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Articles Posted in American Politics

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Last week, the Senate held a hearing scrutinizing the temporary H-1B skilled worker program, the second hearing of its kind within just one year. At issue was the protection of American jobs and dissatisfaction with the program among conservatives in the Senate, who believe the program has caused job displacement at the expense of thousands of Americans. Beyond their own political convictions, Republican Senators eyeing the White House, have also scrutinized the H-1B visa program, in order to appease voters who, maintain a hard line stance on immigration.

During the hearing, the Senate Judiciary panel considered testimony questioning the integrity of the H-1B visa program. Many witnesses accused their employers of violating the conditions of the program, alleging that their employers sought to replace American workers with foreign workers by utilizing the H-1B visa program to pay those workers lower wages. This accusation is troublesome for various reasons. Firstly, it is well known that the H-1B visa program requires an employer to hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation only when the employer cannot obtain the necessary skills and abilities to perform the specialty occupation within the American workforce. H-1B workers must possess distinguished merit and ability, and demonstrate their qualifications through the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, in the intended field of employment. Secondly, the H-1B visa program contains provisions which are specifically designed to protect similarly employed American workers from any adverse affects suffered from the employment of temporary foreign workers. Consequently, there are also provisions which aim to protect H-1B nonimmigrant workers from H-1B violations. One of those provisions includes the requirement that American employers pay temporary H-1B workers at least the ‘prevailing wage,’ the average wage paid to similarly employed workers (experience and qualifications) in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. This would mean that any employer seeking to use the H-1B visa program for the purposes of obtaining ‘cheap foreign labor’ or to replace American workers would be violating the conditions of the H-1B visa program altogether.

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“He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When news broke of the passing of the longest serving Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, a cloud of uncertainty lifted above the heads of Republican frontrunners vying for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Indeed, the topic of conversation during the February 13th Republican Presidential Debate, which occurred on the day of Justice Scalia’s passing, focused on whether or not the current President should nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. Justice Antonin Scalia, nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was the most outspoken conservative on the bench, and not very well liked by liberal politicians and intellectuals, primarily due to the philosophy behind his jurisprudence. Scalia’s jurisprudence during his 29 years on the bench belonged to the Originalist school of thought. An Originalist’s interpretation of the Constitution denies the contention that the Constitution should be interpreted by the Court as a living, breathing document, a view that is typically shared by liberal Constructivist Justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead, Originalists believe that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent or meaning shared by the founders as it was written. This would require an Originalist to adhere to the spirit of the law as it was intended by the founders of our country, as well as an understanding of what was meant when the Constitution was originally drafted.

During his time on the bench, Scalia tenaciously criticized the liberal Constructivist view, calling this interpretation of the Constitution, judicial activism, which he viewed as inappropriate. In his view the Supreme Court must be insulated and not be swayed by the social concerns of the public. Throughout his trajectory, Scalia has gone down in history for handing down the most controversial dissents in the history of the Supreme Court, avidly supporting the right to bear arms, challenging the right to abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and was ultimately instrumental in securing the Presidential nomination of George W. Bush in the 2000 case Bush V. Gore. Up until his untimely death, the Supreme Court held a conservative majority. The conservatives on the bench include Chief Justice, John G. Roberts Jr. nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, Justice Clarence Thomas nominated by President George W. Bush in 1991, Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative swing vote nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and up until recently Antonin Scalia nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Together, these conservative Justices established a 5-4 majority against liberal Justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and recently appointed Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death has now upset the conservative majority, creating a balance of power between conservative and liberal minds on the bench. With the death of Scalia, the bench is now evenly split ideologically 4-4 with a vacant seat ready to be filled by a liberal Justice, thereby creating a Liberal majority. This of course will not be easy, since the Senate is dominated by the Republican party, and the Senate will be in charge of vetting the President’s nominee.

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The Supreme Court justices are currently in deliberations, to decide the fate of Barack Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) announced November 2014, as part of the President’s executive actions on immigration. At issue is whether or not the Court will hear arguments for and against lifting the temporary court injunction, which prevented the expanded DACA program and the new DAPA program from moving forward as initially anticipated.

The extended DACA and DAPA provisions were scheduled to go into effect on February 18, 2015, but were quickly blocked by a temporary injunction filed by Texas and 26 other states, just three days before applications for extended DACA and DAPA would have been accepted by USCIS. What has resulted has been a near two-year legal battle between the federal government and the states in question.

Timeline of legal action between the federal government and plaintiffs:

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Earlier this week, in a 407-19 vote the House of Representatives successfully passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, a bill that seeks to increase restrictions for travelers coming to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, a program which currently allows citizens from 38 designated countries to travel to the United States without a visa. In order to become law the bill must also pass through the Senate. The bill was introduced following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation, in which he confronted the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

In his address, President Obama pledged to work closely with the Department of State and Homeland Security to revise the visa waiver program, under which one of the San Bernardino assailants traveled to the United States. The Problem? The President misspoke—the assailant traveled to the United States with a K-1 fiancé visa and not through the visa waiver program. Instead Obama meant to say that he would work with the DOS and DHS to revise the visa program in general. In light of this innocent mistake, the House continued its support to tighten the visa waiver program, despite the fact that no evidence has been presented suggesting that terrorists and/or their radicalized accomplices have traveled to the United States using this program. This would mean that the government is concerned that terrorists, disguised as refugees, may travel from Syria and surrounding countries, into Europe and in the process acquire European citizenship making it easy for them to travel to the United States through the visa waiver program. The government may also be concerned that ISIL is radicalizing and recruiting European citizens of middle eastern descent to their cause.

As it stands there are no middle eastern countries participating in the visa waiver program. The majority of the countries eligible to participate are from Western Europe with few exceptions including Chile, Taiwan, Australia etc. Individuals who have applied for a United States visa but have been denied, are not eligible to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, even if their country participates in the program. Such individuals must apply for the appropriate visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad in order to travel to the United States. Critics allege that as a result of such legislation, consular officials and CBP agents will inevitably profile visa waiver travelers.

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Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani citizen, and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, a naturalized United States Citizen, are known globally as the couple behind the San Bernardino shootings, which took the lives of 14 people and left 21 injured. Twenty-eight-year-old Syed Farook was identified as an environmental health services inspector employed by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He was attending a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center where he worked. Reports confirm that a dispute occurred between Syed and an attendee of the party causing Syed to leave the party. He later returned with his wife Tashfeen dressed in tactical gear carrying assault weapons and semi-automatic pistols. Days after the attack, it became known that the assault was inspired but not directed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the terrorist group which claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks that occurred in Paris just last month. Through a radio message disbursed online, ISIL confirmed that the duo were indeed supporters of the group praising them for their efforts, but stopping short of taking credit for the attack. The FBI has since confirmed that the couple had been ‘radicalized’ for some time before the actual attack took place, though it is not clear how the couple became radicalized, how they rehearsed the attack, and whether the couple maintained ties to any other terrorist organizations. It is known that Syed and his wife Tashfeen had visited gun ranges in the Los Angeles area for target practice just days before the December 2nd assault at the Inland Regional Center, a social services facility located in San Bernardino, California where Syed was employed.

Investigations have revealed that Syed and Tashfeen met one another on a Muslim dating site a couple of years ago. The relationship flourished, and eventually Tashfeen Malik obtained and entered the United States legally on a K-1 fiancé visa. Last year, Tashfeen became a United States lawful permanent resident through her marriage to Syed, a naturalized citizen. In response to the recent terror attacks around the world and the Syrian refugee crisis, President Obama delivered a rare address to the nation from the Oval Office yesterday evening declaring the San Bernardino massacre an “act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”

In his address, President Obama outlined his administration’s four-tier strategy to defeat ISIL and discussed necessary measures that must be taken by Congress to bring about legislation that will protect our country from extremism and combat the war on terror. Such measures include the following:

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Yesterday, December 2, 2015 the state of Texas brought suit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), before the United States District Court in Texas Health and Human Services Commission V. United States et al., 12/2/15. In its suit, the state of Texas claims that the federal government and the IRC acted unlawfully in their attempt to resettle Syrian refugees without prior consultation and direct cooperation with the state of Texas, as required by federal law. The lawsuit was brought by the Texas Health and Services Commission (THSC) representing the interests of the state of Texas in court. The THSC is an agency responsible for the administration and development of the refugee resettlement program in Texas. The state of Texas discovered in a phone call with the IRC that the Committee intended on resettling 6 Syrian refugees in Dallas, Texas on December 4, 2015 without consent. On December 1, 2015 Texas addressed the Committee in a letter requesting a halt to the resettlement of Syrian refugees until the state would receive security assurances and discuss proper screening procedures for said refugees. The IRC responded on December 2nd that it would continue the resettlement process as planned resettling the refugees in Texas.

Refugee Resettlement Program

Texas administers the refugee resettlement program along with the assistance of local government agencies responsible for the financial costs associated with the refugee’s resettlement and transition to the state of Texas.  In order to accomplish its endeavors, all federal and state agencies must adhere to strict framework’s established by the Refugee Act of 1980, which require collaborative and cooperative efforts between all entities involved in the process of refugee resettlement. According to Texas, “instead of adhering to that statutory framework, the federal government and the Committee have left Texas uninformed about refugees that could well pose a security risk to Texans and without any say in the process of resettling these refugees.”

Arguments for the state of Texas

In its suit, Texas aims to re-assert its sovereignty and obligation to protect the safety of its residents. Texas claims that the government’s failure to adhere by the law has raised legitimate security concerns involving potential complicity between refugees and terrorists.

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Yesterday night, in a 2-1 vote the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the lower court’s decision in Texas v. United States blocking President Obama’s extended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs from going into effect.

The expanded DACA and new DAPA provisions were announced November of last year as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration giving eligible undocumented individuals a legal status in the United States. The expanded DACA program would have made millions of law abiding undocumented aliens (with no criminal history) eligible for employment authorization and social security benefits. To qualify, expanded DACA applicants would need to provide documented evidence proving their continuous physical presence in the United States from January 1, 2010 onward. In exchange, the United States government would recognize these individuals as law abiding residents and safeguard them against deportation. The move was significant since it would mean that undocumented individuals would no longer need to live on the fringes of society. By granting these individuals an immigration classification, insurance companies would become accessible to them for the first time ever.

Similarly, Obama’s DAPA program would have extended eligibility of deferred action to parents of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents born or or before November 20, 2014 the date of the DAPA program’s announcement. As part of the application process, DAPA applicants would be required to undergo extensive background checks and prove continuous residence since January 1, 2010 among other provisions. Click here for more information on DAPA.

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On Monday the Senate will be voting on a short-term spending bill introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran. If passed, the bill will temporarily fund the government through December 11th of this year. If the bill is not passed, the country will face a government shutdown beginning on October 1, 2015. The temporary funding bill called a continuing appropriations resolution will be required to keep government agencies afloat for the remainder of the year. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been at odds with one another since the Planned Parenthood scandal was brought to light. The non-profit organization’s involvement in the practice of procuring tissues from aborted fetuses for the purpose of medical research has been deeply contested by Republicans, who believe Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal funding. Due to this impasse, no resolution bill has yet been agreed upon.

Repercussions on Immigration: LCA’s and PERM applications

A government shutdown would mean that various government agencies may not be operating at full capacity. Due to this we urge our clients to file urgent Labor Condition Applications or PERM applications prior to October 1, 2015. While the shutdown will have an effect on the economy, families, and business throughout the country, entities not affected by the government shutdown include USCIS, the military, airport security, FBI, Border Patrol, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, among others.

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