Archive for the ‘Legislative Reform’ Category.

5 Questions and Answers about the EB-5 Program

It’s pretty rare that an investor visa gets press attention from all over the world. But this is exactly what happened when reports surfaced of Jared Kushner’s sister promoting the EB-5 visa in China. What I saw repeatedly in coverage was confusion about the EB-5 program, what it is designed to do, and how the Kushner family might be involved.

First, what is an EB-5 visa? It is an employment-based immigrant category that enables foreign nationals to qualify for green cards based on investment and employment creation in the United States. To be granted an EB-5 visa, a foreign national may invest $1 million in a U.S. business and employ 10 U.S. workers or invest $500,000 in either an area of high unemployment or through the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. Projects included in the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program must be able to promote economic growth in a geographic region of the U.S. through increased export sales, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment.

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It’s time to tackle the 3/10 year bar!

Perhaps not since the Japanese internment camps of the 1940’s, or during the aftermath of 9/11, have immigrants been more fearful than they are now.  Never have I seen immigration attorneys and advocates more concerned about what might happen to their clients and communities. And never has an administration been more brazen and hostile against immigrants in the name of enforcement and the rule of law.

So what can be done?  The answer is, we raise the bar on the fight! But with so much to fight for, where do we even begin? The border wall? Detention beds? Raids? Protecting DREAMers? Defending sanctuary cities? There are so many important issues to advocate for.

What most of these issues have in common is the intent to remove people as quickly as possible, without due process or humanitarian consideration. These disastrous proposed changes will affect people who have been here since they were children and only know America as home; people who have been living here with their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident families; people who are victims of domestic violence or other crimes; people who are running their own businesses and hiring American workers; people whose only crime was to enter the U.S. without status, in most cases many years ago, and often not of their choosing.

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Our Immigration Laws Are Bad for Small Businesses

We’ve just wrapped up another H-1B lottery season, during which United States companies submit H-1B petitions on behalf of skilled workers to fill professional-level positions. This year, nearly 200,000 petitions were submitted for just 85,000 visas. Once again, the government must resort to a computer-generated random selection process to pick and choose between petitions, and the losers will include a lot of small businesses. The program does not take into consideration market demand, and many small businesses will be unable to hire the specific workers they need to grow and create jobs for U.S. workers.

How does the lottery work exactly? Simply put, employers file petitions, at a cost of several thousand dollars in filing fees and costs, and then wait to discover whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) pulls the applicant’s “number” for processing. Only those petitions chosen in the lottery will be adjudicated by USCIS for jobs that can begin no later than October 1, 2018, the start of the federal fiscal year. If the prospect of building a business by pulling a number out of a hat seems counterintuitive to you, you aren’t alone. It is.

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Kids These Days

A child can be sweet, mad, smart, hilarious, whiny, silly, or sad. A child can be an angel, a terror, a silly goose, Captain America, Wonder Woman, a kitty cat, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. A child cannot be an immigration lawyer. And yet…

In immigration courts across the United States, every single day, children and other incredibly vulnerable individuals are left without counsel. If they cannot afford one, or don’t luck out with pro bono assistance, they are left to face immigration judges on their own.  They are denied a most basic premise of our constitution — due process of law.

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Block the Money, Block the Wall

The Trump Administration has developed an immigration-related agenda that rejects long held American values, our country’s commitment to due process, and what our economy needs to keep America working. His first Executive Orders related to immigration have one important theme in common:  to be implemented, they require money. Our system of government requires that the President ask for funding from Congress.

Yes, the President has a Republican majority in the House and Senate right now, so maybe he believes getting that money will be a cinch. It won’t be. The President’s asks: of building a border wall, increasing the number of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to build a deportation force, and increasing the number of beds in detention facilities that benefit private prison companies, are unnecessary and will require supplemental funding that carries a price tag of $3 billion.

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Staining America’s Image

Tuesday night, I spoke at a “Know Your Rights” event in Tucson, Arizona, to a large group of concerned and fearful refugees from all over the world, including countries such as Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Afterward, I spoke individually to several of the attendees who expressed anguish about the anti-refugee sentiment being spread throughout the United States by both our state officials and the federal government.

One man explained to me that he came to the U.S. with the impression that we would welcome him. But now he feels unwelcome. He said he loves this country but is worried about what the future may bring to him and his family. It was so disheartening to hear this. Another man told me of the gut-wrenching decision he made to leave his native land. In making this choice, he has separated from his elderly father, and most likely will never be able to see him again as his dad is extremely ill. I had to explain to him that being unified with his father would either require humanitarian parole (unlikely) or take an extremely long time via immigrant petition. While it was incredibly difficult to listen to these stories, the experience once again re-affirmed my personal commitment to help refugees and push for laws and policies that reunite families.

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Why You Need to be in D.C. Next Month

The actions and rhetoric throughout the first weeks of the Trump Administration have placed immigration at the top of the national agenda. Beginning with the three Executive Orders the first week, followed by the chaos at the airports due to the Muslim/refugee ban, and the stark realization that Candidate Trump was now President Trump with the full power of the presidential office behind him, immigration lawyers saw a shift in their everyday lives.

What may have once been a calm and quiet discussion of next steps became a frantic, terrified preparation session “in case” the worst was to happen and a family was torn apart. Business attorneys faced harried calls from Human Resources staff trying to figure out which if any of the presidential orders affected their current or future employees and how to address any gaps.

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Reactions to the President’s Joint Address to Congress

Several members of AILA’s Executive Committee share their reactions to President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress on February 28, 2017:

“We agree that we have to restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders, and especially to the agencies responsible for enforcing that law. The record of disregard for basic rights by officials of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including warrantless searches and seizures of Americans, demonstrates the urgent need for oversight of enforcement at our borders by Congress and the courts.” Bill Stock

“We should not forget our Nation’s founding principles; we must remain a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable and lead by example, providing a viable and secure system for those seeking to flee persecution and violence.” Annaluisa Padilla

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The American People Have Elected the 45th President

shutterstock_106049390We, the American people, have elected our 45th president. Today, as we all go on with our daily routines, a new era is beginning. Today we must search deep within and find a renewed commitment to our nation, to unity, and to the belief in the wisdom of our founding fathers who established our nation and our system of governance in the name of freedom and democracy. Though the political debate surrounding immigration has always been contentious, the presidential campaign revealed a divisive and ugly rhetoric unbefitting our country.

As a woman, an immigrant, a former asylee, an immigration attorney, and a proud U.S. citizen, I feel the election boils down to one clear fact: that we must continue to work towards acceptance and inclusion because within our borders, our citizens feel excluded. We must figure out a way to address that while highlighting the ways in which the values our forefathers held to be true continue to define America as a nation.

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American Parents Overseas Should be Treated Equally

shutterstock_334793393The Supreme Court on November 9, 2016, will hear arguments in Lynch v. Morales-Santana, a case in which AILA submitted an Amicus Brief, along with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.  The case, which will address and better define how citizenship passes to children born to Americans overseas, has the potential to affect numerous children by eliminating current distinctions based on the biological sex of an unwed U.S. citizen parent.

In Morales-Santana, the Second Circuit ruled that the petitioner, who was born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father and a non-U.S. citizen mother, should not have been treated differently as to the status of his citizenship under the equal-protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, reversing a lower court ruling.  If the Supreme Court upholds the Second Circuit’s decision, the Court will create equality under the law for children born to an unwed U.S. citizen parent, regardless of the parent’s gender.

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