Archive for the ‘Legislative Reform’ Category.

The Mandate of Optimism

shutterstock_447931165Listening to the pundits and talkers on TV and radio, we’re hammered with politically motivated, incomplete soundbites from people who lack awareness, at best, of the practical effects that our present immigration system engenders. It feels like we’re at such a low level of discourse on the issue that it leaves those of us in the trenches often feeling the weight of despair.

The increasingly restrictive and punitive views on immigration that are voiced by some are a reaction to  frustrations and fears that arise from terrorism, general violence, and the ups and downs of the economy and unemployment rate. In spreading these views, those we should be embracing are instead alienated.  Harsh immigration laws penalize individuals who are just as American as any of us who were fortunate enough to have been born here. Those laws also place unnecessary limits on innovators and entrepreneurs in the business and technology fields, preventing them from establishing roots in the United States and pushing away economic opportunities that would add to our shared prosperity.

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The Economics of Immigration

shutterstock_284052200Discussions on immigration in the United States often consist of heated outbursts based on a multitude of passionate and unreasonable positions. Whenever the topic of immigration comes up, it seems like the most extreme rhetoric, on both sides of the issue, ends up garnering the most attention.  But on July 13, Ann Saphir and Terry Wade reported for Reuters (Fed policymakers say immigration key to leaving rut of slow growth) on a point that perhaps all sides of the immigration debate can support: positive immigration growth leads to economic growth.

Though opponents of immigration reform often use stereotypes and fearmongering to try and show that any positive economic benefit resulting from immigration is offset by the consumption of public benefits, this is just not true. The economic benefits of immigration reform have been well-documented by the American Immigration Council.   And just last week, two regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents, from Dallas and Minneapolis, not politicians or advocacy groups, stated clearly and unequivocally, that continued immigration growth is a key factor to economic growth in the United States.  As Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari said, “If we have a population that’s not growing, it’s much harder to have economic growth.”

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My American Dreams PBS Film Project

shutterstock_49320589For four years, all across the United States, they have come to law offices like ours. They have come with tidy stacks of records from their years in the United States – vaccination cards, dog-eared school grade cards, pay stubs from high school jobs, college awards. The older ones come by themselves or with their spouses. The younger ones come with anxious parents. All of them are expectant, nervous but hopeful.

These are the DREAMers, the young people eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced by President Obama in 2012. They are undocumented youth brought here by their parents, usually without a visa. They have grown up in our country without papers and without any certainty as to what the future may hold.

Since 2012, DACA has allowed qualified young immigrants to apply for and receive a temporary reprieve from deportation. Over the past four years, DACA has significantly changed almost one million lives, allowing DACA recipients to work legally, obtain a driver’s license, more easily attend university or enroll in other advanced educational programs, pursue careers, and otherwise live as integral members of their communities, just as their peers born here.

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What Happened Yesterday

DSC_0673 (Medium)It was early Monday morning in Los Angeles and all along the West Coast of the United States, people were just waking up. Cars were jamming the freeways, lines were forming at coffee shops and TVs were tuned to the morning news. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the five men and three women who currently sit on the U.S. Supreme Court were hearing oral arguments in what is likely to be a seminal case involving immigration policy and more broadly, the president’s executive authority. The case seeks to resolve the controversy around the immigration initiatives President Obama announced in November 2014. For many who anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision, a resolution as to whether the expanded DACA and DAPA initiatives may proceed is a life-changing matter.

United States v. Texas traveled to the Supreme Court on a politically charged highway along which advocates and opponents threw many punches. The road was lengthy, and as the case made its way to the Supreme Court, many speculated as to its fate. Significantly, this past February, the Court lost Justice Antonin Scalia. As one of the most conservative justices on the court, his passing could have an impact on the result of the case.

I had the privilege of sitting in the courtroom and listened first-hand as Solicitor General of the United States Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., representing the Obama Administration, and Scott A. Keller, Solicitor General of Texas, delivered their arguments. Certain intervenors were permitted to make statements, including Tom Saenz at MALDEF, who forcefully represented the voices of three undocumented mothers, but the crux of the case was presented and argued by the parties’ respective attorneys.

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The H-1B Visa Program: The Dial-up Connection to the High-speed Wireless World

shutterstock_94209850There are far too many moments when the dysfunction of our outdated immigration system becomes crystal clear. One of those moments occurred this week when U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received a record number of H-1B visa petitions during the five-day filing window for the coming fiscal year. Because our immigration laws are now more than a generation old, our system is simply not equipped for today’s reality – the H-1B program is like a dial-up connection in a high-speed wireless world.

A recent report shows that the presence of high-skilled immigrants improves a wide spectrum of the American economy and benefits U.S. workers. There is a direct correlation between the hiring of high-skilled immigrants and the creation of new jobs and new opportunities for economic growth in communities across the nation. The H-1B visa program is a way for U.S. businesses to hire those high-skilled immigrants.  But, with an artificial limit of 85,000 on the number who can come here, Congress has not made it easy for these essential workers to get here, even with a job offer in hand.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

shutterstock_336606005In 2013, there was great momentum for immigration reform. The Senate had already passed its immigration bill, and pressure was being put to bear on the House to do the same. There was a sense of hope and great support for immigration reform nationwide. Pro-immigration reform blog posts and opinion pieces linked a viable immigration system to the U.S. remaining on top in innovation and pleas for immigration reform from major sectors of our economy, like the agriculture, travel and hospitality, and tech industries, were heard loud and clear. Economic giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and so many more, came out in vocal support of immigration reform. Even many conservative religious organizations stood behind immigration reform as the right thing to do. Poll after poll showed that the majority of Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And yet, the House failed to deliver.

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H.R. 4731 Does Anything but Restore Integrity

shutterstock_120251062On Wednesday, at a time when we are facing a global refugee crisis, H.R. 4731, “The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act” passed out of committee in the House of Representatives with a vote of 18-9. Unfortunately, this bill does anything but restore integrity. I suppose it depends on how one defines “integrity,” but according to the dictionary, integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Can anyone defend what is honest or morally upright about a bill that would:

• Reduce U.S. resettlement to 60,000 refugees per year at a time when there are 60 million people displaced from their homes, 20 million of whom are refugees (more than any time since World War II);
• Negatively impact the treatment of refugees worldwide, as the world looks to the United States for leadership in this area;
• Openly discriminate against Muslim refugees (when more than 750 religious leaders and faith-based organizations have urged Congress to oppose such discriminatory legislation);
• Construct additional barriers to integration and family reunification, continuing and compounding the trauma that refugees have suffered already from losing their homes, communities, and loved ones; and
• Allow state and local governments to actively violate anti-discrimination laws and create forbidden zones for refugees.

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New Opportunities to Move Forward in 2016

shutterstock_332894387The American people are frustrated by the inability of Congress to take action and tackle the challenging, yet not insurmountable, task of reforming our immigration system and bringing it into the new century. That shouldn’t be too much to ask now that we are already well over a decade into the 21st century.

The Administration attempted to alleviate this frustration in November of 2014 by announcing plans to keep families together, ensure our communities are secure, and enable employers to keep the talent they need to remain competitive.  Though many of these actions are still pending implementation by DHS, the litigation brought by Texas and other states has delayed implementation of President Obama’s signature initiative which would grant a reprieve from deportation to many undocumented individuals who have extensive, long-term ties to the United States.

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The Impact of Inaction on American Children

shutterstock_157595678America is a nation of immigrants, and Congress has the critical job of making sure U.S. immigration laws are up to par. Yet, decade after decade, we are left with legislative scraps and executive orders on how to deal with the immigration system. That lack of concrete, comprehensive action directly and negatively affects our competitiveness in a global economy. But it also hinders our ability to maintain a clear moral authority on a whole host of issues, including how we treat our children.

Lost in all the bravado about building walls, having a religious litmus test, creating a two tier citizenship structure, and having permanent and semi-permanent bars, is the most important issue of all – the welfare of American kids.

In 2007, an estimated 9% of all U.S. babies were born to undocumented parents. In 2012, there were 4.5 million U.S.-born children younger than 18 living with undocumented immigrant parents. According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these children experience multiple developmental side effects because of their parents’ status. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a professor of education at New York University and an author of the study says the effects are in “cognitive development, engagement in school and their ability to be emerging citizens.”

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DHS Rule For Highly Skilled Immigrants: Helpful, But Timid

shutterstock_204239854Yesterday morning began with a panicked message from a software engineer employed by one of my corporate clients.  The engineer had “ported” his green card application, joining my client after having been sponsored by a prior employer for permanent residence.  The company was happy he had joined, since he brought needed skills to help upgrade the company’s infrastructure.  The engineer’s message related to his green card application: nine years after his immigrant visa petition had been approved, while he was waiting in the interminable backlog for high-skilled workers from India, USCIS decided to question its approval of the immigrant visa petition filed by the prior employer.  The engineer was now second-guessing his decision to have taken the position with my client, wondering if his immigration future might be more secure if he went back to the work he had been doing previously.

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