Articles Posted in Comprehensive Immigration Reform

37047550995_996d754972_zGiven the recent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the controversy surrounding the immigration system as of late, in this post we address the numerous myths surrounding the DACA program and of immigration law in general. Although there are numerous studies and empirical research debunking the common myths attributed to the immigration system, as well as detailed economic reports published by governmental agencies corroborating the positive effects of immigration, Americans continue to hold a negative perception of immigrants and are increasingly skeptical of the immigration process. In truth, much of these perceptions are perpetuated by the unwillingness of Americans to obtain readily available information on the internet, to discover that the immigration process for individuals who entered the United States illegally is riddled with obstacles. More and more we are seeing Americans rely on news stations to accurately deliver the news and do the work for them. Unfortunately, the best way to understand the immigration process itself is to go straight to the source, and not rely on such sources for information.

The public needs to know the facts to better understand that the average immigrant actually has very few immigration options available to them under the current immigration system.

MYTH #1 It is easy to get a green card under current immigration laws

Most Americans believe that it is relatively easy to get a green card. This cannot be further from the truth. Immigration laws are highly complex and are designed to make it more difficult for extended family members, low-skilled workers, and undocumented immigrants to immigrate to the United States. Under current immigration laws, there are generally only two ways to immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, outside of special immigrant categories specifically reserved for special categories of individuals including: asylees, refugees, certain witnesses of crimes, victims of abuse, and individuals who may qualify for withholding of removal. It is extremely difficult for individuals to qualify for permanent residency under one of these special categories.

Outside of these special categories, foreign nationals may immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, only if they have a qualifying family member (such as a US Citizen or LPR spouse, child, etc.) who may petition for them or if the beneficiary works for a U.S. employer on a valid visa who is willing to sponsor the foreign national by petitioning for their permanent residency.

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On August 02, 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a new Act called “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” before the U.S. Senate, otherwise known as the RAISE Act, which is a new piece of legislation that has recently been backed by President Trump.

The RAISE Act aims to overhaul the employment-based immigration system and replace it with a skills-based system that awards points to immigrants based on the immigrant’s level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, future job salary, level of investment, and professional achievements. In addition, the RAISE Act would terminate the Diversity Visa Program, which awards 50,000 visas to foreign nationals from qualifying countries, and would ultimately reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed admission to the United States. The Act intends to focus on the family-based immigration of spouses and minor children and would reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Among other things the RAISE Act would:

  • Terminate the Diversity Visa Program which awards 50,000 green cards to immigrants from qualifying countries;
  • Slash the annual distribution of green cards to just over 500,000 (a change from the current issuance of over 1 million green cards annually);
  • Employment-based green cards would be awarded according to a skill-based points system that ranks applicants according to their level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, salary, level of investment, and achievements (see below);
  • The issuance of employment-based green cards would be capped at 140,000 annually;
  • Limit the maximum number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000;
  • Limit admission of asylees. The number of asylees admitted to the United States on any given year would be set by the President on an annual basis;
  • Amend the definition of “Immediate Relative” to an individual who is younger than 18 years of age instead of an individual who is younger than 21 years of age;
  • Adult children and extended family members of individuals living in the United States would no longer be prioritized to receive permanent residence. Instead the focus would remain on the immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents such as spouses and children under the age of 18;
  • The Act would allow sick parents of U.S. Citizens to be allowed to enter the United States on a renewable five-year visa, provided the U.S. Citizen would be financially responsible for the sick parent.

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On May 7, 2017 Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed the controversial “Texas Senate Bill 4” into law which will take effect on September 1st. Among its major provisions, the bill outlaws the establishment of “sanctuary cities” which serve as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, requires local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by holding undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and permits local law enforcement officials to question individuals regarding their immigration status in the United States. In September, the bill will be enforced by officers throughout the state of Texas including by police officers on college campuses. The bill, however, will not apply to officers contracted by religious groups, schools, government mental health care facilities, and hospitals.

More specifically SB4:

  • Blocks local entities from passing laws and/or adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement officials from inquiring about a person’s immigration status
  • The law makes it a crime for sheriffs, constables, police chiefs, and local leaders to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities (Class A misdemeanor)
  • Imposes sanctions on law enforcement officials and local jurisdictions that do not comply with the law
  • Cities who fail to comply with the law may face fines of up to $25,000 per day, and the police chiefs, sheriffs, or mayors of noncompliant jurisdictions may be charged criminally and/or removed from office
  • Allows police officers to question anyone they believe to be residing in the United States unlawfully about their immigration status, including at routine traffic stops

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8358967030_aef1cd0812_zThe Trump administration is quickly mobilizing resources to facilitate the massive deportation of undocumented persons living and working in the United States, and to secure the U.S. border.

A new 90-day progress report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security outlines how the agency is planning on implementing the provisions of the Executive Order 13767 entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” signed by President Trump earlier this year. Although the progress report is only a preliminary assessment of how the agency will enforce the executive order, the report reflects what immigration enforcement might look like in the near future.

Securing the border: Regarding border security, the progress report outlines that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is taking immediate action to plan, design, and construct a physical wall on the southern border between the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the report states that CBP is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct prototypes to expand the southern border, and has submitted a request for funding from Congress for $20 million.

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On June 23, 2016 the United States Supreme Court made headlines when it affirmed a federal court’s decision in United States v. Texas, preventing the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. An eight-person bench delivered a single one-line decision on the ruling stating, “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” This controversial decision ultimately resulted in the halt of the expansion of the DACA and DAPA programs, leaving these programs in legal limbo. The DACA and DAPA programs were first introduced by President Barack Obama two years ago, as part of a series of executive actions on immigration. With the passage of these programs, the Obama administration hoped that the Republican controlled House of Representatives would be persuaded to discuss the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. This effort proved fruitless. Republican Congressmen and women not only refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform, they politicized the issue of immigration altogether, blocking the President’s Supreme Court nomination following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in order to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming liberal. Together, these programs would have shielded nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation by giving them “deferred status,” and would have provided applicants with a temporary three-year employment authorization card. Although these measures proved short of an amnesty, they were made in response to Congress’s refusal to pass meaningful immigration reform for the undocumented population living in the United States.

The expansion of the DACA program would have increased the population eligible to apply for employment authorization to people of any current age, who had entered the United States before the age of 16, and who could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010. Similarly, the DAPA program would have shielded millions of parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents from deportation if they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010, and pass the required background checks.

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New Jersey’s 4th largest city, Elizabeth, is soon to become one of several municipalities in New Jersey to offer photo identification cards for the undocumented immigrant population, and other underserved members of the community such as homeless persons. On Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously to approve a city ordinance benefitting undocumented immigrants who do not have any form of photo identification. A second and final vote on the ordinance is expected next month. According to the U.S. Census nearly half of the residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey are foreign-born persons. Elizabeth is only one of many cities in New Jersey that has considered adopting a municipal identification card program. Recognizing that New Jersey is home to a large population of undocumented immigrants, various cities in New Jersey already have a municipal identity card program incorporating the undocumented immigrant population into society. New Haven, Newark, Roselle, Perth Amboy, Highland Park, Asbury Park, Trenton, and many other cities have adopted some form of municipal identification card.

The photo identification cards will provide basic information including the person’s name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. Only persons 14 years of age or older will be able to obtain these photo identification cards. Although these cards will not be a form of federal identification, and do not confer any type of immigration benefit, or employment authorization, having access to a photo identification is very important for the undocumented immigrant population for various reasons. First, it is nearly impossible to obtain certain benefits without a valid photo identification. For example, many undocumented immigrants are unable to open a bank account, access basic government services, enter government buildings, fill prescriptions, obtain medical care, enroll in adult courses, or receive state benefits they are entitled to, but cannot receive without presenting a valid photo ID. Second, this measure will be especially important for persons who cannot obtain a driver’s license, passport, or other government issued ID by any other means. Third, because many undocumented immigrants cannot open a bank account since they do not have a form of identification, undocumented persons are often targeted as walking ATMs because they carry large amounts of cash.

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Yesterday, October 19th the third and final Presidential debate took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the last opportunity Presidential candidates, Donald J. Trump, and Hillary R. Clinton, had to present their positions on various different issues, and make a final attempt to gain the support of undecided voters. The debate has left much to talk about, while many questions still remain unanswered. The moderator of the debate, Chris Wallace, of FOX news questioned the candidates on various different topics ranging from the Supreme Court nomination, economy, foreign policy, and more importantly the candidates’ positions on immigration reform.

On the subject of immigration, the moderator introduced his question on immigration by providing an overview of each candidate’s positions on immigration. Wallace discussed the fact that throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has staunchly advocated for mass deportations and the building of a more secure border, which he believes will successfully deter undocumented immigrants, criminals, and terrorists from entering the United States.

By contrast, Wallace highlighted the fact that Hillary Clinton has offered no specific plan on how she would secure our southern borders, where there is currently a massive influx of immigrants, specifically unaccompanied children from Central America, seeking refuge in the United States. Wallace reiterated Hillary Clinton’s commitment to offer a comprehensive immigration reform package within the first 100 days she is in office that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with proven ties to the United States.

Each candidate was asked to discuss why their immigration policy is the best, and why their opponent is wrong. Donald Trump was given the first opportunity to respond. Trump opened the conversation on immigration by taking the position that providing amnesty for undocumented immigrants would be a ‘disaster’ for various different reasons. First, he stated that it would be unfair for undocumented immigrants to be given a path to citizenship, while immigrants wishing to enter the United States legally, are forced to wait many years to obtain permanent residence. Second, he emphasized that securing our country’s borders is his number one priority. Trump bolstered his claim that strong borders are necessary, by referring to mothers he had met on the campaign trail, whose children were brutally killed by people he claims entered the country illegally. He also stated that for the first time ever he has been endorsed by 16,500 Border Patrol Agents, as well as ICE who share in his belief that our country needs strong borders. Third, Trump claims that strong borders are necessary to deter the thousands of people who are coming into the country illegally, and to prevent drugs from pouring into the United States. Lastly, he stated that the war on drugs is the biggest problem the United States is facing today, thus in his view this presents an even greater obligation to secure our borders. He blamed the Obama administration for its failure to deter illegal immigration, illicit drugs from coming into the United States, and for allowing criminals to enter the United States.

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In this segment, we bring you the latest immigration news. This month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a status report on border security in the Southwestern border region. In other news we provide you with an update on the Proposed International Entrepreneur Rule, and finally we would like to remind our readers to tune into the final Presidential Debate on October 18th.

Department of Homeland Security Releases Report on Border Security for the Southwestern Border Region

On October 17, 2016 the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, released a report on the state of border security in the Southwestern region of the United States for fiscal year 2016. The Secretary reported that the total apprehensions by border patrol on the southwestern border have increased, relative to the previous fiscal year. During fiscal year 2016 there were a total of 408,870 unlawful attempts to enter the United States border without inspection by a border patrol officer. Although the number of apprehensions during this fiscal year were higher than the previous year, the number of apprehensions in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 were much higher than fiscal year 2016.  Johnson also reported that illegal migration in this region has changed demographically. Today, there are fewer Mexican foreign nationals and adults attempting to cross the Southwestern border illegally. The problem now is that more families and unaccompanied children from Central America are making the dangerous trek from Central America to the United States, fleeing gang related violence, organized crime, and poverty. In 2014 for the first time in history, the number of Central Americans apprehended on the Southern border outnumbered Mexican nationals. The same phenomenon occurred during fiscal year 2016.

How is DHS dealing with the influx of undocumented immigrants from Central America?

DHS is struggling to deal with this humanitarian crisis. Thus far the United States has implemented an in-country referral program for foreign nationals of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The program gives certain immigrants the opportunity to apply for refugee protection in the United States. DHS has also expanded the categories of individuals that may be eligible for the Central American Minors program, although adults may only qualify for this program if they are accompanied by a qualified child. The Government of Costa Rica and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration have developed a protection transfer agreement to relocate unaccompanied children and their families to safer regions. DHS was given $750 million in Congressional funds this fiscal year to provide support and assistance to this vulnerable population of migrants. Johnson recognized that there is much work to be done to secure and border, while at the same time addressing the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

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3704180135_8cf17fa711_zA new settlement reached against the state of Texas will make it easier for undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens to obtain birth certificates for their American born children. In 2013, Nancy Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, gave birth to a baby girl in a Texas hospital, although she was unlawfully present in the United States. After the birth, she visited a Texas county office to obtain the child’s birth certificate. Much to her surprise her request was met with resistance when county officials notified her that without presentation of proper documents, she would not be able to obtain her child’s birth certificate proving the child’s U.S. Citizenship.

In response, Hernandez along with dozens of other immigrants, filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas alleging that the state was blocking them from obtaining their children’s birth certificates, a right that is protected by the Constitution. Texas officials had previously outlined specific documents that undocumented parents needed to present, in order to obtain their children’s birth certificates.

Last week, Texas settled the lawsuit promising that the state would expand the list of documents parents were required to present in order to obtain their children’s birth certificates. Under the settlement, Mexican immigrants will be able to present a Mexican voter identification card to obtain their children’s birth certificates. These voter identification cards can be obtained from Mexican consulates in the United States. Parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, will be able to present documents certified by their consulates in the United States.

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A recent working paper published by Harvard economist, William R. Kerr, and Wellesley economist, Sari Pekkala Kerr, is making waves on the subject of immigrant entrepreneurship. The study asks: just how important are foreign-born entrepreneurs to our economy? Are their contributions truly significant?

The study’s abstract reads as follows:

We examine immigrant entrepreneurship and the survival and growth of immigrant-founded businesses over time relative to native-founded companies. Our work quantifies immigrant contributions to new firm creation in a wide variety of fields and using multiple definitions. While significant research effort has gone into understanding the economic impact of immigration into the United States, comprehensive data for quantifying immigrant entrepreneurship are difficult to assemble. We combine several restricted-access U.S. Census Bureau data sets to create a unique longitudinal data platform that covers 1992-2008 and many states. We describe differences in the types of businesses initially formed by immigrants and their medium-term growth patterns. We also consider the relationship of these outcomes to the immigrants’ age at arrival to the United States.

The study is important because it forces members of Congress to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, in order to determine whether or not it is beneficial for the United States to create more opportunities for highly-skilled entrepreneurs and professionals. Regrettably, the immigration debate has largely centered around illegal immigration to the United States, ignoring calls to create more flexibility for highly-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. As it stands today, immigrant entrepreneurs can only obtain a green card via sponsorship from a United States employer. The majority of entrepreneurs are forced to remain in the United States on a temporary ‘dual intent’ nonimmigrant visa, until a U.S. employer agrees to sponsor their green card. Visa options are very limited for highly-skilled immigrants. Even for the most brilliant of entrepreneurs, this process requires time and patience. Our current immigration laws are doing us a disservice since they are keeping out some of the most talented entrepreneurs in the world. Immigrant entrepreneurs are increasingly important because the number of businesses and American jobs they create is on the rise.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

  • As of 2008, at least one in four entrepreneurs among start-up companies are foreign-born. Similarly, at least one in four employees among new firms are foreign-born
  • 37% of new firms had at least one immigrant entrepreneur working for the company
  • At least 1 in 3 start-up firms were founded by an immigrant entrepreneur, with an increasing rate from 1995-2008
  • The share of immigrants among all employees working for start-up companies is on the rise
  • Immigrant employees in low-tech positions comprise about 22.2% of start-up companies, while 21.2% of immigrants work in high-tech positions in start-up companies
  • Among new start-ups backed by venture capitalists, 60% had at least one immigrant entrepreneur
  • Immigrant employees working for a start-up company backed by venture capitalists have higher mean average quarterly earnings

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