Archive for the ‘Immigration Debate’ Category

Thoughts on Parts of the Senate Immigration Bill

May 25th, 2013
posted by at 2:35 pm

By Murali Bashyam

1.  On Legal Immigration

Deep Thoughts on ImmigrationMany employment and family-based categories have had severe visa availability backlogs for quite some time.  In fact, in certain situations, permanent residency applications can easily take well over a decade.  The Senate Bill (s.744) addresses this issue by exempting derivative family-members, and some physicians and PhD holders, from the annual-limits for employment-based immigration.  The legislation would also allocate additional visa numbers to those foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  These provisions will help clear the backlog and make employment-based permanent residency a faster process for intending immigrants.

The legislation will also have a significant impact on family-based immigration.  Right now, there are visa availability backlogs for Lawful Permanent Residents who want to sponsor their spouse for residency in the US.  Residency processing came sometimes take many years.  On the other hand, spouses of US citizens are classified as ‘immediate relatives’ and are not subject to these visa backlogs.  This bill would redefine ‘immediate relatives’ to include children and spouses of permanent residents, thus removing them from these numerical limitations and residency processing will be much faster, as it should be.

2.  On the H-1B Visa

Some of the provisions in the Senate legislation related to the H-1B professional worker category are good and others are bad.  On the positive side, the bill increases the regular H-1B cap from 65,000 to 110,000.  In addition, it would allow the Department of Homeland Security to increase the H-1B cap up to 180,000 depending on demand.  The legislation would also increase the Master’s cap from 20,000 to 25,000.

Another very favorable provision is allowing H-1B workers 60 days to transition between jobs.  Our currently law does not allow any transition time, which is unrealistic in our job market.  The bill will also allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to obtain work authorization, which again is an improvement over current laws.

Unfortunately, the bill also places some unnecessary burdens on employers who use the H-1B program.  For example, all employers would be required to test the US labor market before filing an H-1B application.  Under current law, only certain H-1B dependent employers (those whose workforce consists of a large number of H-1B workers) must test the labor market first.  In addition, the bill places severe penalties on H-1B dependent employers.  For example, employers with 50 or more employees would have to pay an additional fine of $5000 per sponsored worker if more than 30 percent of their workforce consists of H-1B workers.  This fine increases to $10,000 if their workforce consists of more than 50 percent of H-1B workers.  The bill also places an upper limit on how many H-1B workers a company can ultimately hire.  We believe that some of these provisions should be changed to make the H-1B program more ‘market-based’ instead of heavily regulated as is proposed by the current legislation.

We recently did a Webinar on the Senate Immigration Bill.  To view our powerpoint presentation, click HERE.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

August 18th, 2012
posted by at 2:57 pm

By Pam Prather

It seems like a long time since we’ve had a positive change in immigration policy to report.  You may have heard by now about “Deferred Action” – a new type of immigration benefit.  It’s one that could be life-changing for many, many people. 

The title means that the Department of Homeland Security (under which the Citizenship and Immigration Service operates) will put off deportation of some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. This has long been touted by immigration proponents as the only sensible and humane thing to do for young adults who had no control over the circumstances that led to their presence in the US. The benefits are similar in some aspects to the DREAM Act, which failed to pass the Senate in late 2010.

This is not an amnesty program, and does not provide a Green Card, Citizenship, or even lawful status.  It does provide a two-year EAD (Employment Authorization Document), which allows an indivdual to then apply for a Social Security number.  There are several requirements that must be met for an application to be approved. The applicant must be at least 15 years old, but less than 31 as of June 15, 2012.  He/she must have entered the US before their 16th birthday. They must have resided continuously in the US since June 15, 2007, although in some cases short trips abroad may be okay. They must be physically present in the US when they file, and when the policy was announced on June 15.

An applicant cannot have been convicted of a felony, and even some misdemeanors may be a deal-breaker.  Also, the applicant must be 1] in school; 2] graduated from high school; 3] obtained a GED; or 4] be an honorably discharged veteran.  The application for Deferred Action must include documentation that the above requirements have been met. Its filed with CIS forms I-812D, I-765, and I-765WS. The filing fee is $465.

Homeland Security has stated that information about the applicant and the applicant’s family will not be routinely shared with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for purposes of removal (deportation).  So although the risk involved is small, it must be carefully considered.

This is an amazing opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young people, so spread the word and call a lawyer!  Consulting a reputable immigration attorney will allow you to further understand what your risks might be, whether you meet the requirements, and how to document the requirements. There is currently no deadline for this program, but in all cases you must file before you turn 31.

Is Canada Winning the War for Talent?

June 25th, 2012
posted by at 11:06 pm

By Pam Prather

While the United States continues to struggle with immigration policy, Canada cements theirs. As we prolong the societal debate over whether we even WANT immigrants anymore, Canada opens wide its arms and assures them they do.

“Currently on an H1B Visa or otherwise working or studying in the United States?” asks canadavisa.com.

They openly recruit temporary US professional workers who no longer feel welcome in a country where it can easily take over ten years to get a Green Card, even for those who qualify for one of the strictly-defined immigrant categories.

Who can blame our northern neighbors for taking advantage of our labyrinthine of laws that wind their way through the Department of Labor, Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security?

Why wouldn’t they cash in on our confusion and indecision regarding immigration policies?

After all, they too have concerns about economic growth and ‘brain drain’. They too exert great effort in filling positions in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) sector.

Studies show the average American believes that 39% of the U.S. population was born abroad. It’s actually 13% – just a little higher than Great Britain’s.  Canada’s current foreign-born population, on the other hand, is almost 20%. And they’re not alone. Australia’s political and popular culture was described as xenophobic less than two decades ago. Their population is now more than 25% foreign born.  They, coincidently, are enjoying economic growth and robust cultural diversity.

Bottom line, it looks like Canada is learning more from their southern neighbor’s mistakes, than America is from theirs.

 

Why Tech Needs Open Borders

April 28th, 2012
posted by at 7:31 pm
By Murali Bashyam

I recently read an article in Forbes where the author, Mr. Flip Filipowski, discussed immigration policy, the technology industry, and why it needs open borders.  We often write about smart immigration policy, and it doesn’t seem smart for the United States to restrict immigration of highly-skilled workers.

Mr. Filipowski, a technology-industry CEO himself, said the following:

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the technological and economic viability of the United States. Our prosperity is built on the renegade, risk-taking entrepreneurial concoction of truly American innovation and invention – in addition to the fact that a disproportionate number of companies are created by immigrants. In Silicon Valley alone, immigrant-founded startups make up a remarkable 52 percent of companies. Wave upon wave of immigrants bought into the American dream that anything was possible in the United Sates and anyone who put in the effort could succeed here. We were to own that one magical thought in perpetuity but instead we have exported it to the world not in a gesture of generosity but in the incompetence bred in fear of immigration. Perhaps even in the moronic fear of adding Democrats to the voting roles as these immigrants assimilate into our society. The real fear should be directed at the complacency that seems to permeate subsequent generations that believe entitlement comes with citizenship via birthright.

He is right!

I recently attended a Raleigh Chamber of Commerce meeting on immigration policy.

The CEO of SAS, Dr. Jim Goodnight, said at the Chamber meeting that finding talent with the right skill set in the U.S. is their biggest challenge.  Other CEOs at the meeting said the same thing.

Unfortunately, our education system is not graduating enough people with the skills necessary for today’s economy.  How could it?  Only two thirds of high school students graduate. Nearly 50% of college students drop out.

Filipowski continues:

As the land of opportunity drifts to other locations through our neglect and inept immigration policies even our own best talent will be at risk. Not infrequently do I hear the comment that “If I were just graduating I would seriously consider relocating to Beijing – Mumbai – Singapore – etc.” Let’s come to our senses and hang a welcome sign on the border:  Buy a house, start a business, become a citizen.

It is a myth that foreign workers take U.S. jobs.  Why would a U.S. company go through the expense, headache, and bureaucracy involved with hiring a foreign highly-skilled worker if the same worker can be found in the U.S.?

I agree with Mr. Filipowski.  Let’s make it easier for highly skilled workers to come to the U.S.  Let them buy a house, start a business, become a citizen, and contribute to our great country.

DOL Says “All Too Easy” To Companies, Immigrants, and Immigration Attorneys

February 24th, 2012
posted by at 6:25 pm

By Murali Bashyam (Star Wars Fan) and Pam Prather (Not Star Wars Fan)

In George Lucas’ Empire Strikes Back, the evil Darth Vader lays a trap for the unsuspecting Luke Skywalker.  Skywalker, unknowingly, walks right into the trap.

What happens next?

This week, the Department of Labor ‘trapped’ companies, intending immigrants and immigration attorneys alike.   In yet another setback for employment-based immigrants, the PERM system has a new glitch.

Or is it a glitch?

Immigration practitioners have filled the blogs with messages of frustration and dismay, because a new ‘government error’ is resulting in a slew of denied applications.

This one concerns the contents of the advertisements placed for testing the market, specifically the ads’ description of primary and alternate requirements.  Although NOT legally required, denial letters state that the so-called “Kellogg language” must be specifically included.

This is clearly incorrect.

As AILA (American Immigration Lawyers’ Association) shared:

AILA has continued to follow up with DOL [Department of Labor] on this issue. ….the response to date is that this is being investigated, and they hope to have an update ‘soon.’ …… I think that someone is confusing the supervised recruitment standards with the PERM recruitment standards.

……. DOL hasn’t revoked their FAQ which says that Kellogg language does not need to be in the recruitment, so the decisions appear to fly in the face of their own policy guidance and regulations”.

One has to question the DOL’s motive on this policy change, a change they are apparently implementing now WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE to immigration community.

When discussing this with a friend, he jokingly said that it all sounds a little passive-aggressive!

In the Star Wars movie, Darth Vader says “All Too Easy” when trapping young Skywalker.  Unfortunately for Vader, Skywalker escapes and a great fight with him begins.

If the DOL thinks it’s going to be ‘All Too Easy’ to shut down our legal immigration system with decisions that clearly contradict precedent, they are wrong.  The immigration community will fight to right these wrongs, much like Luke Skywalker did against the evil Darth Vader.

 

Visa Options for Foreign Athletes

February 5th, 2012
posted by at 4:11 pm

By Pam Prather

Basketball, Tennis, Hockey, Golf, Gymnastics….we American’s love sports, and sports mean competition. When it comes down to contests between the best of the best, nationality doesn’t matter.

Whether you’re a Swiss tennis player, a British football (a.k.a. soccer) player, or a Russian hockey player, at some point you’ll want to come to the U.S. to compete with the biggest names in your game.  Luckily, there are several visa options available to international sports figures.

For temporary (or “nonimmigrant”) visas, the following are possibilities.

The O-1 visa is for athletes of extraordinary ability, or those who have achieved “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor”.  The application for this visa must include documentation that the person has national or international acclaim, e.g. an Olympic medal for a Russian skater, a Wimbledon championship for Rafael Nadal, or a World Cup for David Beckham.

But do you really have to be at that level to qualify for an O-1 visa?

No.

But you do have to prove significant accomplishments in your sport.

If issued an O-1 visa, the nonimmigrant may live and compete in the U.S. for an initial period of three years.  The status can then be extended indefinitely in one-year increments.

A P-1 visa is more commonly used for athletes coming to the U.S. for a shorter period of time.  The standard of achievement is also not quite as high as the O-1.

The P-1 visa applicant provides evidence that he/she competes at “an internationally recognized” level of competition.  This could be appropriate for the Dominican Major League Baseball team member, or even a minor league/amateur athletic competition of some kind.

The P visa is typically issued for up to one year, but sometimes for up to five years.  One extension of up to five years is allowed.

Both the O and P visas require the sponsorship of a corporation, agent, or team.

B-1 is a business visitor visa category.  It can, however, be appropriate for those foreign athletes who support themselves on tournament prize money rather than a salary (think Italian auto racer).

He/she (or the team for which they play) must be based outside the United States.  And if it is a team, it must be part of an international sports league.

The B-1 can be issued for up to one year, and may sometimes be extended in six-month increments.

There are also several options for foreign athletes who wish to remain in the U.S. permanently.  Obtaining a Green Card, or an Immigrant Visa, requires careful planning with an experienced immigration attorney.

So if you’re a foreign athlete and need to perform at a sporting event in the U.S., or even want to permanently live here, there are various visa options available to you.  Give us a call.

 

The E-2 Visa: U.S. Misses Out on Foreign Entrepreneurs

January 16th, 2012
posted by at 1:51 pm

By Pam Prather

With unemployment hovering around 8.5 percent and our presidential election cycle in full swing, all we hear these days is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” You can turn on the television or browse the internet to hear the myriad of solutions people have to better our economy.  Unfortunately, what we don’t hear as often is how critical foreign entrepreneurs are to job creation in the United States.

The lack of options for foreign national entrepreneurs, particularly those from India and China, is yet another example of the serious need for immigration reform in the United States. From all angles, business immigration law is having a significant negative impact on our economy. At a time when new employment numbers are anticipated every month, and seen as one of the main indicators of our economic recovery, we must consider every possible opportunity for U.S. job creation.

According to the Kaufmann Foundation, immigrant entrepreneurs accounted for 29.5 percent of new businesses in 2010. In The “New American” Fortune 500 (June 2011), The Partnership for a New American Economy found that:

1] More than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. 2] The newest Fortune 500 companies are more likely to have an immigrant founder. 3] Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants employ more than 10 million people worldwide. 4] The revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants is greater than the GDP of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan. 5] Seven of the 10 most valuable brands in the world come from American companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.— Apple, Google, AT&T, Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, and McDonald’s, to name just a few.

Vivek Wadhwa, a well-known scholar and authority on immigration matters, found that:

According to the studies, in a quarter of the U.S. science and technology companies founded from 1995 to 2005, the chief executive or lead technologist was foreign-born. In 2005, these companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers. In some industries, the numbers were much higher; in Silicon Valley, the percentage of immigrant-founded startups had increased to 52 percent. Indian immigrants founded 26 percent of these startups—more than the next four groups from Britain, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined. (emphasis added)

It is clear that Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs play an important role in founding companies and creating jobs in the U.S.  Yet these entrepreneurs were not able to immigrate to the US directly in order to start their businesses.  They had to find sponsorship through other means – usually an employer, or sometimes a family member. Only later were they able to develop the companies that create U.S. jobs.  The one visa applicable in these circumstances, the E-2, is not available to them.

The E-2 (Treaty-Investor) visa is given to individuals who have made a “substantial” investment in a new or operating business in the U.S.  It is based upon treaties we hold with the applicants’ country. Surprisingly, the U.S. does not have a Treaty with India, so its citizens are not eligible for an E-2 investor visa. Neither is China or Israel included on the list.  Therefore, Indian, Israeli and Chinese nationals cannot use the E-2 visa to start businesses in the U.S. and create jobs.

The US State Department reports that there were approximately 25,000 E-2 visas issued in 2010.  That’s 25,000 new businesses, all of which must – by law – have a positive impact on U.S. economy.  It’s a win-win situation, and a clear indication that E-2 visas are highly beneficial to the U.S. Unfortunately, the U.S. is missing out on even more impressive numbers, because there is not a simple, effective business immigration law allowing foreign nationals from India, China and other countries to come to the US to start and invest in a new business.

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s 2011 report concluded with a statement that “[t]o compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here.”  This is from a group whose co-chairs include the CEOs of Microsoft, Disney, Marriot and Boeing, and the Mayors of New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

One simple fix would be to expand the list of countries whose nationals can benefit from the E-2 investor visa to start businesses and create jobs.  We can also pursue other immigration policies such as the Start Up Visa Act to help spur growth and innovation.  Or, to truly get creative and innovative, we can pursue both!  After all the more immigration laws we have that encourages foreign entrepreneurship in the U.S. helps job creation, our economy, and our country.

 

The Wrong Incentive for Undocumented Immigrants

December 20th, 2011
posted by at 3:56 pm

By Rashmi Shah

“Happy Holidays from the House of Representatives.  Please leave the tax credit for your children at the door.”

While we are busy buying our last stocking stuffers and planning our holiday feast, the House is planning to move four million U.S. children closer to poverty.

The payroll tax package, likely to pass the House this week, includes a provision prohibiting immigrant taxpayers from receiving a refundable Child Tax Credit.  The Child Tax Credit’s purpose is to keep children out of poverty.  It is one of the most effective ways to alleviate the tax burden imposed on low-income workers raising families, helping put food on the table.

The proposed provision denies taxpayers who file their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) the ability to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit for their U.S. Citizen children. Undocumented immigrants are required to pay taxes and do so using an ITIN.   According to Immigration Impact, this provision will affect approximately 2 million families and up to 4 million U.S. citizen children.

Despite paying taxes, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for the vast majority of benefits their tax dollars support.  In 2010, ITIN tax filers contributed an estimated 9.2 billion dollars in payroll taxes. In other words, 10 times the amount that would be saved by eliminating the child tax credit away from the U.S. children of ITIN tax filers.

We constantly hear from the anti-immigration lobby that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.  Although that is not factually true, it’s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we allow policies like this to be signed into law.  When approximately 47% of the ‘legal’ U.S. population doesn’t pay Federal Income taxes, do we really need to punish those that do?

Hot Topics in Immigration Law – 2011

December 14th, 2011
posted by at 1:45 pm

By Pam Prather

 

Immigration remains an issue in the forefront of U.S. political and social dialogue. Many Americans assume that the primary problem is with undocumented migrants, but the fact is that our immigration laws as they relate to legal employment and family immigration need a complete overhaul.

That is still not within sight, unfortunately.

Part of this is because the issue has become so emotional, with legal and illegal immigration issues desperately entangled, that it puts politicians on thin ice with their constituents regardless of their position on the subject.  However, there have been some interesting ‘piece-meal’ bills and policy memos that have had some impact this year.

Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act

Exciting news in recent weeks included the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which passed the House with rare bipartisan support.

One of its sponsors (Chaffetz) stated “I am committed to fixing legal immigration. By removing per country limits, American companies will be able to access the best talent. This legislation is pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-family. I encourage my colleagues in the House to pass this bipartisan legislation.”

The current system, where no country may be allotted more than 7 percent of employment or family visas, has long been criticized as unfair to larger, or more highly-represented countries such as India, China, Mexico and the Philippines.  The proposed bill would eliminate the limit for employment-based visas and raise it to 15 percent for family visas.

With some high-skilled workers from India and China waiting nearly a decade for a Green Card, this is a great start. Not only will it have a significant and positive impact on thousands of individuals’ lives, but many experts think it would create a boost to our economy. More visas means more workers, with more families paying US taxes and spending money at US businesses.

Unfortunately, when sent to the Senate, Senator Charles Grassley (R) put the bill on ‘hold’.  He said the bill “does nothing to better protect Americans.”

When one in four U.S. companies have a foreign co-founder, does this position really make sense if job creation is a goal?

Neufeld Memo

 

Although it took effect in 2010, this year the Neufield Memo continued to change the way H-1B applications are prepared for employee-contractors.

Employers who outsource their workers must continue to provide substantial evidence of the contractual agreements between their company and their vendor, and between the vendor and the end client.  In most cases, the end client must refer to the worker by name, and state the length of the contract as being the same as the I-129 requested validity dates.

Needless to say (although we’ll say it anyway) it is very difficult for an employer to get that kind of contract until the position is filled, and it’s difficult to get the position filled without presenting the contract to the USCIS. This vicious cycle keeps – or delays – U.S. employers from filling jobs and optimizing their business practices.

This ‘disconnect’ between government policies and common business practices does nothing to help our economy and seems, in fact, to be quite a hindrance to its recovery.

Alabama’s HB 56

 

This year Alabama passed a law making it a Class C Felony for undocumented aliens to transact business with state agencies.  As a result, at least one utility company in Alabama posted a sign informing its customers that this prohibited them from providing water service to undocumented immigrants. Since Class C felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison, this meant an undocumented alien could be imprisoned for a decade for attempting to use water in Alabama.

Also, based on how broadly the State defines “business transactions,” it could be that any transaction, including paying State taxes, could result in imprisonment.

Alabama is one of several states that have passed their own stringent immigration laws. The Department of Justice is currently challenging state immigration laws in Utah, Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina. In addition, they are reviewing immigration laws recently passed in Indiana and Georgia.

As more and more states continue to legislate on federal immigration laws, the conflict between our federal and state governments will be interesting to watch in 2012.

DREAM Act

Late last December, the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) bill did NOT receive enough support to pass, but it continues as a source of debate on the overall immigration issue in the U.S.  To be eligible for the act, undocumented students must have entered the country when they were 15 or younger and graduated high school or obtained a GED. To receive a green card, the bill required them to complete two years in the military or two years of college — plus a 10-year waiting period. Only six years later would they be eligible to apply for citizenship.

In response to this failing at the federal level, some states are again taking immigration law into their own hands.  Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed The California Dream Act, which will become effective January 2013, into law.  The law will make available state-funded financial aid to undocumented immigrant students in California.  Funds include state Board of Governors fee waivers, student aid programs administered by a college or university, state aid Cal Grants program for state universities, community colleges, and qualifying independent and career colleges or technical schools in California.

The other half of the California Dream Act was signed into law by Brown in July and allows undocumented immigrant students to receive privately funded scholarships administered at public universities and community colleges.

The California Dream Act differs somewhat from the proposed federal bill, which would have created a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16, had lived in the United States for at least five years, obtained a high school or General Education Development diploma, and demonstrated “good moral character,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The DREAM Act has had, at times, support from both political parties.  Unfortunately, most politicians today do not want to vote for any immigration bill for political reasons.  If you’ve read the comments after any article written on the issue, you would understand why.

Immigration is currently a highly toxic and combustible issue.

As it relates to the DREAM Act, however, people should ask themselves some very fundamental questions:  Is it right to deport someone who 1) was brought to the U.S. at a very young age through no choice of their own; 2) has lived in the U.S. their entire life, and knows no other country as home; and 3) is trying desperately to become a productive member of our society?

What Lies Ahead?

 

Immigration will continue to be a large part of the American consciousness in 2012.  Whether through pressure from the “Border States”, economists, U.S. businesses, or farmers, Congress will be forced to make decisions about legal AND illegal immigration.

We should not forget that our legal immigration system, which is a vital part of the fabric of American history and culture, can be addressed separately from illegal immigration.  The latter needs serious, reasonable discourse regarding the role we Americans want to play in this modern world – and how we want to approach the 11 million undocumented migrants in the US, and the continued flow across our borders.

But legal immigration needs smart reform NOW, whether comprehensive or ‘piece-meal’. It would spur innovation, bolster the economy, create jobs, and provide people with a better life.

Let’s make it happen in 2012.

The Illegal Immigration Debate Erupts Like Mount Tambora

December 6th, 2011
posted by at 1:48 am

By Pam Prather

If you asked me what I think people will take away from the topic of “Immigration 2011”, I would have to say the overriding issue is simply emotion.

Strong emotion.

Strongly worded emotion.

Have you ever seen the Comments section after an article about U.S.  immigration?

It is an unabated flow of vitriolic lava!

We’ve learned over the past many years that the anonymity of the  internet allows for speech that would not be given – or tolerated – in a  personal conversation.  But Americans seem to want validation of  their view that illegal immigrants are ruining our country.

Of course, this sentiment is not new.

With every major wave of immigration in our country’s history, we have experienced (or exhibited) a similar reaction.  In an article by Kenneth C. Davis (July 3, 2007) he reminds us:

“A PROMINENT American once said, about immigrants, “Few of their children in the country learn English… The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages … Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious.”

This sentiment did not emerge from the rancorous debate over the immigration bill defeated last week in the Senate. It was not the lament of some guest of Lou Dobbs or a Republican candidate intent on wooing bedrock conservative votes. Guess again.

Voicing this grievance was Benjamin Franklin. And the language so vexing to him was the German spoken by new arrivals to Pennsylvania in the 1750s, a wave of immigrants whom Franklin viewed as the “most stupid of their nation.”

Germans, Irish, Chinese, Italians, Catholics, Baptists – all have faced this seemingly impenetrable wall of fear and hatred.

One of our earlier immigration laws (1790) reserved naturalization to “free white persons” who had lived in the country for two years. Where would we be now if that law had not been changed?

Most of the negative comments I read or hear are based on the notion that undocumented aliens are, simply put, criminals.

Does this remind you of anything?

Perhaps Slavery? Prohibition? Women’s Suffrage? Civil Rights?

Sometimes laws are wrong, or at the very least, not enforceable, so throughout our history, we have broken them.  To make change, people have sacrificed, suffered, and even died. They may have been called criminals at the time, but in retrospect we have seen them as people who simply stood up for what was right.  We’ve called them courageous activists, and even icons of American culture and politics.

“We have to uphold our laws”, anti-immigrationists cry out in anguish.

I wonder if they have ever fudged on their taxes, driven over the speed limit, smoked marijuana, or tasted alcohol before the age of 21.

“Not the same thing”, they say.

They’re right.

They broke a law to make things more convenient, comfortable, or enjoyable for themselves.  Desperate people from other countries, who have no lawful means by which to immigrate, break the law to feed their children and provide some measure of hope for their future.

Definitely, not the same thing!

I’ve also heard many, many people say things such as “why don’t they just file their papers, pay the fine, and get legal”??!

This is a clear example of the general public’s lack of knowledge about U.S. immigration law.  In a nutshell, there is no way for them to get legal. This would be called amnesty, and there is currently no program for that.

Basically, there are only a few ways to immigrate: through family, through employment, or as an asylee/refugee.  The process has several steps, each with different hurdles.  But a person who has entered, lived, or worked in the U.S. without proper authorization is usually not eligible for to obtain a Green Card under most circumstances.

Another widely-misheld belief is the ‘Anchor Baby situation. This is the erroneous belief that if an alien has a baby in the US, then they’re allowed to remain in the US legally.

Not so.

A person born in the US is a US citizen, but the immigration benefits to the parents are extremely limited. Under current immigration laws, parents who enter the U.S. illegally cannot legally benefit from having a baby on U.S. soil.

Deport them all, you say?

You may not realize what that suggestion means.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble estimates that the cost to deport one person is $12,500. That means it would cost $137 billion to deport all illegal immigrants. This is simply not logistically possible or financially feasible.

So maybe we as a society could agree that undocumented immigrants are not exactly criminals, and that they have a great and desperate need to better their lives.

We know that the U.S. does not have a workable/enforceable framework for lawful immigration, and that we cannot afford to deport 11 million people. Our immigration system needs an overhaul.

We need no less than complete immigration reform, but our political machine cannot deal with this until voting Americans make room for a reasoned, practical discussion on the topic.  We as a nation have so many other things to work on, other things that need insightful consideration.

Can we start by agreeing that illegal immigration is not the root of all our problems?