Posts Tagged ‘immigration news’

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.

Here We Go Again on Immigration Reform?

February 15th, 2011
posted by at 1:56 pm

A few weeks ago, we posted an article on our Facebook page that said Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham are testing ‘political will’ on a possible push for comprehensive immigration reform.   Of course, we were immediately skeptical.  If immigration reform didn’t happen when Democrats had a supermajority in Congress, can it really happen during an election cycle over the next two years?

Summing up the argument on both sides of the debate, Ray Suarez writes the following in an article in the Huffington Post:

The symbolic argument is strong and holds tremendous appeal for millions of Americans. It goes something like, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” People who did not follow the law, gain proper documents, and enter the American job market with the permission of the immigration authorities, goes the argument, should get no consideration at all from the system. Those people are right. The eleven million or so illegal residents in the country have no legal claim to long term legal residence in the United States.

But hold on a minute… the other side quickly pipes in, “What part of collapsing industries don’t you understand?” Immigrant labor is the pillar upon which many industries leans. Immigrant labor creates profits that spin out into real estate markets, department stores, auto dealerships, and keep the country’s food the cheapest in the developed world. In the near term, it’s interesting to speculate on whether sending the 11 million home would reduce the unemployment rate among native-born citizens, or explode it. The effects would no longer be confined to the Northeast, Border Southwest and the West Coast. Wait until you see the Census figures from all kinds of places that never thought of themselves as Latino kind of places.

It would be in the best interests of both political parties, and our country, to put differences aside and pass a fair immigration reform bill that balances enforcement with our country’s immigration needs.  But in an election cycle, political will is likely to be absent on this issue, and as Mr. Suarez correctly points out – it’s complicated.

Take a Survey and Rate Our Website!

February 13th, 2011
posted by at 4:13 pm

Rate Bashyam Spiro's Website

Our website has been a premier source of the latest immigration news, procedures and information for well-over a decade.  In an effort to help you, we are redesigning our site to help you access this immigration information in a more efficient manner.   As the redesign process moves forward, we want to hear from you! Please take the time to complete this simple survey.  You can tell us what you like or dislike about our current website, and provide suggestions on how we can make our website better. It’s through your input that we can best help our clients and other interested parties stay abreast of the latest immigration news, visa options and immigration procedures.

Beauty Without Borders

September 3rd, 2010
posted by at 6:55 pm

Working in an immigration law office one comes to appreciate multiculturalism and better understand how and why top talent from abroad would strive for temporary and permanent transfers to the United States.

So, last week, as I watched 83 representatives from across the globe compete for the Miss Universe title, I wondered how the competition fared on the global stage. Were any of our clients watching along with me? Pageants take place all over the world and, surely, draw audiences internationally.

One thing I do know is that whether one is watching the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico or Pennsylvania, one thing remains the same; that audience is watching because in some way they identify with the region, values, language and culture that those delegates represent.

I’m of Hispanic descent and like many Latin American women have followed beauty pageants my whole life. It’s part of our culture. Every little town or “barrio” across Latin America elects some sort of queen or princess as an ambassador. A representative of the beauty of that region.

Sure a pageant is a “beauty contest” which takes physical appearance into consideration when awarding the winner with the crown and title, but that’s watering it down just a bit.

Candidates go through meticulous physical and mental training exercises, raise money, define campaign goals, civic engagement platforms. If the delegate is “elected” she (or he, remember California’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a beauty, um, king), is given a voice to speak for publicly and the opportunity to evoke passionate interests and involvement in social and political issues.

Just as our town, state and federal representatives are typically elected because they reflect their constituents, pageant contestants are representatives of their communities and selected because they embody the people that they represent feel that they reflect their best selves, whether that be their values, culture, their appearance, or their commitment to the community that they represent. All the while maintaining an enviable appearance and regal posture.

Sure, just like some politicians and other people of power, we get a few lemons in the bunch here and there. Unfortunately, those seem to be the ones who get most of the attention. Every once in awhile, however, a leader comes along with a platform that inspires us and makes us proud.

Since Miss Mexico, Jimena Navarrete, took the Miss Universe crown in Las Vegas last week I have been following her press coverage. She quickly made it clear what she plans to promote as the world’s newest Miss Universe – her home country of Mexico. “I want the whole world to know about my country and my people,” the Guadalajara native said.

People are paying attention, perhaps because Mexico is center stage in the news these days; immigration, drug cartels, 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence this month (No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day).

Whatever the reason, it makes me happy and proud that a fellow Latina is setting out to do what I believe the Miss Universe pageant truly intends to do. Use the international title and platform to bring awareness to the rest of the world. Miss Universe is a beauty pageant that celebrates the cultural diversity that makes up the world. It isn’t about who feel in her 4 ½ inch heels on stage this year.

“Her triumph is a source of pride and satisfaction for all Mexicans, who see in her the fruits of perseverance,” Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a statement. Calderon said on Twitter that her victory would help Mexico’s image as a country.

After the pageant, she answered questions about Arizona’s recent immigration law.

“Every country has the right to impose and enact their laws,” she said, wearing her new sash and sparkling tiara. “But I tell you that all the Mexicans and the Latins that are living here in the United States are hardworking people – people who want to improve on their quality of life.”

Each year, these contestants and their families navigate the U.S. Immigration system in order to represent their region each year.

Miss Thailand Fonthip Watcharatrakul won Miss Photogenic Universe and a second award for having the best national costume. First runner-up was Miss Jamaica Yendi Phillipps, while second runner-up was Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell. Fakih who represented the U.S. in the pageant, a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant from Dearborn, Mich., spurred celebrations among Arab-Americans when she won Miss USA.

Last year, Stefania Fernandez, Miss Universe 2009, was approved for a green card based on her extraordinary ability and global philanthropic efforts. Fernandez is now proudly on her way to U.S. citizenship.

This is not the first nor will it be the last time that immigration and the beauty industry collide, I’m just glad to know that platforms still exist for others to send a representative, an ambassador, to the U.S. to demonstrate the culture, beauty, diligence, and humanity, which is sometimes hard for many in America to appreciate.

You Can Never Outgrow Your Need For Purpose

August 13th, 2010
posted by at 4:47 pm

As you get older, it sometimes seems that there are fewer things to learn. No more school. You know your job like the back of your hand. You play the same games on the computer.

Well, I recently had an opportunity that taught me much about life outside the United States. And it opened my eyes to the reality that there is SO much I still don’t know.

Murali and I recently returned from a trip to Kenya. Besides the safari – which was absolutely fantastic – we spent some time visiting with people involved in projects we’ve partnered with as part of the non-profit that we built, Friends Unite.

We went to Kibera, outside Nairobi, which is one of the largest slums in the world. There we met with officials from Carolina for Kibera. This UNC Global initiative, is a non-profit organization that has set an exemplary model for how just a few people can create astounding change for those in need.

They showed us some of their youth programs, and then took us to the medical center they started. It has since been taken over somewhat by a larger non-profit, but that is exactly what we’d like to do – start programs that are so successful they become self-sustaining. The building itself is a clean, sturdy, shining beacon in the midst of overwhelming poverty. The people, dedicated professionals with optimism beyond compare.

We also drove out to Kilisa, a small village a few hours east of Nairobi (in the US, it wouldn’t have taken a few hours, but we’ll talk about Kenyan highways some other time!) to meet with the Kilisa Village Development Community (“KVDC”). What they’ve accomplished already, and what they’ve planned for the future, is remarkable. With so few resources, they’ve managed to redirect their path from one of stagnant poverty which would be expected in an area like this. Instead, they are now on one with the potential for education, enterprise, and sustainable growth.

So what did I learn? Sometimes community-based change does not have to take a government, or years of political negotiating. Water can be found and harnessed from underneath a dry riverbed. A school full of children with a desire to learn does not need a playground, projectors, or even many books. And…. we are very lucky to live in a country with natural resources that allow us to concentrate on more than just survival.

Check out the video of our trip to a school in Kilisa, that our colleague Jessica Coscia produced.

Asante sana!

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.

Bashyam Spiro LLP Delivers Informative Immigration Content By Launching Online Multimedia Library

August 6th, 2010
posted by at 6:04 pm

As industry leaders in Immigration and Nationality Law, we aim to provide you with accurate and timely information on immigration trends, news and issues as well as answering long-asked questions about the immigration process.

Since the spring, the firm’s attorneys, Murali Bashyam and Ame Coats, have been hosting a series of interactive Webinars to answer common immigration law questions and address topics from the basic immigration process to immigration news and legislation.

With the growing demand for multimedia content such as podcasts and video, we recently created a Media Library page on our website which houses all of our past Webinars, Podcasts, “Immigration Minute” series video and client testimonials.

Bashyam Spiro LLP - Media Library

To see what’s coming up in our Webinar series or for the latest immigration news visit our news page.