Archive for the ‘Immigration Legislation’ 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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Employer Fined for Violating H-1B LCA Posting Obligations

April 19th, 2011
posted by at 9:00 am

Late last year, a Newark, New Jersey based company was fined $638,449 in back wages and interest by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) for violating H-1B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.   In addition, the company and its owner were fined $126,778 in civil penalties for failing to provide notice of the filing of labor condition applications (LCA) at each place where any H-1B worker was to be employed.

Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the DOL said the following:

“Peri Software not only took advantage of these workers by not properly compensating them, it also violated the part of the law that provides the greatest protection to the American workforce… When companies participating in the H-1B program do not post filed labor condition applications, they clearly undercut American workers who may be qualified for available employment but aren’t aware of it.”

Under law, an employer has to post a copy of the LCA it files on behalf of an H-1B worker at the worker’s place of employment for 10 consecutive business days.  Even though this requirement can be cumbersome for consulting companies where employees are constantly changing client locations, this case proves that employers must remain diligent about following these rules or face the possibility of severe DOL action.

Based on the economy and the general anti-immigrant climate facing the country right now, we expect these fines, audits, and civil/criminal actions against employers to increase in the coming years.

Compliance Assistance Available

If you are an employer who hires foreign H-1B professional workers and are unsure about the legal obligations you must follow, make sure to contact a qualified immigration attorney immediately or visit our website for a list of clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act. Among the many resources available are:

Human Resource Professional Resources

Educational immigration-related Videos & Podcasts

Immigration Web Links

Immigration Options: Immigration Through Employment

More detailed information may also be obtained by contacting the Office of Foreign Labor Certification or the Wage and Hour Division directly (1-866-4USWAGE/1-866-487-9243). Information on how to submit a petition requesting an H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 visa may be obtained from USCIS.

What's so crazy about immigration reform?

October 26th, 2010
posted by at 4:57 pm

By, Murali Bashyam, Esq.

Define insanity.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

So what does Einstein’s definition of insanity have to do with immigration?

In an immigration-related article Atlanta Immigration Examiner, Inger Eberhart, in all of her infinite immigration wisdom, tries to make the point that a recent Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill (CIR)(HR 4321) introduced in the House of Representatives is exactly like Ronald Reagan’s ‘failed’ 1986 amnesty, and therefore the push for immigration reform is insane.

1986 Amnesty

In 1986, amnesty was granted to approximately 2.7 million illegal aliens.  By 1997, the illegal alien population increased to over 5 million according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

She says:

Today, there are 12-20 million illegal aliens in the US.  Clearly, Amnesty 2010 (or today’s term, Comprehensive Immigration Reform) does not stop illegal immigration, it only increases it.

The difference between 1986 and 2010 Comprehensive Immigration Reform

None of the CIR bills introduced in Congress resemble Reagan’s 1986 amnesty.  What Reagan did was a true amnesty – he granted something very close to Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card”) status to illegal aliens who met certain requirements.  These CIR bills do not grant automatic ‘green card’ status to anyone.  Instead, they create a separate immigration status for illegal aliens who qualify.  After that, these aliens will have to go through the long and cumbersome “green card” process just like any other immigrant who wants to live in the United States.

The author of the immigration article referred to earlier, indirectly blames the 1986 amnesty for the increased numbers of illegal aliens in the United States.  She also says that CIR will not stop illegal immigration.

The amnesty in 1986 did not singularly play a role in increasing illegal immigration.  There are many factors that contribute to illegal immigration, including enforcement, country conditions and the big one – ECONOMY.

As our country currently experiences what some say is the worst recession since the Great Depression, fewer illegal immigrants are coming to the U.S. and, in fact, more are going home.

CIR should not be confused with stopping illegal immigration.  Stopping illegal immigration is related to enforcement.  We can build the Great Wall of China across our southern border and basically shut down illegal immigration from Mexico, but that does not impact the illegal immigrants who are already in the U.S.

Call us crazy, but we will continue to do what we can to help immigrants achieve the American dream day in and day out, because they have families, jobs and they contribute to our economy.  Many are young children who have grown up here and call America home.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform directly affects all of them.  It affects all of us. We don’t think that is insane.

Einstein Insanity Quote

Einstein's Definition of Insanity

Response to LinkedIn Question related to Illegal Immigration

October 13th, 2010
posted by at 4:03 pm

I recently saw this immigration question posed on a LinkedIn page:

Linked In Immigration Question

My thoughts

1. We should not allow illegal immigration. We do need to do something about the illegal immigrants who are already here.   Deporting all of them is not the right answer!  We need smart and fair Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

2. Our ‘means and programs’ that allow for legal immigration are outdated and terrible.

Here are a few examples of why the current immigration system doesn’t work:

  • If a U.S. company wants to sponsor a foreign professional worker for permanent residency (“green card”), the process could take between 7-15 years.  In today’s global economy, what professional worker is going to wait that long when countries such as Chile, India, China, Russia and others are providing great incentives for people to come and work there?  How will U.S. companies compete in the long-term with companies overseas who are able to attract the best talent?
  • The U.S. has one of the best education systems in the world.  But when a foreign student comes to the U.S. and earns his/her Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD, there is no easy mechanism for them to stay here.  Most want to remain in the U.S., work and contribute to our country, but many are leaving because our immigration system doesn’t work out for them.  Why would the U.S. educate these people and then allow them to use their skills elsewhere?
  • Until very recently, it would take a U.S. permanent resident between 4-6 years to sponsor his/her spouse for permanent residency.  Given that being a U.S. permanent resident or “green card” holder is one step below U.S. citizenship, why should he/she be separated from their spouse for that long?  Similarly, why should it take over 5 years for a U.S. citizen to sponsor his/her over 21 children?
  • Why isn’t India included in the E-2 investor program?  Even business investors from Pakistan and Bangladesh can invest money in the U.S., create a business and jobs and get an E-2 investor visa.  However, investors from India, a country that is a friend of the United States and has one of the most booming economies in the world, cannot.
  • Why isn’t there a lawful program that allows companies that need unskilled labor to obtain it from outside the U.S. if they cannot find adequate U.S. workers to do the job?

What can the U.S. do to address the illegal immigration problem?

We could start by doing something about the illegal immigrants who are here, as well as completely reform our legal immigration system to keep up with today’s global economy.

These are  important issues that should be addressed separately, however.  Continuously linking them together will hamper our efforts to reform any of them.

Continuing the Immigration Dialogue

We recently hosted a Webinar on the current state of immigration and how a change like the SKIL Bill could be a welcome change.

Check it out and tell us what you think: http://www.slideshare.net/mbashyam/webinar-dialogue-on-the-skil-bill

Blog Article By: Murali Bashyam, Esq.

Why 2K?

August 10th, 2010
posted by at 6:27 pm

 

The United States Senate, in a largely bi-partisan vote, passed a bill on August 5, 2010 which, among other things, would impose an additional $2000 filing fee for companies that file H-1B applications on behalf of foreign professional workers.  This filing fee is in addition to the normal H-1B filing fee of $2320 or $1570, depending on the size of the company’s workforce. 

If you run a company and hire H-1B professional workers, is it time to panic? Not yet.

The Senate bill is not law.  It still has to be reconciled with the House bill (HR 6080), which passed on August 10, 2010.   The House bill also contains the H-1B fee increase and will be voted on by the Senate after the August recess.   The key question is why the Senate and House are proposing this fee increase on employers in a weak economy?

Illegal immigration is a hot topic right now.  In fact, it has been for years.  You cannot turn on the television without hearing a sound-bite on immigration from politicians who really do not understand the topic.  For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D), a sponsor of the Senate bill, says the following:

“There is a part of H-1B that is abused, and it is by companies that are not American companies or even companies that are making something. Rather, they are companies that take foreign folks, bring them here, and then they stay here for a few years, learn their expertise, and go back. We think we should increase the fees when they do that,” the Senator said.

In summary, Sen. Schumer is basically saying:

  • There is abuse in the H-1B program, but none by American companies or companies that ‘make something.’
  • Companies hire foreign workers and the workers learn their ‘expertise’ in the U.S.
  • Foreign workers in the H-1B program stay a few years and then go back to their home countries.

Other than acknowledging that there is some abuse in the H-1B program, every other point or assumption made by Sen. Schumer is completely false. 

  • Only an ‘American’ company can hire an H1B worker! The H1B program is strictly for American employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis. And even though a company may not ‘make something’, it does not mean they are irrelevant or insignificant.
  • Foreign workers do not come to the US to learn their expertise. They must have it before they can be issued H1B status!  In fact, they must be offered a professional position – one that requires at least a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent).  And they must prove, with an evaluation by a US credentials agency, that they have the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree specifically related to the position offered.  Most of these workers have many years of professional experience as well before they come to the U.S.
  • The H1B program is designed to be temporary. Foreign workers are supposed to go home after six years! If we wanted them to stay, we wouldn’t make the Permanent Residency process so difficult and time-consuming.

Foreign workers come to the U.S., earn money and contribute to our economy through consumption and taxation.  Many apply for permanent residency so they can live in the U.S. , but many also  return home for family reasons (or because the U.S. residency process takes far too long).  Studies have established that many of the immigrant workers who remain in the U.S. are entrepreneurs who start businesses and employ U.S. workers.  Sen. Schumer fails to acknowledge the contributions foreign professional workers make to the United States economy and culture.

We believe that most people in the U.S. are pro-immigrant.  In fact, polls have proven as much.  But they are for legal immigration and understandably against illegal immigration.   By increasing H-1B filing fees on U.S. employers, the Senate goal is to raise more revenue to hire 1500 additional border patrol agents to patrol our southern border.  In essence, our government wants to penalize companies that hire legal foreign workers under the H-1B program to help prevent illegal immigration.  Why should illegal immigration negatively impact a U.S. company that legally hires a foreign professional worker?  It should not. These two issues are –  and should be – separate.   

Our only hope is that any bill that will eventually be signed by President Obama does not contain this H-1B fee increase on employers.  Penalizing law-abiding employers in a down economy is not good for our country.  As Mohandas Pai, Director of Human Resources for Infosys, said in reaction to the Senate bill, “it sends a very negative message from America that highly skilled people are not welcome, the markets are closing up.”  Instead of a being what is the backbone of this great country, immigration now seems to be unnecessarily negative and divisive issue. 

Let’s hope for real, positive change in our immigration policies, not just talk of it.

Trail of Dreams, Stops in Raleigh

April 21st, 2010
posted by at 2:11 pm

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of inspirational immigrant students who made a stop in North Carolina on their 1,500 mile trip from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C. by foot as part of the “Trail of Dreams” initiative to demand just and smart immigration reform.  The event was sponsored by UnitingNC (www.unitingnc.org), an organization with a mission to foster rational dialogue between immigrants and others in the community.

North Carolina, like other southern states, has seen a significant increase in deportations, workplace raids, and barriers to higher education for immigrant students. Furthermore, Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the Federal Government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration law enforcement functions, has created fear amongst aliens who lack a valid immigration status.  This often causes illegal aliens to fail to report crimes to local law enforcement for fear of deportation.

These students spoke openly and candidly to me, public safety representatives and others interested community members about the challenges that these students and the 12 million undocumented aliens in the United States face each day and the hope that they have for the future.  These students, some of whom are undocumented, are no different than any of us.  They are good, hard-working, and kind people.  The only difference is a status based on law.  In the history of our great country, there have been bad laws related to women’s voting rights and segregation, to name a few, and those laws have been changed.  Gaby, one of the students, pointed out that we need to do the same thing with our immigration laws.

During their visit they showed an inspirational video that I feel is certainly worth sharing:

For more information and biographies on the Dream Walkers visit: www.trail2010.org

Pledge for March for America

March 22nd, 2010
posted by at 3:55 pm

On Sunday, thousands of diverse groups from across the nation marched on the National Mall in Washington D.C., peacefully, calling for immigration reform. 

During the past few weeks, various ethnic and advocacy groups across the U.S. have promoted fundraising efforts to help people get to Washington, D.C., for the immigration reform rally.

A similar call for action happened right here in North Carolina, where the state’s Spanish-language media network, Que Pasa, called for the public’s support through their radio airwaves to sponsor additional buses, food and water for community members wishing to take the ride up to D.C. for Sunday’s march.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the area known as the “research triangle” is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country, with a growth rate of 4.3 in 2008. And, part of the growth is due to immigrants choosing this area to settle down: almost 35 percent of immigrants in North Carolina came to the United States after the year 2000. 

Ethnic media outlets, like Que Pasa, have been keeping a watchful eye on the changes in North Carolina’s immigration issues, which have become an important topic for the Hispanic community in light of the state’s clamp down on undocumented immigrants. 

Que Pasa newspaper’s print and online editions run the “Buzon del Inmigrante” -The Immigrant’s Mailbox – where readers can write in with immigration-related questions.

We recently built a partnership with the Spanish-language news network to provide immigration education and information to the state’s Hispanic community, so when I received a call from Que Pasa’s account executive, Josie Aronson, requesting Bashyam Spiro’s pledge of support for Sunday’s march, I knew that we would want to contribute our own “granito de sal” (grain of salt). Our managing partner, Murali Bashaym immediately agreed to pledge to the cause.

The media company had personally sponsored 6 buses. But with the support of local businesses, like us, and individuals in the community, they were able to add 6 additional buses to their caravan to the nation’s Capitol in just 24 hours!

Our firm was unable to attend the historical event at Washington’s National Mall, but as an immigration law firm we know that the topic of immigration is widely misunderstood in America, which causes unnecessary conflict where none should exist.

I worked as immigration caseworker for a U.S. Congressman several years ago and have since had an interest the immigration system and learned just how much it is in need of a “face lift.” While I did not go through the immigration system, I grew up in Puerto Rico and my grandparents came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, Italy and the U.K.

Our managing partner, Murali Bashyam, has been an immigration lawyer for over 14 years, and represents many immigrants in North Carolina and across the United States.  He too is an immigrant.  His parents are from India and he was born in Canada.  He is passionate about the topic of immigration for many reasons, one of which has to do with the wonderful people we meet through our work. 

That’s why we are committed to supporting events like yesterday’s march, as well as, initiating conversations through the media and within the community that will hopefully result in mutual understanding among immigrants, U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.