Question and Answers

Month: September 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Running Away From Immigration Reform : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Columnist Reuben Navarrette has spoken out about President Obama’s near non-mention of immigration reform in the State of the Union speech. Navarrette is concerned that the president will not push for meaningful reform, but will simply work on increased enforcement, which is the one area that gets a consensus opinion. I’m taking the liberty of printing the full column because it’s important to read it all.

Thirty-seven words. In this week’s State of the Union address — which was more than 7,000 words long and lasted longer than an hour — all President Obama devoted to the issue of immigration reform was 37 measly words.

Here they are: “And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

It’s disappointing that Obama didn’t spend more time on this pressing issue — but not surprising. Even though, elsewhere in the speech, Obama reminded Democrats in Congress that “the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills,” this White House spent the first year in office running for the hills on immigration reform.

In fact, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once referred to the issue as the real “third rail” of American politics. You touch it, you die.

Every immigration reform advocate in the country — including many Latinos — should be disappointed in Obama. Many of them bought the fairy tale that a Democratic president would magically be more committed to immigration reform than a Republican one. And they expected Obama to make good on the promise he made, while addressing the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza in July 2008 as a candidate, to treat comprehensive immigration reform as “a top priority in my first year as president.”

That obviously didn’t happen. And, regardless of what Obama’s defenders say, it wasn’t just because the president found other things to do. The truth is that immigration reform was always going to be an especially tough issue for Democrats since it splits the liberal coalition with Latinos on one side and organized labor on the other.

While many unions support giving illegal immigrants a shot at legal status, they balk at another element in the mix: guest workers, which organized labor claims would undermine U.S. workers who would — even as we speak — be happily doing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs if foreign workers hadn’t beaten them to it.

As for what Obama said in his speech, you’ll notice that he was careful not to use hot-button phrases: “comprehensive immigration reform,” “guest workers,” “earned legalization.” He was just as careful to emphasize positive phrases: “enforce our laws,” “contribute to our economy,” “enrich our nation.”

Oh brother. Those 37 words must have been focus-grouped 100 times.

Next, Obama also played it safe by basically selling the rhetorical equivalent of mom, puppies and apple pie. By limiting his immigration remarks to feel-good generalities, the president decreased the likelihood of being attacked by opponents.

How does someone oppose “fixing our broken immigration system” or a call to “secure our borders”?

And finally, in going to bat for “everyone who plays by the rules,” Obama can’t very well be talking about illegal immigrants since they didn’t play the rules to get here, stay here or work here. In fact, they are, by their very nature, rule breakers.

So either Obama is telegraphing that he won’t be aggressively pursuing a path to earned legalization for illegal immigrants and will instead focus on the low-hanging fruit of enforcement only, or he is redefining what it means to “play by the rules,” and what he means is that he aims to help those illegal immigrants who — having broken the rules to get here — might now be willing to adhere to a set of conditions to stay here.

There’s a big difference between those two approaches, and only time will tell what the president is prepared to do to — as he said — fix a broken system.

Obama had it right the first time when he was campaigning for president. The answer is comprehensive immigration reform. “Enforcement only” won’t work because it never does. It’s just another way for lawmakers to take the easy way out, and — as Obama said — run for the hills.

Our elected officials need to grab the immigration issue whole with a comprehensive approach that includes: 

• Guest workers to do jobs Americans won’t do at any wage;

• A tamper-proof identification card for all U.S. workers to help employers know who is legally eligible to work;

• New employer sanctions that include stiffer fines and jail time for repeat offenders;

• A condition-laden pathway to earned legalization for illegal immigrants who have been in the United States since before 2005;

• More workplace raids and speedier deportations to deal with those who can’t or won’t meet those conditions;

• A revamping of the immigration system for legal immigrants so that we put more emphasis on the demands of the labor market and less on family reunification;

• A ban on welfare and other social aid programs for those legalized with the exception of emergency health care;

• And efforts to secure the border, not with walls to nowhere but with better and smarter technology that helps Border Patrol agents stay one step ahead in their ongoing battle of wits with immigrant smugglers.

Mr. President, there is no way to say all that in 37 words.

Religious Workers – What Do I File With an Adjustment of Status Application? : Immigration Law Answers Blog

With the recent implementation by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) allowing concurrent filing of Form I-360 Religious Worker Petition and Form I-485 Adjustment of Status Application, most applicants want to know what documents to submit with an adjustment of status (AOS) application.

Persons with a pending I-360 religious worker petition are now eligible to file an AOS application before September 9, 2009. The AOS application is used by persons who are in the United States to apply with USCIS to adjust to permanent resident status.

Along with the Adjustment of Status Application on Form I-485, one must remember to submit:

  • a copy of the I-360 receipt notice,
  • two passport style photos,
  • a copy of the applicant’s passport,
  • a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate (along with a certified English translation if the document is not in English), and
  • a medical examination report performed by a designated civil surgeon.

If an AOS applicant has ever been arrested then a court-certified copy of all arrest records and the final disposition of the case is required (excluding traffic tickets).

Individuals between the ages of 14-79 are also required to submit a Biographic Information Sheet on Form G-325A.

The most important thing to remember before sending the AOS application is the filing fee! Do NOT forget to submit a check or money order to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $1010. No additional fee is required for Form I-765 Employment Authorization Application and for Advance Parole on Form I-131 if filing with an AOS application.  

Call us at 214-999-9999 and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Good News for a Violence Against Women's Act Petitioner : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Attorney Eugenia Ponce of our firm attended an adjustment of status interview last week with our client, based on the client’s approved I-360 VAWA petition. A VAWA petition (Violence Against Women’s Act) allows the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen, or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who was battered or subject to extreme cruelty to self-petition independently of the abusive U.S. citizen or LPR. The VAWA self-petitioner must meet the statutory requirements which include:
 

  • she or he has resided with the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse/parent;
  • was subject to extreme cruelty or battery (or in the case of a child, the child was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty) during the marriage with U.S. Citizen or LPR;
  • the marriage was entered into in good faith;
  • she or he is otherwise eligible for immediate relative or preference status; and
  • is a person of good moral character.

 
We submitted many different kinds of evidence proving the VAWA case. We submitted reports and affidavits from the police, photos showing visible injuries, medical reports, affidavits from school officials, an order of protection against the abuser, and other supporting evidence to establish our client was subject to battery.

Because our client was married to a U.S. citizen, there was an immediate visa available, and Form I-360 VAWA and Form I-485 Adjustment of Status were filed concurrently. Although our client had entered the United States without inspection in 1996, an approved self-petitioner of Form I-360 VAWA is eligible to adjust even if he or she entered without inspection or parole.

Our client’s 16-year-old daughter was also eligible to adjust her status to permanent residence since the daughter was accorded derivative status based on her mother’s approved I-360 VAWA petition.

Both undocumented individuals are now permanent residents of the United States.

B-1 Visas For Domestic Workers : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on December 15, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. citizens residing abroad may qualify their personal servants or domestic workers for B-1 status during a temporary trip to the United States. Temporary trip usually means six months or less. Since the foreign domestic worker will engage in employment in the United States, he or she will apply for work authorization once admitted in the United States. One of the requirements for this visa category is that the domestic worker must have worked with the U.S. citizen prior to the U.S. visit. Additionally, there must be an employment contract providing the domestic worker with free private room and board, and guarantee the “prevailing wage” for the area of intended employment.  

Are you a U.S. citizen residing abroad and have a temporary trip to the United States? If you want your personal or domestic worker to enter the United States with you on this temporary trip, please call our office and we will provide you with all the requisite information.

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Editorial: Immigration Reform Faces New Obstacles : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid perked up some ears last week when he told Gannett News that Congress will follow up on the post-election agreement between President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to move forward on reforming immigration laws.

We weren’t in the room when those erstwhile rivals met, but hallelujah, if that’s what they agreed to do. States like Texas and cities like Flower Mound live daily with Washington’s failure to create saner immigration laws, including a temporary guest-worker program and a way for illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.

What worries us is that this task may be more of a battle than Mr. Reid envisions. The Nevada Democrat says he doesn’t expect “much of a fight at all.”

True, some circumstances have changed since the Senate failed to overhaul immigration laws in 2006 and 2007. For one thing, there are fewer illegal workers because of stronger enforcement of our borders and our economy’s retreat.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Obstacles remain.

Interestingly, the bigger ones could come from the left, rather than the right. In the Senate’s previous debates, labor, civil libertarians and other parts of the Democratic left were content to largely let the Republican right kill the reform effort.

Now Democrats run Washington, and Mr. Reid must fend off his left flank if immigration reform is to have any meaning. That includes ensuring that labor doesn’t sharply restrict the number of guest workers, which union leaders quietly tried to do in 2007.

Another obstacle is the economy. Mr. Obama must balance various constituencies as he lines up votes for his economic plans. That includes winning Republican votes, which are needed so partisanship doesn’t overrun efforts to stabilize the economy. Getting them could be made trickier if Mr. Obama presses too hard on immigration.

That said, Mr. Reid’s comments encourage us. Certainly, Mr. Obama needs to deliver. He handily won the Hispanic vote, largely because Latinos considered him the stronger champion of fair immigration laws. He has a tricky task ahead, but we all have a stake in him making good on his promise.

Immigration Law Answers Blog : January 2009

Home > January 2009

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s a quick follow-up to my last post about the effect on the budget of Farmers Branch of that city’s pursuit of the goal of driving illegal immigrants from the city. These excerpts are from a Dallas Morning News story today:

Farmers Branch officials have opted to put off some street maintenance projects as well as some vehicle and equipment purchases to cover a projected shortfall of nearly $1.2 million this fiscal year.

The city started this fiscal year with $2 million less in its reserve fund than the target, which calls for having 75 days of operating expenses, or $8.6 million. But officials had anticipated bringing the reserves back up to the previous level, plus increasing it by another $350,000.

But with just the first quarter of the fiscal year completed, Finance Director Charles Cox is projecting $1.2 million in losses in property tax revenues, landfill revenue and interest earnings.

In addition, the city budgeted $424,000 for the entire year for legal bills related to lawsuits over the city’s attempts to ban housing rentals to illegal immigrants. But it spent $303,330 in just the first quarter, which ended in December.

That figure is expected to escalate as the trial looms over the third and latest incarnation of the illegal immigration ordinance, Cox said.

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The latest development in the seemingly never-ending saga of Farmers Branch’s battle against illegal immigrants may have the city dipping into its savings to pay for the continuing court costs. I’ve written many times about this ill-advised (in my opinion) attempt by the city to keep illegal immigrants away by forcing landlords to become immigration cops. Here are excerpts from an article in today’s Dallas Morning News:

The city’s court loss in the lawsuit over Ordinance 2903 leaves it with a payment looming of about $900,000 to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. That, along with escalating legal bills as the trial over the third incarnation of the housing ban approaches, and the cost of severance packages for nearly two dozen employees laid off last summer, forced the city to dig into its reserve fund for about $2 million.

The financial news has some opponents of the illegal-immigration-related ordinances saying, “I told you so.”

Opponents have long said the ordinances were unconstitutional and would cost millions to defend in court.

From 2006 through the end of 2008, the city spent more than $1.5 million on illegal-immigration-related legal fees. That doesn’t count the $900,000 lawsuit award that hasn’t been paid because the city is contesting the amount.

Posted on January 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Effective June 1, 2009, citizens of certain countries are allowed to seek admission to Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) without a visa, pursuant to the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program. To participate in the program, travelers must posses a valid passport; present a valid and completed form I-94 and Form I-736; must not have previously violated any prior admission to the U.S.; and must be citizens from the following countries: Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Signapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom including Hong Kong. Those seeking admission under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver program are authorized for a 45 day period.

Posted on January 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Employers must complete form I-9 for all employees, citizens, and non-citzens who are hired and working in the United States. The new version must be used on February 2, 2009 and thereafter. It is available at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Web site.

Posted on January 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have developed a new program that enhances identification and removal of criminal aliens. The program, known as Secure Communities, is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and provides ICE and other local agencies immigration history information on an individual who is booked into jail. During the booking process, the arrestees’ fingerprints are taken, and checked for criminal history and now also for immigration records maintained by DHS. If the person’s fingerprints match those of a person in the DHS fingerprint system, ICE will be notified and take the appropriate enforcement action.

More information is available at www.ice.gov.

Posted on January 17, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program upgraded its biometric data gathering technology to make the entry process into the United States faster and more accurate. When entering the United States at major U.S. ports of entry, certain non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR’s) should now expect their 10-fingerprints to be collected at the time of inspection.

Posted on January 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

There are 35 countries that are authorized to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows citizens or nationals of the authorized countries to travel to the U.S for business or tourism for stays of 90 days or less, without first obtaining a visa.  

Effective January 12, 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires travelers from all VWP countries to obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. ESTA determines whether a foreign national is eligible to travel under the VWP prior to boarding. If you are traveling under the VWP, it is vital to obtain an approved travel authorization via ESTA. Failure to do so may result in being denied boarding, or denied admission into the United States. Apply for travel authorization at the ESTA Web site to comply with the DHS requirements.

Citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Posted on January 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, immigration prosecutions in the federal courts more than quadrupled during the eight years of the Bush administration and Texas’ two border districts led the nation in the surge, according to a new report by a Syracuse University research center. The problem with this focus on illegal immigration is that it has taken valuable resources away from prosecution of white-collar crimes and drug violation. Here are excerpts from the article:

Even the Dallas-based Northern Judicial District of Texas was part of the increase, though the number of prosecutions – 357 in the 2008 fiscal year – was a fraction of the 25,061 prosecutions in the Southern district of Texas.

The report by the Syracuse group known as the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, also showed a decline in certain types of prosecutions such as white-collar crime and narcotics filings. 

The TRAC report also reflected the results from a zero-tolerance approach to illegal border-crossers known as Operation Streamline. For example, in the Southern district of Texas, prosecutors acted upon 98 percent of referrals in the last fiscal year.

In North Texas, however, former U.S. Attorney Richard Roper, who stepped down last month to join a private practice, said he didn’t prosecute every immigration case referred to his office. TRAC reports show the Dallas office prosecuted about 63 percent of the referrals.

Roper said he scrutinized cases for those involving illegal re-entry of individuals who already had a significant criminal record, or drug trafficking or firearms convictions.

“There is no question that after 9/11 there was a significant change in priorities on cases,” said Roper, now a partner with Thompson & Knight. “And there was an increased emphasis placed on immigration because of the connection to terrorism activity and in response to Congress’ concern that we weren’t protecting the border.”

“The practical effect is it hurt our ability to prosecute white-collar fraud,” Roper said. “If we don’t do them in the U.S. attorney’s office they won’t get done because they are so labor-intensive. It is difficult for the local district attorney’s office to handle that.”

But according to the TRAC report, white-collar prosecutions are down almost 15 percent nationally from the level in the last year of President Clinton’s administration. There were 8,108 prosecutions in fiscal year 2008, compared with 9,532 prosecutions in fiscal year 2000.

 Individual narcotic filings also slumped, TRAC said. For the entire eight years, prosecutions of drug violators were down by almost 20 percent. There were 26,336 prosecutions in fiscal year 2008, compared with 32,753 in fiscal year 2001.

Last fiscal year, there were nearly 80,000 prosecutions of immigration cases, double the previous year and up from 17,000 in fiscal year 2002. The top four venues for immigration cases were the Southern district of Texas, the Western district of Texas with about 19,000 cases, Arizona with nearly 16,000 cases and New Mexico with about 5,600 cases.

“It is a really quite drastic change in policy, and it clearly has an enormous effect on federal enforcement, especially in Texas and the other border districts,” said David Burnham, co-director of TRAC. “Other kinds of prosecutions appear to be getting less attention.”

Some were critical of the shift to a policy that spawned a fused area of law that some called crimmigration. For years, many offenses had been handled under civil statutes in administrative courts, though laws existed to prosecute some cases using criminal statutes.

Legal triage means resources aren’t deployed against more serious crimes, and that eats into the time of federal public defenders and magistrates, said Austin-based immigration attorney Dan Kowalski.

“I don’t mind my tax dollars being spent on a direct crime,” Kowalski said. “Criminally prosecuting drywallers on re-entry cases rather than high-level arms dealers would be a joke if it were not a travesty.”

Posted on January 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

From the Journal of the American Bar Assocition:

Days before a new presidential regime will be in place at the White House, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a written opinion (PDF) yesterday finding that noncitizens have no constitutional right to counsel in deportation proceedings.

The attorney general’s opinion, which reverses a 15-year precedent established by Matter of Lozada, is also expected to make it more difficult for aliens who retain private attorneys to seek relief for ineffective assistance of counsel, reports the Blog of Legal Times.

The ruling was greeted with dismay by immigrants rights groups, which intend to seek relief in Congress, according to the BLT. But, in the meantime, federal courts are likely to defer to the attorney general’s opinion as far as ineffective assistance claims in immigration cases are concerned, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, tells the law blog.

The opinion, which must be followed by the nation’s immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, gives them discretion to reopen cases when major counsel error prejudices a case.

Posted on January 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

From The Associated Press:

President George W. Bush told a group of Texas reporters Friday that he regretted immigration policies were not reformed while he was in office.

“I’m very disappointed that it didn’t pass,” he said in an interview with correspondents from his home state. “I’m very worried about the message that said, ‘Republicans are anti-immigrant.'”

Bush said he wanted a comprehensive immigration plan “not for political standing or for Latinos, but because it was best for the country,” the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Friday.

The outgoing president said that in hindsight he should have pushed his immigration proposal soon after the 2004 election, rather than after partisan squabbling over Social Security began.

Posted on January 7, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

In an effort to detect and deter fraud in the religious worker program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented significant changes to the special immigrant and non-immigrant (R-1) religious worker rules. The new rule became effective November 26, 2008.   Some of the changes in the new rule requires sponsoring employers to submit the petition on the foreign national’s behalf for R-1 status, provides increased on-site inspection by USCIS, includes compensation requirements, reduces initial period of admission on R-1 status to 30 months, and increases employer’s evidentiary requirements.   One significant change is that an employer must sponsor the nonimmigrant religious worker by submitting the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). Additionally, the employer must now submit a determination letter by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will verify the religious organization’s tax-exempt status. In order to obtain a determination letter, the religious organization must pay a one time fee to the IRS. R-1 visa holders will now be admitted for an initial period of up to 30 months and may extend their stay for an additional period of 30 months.  

For further information on the new revisions, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on January 5, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A recent Associated Press article provides a good summary of the dilemma faced by foreign workers as the U.S. economy deteriorates. These workers are finding themselves less in demand, and are searching for alternative jobs or other means of maintaining their immigration status and stay in the United States. Here are excerpts:

For foreign professionals in the United States, the rising unemployment rate is especially daunting. Laid-off foreign workers are scrambling for temporary visas and seeking advice from immigration attorneys about how long they can legally stay in the country while hunting for jobs. Even some foreigners here on visas or work permits are switching employers, fearing that an unstable job during a recession could lead to a one-way ticket home or end their chance of getting a green card. An undetermined number of foreign workers have been casualties of the recession, which pushed the nationwide jobless rate to 6.7% in November, a 15-year high. Economists expect unemployment to continue to climb through much of 2009 and could surpass 8%. Nearly half a million foreign professionals are working in the country on visas, known as H-1Bs, or have applied for green cards with support from their employers, said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a research group in Arlington, Va. Many came to the U.S. to pursue graduate degrees and have lived and worked here for years. Those who lose their jobs in the downturn may head home or move to countries that have more lenient immigration rules. That could drive much-needed innovation in technology and engineering overseas in the years ahead, Anderson said. “What you may find is there are people who could be future entrepreneurs in the United States who end up starting these companies in other countries,” he said. Immigration lawyers say they have received an increasing number of calls from foreign professionals who have been terminated — many in the financial services industry as investment banks slash payroll to stay afloat. Following the dot-com bust in 2000, many high-tech workers were laid off and some foreign workers returned overseas. This time, immigration attorneys say the pain began primarily in the financial sector — though manufacturing and technology companies have also started eliminating jobs. One of the biggest challenges for laid-off visa holders is the lack of a grace period to leave. Companies must provide a return ticket home for workers, who may try to switch to another visa, such as a six-month tourist visa, to buy time to pack their belongings or to look for another job. Immigrants seeking green cards — which would let them remain in the country permanently — face different problems. If they are laid off, they can stay and look for a new job but must find one before the government reviews their paperwork, which could take months or years, depending how far along they are in the process. The bottom line: no employer, no green card. During an economic slump, companies may reduce hiring abroad to scale back on legal fees. They also may do so to comply with U.S. laws that ban firms from sponsoring foreigners for green cards to replace laid-off American workers, said Robert Hoffman, president of government and public affairs at software company Oracle Corp. and co-chair of Compete America, a coalition that supports policies that would allow more skilled workers from other countries to be hired in the U.S. A clearer picture of the recession’s effect on foreign workers could emerge in April when companies can request visas for workers they hope to hire in 2009.

For the last six years, the demand for work visas has surpassed a 65,000 annual cap put in place by Congress, with 163,000 applications filed last year.

Posted on January 4, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s an interesting debate about last-minute changes to the H-2A agricultural worker program proposed by the Bush administration. As expected, employers who would benefit from the changes are in favor, and American farm workers who might be harmed are opposed. These are excerpts from an article in the Dallas Morning News:

Farm worker advocates and opponents of illegal immigration are blasting one of President George W. Bush’s “midnight regulations” that will make it easier for agricultural employers to hire foreign workers.

They say the changes undermine worker protections, exploit immigrants and set wage levels so low that domestic workers cannot compete with foreign workers for jobs.

The regulation, which makes changes in the U.S. Labor Department’s H-2A Temporary Agriculture Worker Program, allows agricultural employers to hire temporary foreign workers if not enough domestic workers are able or willing to fill farm jobs.

The changes also promise to reduce paperwork and make processing deadlines more efficient.

In fiscal 2008, the U.S. State Department issued more than 64,000 H-2A visas, a 26 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Since 2003, the number of temporary agricultural worker visas has steadily increased, according to a department spokeswoman.

But the number of workers covered by H-2A visas is only a small segment of a larger farm worker contingent that’s close to 1.6 million, more than 80 percent of whom are foreign-born, said Craig Regelbrugge of the American Nursery and Landscape Association. Of those foreign-born workers, nearly three-quarters are unauthorized, he said.

Labor Department officials say the changes are needed to provide agricultural employers with workers in a timely fashion so that crops can be harvested.

But Bruce Goldstein of the Washington, D.C.-based Farmworker Justice Fund said the four-tier wage structure is not a reliable standard because the survey it relies on doesn’t study farms, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result, he said, it sets farm worker wages too low and makes it hard for the workers to earn a living wage.

Additionally, Goldstein said, the new regulations weaken worker protections because employers can now claim they have fulfilled the program’s requirements instead of having to provide evidence of their compliance before their visa requests are approved.

“These seem typical of the Bush administration policies, where whatever employers want, that’s what we’re going to give them,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonpartisan advocacy group that seeks to reduce illegal immigration.

Mehlman said that by continuously adding foreign workers to their employment rolls and paying them according to the prevailing wage, employers undercut the need for domestic workers by relying on a steady stream of immigrants who can be easily replaced if they complain. Employers’ actions also cap wages at such low rates that Americans can’t compete for agricultural jobs.

  • « February 2009
  • December 2008 »

Competitors Hiring Illegal Aliens? Rat them out! : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Hundreds of Texas employers, and thousands around the nation, have inspired Internet publicity they didn’t court: They’re accused of hiring illegal immigrants.

A Web site, www.wehirealiens.com, lists companies from Pilgrim’s Pride to Swift & Co. as “alleged” employers of illegal immigrants. Both those food companies have had employees at their Texas operations arrested for immigration violations and document fraud, but many other companies listed on the site have not.

And that has employers angry that the founders of the Southern California-based site publicly accuse them of breaking laws. The founders contend they established the site in 2004 in frustration over what they call ineffective action by the federal government. There are now nearly 5,000 “illegal employers” listed from nearly every state.

The Web site reflects one more way that technology is amplifying the national debate over illegal immigration. Scores of sites have gone up in the last few years to defend, to denigrate, and to discuss civilly the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The federal government won’t divulge its tipsters. “ICE doesn’t confirm special sources, but we use various sources to obtain intelligence,” said Carl Rusnok, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas. “Then we determine if follow-up action is appropriate.”

ICE runs its own hotline – 1-866-DHS-2ICE – and information there keeps the Department of Homeland Security agency very busy, Mr. Rusnok added. Mr. Mrochek said they send information to ICE, the FBI and the Social Security Administration. He also said that information is vetted and less than a third of the complaints they receive are actually posted on the Web site.

Dallas-based La Madeleine Bakery, Cafe and Bistro is also listed on the site. Officials at the privately owned restaurant chain said they have tried to get the chain’s name removed from the site and that they comply with federal immigration laws. “It would appear that they never remove these postings and do not verify if the allegations are true,” said CEO Mike Shumsky. “This, as you might expect, is concerning.”

Re-Entry Permits – Get Biometrics Expedited Before Departing U.S. : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Home > General Information > Re-Entry Permits – Get Biometrics Expedited Before Departing U.S.

Posted on December 31, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) who are outside the United States for a short period of time, and seek entry back into the U.S. must present their permanent resident card (“green card”). If an LPR is going to be outside of the U.S. for more than one year, then the LPR must apply for a re-entry permit. The re-entry permit must be applied for in the United States, and the LPR must remain in the United States until biometrics (fingerprints) are taken.   If you applied for a re-entry permit, and departed the U.S. before the biometrics were taken, the permit may be denied as abandoned. Before departing the United States, a request to expedite scheduling of the required biometrics appointment may be made.  

Please call us for more information on expedited biometric appointment scheduling.

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Non-Immigrant Visa Suspension in Honduras : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Home > Temporary Visas > Non-Immigrant Visa Suspension in Honduras

Posted on August 26, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Effective today, August 26, 2009, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended non-emergency, non-immigrant visas services in the consular section in Honduras due to the continued political unrest.

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July 2007 Visa Bulletin Will Not Help Green Card Applicants : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Just a few weeks ago there was good news for all those who have been waiting for their priority date to become current in an employment-based immigration category. The Department of State announced in June that the July 2007 visa availability bulletin would show that all employment preference categories (except for Third “Other Workers” ) had been made “Current” for July. That meant that as of July 1, 2007, anyone who had been waiting to file an I-485 Application for Permanent Residency could do so.

In a stunning announcement yesterday, the Department of State revised the July visa bulletin to reflect that ALL available employment-based visas had been allocated for the fiscal year 2007. As a result, beginning yesterday, Immigration Services is rejecting applications to adjust status filed by aliens whose priority dates are not current under the revised July visa bulletin. This also means that it is highly unlikely that visas will be available until the start of the new fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2007.

For those who filed their I-140 Petitions and I-485 Applications concurrently, and enclosed separate filing fee checks, the I-140 and supporting documents will be accepted by Immigration Services for processing and the I-485 and supporting documents and applications will be rejected and returned to the applicant with the filing fee checks. All I-485 Applications filed (even those received by Immigration Services on Monday July 2, 2007, before the revised visa bulletin was issued) WILL be rejected.  Filing fee checks will be returned.

There has been a lot of speculation by several immigration attorneys and immigration rights groups in regards to filing a federal lawsuit against Immigration Services. With proof of delivery, proof of rejection by Immigration Services, and evidence that a complete application was submitted to Immigration Services in hand, many lawyers will recommend to their clients that they be plaintiffs in a lawsuit that will probably be filed by the American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF).  Those who were arguably entitled to file their I-485 applications (per the first July visa bulletin) but failed to do so, may not be eligible for a remedy. AILF’s Legal Action Center is preparing to litigate. Plaintiffs and class members whose applications were rejected or returned would have the strongest legal claims and have the strongest claims to benefit from a favorable result.

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