of the cause –the lack of viable, realistic legal immigration options for U.S. families and employers.

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When Our Government Operates in Its Own Flawed Reality, the Most Vulnerable Suffer

shutterstock_244072684On July 24, a federal court in California ruled that the Obama Administration’s policy of detaining mothers and children violated the 1997 Flores Agreement. In a 25-page ruling, Judge Dolly Gee noted she found it “astonishing” that immigration authorities had adopted a policy requiring such an expensive infrastructure without more evidence that it would be compliant with the agreement.

What is more astonishing is the government’s argument that detention was necessary as a deterrent for migrants – a policy reflecting complete disregard and understanding of the despair felt by those who flee for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Judge Gee disagreed and ordered the government to comply with the Flores Agreement.

The government now has filed an appeal to the July ruling, and while it is still unclear what legal arguments the government will set forth in their appeal, Secretary Johnson made it clear that the government disagrees “with portions of the legal reasoning in the decision.”  Let’s look at some of the government’s past arguments.

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More Than a Label

MoreThanALabel LogoThis blog post was written in response to the questions raised by the SocialWork@Simmons #MoreThanALabel campaign, an effort to highlight how immigrants are currently combating labels and stigmas and what can be done to promote immigrant pride.

My name is Victor Nieblas Pradis, and in June I became the first Mexican-American President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in AILA’s 69 years of existence.

Decades ago, proudly claiming to be Mexican-American might have led to slurs or denigration in this country, but times have thankfully changed.

As I shared in my first speech as AILA President, I was two years old when we settled across the “linea,” or border, of Mexico in Calexico, California. For me and my four siblings, immigration issues were a part of our experience and reality. The international border was only eight blocks from my home and the local border patrol station was only two. My next-door neighbor was a border patrol agent and across the street lived a ranking member of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Continue reading ‘More Than a Label’ »

The Time to Permanently Authorize the Religious Worker Program is Now

shutterstock_126785846Once again, September 30 is quickly approaching, and the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker (Religious Worker) program originally created in 1990 is set to expire unless reauthorized by that date. The program has been reauthorized numerous times, most recently 3 years ago.

The Religious Worker program provides temporary visas for non-minister religious workers who are not ordained to perform religious worship services, but fill other roles critical to a faith’s ability to carry out its religious and charitable mandates. Non-ministers serve a wide variety of congregations and religious communities, and include religious teachers, translators, cantors, nuns, monks, clerics, mullahs, and so on.

Fortunately, Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced S.1339, a bill that would permanently authorize the Religious Worker program. Strong faith communities are essential to American civil life, especially as immigrants learn about and transition into American culture.  And faith communities cannot function without leaders and those willing to offer religious service, regardless of whether they are ordained priests. Making the Religious Worker program permanent will help to reduce the uncertainty religious organizations face each time the program is set to expire, and will enable religious organizations to plan ahead and better serve their members and the greater community.

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GOP Candidates are Wrong When Talking About Immigration

GOPBrazen incendiary rhetoric, ignorance of the facts, and bias fueled anti-immigrant sentiment are polluting the immigration conversation.

There is no question Donald Trump is out to make a name for himself in the political arena. Having declared his candidacy for the presidency, Trump has embarked on a full-blown attack on immigrants – especially undocumented immigrants – perhaps forgetting at some point that his own ancestors were immigrants seeking a better life in the United States.

You see, although Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, NY, his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was a Scottish immigrant. Trump’s paternal grandparents were German immigrants. Trump speaks little of his immigrant ancestry, yet engages in aggressive posturing against today’s immigrants.

Trump wants to build a wall on the southern border of the United States to keep “illegals” from invading our country. Trump implies that “illegal” immigrants to the United States enter only through the southern border and as such we need increased enforcement at such border.  Facts, however, show the contrary. Studies indicate there has been a significant decline in immigrants crossing the southern border and overall the undocumented immigrant population has fallen from an estimated high of 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in 2007 to roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the United States as of January 2012.

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Mistreatment of LGBT Detainees Continues with Planned Mass Transfer to Remote California Facility

GeoOn June 19, 2015, ICE/ERO announced a new policy that could significantly change the way transgender women are treated in immigration custody. On the positive side, the policy acknowledges the possibility that transgender women can be housed in women’s facilities, and it promises to provide training on the work that must be done to respect an individual’s gender identity. AILA and other non-profit organizations greeted this new policy with cautious optimism, but expressed concern that it would result in members of this vulnerable community being isolated from counsel and community.  For example, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) commented that the policy was likely to “result in hubbing transgender women in remote areas where they cannot have meaningful access to counsel.” In the two months since ICE announced this policy, the concern over hubbing—and in particular in Adelanto, California—has only increased.

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Indian Independence Day

shutterstock_134525195“Progress is implied in independence. Without self-government neither industrial progress is possible, nor the educational scheme will be useful to the nation…” – Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

When you think of the phrase “Independence Day,” naturally you think of July 4th and wonderful images of BBQs, apple pie and fireworks come to mind. August 15th is Indian Independence Day, which is relatively recent, having begun in 1947. It certainly feels recent to me since my father was ten years old at the time. Of course he later moved to Britain, where I was born, making me a British Citizen, therefore setting me up for a lifetime of combined pride and self-loathing. In the U.S., Indian Independence Day on August 15th is celebrated in numerous cities, and with a number of parades and parties.

India has come a long way. Just shy of one quarter of the world’s population and the world’s largest democracy, it is amazing to see the progress over the last decade. Modern cities and developments have sprung up all over India. The economy is booming and India is creating many different items for export. Perhaps its largest and most valuable export though, is people, in particular, highly educated people.

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Conrad 30 – A “Win-Win” Response to the US Healthcare Crisis

shutterstock_102868775Affordable and accessible healthcare has long been a national priority.  However, for decades the United States has experienced a critical shortage of physicians.  The addition of millions more insured Americans to the healthcare rolls under the Affordable Care Act has heightened the problem.  In fact, the Association of Medical Colleges predicts the US will face a shortage of 46,000 – 90,000 physicians by the year 2025.[1]  While the US is now graduating more medical students than ever before, the number of graduate medical education residency and fellowship training programs has remained static.[2]  With American physicians increasingly choosing hospital-based medical specialties over primary care positions,[3] millions of vulnerable Americans are left without primary healthcare.

Fortunately, US immigration law provides an incentive to attract US-trained international medical graduates (IMGs) to parts of the country not fully served by American physicians.  Since its inception in 1994, state Departments of Health across the country have used the Conrad State 30 J-1 waiver program (“Conrad 30”) to place over 12,000 IMGs in medically underserved communities where they have provided healthcare to millions of our country’s neediest citizens.

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EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 2

shutterstock_211305115…Continued (Read Part 1 of this blog post)

In general, AILA and other industry stakeholders are finding strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate for the EB-5 program.  And yes, Congress has extended the Regional Center (RC) program numerous times since 1992.

But, and this is important, the current legislative atmosphere is uncertain and complex – especially involving immigration issues.  Many legislators, from both parties, want to address all immigration issues as part of a larger comprehensive reform package.  Extending just the EB-5 program and other sunset immigration programs could be viewed as piecemeal and diluting a comprehensive approach favored by many.

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EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1

shutterstock_211305115The EB-5 “Regional Center” visa program again finds itself in an all too familiar place – unless Congress reauthorizes by September 30, the program will sunset. For better or worse, the EB-5 program remains connected with three other sun-setting immigration programs (E-Verify, Conrad and Religious Workers).  AILA continues to be actively involved in the extension process and here are some updates:

Let’s start with a quick refresher. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa classification has many street names, such as the “Entrepreneur” visa, the “Investor” visa and the “Jobs Creation” visa. By any name, the U.S. Congress created this program in 1990 with the goal of encouraging the infusion of foreign capital to benefit the U.S. economy. And to that end, it would offer the privilege of U.S. residency to an entrepreneur in exchange for creating 10 new jobs for American workers.
Continue reading ‘EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1’ »