Question and Answers

Month: April 2011 (Page 1 of 5)

Government Spends $12,500 for Each Person Deported from U.S. : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Yesterday, immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble told a House subcommittee hearing that it costs approximately $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport each person removed from the United States.

This is only one of several reasons that most immigration lawyers believe deportation of illegal immigrants is not a workable solution to our current immigration problems. 

In 2010 ICE deported about 393,000 people from the United States, and the cost was almost $5 billion. It’s estimated that 11 million people are currently in the U.S. without authorization. Extrapolating the ICE figures, it would cost the government almost $140 billion to deport them. We simply cannot afford to do that.

DS-160 Non-immigrant Online Application Form : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Before starting the application process for permanent immigration, foreign nationals who enter the United States on non-immigrant visas (NIV) are considered to be here temporarily. The law presumes NIV holders intend to return to their home countries at the end of their stay in the United States. There are many NIV categories — student visas, business visas, visas for tourism, and investor treaty visas to name a few. While NIV applicants must have the intent to return to their home country, there are a few non-immigrant categories that allow a person to have dual intent, that is, to intend to be here temporarily now but eventually to immigrate. Prior to permanently immigrating to the United States, a foreign national will generally enter on a non-immigrant visa (dual intent NIV).   All NIV applicants are required to fill out an application form to the appropriate consular post and submit the DS forms according to the NIV category they are applying. The current forms available are DS-156, 157, 158, 156K, 3032). Currently, twelve consular posts are required to use Form DS-160, a Web-based NIV application form that incorporates all of the current NIV forms into one format via the Web site. When an NIV applicant fills out the form, the applicant has the option of uploading a digital photo. Once the form is submitted online, the NIV applicant will receive a confirmation page. The new DS-160 form is required in twelve posts (including Mexican and Canadian posts, Dublin, Hamilton, Hong Kong, and Tripoli), and the DS-160 form advances the NIV process since it is submitted in advance of the interview.   NIV applicants should make sure to utilize the appropriate DS form according to the consular post requirements currently in place.  

Please call us at 214-999-9999 and we will answer your non-immigrant visa questions.

Pilot Program for Travelers on Flight 6 : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on November 18, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On November 12, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched a 30 day pilot program to test the entry process for travelers under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles International Airport. The program automates the arrival/departure of travelers with an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for travelers on Air New Zealand Flight 6. Travelers on this flight will not need to fill out the paper I-94W.   The VWP allows nationals from VWP countries to fill out an ESTA application prior to traveling to the United States to determine the traveler’s eligibility and whether such travel poses a security risk. The ESTA application provides basic biographical, travel, and eligibility information and must be submitted online prior to traveling. There are currently 35 countries eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP. Travelers under this program may enter the U.S. for either business or tourism for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.  

To view the list of VWP countries please visit the CBP website at www.cbp.gov.

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Five Tips About Sending Checks to USCIS : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on September 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Before submitting petitions and applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it is vital to make sure the appropriate filing fees for the particular application is included. We’ve had several queries regarding payment to USCIS in connection with the filing fees. Some queries involved what to include on the check, who to write the check to, who should sign the check, and whether personal checks or money orders are allowed.

5 Useful Tips Regarding Checks to USCIS

  1. Make sure your home address, phone number, correct date, correct amount, and signature are on your check;
  2. Make checks payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”;
  3. Make sure the amount on the check is the exact amount of the application fees as listed on the USCIS Web site;
  4. Only an authorized person designated on the bank account is allowed to sign the check;
  5. Bank drafts, cashier’s checks, certified checks, personal checks, and money orders are allowed – and must be drawn on U.S. financial institutions and payable in U.S. funds.

For more information on filing immigration fees, and check instructions, please visit the Immigration Service’s Web site at www.uscis.gov.
 

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I-765 : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Surviving spouses and their qualifying children, whose U.S. citizen spouses died before the second anniversary of marriage, are eligible to request deferred action. Deferred action is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and once granted it allows surviving spouses and children to remain in the United States for a temporary authorized period of time (two years for this program) without being removed from the United States during that authorized time. Once granted deferred action, the applicant is also eligible to apply for employment authorization (filed on Form I-765) and travel authorization (filed on Form I-131).   Deferred action does not eliminate any period of unlawful presence that accrued before it was granted; it does not convey or imply any waivers of inadmissibility that may exist; and it does not confer or alter any immigration status. However, deferred action does allow the applicant to remain in the United States for two years under this program. During the two years that deferred action is in effect, no additional unlawful presence accrues.  

In order to qualify for this program, the surviving spouse must:

  • have been married less than two years to the U.S. citizen at the time of the U.S. spouses’ death;
  • did not remarry; and
  • be currently residing in the United States.

 
The qualifying children of the surviving spouses that qualify under the program must be:

  • younger than 21 years old (at the time the request for deferred action was submitted or Form I-130 was filed on their behalf as an immediate relative);
  • unmarried; and
  • residing in the United States.

  Deferred action is filed on Form I-360 at the Vermont Service Center. It is important to file Form I-360 with the appropriate filing fee of $375 and the supporting documentation.   If the U.S. citizen spouse died after being married for two years at the time of the U.S. citizen’s death, then the widow(er) of a U.S. citizen is not covered by the deferred action program. However, the widow(er) is eligible to self-petition as an immediate relative as long as Form I-360 is filed within two years after the date of death.  

For more information on Deferred Action for surviving spouses and qualifying children of deceased U.S. citizens, please call us at 214-999-9999

Dallas County Will Resume Accepting Mexican ID Cards for Auto Transactions : Immigration Law Answers Blog

In a policy change that may stir some debate, the Dallas County tax assessor-collector John Ames, has announced that his office will resume accepting identification cards issued to Mexican citizens for motor vehicle transactions such as registrations and title transfers. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article on the subject:

John Ames decided a week ago to stop accepting the Matricula Consular de Alta Seguridad identification cards because of their use in some fraudulent transactions. But Ames reversed himself after learning that some Mexican nationals living in Dallas County have no other form of identification, which is needed to register vehicles, his office said.

The Mexican government issues the cards through its consulate offices to Mexican citizens living in other countries regardless of their emigration status. Many U.S. cities and police departments accept the card as identification as do certain banks for financial transactions.

Norman Kasal, spokesman for the tax office, said Ames’ original decision was based on the fact that it’s not possible to verify the matricula consular cards’ authenticity or legitimacy. In addition, some have used fraudulent cards in such motor vehicle transactions as registrations and title transfers, he said.

The office will try to verify the validity of such cards, Kasal said, even though it may be time-consuming.

For example, if someone submits registration or title documents on behalf of a vehicle owner along with the person’s Mexican ID card, the tax office will try to contact the cardholder to verify that the card and transaction are valid, he said.

“As agents of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, my office makes every effort possible to ensure the accuracy and legality of the transactions we process,” Ames said in a prepared statement. “Our decision to not accept or accept various forms of ID is based on the ability to verify the authenticity of that ID.”

Temporary Visas : Immigration Law Answers Blog

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Posted on May 24, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Two little-known types of immigrant visas are the T and the U visas. The T visa is for people innocently involved in human trafficking, and the U visa is for victims of crime. The U visa’s basic purpose is to make it easier for police to prosecute those who commit violence.

Both types of visas were discussed in a recent Dallas Morning News article. Here are excerpts from the article, beginning with a discussion of the U visa:

The visas began flowing only 18 months ago and the majority have gone to domestic violence victims, say officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, up to 10,000 such visas are authorized annually. Illegal immigrants may receive such visas if they’ve suffered “substantial” physical or mental abuse from criminal activity and, among other things, a law enforcement agency certifies they have information on criminal activity. The visa can lead to permanent legal residency status.

The issuing of U visas comes at a tense time in the national immigration debate, amid a polarizing crackdown and potentially broader policing powers against immigrants in Arizona. And it illuminates a prickly point of justice: Should the federal government give illegal immigrants special treatment for a societal good such as fighting violent crime?

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act created both the U visa and the T visa. They’re near the end of a complex network of visas, A through V.

T visas, for those involved in human trafficking, began flowing in 2002, but the flow of U visas was delayed as regulations on issuance were hammered out. In the last three full fiscal years, only about 250 to 300 T visas have been approved of the maximum annual allotment of 5,000.

In the last fiscal year, ending in September 2009, the federal government authorized 5,825 U visas. In the first five months of this fiscal year, nearly 5,000 such visas were given. There are about 6,600 visa applications pending, and the 10,000 allotment is expected to be reached as early as next month, said Maria Elena Garcia Upson, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency.

Posted on December 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U Visas: extended until February 1, 2010.   U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended the filing deadline for temporary benefits of the U Non-immigrant Interim Relief Program. The temporary benefits program was set to expire December 31, 2009 but has been recently extended until February 1, 2010.   H-1C Visas: expired December 21, 2009   USCIS accepted H-1C non-immigrant temporary workers petitions expired December 21, 2009. The H-1C classification authorized up to 500 nurses annually to work in eligible health care facilities. Although the visa classification expired, nurses currently in H-1C status will not be affected.  

For new updates or changes, please visit the USCIS Web site.

Posted on December 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Individuals who apply for a non-immigrant visa must be admissible to enter the United States. Inadmissible grounds to deny entry into the U.S. include, but not limited to the following:
 

  • Communicable disease;
  • Criminal record involving crimes of moral turpitude;
  • Possession of or trafficking in a controlled substance;
  • Trafficking persons;
  • Involved in money laundering;
  • Previously removed (deported) or previously overstayed a period of admission to the U.S.

 
If a non-immigrant visa holder subsequently becomes inadmissible and thus ineligible to enter the United States, depending on the inadmissibility ground, the visa holder may apply in advance of travel for a temporary waiver of inadmissibility. The waiver application is applied directly to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to travel. Along with the signed Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant, the applicant must submit the filing fee of $545, an official police record from country of nationality, proof of citizenship, and supporting documentation regarding the inadmissibility showing rehabilitation and character reformation. For questions concerning eligibility of the temporary waiver application, or any other area of immigration, call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999.

Posted on November 18, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On November 12, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched a 30 day pilot program to test the entry process for travelers under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles International Airport. The program automates the arrival/departure of travelers with an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for travelers on Air New Zealand Flight 6. Travelers on this flight will not need to fill out the paper I-94W.   The VWP allows nationals from VWP countries to fill out an ESTA application prior to traveling to the United States to determine the traveler’s eligibility and whether such travel poses a security risk. The ESTA application provides basic biographical, travel, and eligibility information and must be submitted online prior to traveling. There are currently 35 countries eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP. Travelers under this program may enter the U.S. for either business or tourism for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.  

To view the list of VWP countries please visit the CBP website at www.cbp.gov.

Posted on November 4, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The H-3 trainee visa is a non-immigrant visa option for foreign nationals seeking training in any field of endeavor, including, but not limited to, commerce, communications, finance, government, transportation, agriculture, or the professions (except physicians).   Specifically, the H-3 is utilized by a foreign national seeking to pursue a career outside the United States, and training in the U.S. is necessary because the foreign national’s home country does not have the type of training program available. Once the training program in the U.S. has concluded, the trainee must return to his or her home country to use the skills gained in the training program. In order to qualify, the U.S. employer must show that the foreign national’s home country does not offer or does not prepare the trainee for the type of work that is available in the country, therefore training in the U.S. is necessary. When submitting H-3 visa petitions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), employers must establish that the training program includes the following:

  • Detailed description of the type of training and supervision to be given;
  • The training program structure;
  • Amount of time that will be devoted to productive employment (which must be kept at a minimum since this visa is for training and not for productive employment).
  • Number of hours the foreign national will spend in classroom instruction and on-the-job training;
  • Detail the career abroad for which the foreign national is training;
  • Explanation as to why the training cannot be obtained in the country abroad and the reason the training in the U.S. is necessary;
  • Source of remuneration.

 
The H-3 trainee visa is a valuable non-immigrant visa option for training in a variety of industries. For more information regarding H-3 visas or any other immigration related matters, please call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999.

Posted on October 26, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Certain foreign nationals who seek to be admitted into the United States or adjust their status in the United States are unable to do so if acts, convictions, or medical conditions make them inadmissible.  There are several grounds listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that make a foreign national inadmissible to the United States. The following are grounds for inadmissibility:       

  • health-related grounds
  • certain criminal and related grounds
  • Immigrant Membership in a Totalitarian Party
  • Immigration fraud or misrepresentation
  • Smugglers
  • Being Subject to Civil Penalty
  • Unlawful presence in the U.S. for more than 180 days, beginning on or after April 1, 1997, followed by departure if the U.S. – three or ten year bar
  • Aliens previously removed and unlawfully present after previous immigration violation (only for NACARA or HRIFA adjustment application)
  • unlawfully present after previous immigration violations for VAWA self-petitioners

 
In order to waive these inadmissibility grounds, the foreign national must file Form I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. Beginning November 21, 2009, waiver applicants must file revised Form I-601 as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not accept the prior version beginning on that day.

The revised form will be marked with Revision Date 04/06/09N, OMB Expiration Date 04/30/11. The revised form makes it easier for waiver applicants to select from a list of grounds of inadmissibility. In addition to the list of grounds, there is a section that allows applicants to describe in their own words why they believe they are inadmissible. For additional information on waivers, grounds of inadmissibility or any other aspect of immigration law please call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999. Additional information is also available at www.uscis.gov.

Posted on October 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, foreign nationals who are employed with a company abroad and who wish to enter the United States to continue working for the same employer, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate may enter the United States via the L-1 Nonimmigrant Visa for Intracompany Transfer. There must be a relationship between the U.S. company and the foreign company abroad in order to transfer the foreign employee to the United States. Documentation to show the relationship may include:
 

  • common ownership documents;
  • similar name of the two companies;
  • 50% common ownership, although there may be situations where there is less than 50% ownership but the evidence shows that the parent company controls them.

  In order for the foreign national to obtain an L-1 visa, certain requirements must be met. The requirements include:

  • the foreign national must have worked continuously abroad for one of the past three years by the parent, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate of the U.S. company;
  • there’s a qualifying relationship between the company abroad and the U.S. company;
  • the foreign national will continue working in a managerial capacity or executive capacity or a capacity requiring a specialized knowledge.

  Examples of employees being employed in an “executive capacity” include:

  • president,
  • vice president,
  • CFO
  • CEO.

  Employees in a “managerial capacity” are those who:

  • manage the organization, department, subdivision, or function;
  • supervise the work of other professional employees.

  Foreign nationals with “specialized knowledge” include individuals with an advanced knowledge of the company’s product, business, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other activity that is not readily available in the U.S. labor market.   Once it’s established that the foreign employee may be transferred to the U.S. company, obtaining L-1 nonimmigrant status requires the U.S. employer to file a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It takes USCIS approximately three months to render a decision. Upon approval, the employee must apply for an L-1 visa at the U.S. consulate abroad. Depending on the employee’s position, the foreign national will be issued either an L-1A visa if working in an executive or managerial capacity or an L-1B visa for those continuing to work in the capacity requiring a specialized knowledge.   For more information on L Visas Intracompany Transfer visas or any other area of immigration law, please contact us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on October 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Attorney Eugenia Ponce recently had a telephonic consultation with a client who wanted to enter the United States on a B-1/B-2 tourist visa to visit various universities throughout the United States and to attend admissions interviews. He wanted to know what the student visa requirements were and whether he would face any challenges if he tried to obtain his student visa while in the United States on a tourist visa.
 

Ms. Ponce explained that foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of studying in the United States will need to apply for an F-1 study visa in their home country. The fact that he wanted to enter the United States to visit schools (for tourism) rather than to study, should be disclosed to the consular officer so that the officer could note “prospective student” on his I-94 card when admitted into the United States.
 

Ms. Ponce continued by explaining that the sole purpose of the tourist visa is to visit for a short period of time, and that is all. The tourist visa cannot be used if the person has the intention to work or to study. There is a specific visa for individuals seeking to enter the United States to pursue a full-time course of study. That is an F-1 student visa. Since B-1/B-2 visitors are not allowed to pursue a course of study, any change of status applications could be denied if it is found that the foreign national intended to enter the United States to study, and this preconceived intent was not previously disclosed.
 

Once accepted to a study program, it is recommended that the foreign national return to his or her home country to obtain an F-1 visa stamp. The F-1 visa is issued no earlier than four months prior to the study program’s start date.
 

Once the F-1 visa is issued, the international student will enter the United States and will be admitted for as long as the F-1 student continues the study program requirements. Essentially, an F-1 student will be admitted for “duration of status” or “D/S” and this will be reflected on the I-94 card.
 

For more information on the F-1 student visa process please call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999.

Posted on October 1, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Diversity Visa lottery (DV) for the fiscal year 2011 must be submitted electronically between noon, October 2, 2009, and noon November 30, 2009. The entry form (E-DV) must be submitted online during the registration period available at www.dvlottery.state.gov.  

The DV program is a random lottery selection with 55,000 diversity visas issued each fiscal year to applicants of countries with low rates of immigration. Natives of the following countries are not allowed to participate in the DV-2011 because the countries sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years: Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependant territories, and Vietnam. Individuals born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible. Detailed information regarding DV lottery requirements is available at www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Posted on September 21, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals who do not have employment sponsorship or family ties in the United States have another avenue to immigrate to the United States with the Diversity Visa Lottery Program (DV program). Thus, a foreign national does not need to have a U.S sponsor to obtain permanent residence. Rather, the foreign national will register for the Diversity Visa lottery that is available on the U.S. Department of State Web site.   Before applying for the DV program, the foreign national must first make sure he or she is eligible to participate in the program. To qualify for the DV program, the foreign national must meet the following:

  • be a native of a country that is a low admission foreign state;
  • have at least a high school education or its equivalent or, within the five years before applying for a visa, have two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years training or experience.

  A country can be designated as a low-admission state if immigration from that country was lower than 50,000 over the preceding five years. Low admission states are allowed to participate in the DV program, whereas high admission regions are not. The list of countries participating in the DV program changes every year.  

Once the foreign national determines he or she is eligible to participate in the DV program, the next process will be to prepare the application, which is filed electronically with the Department of State. The application is available at www.dvlottery.state.gov. The registration period lasts for 60 days and begins October 2, 2009, and ends on November 30, 2009, for DV-2011.

It is vital that to be considered a DV applicant, the application period for the DV-2011 program must be submitted during this acceptable period. Once the form is submitted, the random selection begins within each region. A selected applicant will be a DV-lottery winner and the Kentucky Consular Center will send a notification letter providing instructions for the visa application.  

Kraft & Associates will answer your questions regarding the DV program and the process toward permanent residence. Call us at 214-999-9999. For more information on the DV program, visit the Department of State Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

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.

Posted on August 5, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Before starting the application process for permanent immigration, foreign nationals who enter the United States on non-immigrant visas (NIV) are considered to be here temporarily. The law presumes NIV holders intend to return to their home countries at the end of their stay in the United States. There are many NIV categories — student visas, business visas, visas for tourism, and investor treaty visas to name a few. While NIV applicants must have the intent to return to their home country, there are a few non-immigrant categories that allow a person to have dual intent, that is, to intend to be here temporarily now but eventually to immigrate. Prior to permanently immigrating to the United States, a foreign national will generally enter on a non-immigrant visa (dual intent NIV).   All NIV applicants are required to fill out an application form to the appropriate consular post and submit the DS forms according to the NIV category they are applying. The current forms available are DS-156, 157, 158, 156K, 3032). Currently, twelve consular posts are required to use Form DS-160, a Web-based NIV application form that incorporates all of the current NIV forms into one format via the Web site. When an NIV applicant fills out the form, the applicant has the option of uploading a digital photo. Once the form is submitted online, the NIV applicant will receive a confirmation page. The new DS-160 form is required in twelve posts (including Mexican and Canadian posts, Dublin, Hamilton, Hong Kong, and Tripoli), and the DS-160 form advances the NIV process since it is submitted in advance of the interview.   NIV applicants should make sure to utilize the appropriate DS form according to the consular post requirements currently in place.  

Please call us at 214-999-9999 and we will answer your non-immigrant visa questions.

Posted on July 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Answer: NO. Most individuals are not aware that a visa that is placed in a person’s passport does not determine the length of authorized stay in the United States. When a foreign national is admitted into the U.S., he or she is issued Form I-94 Arrival/Departure record. Form I-94 shows the nonimmigrant category and indicates how long the foreign national is allowed to stay in the United States.

Posted on July 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals who enter the United States with a non-immigrant visa are issued Form I-94 card at the port of entry. Form I-94 is a white piece of paper issued by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which shows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/CBP a record of your arrival and departure date from the United States. If you returned to your home country with Form I-94 in your passport, then your departure from the United States was not properly recorded. It is vital that you close out your earlier record of arrival to the U.S. Otherwise DHS will have in their records that you remained in the U.S. beyond the time you were authorized to stay.   If you are now in your home country with Form I-94 (or if you lost Form I-94), then you must validate your departure from the United States with DHS/CBP. The following are ways to validate departure with DHS/CBP:   ·        original boarding passes used to depart the United States; ·        departure stamps in your passport indicating entry and exist from the United States; ·        pay check stubs or letter from employer indicating that you worked in another country after you departed the United States; ·        bank records illustrating transactions made showing you were in another country after you left the United States; ·        school records showing attendance at a school outside the U.S. indicating you were in another country after you left the United States; ·        Receipts showing your name and date illustrating you made purchases outside the U.S., after leaving the United States.   Send the appropriate documentation to the following address ONLY:   DHS-CBP ACS Inc. 1084 South Laurel Road London, KY 40744 USA  

This is the only location where they will make the necessary changes to the DHS/CBP record. Do not forget to make copies of the materials you mail to DHS!

Posted on July 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Certain immigration forms are used to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to classify a foreign national for an immigrant or a non-immigrant visa based on either employment or family. Prior to submitting the forms to USCIS, there are 8 simple tips to follow for proper filing. They are:
 

  1. Use the most current edition of the form available on the USCIS Website;
  2. Follow instructions on the form to see who qualifies;
  3. If a question does not apply to you, make sure you write “NONE” or “N/A”;
  4. Type the information. If typing is not feasible, then print legibly;
  5. Don’t forget the appropriate filing fee. Make the check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Do not send cash;
  6. Make sure the Petitioner or Beneficiary signs and dates where appropriate;
  7. Do not forget the supporting documentation to support the petition or application;
  8. Send the petition to the correct mailing address. If the petition is sent to the wrong mailing address, the petition can be rejected for improper filing.

 
You can avoid a petition being rejected or a final decision being delayed by USCIS by following these eight simple tips.

Posted on June 8, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds individuals that they must obtain Advance Parole from USCIS before traveling abroad if they have:

    •    been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS);

    •    a pending application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident;

    •    a pending application for relief under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA 203);

    •    a pending asylum application; or

    •    a pending application for legalization.

Advance Parole is legal permission to reenter the United States after traveling abroad. Advance Parole is a rare and extraordinary measure used to allow an otherwise inadmissible individual to enter the United States due to compelling circumstances. Individuals requiring Advance Parole may not be allowed to enter the U.S. and may have their pending applications denied or administratively closed if they attempt to enter without Advance Parole. To obtain Advance Parole, individuals must file Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document), which is available on the USCIS website. Applicants should receive their travel document within 90 days of applying.

Please note that, under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, even if an alien who has been unlawfully present for certain periods of time obtains Advance Parole and then departs the U.S., he or she can be barred from admission to lawful permanent resident status. Further, those who are refugees or lawful permanent residents who were first refugees do not need to obtain Advance Parole. Such individuals should apply for a Refugee Travel Document using Form I-131 and comply with all USCIS requirements. However, asylum applicants, asylees, and lawful permanent residents who obtained that status based on their asylum status are subject to special rules regarding travel outside the United States. These individuals are strongly encouraged to review USCIS Fact Sheet regarding asylum and travel.

The USCIS also recommends that all individuals with pending applications for adjustment of status, NACARA 203, or asylum, consult an immigration attorney, an assistance organization accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, or call USCIS Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 before making any travel plans.

For more information, please visit: http://www.uscis.gov.

Posted on April 9, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As of April 6, 2009, all applicants for non-immigrant visas at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, must now enroll at the Applicant Service Center (ASC) fingerprint appointment before attending the interview appointment. ASC employees take applicants’ pictures and fingerprints and provide that data to the consulate. Non-immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States on a temporary basis. More information is available at:
www.ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html

Posted on March 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Citizens of one of the 35 countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) who seek to visit the United States for less than 90 days for either business or pleasure must now be pre-screened before boarding their flights. The Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an application system that requires travelers from these 35 VWP countries to apply for travel authorization 72 hours prior to boarding. The application is available online at: http://www.esta.us/travel_authorization.html The travel authorization is valid for two years. Currently, the 35 countries participating in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France,Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Nationals of countries that are not part of the 35 countries listed above should apply for a B-1 Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist visa. Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for a short period of time must show the following: ·         Limited duration of time to stay in the U.S. ·         Intent to depart the U.S. ·         Maintenance of a foreign residence ·         Adequate financial arrangements ·         Reason for trip to the U.S.

Please call us at 214-999-9999 for more information.

Posted on February 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. military is changing its position on immigrants in the armed services, and will now allow even temporary immigrants to join. The reason of course is that the military has a serious shortage of service men and women with knowledge of the languages and cultures of Afghanistan and Iraq. As an enticement to joining the military, the U.S. government will offer the possibility of naturalization in as little as six months. Here are excerpts from the story: 

Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.

Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.

The program will begin small — limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.

About 8,000 permanent immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually, the Pentagon reports, and about 29,000 foreign-born people currently serving are not American citizens.

The military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist, and that policy would not change, officers said. Recruiting officials pointed out that volunteers with temporary visas would have already passed a security screening and would have shown that they had no criminal record.

In recent years, as American forces faced combat in two wars and recruiters struggled to meet their goals for the all-volunteer military, thousands of legal immigrants with temporary visas who tried to enlist were turned away because they lacked permanent green cards, recruiting officers said.

Military officials want to attract immigrants who have native knowledge of languages and cultures that the Pentagon considers strategically vital. The program will also be open to students and refugees.

Pentagon officials expect that the lure of accelerated citizenship will be powerful. Under a statute invoked in 2002 by the Bush administration, immigrants who serve in the military can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, and they can take the oath in as little as six months.

For foreigners who come to work or study in the United States on temporary visas, the path to citizenship is uncertain and at best agonizingly long, often lasting more than a decade. The military also waives naturalization fees, which are at least $675.

To enlist, temporary immigrants will have to prove that they have lived in the United States for two years and have not been out of the country for longer than 90 days during that time. They will have to pass an English test.

Language experts will have to serve four years of active duty, and health care professionals will serve three years of active duty or six years in the Reserves. If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship.

Posted on February 7, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On March 6, 2009, the category covering non-minister special immigrant religious workers will expire. The non-minister religious worker category includes professional or non-professional capacities within a religious vocation or occupation. Therefore, individuals under the non-minister category must adjust their status to permanent residence or be admitted before March 6, 2009. Unless there is a Congressional extension of the expiration date, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will suspend further processing of any pending applications under the non-minister category. The expiring category does not affect individuals applying under the minister category of the program. If the program is extended beyond March 6, 2009, get updates through our Web site or the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov.

Posted on February 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A foreign national in the United States on a non-immigrant visa requesting either to extend status or change from one non-immigrant status to another must file Form I-539. If you filed Form I-539 and received an blank approval notice from the Vermont Service Center (VSC), the VSC has corrected the error, and will send your correction notice shortly. Approximately 200 faulty approval notices will be corrected.

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 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 December 30, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Non-immigrant visas are for foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for a temporary period of time. The type of visa a foreign national will apply for will depend on the purpose of the trip. Non-immigrant visas can be for study, tourism, or business, to name a few. Individuals who applied for a non-immigrant visa in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and are scheduled for an interview after January 20, 2009, must now use the electronic form DS-160 which is available online at ceac.state.gov/genniv.   This recent change requires all applicants, regardless of the type of visa applied for, to submit the form online prior to their appointment at the Consulate General. Once the form is submitted online, the applicant is required to print the confirmation page and take the confirmation page to their appointment.  

Please visit the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez’s Web site for more information:  http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html.

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.

Posted on December 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Did you enter the United States on a B-2 tourist visa, file an extension of status in the U.S., and a decision on the extension of status application is still pending? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently taking eight to twelve months to adjudicate a B-2 extension of status application. Individuals with pending extension of status applications should be very cautious when leaving the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not admit individuals back to the United States if they left more than six months after the application for extension was filed. There are serious consequences and appropriate measures should be taken.  

Please contact us if you have questions about B-2 visas or any other aspect of immigration law.

Posted on July 24, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals passing in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. may apply for the C-1 General Transit visa.  In order to satisfy the C-1 requirements, the foreign national must show the following:   1. He or she is in possession of a ticket or other assurance of transportation to a third country; 2. Has sufficient funds to complete the trip; 3. Has permission to enter the third country;   The period of authorized stay is fixed by the admitting officer but will not exceed 29 days.  Foreign nationals in transit cannot change their status to another nonimmigrant visa, are ineligible for extensions of stay, and cannot accept employment. Although the foreign national in transit is ineligible to change his or her status to another nonimmigrant visa, the foreign national is eligible to adjust his or her status and receive a permanent resident card in the United States. For example, if a foreign national in transit (C-1 visa holder) marries a U.S. citizen, the foreign national is eligible to file for adjustment of status for the permanent resident card.   Although C-1 visas are for foreign nationals in transit, there are times that crewmen enter on C-1 visas. Crewmen are individuals serving in good faith in any capacity required for normal operating and service on board a vessel. A foreign national in transit (C-1) entering to join a vessel is treated as a crewman. If a crewman enters on a C-1 visa to join a vessel, then the C-1 crewmember is ineligible to adjust his/her status.   For more information on C visas and adjustment of status please call 214-999-9999.

Posted on May 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The June Visa Bulletin has been released by the State Department. Here are the details:

Number 119 Volume VIII

Washington, D.C.

VISA BULLETIN FOR JUNE 2008

A.  STATUTORY NUMBERS

1.  This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during June. Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security reports applicants for adjustment of status.  Allocations were made, to the extent possible under the numerical limitations, for the demand received by May 8th in the chronological order of the reported priority dates. If the demand could not be satisfied within the statutory or regulatory limits, the category or foreign state in which demand was excessive was deemed oversubscribed.  The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits.  Only applicants who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date may be allotted a number.  Immediately that it becomes necessary during the monthly allocation process to retrogress a cut-off date, supplemental requests for numbers will be honored only if the priority date falls within the new cut-off date.

Continue Reading…

Posted on May 15, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Have you been issued an I-94 card with 9 or 10 digits? Then a replacement card is needed. An I-94 card should have eleven digits. If you are a foreign national with an error on your I-94 card — including a misspelled name, incorrect date of birth, incorrect visa classification, incorrect authorized period of stay — please report in person to the nearest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deferred inspection office or port of entry, regardless of where the original I-94 was issued. A CBP officer will correct the error on the I-94 card at the deferred inspection or port of entry. 

Posted on May 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals of Canada and Mexico seeking a temporary entry into the U.S. as professionals may enter as TN non-immigrants under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under the TN visa, Canadian or Mexican citizens must enter as professionals who have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or appropriate professional credentials. Currently, TN visa holders from Canada or Mexico are allowed to stay in the U.S. for a maximum of one year, with an unlimited amount of extensions of stay. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently published a proposed rule to increase the maximum amount of time a TN professional worker can stay – from one year to three years. In addition, the proposed rule will allow TN visa holders seeking an extension of stay in increments of up to three years.

For more information on TN visas, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on April 28, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An optional practical training (OPT) authorizes F-1 students to receive up to 12 months of practical training either before or after completion of their studies. On April 8, 2008, an interim final rule was issued stating that certain F-1 students will be eligible to receive a 17-month extension following the completion of their OPT. Under the new rule, F-1 students with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), who are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial OPT related to such a degree may apply for a 17-month extension of the OPT. The student will file for the 17-month STEM extension on Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and include a copy of the STEM degree, and Form I-20 endorsed by the Designated School Official. F-1 students with STEM degrees may benefit from this final rule if they are the beneficiaries of an approved H-1B petition by automatically extending their F-1 status. This allows the student to remain in the U.S. and continue working until October 1, the start date of the H-1B petition.

For more information please contact us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on April 21, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The government has released the May 2008 Visa Bulletin, and there are some bits of good news in it.

EB2 categories for Mexico and for the Philippines are still current (we always worry about backsliding). India’s cutoff date advanced a month, as did the date for China, to January 1, 2004. All things considered, the bulletin was a good one this time.

Posted on April 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

According to figures released today by USCIS, there were 163,000 applications filed for the 65,000 available H-1B visas. So if most of the applicants are actually qualified, each applicant has less than a 50-50 chance of being chosen in the lottery drawing. Pitiful. The United States has such a great need for qualified workers, but we continue to use an artificial cap to deprive ourselves of this productivity. Here is the USCIS press release:

USCIS Releases Preliminary Number Of FY 2009 H-1B Cap Filings WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced a preliminary number of nearly 163,000 H-1B petitions received during the filing period ending on April 7, 2008. More than 31,200 of those petitions were for the advanced degree category. USCIS expects next week it will conduct the computer-generated random selection process, beginning with the selection of the 20,000 petitions under the advanced degree exemption. Those petitions not selected under the advanced degree category will join the random selection process for the cap-subject 65,000 limit. USCIS will reject, and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, unless found to be a duplicate. USCIS will handle duplicate filings in accordance with the interim final rule published on March 24, 2008 in the Federal Register. USCIS will provide regular updates as the processing of FY 2009 H-1B cap cases continues.

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting editorial a few days ago about the need for increasing the number of H-1B visas allowable each year. Here are excerpts:

Bill Gates appeared before Congress again last week to make a simple point to simpler pols: The ridiculously low annual cap on H-1B visas for foreign professionals is undermining the ability of U.S. companies to compete in a global marketplace. “Congress’s failure to pass high-skill immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation,” said the Microsoft chairman. “The current base cap of 65,000 H-1B visas is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to the U.S. economy’s demand for skilled workers.” The Labor Department projects that by 2014 there will be more than two million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math fields. But the number of Americans graduating with degrees in those disciplines is falling. Meanwhile, visa quotas make it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to hire foreign-born graduates of our own universities. Last year, as in prior years, the supply of H-1B visas was exhausted on the first day petitions could be filed. Mr. Gates said his software company exemplifies this phenomenon. “Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities,” he told lawmakers. “If we increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to U.S. companies, employment of U.S. nationals would likely grow as well.” The preponderance of evidence continues to show that businesses are having difficulty filling skilled positions in the U.S. By blocking their access to foreign talent, Congress isn’t protecting U.S. jobs but is providing incentives to outsource. If lawmakers can’t bring themselves to eliminate the H-1B visa cap, they might at least raise it to a level that doesn’t handicap U.S. companies.

Posted on February 14, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The O visa is a temporary visa designed for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or motion picture or television production, which has been demonstrated by sustained national and international achievements. The O visa allows these individuals to come to the United States to work for a U.S. employer in their areas of expertise.

To qualify for an O visa in “science, education, business or athletics,” the foreign national must be one of the small percentage who have risen to the top of his or her field. Documentation may include three of the following:

  • receipts of national or international awards in their field such as the Nobel Prize or other distinguished award;
  • membership in organizations that require outstanding achievement;
  • published materials about the foreign national;
  • original scientific work of major significance in foreign national’s field;
  • evidence that the foreign national has been employed in a critical or essential capacity at an organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  • evidence that the foreign national has commanded or will command a high salary
  • letters of recommendation from experts in the field.

The U.S. employer will file a petition with the Citizenship & Immigration Services along with evidence illustrating the foreign national’s extraordinary ability. Once the petition is approved, the foreign national may obtain the O visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their country of residence. Spouses and unmarried minor children may accompany the O visa holder but are unable to work in the United States. Since the O visa is temporary, it is issued initially for three years and may be extended in one year increments. The O visa allows the individual to apply for permanent residency.

If you meet the extraordinary ability requirements outlined above, please contact us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in the Houston Chronicle yesterday, a proposed regulation from the Labor Department could have the effect of reducing wages paid to legal immigrant farm workers. Here are excerpts from the story:

The Labor Department planned Wednesday to propose changes to the foreign agriculture worker program, among them how the base wages for H2-A visa holders are determined. Streamlining the hiring process for H2-A visa holders could help turn employers away from hiring illegal workers, officials said.

Right now, the base pay for H2-A agriculture workers is set by the Agriculture Department’s Farm Labor Survey and varies by state. Within a state, the pay is the same regardless of what job a worker performs.

However, the Labor Department wants to use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Survey, which would allow officials to consider what workers do and their skill levels. It also would allow officials to divide the country into more than 530 areas and to pay wages appropriate to each area.

Under the H-2A program, farmers may apply to bring in foreign workers if they can show the supply of U.S. workers is inadequate. The new regulations, which were to be proposed by the Labor and Homeland Security departments, would be the first changes to the H-2A visa system in 20 years.

More than half of U.S. farm workers admit on Labor Department surveys that they are not legally authorized to work. Some groups believe it’s actually about 70 percent.

Employers consider the H2-A program burdensome and many hire undocumented workers rather than use it. Critics say employers don’t like the program’s wage, housing and other requirements. Labor officials plan to make the application process easier for employers wanting foreign farm workers.

The H-2A system requires that above-average wages — called the adverse effect wage rate — be paid to those workers.

In 2007, the highest adverse effect wage rate was $10.32 in Hawaii and the lowest was $8.27 in Arizona. In North Carolina, where the largest number of H-2A visas are issued, the adverse effect wage rate was $9.02.

Posted on February 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (INA), stipulates that physicians who have entered the United States to undertake a J-1 graduate medical training or education program are uniformly subject to the obligation to return to their home country or country of last residence for a period of two years. INA §212(e). J-1 visa holders are eligible for waiver of the two-year home residence requirement based upon exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. INA §212(e). There are three other bases for filing a waiver to the two-year foreign residency requirement, but this discussion will be on the exceptional hardship waiver.

In determining a hardship waiver, exceptional hardship must be shown with respect to the U.S. citizen spouse or child in the event they remain in the United States and the foreign spouse returns to the home country. The applicant must also show hardship if the spouse or child accompany the foreign national abroad for two years.

Factors considered to form the basis of exceptional hardship include where the U.S. citizen spouse would be required to interrupt a professional career, suffer unemployment and separation of family.The country conditions to which the exchange visitor and the U.S. citizen or resident spouse would return must also be considered, particularly where they are shown to impact psychological and physical health. Other factors are considered to form the basis of a finding of exceptional hardship as well.

For example, where it is shown that the citizen spouse would suffer adverse consequences to their medical studies by the departure of their J-1 spouse, and that their career would be set back if he or she were either to interrupt their education or attempt to continue their studies in the spouse’s country. Similarly, the threat of disruption of the education of an exchange visitor’s spouse would constitute sufficient hardship to justify granting the waiver. In evaluating a claim of exceptional hardship, evidence of the disruption of the career or of the education of the U.S. citizen or resident spouse will be considered, along with other relevant factors mentioned above.

To learn more about waivers to the two-year foreign residency requirement, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals who do not have a valid immigrant visa and wish to travel multiple times outside the United States will need permission to re-enter the United States. An individual who filed an adjustment of status (AOS) application will need a travel document (advance parole) to re-enter the United States. If the AOS application is pending, the foreign national should submit form I-131 Travel Document Application prior to departure. Otherwise, if the foreign national leaves the United States while the AOS application is pending, the application will be deemed abandoned and the AOS application will eventually be denied.

Be aware travelers, in order to avoid the termination of a pending AOS application, it is imperative to apply for Advance Parole prior to leaving the United States. An advance parole is approved within 90 days and is valid for multiple trips throughout one year. Of course, once the foreign national receives his or her green card, an advance parole is no longer needed.

Please note there are certain foreign nationals who may not apply for advance parole. An advance parole document is not available for individuals in the United States illegally, under removal proceedings, or who are exchange foreign nationals subject to the residency requirement.

Please contact us to learn more about Advance Parole and the information needed to apply for an Advance Parole.

Posted on January 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. companies wanting to bring foreign nationals into the United States to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature may do so by demonstrating that no U.S. worker is willing, able, qualified, and readily available to perform such service or labor. Under the H-2A program, a U.S. employer must conduct serious recruitment, such as placing a job opening with the State Workforce Agency, and advertising in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of employment. After the recruitment period establishes that there are no U.S. workers capable of performing such agricultural service, and that the employment of the foreign nationals will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers, the employer will file a labor certification with the Department of Labor (DOL).

Once the DOL grants the labor certification, a petition for the foreign national to perform the agricultural labor/services of a temporary or seasonal nature is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An approved petition is then forwarded to the U.S. Consulate where the worker applied for the visa.

An H-2A visa is granted for up to a year and may be extended once for two years, for a maximum of three years. If you need more information regarding H-2A visas, please contact us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on January 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States “on business” must first obtain a B-1 visa from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in his or her home country. The B-1 visa allows the foreign national to enter the United States temporarily for business. However, the business visitor is not authorized employment in the United States.

For example, if the purpose of the foreign national’s planned travel is to meet with business associates, travel for a business convention or conference on specific dates, or settle or negotiate a contract, then a B-1 visa would be necessary. Since the purpose of the trip and visa is temporary in nature, the foreign national needs to establish there is no intention of abandoning his or her home country. Documentation must be presented to the consul establishing intent to return to the home country. An individuals should therefore provide sufficient ties to the home country — such as an employment letter, financial connections, bank accounts, close family ties, copies of recent tax returns, copies of recent paycheck stubs, copies of mortgage, lease, or other documents demonstrating residence.

Please contact us to learn more about the B-1 visa.

Posted on January 15, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Citizens of Mexico or Canada may opt for a TN visa instead of being subject to the annual cap of the H-1B visa. The TN visas are similar to the H-1B visas in that the visa is designed for professionals that have attained the requisite education and experience. Examples include accountants, architects, hotel managers, dentists, librarians, engineers, doctors (who are in teaching and research positions), animal breeders, animal scientists, and management consultants. The pertinent occupations are listed in the regulations, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whereas the experience and education levels are specified in the regulations. There are a few cases where a degree is not required such as management consultants.

Although a TN visa is valid for one year, it may be renewed every year. It is vital to note that TN visas have a temporary intent requirement and the individual must have intent to return to his/her home country of Mexico or Canada. The process of submitting TN applications are different for Canadians and Mexicans. A Canadian citizen will present all documents and apply for TN status at any port of entry such as the airport. No visa is issued only an I-94 card. On the other hand, a Mexican citizen will apply for TN status at the U.S. Consulate.

If you are a citizen of Mexico or Canada and want more information on the Professional Nonimmigrant visa, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on January 9, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was passed in 2000 creating the “U” nonimmigrant classification. The U visa is available for undocumented immigrants who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a criminal activity. The individual must demonstrate the following: he or she has information concerning the criminal activity; the law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, or other investigating authorities provided a certification indicating that the individual has been helpful, is being helpful or is likely to be helpful; the criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States, or have occurred in the United States.

The victim of the criminal activity must file Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, at the Vermont Service Center. To determine what qualifies as a violation of a criminal activity, guidance is provided by statute that the activity is in violation of a Federal, State or local criminal law. Examples include but are not limited to rape, torture, sexual exploitation, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, abduction, false imprisonment, murder, blackmail, and obstruction of justice. Along with the petition, the individual must provide evidence that he or she suffered direct and proximate harm as a result of the criminal activity. The evidence may include trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, news articles, affidavits, or orders of protection.

Until the final regulations are issued, individuals who demonstrate eligibility for U visas are granted interim relief. Following the grant of interim relief, the individual may apply for work authorization. After three years of being present in the United States, and for humanitarian grounds, the U visa holder may adjust his or her status.

To learn more about the U visa and its process, please contact us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on January 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

H-1B visas are work visas that allow foreign nationals to temporarily work in the United States for a U.S. employer.  A U.S. employer may petition a foreign national under the H-1B classification that specifically applies to individuals in a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation has three requirements. First, an individual must have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its equivalent for the particular position. Second, the degree is common in the industry among similar organizations. Third, the employer normally requires a degree or equivalent; or the nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with attainment of the degree. 

Individuals with H-1B visas are allowed to work in the United States for up to six years, but visas are granted in three year increments. In some cases, the H-1B visas may be extended for more than six years. If the individual is in the United States, a change of status to an H-1B is filed in the United States. If the individual is outside the United States, upon approval of the petition, the individual must apply for an H-1B visa at the U.S. consulate. There are only 65,000 H-1B visas issued per year. The fiscal year for 2008 reached its cap on the very first day cases were accepted for filing (April 1, 2007).

The beginning of the fiscal year for 2009 is October 1, 2008.  Employers may begin filing their petitions six months prior to the start date of employment but the individuals can not start their job until October 1.   

It is vital for those individuals wishing to work in the United States to begin preparing their H-1B paperwork before the cap is reached. Please call us at 214-999-9999 if you would like more information on beginning the H-1B process.

Posted on January 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Unfortunately for those employers who can’t find U.S. citizen workers for non-agricultural temporary employment, the government has announced that the quota has already been reached for H-2B workers for the second half of fiscal year 2008. This means that no one else will be allowed to apply for jobs in the United States if the starting date of employment is before October 1, 2008.

This is further evidence that the artificial caps for H-1B and H-2B visas are long overdue for increases. The caps haven’t changed in many years, despite the growth in the U.S. economy. Any employers hoping for worker visas for jobs beginning after October 1, 2008, better get ready to start the process.

Here is the announcement from USCIS:

–U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2008 (FY2008). USCIS is hereby notifying the public that January 2, 2008 is the “final receipt date” for new H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates prior to October 1, 2008. The “final receipt date” is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 33,000 H-2B workers for the second half of FY2008.

The cap was reached with existing totals for that day. USCIS will reject petitions for new H-2B workers seeking employment start dates prior to October 1, 2008 that arrive after January 2, 2008. USCIS will apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions which are subject to the cap and were received on January 2, 2008. USCIS will use this process to select the number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS will reject, and return the fee, for all cap-subject petitions not randomly selected. Petitions for workers who are currently in H-2B status do not count towards the congressionally mandated bi-annual H-2B cap. USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:

  1. Extend the stay of a current H-2B worker in the United States;
  2. Change the terms of employment for current H-2B workers and extend their stay; or
  3. Allow current H-2B workers to change or add employers and extend their stay.

Posted on December 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

A religious organization in the United States may sponsor an individual from another country who has been a member of a religious denomination for two years immediately preceding the filing of the application. If the appropriate Petition and supporting documentation are submitted, the individual may qualify for a nonimmigrant R visa. If the individual is the United States, the religious organization must file Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with the R Classification Supplement in the United States. If the individual’s spouse and children are accompanying or following to join him or her, then Form I-539 should be filed with the I-129 Petition.

The petition must be supported with documentation establishing that the individual seeks to enter the United States solely for the purpose to:   1) carry on the vocation of a minister of that religious organization; or    2) work in a professional capacity for that religious organization at the request of the organization; or

   3) work at the request of the organization in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization (or its § 501(c)(3) affiliate).

The petitioner (religious organization) must show that it is a bona fide, non-profit, tax exempt religious organization under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This can be shown by submitting copies of the organization’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, financial statements, and letters from the Internal Revenue Service showing that the religious organization is nonprofit and exempt from taxation.

Furthermore, a letter from an authorized official should indicate that the individual has been a member of the religious organization and that the foreign and U.S religious organizations belong to the same religious denomination. The religious organization should provide a sworn statement by an authorized official outlining the hours the individual will work, the duties and responsibilities the individual will perform and the remuneration the individual will receive. Once the R-1 visa is approved, the religious worker, spouse, and children (under 21 years) are granted admission for three years which may be extended for an additional two years.

The R visa allows the individual to apply for permanent residency. If an individual has been in R status for at least two years, a Special Immigrant Petition I-360 may be filed by either the Religious worker or the employer. The Special Immigrant Petition is a step towards obtaining permanent residency. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding Religious Worker visas.

Posted on November 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration is backing down from the announced policy of punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants. The proposed rule was to enforce so-called “no match” letters from the Social Security Administration by prosecuting employers who did not fire employees whose Social Security numbers did not match the database of the Social Security Administration. Here are excerpts from the New York Times article:

Instead, the administration plans to revise the rule to try to meet concerns raised by a federal judge and issue it again by late March, hoping to pass court scrutiny on the second try. The rule would have forced employers to fire workers within 90 days if their Social Security information could not be verified.

The government’s proposal was a response to an indefinite delay to the rule ordered Oct. 10 by the judge, Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in San Francisco. Judge Breyer found that the government had failed to follow proper procedures in issuing the rule and that it should have completed a survey of its impact on small business.

He also found that the Social Security database the government would use to verify workers’ status was full of errors, so the rule could lead to the dismissal of many thousands of workers who were American citizens or legal immigrants.

In a four-page motion filed Friday, the government, without acknowledging any flaws in the original rule, asked Judge Breyer to suspend the case so the Department of Homeland Security could rewrite the rule and conduct the small-business survey, which it expects to do by March 24. The government said that it wanted to “prevent the waste of judicial resources” and that it was confident the amended rule would “fully address the court’s concerns.”

The rule laid out procedures for employers to follow after receiving a notice from the Social Security Administration, known as a no-match letter, advising that an employee’s identity information did not match the agency’s records.

The employer would have had to fire an employee who could not provide verifiable information within 90 days, or face the risk of prosecution for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Those immigrants often present fake Social Security numbers when applying for jobs.

Judge Breyer also stopped Social Security from sending out about 141,000 no-match letters, covering more than eight million workers, which contained instructions from Homeland Security about the rule. Social Security sends the letters to clarify workers’ information so it can correctly credit taxes deducted from their wages.

Some businesses welcomed the rule because it clarified what they had to do to avoid immigration raids. But the labor unions cited a report from the inspector general of the Social Security Administration finding that 12.7 million of the records of United States citizens in the agency’s database contained errors that could lead to them being fired.

Posted on October 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article yesterday about the tech industry lobbying to raise the cap on H-1B visas. Here are a few excerpts:

High-tech workers here on federal permits are speaking out – many for the first time – over rules that leave them for years in personal and professional limbo.

After Congress failed to reform immigration laws for the second year in a row, hundreds of the largely India- and China-born workers protested this summer in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. They were frustrated that the divisive debate over illegal immigration had overwhelmed efforts at comprehensive immigration reform.

Legal immigrants who feel squeezed by limits on the number of green cards issued each year are trying to separate their complaints from the protests by illegal immigrants. And high-tech companies that say they can’t fill jobs because of a cap on skilled-worker visas have stepped up their long-standing plea for the cap to be raised.

The green card application system is akin to “indentured servitude,” said Kim Berry, president of the Programmers’ Guild, a group that opposes current work visa laws. “It takes years for the green card sponsorship to happen, and they can’t leave, can’t ask for a raise unless they want to lose their place in line.”

Applications for work-related green cards – limited to 140,000 each year, about 9,800 per sending country – are backlogged so deep that many immigrants must plod along for years, uncertain about their future in the United States and unable to change jobs while they wait for permanent residence.

And immigration officials resorted to a lottery for H1-B work visas this summer when businesses filed – on just the first day the government was accepting applications – double the number that could be considered the whole year. Three years ago, it took 10 months for businesses to fill the annual quota.

More than 1 million foreign nationals were in line for permanent residency in 2006. More than 500,000 came into the U.S. on H1-Bs, and the rest through family connections.

Microsoft Corp. was the third-largest sponsor of H1-B visas in the last federal fiscal year. But it still didn’t get all the foreign workers it wanted into the country. The company’s government affairs director said this was one motivation for Microsoft to open a new software development center in Canada.

“We currently do 85 percent of our development work in the U.S., and we’d like to continue doing that,” said Jack Krumholtz. “But if we can’t hire the developers we need … we’re going to have to look to other options to get the work done.”

About 8 percent of Mountain View-based Google Inc.’s employees currently work under H1-B visas. This year, the company posted 70 new foreign hires overseas when they couldn’t get visas. They’ll try again next year.

Smaller companies, which may need only one foreign worker, argue they suffer most under the visa cap because they don’t have the flexibility of the giants in the field.

Posted on September 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

At Kraft & Associates, we recently had an inquiry from a soldier who had just returned from Iraq. He had promised his Iraqi translator that he would try to help the translator gain entry into the United States.

We had to tell this good-hearted military man that the United States has been embarrassingly slow to admit any Iraqi citizens into our country, including those who risked their lives by helping our military. This year alone, Switzerland has accepted thousands of Iraqi refugees, while the United States has accepted only a few hundred, almost all of those in the past two months.

However, there may be something that can be done for these people. Depending on the exact situations and the eligibilities, they may be able to enter the U.S. as Special Immigrants. Translators for the U.S. Armed Forces may be eligible to enter the United States, and are protected under the National Defense Authorization Act.  To benefit from this act they must demonstrate the following:

  • National of Iraq or Afghanistan;
  • worked directly with U.S. Armed Forces as a translator for a period of at least 12 months;
  • obtained a favorable written recommendation from a general or flag officer in the chain of command;
  • cleared a background check and screening as determined by the general or flag officer before filing the petition; and
  • they are otherwise admissible except for 212(a)(4) (public charge)

They must file their petitions on form I-360.  The biggest hurdle to overcome is that there are only 50 visas available per year. Spouse and children may accompany or follow to join if the principal applicant is approved.

Posted on August 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

A columnist for the newspaper where I worked my way through college and law school has an interesting article today about the most recent immigration changes — the “no match” letters.

Rowland Nethaway says this continuing crackdown on illegal workers is going to damage the nation’s economy. Here are excerpts from his column:

WACO, Texas — If authorities continue to crack down on illegal workers, the full Congress will learn the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The raids and arrests that have occurred so far have already had an economic impact on the nation’s agriculture industry.

Other segments of the economy can expect a sharp downturn as employers lose access to a valuable illegal immigrant workforce.

Unless Congress acts quickly to overhaul the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system, Americans can expect to experience a significant jump in prices at the grocery store.

The hit on American pocketbooks will not be limited to price hikes and shortages at the supermarket. Across the economy, many services will decline while direct costs will rise.

Evidently, not enough members of Congress play chess. Even beginning chess players know they must think several moves ahead to have any chance at winning.

Congress’ enforcement-only camp succeeded in shooting down a comprehensive immigration reform bill supported by President Bush and a bipartisan assemblage of Democrats and Republicans.

The legislation would have provided a method to legally match foreign workers with American employers.

In another example of being careful about what you ask for, immigration authorities have stepped up enforcement of long-ignored laws that make it illegal for U.S. employers to hire illegal immigrant workers.

Additionally, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a new policy that requires employers to follow up on “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration.

These letters will inform employers when the nine-digit sequence of numbers provided by their workers does not to match the Social Security database.

For years now, employers have known that nothing would happen to them when they wadded up and tossed these no-match letters into the nearest trash can.

Now, employers have been told that if they do not clear up mismatched Social Security numbers, then the identified workers must be fired or the employers will face fines up to $10,000, as well as possible criminal charges.

It’s been unlawful to hire illegal workers for decades. About the only time the immigration law has made news has been when a presidential nominee was discovered to have hired an illegal nanny.

Breaking the immigration law has been enough to disqualify a nominee from a plum government appointment, but not enough to motivate immigration authorities to enforce the law on employers across the nation.

Full enforcement of the new no-match requirement will only disrupt a fraction of illegal workers who can buy, borrow or steal valid Social Security numbers.

Also, the letters will only be sent to employers with at least 10 workers with mismatched Social Security numbers, and where those workers make up at least 0.5 percent of their workforce.

An estimated 75 percent of day laborers are illegal and undocumented. As a rule, no documents are requested and none are given. Many of these workers endure wage theft from unscrupulous employers.

Still, the recent baby steps that have been taken to enforce long-standing immigration laws have caused serious disruptions in the operations of many American businesses as word of the crackdowns has spread.

Early reports indicate that many farmers will produce only 50 percent of their normal crops due to the growing labor shortage.

In some cases, farmers have chosen to not plant due to the difficulty in finding workers to harvest the crops.

It is estimated that at least two-thirds of the workers in construction and agriculture are working illegally.

The enforcement-only critics who killed comprehensive immigration reform should have easily predicted this outcome. But they didn’t.

Rowland Nethaway writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Posted on July 13, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial this week in the Los Angeles Times details one of the reasons Microsoft has elected to build its new research center in Canada rather than in the United States. Excerpts from the editorial:

Microsoft [is] hiring several hundred software wizards to help develop new products. Instead of landing at the Redmond, Wash., mother ship, however, the new workers will toil in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here’s why, according to the company’s news release (emphasis added): “The Vancouver area is a global gateway with a diverse population, is close to Microsoft’s corporate offices in Redmond and allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.“Consider it just the latest in a series of monuments to the United States’ botched immigration policy, as well as a reminder of the Senate’s recent failure to pass a comprehensive fix despite bipartisan support. High-tech companies are so frustrated by the limits on visas for skilled labor that they’re not just opening offices in India and China to recruit local talent. They’re also putting facilities in places like Vancouver for prized recruits from around the world — many of them trained at U.S. universities — who cannot work here. The demand for H-1B visas for high-skilled immigrants has become so much greater than the supply that almost twice as many applications arrived in a single day as there were slots available for the year — 65,000, plus 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. schools. Other countries, by contrast, are starting to make it easier for skilled workers to immigrate. That’s because they’re focusing on the benefits those employees can bring to their economies, not the competition they present to native labor.

Many of these immigrants become the innovators and entrepreneurs who create companies, employ more people and create wealth. Just look at the U.S. experience — about 25% of all venture-capital-backed start-ups here were launched or co-founded by foreign nationals, including Yahoo, Google and EBay. The same benefits come from talented U.S. workers too, but not enough of them are pursuing science, math and engineering careers to fill the voracious demand at Microsoft and other high-tech powerhouses. A comprehensive fix to U.S. immigration policy is overdue, but failing that, Congress should at least adopt a more sensible approach to H-1B visas.

Posted on July 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The scandal/confusion regarding the latest Visa Bulletin has found its way into the New York Times today. Here are excerpts from the article:

Immigration lawyers raised unusually irate protests yesterday after the State Department and the immigration service abruptly withdrew tens of thousands of job-based visas they had offered last month to foreign professionals hoping to become permanent residents in the United States.

The outcry was provoked by a terse announcement on Monday in which the State Department said it would not grant any more visas for the 2007 fiscal year to foreigners applying to become permanent residents based on their job skills. That notice reversed one the department had issued on June 13 announcing a two-month window starting July 2 for aspiring, high-skilled immigrants from around the world to present applications for visas known as green cards.

The State Department said the 60,000 visas it had expected to offer would no longer be available because of “sudden backlog reduction efforts” by Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes applications for the visas offered by the department.

In a statement yesterday, the American Immigration Lawyers Association accused the two agencies of perpetrating a “hoax” and a “bait and switch” against hopeful legal immigrants who played by the book.

To apply, immigrants must undergo medical examinations and assemble documents to prove their job skills and show that a United States employer has sponsored them. Foreigners must be in the United States when they present their applications, which are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Because of backlogs for employment-based visas, foreigners have had to wait many years just to be allowed to file their applications.

Thousands of medical and technology professionals, including many working here on temporary visas, scrambled for weeks to get their documents together, in some cases canceling travel plans, in order to file their applications on Monday, the first day of the window. The State Department and the immigration agency closed the window without accepting a single application.

“I am concerned that such action may violate the law and could threaten the integrity of our immigration system,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California who is chairwoman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, wrote in letters yesterday to Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state. Ms. Lofgren warned that the federal government could face costly litigation because of its change of course.

The State Department said it would begin accepting applications on Oct. 1 for 2008 visas. On July 30, the immigration agency will raise its processing fees by an average of 66 percent.

Posted on June 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

We’ve written about the subject of updating addresses before, but we get this question asked so many times we’re going to revisit the situation.

On January 12, 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new program that allows U.S. immigrants to update their addresses online. Currently, all non-citizens in the U.S. are required to keep Immigration Services updated as to their most current addresses. Immigration Services must be notified within ten days of any change in address. Previously, this was done either by calling USCIS or completing a change of address card (Form AR-11), which was mailed to USCIS.

USCIS now accepts change of address information online. This new service reduced processing times, since Immigration Services typically receives over one million change of address requests each year. Additionally, this new service is convenient and easy to use.

It is vital that you continually notify Immigration Services of any change in address. This is particularly important when you have filed an application or petition for a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act and expect notification of a decision on that application. In addition, the USCIS may need to contact you to provide other issued documents or return original copies of evidence you submitted.

You should include the following information in your change of address request:

* For the change of address Form AR-11, complete the information requested on the form, including present address, last address (most recent only), alien or registration number, country of citizenship, date of birth, and your signature.

* You do not need to include temporary addresses as long as you maintain your present address as your permanent residence and continue to receive mail there.

* When sending a change of address, you do not need to include numerous last addresses; only the most recent last address is needed.

* Be sure to also indicate in the appropriate block on the AR-11 your current employment and school, where applicable.

You can find and print the change of address form online at this USCIS page. If you would prefer to update your address automatically through the USCIS Eeb site, please visit this change of address page.

Posted on June 15, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The current immigration debate isn’t just about undocumented persons in the United States, it’s also about U.S. employers hiring foreign workers. In many situations, companies hire foreign nationals who are already in the United States or who are interested in coming to this country to work. The following are guidelines that all employers should keep in mind:

1. Carefully audit the company’s I-9 compliance, take corrective action, and be prepared for sudden employer-sanctions enforcement.

Every employer is required to have an I-9 form completed for each employee hired since Nov. 6, 1986, and potentially faces up to $1,000 fines per worker (alien or not) for failure to file the technical requirements. In the last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has filed criminal charges against employers who commonly employ undocumented workers.Ensure that employees present original documents to establish their identity and employment eligibility within three business days of the date employment begins. (If they cannot produce the required documents by then, employees must produce receipts showing they have applied for the documents; they then must present the document within 90 days of hire.)

2. Maintain all I-9s and take stock of your I-9 compliance.

It’s a good practice to have all new hires complete and sign Section 1 of the I-9 on their first day of work, but never before you extend a job offer to the applicant. Make sure you carefully review each employee’s documents to make sure they are on the I-9 list of acceptable documents. Review the documents to see if they appear to be genuine.Employers should always remember the following practices when obtaining employee information for I-9s: * Don’t ask for any particular documents or for more documents than the I-9 requires.* Don’t consider the expiration date of any of the I-9 documents.* Do keep I-9s and copies of document for three years after the employee’s date of hire or one year after the date of termination, whichever comes later.* Do keep I-9 documentation separate from the employee’s personnel file to protect yourself from a discrimination claim.

3. Keep all workers in legal status.

All employers should make sure that aliens are in valid immigration status or have a valid, unexpired employment authorization document. If a worker requires an extension of status, make sure to apply for one several months in advance. The short “overstay” results in automatic cancellation of the alien’s visa, which can only be replaced at a U.S. consulate in the alien’s home country. Technical violations of U.S. immigration status that persist for more than 180 days might lead to a three-year or ten-year bar of the worker from the United States.

4. A U.S. employer cannot engage in discrimination on the basis of citizenship status.

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against persons in hiring, discharging, and recruiting and referring for a fee because of their citizenship status. Permanent and temporary residents, refugees, asylees, and U.S. citizens are all protected. Fines are up to $1,000 per person for violations where the employer requests more or different documents than are required, or refuses to honor documents that reasonably appear to be genuine. Other types of discrimination carry fines of up to $2,000 per person for the first offense, $5,000 for the second offense, and $10,000 for the third and subsequent offenses. In addition to fines, employers can be ordered to pay lost wages for applicants not hired or employees discharged in violation of discrimination provisions. Employers can be ordered to hire applicants or reinstate discharged employees if discrimination is found.

5. Immigration law is complex and rapidly changing.

Immigration law is complex and is derived from federal statutes, federal court cases, and federal rules. It involves the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. A tremendous backlog of cases and processing delays has resulted from the involvement of several different agencies in the immigration process.

The status of employees in the U.S. is something that should be in the forefront of every employer’s mind. An employer should attempt to stay informed of all developments in this important area of the law. An attorney who is experienced in immigration law can help you with all of your questions today.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Over the last several years many foreign nationals who are in the United States legally have often used the words “visa” and “status” interchangeably. In too many cases this has led to disastrous results for those people.

Anyone who wants to enter the United States will have to go through an inspection by an immigration officer at the border prior to entry. The officer will normally issue an I-94 card that allows the foreign national to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose and for a specific duration of time. The above falls into the concept of “status.” For example, a British citizen who flies to the U.S. for a vacation will go through an inspection at the airport and an I-94 card will be placed in his passport. The I-94 card is usually valid for six months and allows the British citizen to hold the status of a tourist for six months while in the United States.

A person admitted in one status may seek a change of status into a new classification (such as from F-1 to H-1B). Also, the duration of a person’s stay may be extended by Immigration Services.

A “visa” on the other hand, is a document that allows a person to come to a port of entry and apply for admission into the United States. A visa allows for a person to apply to enter the U.S.; it does not provide a person with “status.” A person applies for a visa at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. However, issuance of a visa does not guarantee a person’s admission into the United States.

If a citizen of India wishes to visit family members in the U.S. she will apply for a tourist visa at a U.S. Consulate in India. If the application is approved, the U.S. Consulate will usually issue a tourist visa that is valid for ten years. Therefore, the Indian citizen now possesses a visa. However, at the port of entry she will go through inspection and will be issued an I-94 card that is usually valid for six months. This means that although this person has a valid ten-year tourist visa, she is only authorized to have status as a tourist for six months.

As shown above, a visa is only for the purpose of admission into the United States, not for the purpose of remaining in the United States. To remain in the United States, a person must have status, which is evidenced by the validity dates of the I-94 card. If a person remains in the U.S. past the expiration date of the I-94 card they no longer have legal status in the U.S. even if their visa has not yet expired.

Finally, a non-immigrant visa holder violates his or her status in the United States if the person:

remains beyond the expiration date of the status granted;

engages in employment without specific authorization; or

engages in an activity that is not consistent with the status in which the person was admitted.

A person in this situation must immediately attempt to regain status to avoid removal from the U.S. and to prevent other serious immigration consequences.

Posted on June 1, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Many individuals and employers in the United States are unaware of the existence of the H-2B visa. Although it is not as common as the H-1B visa, it is still an attractive option to individuals wanting to live and work in the U.S.

The H-2B visa is similar to the H-1B visa since the H-2B nonimmigrant work visa also provides a method for U.S. employers to obtain the services of foreign nationals to fill temporary needs of the business or corporation. The H-2B visa, however, has many stringent requirements that must be met prior to filing, which is the main reason for its underuse.

One of the most significant restrictions on the H-2B category is the requirement that the need for the foreign worker be temporary. There are four situations in which there is a temporary need for workers: recurring seasonal need, intermittent need, peak-load need, and need based on a one-time occurrence. It is this requirement that makes this visa category so rarely used. Not only must the employer promise to employ the worker for a limited period of time, the employer must attest that its need for the worker is temporary.

Another cumbersome requirement of the H-2B visa is the requirement that a labor certification be approved prior to filing the visa petition. The Department of Labor must determine that there are no unemployed, qualified U.S. workers available for the position in the area of the proposed employment, and that employment of the foreign national will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. The employer must also conduct a recruitment campaign to prove that there are no qualified willing and able U.S. workers for the position.

Although the process to obtain an H-2B visa can be lengthy, there are many benefits in having an H-2B visa. A person can enter the U.S. for temporary work and enjoy all employee benefits. H-2B visa holders can bring dependents to the U.S., travel freely in and out of the U.S., and a new petition can be approved if there is a need to change jobs.

The H-2B work visa was created to allow people to come to the United States temporarily, mainly for non-agricultural jobs, for which the U.S. workers are in short supply. Up to 66,000 H-2B visas are issued every year. Although the quota has been reached for the 2007 year, it is never too early to begin thinking of applying for this visa next year, which actually begins on October 1, 2007. If you are interested in obtaining more information on this visa, please contact us.

Posted on May 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On May 17, 2007, the Department of Labor (DOL) amended its administrative regulations as they relate to labor certifications. The new rules will go into effect on July 16, 2007. Cases already pending with the DOL will not be affected by the new provisions.

Many foreign employees in the U.S. would like for their employers to sponsor them for their green cards, or permanent residency. The first step in this process is obtaining a labor certification that has been approved by the DOL. A labor certification attests that there are not sufficient workers able, willing, qualified and available to perform the work, and that the employment of the foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions. Once these certifications are made, the DOL will approve a labor certification.

The new rules issued by the DOL, however, drastically change the way labor certifications are handled. For example, current rules allow for substitution, where employers can replace one foreign worker in a labor certification for another without losing the employer’s place in the processing line. The final regulation eliminates this practice, making it difficult for an employer to make a substitution should a worker be terminated or voluntarily leave the company.

The DOL will now also ban an employer from recouping the costs associated with the labor certification process from the foreign employee, including legal costs. From now on, any costs associated with preparing, submitting, and obtaining a permanent labor certification must be paid by the sponsoring employer and not paid by the employee. Many small to mid-sized companies ask their employees to pay legal costs associated with the employee’s labor certification; the new rules do away with this, which may put a financial strain on employers.

The final rule also provides a 180-day validity period for approved labor certifications; employers will have 180 calendar days within which to file with Immigration Services an approved permanent labor certification in support of a Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The rule also prohibits the sale, barter, or purchase of permanent labor certifications and applications.

Posted on May 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News editorializes in favor of the proposed compromise immigration bill. Here is the editorial:

Good Starting Point

But immigration plan will need some work

The fact that the Senate will return to immigration this week is a political miracle of sorts. Sharply divergent points of view – and we mean really sharp – have stalled the debate for an entire year.

Thanks, however, to brutal negotiations involving the White House and dedicated senators from both parties, the Senate will start with a bipartisan bill. Deserving of Texans’ thanks for renewing the debate are President Bush, who has kept the issue alive in speeches, and lead Senate negotiators Ted Kennedy and Jon Kyl.

As an editorial board that has pushed hard for immigration reform, we think this bill is a good place to begin – but with the understanding that major work is still to be done:

The selling points

Border security: The plan doesn’t wink at ratcheting up border security. The addition of 18,000 border agents and 70 new radar towers will help take the lawlessness out of the southern border. So will the resources to detain 27,500 aliens a day.

We have never been wild about a border fence, but the 370 miles of fencing and 200 miles of road barriers should satisfy those who think a wall will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. In fact, border hawks should like that many security measures must be in place before a new temporary worker program starts.

Enforcing the worksite: One of the best parts is the new electronic identification system. Employers will know if they are hiring legal workers. There’s too much uncertainty today when it comes to worker IDs. The situation in Cactus, Texas, proved that.

Unlike the current system, all workers must prove they are here legally. Under the new system, employers would run their info through a new national verification database. If those on the job aren’t legal, the employers are fined and the workers are fired.

Pathway to citizenship: Mr. Kyl, a Republican, has reversed course and acknowledged that there’s no way to correct our immigration problems without giving the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living here a chance to earn citizenship. More power to the man for stepping forward, knowing many will scream amnesty.

It’s not.

Illegal immigrants seeking citizenship must pay a $5,000 fine, possess a job, undergo a background check and wait eight to 13 years before becoming a citizen. They don’t jump to the head of any line. In fact, they can’t earn citizenship until all current applications are approved or rejected.

They can eventually earn citizenship, though, and that’s crucial to getting immigrants to come out of the shadows.

What needs work

Temporary workers: 400,000 foreign workers could qualify for employment visas annually. That essentially matches the number of foreign workers who come here illegally each year.

There’s a catch, though, that could make the provision unworkable. Temporary workers could earn three two-year work visas. In between each two-year stint, they would have to return home for one year.

The risk with the return-home requirement is that some workers may go underground and stay here. We would prefer that senators amend the bill to match the House plan, which has no return-home provision for temporary workers.

At the least, senators should amend it so more exceptions can be granted to workers in high-demand industries. That would minimize the temptation for some workers to go underground.

Green cards: Fortunately, temporary workers could earn a green card after their work stints end. But that could become a mirage if the Senate doesn’t include enough cards that let workers stay here legally. (Green cards allow for legal permanent residency, not citizenship.)

The Senate would be foolish to ignore reality. Temporary workers with good jobs probably will stay here, even if they can’t get a green card. So it’s important to have enough cards to go around in order to know who is actually here.

This proposal represents an improvement over the status quo, but it’s not the endgame. We urge Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to address these shortfalls this week.

The next few months will be like crawling through broken glass, as Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum aptly put it Friday. But Washington must grit its teeth and work through the pain if the nation is to finally fix our broken immigration system.STILL NOT SOLD? Why border hawks should like the Senate plan:

* 18,000 new border agents

* Ends “catch and release” of illegal immigrants

* 70 new radar towers

* Resources to detain 27,500 illegal immigrants a day

* An electronic verification system for all employees

* Illegal workers lose their jobs

* Employers face big fines

Posted on May 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has previously announced that the H-1B visa cap was reached within the first day of filing. In fact, so many visa petitions had been filed that a lottery system was set in place to randomly select the petitions that would be considered for an H-1B visa. The lottery took place on April 12, 2007.

Many individuals and employers are still waiting for any indication from Immigration Services about whether their H-1B petition was randomly selected for processing. USCIS admitted today that they were experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for cases accepted for consideration for an H-1B visa.

For those who have been anxiously awaiting any news regarding the status of your case, there is still a chance that your H-1B visa petition has been selected and you simply have not received notification of this.

In fact, the backlog at immigration service centers is so great that other individuals or employers who have filed non-H-1B visa petitions are also experiencing delays in obtaining receipt notices for their cases.

Click for more information regarding the ongoing issuance of H-1B receipt notices.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on April 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS has just announced that there are still visas available for those interested in obtaining an H-1B visa as long as they have at least a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university.

USCIS announced last week that it had received enough H-1B petitions to meet the regular H-1B cap for fiscal year 2008. Each year, however, an additional 20,000 visas are made available to those persons having at least a Master’s degree. It is this cap which has not yet been reached.

Our office has been receiving many questions regarding when the Master’s quota for H-1B visas will be reached. There really is no possible way to answer this question. USCIS stated in its announcement that it had received 12, 989 cases on behalf of aliens holding a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university. It is extremely difficult to provide an estimate of when the remaining spots will be taken.

If you are interested in obtaining an H-1B visa, and you have at least a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university, you must begin the visa petition process immediately. The remaining visas may be taken by other foreign nationals any day. We strongly recommend that people who wish to obtain an H-1B visa file the petition at the earliest opportunity to avoid a significant delay in employment authorization.

Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible to begin your H-1B case today!

Posted on April 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Immigration Services announced this afternoon that the H-1B cap has been reached for this year. USCIS began accepting H-1B visa petitions on April 2, 2007, and has stated that they have already received over 150,000 petitions.

Each year, the U.S. government makes 65,000 H-1B visas available to qualified individuals on a first-come basis. The cap has been reached every year for the last several years, although the cap has never been reached on the first day of filing.

USCIS must now perform data entry on all of the visa petitions received on April 2. Once this is completed, the petitions will be subjected to a computer-generated random selection process to determine which petitions will be counted towards the cap. Petitions which are rejected will be returned.

The lottery itself, and the results of the lottery, will not be disclosed to the public for some time because of the high number of filings. The announcement from USCIS does not come as a complete surprise. Immigration attorneys have been predicting for some time that the H-1B cap would be reached on the first day of filing.

H-1B visas are a relatively swift path to work in the U.S. for foreigners with bachelor’s degrees and with U.S. companies to sponsor them. Immigrants, along with the U.S. technology industry lobby, have been advocating for an increase in the H-1B quota to reform the visa program. A current bill under review proposed raising the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000.

If you would like more information regarding the H-1B visa cap, please read the announcement issued by USCIS.

Posted on April 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

There is great concern among immigration lawyers that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may have reached the cap on H-1B visas even before the end of the first day of filing, which was April 2, 2007. Reports are surfacing that USCIS received a huge number of envelopes and packages that day, far more than the 65,000 number of H-1B visas available.

This is all unconfirmed at this time, but if true, could be devastating news to those who did all their paperwork properly, filed on the first possible date, and now may have their application denied.

A previous announcement from USCIS explains that if this situation should occur, all the applications received that date would be sorted in a random manner, by computer, and that will be the order in which the applications are accepted.

What a terrible situation — to have the future of your immigration status come down to the random “whim” of a USCIS computer.

Here is the text of the USCIS announcement, with the applicable portion bolded:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will, on April 2, 2007, begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2008 (FY08) H-1B cap. Because March 31 and April 1 are non-business days, USCIS will not take possession of mail delivered during the weekend until Monday, April 2, which is the first business day of the FY08 H-1B filing period. USCIS will not reject cases delivered during the weekend. Instead those petitions will be treated as if they arrived on April 2. The deciding factor for USCIS is not when the petition is postmarked, but when USCIS takes possession of and stamps the petitions as received.

USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and will notify the public of the date USCIS has received the necessary number of petitions to meet the H-1B cap, known as the final receipt date.

The date USCIS publishes information that the cap has been reached does not control the final receipt date. USCIS Announces Direct Filing Instructions for Forms I-129 and I-539 Under the Bi-Specialization Initiative posted on the USCIS website. The filing charts are also available on the USCIS website. For filing updates and additional information or call USCIS customer service at (800) 375-5283.

To ensure a fair and impartial system, USCIS will, if needed, randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date. This selection is computer-generated. USCIS will reject petitions not selected and petitions received after the final receipt date that are subject to the cap.

If the final receipt date is the same as the first date that petitions may be filed, USCIS will randomly apply all of the numbers among the petitions filed on the final receipt date and the following day. This means that, should the cap be reached on April 2, the first day filings can be received, USCIS will perform a random selection of petitions filed on April 2 and April 3 in accordance with the regulations at 8 C.F.R. 214.2(h)(8)(ii).

For questions on the proper filing location please refer to the March 5 update:

H-1B petitioners should insure they follow all regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence.

8 CFR 214.2(h)(2)(B) requires that petitioners provide a detailed itinerary of the dates and places where work will be performed if those services will be provided in more than one location. For example, a labor contractor or consultant who hires H-1B workers to work at client sites must provide, in advance, an itinerary with dates and places where the worker will perform that work.

In addition, 8 CFR 214.1(c)(4) requires that an applicant for extension of status have maintained his or her nonimmigrant status. In situations where an H-1B worker is changing to an employer other than the one for which the initial H-1B petition was approved, USCIS will require that the worker changing employers demonstrate that he or she actually did perform meaningful work for the original petitioning employer under circumstances not reflective of fraudulent intent in the original petition. In situations where the H-1B worker is processing abroad, USCIS will work closely with the Department of State to ensure that this same level of integrity is applied to consular processed H-1Bs.

Please note: Recent materials posted by USCIS indicated that an original copy of a certified labor condition application is required with Form I-129 and should be signed in blue ink. This statement is in error.

A copy of the LCA may be submitted with the I-129 as is current practice. USCIS did not intend to change the current practices regarding filing of the LCA with the petition. For filing updates and additional information or call USCIS customer service at (800) 375-5283.

Posted on March 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The United States currently has a severe shortage of licensed nurses, and this is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. To address this concern, the U.S. implemented a visa category allowing nurses to obtain permanent residency. The problem with this, however, is that nurses who are eligible to obtain their green card must wait several years before their visas become available. The H-1C visa is an option for nurses who want to work in the U.S. prior to their permanent residency approval.

In 1999, the U.S. Congress passed the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act. This law created the H-1C visa category that allowed foreign registered nurses to work in the United States for up to three years in certain health professional shortage areas. The law allows for up to 500 nurses per year, with each state limited to only 25 H-1C nurses. This category is open to general RN positions.

The H-1C visa program expired on June 13, 2005. However, effective December 20, 2006, it has been “reauthorized” (meaning it is open again) for another three years until December 20, 2009.

To qualify for H1C status, the beneficiary must:

* Have an unrestricted nurse’s license in his/her home country, or have received nursing education in the United States;

* Have passed the CGFNS or have a full and unrestricted license to practice as a registered nurse in the state of intended employment; and

* Be fully qualified and eligible under all state laws and regulations to practice as a registered nurse in the state of intended employment immediately upon admission to the United States.

The H-1C visa allows registered nurses to work in the United States on a temporary basis. This visa also allows nurses to work in the U.S. while their immigrant visa applications are pending with Immigration Services.

The H-1C visa category is based on the former H-1A visa category for nurses, which expired on September 30, 1997. The H-1C classification is more restrictive, due to its numerical cap on the number of visas issued annually and its application only to underserved areas.

If you have questions about the H-1C visa or any other immigration matter, please contact our office.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 16, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Each year 65,000 H-1B visas are made available so that foreign nationals can work in the United States on a temporary basis.  The H-1B category is designed to attract skilled professionals in specialty occupations to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. A person must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (through a combination of education and work experience) to obtain an H-1B visa.

The H-1B is suitable for occupations such as professors, researchers, engineers, computer specialists and software programmers – just to name a few. The H-1B visa is valid for a period of up to six years. 

The H-1B visa begins on October 1, 2007. This is the first day a person will be allowed to work on an H-1B visa. However, a company may begin the process on behalf of an individual much earlier than this. In fact, Immigration Services begins accepting H-1B visa petitions on April 1, 2007, which is just around the corner.

The H-1B visa cap is expected to be reached on the very first day that Immigration Services begins to accept the visa petition – April 1st!

If you are an employer wishing to hire a foreign national to begin working for your company, you must begin the visa petition process immediately. If you are an individual wanting to work in the U.S. on an H-1B visa next year, you need to discuss this option with your future employer as soon as possible.

If you are a foreign student graduating in May – then you need to begin thinking of the H-1B visa now so that you can apply for this and make arrangements to maintain immigration status until the October 1 start date.

Should you need any assistance in applying for H-1B status or any questions related to this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us. Kraft & Associates is available to help you with all your H-1B related concerns.

Posted on March 13, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

What is an Employment Authorization Document?
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a document that authorizes an foreign national to work in the U.S. for a period of time, usually one year. It is also called a work permit. 

How do I apply for Employment Authorization?You must file a Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) by mail with the USCIS Service Center or District Office that serves the area where you live. You must also submit other supporting documents, photos, and fee.

Do I need an EAD Card?

Maybe. Some types of visas allow a person to work in the U.S. without first obtaining an employment authorization card. If you are in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, for example, you do not need to obtain an EAD card since you are in the U.S. on a work visa.

How long should I wait for the EAD?
It usually takes three to six months to process the EAD application. Processing times, however, are always changing, so it may take more or less depending on how backlogged Immigration Services is.

What should I do if my EAD application is denied?
If your application for an EAD is denied, you will receive a letter that will tell you why the application was denied. You will not be allowed to appeal a negative decision, but you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that denied your application. If that is denied, you will either have to reapply or forego employment authorization in the United States.

What should I do if my EAD card gets lost or stolen?
You may apply for a replacement EAD card. Contact USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 and an Immigration Services Customer Representative will be able to help you.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates today told U.S. Senators that the country is facing an “acute crisis” in its shortage of engineering professionals and those professionals with the right skills will be guaranteed a good paying job. Excerpts from the article:

Gates declared, “The demand worldwide will guarantee them all jobs. Anyone in the United States, not only will they have a high paying job; they will create many around them. We are increasing our employment.”

Gates’ rare appearance before the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee today urged passage of a bill titled “Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st Century.” The committee only heard testimony from the Microsoft Chairman.

According to Gates, this worker “shortage” is hurting America’s ability to compete in the global economy and the solutions primarily involve reforming the H-1B visa program and the U.S. education system to improve math and science curriculum.

The H-1B visa program allows skilled foreign guest workers to enter the country for up to six years to fill spot labor shortages in high skilled areas. Under current law, the program allows for 65,000 new H-1B visa guest workers a year, with some exemptions that can raise that number to 120,000. The program is highly controversial and is one of the biggest divides between labor and management in the technology sector. Labor groups argue that expanding the program creates a labor market where too many workers are competing for too few jobs which will have the effect of depressing salaries for professionals in the field.

From Gate’s perspective, the majority of engineering professionals at Microsoft earn six figures a year or more, and he believes this is also true for guest worker employees under the H-1B visa program. For Gates, a $100,000 a year salary for a guest worker computer professional means “we should welcome as many as we can get.”

One Senator asked Gates about what is a good number above 65,000 that the Senate should consider. “300,000 would be a fantastic improvement,” was his reply.

Despite all of the outsourcing of high-tech jobs overseas the U.S. will still have a strong IT industry said Gates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cited a figure of 600,000 jobs lost in the high-tech sector.

Posted on January 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Last night, President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union Address. One notable portion of the speech specifically mentioned immigration in the United States and possible immigration reform. President Bush stated that:

“Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America – with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country… Yet…we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border – and that requires a temporary worker program.”

The President noted that his Administration is doubling the size of the Border Patrol and funding the use of new technology to prevent illegal immigration.

The President also outlined other immigration related goals such as:

– Creation of a temporary guest worker program is needed so that people no longer have to sneak across the border. The Border Patrol should focus on finding and capturing drug smugglers and terrorists, rather than preventing illegal border crossing.

-Immigration laws must be enforced at the work place and employers must be given the tools to verify the status of workers so there is no excuse left for violating the law.

– The United States has a tradition of welcoming immigrants and this process must continue.

– The status of illegal immigrants already in country must be resolved without animosity and without amnesty.

– Congress must engage in serious, civil and conclusive debate so the President can sign comprehensive immigration reform into law.

Posted on January 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Every year thousands of foreign nationals enter the United States fleeing persecution they are facing in their home countries. For those who meet the legal criteria, the U.S. offers a form of protection — asylum. Those who are eligible for asylum are allowed to remain in the United States, and eventually are eligible to apply for permanent residency.

An applicant must be a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum. The definition of a refugee requires that the applicant be:

  • unable or unwilling to return to or avail himself or herself of the protection of the country of his or her nationality or, if stateless, the country where he or she last habitually resided
  • because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution
  • on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Any person who is in the United States may apply for asylum. This holds true even if that person is here without any valid immigration status. There are two ways in which a person may apply for asylum — by either affirmative filing or applying for asylum during removal proceedings.

Affirmative filing involves a person preparing an application for asylum and submitting this to Immigration Services. Applicants will then be scheduled to be interviewed by an asylum officer. The purpose of this interview is to determine if the applicant meets the definition of a refugee and to ensure that the applicant does not face any bars to asylum. A person will usually not receive a decision at the interview but should receive a decision in a few weeks.

The second way a person can apply for asylum is if they have been placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court. The applicant will then apply for asylum and the immigration judge will make the final determination as to whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee.

There are several legal bars that will prevent a person from obtaining asylum in the United States. A person will be denied asylum if that person is found to have ever committed an act of terrorism, been involved in the persecution of others, committed a particularly serious crime in the U.S. or is considered to be a danger to U.S. security. Other bars to asylum include the possibility of safely residing in a third country or the circumstances materially affecting the applicant’s eligibility for asylum.

A person who is granted asylum takes on the legal status of Asylee. This allows him or her to reside in the United States as long as the threat of persecution in his or her home country continues. The Asylee can also have his or her spouse and unmarried children under age 21 enter the United States, if not already in the country. Additionally, an Asylee can receive a travel document to travel in an out of the U.S. as well as employment authorization. Finally, a year after an Asylee has been granted asylum, he or she becomes eligible to apply for permanent residency.

For more information on asylum or to determine if you may be eligible for asylum in the United States, please contact us.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on January 15, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Leaders of religious organizations and institutes are often unaware that they have the ability to hire and sponsor foreign nationals to work in the United States. The R-1 religious worker visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign nationals in religious occupations to enter into the United States and perform the duties of a religious worker.Persons seeking R-1 status must plan to enter the United States solely to:* Carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination; or* Work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation or organization within the denomination; or* Work in a religious vocation or occupation for an organization within the denomination, or for a bona fide organization, that is affiliated with the religious denomination. Bona fide religious organizations in the United States must have tax-exempt status as an organization as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.The initial admission period for religious workers entering the United States in R-1 status is limited to three years. Extensions of the R-1 status may be granted, but the total period for a person residing in the United States on R-1 status may not exceed a total of five years.The R-1 visa also allows for a foreign national to engage in studies, travel freely in and out of the U.S., receive payment for services, and apply for permanent residency (green card). Additionally, the spouse and any children under the age of 21 years of an R-1 holder may also live in the U.S. If a religious worker is interested in obtaining permanent residency, his or her spouse and children under the age of 21 are also included in the immigrant visa petition, so that they are eligible to apply for permanent residence once the petition is approved. In addition, family members in the United States are eligible for work authorization while the applications for permanent residence are pending.The processing time for an R-1 visa petition is normally around three months, but a decision can be reached in 15 days for an additional fee. Once the petition is approved, consular processing normally takes three to four months.

The law firm of Kraft & Associates can help you determine if you are eligible to sponsor a person for a religious worker visa. We will help you file all the necessary petitions and see the process through to conclusion. Should you have any questions regarding religious visas, please do not hesitate to contact us.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on January 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The H-1B visa will allow persons to begin working in the United States on October 1, 2007. Immigration Services will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions beginning April 1, 2007. In anticipation of this event, foreign nationals who are in the United States, or who are wanting to work in the U.S., should begin planning now in order to make sure their visa petition is filed on time.

The H-1B visa is often used as the “next step” after one graduates from a university after completion of an F-1 program. H-1B holders are allowed to remain in the United States for a total of six years. The H-1B visa is reserved for those who will work in a “speciality” occupation. This means that a company requires the services of a professional who holds at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Generally, most H-1B applicants are doctors, engineers, professors, accountants, lawyers, physical therapists, and computer professionals.

If you plan to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis it is important that you and your employer begin the visa petition process as soon as possible. Every year, Congress makes 65,000 H-1B visas available. Last year, Immigration Services announced that May 26, 2006, was the last day that visa petitions would be accepted. Those who did not file before this date would not be able to begin working on an H-1B visa.

Because of the complex issues involved with an H-1B visa, it is not recommended that a foreign national or a sponsoring employer prepare and submit an H-1B petition on their own. Improperly preparing a H-1B petition can result in a foreign national losing their immigration status and becoming removable from the U.S. It may also result in an employer hiring a worker who doesn’t have work authorization and thus subjecting itself to possible fines and penalties.

At the law firm of Kraft & Associates, we will work to make sure that your petition is filed correctly and in advance of the cap being reached. Please contact us if you have questions about H-1B visas, and we will give you a free phone consultation.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on August 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Education columnist of the Dallas Morning News had an excellent explanation today as to why the U.S. Visa policy is depriving our country of much-needed computer professionals.

Columnist James M. O’Neill used an imaginary scenario in which a Dallas employer brought down a Seattle resident, trained him to develop skills vital to the success of the employer, but after a year of employment told the worker he had to go back home to Seattle. Once in Seattle, the employee uses his new skills to work for a competitor of the Dallas employer.

The point is that this is exactly what the U.S. does with foreign college students — brings them to the U.S., trains them, gives them one year of employment, then sends them home to work for competitors of U.S. companies.

The column goes on to explain why we should encourage these newly trained high-tech employees to stay in the United States, and also explains why they would not be taking jobs from American citizens. It’s well worth reading.

Dallas Citizenship Lawyer & Attorney : Kraft & Associates Law Firm : Naturalization and Citizenship : Immigration Law Answers Blog

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Posted on December 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced effective immediately, naturalization applicants must file Form N-400 Naturalization Applications at the USCIS Lockbox in either Phoenix or Dallas. The filing location depends on where the applicants resides.     Naturalization applicants who live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Territory of Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands must file Form N-400 application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox.   USCIS Phoenix Lockbox: P.O. Box 21251 Phoenix, Arizona, 85036   Naturalization applications who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands must file Form N-400 application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.   USCIS Dallas Lockbox P.O. Box 660060 Dallas, Texas 75266  

For more information, please visit the USCIS Web site. 

 

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Our client, a 92-year-old citizen of Yugoslavia, who had been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 2000 is going to take her naturalization oath on Friday, August 19, 2009. After 92 years of being a citizen of Yugoslavia, she was ready to apply for U.S. citizenship a few months ago. Her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was aware of the naturalization requirement that includes an English and civics test. To qualify for naturalization, applicants must satisfy certain requirements. The requirements to naturalize include, but are not limited to, proficiency in English literacy and knowledge of U.S. history and government. There are exceptions to this requirement however, and we established that our client was eligible for the medical disability exception.   If a naturalization applicant is eligible for a medical disability exception, he or she can be exempted from the English and civics test requirement. The applicant must submit Form N-400 Naturalization Application along with Form N-648 Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Prior to submission Form N-648 must be completed by a medical physician, certifying that the applicant has a medically diagnosed condition that has impaired functioning so severely that it has rendered the applicant unable to learn or demonstrate knowledge of English and/or U.S. history or government.  

Our 92 year old client had a heart attack and a stroke six years ago. On Form N-648, her physician provided information indicating that the stroke left her with progressive irreversible neurological and brain damage causing decreased cerebral function, which includes forgetfulness and difficulty learning or remembering. This diagnosed mental impairment had rendered our client unable to learn English and knowledge of U.S. history and government. At the naturalization interview, the immigration officer accepted her request for a Disability Exception and exempted her from the requirement to demonstrate English language ability and knowledge of U.S. history and government. Our client’s naturalization application was approved, and a visiting federal judge (who is a friend of the family) will be administering the naturalization oath to her.

Posted on June 26, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A recent Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision addressed the actions of a foreign national who simply claimed on a passport application that she had been born in Texas. In this decision, the BIA emphasized the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) strictly forbids anyone who is not a United States citizen from claiming, in any way, that he or she is a citizen.   This BIA decision serves as a strong reminder to anyone not a United States citizen that they should be very cautious not to claim, in any way, that they were born in the United States. Be aware that signing any document that says you are a citizen is the same as saying out loud that you are a citizen.   Always remain mindful that, not only is making a false representation of citizenship strictly prohibited by the Act, if you do falsely claim United States citizenship, you will be permanently barred from the United States. There are no waivers to this bar.  

Continue reading to see the decision.

Continue Reading…

Posted on June 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

For many naturalized citizens, service in the United States military was the key to earning that citizenship. In fact, approximately 1,000 foreigners have earned their United States citizenship through military service since the Department of Defense initiated the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program after the 9/11 attacks.   The MAVNI pilot program expands upon a current Defense Department program that provides citizenship opportunities to those serving in the military who also hold green cards. In contrast, MAVNI provides a fast-tracked path to citizenship to those serving in the military who have been in the United States legally for two years or more, possess language or medical skills that are in high demand, but do not hold green cards.   Similar programs were initiated during World War II and the Korean War. These programs were crucial in fast-tracking immigrants toward citizenship following their service in the military.  

For more information on the Department of Defense, please visit www.dod.gov.

Posted on May 12, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 1 million immigrants became U.S. citizens last year, the largest surge in history, hastening the ethnic transformation of certain states’ political landscapes with more Latinos and Asians now eligible to vote.

Almost one-third of these new citizens reside in California, with Florida recording the second-largest contingent, and Texas in third place, with about 8% of the total. This could have a profound impact on the political future of those states, and could eventually change the composition of the state governments, as well as the services provided by the states. Here are excerpts from the article:
 

Mexicans, who have traditionally registered low rates of naturalization, represented the largest group, with nearly one-fourth of the total. They were followed by Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, Cubans and Vietnamese. Several polls show that Latinos and Asians are more supportive than whites of public investments and broad services, even if they require higher taxes. Nationally, nonwhite voters overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, while most whites voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a recent study by the Pew Research Center showed. And there were more nonwhite voters last year — Latino registered voters increased by 3 million compared with 2004, said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voting Registration Education Project in Los Angeles. The surge in new citizens will accelerate by several years the California electorate’s shift from majority white to nonwhite, according to Dowell Myers, a USC demographer. Although that shift won’t be completed until 2026, Myers and others said, Latinos, Asians and African Americans are already joining with progressive whites to elect ethnically diverse candidates. “As we have more Asian American and Latino voters, our electorate will begin to look more like the face of the public at large,” said Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute. “From the standpoint of representative democracy, few things could be more important than this.” Those demographic and political trends will continue to marginalize Republicans unless the party makes major changes in its tone and policies toward immigrants, said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant in Los Angeles. “The reason the Republican Party is in such dire straits is its inability to successfully reach out and change its image among Latinos and Asians,” he said. “The image is too shrill on immigration. It’s an image of an intolerant cult.” But Gonzalez said Latinos and other immigrants still had far to go, noting that 8 million of them have not yet claimed citizenship although they are eligible. “The test is going forward,” he said. Indeed, new citizenship applications have already dropped significantly. In the Southern California district, for instance, applications plunged to 58,433 last year from 253,666 the previous year, U.S. immigration statistics show.

Most experts say that a 69% increase in application fees to $675 was one reason for the steep decline. The Obama administration is proposing $206 million in funding for immigration services that could help reduce the fee by about $50, and activists are hoping for more, said Rosalind Gold of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

Posted on February 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that the citizenship of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who insist they are U.S. citizens is being called into question because they were delivered by midwives near the Texas-Mexico border. Here are excerpts from the article:

The federal government’s doubts come as many try to meet a June 1 deadline to obtain U.S. passports so they can freely cross the border. Up until that deadline, a driver’s license and birth certificate will do.

People delivered by midwives have documents such as birth certificates and medical records. But the agency that grants passports is challenging the credibility of those papers, citing a history of some midwives fraudulently registering Mexican-born babies as American.

The questioned passport applications include those of children of Mexican women who crossed the border to give birth in the United States.

The government has “effectively reduced to second-class citizenship status an entire swath of passport applicants based solely on their being of Mexican or Latino descent and having been delivered by midwives in nonhospital settings in Southwestern border states,” according to a federal lawsuit against the State Department filed last year in McAllen. Immigration attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union hope to have the case certified as a class action.

If the lawsuit is not resolved before June 1, families “will have to choose if you’re going to live in Mexico or you’re going to live in the U.S. You won’t be able to cross,” said Lisa Brodyaga, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Upon satisfying certain requirements, lawful permanent residents of the United States may file applications for naturalization allowing them to become U.S. citizens. One of the requirements is that the applicant have knowledge of the English language, and knowledge of U.S history and government (civics).  

Effective October 1, 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin administering a new naturalization examination. The new test will follow the same format as the old test, which essentially asks ten questions. Six of the questions must be answered correctly. The only difference is that the reading and writing portions of the new test will be related to the civics content rather than to everyday English. Individuals who filed their naturalization applications before October 1, 2008, may chose to be given the old test — as long as the examination interview (test day) is scheduled before October 1, 2009. See www.uscis.gov/newtest to view the new test questions.

Posted on August 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS today announced the most recent projected time delays for processing naturalization applications. The time periods range from approximately five months in San Antonio and Harlingen, Texas to eleven months in Dallas, and up to 14.9 months in Charlotte, North Carolina. At least this is an improvement over earlier predictions of 16-18 months.

You can read the USCIS Press Release here.

Posted on July 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This has become an old story by now, but as we get nearer to the November election (will it ever get here?) the story is taking on more urgency. USCIS is not able to process citizenship applications quickly enough, and as a result there is a very good chance that thousands of would-be U.S. citizens will not be able to vote for their next president.

An unprecedented surge in U.S. citizenship applications has applicants waiting more than twice as long as normal for approval. According to the USCIS, the Dallas office was working in mid-June on naturalization petitions filed 11 months earlier. Other offices take as long as 14 months.

Conspiracy theorists say that the current Republican administration is deliberately delaying citizenship for immigrants they fear will vote Democratic in the next election. It’s possible there’s some truth to that, but I think the larger problem is that USCIS simply doesn’t have the resources to handle this flood of applications.

Still, it’s going to be a shame if we have to tell these law-abiding people trying to do the right thing and participate in their chosen country’s political process that government red tape will prevent them from voting.

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a New York Times article, a lawsuit filed this month in a federal court in New York by Latino immigrants seeks to force immigration authorities to complete hundreds of thousands of stalled naturalization petitions in time for the new citizens to vote in November. Here are excerpts from the article:

The class-action suit was brought by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of legal Hispanic immigrants in the New York City area who are eager to vote and have been waiting for years for the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to finish their applications. The suit demands that the agency meet a nationwide deadline of Sept. 22 to complete any naturalization petitions filed by March 26. Latino groups hope to summon the clout of the federal courts to compel the Bush administration to reduce a backlog of citizenship applications that swelled last year. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, more than one million citizenship petitions were backed up in the pipeline by the end of December, the majority from Latino immigrants. Despite protests over the delays from lawmakers, Latino groups and immigrant advocates, the immigration agency is currently projecting wait times of 16 months to 18 months to process the petitions. “The reality is that large numbers of Latinos will not be able to vote in the elections because of these delays,” said Cesar A. Perales, president of the defense fund. “Now the world will know that the Latino community expects the Bush administration to get this done on time.”  The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, asserts that the agency violated immigrants’ due process rights by routinely failing to finish their applications within a 180-day time period that Congress has set as a standard. It also asserts that the Bush administration did not follow regulatory procedures in November 2002 when it ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deepen its background checks of citizenship applicants.  A fee increase, raising naturalization costs 80 percent to $595, went into effect on July 30. Legal immigrants were also spurred to seek citizenship by worries about the divisive debate over immigration and by citizenship campaigns by Latino groups. “It is astonishing the government should be so unresponsive to immigrants who have enthusiastically taken all the steps to become Americans,” said Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino group that supported the suit.

Posted on March 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

A spouse of a deceased US citizen may file a petition on his/her behalf and qualify as an immediate relative. Certain eligibility requirements must be met before filing the petition: The widow was married to the US citizen for at least two years; The deceased spouse must have been a US citizen at the time of death; The US citizen and widower were not separated at the time of the citizen’s death; The widow has not remarried at the time of filing. The widower must self-petition on Form I-360, and submit supporting documentation establishing the deceased spouse’s citizenship, and evidence illustrating the relationship between the deceased spouse and widower. This may include a marriage certificate, divorce decrees of earlier spouses, the US citizen’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate and death certificate. The widower need not be residing in the United States to file the petition. If the widower is outside the U.S., the petition will be filed at the Immigration Service’s overseas offices or at the U.S. consulate with jurisdiction over the alien’s place of residence.

To learn more please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s) may be eligible for naturalization upon meeting the naturalization criteria. In order to qualify, an individual must satisfy the following: 1. Must be an LPR; 2. Must be over 18 years of age; 3. After becoming an LPR, must have continuously resided in the U.S. for five years; 4. Must maintain residence for three months in the state where the application is filed; 5. Must have basic English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history and government. If an LPR does not want to wait five years to apply for naturalization, the LPR may apply for naturalization after three years if he or she is married to a U.S. citizen. If the LPR is married to a U.S. citizen, the continuous residence requirement is three years only if the U.S. citizen spouse has been a citizen for three years and the parties have been married for three years and continue to be married at the time of naturalization. An LPR need not be living with the U.S. citizen spouse after filing the naturalization application, but must continue to be married at the time of naturalization. Although the continuous residence requirement may be changed from five years to three years (if married to a U.S. citizen), the other requirements must still be met to qualify for naturalization.

If you want to learn more about naturalization and the continuous residence requirement based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 27, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Did you know that you may claim citizenship if you are under the age of 18 (or were under 18 when the following requirements were met), and either of your parents are U.S. citizens, but you were born abroad? You may apply to the Immigration Service for a certificate of citizenship. In order to be issued a certificate of citizenship the following requirements must be met: 1. At least one parent is a U.S. citizen either by birth (acquired citizenship) or naturalization (derivative citizenship); 2. The child must be under 18 years of age; 3. The child is in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission, or outside of the U.S in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent and is temporarily present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission and is maintaining lawful status; and 4. The U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the United States for at least five years (at least two years of which were after the parent reached 14 years of age); or the child’s grandparent must meet the five year physical presence requirement.

If you met these requirements before your 18th birthday, regardless of your age now, call us at 214-999-9999 to learn more about how to apply for a certificate of citizenship.

Posted on February 24, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times has reported that many members of the U.S. military are seeing their citizenship applications delayed, despite government promises that they would be given expedited treatment. The article is lengthy, and interesting. Here are excerpts:

Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application. About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems. The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year. But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas. At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.

Posted on February 13, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Citizenship and Immigration Services has come up with a means of expediting certain green card applications. While it makes good sense to me, many people are objecting to the new procedure based on national security concerns. In a nutshell, CIS is proposing to approve applications if they have been pending more than six months and are awaiting only the FBI background check. The reason for the change is that some FBI checks are taking literally years to complete. Here are excerpts from an article about this in the New York Times:

Searching for ways to reduce a huge backlog of visa applications, immigration authorities have eased requirements for background checks by the F.B.I. of immigrants seeking to become permanent United States residents, federal officials said Monday.

If an immigrant’s application for a residence visa has been in the system for more than six months and the only missing piece is a name check by the F.B.I., immigration officers will now be allowed to approve the application, according to a memorandum posted Monday on the Web site of the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

The memorandum states that “in the unlikely event” that the F.B.I. name check turns up negative information about an immigrant after a residence visa has been granted, the authorities can cancel the visa and begin deportation proceedings.

Under the new policy, which was first reported by the McClatchy news service, immigrants applying for the permanent visas, which are known as green cards, will still be required to complete two other security checks: an F.B.I. criminal fingerprint check and a search in a federal criminal and anti-terrorist database known as Interagency Border Inspection Services.

The policy is intended to speed processing for tens of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records who are living in the United States and have been waiting for years for green cards because their names turned up matches in the F.B.I’s records. Often an immigrant’s name hits a match, immigration lawyers said, because the F.B.I. files include a vast range of names, including those of people mentioned in criminal investigations, even if they had no role in a crime. F.B.I. agents must investigate each name match by manual searches of voluminous records.

Some critics said the agency would be cutting security corners and bending federal law.

“They are knowingly granting a benefit to a person who may be a national security threat or a serious criminal,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, an organization that favors reduced immigration.

“These are people who are asking permission to stay in this country permanently,” Ms. Jenks said, “and we have a right to make sure we know who they are. If it takes a few extra months, so be it.”

Posted on January 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an article today detailing a problem that I and many other interested people have been complaining about for quite some time — the inexcusable delays in granting citizenship to qualified immigrant applicants. Some of us who are quick to attribute sinister motives to politicians note that a majority of new citizens vote Democratic, and the current administration is Republican. And of course this just happens to be an election year. So the fewer new citizens, the fewer votes for Democratic candidates? The article is well worth reading in full. Here are excerpts:

The unprecedented 1.4 million surge in U.S. citizenship applicants won’t translate into an equal number of new voters come November’s presidential election because of a processing backlog.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said Monday that the agency is hiring more staff and pressing the FBI for more efficient background checks and that delays of weeks just to open mail are behind them.

“Anytime we have a surge in citizenship, it is a good thing,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director of the agency’s Dallas office. “We are working as best we can.”

Mr. Gonzalez and his agency have been assailed by critics who charge that the Republican administration wants to suppress the votes of new citizens likely to vote for a Democrat.

“If they don’t have the opportunity to vote in this election, they will have many other opportunities to vote in other elections,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The processing delays vary from city to city, though the biggest backlogs are in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, said Mr. Gonzalez and Michael Aytes, associate director for the agency’s domestic operations.

In Dallas, the backlog isn’t as serious, with 30,000 applications pending in November, Mr. Aytes said. The number of applicants here increased 49 percent in the last fiscal year compared with the previous year. In San Bernardino, Calif., the increase was 1017 percent; in Los Angeles, 101 percent.

Just the same, Mr. Aytes acknowledged, some applications with checks enclosed had taken more than six weeks just to be opened, including some sent via Federal Express.

Some 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while 23 percent align with the Republican Party, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey.

Posted on January 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Testimony before Congress this week on “Naturalization Delays, Causes, Consequences and Solutions” by Emilio T. Gonzalez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, contained bad news for applicants. Under the section titled “Where Does this Take Us?” Director Gonzalez said this:

This surge will have a serious impact on application processing times for the next couple of years. As a result, based on our response plan, most customers will wait much longer to have their applications completed. As we have reported, the average processing time for naturalization applications has increased from the current average of seven months or less to approximately 18 months. Family-based adjustment-of-status applications increased from the current average of six months or less to 12 months. Our two-year response plan will help us accomplish reducing processing times to six months by the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2010.

Posted on December 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) must have continuous residence in the United States for five years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen) in order to be eligible for citizenship. Continuous residence in the United States does not mean that an LPR cannot leave the country for the entire five years (or three years if married to a USC) in order to qualify for citizenship. On the contrary, LPR’s can travel freely without the hassle of obtaining a visa from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, LPR’s must make sure they do not face the problem of abandoning the continuous physical presence requirement.

An LPR may be deemed to have disrupted the “continuous residence” requirement if the LPR travels out of the United States a few times a year, or if an LPR is outside of the country for over six months. If an LPR continuously maintains a residence in the United States but is physically outside of the United States for over a year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may decide that the continuous residence has been abandoned. If an LPR has not properly maintained the continuous physical residence requirement, and the DHS determines that an LPR has abandoned his or her residency, DHS can refuse an LPR back into the United States.

Attention all frequent-flyer residents: Make sure your trips abroad are for short periods of time. Please note that the continuous physical residence requirement is one requirement that must be satisfied to qualify for citizenship. There are other requirements that must be met in order to establish citizenship eligibility. Please contact us if you would like to begin your citizenship process.

Posted on July 18, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News reports that there has been an 80% increase in citizenship applications  during the first half of 2007, with nearly twice as many applications filed this June as were filed last June. Here are excerpts from the article:

Citizenship applications began increasing in the Dallas area last year, as legal and illegal immigrants worried about the rising public debate and legislative proposals targeting them. By January, applications surged on word of pending fee increases for applications – from $400 to $675 at the end of July.

Last month, there were more than 3,200 applications locally, compared with 1,699 in June 2006. As of June 30, about 16,200 people had filed this year for citizenship here, compared with 9,000 at the same time a year ago.

The rise is being aided locally by campaigns on local Spanish-language radio and TV and citizenship drives sponsored by Latino political groups.

The Spanish-language television and radio giant Univision revved up efforts with a campaign called “Ya Es Hora,” or “Now is the Time.” The campaign began in Dallas at the end of April.

Campaign organizers, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, are touting the benefits of U.S. citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents in the U.S.

Posted on June 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As more and more individuals in the United States apply to become lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, it is vital that each person know the rights and responsibilities that come with obtaining LPR status.

The benefits to becoming an LPR include:

You may live anywhere in the United States, and you may stay there as long as you want.

You may work at any job, for any company, anywhere in the U.S., or you may choose to not work at all.

An LPR may travel freely inside and out of the United States whenever you wish.

You may apply to become a U.S. citizen after you have held your green card for a certain length of time.

In many cases, your spouse and children under the age of 21 may also be eligible to obtain green cards as accompanying relatives.

Although you may have a green card, you should be very careful about certain things. The first and foremost is international travel. Even though you may travel freely, extended periods of time spent outside the U.S. may indicate to Immigration Services that you have abandoned your green card.

If you plan on spending over six months outside the U.S. at any given time, it is advisable for you to apply for a re-entry permit. This is issued to permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the U. S. for a prolonged period of time, but for less than two years. A re-entry permit usually enables a permanent resident, who traveled abroad for a period of time of more than one year but less than two years, to avoid the risk of not being allowed to come back the U.S. on the ground that the alien abandoned his permanent residence status. A re-entry permit can also serve as a passport for a permanent resident who wants to travel outside the United States, but cannot get a passport from his country of nationality.

A permanent resident who wishes to become a U.S. citizen must show that he is a person of good moral character. Arrests, criminal convictions, or engaging in certain bad acts such as failing to pay child support or being a habitual drunkard will prevent a person from becoming a citizen.

All LPRs are bound by all of the laws of the United States, the States, and localities. You are required to file your income tax returns and report your income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and your State IRS. You are expected to support the democratic form of government and cannot attempt to change the government through illegal means. If you are a male, age 18 through 25, you are required to register with the Selective Service.

One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting. As a Permanent Resident you can only vote in local and state elections that do not require you to be a U.S. citizen. It is very important that you do not vote in national, state or local elections that require a voter to be a U.S. citizen when you are not a U.S. citizen. There are criminal penalties for voting when you are not a U.S. citizen and it is a requirement for voting. You can be removed (deported) from the U.S. if you vote in elections limited to U.S. citizens.

Becoming a permanent resident of the United States is a wonderful thing, however, all LPRs should remember that they must maintain their status at all times. Your status in the United States is not guaranteed and certain actions may cause you to lose your green card status or be deported from the United States.

If you have any questions regarding permanent residency or any other immigration topic, please contact Kraft & Associates today.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An article today on the Web site of the New York Times warns that the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the U. S. Senate may be in trouble. Here are excerpts:

WASHINGTON, June 7 –The Senate refused at midday to shut off debate on the immigration overhaul bill and move toward a vote, leaving the fate of the legislation uncertain and setting up another, all-important procedural vote this evening.

The move to end debate was rejected by 63 to 33, so the bill’s backers fell 27 votes short of the 60 needed to invoke what is known as cloture and set up a yes-or-no vote on the legislation itself.

The result was a setback not only for the bill’s supporters but also for President Bush, who has made a comprehensive immigration bill one of his top legislative priorities.

Nevertheless, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, scheduled another, make-or-break cloture vote for this evening. If that vote also falls short, Mr. Reid is expected to shelve the bill, meaning that changes in immigration law might not be considered again for many months.

The midday move to end debate failed chiefly because a significant number of conservative Republicans wanted more time to offer amendments to make the measure more to their liking.

Some 12 hours before the noontime cloture vote, the bill’s supporters suffered a setback when the Senate voted to put a five-year limit on a new guest worker program that would be created under the legislation. By a vote of 49 to 48 shortly after midnight, the Senate approved the limit, in the form of an amendment by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota.

The temporary worker program is an important element of the “grand bargain” on immigration forged in three months of negotiations by a small group of senators from both parties.

If the Senate votes this evening to end debate, the bill will have cleared a major hurdle — but by no means the last one. The House has yet to take up its version of the immigration legislation, and the issue has deeply divided the representatives. Many conservatives want to do more to restrict immigration and to toughen border enforcement. Many liberals, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, want to do more to protect immigrants’ rights and promote family-based immigration. The Senate bill, which embodies a fragile compromise strongly supported by the president, would offer most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States the chance to obtain legal status. It calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than two decades.

Supporters contend that it would address the problem of millions of illegal aliens without giving them amnesty; that it will further secure the nation’s borders, and that through its guest-worker program it will help immigrants and American employers. Its opponents have argued that there are far too many deficiencies in its nearly 400 pages.

Posted on June 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Every year, thousands of lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, in the United States apply for citizenship. The vast majority of cases are completed within one year. Each citizenship applicant, however, must undergo certain security clearances (fingerprints and name checks) before the applicant can obtain U.S. citizenship. The purpose of this clearance procedure is to demonstrate that the applicant does not have any criminal issue that would render the person ineligible for U.S. citizenship.

According to an April 25, 2006, USCIS memo, approximately 99% of all background and name checks are resolved within two months. The remaining 1% may take several months, or even years, before the background and name checks are completed.

There are remedies available to permanent residents who have been waiting months or years for the results of their background checks. Section 336(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act permits naturalization applicants to file a writ of mandamus in federal court to force a decision on a naturalization case if 120 days or more have elapsed following the naturalization interview and there is still no decision on a case.

For several years, filing a writ of mandamus was a good option to those experiencing delays in their naturalization case. However, the use of the mandamus is now limited in practice. The April 25, 2006, memo also states that USCIS will not schedule an interview until background checks are completed. The writ of mandamus can only be filed if a decision has not been reached in a case within 120 days of the citizenship interview. Obviously, USCIS is trying to eliminate the one tool used by naturalization applicants who are stuck in the background check process by changing when the naturalization interview occurs.

Regardless of when your interview takes place, there are still several things that can be done to speed up a case that has stalled. Our office can file a writ of mandamus on your behalf if you have already attended a citizenship interview. If you have been waiting several months for an interview, you can contact your congressman to see if he or she will assist you. Our office can also conduct inquiries directly with USCIS, and we can contact immigration liaisons who work directly with immigration officials, to find out the reason for delay on a particular case.

If you are experiencing delays in your case, please contact us today. We can help you get the results you are looking for.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on May 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

1. What are the basic requirements that I must meet before I can apply to become a U.S. citizen?

In order to apply for citizenship (often called naturalization) you must meet all of the following requirements:

Be a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holder);

Be 18 years of age or older;

Have been a permanent resident for at least five years (only three years if married to a U.S. citizen);

Be a person of good moral character;

Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the five years;

Not have been absent from the U.S. for more than one year. Absences of more than six months, however, create a presumption that you have abandoned your permanent residency; and

Have a basic understanding of written and spoken English and U.S. history.

2. Am I eligible to obtain dual citizenship?

Maybe. The United States allows citizens of other countries to hold dual citizenship. You also need to check the laws of your home country to make sure that it allows dual citizenship as well.

3. How long does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?

It depends. Current processing times are between 9 and 12 months for a final decision to be made and for an oath ceremony to be scheduled. Each applicant, however, must go though fingerprinting and background checks. These background checks my take several months, or even years, to complete.

4. Can I live overseas after I become a citizen?

Yes. The United States does not place any restrictions on U.S. citizens wanting to live abroad, and you do not run the risk of losing your citizenship.

5. What are the filing fees associated with an application for citizenship?

The current filing fees are $330 for the citizenship application and $70 for fingerprints. Immigration Services has issued a new fee schedule that goes into effect on July 30, 2007. On that date, the total for fingerprints and filing fees will be $675.

6. What should I do if I cannot attend my oath ceremony?

If you are unable to attend the oath ceremony, you should return the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent you, along with a letter explaining why you cannot attend the ceremony. Your local office will reschedule and send you a new “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” to advise you of your new ceremony date.

7. Does my child automatically become a U.S. citizen after I am naturalized?

In most cases, your natural or adopted child is a citizen if the following are true:

The other parent is also naturalized, or you are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is deceased), or you have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced).

The child was under 18 when the parent(s) naturalized.

The child was not married when the parent(s) naturalized and the child was a permanent resident before his or her 18th birthday.

8. What are some of the benefits of becoming a citizen?

A: Naturalized American citizens have many rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office (except that of the Vice-President or President), to extend U.S. citizenship to their children, and to obtain visas for immediate relatives.

9. If I don’t speak English fluently can I take the exam in another language.

It depends. The English language requirement is only waived for persons meeting the following criteria: If you are over the age of 50 and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more, or if you are over the age of 55 and have been a permanent resident for 15 years or more.

10. What can I expect from the history exam?

The U.S. government wants you to be knowledgeable about U.S. history and government structure. The questions range from U.S. history to naming current government officials. While there are 100 possible questions that may be asked, you will likely be asked only 10 or so. The test may be given orally or in writing.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article this morning about the significant increase in the number of people applying for citizenship in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to the article, the number of citizenship applications received by Immigration Services has increased by over 78% when compared to this time last year.

Currently, there are about eight million people in the United States who qualify for citizenship. Last year, 702,000 people became naturalized citizens. Mexicans made up last year’s largest group of new U.S. citizens.

Many groups believe that this surge in citizenship applicants is due in large part to the attention immigration law has received in the past year. The chance that citizenship filing fees going up soon has been an incentive for many people to go ahead and begin the citizenship process. In addition, there has been speculation over the last year that there could be a change in immigration law. This has prompted many people to begin their applications in the event that an unfavorable law be issued.

The upcoming elections have also prompted many to apply for their citizenship, as only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.

The general requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. include:

* An ability to read, write and speak English. Exceptions include persons who have resided in the United States for 15 years or more and are 55 or older, or who have resided in the U.S. for at least 20 years and are at least 50 years old.

* Good moral character.

* Lawful admission into the U.S. for permanent residence (green card).

* Continuous presence as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least five years before filing with no single absence from the U.S. of more than one year.

* Renouncement of any foreign allegiance or foreign title.   

Finally, the citizenship process used to be which something which was relatively straightforward and easy to process. As the number of applicants increase, however, Immigration Services has become much more strict in determining who is eligible for U.S. citizenship. Minor errors or missing documents, which would have been overlooked in the past, are now used as a basis for denying the application. Should you need any assistance in your citizenship application, or if you are unsure if you are eligible for citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact Kraft & Associates.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Earlier this month, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. This bill, if enacted into law, would authorize Immigration Services to request and receive appropriations that would make up the difference between current fees charged to citizenship applicants and the necessary resources needed to fund the Service.

The basic provisions of the Citizenship Promotion Act are as follows:

* Prevent Immigration Services from increasing the naturalization fees until Congress develops an oversight mechanism that would keep the USCIS from implementing unreasonable fee increases — as the agency now is proposing.

* Improve the administration of the citizenship tests for English, U.S. history and government. The bill would require that the tests be administered uniformly nationwide, there be no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests, and the age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when administering the tests.

* Establish a national citizenship promotion program, the “New Americans Initiative,” to conduct citizenship outreach activities and make grants to non-profit organizations to help lawful permanent residents (LPRs) become U.S. citizens, help non-profit agencies conduct English language and citizenship classes for LPRs, and carry out outreach activities to educate immigrant communities to assist people to become citizens and assist with the application process.   

* Decrease the citizenship application backlog by encouraging the Attorney General to complete background checks within a reasonable period of time and without sacrificing national security.   

* Ensure that low-income eligible LPRs whose communities suffer the ill effects of the digital divide would have an equal chance to apply for citizenship as do other eligible LPRs.

Posted on March 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

In July 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order specifying that foreign nationals who serve in the United States armed forces during a period of hostility would be eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. The period of hostility began on September 11, 2001, and ends on a date that has yet to be specified by the President.

According to the White House, this executive order has allowed non-citizens to immediately become U.S. citizens. So far, more than 13,000 foreign-born members of the armed forces have applied for U.S. citizenship since the order took effect.

For those foreign nationals who are stationed overseas, the Immigration Services now allows naturalization ceremonies to be held at U.S. military bases, embassies, and consulates around the world. This makes it easier for the foreign-born military personnel to obtain their citizenship quickly.

Under current immigration laws, non-citizens must serve in the U.S. military for at least one year before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. This new executive order, however, will remove the three year service requirement. Additionally, the filing fees associated with an application for naturalization will be waived for those meeting the above-mentioned requirements.

A survey released in May 2006 indicated that there are more than 68,000 foreign-born serving in the armed forces, and this represents approximately 5% of the total on active duty.

Posted on February 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting today that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce that the new passport requirements for reentry into the United States, due to become effective in 2008, will not apply to children aged 15 or younger. Children will need a certified copy of their birth certificates, but not a passport.

There may be another exemption for children aged 16 through 18 if they are traveling with school, religious, cultural, or athletic groups and under adult supervision.

Posted on December 28, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

MSN Travel has a good online article about passport usage, passport protection, and the new  laws that require a passport for almost any type of travel that takes you out of the United States. The article begins:

At first glance, a U.S. passport is just a little booklet, about the size of a pocket notebook, a slim binding of heavy, baby-blue paper. But with this tiny document, you can visit almost any nation on Earth, earning approving nods from customs officials and collecting exotic stamps, one border post at a time. With a few notable exceptions–such as Cuba and North Korea–a U.S. passport is respected in almost every harbor and airport on the globe.

And recently, with the tightening of Homeland Security, your passport isn’t just a ticket to places–it’s your ticket back. If you’re finally taking that romantic trip toEurope or you’ve bought tickets for an Asian adventure, your passport is mandatory for travel to most foreign countries. And beginning on Jan. 23, 2007, the document will become even more essential for zipping around North America. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require that anyone who takes a flight to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean must have a passport or other approved identity card.

Posted on December 1, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to an Associated Press story in today’s Dallas Morning News, Citizenship and Immigration Services has released a new civics test for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. There are 144 revised questions. Excerpts from the story:

The draft questions will be tried out on immigrant volunteers in 10 cities early next year. Gonzalez was not ready to give specific dates. Applicants must verbally answer six of 10 questions right to pass the civics portion of the test. The questions will be tried out early next year in Albany, N.Y.; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; El Paso; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; San Antonio; Tucson, Ariz.; and Yakima, Wash.

The government wants the citizenship test to require a better understanding of America’s history and government institutions. It expects to spend about $6.5 million to make the changes, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of the citizenship office.

The redesign is aimed at making sure applicants know the meaning behind some of America’s fundamental institutions, said Chris Rhatigan, an agency spokeswoman.

The questions will go into use in the pilot cities before advocacy groups get a chance to point out any problems or concerns. After the questions are tested, the agency plans to spend a year examining results and reviewing the questions with groups with expertise and interest in the tests.

Another possible question would delve into the history of the Civil War. Applicants are now asked, What was the Emancipation Proclamation?

Current applicants need to know that it freed the slaves. In the future, however, prospective citizens will need to have a deeper understanding of the Civil War and name one of the problems that led to it.

Immigration advocates want to ensure that the new test does not make becoming a citizen more difficult, while groups that want to control immigration want to ensure newcomers are not simply memorizing information.

My guess is that about half of native-born U.S. citizens would fail the proposed test.

Posted on November 30, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting story this week about immigrants who can become citizens by enlisting in the U.S. military. This is an enticing path to citizenship because the process is accelerated. There is some controversy however in having so many non-citizens in the military branches. The article begins:

They come from Mexico, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cambodia and a hundred other countries across the globe to find the promise of America. Increasingly they enlist to fight, and sometimes die, in America’s wars.

About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force, according to the most recent data. Of those, 43 percent – 29,800 – are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush and Congress, citing long-established wartime powers, streamlined the process by which immigrants in the armed forces could become naturalized citizens.

As of October, more than 25,000 immigrant soldiers had become U.S. citizens as a result. Another 40,000 are believed eligible to apply. And roughly a third of noncitizens in the all-volunteer military come from Mexico and Central America.

“Latinos are very patriotic and see military service as a way to show their appreciation to America and to prove they can be ‘real Americans,’ ” said Dr. Jorge Mariscal, director of Chicano Studies at the University of California at San Diego.

But he questions the attention that military recruiters give Latino immigrant neighborhoods.

“The efforts of recruiters tends to undermine community efforts to get these kids better civilian educational opportunities and pushes them into low-echelon enlisted positions with a higher risk of seeing combat,” he said. “Until the playing field is level, we’re only going to create a class of combat soldiers drawn from immigrants and the working class.”

Conservative critics fear that increased reliance on an immigrant-based military may create security problems and turn the U.S. armed forces into a “green-card army” where citizenship becomes just another recruiting tool.

“Service to the country is good. But my concern is that by taking in too many noncitizens into the military, we separate service and duty from citizenship,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration controls.

Immigration Law Answers Blog : Texas Immigration Lawyer & Attorney : Kraft & Associates Law Firm : Visas, Green Card, Citizenship, Deportation : Dallas, Texas

Posted on April 11, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

This guest post is courtesy of Oak View Law Group:

Debt issues are quite common nowadays. If you are slogging through a swamp of debts, Debt Settlement Company can help you out in this regard and can ease or eradicate your debt loads. You can file for bankruptcy as well but if you are a non-citizen of U.S and worrying how bankruptcy can affect your immigration issue, read the rest of the article, and find out whether filing for bankruptcy can jeopardize your immigration status or not.

There is no such specific law which states clearly anything about bankruptcy and immigration or any regulation which disqualifies anyone from the privileges of immigration in the US. However, bankruptcy might not have any direct influence on immigration status, it has some indirect ones for sure. The Bankruptcy Code pronounces clearly that “…only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title” [11 U.S.C. Section 109(a)]. The term “person” incorporates individual, partnership, and corporation… [11 U.S.C. Section 101(a)(41)].The bottom line is there is no requirement of citizenship in the bankruptcy code.

How Bankruptcy Affects Immigration Status 

·      In general, filing for bankruptcy won’t affect the citizenship applications in any way. However, whenever there are criminal convictions like holding credit cards in other people’s names, writing “fraudulent” checks in more than one state, tax elusion, false transfers of assets, or filing an inaccurate bankruptcy petition, it would mandate the deportation crimes of “moral turpitude” and can adversely affect one’s immigration status.

·      To gain the lawful permanent citizenship of US, one must establish himself as of “good moral character” before US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Filing for bankruptcy might be deemed as a blemish on ones moral character and therefore won’t have a good impact on his or her immigration status.

·      Tax evasion is a serious matter of concern for people who are still immigrants or had applied for citizenship. People becoming a lawful permanent resident should not fail to file a required federal, state, or local tax return, or must not owe any federal, state, or local taxes that are overdue. However, someone filing for bankruptcy does not prove that the person has overdue taxes as well. If any immigrant works illegitimately and does not pay taxes on time or transfer money or property to another person in order to evade tax liabilities, and if these amounts exceed $10,000, he or she could be considered an “aggravated felon” and is conclusively estimated to be an outlaw and hence could be ostracized.

Bankruptcy and immigration around the world

While maximum countries have bankruptcy laws and procedures similar to those of the United States, some of the countries have different cultures and attitude towards the issue. In countries like China or Japan, most people are ignorant of bankruptcy and the suicide rate is quite high for people going through financial turbulence. However, in countries like Hong Kong no social stigma is attached to bankruptcy and it is accepted by almost everyone.

Final thought

Remember, the immigration officers no matter which country they belong to, always verify the immigrant’s financial status. Therefore, if you are an immigrant, stay honest while passing any information to the federal government and make sure that all your income is reported to the IRS on tax returns. If required, you can take help from immigration attorneys in this regard and determine whether bankruptcy can adversely affect your immigration status.

Posted on March 7, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas immigration attorney Mark Murov has a good article about the E-Verify system in his latest newsletter. His conclusion is that this is not a workable solution to our immigration problems. Here are excerpts from Mr. Murov’s article:

Although the government claims that E-Verify, its electronic employment authorization program, is free, most companies which have been forced to use it (due to Federal Contracts and State laws) have found it necessary to utilize vendor programs, and to pay setup costs and ongoing service fees. A recent Bloomberg study states that if E-Verify had been mandatory for employers last year, it would have cost U.S. employers $2.7 billion. Moreover, 99.7% of employers have fewer than 500 workers and can least afford the expense. The Cato Institute issued a report which called E-verify Franz Kafkas Solution to Illegal Immigration.

Although E-Verify has improved somewhat in the fourteen (14) years since it was first rolled out, many companies have found that E-Verify does not work well for them or their workforce. E-Verify cannot detect all unauthorized workers. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it does nothing to detect identity fraud : if a worker presents genuine documents belonging to another person,

E-Verify will erroneously confirm him as work authorized. Additionally, due to errors in the database, workers who are in fact authorized sometimes lose their jobs, creating hardship to their families and to employers which incur the expense of replacing them.

The only way to fix the problem of unauthorized workers is to address this issue wtih Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). This means a more comprehensive package of reforms, including a legalization program that brings workers into compliance and taxes their income. CIR should include a workable Verification program to allow employers to verify their workers immigration status with greater confidence that they are doing the right thing. CIR means a solution which comprehensively addresses the future of foreign workers living and working here by creating working visa categories which employers need. CIR should also reform the systems by which the laws are enforced to create equity and certainty for workers and employers.

Its time for our Congress to do the right thing and fix our immigration system, in one piece of legislation. CIR is the only smart way to fix the problems with unauthorized employment and verifications.

Posted on January 28, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

Yesterday, immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble told a House subcommittee hearing that it costs approximately $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport each person removed from the United States.

This is only one of several reasons that most immigration lawyers believe deportation of illegal immigrants is not a workable solution to our current immigration problems. 

In 2010 ICE deported about 393,000 people from the United States, and the cost was almost $5 billion. It’s estimated that 11 million people are currently in the U.S. without authorization. Extrapolating the ICE figures, it would cost the government almost $140 billion to deport them. We simply cannot afford to do that.

Posted on January 17, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

The Salvadoran Consulate in Dallas is working hard to process applications faster. This was reported in a recent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts from the article:

The last time Héctor Guatemala and Araceli Jiménez came to the Salvadoran Consulate in Dallas to request passports, they arrived at 8 a.m. and waited several hours before being called to the counter.

Five years later, the couple returned to renew their documents and noticed a big change – their request was processed within minutes. “I see things have improved because now they have appointments,” said Guatemala, 44, a resident of Dallas.

The appointment system is one of the recent changes that José Mario Mejía Barrera, the new consul general of El Salvador in Dallas, hopes will improve services.

Mejía says he has been tasked by his government with improving relations between the consulate and the Salvadoran community in North Texas, protecting the civil and labor rights of immigrants, encouraging remittances and, most important, speeding up service.

The Dallas consulate, at 1555 W. Mockingbird Lane, serves about 100,000 Salvadorans in North Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas with six clerks and consuls.

More people are requesting services, but the lines at the consulate are shorter because the appointments are spread out over several weeks and the crowd is predictable. In the past, sometimes 70 to 80 people showed up one day, and only a handful the next. Now an average of 35 to 40 Salvadorans get services each day.

Posted on December 30, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The incoming 2011 Congress will have a Republican majority, and the Associated Press believes (and I agree) that any immigration discussions will be focused more on border security and automatic birthright citizenship than on comprehensive immigration reform.

We may have lost our chance for meaningful reform by not passing new laws during the Bush administration or the first two years of the Obama administration. Here are excerpts from the AP article:

The end of the year means a turnover of House control from Democratic to Republican and, with it, Congress’ approach to immigration.

In a matter of weeks, Congress will go from trying to help young, illegal immigrants become legal to debating whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship.

Such a hardened approach — and the rhetoric certain to accompany it — should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans’ favor. But it also could further hurt the GOP in its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012.

Legislation to test interpretations of the 14th Amendment as granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants will emerge early next session. That is likely to be followed by attempts to force employers to use a still-developing web system, dubbed E-Verify, to check that all of their employees are in the U.S. legally.

There could be proposed curbs on federal spending in cities that don’t do enough to identify people who are in the country illegally and attempts to reduce the numbers of legal immigrants. Democrats ended the year failing for a second time to win passage of the Dream Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a chance at legal status.

House Republicans will try to fill the immigration reform vacuum left by Democrats with legislation designed to send illegal immigrants packing and deter others from trying to come to the U.S.

Many of those attending a recent gathering of conservative Hispanics in Washington warned that another round of tough laws surrounded by ugly anti-immigrant discussions could doom the GOP’s 2012 chances.

But more controversial measures such as attempts to deny citizenship to children of people who are in the U.S. without permission could be tempered by GOP leaders aware of the need to curry more favor with Hispanic voters.

Posted on December 28, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

A rather alarming report, detailed in the Los Angeles Times, shows that new travel restrictions requiring passports for American citizens to reenter the country are not being enforced.

These are American citizens, so perhaps we should not get too excited about the report, but it still makes you wonder about travel enforcement in general. Here are excerpts from the article:

Despite new travel requirements, more than 2.3 million Americans reentering the country by land or sea from Mexico or Canada failed to produce a passport, birth certificate or other secure document to establish identity and nationality, a government review has found.

Most people, including about 500,000 in California, were allowed to pass through ports of entry without the approved documents or without being sent to a secondary inspection post for a more in-depth examination, according to the report by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security.

Many travelers were allowed to pass after undergoing extensive questioning and producing at least a driver’s license, the report found. Overall, 96% of travelers arriving at the 39 busiest land ports were in compliance with the new law, which took effect in June 2009.

The procedure for processing those without the required documents needs to be more precise and implemented across the board, the report said.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, approved by Congress last year, requires U.S. travelers reentering the country from Mexico or Canada to present documents, such as a passport or birth certificate, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

Out of more than 1 million people, including U.S. and foreign citizens, who legally enter the United States each day, about three-fourths arrive by land from Mexico or Canada, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Posted on December 9, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

In a policy change that may stir some debate, the Dallas County tax assessor-collector John Ames, has announced that his office will resume accepting identification cards issued to Mexican citizens for motor vehicle transactions such as registrations and title transfers. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article on the subject:

John Ames decided a week ago to stop accepting the Matricula Consular de Alta Seguridad identification cards because of their use in some fraudulent transactions. But Ames reversed himself after learning that some Mexican nationals living in Dallas County have no other form of identification, which is needed to register vehicles, his office said.

The Mexican government issues the cards through its consulate offices to Mexican citizens living in other countries regardless of their emigration status. Many U.S. cities and police departments accept the card as identification as do certain banks for financial transactions.

Norman Kasal, spokesman for the tax office, said Ames’ original decision was based on the fact that it’s not possible to verify the matricula consular cards’ authenticity or legitimacy. In addition, some have used fraudulent cards in such motor vehicle transactions as registrations and title transfers, he said.

The office will try to verify the validity of such cards, Kasal said, even though it may be time-consuming.

For example, if someone submits registration or title documents on behalf of a vehicle owner along with the person’s Mexican ID card, the tax office will try to contact the cardholder to verify that the card and transaction are valid, he said.

“As agents of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, my office makes every effort possible to ensure the accuracy and legality of the transactions we process,” Ames said in a prepared statement. “Our decision to not accept or accept various forms of ID is based on the ability to verify the authenticity of that ID.”

Posted on November 23, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has introduced a new fee waiver form, effective today. The form is supposed to make fee waiver requests simpler and less confusing. This is especially important since immigration fees have risen so dramatically in the past few years. Here is the announcement from USCIS:

For the first time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is introducing a standardized form for requesting waivers of the fees charged for immigration-benefit processing. Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, will become available for use on Nov. 23, 2010 – the same day USCIS’s latest fee schedule takes effect.

“Our goal is to bring clarity and consistency to immigration-benefit services,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.  “The development of the new fee waiver form reflects our commitment to making improvements through extensive collaboration with the public.”

The fee waiver form reflects significant input from stakeholders, community-based organizations, and the general public. In stakeholder meetings, USCIS heard concerns that the absence of a standardized form led to confusion about the criteria and standards used to approve waivers. In July, USCIS published and sought comments on a proposed form through the Federal Register, generating input from numerous interested parties. Comments reflected applicants’ past experiences in requesting fee waivers and recommended changes to the proposed form and instructions to make them easier to understand for non-native English speakers.

The new form identifies clear requirements for documenting a fee waiver request. The form’s instructions also give information on the methodology that USCIS uses to evaluate the requests. For example, if an applicant can show that he or she is receiving a means-tested benefit and presents evidence to document that claim, then there is no requirement to submit further evidence. USCIS will use the same methodology in reviewing all fee waiver requests, whether submitted on the new Form I-912 or in a written statement generated by the applicant.

USCIS announced today that it is also now seeking feedback on a new guidance memorandum documenting the agency’s consolidated policy for reviewing fee waiver requests. Stakeholders and the general public are encouraged to visit www.uscis.gov/outreach to review the new memorandum and offer their input.

USCIS’s latest fee rule, which takes effect Nov. 23, 2010, expands the availability of fee waivers to several new categories. The final rule also increases fees by a weighted average of about 10 percent, but does not increase the fee on naturalization applications.
 
For more information on USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.

Posted on November 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent editorial today about some of the proposed new immigration legislation in Austin. This is important enough to reprint in full:

Picture a Texas where city police officers become foot soldiers in a push to corral and deport people who are in the country illegally. Picture neighborhood schools as part of the screening process to sort out who has immigration papers and who does not.

It’s a jarring picture that radically changes the jobs that cops and educators already work hard to get done.

Yet it’s the image we get from lawmakers in Austin who have filed – with dramatic flourish – bills to put local officials in the business of immigration enforcement.

They represent a wedge issue in next year’s legislative session. Lawmakers’ attention will be dominated by the painful job of chopping up to $25 billion out of the state budget. Even so, some of the most conservative lawmakers are creating a sideshow out of their vows to pass Arizona-type laws to crack down on illegal immigrants.

There is no doubt that local taxpayers pay the bill for services for people in the country illegally, and Texans have justification to be steamed at Washington’s refusal to piece together a workable immigration policy. But these Austin proposals would do nothing to pay for services, secure the border or deal systematically with millions of people who overstay their visas.

What the proposals would do is make cops on the streets responsible for determining whether someone is in the country illegally before making the arrest. The problem with that is the naive notion that cops can do this job with little chance of racial profiling.

An arrest could come only during a stop on a separate infraction, but it would require the police officer to check with federal immigration officials on a suspect’s status. The problem is the time and energy that would take from officers who should concentrate on catching dangerous people.

The author of the legislation filed in the House is Debbie Riddle, aRepublican from the Houston suburb of Tomball. One of her bills, she said, would require “school districts to report the number of illegal aliens attending their schools.” Local educators don’t need a time-consuming new mandate from Austin and the distraction of becoming de-facto immigration inspectors. Schoolchildren shouldn’t be caught in the middle of document searches and background checks. Education should be the priority.

Riddle filed her legislation with much stagecraft. She camped outside the House – yard chairs and all – so she could be first in line for her bill filings.

Politicians like to say that Austin is different from other state capitals, that members put aside party differences “for the good of Texas.” New House Speaker Joe Straus, a centrist Republican, was able to restore some of that spirit last year.

Going into the 2011 session, the GOP majority in the Legislature is bigger, bolder and farther to the right. What’s certain is that lawmakers will have some of the most polarizing political battles imaginable. These battles will be not so much “for the good of Texas” as they will be for the good of people’s political resumes.

Posted on October 11, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent short editorial today encouraging Latinos to vote in the coming election. Historically, Latinos vote in smaller percentages than other ethnic groups. There may be cultural reasons for this, but the failure to vote hurts Latino causes -— whether that is immigration reform or economic recovery. I want to join the newspaper in urging Latinos, and everyone else, to vote November 2. Here is the editorial:

This probably isn’t the first editorial you’ve read urging Latinos to make their mark at the polls. We’ve written some ourselves, so this plea to Texas’ Hispanic voters is not new to us, either.

Nevertheless, the point remains. From jobs to education to immigration, Hispanic voters have quite a bit at stake in November’s mid-term election. Yet some recent polling data suggests a significant number of registered Latino voters may sit this one out.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that only about half of Hispanic voters nationally are likely to cast ballots. By contrast, 70 percent of all registered voters say they will vote.

A survey by this newspaper and several others found similar numbers across Texas. Only 44 percent of registered Texas Hispanic voters said they were “absolutely certain” to vote, compared to 58.2 percent of all registered Texas voters with no doubt they would hit the polls.

The polling firm Latino Decisions found some marginally better numbers nationally. Its recent report shows 73 percent of registered Hispanic voters are “almost certain” to vote. “Almost certain” is nowhere as good as “absolutely certain,” but the Latino numbers perhaps could end up higher than 45 percent to 50 percent of those registered.

Let’s hope so. Sitting this election out will do Hispanics no good, no matter how despondent they may be over the immigration debate. Experts examining these recent polls believe the anger surrounding this issue is largely responsible for the low projections.

But there is much more at stake, which the Pew Hispanic Center interestingly picked up on. Its survey revealed that Latinos consider education, jobs, health care and budget deficits more important issues than immigration.

So with all that at stake, particularly the economy, Latino voters have every reason to vote early or on Nov. 2. We hope that by the morning of Nov. 3, these dire projections will have been proven wildly inaccurate.

Posted on October 4, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The results of a poll of Texans conducted recently by the Dallas Morning News show that a majority favor a crackdown of some sort on illegal immigration, similar to what Arizona is trying to do. But the anti-immigration fervor in Texas doesn’t appear to be as strong as in some other states. Here are excerpts from this interesting article:

Texans appear fed up with illegal immigration, with most backing an Arizona-type crackdown and many willing to change the U.S. Constitution to discourage women from entering the country to give birth.

But some experts said that Texas, while roiled by the issue, still isn’t as captivated by it as other places – especially for a border state with a decidedly Republican tilt.

A statewide poll by The Dallas Morning News showed that 53 percent of registered voters say police should verify whether people they’ve stopped are in the country legally, even if it could lead to racial profiling. Thirty-eight percent oppose it.

Meanwhile, Texans were almost evenly divided on changing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to those born in the U.S., with 45 percent favoring change and 43 percent opposing it, the poll found.

“If there’s a surprise, it’s that the margins are so narrow,” said Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American political science professor. “Overall, immigration has been on the agenda of the state for the past six or seven years, but it hasn’t lit the sparks that it has in some of the other states.”

Texans’ reluctance to change the Constitution mirrors national polls on the subject. But Texans are less enthusiastic than the nation at large about the Arizona law, which allowed law officers to ask people about their immigration status if officers suspect people are in the country illegally. The law largely is on hold while it is challenged in federal court.

Mark P. Jones, political science chairman at Rice University, said Texas voters might have peeled off because the poll raised the concern over racial profiling.

Also, Hispanic culture has long been a part of Texas history, he said.

“It’s hard to argue that there is an overwhelming feeling by Texans that we need that law,” Jones said.

Although some Republicans have vowed to push in next year’s Legislature for a similar law, GOP Gov. Rick Perry has been lukewarm, saying it’s not needed in Texas. His Democratic opponent, Bill White, has opposed it, saying it would distract police officers from protecting the public from crime.

The News’ poll showed clear breaks between Republicans (78 percent favoring it) and Democrats (71 percent opposing it), and Hispanics (76 percent opposing) and whites (68 percent favoring).

Both Jones and Polinard said the immigration conflict eventually would hurt Republicans by alienating Latino voters, who within 10 years will have a large sway in Texas elections.

“The Republicans, if they take this up, are looking over a cliff. Demography is destiny,” Polinard said.

“The Democrats fall on their knees every night and pray for immigration to be an issue because it’s viewed as anti-Latino and it will only help them,” he said.

Jones said efforts to pass a verification law would be a polarizing distraction, with no real legal benefit because the courts probably will overturn most of it. “It’s not a winning political issue,” he said.

The poll also looked at Texans’ views of showing a photo ID to vote, and the vast majority favor such a law.

Opponents believe that the ID requirement would force many who are poor, elderly or disabled – those most likely not to have a driver’s license – to be turned away from the polling places.

Posted on September 20, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

General Colin Powell has clarified a rather startling remark he made Sunday morning on Meet The Press.

He was talking about the need for a path to legal status for those in this country without authorization. His original statement was “They’re all over my house, doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I’m sure you’ve seen them at your house. We’ve got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status.”

Today, General Powell’s office said he “misspoke” during the interview, and that he did not mean that he personally had hired illegal immigrants to work on his house. Instead, he was “…referring to the many service contractors who work in my neighborhood, using mostly immigrant workers, who do good work. Some may well be ‘illegal.’ There are 11 million illegal immigrants in this country and most are working somewhere in our economy.”

Regardless of who hired the illegal immigrants in question, General Powell is exactly right in saying we need to find some way to bring these people “out of the darkness” and integrate them into American society.

Posted on September 13, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Many of us in the Dallas area are closely following the Hazleton, Pennsylvania saga regarding that town’s ordinances aimed at keeping illegal immigrants away. We do this because a local suburb, Farmers Branch, is doing essentially the same thing. Neither city is having much luck, as they keep getting shot down by the federal courts.

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer provides details of Hazleton’s latest setback. Here are excerpts:

In a high-profile Pennsylvania case that helped spark the ongoing national debate over immigration policy, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the City of Hazleton has no right to punish businesses or landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, upheld a 2007 lower-court decision prohibiting Hazleton from enforcing local immigration ordinances.

The judges said federal immigration law preempted Hazleton’s controversial 2006 initiatives.

“Federal law simply does not prohibit landlords from renting [in the ordinary course of business] to persons who lack lawful immigration status,” Chief Judge Theodore McKee wrote. “Nor does federal law directly prohibit persons lacking lawful status from renting apartments.”

The ruling sets up a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re over the moon,” exulted Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania, who successfully argued the case. “Hazleton pioneered a wave of these divisive laws across the country that tore communities apart along racial and ethnic lines.”

The appellate ruling, Walczak said, “is a pointed repudiation of such local anti-immigrant laws, and should serve as a warning to other communities considering similar misguided legislation.”

But Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who pushed through the ordinances, becoming a folk hero to many, vowed that the fight was not over. Saying he was “not disillusioned” by the ruling, Barletta pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“Hazleton was the first, and became the symbol of hope for many around the country,” the three-time Republican congressional candidate said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “Since I proposed this law more than four years ago, we have seen the growing frustration all across the country.”

“It is . . . not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted,” McKee wrote. “We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress.”

In the court’s view, that’s what happened in 2006, when Hazleton began passing a series of ordinances aimed at undocumented immigrants.

The laws gave the city the right to fine employers and suspend their business licenses for hiring such immigrants. Similarly, landlords “harboring” illegal immigrants could have their rental licenses pulled and be prohibited from collecting rents.

Hazleton also required anyone 18 and older to obtain a permit, predicated in part on their immigration status, before being allowed to rent an apartment.

Because of ensuing legal challenges and court injunctions, the ordinances have never been enforced.

Posted on September 9, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

I wrote earlier this week about a Pew report indicating a decline in illegal immigration from Mexico. But the Dallas Morning News warns that the problem is not yet solved, and will not be solved until our elected representatives find the courage to debate and pass comprehensive immigration reform. The editorial is good enough to reproduce in full here:

The estimated number of illegal immigrants in the United States sank by nearly a million to 11.1 million from 2007 to 2009, suggesting that the tide has turned in efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform already are claiming that new migration statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center vindicate their position that tougher enforcement, not reform, is the solution.

There’s no disputing the trend toward lower numbers. Major indicators, however, point to the economy as the principal driver, bolstered by a growing anti-illegal immigrant mood across the nation.

The 2007 slump in homebuilding, a major magnet for low-cost migrant labor, set off the wave. The subsequent national recession further soured the migrant job market. However, the number of illegal immigrants in Texas continues rising – largely because our unemployment rate remains lower than the rest of the country. Analysts say it appears that some migrants aren’t necessarily going home but are relocating to states where the jobs are.

At the same time, American companies are facing tough new sanctions for employing illegal immigrants, making them far less inclined to take that risk. The Obama administration also has dramatically stepped up efforts to remove illegal immigrants in federal custody, having deported 389,000 last year and aiming for a record 400,000 this year.

Finally, the danger of sneaking into the United States has grown dramatically because of border-area violence. Drug gangs are kidnapping northbound migrants and holding them for ransom. The recent mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in the state of Tamaulipas underscores the intolerably high risks.

These factors have combined to produce the remarkable numbers in the Pew report. Problem solved, right? Hardly. Remember: A whopping 11.1 million illegal immigrants remain. And when the U.S. economy improves, jobs will lure other migrants back. Mexican gangs vying for control of border smuggling routes eventually will see they have a financial stake in increasing, not deterring, the flow of migrants northward.

That’s why comprehensive immigration reform remains the long-term solution – along with sustained, tough enforcement – to ensure that migrants seeking entry into this country do it by the book, while those already residing here understand there’s no choice but to legalize their status and pay for having broken the law.

Employers must have access to a predictable supply of legal, low-cost migrant labor, which can be guaranteed only through a scheduled system of temporary work visas envisioned under comprehensive reform.

These numbers point to signs of short-term progress on immigration, but don’t be fooled. This problem is far from solved, and it will keep coming back until Congress gets serious about comprehensive reform.

Posted on September 7, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 A new study by the Pew Hispanic Center says illegal entries from Mexico are declining and the total illegal immigrant population is down by about one million, but not in Texas, which has actually seen a slight increase. A map of unauthorized immigrants state-by-state is also part of the Pew report.

The Dallas Morning News ran a recent article about this report. Here are excerpts:

The report by the Pew Hispanic Center avoids naming causes for the contraction to 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. But it notes that the recession and tougher immigration enforcement paralleled a trend that “represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades.”

The findings come at a time when the national debate over illegal immigration grows more vigorous and polarized. Rancor comes from Arizona’s tough new immigration law, which is being challenged in the federal courts. And while some press for a partial legalization program for those here illegally, others have called for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

Much of the drop the Pew reports found in the unauthorized immigrant population comes from the nation’s Southeast coast and the states of Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

Mexican officials and others have speculated that Texas became a destination state for some immigrants from more economically battered U.S. states. Texas’ jobless rate — now at 8.2 percent — has been 1 to 2 percentage points below the national average for much of the recession.

The Pew study follows another report this week that says in Texas one out of three young students under the age of 8 has an immigrant parent. The Washington-based Urban Institute says nationwide one out of four students under the age of 8, roughly third-graders, has an immigrant parent.

And Texas continues to have one of the nation’s highest percentages of illegal immigrants in the labor force, at nearly 9 percent. Illegal immigrants account for 6.5 percent of the state’s 24 million residents, or an estimated 1.6 million people in 2009. It’s the third highest rate in the nation in a cluster led by California (with a 6.9 percent share).

The Pew center said that the unauthorized immigrant population peaked at 12 million in March 2007, several months before the recession officially hit the U.S. And the nonpartisan research center noted that 72 percent of the overall foreign-born population was in the U.S. legally in 2009.

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Posted on March 7, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas immigration attorney Mark Murov has a good article about the E-Verify system in his latest newsletter. His conclusion is that this is not a workable solution to our immigration problems. Here are excerpts from Mr. Murov’s article:

Although the government claims that E-Verify, its electronic employment authorization program, is free, most companies which have been forced to use it (due to Federal Contracts and State laws) have found it necessary to utilize vendor programs, and to pay setup costs and ongoing service fees. A recent Bloomberg study states that if E-Verify had been mandatory for employers last year, it would have cost U.S. employers $2.7 billion. Moreover, 99.7% of employers have fewer than 500 workers and can least afford the expense. The Cato Institute issued a report which called E-verify Franz Kafkas Solution to Illegal Immigration.

Although E-Verify has improved somewhat in the fourteen (14) years since it was first rolled out, many companies have found that E-Verify does not work well for them or their workforce. E-Verify cannot detect all unauthorized workers. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it does nothing to detect identity fraud : if a worker presents genuine documents belonging to another person,

E-Verify will erroneously confirm him as work authorized. Additionally, due to errors in the database, workers who are in fact authorized sometimes lose their jobs, creating hardship to their families and to employers which incur the expense of replacing them.

The only way to fix the problem of unauthorized workers is to address this issue wtih Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). This means a more comprehensive package of reforms, including a legalization program that brings workers into compliance and taxes their income. CIR should include a workable Verification program to allow employers to verify their workers immigration status with greater confidence that they are doing the right thing. CIR means a solution which comprehensively addresses the future of foreign workers living and working here by creating working visa categories which employers need. CIR should also reform the systems by which the laws are enforced to create equity and certainty for workers and employers.

Its time for our Congress to do the right thing and fix our immigration system, in one piece of legislation. CIR is the only smart way to fix the problems with unauthorized employment and verifications.

Posted on December 30, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The incoming 2011 Congress will have a Republican majority, and the Associated Press believes (and I agree) that any immigration discussions will be focused more on border security and automatic birthright citizenship than on comprehensive immigration reform.

We may have lost our chance for meaningful reform by not passing new laws during the Bush administration or the first two years of the Obama administration. Here are excerpts from the AP article:

The end of the year means a turnover of House control from Democratic to Republican and, with it, Congress’ approach to immigration.

In a matter of weeks, Congress will go from trying to help young, illegal immigrants become legal to debating whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship.

Such a hardened approach — and the rhetoric certain to accompany it — should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans’ favor. But it also could further hurt the GOP in its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012.

Legislation to test interpretations of the 14th Amendment as granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants will emerge early next session. That is likely to be followed by attempts to force employers to use a still-developing web system, dubbed E-Verify, to check that all of their employees are in the U.S. legally.

There could be proposed curbs on federal spending in cities that don’t do enough to identify people who are in the country illegally and attempts to reduce the numbers of legal immigrants. Democrats ended the year failing for a second time to win passage of the Dream Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a chance at legal status.

House Republicans will try to fill the immigration reform vacuum left by Democrats with legislation designed to send illegal immigrants packing and deter others from trying to come to the U.S.

Many of those attending a recent gathering of conservative Hispanics in Washington warned that another round of tough laws surrounded by ugly anti-immigrant discussions could doom the GOP’s 2012 chances.

But more controversial measures such as attempts to deny citizenship to children of people who are in the U.S. without permission could be tempered by GOP leaders aware of the need to curry more favor with Hispanic voters.

Posted on November 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent editorial today about some of the proposed new immigration legislation in Austin. This is important enough to reprint in full:

Picture a Texas where city police officers become foot soldiers in a push to corral and deport people who are in the country illegally. Picture neighborhood schools as part of the screening process to sort out who has immigration papers and who does not.

It’s a jarring picture that radically changes the jobs that cops and educators already work hard to get done.

Yet it’s the image we get from lawmakers in Austin who have filed – with dramatic flourish – bills to put local officials in the business of immigration enforcement.

They represent a wedge issue in next year’s legislative session. Lawmakers’ attention will be dominated by the painful job of chopping up to $25 billion out of the state budget. Even so, some of the most conservative lawmakers are creating a sideshow out of their vows to pass Arizona-type laws to crack down on illegal immigrants.

There is no doubt that local taxpayers pay the bill for services for people in the country illegally, and Texans have justification to be steamed at Washington’s refusal to piece together a workable immigration policy. But these Austin proposals would do nothing to pay for services, secure the border or deal systematically with millions of people who overstay their visas.

What the proposals would do is make cops on the streets responsible for determining whether someone is in the country illegally before making the arrest. The problem with that is the naive notion that cops can do this job with little chance of racial profiling.

An arrest could come only during a stop on a separate infraction, but it would require the police officer to check with federal immigration officials on a suspect’s status. The problem is the time and energy that would take from officers who should concentrate on catching dangerous people.

The author of the legislation filed in the House is Debbie Riddle, aRepublican from the Houston suburb of Tomball. One of her bills, she said, would require “school districts to report the number of illegal aliens attending their schools.” Local educators don’t need a time-consuming new mandate from Austin and the distraction of becoming de-facto immigration inspectors. Schoolchildren shouldn’t be caught in the middle of document searches and background checks. Education should be the priority.

Riddle filed her legislation with much stagecraft. She camped outside the House – yard chairs and all – so she could be first in line for her bill filings.

Politicians like to say that Austin is different from other state capitals, that members put aside party differences “for the good of Texas.” New House Speaker Joe Straus, a centrist Republican, was able to restore some of that spirit last year.

Going into the 2011 session, the GOP majority in the Legislature is bigger, bolder and farther to the right. What’s certain is that lawmakers will have some of the most polarizing political battles imaginable. These battles will be not so much “for the good of Texas” as they will be for the good of people’s political resumes.

Posted on August 12, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

I don’t always agree with newspaper columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. but his most recent column, regarding talk of altering the 14th  Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, seems so completely correct that I’m going to take the liberty of reprinting almost all of it here.

Supposedly, elephants don’t forget. But these days, when it comes to the explosive issue of immigration, I wonder if they even bother to think.

Not from the looks of it. Not when top Republicans in Congress are toying with the wacky and wicked idea of rewriting the 14th Amendment to eliminate so-called birthright citizenship.

A half-dozen prominent Senate Republicans have called for a review of Section 1, which dictates that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States,” to see if they can find a way to exclude the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Kyl of Arizona, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John McCain of Arizona in demanding a national debate on the issue.

Given the devastating effect such a debate would have — chiefly on the GOP — one wonders whether these six Republicans and others supporting such a brainless idea are secretly working for the Democrats. They’re certainly not working for the long-term best interests of their own party.

Not in light of the fact that Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the country, increasingly consider the GOP brand toxic. This fight will close the deal because Latinos operate by a simple code: “Say what you will about the adults, but leave the children alone.”

Still, in a way, it must be nice to be a Republican.

You don’t have to worry about being morally consistent. You’re not tied down by any core principles. You don’t have to worry about being honest, logical or sincere. You can sell out and simply say whatever your constituents want to hear, even if it means uttering something totally different from what you used to believe just a few years ago.

For instance, how strange that a party whose members, whenever there are hearings for a Supreme Court nominee, put on a great show about adhering to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and not giving into judicial activism would now be flirting with a kind of legislative activism that defiles the very Constitution they supposedly revered.

How curious that a party whose members insist time and again that they have no problem with legal immigrants, and that they are only trying to run off the illegal variety, would destroy its credibility by going after a group of legal immigrants simply because critics don’t approve of the process by which these people obtained legal status.

Finally, how unfortunate that a party whose leaders in Congress used to have the good sense to thwart legislation written by fellow Republicans seeking to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants would now cave in to pressure from voters and pursue a course of action that they formerly claimed was unwise and unnecessary.

The GOP was right the first time. This debate is unwise and unnecessary. It’s also unseemly.

Republicans in Congress are acting like schoolyard bullies and picking on a group that, at least for the moment, can’t defend itself — children. Sadly, that’s probably part of the appeal. Think about it. Republicans like to pick on illegal immigrants and U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants because those people can’t vote.

But when Republicans have the chance to do something substantive about illegal immigration by punishing those who hire illegal immigrants, they never have the guts to follow through. Instead, to stay in the good graces of business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they pore over immigration bills and carefully take out language calling for sanctions on employers.

It’s easier to try to punish children for the sins of their parents. After all, employers vote; children don’t.

At least not yet. Republicans are obviously worried about what’s going to happen to their candidates in the future when these so-called anchor babies grow up. The concern is that, when the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants earn the right to vote, they’ll start settling scores for the despicable way in which their parents were treated — hunted, demonized, exploited, scapegoated etc. — often with the blessing of the GOP.

That’s a lot to answer for. So naturally, Republicans are trying to put off this reckoning as long as possible. But by foolishly going down this road, they’re further enraging the current crop of Latino voters — and other Americans of good will — and thus ensuring that the bill comes due that much sooner.

Posted on June 9, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

This opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News is by Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. 

Of all the political fights over immigration, the one that makes the least sense concerns children who came here illegally with their parents and then graduated from American high schools.

Based on statements to the media, most of the heartless Scrooges who want to kick these innocent youths out of the country – even though most are culturally and patriotically American – are Republicans.

But the dirty little secret is that Democrats have been as responsible for short-circuiting these young lives – and for denying the nation their talent after having already paid for their schooling.

They have done so in Congress by holding hostage the so-called Dream Act, which would give these young people a pathway to citizenship by joining the military or going to college. For the past decade, this bill has been seen as a motherhood-and-apple-pie measure that would help sell comprehensive immigration reform.

That logic once made tactical sense, but no more. The immigration debate has become so toxic that, spurred by Arizona, it now threatens to turn into a downward spiral of national paranoia about immigrants, particularly Hispanics. Periodic bouts of such hysteria pockmark our history – Japanese living in America during World War II, Germans before World Wars I and II, Italians and Slavs in the 1920s, and Irish and Chinese before that.

The Dream Act is urgently needed to help break this dangerous dynamic by reminding Americans of the positive side of immigration. The terms of the immigration debate have to be changed from what now is one of enforcement – and unfounded fears, largely of crime and terrorism – to an honest assessment of costs and benefits, and of the moral responsibility of immigrants and employers.

Only Obama can do this, in alliance with Democratic congressional leaders and some sympathetic Republicans. Most of our leaders have become cowed instead by the loud, often virulent anti-immigrant backlash. Obama himself says the right things but is reluctant to act.

Opposition to the act comes in part from the hard right and the normal cabal of talk show hosts who call the bills “amnesty light.” They add, as Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas wrote three weeks ago, that the Dream Act “will result in illegal immigrants taking more of the limited number of spaces available for students at public universities, crowding out deserving American students.”

Opponents on the hard left, meanwhile, charge that, given the low numbers of Latinos in college, the offer of citizenship through military service will become a popular default choice that condemns them to fighting in Iraq.

Nearly 115,000 immigrants are in the military today, and the Pentagon says it indeed would welcome more. Being an immigrant and a Vietnam War veteran myself, I agree with paying your dues or proving your loyalty. The immigrants don’t have to stay.

But going to a university and using your learned skills is a contribution, too, and we are amazingly foolish to kick out youths in whom we already have invested so much.

Arguments such as Smith’s are misplaced. States subsidize tuition because college graduates stimulate economic growth. There may be a point where those costs outweigh the benefits, but the relatively small number of students involved and the fact that they are already in each state’s education system suggest that we are nowhere near this point. What the opponents are doing is shrinking their state talent pools, a recipe for decline.

The youths themselves best make their case. As a 22-year-old wanting to join the military told The Boston Globe, “We don’t want a handout, just the opportunity to prove ourselves.” 

Posted on March 23, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

“…the time for comprehensive immigration reform is overdue, that our nation’s system just isn’t working.” That was the gist of an excellent editorial this week in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:

We don’t know how many times we’ll have to write that the time for comprehensive immigration reform is overdue, that our nation’s system just isn’t working. And however many times it takes, we will. Instead of getting better, our immigration problems keep getting worse, if that’s possible.

Latest is the news that Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano has suspended payments on the “virtual fence” that many reformers, including this newspaper, had hoped would increase security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence, so far, has been a big dud – and an expensive one.

The U.S. has paid Boeing about $1 billion so far to develop a “virtual fence” that would rely on sophisticated electronics to track people illegally crossing our border with Mexico. Among other problems, The New York Times reports, Boeing failed to design tests that would work out the kinks.

Rather than keep pouring money down that hole, it’s time to pursue an alternative. Options include the thermal-imaging devices, heat-seeking cameras and laptops that border agents want.

Of course, a real, physical fence is being built across parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. But there is no way enough fence can be built in a manner that seals the border from Brownsville to San Diego. We need some kind of electronic system to help border agents snare illegal crossers.

Some will want to use the apparent failure of the virtual fence to again do nothing on immigration reform this year, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to pursue it and the efforts last week by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham to offer a serious overhaul.

Waiting around isn’t going to solve the problem. If Congress falls prey to more wait-and-see, the nation won’t have to wait long to see more scattershot local efforts, like the ill-advised one being pursued in the Arizona Legislature.

Some lawmakers there want to give local law enforcement the authority to charge an immigrant with trespassing if found in the state illegally. The immigrants wouldn’t have to be accused of any other offense. Cops could just stop a suspected illegal immigrant while he is walking down the street and arrest him for not having valid papers. If this sounds good to you, please explain how this would not degenerate into profiling specific ethnicities based almost solely on their skin color.

The only good thing to say about the Arizona proposal is that it provides one more compelling reason for Washington to start creating a saner immigration system so that states and local governments aren’t so tempted to take the law into their hands. 

Posted on February 3, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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.

Posted on December 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This press release is from the Immigration Policy Center:   December 15, 2009  

Washington D.C. – Today, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP), in the House of Representatives.  The 87 original co-sponsors of the bill include members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus.

  The necessity of comprehensive immigration reform stems from a long-neglected immigration system that has failed to keep up with our nation’s changing needs, resulting in breakdowns that have crippled our ability to regulate immigration adequately, protect our borders, reunite families, and foster economic opportunity.   The CIR ASAP bill includes many of the elements necessary to bring our immigration system in tune with the current social and economic demands of our nation including, family reunification, restoration of judicial discretion, a generous legalization program, sensible law enforcement, and creative, if untested, answers to future immigration flows.   “Our current immigration system fails to reflect the realities of 21st century America, and CIR ASAP begins to deal with these failings and sets us on a path towards enacting fair and humane immigration policies,” said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. “We need to move forward, even in tough economic times, if we wish to ensure the future growth and prosperity of our nation. Introduction of this bill jump starts the New Year, providing a vehicle for other lawmakers to react to and build upon. We expect many more proposals in the Senate and House in the coming months and urge lawmakers to make this a fact-based debate with the goal of passing reform in 2010.”  

“While the Gutierrez bill doesn’t have all the answers, it begins the dialogue in Congress,” said Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “The bill reflects the political realities within the House of Representatives, and as such does not include some of the necessary reforms for ensuring economic prosperity which Gutierrez has long supported. It is clear that what makes good policy does not always make good politics. However, the bill makes a significant contribution to restoring due process and discretion to the immigration system, and serves as a starting point for bringing more voices to the table.”

Posted on December 14, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a proposed rule today to increase the non-immigrant visa (NIV) application processing fees, also called Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) and Border Crossing Card (BCC) fees. The increase would apply to NIV in passports and to BCC issued to applicants in Mexico.   The rule proposes to increase the fee for visas that are not petition-based from $131 to $140. Examples of non-petition based visas are B-1/B-2 tourist visas, F-1 student visas. Petition-based visas would increase their application fees to $150. Petition-based visas include H visa for temporary workers, L visa for intracompany transferees, O visa for extraordinary ability, P for athletes, artists and entertainers, Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors, R visa for religious workers. K visas for fiancés would increase to $350 and E visas for treaty-traders and treaty-investors would increase to $390.  

It is important to note the DOS has only proposed the new rule. Only when the DOS publishes the final rule will the changes become effective.  

Posted on November 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This excellent editorial appeared recently in the Dallas Morning News:

The Obama administration deserves credit for tenacity. Like Rocky Balboa after being battered and bloodied by successive bouts on Capitol Hill over health care and the economy, the administration keeps coming back for more. Now comes Barocky III: Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that the administration will seek to overhaul the immigration system early next year. She wants a tighter law to punish illegal immigrants and the employers who hire them, improved measures to encourage migrants to choose the legal route, and a “tough but fair” pathway for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country to legalize their status.

The last time such a feat was attempted, in 2007, President George W. Bush was abandoned by his party and suffered a crushing defeat in the Senate. There’s no assurance President Barack Obama will fare any better, despite his party’s Capitol Hill majority. Bipartisan cooperation in writing the new bill also is no guarantee of success.

To fend off conservative attacks that this measure would amount to nothing more than amnesty, Obama must put strong emphasis on the toughness of his proposed legalization procedures. Napolitano says that the legalization process could take years to complete and would involve rigorous procedures to verify that an applicant has no criminal background, has learned English and has fully paid back taxes and substantial fines for entering the country illegally.

Since illegal immigrants come here looking for work, she says, the bill will seek stiffer punishments for employers who hire them. Napolitano also promises tighter border enforcement, even though illegal crossings already have dropped significantly. The Border Patrol has grown by 20,000 officers, and more than 600 miles of border fencing has been installed, fulfilling two key benchmarks set by Congress in 2007.

Having supported the Bush plan, this newspaper believes that the Obama administration is on the right track, particularly with its decision to press the issue sooner rather than wait until after next November’s elections. The timing here shows admirable political guts.

There are upsides. Approval could generate support from an increasingly important Hispanic electorate. By drawing illegal immigrants out of the shadows, the new law promises to add workers to the tax rolls and increase American blue-collar labor’s competitiveness by ensuring that they won’t be undercut by cheaper illegal workers. If illegal immigrants don’t want to comply, their room to maneuver in the job market would diminish while their incentives to go home would jump dramatically.

The nation’s immigration system has limped along, broken for far too long, but there should be no illusions that fixing it will be easy. As Capitol Hill bouts go, this fight looks to be a bruiser.

Posted on November 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

“If we are truly going to fix a broken system, Congress will have to act”  

The following is a statement from Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

We have entered a new chapter and a new phase in the immigration debate.  Secretary Napolitano today laid out the framework for fixing the broken immigration system, and the solution is comprehensive immigration reform.  Drawing on her years of experience on the southwest border, and her new role as the nation’s top homeland security official, she said that we need Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and create immigration laws that truly work for our country.   Reform will secure the border, protect all workers, and require undocumented immigrants to register for legal status, pay fines and taxes, clear background checks, and get in line for citizenship.  This will benefit all Americans by strengthening the rule of law, bringing in more taxpayers, cutting costs for enforcement, and making our nation’s borders stronger and safer.  Now is the time for Congress to take the next step and pass legislation that would accomplish these goals.   As Secretary Napolitano pointed out, the American people support comprehensive immigration reform, and the debate we are about to engage in is not the same old debate.  Law enforcement, labor, business, faith, and community leaders are all demanding comprehensive reform for our nation’s security, economy, workers, and families.  We have a new President, who was elected because he promised to address important problems like this with practical solutions.  We have a new Congress, with leaders who also promised change and progress to the American people.  

The Secretary’s speech today was an important moment, but it was just the opening bell.  It’s now time for Congress and the Administration to put serious muscle behind advancing the proposal – and it’s time for politicians of all political parties to set aside partisanship and demagoguery, and do what’s right for the country.   

Posted on June 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Los Angeles Times reports that Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) favors requiring every eligible worker in America to obtain a “forgery-proof” worker identification (ID) card to show proof of ability to work. Schumer intends to lead the Senate’s effort at comprehensive immigration reform and also called the ID card “the best way to ensure that all workers are authorized to work” in the U.S.   In his 2007 book, “Positively American,” Senator Schumer asserted that “the ID will make it easy for employers to avoid undocumented workers, which will allow for tough sanctions against employers who break the law, which will lead to no jobs being available for illegal immigrants, which will stop illegal immigration.” Senator Schumer also believes that, “once Americans are convinced that we will permanently staunch the flow of illegal immigration, they will be more willing to accept constructing a path toward earned citizenship for those who are already here.”   While many business and community organizations also favor the idea of a worker ID card, labor activists and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fear violations of civil rights, possible intrusions into private lives, and the expense to workers.  

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman Angelo Amador argues that U.S. employers never truly know whether the identifications presented by workers now are genuine. Also, anyone presenting the new worker ID card would be assumed legally able to work, subject to confirmation by checking on a national database.

Posted on May 27, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On Thursday, May 14, 2009, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a bill, nicknamed the “AgJobs Bill,” that seeks to grant amnesty for up to 1.35 million farm workers working in the country illegally, primarily in California. Feinstein and other legislators proposed the AgJobs Bill numerous times over the last decade but were met with fierce opposition. However, supporters of the bill – including the United Farm Workers of America and other worker advocates – are now hoping the legislation will become a legal reality under the Obama administration.   Generally, the AgJobs Bill would allow foreign farm workers who have been working illegally in the United States for at least two years to earn a path toward becoming legal permanent residents.  Workers’ family members would also be eligible for legal permanent residency, which could bring the number of legalized farm workers to approximately two million people. The bill would also focus on overhauling a program that aims to recruit foreign workers for seasonal jobs on American farms, where profitable construction jobs have tended to lure workers away.  

For more information on Senator Feinstein and the AgJobs Bill, please visit: http://feinstein.senate.gov/public. For additional information on this news story, please visit: http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12370678.

Posted on May 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On May 18, 2009, the Texas Senate passed a bill requiring Sheriffs or any other officers in charge of a correctional facility, to determine the “citizenship status” of all convicted felons. The bill, S.B 2584, amends Chapter 2, Code of Criminal Procedure, by adding Article 2.245. If a defendant has been convicted of a felony under Title 5 (Offenses Against the Person), Penal Code, Title 6 (Offenses Against the Family), Penal Code, Title 7 (Offenses Against Property), Penal Code, Chapter 43 (Public Indecency), Title 9 (Offenses Against Public Order and Decency), Penal Code, Chapter 45 (Weapons), Title 10 (Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, and Morals), Penal Code, and Chapter 481 (Texas Controlled Substances Act), Health and Safety Code, the sheriff or officer will make a reasonable effort to determine the defendant’s “citizenship status”. If the sheriff has reason to believe the defendant is a foreign national, within 48 hours after the defendant is received at the correctional facility, the sheriff or officer will contact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify the defendant’s immigration status. The bill becomes effective September 1, 2009.

The bill places “sheriffs or other officers in charge of a correctional facility” in the role of immigration agents. The sheriff or officer now has another duty, to determine whether defendants have lawful status. The bill is available at Texas Legislature Online.

Posted on May 18, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Parade.com has an interesting story about U.S. passports, and the ease with which they can be fraudulently obtained. This is apparently a big problem, and should be addressed as soon as possible by the government. Here are excerpts from the article: 

Alarmed by a government report revealing how easy it is to obtain a fraudulent passport in the United States, lawmakers are calling for changes to the system. “A U.S. passport is a key to virtually anywhere in the world,” says Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.). A recent report from the Government Accountability Office showed that an undercover investigator was able to procure four U.S. passports by using fraudulent documents.

Says Laura Tischler, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, “The report says we need to do more, and we are doing more.” The State Department recently gained access to the Social Security Administration’s master file of deceased persons to ensure that criminals won’t steal those identities. It is also improving oversight of the passport system and seeking access to state databases so that officials can confirm the validity of drivers’ licenses and other documentation.

Posted on April 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Respected financial columnist Scott Burns, in a Dallas Morning News article today, reports a unique proposition to solve our country’s housing crisis by opening the borders to immigrants who can afford to buy homes in the United States, and then granting citizenship to those immigrants. While this is an economic solution and not an immigration solution, I thought the article was worth mentioning. Here are excerpts from the column:

Our friends in Washington continue to reward witless members of the financial sector. Meanwhile, those of us who don’t fly Bonus Class are thinking about importing guillotines from France.

Thankfully, we may not need to place the order.

All we have to do is to get Washington to listen to the best idea I’ve heard to end the decline of housing prices and restore our confidence in the most important asset most Americans ever own. The idea comes from economist A. Gary Shilling and real estate developer Richard S. Lefrak.

Their suggestion: Don’t think about artificially low mortgage interest rates and other stopgaps. Instead, eliminate the oversupply of houses. And, by the way, don’t spend a dime of taxpayer money doing it.

How can this be done? Simple: Open our borders to immigrants who can buy a home in the U.S. Let a million immigrants a year do this for two years, and the entire oversupply of homes and condos will be absorbed. Supply will no longer dwarf demand. Prices will stabilize. The most important asset owned by the vast majority of Americans will, once again, be a source of pride and security.

There has been much attention paid to the incredible decline of equity markets around the world, but the vast majority of Americans have far more at risk in the housing market than in any financial asset (bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc). Indeed, many Americans have more at risk in the used-car market than in the stock market.

The middle-income

Households in the middle of the income distribution owned a primary home worth a median of $150,000 but had median financial assets of only $18,600. Middle-income Americans, in other words, have about eight times as much to lose in the home resale market as in all of the financial markets.

Shilling estimates that we built 6.7 million excess houses during the boom from 1996 to 2005. Of that number, 3.9 million were built to make up for underbuilding during the 1987-1991 S&L collapse. That leaves an excess of 2.8 million homes – about two years of building. He estimates that less building in 2007 and 2008 reduced the surplus to about 2.4 million houses.

Influx of buyers

Reducing interest rates or resetting mortgage payments won’t reduce that surplus. The only way it will disappear is if new customers appear and buy those homes. The fastest way to do this is to offer citizenship to immigrants as a reward for buying a home in America.

Here’s the formula: Buy a home. Save America. Become a citizen. It’s a suggestion that’s admirably direct compared to the expensive, complex programs that Congress has already funded.

Shilling writes: “If the current excess of 2.4 million houses were purchased at today’s median home price of about $184,000, the inflow from foreigners would be $88 billion, assuming they put 20 percent down and borrowed the rest in this country.

“If they paid cash, the inflow would be $442 billion. Besides stimulating the domestic economy, this would vastly help the U.S. foreign accounts and support the dollar. The mere announcement of this program would probably go a long way toward stabilizing house prices.”

And stabilizing house prices is very important. It may be the whole ballgame. Without productive action, Shilling estimates home prices will fall an additional 20 percent by the end of 2010. That would leave nearly 25 million homeowners upside down, or owing more on their homes than they are worth.

This is something worth writing about to your representative or senator.

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a good editorial about obstacles to be faced in enacting immigration reform legislation with a new administration and new Congress. Bottom line – it won’t be easy, but it must be done. Here is the editorial:

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.

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting editorial a few days ago about the need for increasing the number of H-1B visas allowable each year. Here are excerpts:

Bill Gates appeared before Congress again last week to make a simple point to simpler pols: The ridiculously low annual cap on H-1B visas for foreign professionals is undermining the ability of U.S. companies to compete in a global marketplace. “Congress’s failure to pass high-skill immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation,” said the Microsoft chairman. “The current base cap of 65,000 H-1B visas is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to the U.S. economy’s demand for skilled workers.” The Labor Department projects that by 2014 there will be more than two million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math fields. But the number of Americans graduating with degrees in those disciplines is falling. Meanwhile, visa quotas make it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to hire foreign-born graduates of our own universities. Last year, as in prior years, the supply of H-1B visas was exhausted on the first day petitions could be filed. Mr. Gates said his software company exemplifies this phenomenon. “Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities,” he told lawmakers. “If we increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to U.S. companies, employment of U.S. nationals would likely grow as well.” The preponderance of evidence continues to show that businesses are having difficulty filling skilled positions in the U.S. By blocking their access to foreign talent, Congress isn’t protecting U.S. jobs but is providing incentives to outsource. If lawmakers can’t bring themselves to eliminate the H-1B visa cap, they might at least raise it to a level that doesn’t handicap U.S. companies.

Posted on December 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

From the Brownsville Herald comes a story about a recent USCIS proposal to require holders of old green cards with no expiration dates to turn them in and get a newer version. The stated reason for the proposal is to allow USCIS to get current personal contact information on these green card holders.

The problem for green card holders will be that this will give USCIS an opportunity to run criminal background checks, and if any minor infractions of the law are found, the green card holder could be subject to deportation. It’s going to be a very tricky matter. Here are excerpts from the article:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is considering a proposal to eliminate hundreds of thousands of green cards that were issued between 1979 and 1989. The cards, which were issued without expiration dates, would be upgraded to store personal information electronically. Officials at CIS say that the new cards would be more difficult to counterfeit. Like cards issued after 1989, they will expire every ten years. “The photos on the old cards are more than 18 years old,” said Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for CIS, “and the security features are not as good.” She explained that the new card includes holograms of U.S. presidents, which are difficult to duplicate. CIS is currently reviewing comments that have been submitted in response to the proposal. As of now, there is no timeline for implementation. If the proposal, which was issued on Aug. 22, moves forward, legal permanent residents would have 120 days to apply for new cards. Failure to comply with this would be a misdemeanor, which could result in $100 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days. Immigration attorneys are concerned about the financial burden their clients will bear if the proposal is implemented. The card costs $290 plus an additional $80 for fingerprinting and photo fees.

Permanent residents who replace their green cards will also be subject to criminal background checks. If an infraction–even one as minor as a traffic citation–is uncovered, they might be asked to provide relevant paperwork, including proof of an indictment and its dismissal.

Posted on October 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The blog of the New York Times has an interesting post today about the “breaking point” being reached in the farmworker immigration situation. The bottom line is that farmers are not finding enough workers, due to immigration crackdowns. And while there are still unemployed American citizens, very few of them have any experience in farm work (or are interested in learning).

There may be a farmworker provision attached to another bill and presented to Congress before the end of the year, but that is very tenuous at this point.

Posted on September 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Reuters news service reported on the Democratic debate Sunday night in Florida, and said the candidates were attempting to win over Hispanic voters with promises of comprehensive immigration reform. The debate was broadcast in Spanish on Univision. Here are excerpts from the article:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who would be the first Hispanic U.S. president, said, “I object to the dehumanizing of people that want to be part of the American dream.”

He and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd are the two fluent Spanish speakers in the Democratic field.

“The politics of fear are the most dangerous politics in our country, and those people who deal with fear and frighten the American people on this issue ought to be dealt with accordingly,” Dodd said at the University of Miami debate, billed as a discussion of issues crucial to Hispanic voters.

Hispanics are the country’s biggest and fastest-growing minority group, accounting for about 15 percent of the population and at least 14 million potential voters in 2008.

President George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, but Democrats see a growing opportunity to win over Hispanics alienated by the hard-line Republican stance on immigration.

Efforts at a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws collapsed in the U.S. Congress amid a bitter debate on the future of undocumented workers and illegal immigrants in the United States, many of whom are Hispanic.

The Democrats condemned a bill passed last year by the then Republican-led House of Representatives but never approved by the full Congress that cracked down on illegal aliens and boosted border security efforts.

Richardson lampooned plans to build a fence along the Mexican border to protect against illegal immigration.

“If you’re going to build a 12-foot wall, you know what’s going to happen? A bunch of 13-foot ladders,” Richardson said.

But Clinton, Obama and Dodd defended their votes to build a wall, included in a Senate immigration bill not passed by the full Congress, as a necessary part of greater border security.

“We’ve got to secure our borders. That has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said.

The questions were asked in Spanish and the candidates heard English translations through earpieces. All the candidates answered in English and were translated for the Spanish-language audience.

Richardson complained about the restrictions on speaking in Spanish.

“I’m very proud to be the first major Latino candidate to run for president,” said Richardson, adding he was “disappointed” that 43 million Latinos would not “hear one of their own speak Spanish.”

Posted on August 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Bush administration announced plans today to crack down on illegal immigration in several ways. MSNBC.com is one of the many media outlets reporting the basics of the new policies. Here are excerpts from their article:

The latest measures mainly involve tighter enforcement of existing laws – posing a challenge to the many US employers now reliant on migrant workers.

“The message we are conveying today is pretty simple: we are serious about immigration enforcement,” said Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary.

Mr Bush made immigration reform a priority of his second term, backing bipartisan legislation that aimed to strengthen border security while offering a path to citizenship for the estimated 12m illegal immigrants already in the US.

But the bill collapsed in June amid fierce opposition from grassroots Republicans, who accused Mr Bush of offering an amnesty to those who entered the US illegally.

The measures announced on Friday reflected the pressure on Mr Bush to get tough on the highly charged issue of illegal immigration.

The White House acknowledged there was little chance of Congress passing immigration legislation in the foreseeable future. “Until Congress chooses to act, we’re going to be taking some energetic steps of our own,” said Mr Chertoff.

One rule proposed on Friday would mandate employers to sack workers unable to verify their legal status within 90 days. Employers who failed to comply would face possible criminal fines and sanctions. “We’re going to continue to clamp down on employers who knowingly and wilfully violate the laws,” said Mr Chertoff.

Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, promised to streamline existing visa rules to help industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, that rely on migrant labour. “We will use every available tool to provide America’s farmers, ranchers and small businesses with a legal workforce, to stay in business and keep our economy strong,” he said.

Edward Kennedy, the Democratic senator who helped craft the failed immigration bill, said the proposals were no substitute for comprehensive reform.

“Without strong new laws, the administration’s plan will do little to enhance our security and will hurt millions of immigrant families who are contributing so much to our communities and our economy,” he said.

Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator who opposed the bill, said the measures were not tough enough. “I won’t be happy until I see action that’s more than just a press conference and words on a piece of paper.”

Posted on August 9, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a thought-provoking editorial about the consequences of a new proposal to crack down on employers of illegal aliens. What would happen if 8,000,000 workers lost their jobs suddenly? Here’s the editorial: 

Critics of comprehensive immigration reform often insist that simply enforcing the laws we already have would go a long way toward solving our growing illegal immigration problem.

We don’t entirely disagree. We do believe strongly that a national strategy should include more than a fence along the Mexican border and deporting every person without papers, but who can be against enforcing current law?

So we were pleased to hear that the Department of Homeland Security intends to crack down on employers who hire workers here illegally with tougher rules that require firing anyone using false Social Security numbers to get work. Backing that policy will be more raids of suspect job sites.

The old employer excuse: “Hey, they had papers.”

The feds’ new rejoinder: “Hey, you should have known better. We sent you a no-match letter.”

In short, if the Social Security Administration can’t connect a number filed with it to a real identity, employers will be notified by mail. Instead of ignoring these notices, as often happened in the past, or just passing them along to the worker to deal with, employers will have 90 days to resolve discrepancies. If they can’t, they must fire the worker or face a $10,000 fine per illegal immigrant.

“There are not going to be any more excuses for employers,” said Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, “and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly ignore the law.”

Fair enough.

But let’s also be clear about the consequences. The feds say they expect to send out 140,000 no-match letters this year, covering more than 8 million workers. We seriously doubt employers will risk $10,000 fines for the vast majority of them.

That means untold numbers of workers out of jobs. Some will go home. Others with spouses or kids in school might roll the dice and try to use those same forged documents to find another job. In the most desperate circumstances, some may even turn to crime to survive.

Imagine for a moment the increased strain this will place on our social service network – food banks, emergency health care and our already overstuffed jails. This is where “too bad for them” falls apart as a response. Everyone who pays taxes will foot the bill.

This is one reason we continue to push Congress to renew the immigration debate. A biometric ID card – close to impossible to forge – was one excellent idea that got washed away in anti-reform tide, as did a realistic guest worker program that would have given hundreds of thousands of needed workers a way to work within the law.

Targeting employers makes sense, as long as we realize who will pay the price.

Posted on July 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting that a federal judge has thrown out the Hazelton, PA, anti-immigration law. Cities around the country have passed similar laws, and those laws may be in jeopardy also. Here are excerpts from the AP story:

The Illegal Immigration Relief Act sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Another measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.

U.S. District Judge James Munley declared it unconstitutional Thursday and voided it based on evidence and testimony from a nine-day trial held in March.

The city will almost certainly appeal.

Posted on June 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This is the official statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association on the failure of the comprehensive immigration reform bill to pass in the U.S. Senate:

Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07062865 (posted Jun. 28, 2007)”

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate, in failing to pass a key procedural obstacle to the passage of its immigration reform legislation, today failed not only immigrants and their families and employers, but failed the country.

Our current immigration system is badly broken. Twelve million undocumented immigrants live and work in America without any opportunity whatsoever to earn full legal status and eventual citizenship. Our borders are not secure even with an historic level of enforcement. Family and employment-based immigration backlogs grow by the hour, requiring decades-long waits in many cases. U.S. employers cannot legally hire essential immigrant workers or needed highly skilled professionals, because no system is provided to afford necessary immigrant workers legal entry. The agricultural industry is unable to find sufficient workers and those undocumented working in the shadows labor under a badly broken system. High school students who excel are barred from continuing their education because they cannot obtain legal status. Immigrants seeking to feed their families and the chance to be part of the American dream continue to die in the desert seeking entry, and detention centers that are actual tent cities continue to grow.

The Senate bill was admittedly deeply flawed. Backroom negotiations and a convoluted amendment process ensured that the bill in its current form would not have led to workable reform. But the Senate has denied the House a chance to weigh in on this pivotal national issue to try to get things right, and to pass an immigration reform bill that would serve the interests of this country and its families, its businesses, and its immigrants.

AILA will advocate vigorously to ensure that the immigration reform debate stays alive, that Senators be held accountable for their actions, and that the House move boldly to take the lead and not replicate the Senate’s mistakes.

Any immigration reform bill must include the following necessary architecture for meaningful, effective reform:

(1) A clear path to lawful residence for those who come forward, pay fines, and demonstrate their commitment to become Americans by earning their status through working and learning English.

(2) A new worker program that includes labor protections, job portability, and a realistic path to permanent residence.

(3) The elimination of the existing unconscionable backlogs in family immigration, preservation of meaningful family immigration with reasonable quotas, and recalibration of our employment-based immigrant visa quotas to accommodate the needs of our dynamic and growing economy.

(4) Smart border and worksite enforcement mechanisms that protect our national security interests, while respecting civil rights.

(5) Due process and civil liberties protections that guarantee immigrants their day in court, judicial review, and a meaningful opportunity to seek waivers and discretionary relief.

The Senate bill that foundered on the Senate floor today gave the appearance of adhering to this skeletal architecture, but its content, flawed from the beginning of the process, was further compromised by harsh amendments that were supported by a majority of Senators in order to secure passage of the bill and to try to keep the legislative process moving forward.

AILA’s top objections to the Senate bill included:

(1) Decimation of the employment-based immigration system through creation of a mis-named “merit-based” point system that disconnects employment-based immigration from employer sponsorship and eliminates existing avenues of migration for aliens of extraordinary ability, multinational executives, and outstanding researchers.

(2) Evisceration of family-based immigration by eliminating 4 out of 5 long-recognized family relationships that qualify an individual for green card sponsorship in exchange for a partial reduction of the backlogs in those categories.

(3) Lack of meaningful opportunities for new temporary workers to transition to permanent residence.

(4) Lack of sufficient future numbers for employment-based immigrants at all ends of the skill spectrum.

(5) Unwarranted restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant visa programs.

(6) Lack of sufficient confidentiality protections for Z-visa applicants.

(7) Harsh due process restrictions that violate fundamental protections guaranteed to all persons under our constitution.

For years, AILA has been at the forefront in advocating for a comprehensive solution to the multitude of problems plaguing our immigration system. Our collective experience on the frontlines of immigration law and policy highlights the dire and urgent need for workable reform that advances the nation’s economic, social, and national security interests.

AILA will do everything possible to assist and to support the Senate and the House to craft an immigration reform bill that comports with our tradition as a nation of immigrants.

###

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Posted on June 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

A procedural vote in the Senate on the comprehensive immigration reform bill fell far short of passing today. The result is that the bill is probably dead for now, and likely won’t return until the year 2009 — after the November 2008 elections. At that time we will have a new President and probably a number of new Senators.

The bill was killed mostly by Republican senators worried about re-election. Their concern of appearing to be weak on illegal immigration assures we will continue with the status quo, which is essentially ignoring the illegals.

The irony of the situation is that by refusing to deal with the immigration crisis, the senators have not only guaranteed that things will continue to get worse, but they have also probably galvanized Latino citizens and ensured organized opposition to their own re-elections.

Posted on June 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Senate Wednesday killed a Republican proposal to require all adult illegal immigrants to return home before they could qualify for permanent lawful status in this country.

Also defeated was a Democratic proposal to restrict lawful immigration status to those who have been in the United States for four years rather than the current provision restricting status to those in the U.S. before January 1, 2007.

Each of these amendments was designed to make the bill more palatable to conservatives who describe the currently proposed bill as “amnesty.”

There are about two dozen more amendments that must be voted on before a test-vote on the entire bill, now scheduled for Thursday.

Posted on June 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

 A story in the Dallas Morning News today said the restaurant industry, or at least a sampling of it, is supporting the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate. Here are excerpts from the article:

More than 200 people attending a restaurant industry convention in Dallas this week called on Congress to take action on a stalled Senate bill that addresses illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The e-mails in support of movement on Senate Bill 1639 were sent via a political action booth at the Southwest Foodservice Expo at the Dallas Convention Center.

The restaurant industry has become heavily dependent on immigrant workers as its traditional pipeline of workers – teens and twenty-somethings – dries up.

Growth in that portion of the population has slowed, and many young workers are choosing non-restaurant jobs.

The National Restaurant Association estimates it will need an additional 100,000 workers over the next five to 10 years.

(A lawyer representing the industry) …said his restaurant clients support the Senate bill as an improvement over the status quo.

“What immigration reform will do is help millions of industry workers, and it will help employers who are worried that they may make a mistake and could face the brunt” of enforcement action from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said.

(One restaurant owner) …said he has not studied the legislation, but he hopes Congress moves quickly to enact reform.

“It needs to be resolved one way or another,” he said.

Posted on June 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Senate voted Tuesday to start debate again on the immigration reform bill. The vote was 64-35 to revive the bill. It still faces hurdles in the Senate, and perhaps even greater hurdles in the House.

Posted on June 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Debate starts up today in the U.S. Senate on the pending comprehensive immigration reform bill. U.S. News has a brief summary of the current situation in this online article. Excerpts:

Here they go again. The Senate is about to engage in another round of the seemingly endless fight over America’s immigration laws. It’s officially the members’ second shot in the past month at pushing through a “grand bargain” piece of legislation that tries to give a little to every interest group while not entirely satisfying any of them. A compromise, they say.

The debate kicks off on Tuesday with a procedural vote just to get the full debate underway. It’s been that kind of step-by-step battle all along for an unlikely trio in arms: President Bush, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona. And no one is absolutely certain the Senate will pass that first test. Some conservatives opposed to the bill say support is eroding.

If the procedural hurdles are overcome, however, the road to change there on out will be anything but smooth. It’ll take a great deal of legislative handiwork and backroom wheeling and dealing to get through this week before the July 4 recess with a bill in hand. “This is a complicated bill,” says Joel Kaplan, deputy chief of staff for policy at the White House. “It’s taken some time for people to understand what’s in there.” Talk about an understatement. Cabinet Secretaries Carlos Gutierrez of commerce and Michael Chertoff of homeland security have become virtual tenants up on Capitol Hill, pushing and prodding recalcitrant senators.

The pivot points?

*The Bush administration has included $4.4 billion in border security funding as a sweetener to its Republican brethren worried about law, order, and enforcement. Whether that shifts votes remains to be seen.

*For the high-tech business community, the linchpin is an amendment pushed by Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Kyl of Arizona. It would give employers more flexibility in whom they hire and would increase the number of visas for skilled workers by 40,000. The business community was opposed to the bill in its earlier incarnation, and if this amendment fails, look for high-tech corporations to back away.

*Other key issues to watch will be whether there is any sort of provision in the bill that makes family reunification a key part of immigration policy and whether an amendment passes that requires a “touchback provision” for illegal immigrants who want legal status to return to their home countries.

What all that means for the bill’s ultimate fate is unclear. “There are so many moving pieces,” says Kara Calvert of the Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington industry group. “So many people are reserving whether they’ll vote for it.”

Part of the thinking of the bill’s chief backers is that they just need to get the process rolling and that once they get the debate underway in the Senate, they’ll have time to renegotiate troubling pieces. Looking down the road, they think they’ll buy themselves time to modify the bill in the House of Representatives–even though its fate there is especially unclear and a bloc of “amnesty”-rhetoric opponents awaits–and then even later when the House and the Senate try to come together with one piece of legislation to send to the president.

Posted on June 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

That was the lead sentence of a recent article in the Biloxi Sun Herald. It has to do with an odd quote from Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. Here are excerpts from the article:

Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., was talking to reporters Wednesday about the immigration bill, when he said, “If the answer is ‘build a fence’ I’ve got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain’t no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence.”

“Now people are at least as smart as goats,” Lott continued. “Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it.”

“I’m not proposing an electrified goat fence,” Lott added quickly, “I’m just trying, there’s an analogy there.”

Asked for clarification as to what exactly the analogy was, Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said that the senator supported a variety of measures in the immigration bill, including unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, radar and more border patrol agents, as well as a fence to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.

“A fence in and of itself is not enough,” said Youngblood. “You can have technology to support the fence and to supplement the fence.”

Acknowledging the flak he’s taken, Lott said Wednesday, “I keep trying to tell everybody ‘calm down, calm down, let me be the one that offends the left, the middle and the right.’ I’m doing great, aren’t I? But it gives you a level of utopia that is just so blissful.”

“I don’t worry about offending anybody anymore, ” said Lott, “because I’ve already offended everybody.”

Posted on June 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story at Bloomberg online, Texas Senator John Cornyn says “momentum is building” against the comprehensive immigration reform bill now pending in the U.S. Senate.  Here are some excerpts from the story:

The Senate will need 60 votes on June 26 to resume debate on the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration policy since 1986. The measure, Bush’s top domestic priority, would create a guest- worker program and a path to legal status for 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Cornyn cited fellow Texan Kay Bailey Hutchison, as well as Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, as examples of Republicans who may have supported the measure and are now opposed. Supporters said they weren’t counting on those senators to reach 60 votes.

A June 7 Senate vote fell 15 short of the total needed, with seven Republicans joining 37 Democrats and one independent to move toward final passage. Cornyn voted in opposition.

In an attempt to resuscitate the measure, Senate leaders agreed this week on a limited package of about two dozen amendments to be considered next week.

Cornyn said that isn’t enough.

“This is a bill that was written behind closed doors by a small group of senators, and now it’s being brought to the floor again without an opportunity to offer, freely offer, amendments and to have the kind of debate that I think this topic deserves,” the senator said.

Cornyn said the congressional debate on what to do with the 12 million immigrants illegally in the U.S. has “fallen short” because it has focused only on whether to give them citizenship or deport them.

The current proposal, which would let undocumented immigrants gain legal status after paying a fine, isn’t sufficient punishment for people in this country illegally, the senator said. “It looks like we’re selling American citizenship,” he said.

Cornyn said the U.S. would be in “big trouble” if failure to pass immigration legislation blocked an increase in the number of visas for skilled workers, as sought by technology companies including Google Inc., owner of the most popular Internet search engine, and Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker.

“This is more than just about low-skilled, relatively poorly educated individuals who are picking crops or working on construction sites,” he said.

“This is about keeping the best and the brightest, the kind of people who train in American universities and who we end up now, under our current policy, sending home so they can compete with us and take jobs overseas,” the senator said. “I actually would like to see us pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

With the backing of Democrats who backed the legislation earlier this month, supporters will need almost two dozen Republicans to move forward.

“We’ll find out on Tuesday if there’s 60 senators,” Cornyn said. “It really changes minute by minute.”

Posted on June 21, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Various wire service reports say the  Bush administration will delay for at least six months a rule that U.S. citizens must show passports when crossing the border by land or sea.

The announcement marks the second time in a month that officials have scaled back security plans in response to complaints.

Beginning in January, land and sea travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be allowed to present a birth certificate and driver’s license in lieu of a passport.

Starting next year, travelers also will no longer be able to make an oral declaration of U.S citizenship to re-enter the country.

The modification is expected to last at least until the summer of 2008, when officials hope to require passports or similar documentation at all land and sea crossings.

The problem is caused by the government’s inability to produce passports sufficient to meet the demand, an indication to some people of extremely poor planning on the part of the Administration. Surely they have know for many months that there would be a flood of passport applications right before the new restrictions took effect.

Now we have to face the question of whether our border security is being made more vulnerable because of this bureaucratic bungling. This delay could cause our borders to be more porous, as terrorists will be able to use false documents to sneak across the border.

Posted on June 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

There’s an interesting post today at the always excellent Immigration Prof Blog about the immigration reform bill being split into small pieces in the House of Representatives. I’m going to shamelessly copy the entire post, but please add this blog to your list of regulars.

House May Break Up Immigration Bill

US News & World Report summarizes much of what’s happening on the immigration debate today:

The immigration bill is back, with the Senate expected to debate it over the next two weeks. Senate passage is by no means assured, but the measure appears to have a fighting chance of surviving the legislative maneuvers and counter-maneuvers expected of the next couple of weeks. Keen observers of the current debate, however, have long expressed reservations about the chance of anything close to the Senate “grand bargain” (the bipartisan legislation including both border security measures and a “path to citizenship”) making it through the House. In the House, Republicans seem firmly opposed to the legislation — while Democrats are wary of passing any immigration bill without GOP support.

But now Democratic leaders may have found a partial way out of this impasse. The Washington Times reports this morning House Democrats “say they may break the immigration issue up into a series of smaller bills that would put off the tougher parts and allow others to pass, such as border security, and high-tech and agriculture worker programs that have clear support.” That “could buy Democrats more time to work out the tougher aspects of immigration, such as what to do about the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now here, but it would go against the Senate’s massive catchall approach and contradicts President Bush’s call for a broad bill to pass.” Click here for the rest of the story. bh

Posted on June 14, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

From the New York Times Web site Thursday evening:

WASHINGTON, June 14 — Senate leaders announced an agreement this evening to put a comprehensive immigration bill back on track for further debate and possible passage.

Senators Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader from Kentucky, agreed on a timetable for the bill and for a limited number of amendments to be offered.

The agreement, coming after President Bush’s pledge earlier today to provide $4.4 billion for border security, revives a bill that had stalled in the Senate and was all but given up for dead.

“We met this evening with several of the senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations,” Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of the energy bill.”

The measure would tighten border security, put many of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the country on a path to eventual legal status and create a guest-worker program.

The additional money for border security is intended to assuage Republicans who have strongly criticized the plan as amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell said they had agreed that Democrats and Republicans alike would be given a chance to further refine the bill to their liking.

Bringing as many senators as possible on board is crucial in the Senate, since 60 votes are required there to overcome procedural hurdles in order to vote on the bill itself. With lawmakers, and their constituents, wanting different things in an immigration bill, support can easily erode.

Moreover, any bill that emerges from the Senate will have to be reconciled with what the House of Representatives passes, assuming that the House passes a bill. But this evening’s accord, however tentative, rekindled hopes that a bill might be approved by the full Congress this year.

The announcement followed renewed lobbying by President Bush, who is eager to have a bill overhauling the immigration system and who has been emphasizing border security in recent days. He has been doing so to appease those lawmakers who complain that the bill as it stands would grant amnesty to lawmakers, no matter what its supporters say to the contrary.

Mr. Bush’s emphasis on security, backed up by his push for more than $4 billion aimed at “securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site,” plus continuing sentiment among lawmakers to give the bill another chance, lay behind the accord between Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell.

Only a week ago, Mr. Reid declared with some disgust, “We are finished with this for the time being.” Now, things are apparently back on track, at least for the time being.

Posted on June 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to press reports, President Bush has not yet given up hope of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. Excerpts from wire reports:

Speaking in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, Bush acknowledged disappointment that the legislation — aimed at bringing 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows — collapsed Thursday in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“Listen, the immigration debate is a tough debate. I’m under no illusions about how hard it is,” he told a news conference.

“There are people in my (Republican) party that don’t want a comprehensive bill. There are people in the Democrat Party that don’t seem to want a comprehensive bill.”

But he said that he would, upon his return to Washington, get in touch with leading Democrats and Republicans who do support the legislation to get it firmly back on track.

“I’ll be going to the Senate to talk about a way forward on the piece of legislation,” he said.

“I’m going to work with those who are focused on getting an immigration bill done and start taking some steps forward again. I believe we can get it done. I’ll see you at the bill signing.”

Billed as a “grand bargain,” the proposed law would grant a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, establishing a merit-based points system for future immigrants, and create a low-wage temporary worker program.

It also envisions a border security crackdown, punishment for employers who hire illegal immigrants and an attempt to wipe out a backlog of visa applications from those who have gone through legal channels.

Posted on June 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story today in the New York Times, the sponsors of the Senate immigration reform bill are promising to continue working on a compromise bill, even though the original bill has been pulled from the Senate calendar. Here are excerpts from the Times article:

WASHINGTON, June 8 — The authors of a comprehensive immigration bill said today that they would try to resuscitate the measure, which stalled Thursday when the Senate refused to cut off debate, as President Bush urged senators from both parties to bring the bill back to the floor.

“We are not giving up, we are not giving in,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who helped write the bill in months of negotiations with the White House and a small bipartisan group of senators.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chief Republican architect of the bill, voted against limiting debate. He said he wanted to give conservative Republicans “a little bit more time to get amendments together, to get them considered, so that we can finish the bill with an opportunity for everyone to have their say.”

The president said he understood the reservations some lawmakers had. “And like many senators, I believe the bill will need to be further improved along the way before it becomes law,” he said.

Mr. Bush said, as he has many times, that his administration is committed to securing the country’s borders. And he reaffirmed his position that the bill, which would require illegal aliens to pay penalties and go to the back of the bureaucratic line before they could gain legal status, does not smack of amnesty.

“They will have to prove themselves worthy of this great land,” he said.

Mr. Bush’s remarks were in his weekly radio address, the text of which is typically released on Friday but not to be reported until his radio address the next day. Today, the text was offered for immediate release, a signal of the importance Mr. Bush attaches to efforts to revive the immigration bill.

The Senate had been debating the bill for two weeks. Mr. Kyl said he hoped the majority leader, Senator “Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, would allow a few more days of debate, if supporters of the legislation could agree with opponents on a list of 12 or 13 amendments that could be considered at some time in the future.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a co-author of the bill, said talk show hosts were partly responsible for derailing it.

“I’ve listened to talk show hosts drumming up the opposition by using this word amnesty over and over and over again,” Mrs. Feinstein said. In 15 years in the Senate, she added, “I’ve never received more hate or more racist phone calls and threats.”

Speaking at the site of the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, Dan Barlett, the White House counselor, called for action to move the bill forward. “The best way to proceed is for Republicans and Democrats to come together and vote on this legislation and then we can move it into the House of Representatives,” Mr. Bartlett said.

Mr. Bush had been a strong proponent of the sweeping immigration overhaul that crumbled in the Senate on Thursday night, leaving the future of one of the administration’s chief domestic priorities in serious doubt.

After a day of tension and fruitless maneuvering, senators rejected a Democratic call to move toward a final vote on the compromise legislation after Republicans complained that they had not been given enough opportunity to reshape the sprawling bill. Supporters of cutting off debate got only 45 of the 60 votes they needed; 50 senators opposed the cutoff.

“We are finished with this for the time being,” said Senator Reid, as he turned the Senate to work on energy legislation.

Mr. Reid did, however, leave the door open to revisiting the immigration issue later this year and said he would continue to explore ways to advance a plan. “We all have to work, the president included, to find a way to get this bill passed,” he said.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS Advises Public Regarding Immigration Fraud and Proposed Immigration Reform Legislation

This notice is to inform the public that although the U.S. Senate is debating and considering immigration legislation (S.1348), that bill has NOT passed into law.  Legislation must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President, before it becomes law.  Information about the legislative process is available from the Library of Congress (http://thomas.loc.gov/).

If immigration reform legislation does become law, U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will advise the public on how to proceed.  Until then, individuals should be cautious of any persons, organizations or businesses claiming to assist in applying for benefits under the immigration reform legislation.

– USCIS –

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting, on the CNN Web site, that the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill has been withdrawn in the Senate, essentially killing the bill for now. Excerpts:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people unlawfully in the United States failed a crucial test vote in the Senate Thursday, a stunning setback that could spell its defeat for the year.

The vote was 45-50 against limiting debate on the bill, 15 short of the 60 that the bill’s supporters needed to prevail. Most Republicans voted to block Democrats’ efforts to bring the bill to a final vote.

The legislation, which had been endorsed by President Bush, would tighten borders, institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers and give as many as 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.

Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who had made no secret of his distaste for parts of the bill, said he would withdraw it but keep working toward eventual passage.

“I, even though disappointed, look forward to passing this bill,” Reid said. But he said he needs help from the White House.

“This is the president’s bill,” Reid said. “… We can’t do it alone over here. We need some help.”

Most Republicans voted against ending debate, saying they needed more time to make the bill tougher with tighter border security measures and a more arduous legalization process for unlawful immigrants.

All but a handful of Democrats supported the move, but they, too, were holding their noses at provisions of the bill. Many of them argued it makes second-class citizens of a new crop of temporary workers and rips apart families by prioritizing employability over blood ties in future immigration.

Still, they had argued that the measure, on balance, was worth advancing.

“We can all find different aspects of this legislation that we differ with,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the leading Democratic architect of the bill.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a short, but important, editorial about the proposed immigration reform bill. The editorial is directed at those who fear an influx of immigrants is a threat to American culture. Here is the editorial:

American Culture

What worries some Americans about all this immigration talk in Washington is that new waves of immigrants could so change our culture that America no longer seems recognizable. The worry is a legitimate one. Our country has always churned with change, but none of us want to lose sight of our history, ideals and customs.

Given the red-hot rhetoric surrounding the Senate’s immigration bill, you may not think the proposal responds to those worries. It does, though, and in a constructive way. For example, the legislation would:

*Require every immigrant who qualifies as a permanent legal resident to learn English and take civics classes before they become citizens.

The bill is very detailed about what’s included in those civics classes. Immigrants must learn about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, major court decisions and the civil rights movement, among other parts of our national story.

They likewise must know about the founding fathers, various elected officials, scientists, inventors, equal-rights activists, entrepreneurs and artists. All of that would require a working proficiency in English, too.

*Let the Department of Homeland Security constantly review and update the nationalization test and assist immigrants who want to become citizens.

We hope a large part of the money devoted to helping immigrants assimilate goes to nonprofits, churches and other nongovernment organizations. Mediating institutions, like small churches, often are in a better position to reach immigrants than the feds.

*Put on the Internet a curriculum designed to teach English to those who don’t know it. Nonprofits and other local groups could download it and train immigrants in English. Today, the curriculum can be expensive to purchase.

There’s value in preserving America’s heritage, including the use of English. The immigration bill being fought in Washington embraces that value, which is one more reason for the Senate to pass the legislation. It will ensure that our customs are passed on to future immigrants.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An article today on the Web site of the New York Times warns that the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the U. S. Senate may be in trouble. Here are excerpts:

WASHINGTON, June 7 –The Senate refused at midday to shut off debate on the immigration overhaul bill and move toward a vote, leaving the fate of the legislation uncertain and setting up another, all-important procedural vote this evening.

The move to end debate was rejected by 63 to 33, so the bill’s backers fell 27 votes short of the 60 needed to invoke what is known as cloture and set up a yes-or-no vote on the legislation itself.

The result was a setback not only for the bill’s supporters but also for President Bush, who has made a comprehensive immigration bill one of his top legislative priorities.

Nevertheless, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, scheduled another, make-or-break cloture vote for this evening. If that vote also falls short, Mr. Reid is expected to shelve the bill, meaning that changes in immigration law might not be considered again for many months.

The midday move to end debate failed chiefly because a significant number of conservative Republicans wanted more time to offer amendments to make the measure more to their liking.

Some 12 hours before the noontime cloture vote, the bill’s supporters suffered a setback when the Senate voted to put a five-year limit on a new guest worker program that would be created under the legislation. By a vote of 49 to 48 shortly after midnight, the Senate approved the limit, in the form of an amendment by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota.

The temporary worker program is an important element of the “grand bargain” on immigration forged in three months of negotiations by a small group of senators from both parties.

If the Senate votes this evening to end debate, the bill will have cleared a major hurdle — but by no means the last one. The House has yet to take up its version of the immigration legislation, and the issue has deeply divided the representatives. Many conservatives want to do more to restrict immigration and to toughen border enforcement. Many liberals, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, want to do more to protect immigrants’ rights and promote family-based immigration. The Senate bill, which embodies a fragile compromise strongly supported by the president, would offer most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States the chance to obtain legal status. It calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than two decades.

Supporters contend that it would address the problem of millions of illegal aliens without giving them amnesty; that it will further secure the nation’s borders, and that through its guest-worker program it will help immigrants and American employers. Its opponents have argued that there are far too many deficiencies in its nearly 400 pages.

Posted on June 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The debate over the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate is heating up. Two of the organizations running TV ads now. You can visit their Web sites at Where’s The Fence and Texas Employers for Immigration Reform.

Posted on June 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s issue of the Dallas Morning News has an interesting article explaining how some Texas employers are eagerly awaiting passage of new immigration reform laws. Employers hope that immigration reform will lead to a more stable legal workforce.

The article states that employers would like to see some sort of error-proof employment verification system, a tamper-proof worker identification card, and a temporary worker program set in place. Currently, the Senate is debating a proposed immigration bill that would create a temporary guest worker program. This program would make 200,000 visas available annually to foreign workers. Employers believe that a guest worker program is vital to the success of a growing U.S. economy.

Although many employers favor immigration reform, some local business groups have urged the Texas senators to suppress the bill. In fact, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson have rejected the bill, saying that it will repeat the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty law. Although the 1986 law provided immigration benefits to millions of illegal aliens, it did nothing to curtail illegal immigration.

Many employers believe that the current employment eligibility verification system is also in need of improvement. The system checks the nine digit social security number of employees to see if it matches with wage and tax reports of federal records. However, the system does not ferret out the use of authentic social security cards, even if they are borrowed, stolen, or rented by illegal immigrations.

In recent months, several corporations and businesses have suffered from immigration raids and have been charged with violations of the nation’s immigration laws. Employers state that even though they had unknowingly hired illegal immigrants, they had complied with the employment eligibility verification system, which is voluntary for employers, but did not realize they had hired undocumented workers. Even though the employer may have gone through all the steps to make sure they were hiring legal workers, the system obviously is not 100% accurate. Companies and businesses hope that immigration reform, by creating a guest worker program and providing visas to illegal immigrants in the United States, will correct the deficiencies found in the current system.

Click for a copy of the Dallas Morning News article in its entirety.

Posted on May 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today, Immigration Services announced that a final fee structure was set in place that increases filing fees associated with immigration-related petitions and applications. This new fee structure is set to become effective on July 30, 2007. Immigration Services stated that the increase in fees for the vast majority of cases will eventually lead to a 20% reduction in average processing times for applications by the end of the year 2009.

The new fee structure, however, makes it extremely expensive to file the most common immigration cases. For example, a person will have to pay $675 for an application to become a U.S. citizen. The current cost is $400. If you are planning on filing a petition to bring your spouse or a relative to the United States, the cost will nearly double, making the filing fee $355.

These new fees do not affect cases that have already been filed, and will not apply to cases filed before July 30, 2007. If you are interested in beginning your immigration-related case, it is vital that you begin your case today so that you are not affected by the increase in immigration filing fees!

For more information about the new fee structure, please visit this special page of the USCIS Web site.

Posted on May 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News editorializes in favor of the proposed compromise immigration bill. Here is the editorial:

Good Starting Point

But immigration plan will need some work

The fact that the Senate will return to immigration this week is a political miracle of sorts. Sharply divergent points of view – and we mean really sharp – have stalled the debate for an entire year.

Thanks, however, to brutal negotiations involving the White House and dedicated senators from both parties, the Senate will start with a bipartisan bill. Deserving of Texans’ thanks for renewing the debate are President Bush, who has kept the issue alive in speeches, and lead Senate negotiators Ted Kennedy and Jon Kyl.

As an editorial board that has pushed hard for immigration reform, we think this bill is a good place to begin – but with the understanding that major work is still to be done:

The selling points

Border security: The plan doesn’t wink at ratcheting up border security. The addition of 18,000 border agents and 70 new radar towers will help take the lawlessness out of the southern border. So will the resources to detain 27,500 aliens a day.

We have never been wild about a border fence, but the 370 miles of fencing and 200 miles of road barriers should satisfy those who think a wall will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. In fact, border hawks should like that many security measures must be in place before a new temporary worker program starts.

Enforcing the worksite: One of the best parts is the new electronic identification system. Employers will know if they are hiring legal workers. There’s too much uncertainty today when it comes to worker IDs. The situation in Cactus, Texas, proved that.

Unlike the current system, all workers must prove they are here legally. Under the new system, employers would run their info through a new national verification database. If those on the job aren’t legal, the employers are fined and the workers are fired.

Pathway to citizenship: Mr. Kyl, a Republican, has reversed course and acknowledged that there’s no way to correct our immigration problems without giving the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living here a chance to earn citizenship. More power to the man for stepping forward, knowing many will scream amnesty.

It’s not.

Illegal immigrants seeking citizenship must pay a $5,000 fine, possess a job, undergo a background check and wait eight to 13 years before becoming a citizen. They don’t jump to the head of any line. In fact, they can’t earn citizenship until all current applications are approved or rejected.

They can eventually earn citizenship, though, and that’s crucial to getting immigrants to come out of the shadows.

What needs work

Temporary workers: 400,000 foreign workers could qualify for employment visas annually. That essentially matches the number of foreign workers who come here illegally each year.

There’s a catch, though, that could make the provision unworkable. Temporary workers could earn three two-year work visas. In between each two-year stint, they would have to return home for one year.

The risk with the return-home requirement is that some workers may go underground and stay here. We would prefer that senators amend the bill to match the House plan, which has no return-home provision for temporary workers.

At the least, senators should amend it so more exceptions can be granted to workers in high-demand industries. That would minimize the temptation for some workers to go underground.

Green cards: Fortunately, temporary workers could earn a green card after their work stints end. But that could become a mirage if the Senate doesn’t include enough cards that let workers stay here legally. (Green cards allow for legal permanent residency, not citizenship.)

The Senate would be foolish to ignore reality. Temporary workers with good jobs probably will stay here, even if they can’t get a green card. So it’s important to have enough cards to go around in order to know who is actually here.

This proposal represents an improvement over the status quo, but it’s not the endgame. We urge Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to address these shortfalls this week.

The next few months will be like crawling through broken glass, as Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum aptly put it Friday. But Washington must grit its teeth and work through the pain if the nation is to finally fix our broken immigration system.STILL NOT SOLD? Why border hawks should like the Senate plan:

* 18,000 new border agents

* Ends “catch and release” of illegal immigrants

* 70 new radar towers

* Resources to detain 27,500 illegal immigrants a day

* An electronic verification system for all employees

* Illegal workers lose their jobs

* Employers face big fines

Posted on May 18, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This important document from the American Immigration Lawyers Association is printed here in full. Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07051768 (posted May. 17, 2007)”

Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Title I

Title I requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that the triggers are met before the Title IV (Guest Worker) and Title VI (Z visa ) programs can begin, with the exception of probationary status for Z workers and the programs for agricultural workers.

  • Triggers include:
    • 18,000 (CBP) Border Patrol hired
    • Construction of 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing
    • 70 ground-based radar and camera towers along the southern border
    • Deployment of 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and supporting systems
    • The ending of catch-and-release
    • Resources to detain up to 27,500 aliens per day on an annual basis
    • The use of secure and effective identification tools to prevent unauthorized work.
    • The receiving and processing and adjudicating of applications for Z status.
  • Title I also includes authorities and resources to augment border security including:
    • physical infrastructure along the border
    • additional field and investigative agents
    • comprehensive plans and studies of the border region
    • revisions to law enforcement techniques and enhanced authorities.

Title II

Title II provides for interior enforcement of immigration laws.

  • The stiffening of laws and penalties relate to:
    • the detention of criminal aliens
    • the definition of aggravated felony
    • gang violence
    • passport, visa, and immigration fraud, including marriage fraud
  • Other provisions include language regarding:
    • Increased penalties for illegal entry and reentry
    • encouraging aliens to depart voluntarily
    • prohibiting aliens from possessing firearms
    • alternatives to detention
    • state and local law enforcement reimbursement and training
    • the streamlining of background checks for immigration status

Title III

Title III addresses workplace enforcement by increasing penalties, revising and making mandatory a system of electronic employment verification, and promoting information sharing.

  • This Title designs a worksite enforcement system that relies on electronic employment verification and a reduced list of documents that may be presented to employers to prove identity and work eligibility.
    • Also increases penalties significantly over current law for unlawful hiring, employment, and recordkeeping violations.
  • Verification of employees: As of the date of enactment, employers in national security-related industries, industries involving critical infrastructure, and federal contractors may be required to electronically verify employees, including new hires and/or current employees, with additional employers or industries added after 6 months.
    • All employers would be required to electronically verify new hires within 18 months of enactment, or on the date on which the Secretary certifies that the system is operational.
    • Once the system is implemented, all employers would be required to verify all current employees within by 3 years after enactment.
  • Structure of the EEVS: After the date of hire but no later than the first day of employment, the employer must transmit to the EEVS via the Internet the data that the employer has taken from the worker’s identity and work eligibility documents.
  • Inconclusive determinations: Where the EEVS cannot conclusively determine the status of a worker’s eligibility, a further action notice is issued and the individual must contact the appropriate federal or state agency to initiate resolution of status and the individual continues to work while the agency resolves his or her status.
  • Final nonconfirmation: If the employer has received a final non-confirmation regarding an individual, the employer must terminate the employment of the individual, unless the individual files an administrative appeal of a final non-confirmation notice within 15 days.
  • Data and Information Sharing: The Commissioner of Social Security must information to the Secretary of DHS regarding data contained within the Social Security database as in relates to employment verification.
  • Fraud and tamper resistant social security cards: Not later than 180 days after date of enactment, the Commissioner is required to begin work to administer and issue fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant Social Security cards.

Title IV

Title IV establishes a new temporary Y worker program to address future labor needs of temporary foreign workers and discourage future illegal employment of undocumented individuals. The title also includes measures to protect the rights of U.S. and foreign workers and prevent the U.S. employer from abusing the program.

  • Structure of new visa programs: This title creates a new future temporary worker program for workers who are coming to the U.S. to perform temporary job that the U.S. employer is unable to fill. It provides for:
    • non-seasonal Y temporary worker (Y-1 visa)
    • seasonal temporary worker
      • Y-2A for agricultural workers, sheepherder, goat herders, and dairy workers
      • Y-2B for non-agricultural workers; and
    • their spouses and minor children (Y-3 visa).
  • Matching Willing Workers with Willing Employers: All Y workers must be matched to a “willing employers” through an electronic database in order to qualify for a Y worker visa.
  • Families of Y visa holders: can only accompany Y workers if the worker can:
    • show proof of valid medical insurance and
    • demonstrate that the wages of the principal Y nonimmigrant(s) are 150% above poverty level for the household size.
    • Spouses and children who do not qualify for Y-3 visa may be admitted under other nonimmigrant status.
  • Period of admission: A Y-1 worker can be admitted for a two year period that can be renewed twice if that worker spends a period of one year outside the United States between each admission.
    • A Y-1 accompanied by dependents is afforded a single two year visa, non-renewable.
    • Workers with Y-2A and Y-2B visa qualify for 10 month visas; no extensions may be granted.
  • Permanent Bar: Y worker who fails to timely depart is permanently barred from any future immigration benefit.
  • Wage: The employer must attest that the Y worker will be paid not less than the greater of the actual wage paid by the employer to all other similarly situated workers or the “prevailing competitive wage.”
  • Numerical Limitation: The Y-1 visa program has an initial cap of 400,000 with yearly adjustments based on market fluctuations.
    • There are no numerical limitations for Y-2A while the Y-2B visas are initially capped at 100,000 with yearly adjustment based on market fluctuations.
    • The market-based fluctuation is adjusted every 6 months during the fiscal year.
    • The Y-3 visa for spouses and minor children limit may not exceed 20% of annual limit for Y-1 visas.
    • A newly created Standing Commission will make recommendations to Congress regarding the Y visa numerical cap for each fiscal year following the initial year of the program

Title V

Title V restructures and rebalances the current system by which green cards are distributed.

  • Rebalancing of Immigrant Visa Allocation: Resets the number of family-based, family backlog, merit-based immigrants, and eventual Z immigration green cards.
    • The family categories are less than under current law since several of the extended family categories are reduced, while the merit-based is increased over the current employment-based levels after the processing of the family-based backlog.
    • An annual total of 440,000 visas are allotted to process the backlog of family-based categories.
    • It is estimated that the family backlog cases can all be processed in 8 years.
    • An annual total of 10,000 visas are set aside for exceptional Y workers.
  • Merit Based Points System: The current employment based green card system will be replaced by a merit based points system.
  • Reducing Chain Migration and Permitting Petitions by Nationals: Elimination and reconfiguring of the following family-based preference categories:
    • First: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens
    • Second: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents other than spouses and minor children of permanent residents
    • Third: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens
    • Fourth: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens
    • Sets cap of 40,000 per fiscal year on category for parents of U.S. citizens.
    • Sets cap of 87,000 per fiscal year on the second preference category for spouses and children of permanent residents.
  • Elimination of Backlog: If the family-based visa petition in the eliminated category is filed before May 1, 2005, the petition can be processed under the prior law.

Title VI

This title provides a new visa for most individuals currently living within the U.S. illegally.

  • Creates a new four-year, renewable “Z” nonimmigrant visa to address the undocumented population within the U.S. The visa is split up into three groups:
    • a principal or employed alien (Z-1),
    • the spouse or elderly parent of that alien (Z-2),
    • and the minor children of that alien (Z-3).
  • Cut off Date: In order to be eligible for this visa, one must have been illegally present within the U.S. before January 1, 2007.
  • Fees and Penalties: To apply, an alien seeking Z-1 status must be currently employed and pay fees and penalties totaling $5,000 (less for derivative Z’s) to be eligible for a green card under the merit-based system.

    Probationary, the Permanent Z Status: Once an applicant submits a completed application, fingerprints, and is cleared by one-day background checks he will receive probationary benefits which can eventually be converted to a Z nonimmigrant status after all background checks are clear and the triggers set forth in Title I are achieved.

  • LPR Status: A Z-1 nonimmigrant may adjust status to lawful permanent residence after the family backlog under Title V is eliminated if the Z applicant:
    • Satisfies the merit requirements in the points schedule set forth in Title V.
    • files the application for adjustment in the Z-1’s country of origin and
    • pays a penalty of $4,000.
  • DREAM ACT: Individuals under the age of 30 that were brought to the United States out of their own control as a minor are eligible to receive their green card after 3 years rather than 8.

Title VII

Title VII includes a number of miscellaneous provisions involving assimilation, including increased funding for the office of citizenship and integration ($100M)

Posted on May 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting that an agreement has been announced between Senate leaders and the White House regarding comprehensive immigration reform!

Quoting AP:

“The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the United States. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.”

“The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called “point system” that would for the first time prioritize immigrants’ education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.”

“The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and – after paying fees and a $5,000 fine – ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.”

“They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.”

“A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called “triggers” had been activated.”

“Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.”

“In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end “chain migration” that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it’s an unfair system that rips families apart.”

“Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card – except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.”

“New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.”

The House is not expected to act until a bill passes the Senate, and any Senate bill could run into strong opposition in the generally more conservative House of Representatives. Still, this is a dramatic first step on the path to true immigration reform in the United States.

Posted on April 13, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On March 26, 2007, a new waiver pilot program began at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This new program decreases the time it takes for a decision to be reached in I-601 waiver applications.

Under current immigration law, if a person enters the United States illegally (without being admitted and paroled) they are not eligible to receive immigration benefits. It is very common for foreign nationals to enter the U.S. illegally and subsequently marry U.S. citizens. Once this occurs, the citizen will begin the process that will enable the spouse to obtain a green card. This process, however, is not finalized in the U.S., but involves a final interview at a U.S. consulate in the foreign national’s home country. For Mexican nationals most interviews are scheduled at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

At the interview, the applicant files an I-601 waiver package to request that Immigration Services excuse the prior illegal entry into the U.S. and unlawful presence in the United States. This waiver package normally took between nine months and a year to process and reach final decision. During this time, the applicant was required to remain in Mexico until a final decision had been reached.

With the new Waiver Pilot Program, Mexican nationals may be able to obtain a decision on their waiver packages within less than 48 hours. This is a very exciting program as it makes the waiver process much more practical for most applicants who found it extremely difficult to spend a year outside of the U.S. while their case was pending.

Previously, people had to leave their home, family members, young children, and jobs for up to a year while waiting for a decision. Now, they may only need to wait a week or two for the entire process to be completed.

You may be a candidate for this exciting new program! If you have any questions, or would like to begin the process to use the new pilot program, please contact us.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a Dallas Morning News Article, Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman David Swinford plans to eliminate a significant number of pending bills that have been designed to target illegal immigration. He states that the majority of these bills are in violation of either federal law or state law, and would therefore be a waste of time for consideration before the Texas Legislature. Here are excerpts from the article:

Mr. Swinford, R-Dumas, said this week that he would let about 40 bills, such as one that would challenge the citizenship status of children born to illegal-immigrant parents, languish in his committee. He asked Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office to review the measures first to determine whether they violate the U.S. or state constitutions or federal law.

Still alive – so far – are bills that would make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition rates at state colleges; resolutions demanding that the federal government crack down on illegal immigration; and a bill that would require local police to ask people they contact about their citizenship status. Mr. Swinford declined to identify all of the bills he wants to squash.

After historic protests against anti-immigration proposals across the nation last year, several lawmakers ran on platforms that included reining in illegal immigration. The state GOP included restrictions in its platform that immigrant advocates decried as inhumane and divisive – including a wall along the border with Mexico.

Texans consistently say in polls that they don’t think illegal immigrants should have access to public services such as health care. They are more receptive to allowing immigration as part of a guest-worker program.

Mr. Swinford refuses to put the House through a bitter fight in a losing battle, he said – particularly after a statue bill that passed his committee unexpectedly sparked an emotional, racially tinged two-hour debate in the House last week.

“On purpose, I’m not putting anything down here that just tears the House apart … and that we’d just lose on appeal,” he said.

Among the bills that will remain alive is a bill that would require police to ask about citizenship status, a bill to require proof of legal residence in order to pay in-state tuition, and resolutions urging the federal government to tackle illegal immigration. One of the bills that will not go forward is one that was designed to test the “birthright citizenship” principle, under which all children born in the United States are citizens, even if their parents are illegal immigrants.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article this morning about the significant increase in the number of people applying for citizenship in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to the article, the number of citizenship applications received by Immigration Services has increased by over 78% when compared to this time last year.

Currently, there are about eight million people in the United States who qualify for citizenship. Last year, 702,000 people became naturalized citizens. Mexicans made up last year’s largest group of new U.S. citizens.

Many groups believe that this surge in citizenship applicants is due in large part to the attention immigration law has received in the past year. The chance that citizenship filing fees going up soon has been an incentive for many people to go ahead and begin the citizenship process. In addition, there has been speculation over the last year that there could be a change in immigration law. This has prompted many people to begin their applications in the event that an unfavorable law be issued.

The upcoming elections have also prompted many to apply for their citizenship, as only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.

The general requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. include:

* An ability to read, write and speak English. Exceptions include persons who have resided in the United States for 15 years or more and are 55 or older, or who have resided in the U.S. for at least 20 years and are at least 50 years old.

* Good moral character.

* Lawful admission into the U.S. for permanent residence (green card).

* Continuous presence as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least five years before filing with no single absence from the U.S. of more than one year.

* Renouncement of any foreign allegiance or foreign title.   

Finally, the citizenship process used to be which something which was relatively straightforward and easy to process. As the number of applicants increase, however, Immigration Services has become much more strict in determining who is eligible for U.S. citizenship. Minor errors or missing documents, which would have been overlooked in the past, are now used as a basis for denying the application. Should you need any assistance in your citizenship application, or if you are unsure if you are eligible for citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact Kraft & Associates.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Earlier this month, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. This bill, if enacted into law, would authorize Immigration Services to request and receive appropriations that would make up the difference between current fees charged to citizenship applicants and the necessary resources needed to fund the Service.

The basic provisions of the Citizenship Promotion Act are as follows:

* Prevent Immigration Services from increasing the naturalization fees until Congress develops an oversight mechanism that would keep the USCIS from implementing unreasonable fee increases — as the agency now is proposing.

* Improve the administration of the citizenship tests for English, U.S. history and government. The bill would require that the tests be administered uniformly nationwide, there be no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests, and the age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when administering the tests.

* Establish a national citizenship promotion program, the “New Americans Initiative,” to conduct citizenship outreach activities and make grants to non-profit organizations to help lawful permanent residents (LPRs) become U.S. citizens, help non-profit agencies conduct English language and citizenship classes for LPRs, and carry out outreach activities to educate immigrant communities to assist people to become citizens and assist with the application process.   

* Decrease the citizenship application backlog by encouraging the Attorney General to complete background checks within a reasonable period of time and without sacrificing national security.   

* Ensure that low-income eligible LPRs whose communities suffer the ill effects of the digital divide would have an equal chance to apply for citizenship as do other eligible LPRs.

Posted on March 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain will be introducing a revised version of their immigration reform plan to Congress. The bill was blocked last year because Republican leaders in the House were opposed to any immigration proposal that would allow illegal aliens to eventually become citizens.

The Kennedy-McCain plan will largely mirror the immigration bill that was introduced last year, which would call for the installation of a 700 mile border fence, double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol, and add new penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers. The bill will also allow most of the 12 million undocumented workers to eventually earn immigration status. The bill would allow illegal aliens to become citizens by learning the English language, paying a $2000 fine, paying back taxes, and passing a criminal background check.

The proposal once again includes a provision for a temporary Guest Worker program. This would allow immigrants in the U.S. to work under a temporary visa program.

Congressional leaders indicate that they hope to reach a decision on immigration reform soon, and before the 2008 presidential election campaign pushes to the forefront of politics.

Those in favor of immigration reform still have a tough battle ahead of them. Even though the Republicans are no longer in control of Congress, the Democrats still need their support, and major Republican leaders are still not on board for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This could possibly slow down or even stop the passage of immigration reform this year.

Posted on February 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting today that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce that the new passport requirements for reentry into the United States, due to become effective in 2008, will not apply to children aged 15 or younger. Children will need a certified copy of their birth certificates, but not a passport.

There may be another exemption for children aged 16 through 18 if they are traveling with school, religious, cultural, or athletic groups and under adult supervision.

Posted on January 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The ILRC Forecast on Immigration Reform
Judith Golub, Executive Director

With the November mid-term elections behind us and the 110th Congress convened, what is the prognosis for immigration reform? While it would be an uphill fight, reform could be enacted this year, given both the public’s demand that Congress fix our nation’s problems (and our broken immigration system being one of the primary problems needing attention) and some momentum remaining from last year’s Congressional debate. Both Democratic and Republican Senate leaders have prioritized immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 9) on the very first day of the 110th Congress and has reserved floor time to consider the issue. This “placeholder” bill will be replaced most likely with a reform package, perhaps one negotiated by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ). Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged that immigration is a pressing concern needing to be addressed. On the House side, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, wants to produce “a practical and bipartisan bill that gets broad support” and believes that “if everybody can lower their voice, just stop yelling and go through the issues one by one, that we can come to consensus.” However, a determined opposition led by Senate and House Republicans are expected to put roadblocks in the way of reform.  In contrast, President Bush in his State of the Union address underscored the fact that “convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration.  Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate – so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.”

But what kind of reform remains the question, as does whether there will be reform at all – given the “convictions that run deep.”  While the following does not exhaust the possibilities, below are four scenarios:

*         The “good enough” scenario in which a measure passes that includes both hard pills to swallow and significant positives and can be implemented.  This will be a very uphill fight;

*         The “get done what we can” scenario in which, due to time constraints and other roadblocks, a smaller scale package passes (that includes AgJobs and DREAM Act and other measures along with some enforcement provisions) that has sufficient Congressional support and will provide the foundation for future reform;

*         The “not good enough” scenario in which a measure passes that does not depart significantly from last year’s Senate-passed bill, S. 2611, should be opposed on its merits and cannot be implemented; and

*         The “crash” scenario in which too many constraints, conflicts, and roadblocks stand in the way so that Congress fails to address reform this year. 

Several factors will help determine which scenario might become reality and include: 

Continue Reading…

Posted on January 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The possibility of comprehensive immigration reform has been in the forefront of the news for the last several months. Thousands of people in the United States are currently waiting for developments in immigration law. Even more, who are in the United States illegally, believe the passing of new laws will lead to amnesty or eventual citizenship.

Waiting for a new law to pass, however, may prevent you from obtaining immigration benefits now, and may even lead to possible denials of immigration status in the future. Those who are hoping for “amnesty” may find it more productive to begin their immigration cases now, since there are many ways of obtaining a green card in the U.S., even for those here illegally.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or have relatives who are citizens, there may be different avenues available to you today that would make you eligible to receive your permanent residency. If you have been a victim of persecution in your home country, you may be eligible for asylum. If you have been in the U.S. for a certain length of time, you may also be eligible for immigration status. These are just a few examples of the groups of people who can begin their immigration cases today so that they may obtain permanent residency.

More important, there are many people who are waiting for immigration reform to pass believing that this will provide them a clear and free path to citizenship. This is simply not the case. In fact, many people who have legal options available to them now, may lose those options should any immigration reform be passed in the future. Furthermore, while it is likely that one day immigration reform may pass, we have no idea what benefits, if any, it would provide.

Rather than wait for an amnesty that may never arrive, take steps today to obtain legal status in the United States. Meanwhile, if any immigration reform is passed before your case is completed, there will be less of a chance that your status will be compromised. Finally, simply waiting and not taking any action is almost never a good idea.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on January 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas state Senator Dan Patrick, whose other job is as a right-wing radio talk show host, filed a bill yesterday in the Senate that would impose a 10% tax on any money transferred by wire from Texas to a foreign country. The proceeds of this new tax (New taxes from  a Republican?) would be used to improve border security.

The object of course is to penalize immigrants who wire money back home to help support their families. This is made clear by the fact that the bill would exempt any transfers of $5000 or more. Why exempt larger transfers? Because these are normally made by businesses, and we certainly don’t want to do anything  that would hurt businesses — we only hurt consumers in Texas.

Posted on January 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Farmers Branch, Texas city council could repeal its ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants in a vote scheduled today. Farmers Branch’s current ordinance, passed in November, requires apartment managers to obtain proof that tenants are U.S. citizens or in the country legally. Council members also approved resolutions making English the official language of the Farmers Branch, and allowing local authorities to become part of a federal program so they can enforce immigration laws.

Landlords who do not enforce the ordinance face fines of up to $100 per day per violation. Under current practices in Texas, tenants typically provide not much more than a driver’s license or other photo identification to prospective landlords.

A resident of Farmers Branch, Guillermo Ramos, filed a suit in state district court against the city. The suit alleges that the city violated open meetings laws by debating the merits of the existing ordinance behind closed doors, then voting on it in an open meeting, but not giving residents a chance to see the wording of the ordinance or comment on it before the council vote.

On January 11, District Court Judge Bruce Priddy issued a temporary restraining order delaying enforcement of the ordinance. Last week, the city council asked the city attorney to draft a new version of the ordinance to put to voters in a May election.

Posted on January 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial by the staff of the Dallas Morning News today hit just the right tone for a  way out of the current immigration mess. Excerpts:

A prosperous city and state with a promising future. That’s what everyone reading this surely wants to build for themselves today and for the generations to come.

Everyone has a role, primarily our lawmakers in Austin and Washington, but also the Editorial Page of The Dallas Morning News. In the coming year we’ll use our voice to exhort political leaders in strategic areas that can help form a sound foundation for our society.

We’ll identify those areas of focus today and monitor progress through the year. Some of these causes will be familiar to readers, as we have championed them in the past.

Our primary agenda for elected leaders in 2007 is this:

Immigration

Hazelton, Pa. Farmers Branch. The Texas Legislature. The more that local communities and state governments take immigration problems into their hands, the more the situation cries out for Washington to finally provide a lasting answer.

What needs to happen: Comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration law to go along with stiffer border-security measures already under way. Reform needs to include a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. State and local governments, meanwhile, need to resist the urge to pass laws better handled by the feds.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and

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