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Posted on May 10, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

President Obama is visiting Texas today, and will speak in El Paso about immigration reform. According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Obama will use the visit to talk about meaningful immigration reform — an uphill battle. Here are excerpts from the article:

President Barack Obama will use Tuesday’s visit to the Texas-Mexico border to put pressure on Congress to enact a new immigration policy.

But he’ll have a hard time convincing critics that the border is secure enough, or that his vision of change — which includes some path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — doesn’t amount to “amnesty” for lawbreakers.

After seeing Obama mostly set aside immigration until now, even some allies are skeptical about his commitment, though aides insisted he’ll keep pushing until it gets done.

“This is an important part of the campaign to build public awareness and public support,” White Housespokesman Jay Carney said Monday, adding that the president’s speech in El Paso on Tuesday is meant to “generate some pressure on Congress to take action. … We are congenital optimists here.”

Obama believes enough progress has been made on security since the last serious effort to overhaul immigration law, four years ago, that it’s time to try again, aides said.

“This border is as secure as it has ever been,” said a senior administration aide, briefing reporters ahead of the trip on condition of anonymity. Obama is making his first tour of the border as president, and the official said he wanted to see the progress after “the most sustained and serious action securing our Southwest border ever in our nation’s history.”

He has previously called for a new guest worker program, and for creating a path to eventual citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who overstayed visas or entered the country without permission.

Some immigration advocates expressed cautious optimism that Obama is serious — and not simply courting the Hispanic vote as thoughts turn to re-election.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing, and immigration reform is the right thing,” said Louie Gilot, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “If immigration is back on the table, it will take a lot of leadership to push this through Congress. I hope President Obama is up to the task.”

“I hope he can address the situation in Mexico which is bringing in newcomers,” both legal and illegal, Gilot said. “I want to hear that we have a plan in our country to help our neighbors.”

Obama aides ticked off signs of the progress and commitment to security.

For instance, there are now 20,700 Border Patrol agents, more than double the number since 2004 — though Republicans on Monday accused the administration of trying to take credit for a surge that started before he took office. And the number of intelligence analysts working on border security has tripled.

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 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 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.

Posted on August 2, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Obama administration has tried to make it easier for illegal immigrant spouses and family members of military personnel to get legal immigration status. The policy changes were reported in the New York Times. Here are excerpts:

The new policy was described in an internal memorandum from Citizenship and Immigration Services that was released last week by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and caused a furor in Washington on Friday.

The memo outlined measures that the agency could take under existing laws to “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization,” instead of waiting for Congress to pass an immigration overhaul to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

With the title “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the memo prompted protests from Mr. Grassley and other Republicans that the Obama administration was trying an end run around Congress, rather than confronting a divisive debate on immigration legislation during an election season. The memo was first reported on the Web site of The National Review, a conservative magazine.

Officials of the immigration agency denied on Friday that they were pursuing any plan to legalize millions of illegal immigrants by fiat.

According to the memo, one of those changes has been quietly put into practice since May. The new policy allows illegal immigrants who are spouses, parents and children of American citizens serving in the military to complete the process of becoming legal residents without having to leave the United States — a procedure that is known in immigration law terms as granting parole. The memo says agency officials approved the new parole approach “to preserve family unity and address Department of Defense concerns regarding soldier safety and readiness for duty.”

Department of Homeland Security officials estimate that many thousands of military service members have close relatives who are illegal immigrants. Under a legal Catch-22 in immigration law, those families could face as much as 10 years of separation if the immigrant relative leaves the United States to pursue a legal visa.

Administration officials sought to play down the memo. They said the proposals were largely “notional” and most had not been approved as policy by Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the memo is signed by some of the highest officials in the agency, including Roxana Bacon, the general counsel, and Denise Vanison, the chief of the office of policy and strategy.

The memo finds that it is “theoretically possible to grant deferred action to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals,” but rejects that option as politically “controversial” and too expensive. The memo suggests the agency could instead “tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups.”

Christopher Bentley, the spokesman for the immigration agency, said, “To be clear, D.H.S. will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”
 

Posted on July 14, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 The Dallas Morning News has an excellent editorial today about a new approach to immigration “raids” at employers:

Any new approach to immigration enforcement almost certainly will raise someone’s hackles, and the Obama administration’s latest innovation, known as “silent raids,” is no exception. As a temporary step while the nation debates comprehensive immigration reform, there is much to praise, but also much to criticize, in this new strategy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are de-emphasizing the disruptive, headline-grabbing workplace raids such as those in 2006 at Swift meat-packing plants in Cactus, Texas, and other American towns. The raids, in which 1,297 illegal workers were captured, helped satisfy advocates seeking harsh action against millions of undocumented workers.

The problem was that the raids imposed unduly cruel punishments on those captured. They lost all household belongings. Children came home from school to find empty houses and were left to their own devices as their parents were whisked into deportation proceedings.

In the silent raids, ICE auditors comb through businesses’ employee rosters and computer records to identify illegal workers. The employer is notified and fined, as well as warned of additional sanctions if the illegal workers aren’t fired.

“Instead of hundreds of agents going after one company, now one agent can go after hundreds of companies. And there is no drama, no trauma, no families being torn apart, no handcuffs,” immigration-law consultant Mark K. Reed said in a recent news report.

But serious deficiencies exist in this new approach. Without deportation, the tagged immigrant is often free to stay in the U.S. and hunt for new work. And companies caught employing large numbers of illegal immigrants escape the embarrassing “name and shame” coverage that occurred during the raids experienced by companies like Swift. The anonymity of silent raids allows violators to escape public accountability, and that’s not right.

This newspaper favors this more humanitarian approach, albeit with additional tweaks. There should be no ambiguity for illegal workers who are tagged. ICE must follow up with a written or verbal warning: Your days are numbered; clear up your affairs, pack up and leave immediately to avoid forced deportation. A 48-hour warning seems humane but adequately tough.

As for employers, there must be no escaping full public accountability. Embarrassment and bad publicity provide a much-needed deterrent, which is why the occasional raid serves a constructive purpose.

Jobs are generally the reason migrants come here illegally. Those who employ illegal immigrants deserve to be named and shamed so that the magnet of work ceases to exist. That said, comprehensive immigration reform is essential, including provisions for a greatly expanded guest-worker program that gives businesses greater access to low-cost – and legal – immigrant labor.

The goal shouldn’t be to destroy lives and traumatize families. But enforcement must include an unmistakable message that the American workplace is open only to those who enter legally, obtain the proper documents and stay only as long as permitted.

Posted on July 6, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press reports that taxpayers have spent at least $15.1 million per mile for 53 miles of “virtual fence” built to secure the U.S. and Mexico border, more than 12 times the original estimate. Here are excerpts from the article:

The federal government set aside $833 million for the fence of cameras, sensors and other barriers in 2007, and the vast majority of that money, at least $800 million, has been spent on a sliver, in Arizona, of the nearly 2,000-mile southern border. About $20.9 million has been used on the northern border.

Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa., chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, said the money was supposed to buy virtual fence for 655 miles of border in Arizona, New Mexico and a slice of Texas, at a cost of about $1.2 million per mile.

The fence, developed as part of a border security plan under President George W. Bush, was supposed to monitor most of the southern border with Mexico by 2011. Now, the 53 miles in Arizona is expected to be done by the end of the year.

Additionally, the expected capabilities of the virtual fence have shrunk, said Randolph Hite, a Government Accountability Office official.

The Homeland Security Department has suspended the project while it decides what to do next. Several officials acknowledged some good has come from the project, but they questioned the cost for those capabilities.

Online:
House Homeland Security Committee
Secure Border Initiative report

Posted on July 1, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

President Obama gave a speech today calling the current immigration system “broken” and urging passage of comprehensive immigration reform. For an excellent summary of the speech, and of the issues surrounding the immigration debate, please read the article in the New York Times. 

Posted on June 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, federal immigration agents since October have cut back by about 50% the number of suspected illegal immigrants removed from the Irving city jail. The city of Irving began running citizenship checks in 2006 on all people arrested by Irving police.

There seems to be some confusion about the reason for the decrease in immigration holds. Here are excerpts from the newspaper article:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and Irving police disagree on the cause of the drop. Irving police say that federal officials are no longer detaining scores of suspected illegal immigrants who only have class C misdemeanor charges.

“Nothing changed in terms of our practice,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “We still share information with everyone who is arrested in Irving.”

Immigration officials say they continue to place immigration holds on suspected illegal immigrants accused of low-level crime. They suggest Irving jailers are the ones who have made an alteration.

“We haven’t stopped taking any sort of referrals at all,” said Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman.

Irving has turned more than 5,600 people over for deportation since the city began using the Criminal Alien Program in 2006. The program allows federal authorities to check the immigration status of inmates in the city’s jail.

Irving officials brag that with the program, they have turned over more suspected illegal immigrants than any other city in the country. Demonstrations supporting and opposing CAP helped the city become the backdrop for America’s discussion on illegal immigration nearly three years ago.

Rusnok said the agency will take only people charged with more serious crimes if resources such as beds, time or manpower are scarce. But, he said, there have not been the kind of long-term resource shortages to explain the sudden and sustained drop in detainers in Irving.

Boyd maintains that his jailers have said that ICE no longer seems able or interested in taking suspected illegal immigrants charged with the lowest level of crimes. Boyd said ICE has taken about 82 percent fewer Irving people charged only with class C misdemeanors this year compared with last year.

The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity last year released a report that found “strong evidence” that Irving officers racially profiled Hispanics in order to process them through CAP. Boyd disputed the study. The report from the institute, which is part of the law school at the University of California-Berkeley, was released the month before last year’s drop in detainers.

Boyd, who has disputed the study’s finding, said it had nothing to do with the decline in immigration holds. He said the study also has not changed the average number of inmates or the crimes for which arrestees are held.

Posted on May 25, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

President Obama will send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border and increase spending on law enforcement, yielding to demands from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers there that border security be tightened, administration officials said.

That was the opening of an article in the New York Times. Here are additional excerpts:

Homeland Security officials said that the troops would provide support to law enforcement officers already working along the border by helping observe and monitor traffic between official crossing points, and would help analyze trafficking patterns in hopes of intercepting illegal drug shipments. They performed similar tasks in an earlier deployment along the border from 2006 to 2008, when they also assisted with road and fence construction. The troops have not been involved directly in intercepting border crossers.

In addition to the soldiers, the White House said it would request $500 million in supplemental funds to pay for more federal agents, prosecutors, investigators and technology at the border.

Homeland Security officials have said that they have significantly increased border security efforts since Mr. Obama took office. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, said last month that the border was “as secure now as it has ever been,” though she conceded there was room for improvement. Critics on the right derided her remarks as out of touch.

Posted on April 28, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer has an interesting take on the new anti-immigrant bill passed in Arizona. Here are excerpts from his column: 

Now that Arizona has enacted the most xenophobic anti-immigration law in this country, get ready for the big Hispanic exodus.

But it won’t be an exodus back to Mexico or to Central America. It will be a stampede toward Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities with huge Hispanic populations, where Latinos will be able to live without fear of being stopped by police because of the color of their skin or for speaking Spanish.

According to a bill passed by the Arizona legislature and signed into law Friday, police officers would have to arrest anyone when they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person does not have valid immigration papers. And it would allow anyone to sue local or state officials who they believe aren’t carrying out the law.

There are five major reasons why this Nazi-era-reminiscent legislation should be stopped in Arizona and kept from being copied by other states.

First, it won’t stop undocumented immigrants from coming to the United States. As long as the U.S. per capita income is more than three times higher than Mexico’s — $46,400 vs. $13,500, to be precise — Mexicans and other Latin Americans will continue crossing the border one way or another.

Second, it will not make Arizona safer. On the contrary, it will divert police resources away from fighting crime and will compel undocumented immigrants — as well as U.S.-born Hispanics who won’t want to be hassled by police — not to report crimes.

But the Arizona Police Chiefs Association and others opposed the measure, saying it will drain law enforcement resources and prevent witnesses from stepping forward. By the same token, U.S. authorities in 2007 publicly honored 26-year-old undocumented immigrant Manuel Jesus Cordova for rescuing a 9-year-old whose mother had died in an accident. Would Cordova do so under the new law?

Third, it will hurt Arizona’s economy. The new law is likely to be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, but only after long and costly legal battles.

In addition, a flight of many of the estimated 470,000 undocumented Latinos from Arizona and the closing of some of the more than 35,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the state will drain the state’s already ailing finances.

Fourth, if more U.S. states follow Arizona’s lead, there may be a Latin American tourism backlash. Many of the more than 13 million Mexicans, 2.5 million South Americans and 860,000 Central Americans who travel to the United States every year may think twice before visiting a country where they may be stopped by police just because of the color of their skin or the language they speak.

Fifth, and perhaps most important, the law is morally wrong and profoundly un-American. The United States, despite the decline of its international image immediately after the Iraq War, is once again being seen positively by a majority of countries, according to a BBC poll released last week. Racial profiling laws would no doubt hurt the U.S. image abroad.

My opinion: Arizona’s new law is not only legally dubious, economically counterproductive and morally repugnant, but it will do nothing to solve the U.S. immigration crisis. The solution is for the Obama administration to push for its much-promised immigration reform this year. That would help both secure the borders and give a path to legalization to more than 10 million undocumented immigrants. Otherwise, headline-seeking local politicians in other states will seek to fill the vacuum with similarly xenophobic laws, with not much more effect than producing a big Hispanic exodus — within the United States.

Posted on April 26, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has been in the news for a couple of years now because of its efforts to run undocumented immigrants out of the city.  The city leaders have attempted to do this by passing ordinances making it illegal to rent apartments or houses to such immigrants.

Unfortunately for the city, these ordinances keep getting shot down in court as unconstitutional, and the city has been forced to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs who sue the city over the ordinances. After the latest adverse ruling, the Farmers Branch City Council voted this month to appeal the federal court judgment.

The rationale for the appeal is that this time the decision will be made by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is notoriously conservative. The city believes this court will be more likely to ignore or overturn other court opinions and decide that the ordinance is indeed constitutional.

The city’s outside counsel has estimated the legal fees for an appeal could range from $100,000 to $150,000. Thus far, Farmers Branch has spent about $3.2 million trying to get illegal immigrants out of town, and has set aside another $620,000 for the remainder of 2010. By some estimates, the total legal costs could be more than $5 million by the end of this year. That’s a lot of money for a city with a population of about 30,000.

For several years I lived in Carrollton, the suburb immediately north of Farmers Branch. I worked in Dallas, immediately south of Farmers Branch. So I passed through Farmers Branch at least twice each day, and actually was in the city far more than that. It’s a nice town, with nice people. I hate to see all the negative publicity they are getting, although I do strongly disagree with their attempts to drive immigrants from Farmers Branch.

I know Farmers Branch has much more pressing needs for the money they are spending on these federal court appeals. Road maintenance, libraries, activities for senior citizens, and many other city projects are left wanting. That’s a sad situation, and unfair to the residents of Farmers Branch.

Posted on March 31, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

This press release was issued today by theAmerican Immigration Council:

The American Immigration Council applauds today’s Supreme Court decision on the right to counsel for noncitizens charged with committing a crime. The Court held that criminal defense lawyers must advise their noncitizen clients about the risk of deportation if they accept a guilty plea.  The Court recognized that current immigration laws impose harsh and mandatory deportation consequences onto criminal convictions, and that Congress eliminated from these laws the Attorney General’s discretionary authority to cancel removal in meritorious cases.  The Court said, “These changes to our immigration law have dramatically raised the stakes of a noncitizen’s criminal conviction.  The importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens accused of crimes has never been more important.”  

The case, Padilla v. Kentucky, involved a Vietnam War veteran who has resided lawfully in the U.S. for over 40 years.  His criminal defense lawyer told him not to worry about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a crime, but that advice was wrong.  In fact, the guilty plea made Mr. Padilla subject to mandatory deportation from the United States.  The state of Kentucky said that Mr. Padilla had no right to withdraw his plea when he learned of the deportation consequence.  Today’s decision reverses the Kentucky court.  It also rejected the federal government’s position (which had been adopted by several courts) that a noncitizen is protected only from “affirmative misadvice” and not from a lawyer’s failure to provide any advice about the immigration consequences of a plea.

“The right to counsel is at the very core of our criminal justice system. The Court affirms that immigrants should not be held accountable when they rely on incorrect advice from their lawyers or where counsel fails to provide any immigration advice at all,” said Beth Werlin, an attorney at the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center. “Today’s decision also reminds us that ultimately, the increased criminalization of immigration law and lack of flexibility has resulted in harsh results. Congress should do its part to restore immigration judges’ discretion to consider the particular circumstances in a person’s case, thus affording each person facing deportation an individualized and fair opportunity to be heard.” 

For more background on this Supreme Court’s decision, read the Legal Action Center’s blog post.

Posted on March 26, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

For the second time, a federal judge has declared a Farmers Branch ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting in the city to be unconstitutional. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article reporting this decision:

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle of Dallas ruled Wednesday that the ordinance was an attempt to enforce U.S. immigration laws – something the judge said only the federal government can do.

The judge also issued a permanent injunction to stop Farmers Branch from enforcing Ordinance 2952.

Mayor Tim O’Hare, the driving force behind the ordinances, said he wants to appeal.

“The American people are tired of judges legislating from the bench,” he said. “This decision is not unexpected but welcomed, because it allows us to get closer to this ordinance becoming reality.”

But O’Hare said the City Council would have to vote on whether to continue a fight that has cost the city nearly $3.2 million since September 2006. And the city may need to spend an additional $623,000 in legal fees in the year ahead, city finance director Charles Cox said Wednesday.

About one-quarter of the estimated 30,000 people who live in Farmers Branch were born outside the United States. About 47 percent of the city’s population is Hispanic.

In the past four years, the city has proposed a series of ordinances that would make it illegal for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants. A version approved by the council in 2006 was repealed in early 2007 to make way for another ordinance.

That ordinance, No. 2903, was approved by two-thirds of voters in 2007 but later declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay. The city abandoned an appeal of that ordinance in favor of Ordinance 2952. No. 2952 added all rental units, including houses, to the ban on renting to illegal immigrants.

Posted on March 22, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Tamar Jacoby is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of employers working to advance immigration reform. She recently wrote an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News that raises interesting points. Here are excerpts:

In the years since Congress last considered an overhaul – since the bitter failures of 2006 and 2007 – a new type of immigration advocate has emerged: small-business owners.

Of course, some large U.S. businesses also rely on immigrant workers. And some employers are all too happy to take advantage of the broken immigration system – happy to hire unlawful workers, to pay them below-market wages, to exploit the fact that they can’t bargain and aren’t protected by the law.

But the lion’s share of employers who depend on immigrants are small-business owners, known and trusted in their communities, who want nothing more than to be on the right side of the law.

After all, in most cases, they’ve invested their savings in their businesses, and they have brand names to protect, often their own family names. The last thing they want, or can afford, is to have all this snatched out from under them because they’ve run afoul of the law. They need a stable, reliable, legal workforce, and they’re more than willing to pay for it.

Their message? They talk less about rights than about America’s interests, less about compassion or ideals than about the U.S. economy and national security.

Sure, they speak in part from self-interest; they all have businesses to protect. But when it comes to immigration, their interests coincide with the interests of many American workers and of the U.S. economy.

Think about how a local economy works. If an employer has to shrink or close his business because he can’t find immigrant workers, most often for the operation’s lowest- or highest-skilled slots, he’ll have to fire the Americans who fill the jobs in the middle of the skill ladder – the foreman at the dairy or packing plant, the maitre d’ in the restaurant, the marketer at the IT startup. And when the restaurant chain shrinks or the biotech firm moves across the border to Canada, that means less work for American businesses up – and downstream in the economy – less work for other local businesses and fewer jobs for Americans.

Most employers who rely on immigrant workers are looking more to the future than the past. Of course, many hope that immigration reform will legalize their current workforce. But most are even more concerned about who will man their businesses in years ahead, as increased spending and pent-up demand power the way to economic recovery.

These small business owners need a way for the workers they count on to grow their businesses to enter the country legally. They want Congress to fix the system so we don’t re-create the problem in years ahead. They know that the only way to control illegal immigration is to create a legal immigration system that works – and that this is the best way to secure our borders and restore the rule of law.

No one has more of a stake in fixing the broken immigration system than employers who rely on immigrant workers. And just because you won’t see them on TV on Sunday doesn’t mean they aren’t making their voices heard.

Posted on March 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The primary question among immigrants, immigrant advocates, and anyone else interested in immigration reform is whether the president and congress will attempt to address comprehensive immigration reform this year. As reported in the Dallas Morning News, President Obama says he is still committed to reform, Here are excerpts from the article:

President Barack Obama on Thursday assured frustrated supporters of a promised overhaul of U.S. immigration laws that he remains committed to fixing a system he says is broken.

What remains unclear is whether Congress will send him a bill this year.

Obama said he told the senators and the advocacy groups that “my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort.”

The immigration issue is an important one for Obama, who has promised to work to solve problems. Hispanics voted heavily for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, making the difference in key states like Florida, and their votes will be critical in the November midterm elections. Latino voters who don’t think progress is being made on the issue may not go to the polls.

After meeting for more than an hour with Obama, immigration advocates told reporters they want Schumer and Graham to at least release their blueprint before a planned March 21 demonstration at the Capitol, with a bill introduced in the Senate soon after.

Posted on March 1, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Nearly 300 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions were arrested last week in Texas, the Dallas Morning News reports. The largest number of arrests, 119, were in North Texas. According to the article:

Of the total, about half of the immigrants had convictions for violent crimes or drug offenses. Most of the crimes were committed in the United States, authorities said.

The arrests, though, raises questions about why the immigrants hadn’t been deported earlier, immediately after they’d served their time for criminal convictions.

A new program, called Secure Communities, seeks to link jail staff with federal data banks to ensure that those with criminal convictions are removed from the country. There are only 110 jail locations in the country that now use the program.

Secure Communities has come under scrutiny for the relatively low number of persons caught who have been convicted of violent crimes – or what’s known in ICE as a “level one” offense.

Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving, Mesquite and Dallas and Denton counties are among the jurisdictions using Secure Communities processes. The program began in November 2008. 

Posted on February 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 The Associated Press is reporting that a “federal judge has found grounds for sanctioning an Arizona sheriff’s office for its acknowledged destruction of records in a lawsuit that accuses deputies of racially profiling countless Hispanics in immigration patrols.” Here is the beginning of the article: 

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow held off on imposing the sanctions against the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the Friday ruling, but indicted he would do so at a later date once related issues were ironed out.

Since early 2008, Arpaio has run 13 immigration and crimes sweeps consisting of deputies and posse volunteers who flood an area of a city — in some cases heavily Latino areas — to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders.

The handful of Latinos who filed the lawsuit against Arpaio’s office alleged that officers based some traffic stops on the race of Hispanics who were in vehicles, had no probable cause to pull them over and made the stops so they could inquire about their immigration status.

Posted on February 8, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Beginning March 1, 2010, Mexico will require U.S. citizens to have valid passports when traveling to Mexico. Legal residents of the U.S. must have their green cards or other documents demonstrating legal status in the U.S.

This new rule by Mexican authorities shouldn’t change travel habits, because it has been the law in the U.S. since June 2009 that U.S. travelers returning to this country from Mexico must show their passports.

Posted on January 27, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Press release from the Immigration Policy Center:

January 27, 2010

Washington D.C. – In the State of the Union Address this evening President Obama made clear his ongoing commitment to immigration reform noting “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.” Some may continue to argue that immigration reform is too politically risky to move on this year and that we should focus instead on rebuilding our economy. However, comprehensive immigration reform is compatible with economic reform as it would generate needed economic growth, create jobs and increase tax contributions by ensuring that everyone working in the United States is doing so legally. In fact, immigration reform would allow us to take full advantage of the opportunities for economic growth that immigrants bring.

Immigration Yields Tremendous Economic Benefits to America  

  • A 2007 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers concluded that immigration as a whole increases the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by roughly $37 billion each year because immigrants increase the size of the total labor force, complement the native-born workforce in terms of skills and education, and stimulate capital investment by adding workers to the labor pool. 
  • Immigrants do not compete with the majority of natives for the same jobs because they tend to have different levels of education and to work in different occupations. In fact, The roughly 90% of native-born workers with at least a high-school diploma experienced wage gains because of immigration between 1990 and 2004, ranging from 0.7% to 3.4% depending on their level of education, according to a 2006 study by Giovanni Peri, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California-Davis. 

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs are twice as likely as Americans to start business and immigrant inventors account for more than one quarter of all U.S. patents according theKauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, 2008.  

If Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Enacted the Benefits Will Be Even Greater    

  • According to a 2010 study by UCLA professor Raul Hinojosa, comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization plan for the unauthorized would contribute a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product over ten years, as more tax revenues are collected, wages increase for U.S.-born and legalized workers, and immigrant workers spend more in our economy.  The report also finds that wages for immigrant and native-born workers would rise in part because workers will have more bargaining power in the workplace.  

  • The libertarian Cato Institute also reported that “legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households.”  

“Tonight the President paid tribute to those who struggle to build the American dream, even in the midst of economic uncertainty. His call for a revitalized domestic and foreign policy agenda based on American values and innovation included immigration reform because the White House recognizes the economic and moral necessity of fixing our broken immigration system,” said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. “We have a golden opportunity to enhance the gross domestic product, create and sustain new jobs and businesses, and maintain our competitive edge in the world if we create a system that legalizes current undocumented workers, provides for improved legal channels for families and new workers when they are needed in the future and adopts sensible policies to secure our border. Such measures will help to provide the framework for an economic recovery that will allow us all to pursue our American dreams.” 

Posted on January 27, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano designated 11 new countries to be eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. The H-2A and H-2B visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary or seasonal jobs for which U.S. workers are not available.

The 11 newly designated countries are: Croatia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, and Uruguay.

These 11 new countries join the 28 previously designated countries eligible to participate in these programs.

More information is available at: www.dhs.gov.

Posted on January 26, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has launched a new Web site — 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. This is a useful tool because it allows people to search for information about the location or condition of a person in Haiti. There is a Person Finder link which can be used by anyone to find and share information about foreign citizens in Haiti.

Posted on January 25, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Nationals of Haiti who were in the United States on or before January 12, 2010, are eligible to apply for temporary protected status (TPS). If eligible, nationals of Haiti with TPS will be allowed to remain in the United States as a result of the earthquake that occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Furthermore, TPS holders will not be removed from the U.S. through July 22, 2011, and are eligible to apply for work authorization in the United States. The TPS registration period is for 180 days, so it is vital that nationals of Haiti in the United States on or before January 12, 2010, apply for TPS before July 20, 2010.

Posted on January 22, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 Here is a message I received from the good people at Thomsen Reuters:

I wanted to pass on some news that may be of interest to your readers, just posted this morning:  Thomsen Reuter’s CLE division, West LegalEdcenter, is hosting a FREE webcast seminar on Haiti and immigration law.  It focuses on the ramifications of the recent, and significant policy changes announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State pertaining to Haitian nationals currently in the US, as well as orphans in the process of adoption. 

Here is a link:   http://tinyurl.com/ydbkekf

Produced by the National Bar Association, the webcast will take place this Monday, January 25, 2010 at 3 p.m. EST.  Let me know if you have any questions. Sincerely,  Mike Weiner

West LegalEdcenter, A part of Thomsen Reuters

Posted on January 16, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The administration has clarified the earlier announcement regarding the suspension of deportation of Haitian citizens. The Haitians must have been in the United States before the earthquake January 11, and any Haitians who arrive here illegally after that date will be deported. The deportation suspension will no longer be for an indefinite time. It will be for 18 months after the date of the earthquake.

Posted on January 14, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Obama administration have temporarily suspended deportations of illegal immigrants from Haiti.

This is of course because of the devastating damage from the earthquake this week in the Haitian capitol. The death toll from the quake is still unknown but will surely number in the tens of thousands and perhaps even the hundreds of thousands. Much of the infrastructure of the country in and around the capitol has been damaged or destroyed.

There are approximately 30,000 Haitians in the United States facing deportation orders, but it would be cruel to send them into a situation where their safety and even their lives would be so much at risk. No time limit has been placed on the deportation suspension.

The earthquake has renewed calls for Haiti to be granted temporary protected status as are the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Sudan.

Posted on January 10, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

A highly disturbing article was published today in the New York Times. It reports on several deaths of immigrants held in jails across the country, and the apparent attempts by government officials to hide the details of those deaths. I encourage everyone to read the entire article. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Silence has long shrouded the men and women who die in the nation’s immigration jails. For years, they went uncounted and unnamed in the public record. Even in 2008, when The New York Times obtained and published a federal government list of such deaths, few facts were available about who these people were and how they died.

But behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.

The documents, obtained over recent months by The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, concern most of the 107 deaths in detention counted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003, after the agency was created within the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted on January 9, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

 As reported today in the Dallas Morning News, the city of Lewisville may be about to wrestle with an immigration issue that has caused confusion and litigation in other Dallas suburbs in recent years. Here are excerpts from the newspaper article:

 The City Council next month will discuss requiring city contractors to ensure that their employees are working legally in the United States.

“I want people we do business with to show they’re doing their due diligence,” said council member John Gorena, an opponent of illegal immigration who narrowly won a seat on the council last year.

He’s proposing that the city expand its use of E-Verify, a federally maintained electronic database system containing Social Security and other records. The system is used by the federal government for sizable contracts.

Twelve states require the use of some elements of the system to verify employment status of workers. Three states – Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina – require all employers to use some level of E-Verify. Texas has no such requirement.

Lewisville already uses E-verify for its employees. The city also requires that its contractors comply with federal immigration laws. However, the city has no way to verify that contractors are hiring only legal workers.

That would change under Gorena’s proposal to require contractors to confirm workers’ employment status with E-Verify.

Gorena’s proposal, made this week, received a lukewarm reception from other council members, who were concerned about straying too far into immigration policies.

Farmers Branch has become known for its battles over illegal immigration and is in costly litigation over its ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting apartments.

Posted on January 4, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The ABC News Web site has a good article today about the federal government’s program to encourage people to comply with the requirement of cooperating with census workers. As you know, the census is taken every ten years, and the federal government bases many budget decisions on the results of the census. States also use the census information for political redistricting, which affects the party makeup of the states’ political delegations. Here are excerpts from the ABC article:

The U.S. government today launched a massive outreach effort to alert the nation about this year’s census, kicking off a $340 million promotional campaign that will travel across the country in the upcoming months.

After launching today in New York City’s Times Square, the census road tour will stop at more than 800 events nationwide, including high-profile sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four. There is even a scheduled stop at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras.

It is all part of an effort to notify the American population about this spring’s census. In March, the census form (10 questions for most Americans) will arrive in mailboxes, the government’s once-a-decade attempt to paint a new portrait of the country.

Then on April 1, only about 100 days away, comes National Census Day.

One fact that the public might learn is that the 2010 census form is the shortest in history. The bureau says it can be completed in only 10 minutes. For the first time since 1930, the bureau is using just one form, not two. The bureau has also unveiled a bilingual form that will be sent to areas with high Hispanic populations.

The objective is to maximize the number of completed forms that get mailed back to the bureau. Non-responses, the bureau knows, can be very costly. For every one percent increase in the number of people who mail back their forms, the bureau saves $80 million by not having to seek them out.

However, a recent analysis conducted by the bureau said there may be a three-percent decrease in mailed-back forms, caused by government mistrust, fear of identity theft, and the surge in home foreclosures.

The census will also have to overcome other issues, such as Hispanic advocacy groups calling for illegal immigrants to boycott the census unless immigration laws are not changed. The boycott is led by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders, a group claiming to represent 20,000 evangelical churches in 34 states.

Posted on December 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Effective January 4, 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS/CDC) is removing HIV from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance and references to HIV from the scope of medical examinations for foreign nationals.  

Until the rule goes into effect, non-citizens who are HIV-positive cannot be admitted into the U.S. unless the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants a waiver. Once the rule goes into effect on January 4, 2010, HIV infection will no longer be defined as a communicable disease of public health significance, immigrant visa applicants who are required to undergo a medical screening exam will no longer be tested for HIV, a waiver for entry into the U.S. will no longer be necessary, and HIV-positive visa applicants will not be found ineligible for visas under Section 212(a)(1)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Although foreign nationals with HIV who apply for visas will no longer be ineligible under INA Section 212(a)(1)(A)(i), they still must overcome the public charge under INA Section 212(a)(4) by demonstrating to the consular officers that they will have the means of support in the U.S. and that they will not need to seek public financial assistance. Please visit CDC’s Web site for more information.

Posted on December 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As pointed out by the Immigration Policy Center: Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL.), announced that he will be introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 15, 2009. Congressman Gutierrez said “We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our President. The time for waiting is over. This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year. It is the product of months of collaboration with civil rights advocates, labor organizations, and members of Congress. It is an answer to too many years of pain—mothers separated from their children, workers exploited and undermined security at the border—all caused at the hands of a broken immigration system. This bill says ‘enough,’ and presents a solution to our broken system that we as a nation of immigrants can be proud of.”

Posted on December 7, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

  • Foreign nationals in the United States with lost or stolen passports or I-94 cards may file for an Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document with the Immigration Service. Applicants may apply by submitting Form I-102 with the applicable filing fee of $320. The filing of Form I-102 will provide the applicant with a copy of the I-94 card. An I-94 card establishes that the foreign national was inspected and admitted into the United States. Filing Form I-102 will not provide the applicant with copies of their lost or stolen passport.
  • If a joint petition to remove conditions was filed but the living situation changed after filing the petition, the applicant must notify the Immigration Service of his/her current status. The applicant should request that the petition be converted to a waiver application. If a divorce has been filed but has not been finalized, the Immigration Service will provide the applicant 87 days to submit the final divorce decree.
  • As of November 28, 2009 the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Foreign nationals who were abused by their U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent may file a self-petition on Form I-360. If eligible, an application to adjust status on Form (I-485) may be filed concurrently with Form I-360. To be eligible for a self-petition based on abuse by a spouse, the self-petitioner must satisfy certain requirements. One of the requirements is that the marriage was entered into into in good faith. Documents establishing a good faith marriage may include commingling of accounts, affidavits from family and friends, pictures, e-mails, and birth certificates of children (if any), to name a few.
  • Effective December 15, 2009, employers filing temporary labor certifications under the H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, H-2A, H-2B, H-1C, and D-1 programs must file the applications at the Chicago National Processing Center’s new location. The new address is 536 South Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60605-1509.

Posted on December 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This news item is from the Wall Street Journal. Apparently the condition of the U.S. economy is so bad that immigrant workers here cannot send home the money they did in past years.

The Bank of Mexico said Tuesday that remittances to Mexico fell 36% to $1.69 billion in October from $2.64 billion in the same month last year.

The October numbers were also lower than the $1.74 billion that Mexican workers sent home in September, the central bank said.

Remittances for the first 10 months of the year fell 16% from the year-earlier period, to $18.13 billion.

Remittances in dollar terms have slumped this year due to a recession in the U.S., which caused rising unemployment among migrant workers who send money home to their families.

After peaking in 2007 at $26.07 billion, remittances fell 3.6% last year to $25.14 billion.

Posted on November 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that the Secure Communities Initiative, which launched this year, has identified more than 110,000 criminal aliens. ICE initiated the Secure Communities Program, which partners with local law enforcement agencies, to identify and remove criminal foreign nationals. As part of the booking process, fingerprints of the arrested individuals are taken at the local enforcement level. The fingerprint information at the local level is shared with the DHS/ICE, allowing ICE to take appropriate measures in not releasing criminal aliens back into the community.   Currently, eleven states utilize the Secure Communities program, and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton announced the programs expansion. The program is expected to have a presence in every state by 2011 and be available to every law enforcement agency by 2013.  

More information on the Secure Communities Initiative is available at www.ice.gov.

Posted on October 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This excellent program airs tonight on CNN at 8:00 p.m. Central Time. You can read about it at the CNN Web site.

Posted on October 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Just announced today, a standardized agreement was developed in an effort to ensure uniformity between 67 state and local law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agreement is in response to program 287(g) initiated this summer in an effort to improve public safety and enhance ICE’s presence with local law enforcement agency’s by identifying criminal aliens who are a threat to local communities, and removing these criminal aliens. Standardized Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) outlines the objectives of the 287(g) program, and provides guidelines for ICE’s supervision of local agency officer operations. In an effort to facilitate accountability, the MOA was initiated to ensure all participating jurisdictions are following uniform standards throughout the nation. Currently, the MOA fall into various categories. There are 55 agreements signed by ICE and the partnering agency; 12 agreements have been reached and await approval by the local jurisdiction’s supervisory authority; and 6 agreements have negotiations underway. More information regarding MOA and 287(g) is available at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website at www.ice.gov

Posted on September 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched its newly re-designed Web site. Although the Web site update was scheduled to be introduced September 22, 2009, attorney Eugenia Ponce visited the site Monday and has this report:

The updated Web site is organized according to categories.The categories are displayed as Topics, Forms, Resources, Laws, News, and About Us. The topics are categorized as follows: Adoption, Permanent Residence, Humanitarian, Citizenship, Members of the Military and Their Family, Family, Visit the U.S., Working in the U.S, and Genealogy. After clicking on a specific topic, I was provided helpful information and even more additional information was available through the links on the left of the screen.The advantage of categorizing the information by topic is that individuals are now able to familiarize themselves with the process from start to finish. There are other helpful links and tools within each specific topic.   Another key feature to the Web site is that there is a “where to start” link. Before, individuals could navigate throughout the Web site not knowing where to even begin their search on a narrow issue. Now, the “where to start link” will allow individuals to begin their immigration search by narrowing it down to their specific issue. For instance, there is a scroll-down available for individuals under the “where to start” link. It states “I Am,” and one can select from the various choices available and get specific information relating to any issue.  

Given the new era with text messaging (even various airline companies provide flight and gate status information through text messaging), USCIS has upgraded its site by adding a link that allows individuals to receive case status updates via text messages. The newly designed site has provided a one-stop resource center for individuals with specific queries and I am excited in navigating throughout their links. Visit the newly re-designed USCIS Web site and see the improvements for yourself.

Posted on July 6, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The political unrest in Honduras continues, and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa advises that U.S. citizens restrict travel to necessary trips only on July 6, 2009. A curfew effective July 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. July 7 has been imposed by the Honduran government and U.S. citizens should abide by this curfew.   Visas services will not be available today, Monday July 6, 2009, but will be remain open for emergency services only. As previously scheduled, the Consular Agency in San Pedro Sula will be closed the week of July 6-10.  

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. By registering, U.S. citizens will receive updated information on travel and security within Honduras but most importantly, it makes it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact in case of emergency.

This is the public announcement.

Posted on July 1, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Embassy in Honduras announced today that due to the political situation in Honduras, the Consular Section will be closed July 1, 2009 and July 2, 2009. Thus, all non-immigrant and immigrant visa appointments for July 1, 2009, and July 2, 2009, have been cancelled and applicants will be contacted directly for rescheduling appointments. In observance of the July 4, 2009, Independence Day Holiday, the Embassy was scheduled to be closed on July 3, 2009.   Services for U.S. citizens including regular passport applications, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, notarials and Social Security services are unavailable. Emergency passport application and emergency services are available to U.S. citizens only.  

To view the schedule announcement, please visit the U.S. Embassy in Honduras Web site. 

Posted on June 29, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Embassy recently issued a notice advising U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Honduras until further notice. This announcement is in response to the current unstable political and security situations. The U.S. Embassy will be open for emergency services but no visa services will be available June 29, 2009.  

For the latest updates, please visit the U.S. Department of State Web site at www.travel.state.gov or the U.S. Embassy’s Web site in Tegucigalpa, Honduras at http://honduras.usembassy.gov.

Posted on June 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On June 22, 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that a partnership between the two agencies has resulted in the elimination of a large backlog in the FBI’s National Name Check Program (NNCP).   The purpose of the NNCP is to “disseminate information from FBI files in response to name check requests received from federal agencies… foreign police… intelligence agencies…” as well as “state and local law enforcement agencies.” NNCP employees within the FBI respond to such requests by determining “whether a specific individual has been the subject of or mentioned in any FBI investigation(s)…” The FBI states that they do not adjudicate such requests from the various agencies – the FBI simply provides the relevant information.   While delays are still likely to occur, the USCIS reports that the continued partnership with the FBI will help ensure that name check processing is completed as soon as possible without compromising national security.  

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov. For additional information on the FBI, please visit www.fbi.gov.

Posted on June 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Effective July 6, 2009, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an interim rule amending the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations with the intention to:   ·   end confusion by removing certain obsolete references to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); ·   help the public determine the correct place to file USCIS forms; and ·   create a more efficient and streamlined process for any future changes to filing processes.  

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

Posted on June 9, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that permanent resident card applicants may experience up to an eight week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card while USCIS is in the process of upgrading card production equipment.  

During this delay, USCIS Field Offices will be issuing temporary evidence of permanent residence via an I-551 stamp to applicants approved for permanent residence at the time of their interview. To receive this stamp, applicants must bring their passport to the appointment. If the applicant does not have a passport, he or she must bring a passport-style photo and government-issued ID in order to receive the stamp. If an applicant’s permanent residence is approved after his or her interview, the applicant should bring the necessary documents to an INFOPASS appointment to receive the I-551 stamp. The stamp reflects that the individual is a permanent resident and the individual is allowed to work and travel.

 

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

 

Posted on May 28, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As of May 15, 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted its recommendation that all American citizens avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. Because this recommendation was lifted, the U.S. Department of State has announced that the Department’s travel alert relating to the 2009-H1N1 influenza outbreak is no longer in effect.   While the travel alert is no longer in effect, the CDC still recommends that travelers and U.S. citizens living in Mexico (especially those at high risk for complications of influenza) should take precautions to reduce their risks of infection while in Mexico. Further, the CDC continues to recommend travelers take protective measures if they must travel to an area where there are reported cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza, and also outlines additional measures that travelers returning from such areas should exercise to limit the spread of 2009-H1N1.  

More information is available at: http://www.travel.state.gov, and at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

Posted on May 25, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Big changes are coming on June 1, 2009, for Americans who return to the United States after trips to Mexico or Canada, or who come back from a cruise. These changes have caused concern about an adverse effect on trade between Canada and the United States. The details were provided by an article in the New York Times. Here are the opening paragraphs:

After years of delay and hundreds of millions of dollars in preparations, Customs and Border Protection officials said new security measures would go into effect on June 1, requiring Americans entering the country by land or sea to show government-approved identification.

Currently, Americans crossing borders or arriving on cruise ships can prove their nationality by showing thousands of other forms of identification. But after the start of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Americans will be required to present a passport or one of five other secure identification cards.

Coming as the summer vacation season starts, the measure is expected to lengthen lines at least temporarily at border crossings and seaports. But the biggest impact is expected along the nearly 4,000-mile border that the United States shares with Canada, which both countries once boasted was the world’s longest undefended frontier.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans and Canadians crossing that border were required to do little more than state their nationality. Security has been gradually increased since then, causing longer lines and a steady drop in casual cross-border excursions, according to business and travel associations that monitor border traffic.

Posted on May 6, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Web site for the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez reflects that most consular services that were suspended until May 8, 2009, will remain suspended until May 15, 2009.   Once the consular services for immigrant and non-immigrant visas begin operating again, we can only imagine the huge backlogs that will exist for visa applicants. According to consular officials and a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) local office at a State Bar of Texas meeting, the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez is the largest in the world. There are numerous processings of visas taking place at Ciudad Juarez per day. The consulate processes between 800-1200 immigrant visas each day, 1,000 non-immigrant visas each day, 70-150 waivers each day, and 50-100 various other services for U.S. citizens.  

Once the consulate begins its daily operations, applicants should arrive 15 minutes prior to their appointments. There is a parking lot across the street from the consulate, in the Centro Commercial. Before walking to the consulate, it is important that applicants leave their cell phones and any other electronic devices in their cars. After checking that all electronic devices and other prohibited items are left in the car, the applicants will enter the building and go through security. After going through security, they will be issued numbered tickets. All U.S. citizens should be prepared to present their passports (or passport cards if traveling by land) beginning June 1, 2009. After their interviews, a courier service, DHL, will deliver their visas within 2-3 days.

Posted on May 4, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in the New York Times, unauthorized immigrants got a big break from the U. S. Supreme Court this week. The Court ruled unanimously that prosecutors cannot use federal identity-theft laws against illegal immigrants who use Social Security numbers belonging to U.S. citizens in order to get jobs. Here are excerpts from the Times article:

The question in the case was whether workers who use fake identification numbers to commit some other crimes must know they belong to a real person to be subject to a two-year sentence extension for “aggravated identity theft.”

The answer, the Supreme Court said, is yes.

Prosecutors had used the threat of that punishment to persuade illegal workers to plead guilty to lesser charges of document fraud.

“The court’s ruling preserves basic ideals of fairness for some of our society’s most vulnerable workers,” said Chuck Roth, litigation director at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago. “An immigrant who uses a false Social Security number to get a job doesn’t intend to harm anyone, and it makes no sense to spend our tax dollars to imprison them for two years.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in a concurring opinion that a central flaw in the interpretation of the law urged by the government was that it made criminal liability turn on chance. Consider, Justice Alito said, a defendant who chooses a Social Security number at random.

“If it turns out that the number belongs to a real person,” Justice Alito wrote, “two years will be added to the defendant’s sentence, but if the defendant is lucky and the number does not belong to another person, the statute is not violated.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the case should be decided by applying “ordinary English grammar” to the text of the law, which punishes an offender who “knowingly transfers, possesses or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.”

The government had argued that the “knowingly” requirement applied only to the verbs in question. Justice Breyer rejected that interpretation, saying that “it seems natural to read the statute’s word ‘knowingly’ as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime.”

He gave examples from everyday life to support this view. “If we say that someone knowingly ate a sandwich with cheese,” Justice Breyer wrote, “we normally assume that the person knew both that he was eating a sandwich and that it contained cheese.”

About 8 million illegal immigrants are working in the United States, the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington estimates.

Stephen H. Legomsky, a professor of immigration law at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, said Monday’s decision would have a major impact on the strategy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making it more difficult for the agency to press criminal charges against immigrants with no other offenses but working illegally.

“In the ordinary immigration case, this will no longer be a weapon,” Professor Legomsky said.

The Obama administration has said that it will shift the focus of immigration enforcement to employers who intentionally hire unauthorized immigrants in order to pay lower wages or otherwise lower costs. But last week the administration said agents would continue to detain illegal immigrants found in raids.

Posted on May 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Here is the latest press release from the Department of Homeland Security regarding swine flu:

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY PRIVATE SECTOR OFFICE

H1N1 FLU OUTBREAK UPDATE

FEDERAL INTERAGENCY UPDATES AND INFORMATION
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

DHS H1NI Update: http://www.dhs.gov/xprepresp/programs/swine-flu.shtm
Featured: Video of Monday’s press conference

Help us get the message out to the public, post the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Web Widget to your web site: http://www.hhs.gov/

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Main CDC H1N1 Flu Outbreak Page: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
(4/27) CDC Press Briefing: http://www.cdc.gov/media/transcripts/2009/t090427.htm (4/27) CDC activates Emergency Operations Center: http://www.cdc.gov/news/2009/04/swine_flu/

(4/26) Travelers Health: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluTravel.aspx

(4/26) Travelers Health (Spanish): http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluTravelSpanish.aspx

Key Facts on H1N1 Flu: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/key_facts.htm
CDC Caretaking Guidance: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/guidance/
Information for Airline Passengers Exposed to H1N1 Flu: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluPassengers.aspx
Good Health Habits Guidance: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm
H1N1 Flu (Swine) Flu and You: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: PandemicFlu.gov

 (4/26/09) HHS Declares Public Health Emergency for H1N1 (Swine) Flu Outbreak http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2009pres/04/20090426a.html

Frequently Asked Questions on H1N1 Flu Outbreak: http://pandemicflu.gov/faq/swineflu/
Guidance for individuals and families preparing for pandemic: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/individual/index.html.
Planning information for community organizations: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/community/index.htmlContinue Reading…

Posted on April 29, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

In compliance with the precautionary measures and the travel health warning issued by the Department of State, the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez is canceling all immigrant visa and waiver appointments from April 30, 2009, through May 8, 2009. Individuals with immigrant visa appointments scheduled during this time will receive a letter with the rescheduled appointment date. Individuals with a scheduled waiver appointment will be contacted via e-mail or phone regarding the rescheduling.  

Additionally, appointments for non-immigrant visas that were scheduled between April 29, 2009, through May 5, 2009, will be rescheduled. Applicants will be contacted by the call center via e-mail or phone. Additional information is available at the Ciudad Juarez Web site.

Posted on April 28, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

An outbreak of swine flu cases in Mexico has led to more than one hundred deaths, and the death toll continues to increase. The Center of Disease Control issued a precautionary notice for all travelers going to Mexico to avoid the infection. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City announced that from April 27, 2009, until April 30, 2009, consular services will remain available for U.S. citizens and are limited to citizenship applications, passports, U.S. reports of births abroad, and emergency assistance only. The Embassy’s visa unit is suspending normal business hours this week. For updated information please visit the U.S. Embassy Web site.  

There have been several swine flu cases reported in California, Texas, Ohio, Kansas, and New York. Despite swine flu concerns, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that all USCIS offices remain open. Applicants with scheduled interviews or ceremonies should plan to attend their scheduled appointments. For up to date information, please visit USCIS’s Web site: www.uscis.gov.

Posted on April 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The new rule requiring a different format for driver licenses of non-citizens in Texas, and requiring the showing of valid visas in order to receive the licenses, has been blocked by a State District Judge. Here are excerpts from a story in the Dallas Morning News:

A judge blocked the Texas Department of Public Safety on Thursday from continuing to enforce new rules that prevent some legal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses and identification cards.

State District Judge Orlinda L. Naranjo in Austin issued a temporary injunction and found DPS acted outside its scope of authority when it adopted the policy last year.

“This case is not about illegal immigrants obtaining driver licenses, it is about legal residents who have been denied or have been threatened a denial of a driver license,” Naranjo wrote.

The rules required identification card and driver’s license applicants who weren’t U.S. citizens to have visas that were issued for at least a one year stay and were still valid for at least six months from the date they were presented to DPS.

While DPS has the authority to verify an applicant’s eligibility, competency and identity — including name, place of birth and date of birth — the length of time a visa is valid has no correlation to those, Naranjo wrote. The state Legislature has outlined who cannot receive a driver’s license, but people with less than six months left on their visa are not among the ineligible categories, the judge wrote in her order.

DPS also changed the way the cards look for people who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents but still have permission to live in the country. The licenses are marked with the words “Temporary Visitor,” include the date permission to live in the U.S. expires and the picture and information are placed vertically, like that of a person under age 21. If permission to live in the U.S. is for an indefinite time period, the status date on the license would be for one year under the DPS rule.

The judge said DPS didn’t appear to have adopted that policy through proper notice and comment required in rulemaking.

Gov. Rick Perry has defended the new rules as necessary to ensure public safety and national security.

Posted on April 9, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of State (DOS) issues a visa bulletin each month and allocates a certain number of immigrant visas according to preference categories. The Visa Bulletin for May is available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4454.html  

There are no visas available in the Employment Third and Third preference “other worker” categories the month of May. Visa availability will resume in October, the first month of the new fiscal year. More information is available at the DOS Web site www.travel.state.gov

Posted on March 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, President Barack Obama renewed his campaign promise to tackle the immigration system in a meeting with Hispanic lawmakers Wednesday. The current economic crisis has sidetracked immigration reform so far, but some of us are optimistic that it will be addressed in the near future. Here are excerpts from the story:

Obama also told the lawmakers that he will travel next month to Mexico to discuss immigration and escalating violence from drug cartels with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, White House officials said.

During the campaign, Obama supported a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy, including creation of a possible path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding.

Obama has yet to tackle the issue, as his administration has grappled with the economic crisis and an increasingly crowded agenda in his two months in office.

But immigration legislation is on the agenda and moving forward, said Hispanic lawmakers who attended the West Wing meeting. The caucus consists of Democrats and one independent.

Obama told the group that he will work on immigration in a method similar to other major policy initiatives. There will be a public forum on immigration, possibly within the next two months, to unveil key principles of overhaul legislation.

Posted on March 18, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds U.S. and Canadian travelers that on June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will go into effect at land and sea ports of entry.

The WHTI sets new requirements for travelers, requiring travelers to present an approved travel document to enter the United States. Approved travel documents include a passport, passport card, a NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST trusted traveler program card, or a state or province-issued enhanced driver’s license. Travelers under the age of 16 need to present only a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. Lawful permanent residents of the U.S. need only present their permanent resident card.

Posted on March 12, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A story on CNN describes a woman in Rochester, New York, who patrols the Texas-Mexico border from her home. She does this virtually, by using cameras she can view over the Internet. Here is the beginning of the article:

When her baby girl takes an afternoon nap, or on those nights when she just can’t sleep, Sarah Andrews, 32, tosses off her identity as a suburban stay-at-home mom and becomes something more exotic: a “virtual deputy” patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.

From her house in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Andrews spends at least four hours a day watching a site called BlueServo.net.

There, because of a $2 million grant from the state of Texas, anyone in the world can watch grainy live video scenes of cactuses, desert mountains and the Rio Grande along Texas’ portion of the international border.

When Andrews spots something she deems suspicious — perhaps a fuzzy character moving from right to left across the screen or people wading through the river with what appear to be trash bags atop their heads — she and the site’s 43,000 registered users can send e-mail messages straight to local law enforcement, who then decide whether to act.

Posted on March 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that there have been delays in the government’s virtual fence along the Texas-Mexico border. Here are excerpts from the article:

Congress’ patience with work on a $6.7 billion “virtual fence” along the border is wearing thin, even as the project’s government supervisor reported that the earliest the technology will be put to work on the border is 2011.

“I think they’re going to give us a chance to succeed. I don’t think they’re going to give us a lot of time,” said Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative.

Borkowski, the project’s third director in three years, testified Tuesday at the House Appropriations Committee’s panel for homeland security.

Technical problems have plagued the virtual fence project, known as SBInet and under federal contract to Boeing since 2006.

The latest test drive of the technology at the end of last year revealed “open issues” and caused computer crashes, Borkowski said. The next step will be field tests this spring at two locations in Arizona.

By the end of the year, Borkowski told the panel, the department will evaluate the system. At the earliest, it could be used along the Arizona border in 2011. Under the current plan, it will eventually be used along the stretch of the entire U.S.-Mexico border, including Texas, Borkowski said.

Posted on March 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports an alarming increase in the number of immigrants who died trying to enter the United States last year. Here are excerpts from the article:

The number of immigrant bodies – Mexican and those still unidentified – dealt with by the Mexican consulate in three South Texas counties rose 72 percent in 2008 over the previous year.

The Mexican Consulate in McAllen, which takes the cases for Hidalgo, Starr and Brooks counties, handled 67 bodies in 2008 found by U.S. authorities, as well as those retrieved from the Rio Grande on the Mexican side, The McAllen Monitor reported in Sunday’s editions. A year earlier there were 39.

Officials believe an intensified Border Patrol presence as well as new segments of a levee-border wall in Hidalgo County are pushing illegal immigrants to riskier routes.

“I am sure that they are risking themselves through more isolated areas around checkpoints,” said Erasmo Martinez, Mexico’s consul in McAllen.

Posted on February 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Saturday March 7, 2009, attorney Eugenia Ponce will give a seminar about immigration and citizenship issues. The presentation will be at the Irving Central Public Library at 2:00 in the afternoon. Admission is free, but seating is limited so please arrive early. A question and answer segment will follow the formal presentation. The address of the library is 801 West Irving Blvd., Irving, Texas 75060.

For more information, please call us at (214) 999-9999.

Posted on February 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This announcement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency this week struck me as humorous. I love M&M candies, but now I’m going to have to be a little more careful about popping a handful in my mouth!

Brownsville, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge discovered $37,000 in Ecstasy concealed in M&M candy bags under the clothing; two Mexican citizens were arrested.

On February 17, at 12:58 p.m., CBP officers at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge referred two male pedestrians for secondary inspection. The first male identified as Armando Padron Nieto, a 21-year-old, a Mexican citizen from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico and the second Jose Alberto Luna Trejo, an 18-year-old Mexican citizen from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. CBP officers’ examination of the male’s clothing and person resulted in the discovery that they each had six M&M candy bags that had been opened and resealed containing Ecstasy pills hidden under their clothing. A total of 1,867 pills of Ecstasy were discovered.

M&M bags were resealed after being stuffed with $37,000 worth of Ecstasy.

The Ecstasy in these enforcement actions has an estimated street value of over $37,000. The two males were arrested by CBP officers and turned over to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents who continue to investigate the seizure. After thorough review of the case, both males were processed by the Cameron County Distinct Attorney’s Office on state drug charges.

“Observational skills by CBP officers greatly contributed in the interception of this sizeable amount of Ecstasy pills. Outstanding work by all involved,” said Michael Freeman, CBP port director, Brownsville.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Posted on February 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports the results of a recent survey showing that Latino immigrants to the United States lost jobs at a faster pace than the broader workforce last year after a sharp contraction in the construction industry where many immigrants work. Here are excerpts from the article:

The survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, based on U.S. census figures, showed unemployment among foreign-born Hispanics reached 8 percent in the last quarter of 2008, up from 5.1 percent a year earlier.

The losses outstripped those in the broader labor market, where unemployment rose to 6.6 percent in the period, up from 4.6 percent a year earlier, the study found.

About 10.8 million foreign-born Hispanics worked in the U.S. at the close of last year, according to government figures, which do not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

The labor participation rate of foreign-born Hispanics has contracted about 1 percentage point, to 70.4 percent in the fourth quarter, the Pew study said. But Rakesh Kochhar, the study’s author, refrained from concluding that either foreign-born Latinos were returning to Latin America or fewer Latin Americans were coming into the U.S.

Mexico’s top diplomat in North Texas, Enrique Hubbard, recently said he believes that the number of foreign-born Mexicans in the region has remained the same. Some have returned to Mexico, but others have moved here from other states whose economies are more battered than that of Texas, Mr. Hubbard said.

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on January 17, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

Posted on January 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial in the Dallas Morning News today reaches the opposite conclusion than my earlier posts on the new Texas drivers licenses for immigrants. The News believes this will reduce profiling, and I think it will increase discrimination against legal immigrants.

We don’t ask FBI agents to stop searching for kidnap victims in order to write speeding tickets in school zones, so I don’t know why we should ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

There are reasons to be squeamish about the new “temporary visitor” licenses and ID cards that the Department of Public Safety now issues to legal immigrants. There are also strong justifications, and, on balance, they outweigh the drawbacks.

The vertical layout of the new card is designed to distinguish its holder as someone deserving of extra scrutiny, which doesn’t sit well with many people. Immigrants might feel they’re getting a mixed message. We tell them to assimilate, but we issue them a special ID that says: You’re not one of us.

Yet this new format and the security measures behind it are necessary. There are 12 million or more illegal immigrants residing in America, and according to a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center study, nearly half of them arrived legally but overstayed their visas.

The new cards specifically address this problem, getting rid of the standard expiration periods that allowed immigrants to drive legally or present a valid ID even though they were in the country illegally. Instead, temporary visitors’ licenses will expire when their visas expire. The vertical format – the same one used for minors – tells law enforcement personnel to be extra vigilant.

Critics say the vertical card unnecessarily stigmatizes immigrants. Besides, the expiration date is all that really matters. But when officers in most cities stop drivers and see that the license expiration date has lapsed, the driver will receive only a misdemeanor citation. No arrest occurs.

With horizontal licenses, officers have no way of quickly determining whether a “foreign-looking” driver should be detained or allowed to leave. Ethnic considerations come into play as the officer decides whether an immigration check is necessary. The horizontal ID invites racial profiling. The vertical ID dramatically reduces that problem.

Posted on December 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

There is an interesting twist to the continuing sage of the Farmers Branch, Texas efforts to restrict housing in that city to legal residents, and to exclude illegal immigrants. The latest census data show that Hispanics are now the largest demographic group in Farmers Branch, edging out whites. This was the subject of a story in the Dallas Morning News, and here are excerpts:

New census data shows the complexion of Farmers Branch is changing dramatically, giving activists fresh ammunition for their legal efforts and adding fuel to the debates over representation and illegal immigration in the city.

The estimates, released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, reveal that Hispanics have eclipsed whites to become the city’s largest demographic group. Residents overall are skewing older, and the median household income has declined.

On the city’s biggest issue – its ongoing efforts to drive illegal immigrants from the city – the information is far less conclusive.

The figures, part of the American Community Survey, represent a composite of surveys taken from 2005 to 2007. It provides the first look at Farmers Branch socioeconomically and demographically since the 2000 Census. A Dallas Morning News analysis of the statistics showed:

•Hispanics accounted for 46.7 percent of the city’s population, while whites made up 46.1 percent. In 2000, whites accounted for 55.8 percent, compared with 37.2 percent for Hispanics.

•The number of residents who speak Spanish at home increased, while the number who speak only English decreased.

•Home values have risen, but the majority of homes are valued at $150,000 or less.

Experts caution against drawing too many conclusions from the data, because some of the figures are built upon estimates with a significant margin of error. But they agree that the information draws a compelling picture of change.

Council member Tim Scott, who reviewed the census figures, said the statistics show a city in desperate need of renewal.

Residents who lived in their homes for decades have moved out, leaving aging houses that draw new residents with lower income and education levels, Mr. Scott said.

“That’s just not sustainable as a city going forward, which is why we need some wholesale revitalization,” he said.

Besides the voting rights lawsuit, Farmers Branch has been tied up in litigation over efforts to ban most illegal immigrants from renting apartments and homes.

Posted on December 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I’ve written before about the new Texas law requiring foreign nationals to use a different form of driver’s license than that used by U.S. citizens. Now opponents of that law are calling on politicians to rescind the rule. The Dallas Morning News had a good story on this subject today. Here are excerpts.

Under the new requirements, which were approved by Texas’ Public Safety Commission and went into effect Oct. 1, foreign nationals are forced to provide documentation of their immigration status before getting a license and each time they renew.

The licenses and identification cards, which are now vertical instead of horizontal for immigrants, are stamped with the words “temporary visitor” and list the date the person’s legal residency expires.

Supporters say the new guidelines — which ban the Department of Public Safety from issuing or renewing licenses for any immigrant who is here illegally, or who has permission to stay in the country fewer than six months — are necessary to protect the country from terrorist acts. The Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by hijackers who had valid driver’s licenses despite having expired visas.

“I strongly support the recent DPS rule changes that ensure public safety and national security, and am confident the vast majority of Texans feel the same way,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “…Those who criticize these new rules fail to acknowledge the realities of the world in which we live, where we must know who is in our state and nation, whether or not they mean us harm.”

But opponents say that the changes constitute “institutionalized racism” and that the “temporary visitor” language on the card could affect immigrants’ chances at renting housing or securing a loan.

And they say the Public Safety Commission overstepped its authority by passing something akin to immigration policy. Several lawmakers are planning their own legislation to try to counter the new guidelines.

DPS officials deny that the new rules have caused trouble. U.S. citizens don’t have to provide any additional evidence; birth certificates and other information already on file with the state is sufficient. Nor have online and mail-in renewals been disrupted for citizens.

And they say it’s certainly not a profiling tool. People who are living in the country illegally and try to get a driver’s license are simply being turned away – not arrested.

The rules are an effort to get Texas in compliance with the federal REAL ID act, which requires states to ensure driver’s licenses are issued only to people who are lawfully in the country by late 2009. Changing the appearance of the licenses is not a federal requirement, and U.S. homeland security officials say they have no records on how many states have done that.

Posted on December 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Bulletin from Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily try to recruit foreigners who have been living in the states on student and work visas as well as on refugee and political asylum status.

Officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates is authorizing the armed forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose critical medical and language skills are “vital to the national interest.”

In doing so, he is using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

The military previously has already been taking recruits who have green cards. But the new move allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 aliens who have lived in the states legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

Posted on December 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

In what is becoming a financial disaster for the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, a judge has now ordered collection of more electronic documents from the city. As everyone probably knows, Farmers Branch has been trying for quite a while to enact city ordinances banning illegal immigrants from living there. Each attempt has been met with lawsuits, always resulting in more legal fees for the city and much wasted productivity.

This is more evidence that the federal government needs to step up and take responsibility for immigration law enforcement and reform. We can’t continue to have cities and states waste valuable resources trying to do the work of the federal government. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News story about the latest Farmers Branch immigration news:

State District Judge Bruce Priddy ruled that a third party would be hired to collect the city documents because initial efforts had not been satisfactory. He also ruled that the city would have to pay all the costs, at least initially.

Attorneys for the plaintiff said the ruling was a sanction against the city for failing to comply with a court order to turn over all documents related to the city’s ordinances. A lawyer for the city said Farmers Branch had prevailed in its efforts to keep some documents privileged. “This ruling goes to the heart of the matter,” said William A. Brewer III, who represents a Farmers Branch resident suing the city. “The city continues to frustrate the public’s right to know. … The lawsuit complains that the city is doing business not in public, when it drafts and deliberates and debates city business.”

Resident Guillermo Ramos has alleged that the city violated the Open Meetings Act in deliberating and acting on the various anti-illegal immigrant ordinances it has passed since 2006.

This week’s action is the latest development in the city’s efforts to ban rental housing for illegal immigrants.

Farmers Branch initially passed an ordinance in November 2006 requiring apartment managers to obtain documents showing that tenants are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The city subsequently repealed that ordinance, then approved a similar one that was also put up for a citywide vote.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, but it was challenged in court. In August, a federal judge ruled against the ordinance. While that case was working its way through the courts, the Farmers Branch City Council adopted another ordinance, but its implementation has been halted pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

The latest ordinance requires people renting a home or apartment to declare their citizenship or that they are in the country lawfully and to obtain a city rental occupancy license. Information from noncitizens would be verified through a federal database.

Posted on December 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that Rio Grande Valley property owners are having trouble finding property appraisers – key witnesses in hearings that will determine how much the government pays for the land it uses to build the border fence. This is going to be a major problem in the battle between the property owners and the U.S. government over the construction of a border barrier. Here are excerpts:

The limited supply of qualified appraisers for this sort of work in the valley, the cost of bringing in an appraiser from elsewhere, and the fact that the government grabbed the valley’s premier appraisal firm for its side could lead to fewer landowners holding out for a trial, said lawyers involved with the cases.

The Justice Department expects about 270 condemnation lawsuits against valley landowners. Most have settled, but federal lawyers say about 80 holdouts could carry their cases all the way to trial, scheduled to begin next spring.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to complete 670 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. It will not meet its end-of-year deadline, but has promised to have all sections under contract by then.

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

 The Associated Press reports that nearly 1 million Mexican migrants living in the U.S. are expected to head home for the holidays, but relatively few are returning loaded down with gifts and cash this year. This could have a profound effect on the upcoming immigration debate, but of course this situation will reverse when the U.S. economy improves. Here are excerpts from the story:

Many are simply moving back after losing their jobs in the U.S. economic crisis, a disappointing turn for an annual journey that has become a cherished tradition in towns and villages across Mexico.

Wearing an Old Navy sweat shirt, Enrique Gonzalez, 38, said all he was bringing back to Saucillo in northern Chihuahua state was his deported uncle’s furniture.

“There are no gifts, thanks to the recession,” said the Phoenix, Arizona, hotel employee as he waited for a permit for his truck and trailer at a Mexican Customs office in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Mexican Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Romero expects the usual number of Mexicans to return between Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite a spike in drug violence along the border, but says “some who are coming back are deciding to stay in Mexico for awhile.”

Greater border security, the U.S. crackdown on its undocumented population and the economic downturn have discouraged would-be migrants from heading north, legally and illegally. The Mexican government says emigration has dropped 42 percent over the last two years.

Many Mexicans already in the U.S. also are giving up on the American dream. Even before the economic crisis, in first-quarter 2008, Hispanic unemployment was at 6.5 percent, well above the 4.7 percent rate for all non-Hispanics. Another key indicator is that money migrants send home — Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign income — has fallen this year for the first time since record-keeping began 12 years ago.

Posted on November 26, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press reports that the British government is issuing ID card to foreign nationals. The program will start with roughly 50,000 foreign students and spouses of permanent residents. This is a little frightening for those of us who don’t entirely trust what governments might do with the information on national ID cards. Here are excerpts from the article:

Government officials say the cards should provide a tamperproof way to determine a person’s true identity and whether they are eligible to work in Britain. They say they will be more accurate and harder to forge than passports.

Opposition lawmakers say it will be costly and unproductive, and privacy advocates complain that the British government is compiling an unprecedented database.

“This is a huge infringement of our privacy,” said Mairi Clare Rogers, a spokeswoman for the National Council for Civil Liberties.

The cards will contain a computer chip with fingerprint information and other data, including date of birth and nationality. Each will cost $45.

The last time Britain had ID cards was at the end of World War II.

Other foreign nationals living and working in Britain will not be immediately affected, but they will eventually need cards as the program is expanded.

Posted on November 24, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

News from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

November 21, 2008 – WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced an extension to the re-registration period for nationals of Nicaragua and Honduras who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and are now eligible to re-register and maintain their status an additional 18 months. Initially, the 60-day re-registration period for nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua began Oct. 1, 2008 and ended on Dec. 1, 2008. This re-registration period is now being extended through Dec. 30, 2008. Additionally, USCIS has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for eligible Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS beneficiaries for 6 months through July 5, 2009.  This will allow sufficient time for eligible TPS beneficiaries to re-register and receive an EAD without any lapse in employment authorization.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) previously published Notices in the Federal Register on Oct. 1, 2008, announcing that the TPS designations of Honduras and Nicaragua have been extended 18 months from January 6, 2009 through July 5, 2010.  The extension will make those who have already been granted TPS eligible to re-register and maintain their status for an additional 18 months.  There are approximately 3,500 nationals of Nicaragua and 70,000 nationals of Honduras (and people having no nationality who last habitually resided in Honduras and Nicaragua) eligible for TPS re-registration.  TPS does not apply to Nicaraguan or Honduran nationals who entered the United States after Dec.. 30, 1998. Nicaraguan and Honduran TPS beneficiaries are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible within the registration period that now ends Dec. 30, 2008.  The extension of TPS for Nicaragua and Honduras is effective Jan. 6, 2009 and will remain in effect through July 5, 2010. TPS beneficiaries must submit the Application for Temporary Protected Status, Form I-821, without the application fee and the Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765, in order to re-register for TPS. A separate biometric service fee, or a fee waiver request, must be submitted by re-registrants, 14-years of age and older.  If the applicant is only seeking to re-register for TPS and is not seeking an extension of employment authorization, he or she must submit Form I-765 for data-gathering purposes only and is not required to submit the I-765 filing fee.  All applicants seeking an extension of employment authorization through July 5, 2010 must submit the required application filing fee with Form I-765 or a fee waiver request with proper documentation.  Failure to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee waiver request will result in the rejection of the re-registration application.

Further details on the extensions of the TPS re-registration periods for Nicaragua and Honduras and automatic extensions of the EADs will be available in a Federal Register notice scheduled to be published on Nov. 24, 2008.  More information can also be obtained from the USCIS National Customer Service Center toll-free number 1-800-375-5283.  TPS forms are available from the toll-free USCIS Forms line, 1-800-870-3676

Posted on November 21, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

For better or worse, the The Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition has launched a new network of Internet cameras aimed at the Mexican border in the latest effort to bolster local border security efforts with live video steaming. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article:

Much like during the monthlong test run of border cameras, users watching the cameras will be able to anonymously e-mail law enforcement to report suspicious activity. During the pilot program, 14,800 e-mails reporting suspicious behavior, suggestions for improvement, and other comments were sent to state officials.

That initial pilot project, Texas Border Watch, was riddled with technological glitches. Pictures from the cameras were grainy and some of the Web cameras were placed so high that it was difficult to distinguish from bush from a person. Images from the cameras available Thursday appeared clearer than previous pictures beamed from the border.

State officials canceled the bidding process for a new camera network – the state had hoped to place about 200 cameras along the border – after the bid deadline expired in mid-April. Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry’s office, said the bids “were going to do too little and cost too much.”

The deal between the border sheriffs and BlueServo will allow the company to sell advertising “to defray the infrastructure and costs of operating” the program, according to a statement from the coalition.

To view the cameras, visit BlueServo.

Posted on November 20, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post reports that Janet Napolitano will be appointed as Secretary of Homeland Security:

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), whose handling of immigration issues brought her accolades from fellow governors, is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to serve as secretary of homeland security, Democratic sources said late Wednesday.

Napolitano, 50, was an early supporter of Obama and was the only elected official tapped to serve on his transition team. She was reelected in 2006 to a second term as governor of Arizona, the home state of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in the race against Obama. Napolitano previously served as U.S. attorney and state attorney general for Arizona; she was the first woman in both of those posts.

Posted on November 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

A few days ago I wrote about the absurd policy of the Dallas Independent School District to issue fake Social Security numbers (temporarily) to new employees. Now the Dallas Morning News has weighed in with an editorial on the subject: 

OK, let’s see if we understand this. The Dallas school district knowingly used faked Social Security numbers to make the paperwork for some foreign-born hires go through more smoothly.

Really?

And furthermore, after the Texas Education Agency found out in 2004, warned DISD that the practice was illegal and told it to stop, Ross Avenue officials kept right on falsifying records – potentially a federal crime?

Really?

According to an internal DISD investigation reported by The Dallas Morning News’ Tawnell Hobbs, the district continued the “systemic” fraudulent practice until this summer, when TEA tipped off DISD’s inspector general office. TEA’s Doug Phillips told The News: “We just knew it looked bad and smelled bad. That was the first time we’d ever heard of that one.”

We’d all like to see innovation in DISD, but that’s not the way to do it.

Seriously, the DISD administration continues to make public schooling in this city a laughingstock, and there’s nothing funny about that. The more outrageous stories like this get generated out of DISD headquarters, the harder it is for true reformers within the system and their supporters to keep the public engaged. Worse still is that stunts like this wash over any good work occurring in the classroom.

To be fair to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, the Social Security scam started before he arrived and ended on his watch, after TEA informed the Office of Professional Responsibility – the in-house watchdog he created in the wake of the procurement-card scandal.

Fine. But we have to ask: Who in the human resources department or elsewhere at DISD had a hand in this latest fiasco – and approved it? Do these people still draw DISD paychecks?

If so, why?

Dr. Hinojosa surely knows these scandals are making him the fool, exhausting the patience of his supporters and destroying public trust. He should have on his desk today the resignations of any administrator culpable in this scam.

And if he will not or cannot, he should do us all a favor and pink-slip himself.

Posted on November 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Texas Department of Public Safety has decided to drop plans to create driver’s license checkpoints on Texas highways in the face of strong lawmaker opposition and suspicions that the proposal targeted illegal immigrants. Here are excerpts:

Fifteen state lawmakers asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to ignore the opinion request made in September. Some suspected the purpose of the checkpoints was to crack down on illegal immigrants.

In August, the public safety commission issued new rules for driver’s license applicants to prove they are here legally.

“A state agency is making immigration policy for the state of Texas, and that is not their job,” Democratic state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon told the San Antonio Express-News.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 1994 that checkpoints would have to be approved by a “politically accountable governing body at the state level.” The Legislature has not passed bills outlining procedures for checkpoints.

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was among those who said the proposed driver’s license checkpoints, coupled with the requirement for proving immigration status, could lead to profiling.

Posted on November 14, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News today reports an incredible story about how the Dallas Independent School District issued fake Social Security numbers as a “temporary measure” in order to get immigrant teachers and employees on the payroll. The plan was to use the fake number until the immigrant could get a real number. Unfortunately, some of the fake numbers were turned in to the Texas Education Agency, and the ruse was discovered. Here are excerpts from the article:

Years after being advised by a state agency to stop, the Dallas Independent School District continued to provide foreign citizens with fake Social Security numbers to get them on the payroll quickly.

The practice was described in an internal report issued in September by the district’s investigative office, which looked into the matter after receiving a tip. The report said the Texas Education Agency learned of the fake numbers in 2004 and told DISD then that the practice “was illegal.”

The fake numbers were assigned as a stopgap to expedite the hiring process, the report says. The numbers were supposed to serve as temporary identification numbers until employees received real Social Security numbers. Once employees got the real numbers, they were supposed to tell district officials so the fake ones could be replaced.

Here’s how the Dallas school district’s false Social Security number process worked:

•Foreign educators on visas were assigned false Social Security numbers to get them on DISD’s payroll.

•The foreign employees were instructed to obtain Social Security numbers from the Social Security Administration and report them to the district.

•Once employees received the real numbers, the district entered those numbers in place of the fake ones in a computerized management system.

•The fake numbers were supposed to be used temporarily until real numbers were in place. But some of the fake numbers wound up being sent to the Texas Education Agency when DISD asked TEA to conduct background checks on new hires. Those numbers stayed in the system if DISD didn’t replace them with real Social Security numbers obtained by the employees.

Some of the numbers were real Social Security numbers already assigned to people elsewhere. And in some cases, the state’s educator certification office unknowingly used the bogus numbers to run criminal background checks on the new hires, most of whom were brought in to teach bilingual classes.

Posted on November 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times recently ran a very long, but important, article about medical care received in the United States by immigrants. The gist of the story is that the medical care is inadequate, regardless of the immigrant’s legal status. This is shocking – many legal immigrants in the U.S. receive poor medical care perhaps for the simple reason that they are immigrants. I urge you to read the article. Here are a few very short excerpts:

Soon after Antonio Torres, a husky 19-year-old farmworker, suffered catastrophic injuries in a car accident last June, a Phoenix hospital began making plans for his repatriation to Mexico.

Antonio Torres’s experience sharply illustrates the haphazard way in which the American health care system handles cases involving uninsured immigrants who are gravely injured or seriously ill. Whether these patients receive sustained care in this country or are privately deported by a hospital depends on what emergency room they initially visit.

There is only limited federal financing for these fragile patients, and no governmental oversight of what happens to them. Instead, it is left to individual hospitals, many of whom see themselves as stranded at the crossroads of a failed immigration policy and a failed health care system, to cut through a thicket of financial, legal and ethical concerns.

An examination by The Times of cases across the country involving seriously injured and ill immigrants shows patients at the mercy of hospitals and hospitals at the mercy of a system that provides neither compensation nor guidance. Taken together, the cases reveal a playbook of improvised responses, from aggressive to compassionate.

Posted on November 6, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

That is the headline of a blog post at ThinkProgress.org. I don’t know that there is any connection, but this resignation seems quite sudden, and it does give rise to speculation.

Here is the press release from the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted on October 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

On October 8, 2008, Kraft & Associates immigration attorney Eugenia Ponce made a presentation to teenage students of the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. This is a magnet school of the Dallas Independent School District, and is located on Robert B. Cullum Blvd. in Dallas. The students who attended the presentation are interested in becoming attorneys.

The presentation covered such topics as the exam required for admission to law school, the law school experience, law school tests, the bar exam, and the various practice areas available to lawyers in Texas.

Posted on October 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas has now enacted a very controversial law requiring foreign nationals to get a different type of drivers license than that used for U.S. citizens. The license will have a vertical, rather than horizontal, orientation, so it will be instantly recognizable by anyone who sees it — including potential landlords or employers. The licenses will also be stamped with the words “temporary visitor” and will list the date the legal residency expires.

The Department of Public Safety is instructed not to issue or renew licenses for any immigrant who is here illegally, or who has overstayed his or her residency. The DPS also will not issue licenses to legal immigrants who have permission to stay for fewer than six months.

Aside from the obvious concerns about profiling, some people worry that illegal immigrants will now not be able to get auto insurance since they won’t have drivers licenses. This could increase Texas’ already extremely high percentage of drivers who do not have auto liability insurance, thereby driving up the costs of auto insurance for the rest of us.

Posted on September 22, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An article this month in the Washington Post suggests that the much-debated fence along the Mexican border is unlikely to be completed before the Bush administration ends. The delays have been caused by apparently unforeseen difficulties in acquiring land for the fence, and by rapidly increasing construction costs that have depleted the allocated funds for the fence.

Approximately half of the proposed fence has been built, but disputes with remaining landowners have slowed further progress. Budget problems are being caused by the rising construction expenses. Currently the vehicle barriers are costing about $2.8 million per mile, and pedestrian fencing is costing an astonishing $7.5 million per mile.

As always, the administration is blaming Congress, and Congress is blaming the administration for the delays and cost overruns.

Posted on July 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Individuals seeking access to their immigration records may do so by filling out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The requests are handled under the provisions of FOIA 5 U.S.C § 552 and usually take around a year so before the documents are copied and sent back to the individual. To obtain information on their FOIA request, individuals have had to call the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) FOIA Requester Service Center. 

Recently, USCIS launched an online FOIA Request Status Check service allowing individuals to receive a response online by entering their assigned control number. You can access the FOIA Request Status Check via the Internet at USCIS.gov.

Posted on June 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State has released the July 2008 Visa Bulletin. Just click the link to view the bulletin.

Posted on May 28, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting this afternoon that U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay has declared the Farmer’s Branch rental ban (aimed at illegal immigrants) is unconstitutional. Here are excerpts:

In his decision Wednesday, the judge concluded Farmers Branch didn’t defer to the federal government in immigration matters. Instead, the city tried to create its own classification to determine which noncitizens could rent in Farmers Branch.

Council members passed the ordinance last year. It would have barred apartment rentals to illegal immigrants and required landlords to verify legal status. The rule made a few exemptions for minors, seniors and some mixed-immigration status families.

Residents endorsed the law 2 to 1 in May during the nation’s first public vote on a local government measure meant to combat illegal immigration.

Posted on May 27, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

A disappointing and disturbing article has been published by the New York Times concerning corruption within the Border Patrol. Fortunately, the vast majority of those serving our country in the Border Patrol are honest, hard-working people. But as the Patrol expands rapidly, there seems to be an alarming increase in the number of “bad apples” in the agency. Here are brief excerpts from the artice:

Mr. Villarreal and a brother, Fidel, also a former Border Patrol agent, are suspected of helping to smuggle an untold number of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Brazil across the border. The brothers quit the Border Patrol two years ago and are believed to have fled to Mexico.

The Villarreal investigation is among scores of corruption cases in recent years that have alarmed officials in the Homeland Security Department just as it is hiring thousands of border agents to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles filled with illegal immigrants, drugs or other contraband. A Border Patrol agent acts as a scout for smugglers. Trusted officers fall prey to temptation and begin taking bribes.

Increased corruption is linked, in part, to tougher enforcement, driving smugglers to recruit federal employees as accomplices. It has grown so worrisome that job applicants will soon be subject to lie detector tests to ensure that they are not already working for smuggling organizations. In addition, homeland security officials have reconstituted an internal affairs unit at Customs and Border Protection, one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies, overseeing both border agents and customs officers.

While the corruption investigations involve a small fraction of the overall security workforce on the border, the numbers are growing. In the 2007 fiscal year, the Homeland Security Department’s main anticorruption arm, the inspector general’s office, had 79 investigations under way in the four states bordering Mexico, compared with 31 in 2003. Officials at other federal law enforcement agencies investigating border corruption also said their caseloads had risen.

The federal government says it carefully screens applicants, but some internal affairs investigators say they have been unable to keep up with the increased workload.

The Border Patrol alone is expected to grow to more than 20,000 agents by the end of 2009, more than double from 2001, when the agency began to expand in response to concerns about national security. There has also been a large increase in the number of customs officers.

Posted on May 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, a group of Texas cities and business groups has sued the Department of Homeland Security to stop the construction of a fence along the border with Mexico. Here are excerpts:

The Texas Border Coalition, which includes the mayors of Eagle Pass, Brownsville, El Paso, Laredo and Hidalgo, filed the suit in federal court in Washington on Friday, asking a judge to block construction of 70 miles of border fences and walls in the Rio Grande Valley.

The lawsuit seeks class-action certification and accuses Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Customs and Border Patrol officials of not telling landowners they had the right to negotiate the price for the federal use of their land, concealing how they decide what constitutes a reasonable price for land seized for the fence and showing favoritism to wealthy or well-connected landowners.

 “What we haven’t done is we haven’t given everybody a veto,” Mr. Chertoff said. “If somebody says they prefer an open border, we don’t necessarily give them the right to make that judgment because the consequences of an open border are smuggling of drugs and human beings into this country.”

But Chad Foster, the mayor of Eagle Pass and chairman of the coalition, said that Homeland Security, under pressure to build a fence, is ignoring less-intrusive and more practical measures to secure the border with Mexico.  

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said the department had no intention to back down from its plans.

“We’ve nearly bent over backward to work with landowners,” she said in a written statement. “Accusations to the contrary are either ill-informed or just plain wrong.”

Posted on May 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Des Moines Register is reporting today that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made the largest raid in Iowa history at a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. Here are excerpts:

Postville, Ia. – At least 300 people were arrested today at the Agriprocessors, Inc. meat packing plant, federal officials said. The operation, which targeted people who illegally used other persons Social Security numbers and were in the U.S. illegally, was the largest of its kind in Iowa, said Claude Arnold, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agents with ICE have received information about immigration violations at the plant over the past two years, according to a federal search warrant made public today. Authorities said they will release more details at another press conference tomorrow morning in Cedar Rapids. Postville, on the border of Allamakee and Clayton counties, is a community of more than 2,500 people that includes natives of German and Norwegian heritage and newcomers who include Hasidic Jews from New York, plus immigrants from Mexico, Russian, Ukraine and many other countries. The Agriprocessors plant, known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.

Posted on May 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in today’s Dallas Morning News, the growth of the Latino population in the United States and in Texas is continuing at a rapid pace. Here are excerpts:

The percentage of Hispanics in Texas and the nation grew again last year, continuing a trend that has endured throughout the decade, new statistics show.

Today, the U.S. Census will release population estimates showing that Hispanics in the U.S. numbered 45.5 million in 2007, an increase of 1.4 million during the yearlong period beginning in July 2006. In Texas, the number of Hispanics has grown to make up 36 percent of the state’s population, up from 32 percent in 2000.

Among the census’ other findings:

• Hispanics made up 15.1 percent of the 301 million U.S. residents in 2007, compared to 12.5 percent eight years ago.

• In terms of births and migration into the United States, Hispanics arrived in numbers three times those of non-Hispanic whites.

• Since the last census, Texas has added 1.9 million Hispanics, or five of every eight new Texans.

Moreover, experts say, the trend won’t end soon: The median age of non-Hispanic whites in Texas last year was nearly 40 years old, compared to about 27 for Hispanics. The disparity in most other states was larger.

Also, as immigrants learn English, they’ll assimilate in terms of American culture and friends, and marry non-Hispanics, the experts said.

Posted on April 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I don’t know if his plan is to keep other citizens of Texas out of Brownsville or to keep Brownsville residents out of the rest of Texas, but Congressman Tom Tancredo made a very strange statement in Brownsville yesterday. Here’s the story from the Channel 5 TV station in Weslaco:

BROWNSVILLE – A Colorado Congressman is under fire this morning for making a controversial statement to some Brownsville landowners.

Republican Tom Tancredo supports the border wall. The U.S. representative attended the hearing in Brownsville yesterday.

During the hearing, he told the Brownsville landowners, “I suggest that you build this fence around the northern part of your city…” implying that all of Brownsville should be on the Mexican side of the wall.

Right now NEWSCHANNEL 5 is working to get clarification from Congressman Tancredo.

Posted on April 17, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that immigration agents raided several companies across the country, and arrested quite a few people for identity theft. Especially hard-hit was a Pilgrim’s Pride plant in East Texas. Here are excerpts from the story:

Federal immigration officials on Wednesday arrested more than 280 workers employed at Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants in five states, including Texas, on suspicion of committing identity theft. The crackdown is part of a widening criminal investigation involving workers at the world’s largest poultry processor. “This case is a good example of our efforts to prosecute identity theft that harms credit and the good name of U.S. citizens,” said Julie Myers, assistant secretary for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “We have cooperated fully with the government,” said Ray Atkinson, a Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman, at corporate headquarters in Pittsburg, Texas. Pilgrim’s Pride also participates in a federal government program to voluntarily check Social Security numbers against workers’ names in two government databases, Mr. Atkinson said. The program is known as E-Verify. It has been criticized as error-prone and because it can’t detect workers who are using authentic Social Security numbers connected to a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident. “Unfortunately, it does not detect ID theft situations,” Mr. Atkinson said of E-Verify. Identity fraud is a felony under federal law, and a growing problem as federal immigration efforts have intensified and workers in the U.S. illegally have looked for ways to avoid detection. Some U.S. citizens, and legal residents, rent or share their Social Security numbers, making detection even more arduous. In Houston, Dallas and Washington, D.C., advocates for those detained denounced the law enforcement round-ups. Douglas Rivlin of the National Immigration Forum noted the U.S. arrival on Tuesday of Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI and the pontiff’s message to President Bush on immigration. “At the same moment that Pope Benedict XVI was admonishing President Bush that the U.S. must treat immigrants with dignity and humanity, the Bush administration was rounding up immigrant workers in raids in at least five states across the country,” Mr. Rivlin said in a prepared statement. “What a black eye for the president and for the United States.” Pilgrim’s Pride officials have been activists for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. An attempt at such reform failed last year in Congress. It would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, a guest worker program and toughened enforcement against employers.

Posted on April 15, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News today reports that 28 separate federal laws or regulations were waived in order for Homeland Security to build the Texas-Mexico border fence. It looks like the waivers will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Here are exerpts:

The U.S. Supreme Court may get a chance to join the fractious debate over building fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. A legal challenge by two environmental groups seeking to limit enhanced Department of Homeland Security powers to suspend more than 30 laws to build the fence is gathering support in Congress. But at least one constitutional expert said that although the legal challenge underscores the broad array of powers Congress has delegated to Homeland Security, “environmentalists face an uphill battle.” “There is a legitimate legal gripe here, in that there are serious questions about how much power Congress can delegate to other branches of government,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law authority at George Washington University Law School. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the waiver of about three dozen environmental laws to expedite construction of the border fence in Texas and Arizona on April 1. “This blanket waiver of laws like the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act is a clear and disturbing abuse of the secretary’s discretion,” said U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee. “Congress’ efforts to seek justification for this waiver from DHS have been stonewalled, which leads me to believe none exists.” Congress also denied oversight by federal appeals courts to any challenges, except for a request to the Supreme Court to review. In his announcement of the most recent waivers, Mr. Chertoff said that Homeland Security remains committed to environmental responsibility and that the agency “is neither compromising its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship nor its commitment to solicit and respond to the needs of state, local and tribal governments, other agencies of the federal government and local residents.” He stressed that his agency will continue to work closely with the Department of Interior and other federal and state resources management agencies to ensure that impact to the environment and cultural and historic artifacts is properly analyzed and minimized. But the size and scope of the use of waivers to clear the path for construction of the border fence is virtually unprecedented, Dr. Turley said. More troubling, he added, is the apparent dismissal of due process as “endless debate or protracted litigation.” Mr. Chertoff has said the waivers are necessary because “criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.” But Dr. Turley said Congress has in recent years “become almost waiver happy.” “They see it as a form of no-cost legislating,” he said. “But there is no evidence Congress considered the implications of giving Homeland Security such broad waiver power.” There are indications that Congress may be trying to regain some of the authority it gave away. Hidalgo Couny: Laws in suspension: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waived the following laws for construction of the border fence in Hidalgo County, Texas: 1. National Environmental Policy Act 2. Endangered Species Act 3. Federal Water Pollution Control Act 4. National Historic Preservation Act 5. Migratory Bird Treaty Act 6. Clean Air Act 7. Archaeological Resources Protection Act 8. Safe Drinking Water Act 9. Noise Control Act 10. Solid Waste Disposal Act 11. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 12. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act 13. Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act 14. Antiquities Act 15. Historic Sites, Buildings and Antiquities Act 16. Farmland Protection Policy Act 17. Coastal Zone Management Act 18. Federal Land Policy and Management Act 19. National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act 20. Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 21. Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act 22. Administrative Procedure Act 23. Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 24. Eagle Protection Repatriation Act 25. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 26. American Indian Religious Freedom Act 27. Religious Freedom Restoration Act 28. Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 SOURCE: Federal Register Online

Posted on April 9, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s a troubling bit of news from today’s Dallas Morning News: Violence against U.S. Border Patrol agents is up 47 percent for the first six months of the fiscal year, as surveillance toughens along the 2,000-mile stretch of U.S.-Mexico border, David Aguilar, the nation’s top Border Patrol official, said Tuesday.

“As we continue to gain control of our borders, we fully expected the violence to go up,” said Mr. Aguilar, in Dallas for a quarterly gathering of about 50 sector chiefs and other leaders. In the past six months, there have been nearly 500 incidents against Border Patrol agents, as varied as rock-throwing, physical assaults and gunfire. Smugglers “frankly thought they owned” the border region, and could operate with impunity, Mr. Aguilar said.

Posted on April 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I posted recently about the Bush administration getting a waiver to bypass environmental regulations so work could proceed on the Texas-Mexico border fence. The Dallas Morning News published an article yesterday about two wildlife preserves that may disappear if the border fence is built. Here are excerpts:

Two nature preserves almost certainly will close after the announcement last week that the federal government would waive environmental protection laws for a fence along the border. “We’ll have to close,” said Anne Brown, executive director and vice president of Audubon Texas. “Basically, you’ve moved the border.” The Sabal Palm Audubon Center and most of the Nature Conservancy’s Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve would end up in the no-man’s land between the fence and Mexico.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Tuesday that he would bypass more than 30 environmental laws and regulations to build the section of the fence, designed to stop illegal immigration and smuggling.

Posted on April 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Well, this is one way to do it. I’ve written a lot on this blog about the resistance Texas landowners are showing toward the building of a new fence along the Texas-Mexico border. Now comes word today that the Bush administration will plow ahead with the fence regardless of any opposition by landowners, by laws, or by regulations. Here are excerpts from a story today in the Dallas Morning News:

The Bush administration will use its authority to bypass more than 30 laws and regulations in an effort to finish building 670 miles of fence along the southwest U.S. border by the end of this year, federal officials said Tuesday. Invoking the two legal waivers — which Congress authorized — will cut through bureaucratic red tape and sidestep environmental laws that currently stand in the way of the Homeland Security Department building 267 miles of fencing in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, according to officials familiar with the plan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly about it. As of March 17, there were 309 miles of fencing in place, leaving 361 to be completed by the end of the year to meet the department’s goal. Of those, 267 miles are being held up by federal, state and local laws and regulations, the officials said. One waiver will address the construction of a 22-mile levee barrier in Hidalgo County, Texas. The other waiver will cover 30 miles of fencing and technology deployment on environmentally sensitive ground in San Diego, southern Arizona and the Rio Grande; and 215 miles in California, Arizona and Texas that face other legal impediments due to administrative processes. For instance, building in some areas requires assessments and studies that — if conducted — could not be completed in time to finish the fence by the end of the year. Residents and property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border have complained about the construction of fencing. In South Texas, where opposition has been widespread, land owners refused to give the government access to property along the fence route. The government has since sued more than 50 property owners in South Texas to gain access to the land.

Posted on March 25, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, entangled in litigation about the city’s attempts to regulate illegal immigration at the municipal level, may have made an inadvertent error by asking for the legal status of tenants while enjoined from doing so by a federal court order.

Here are excerpts from a story today in the Dallas Morning News:

Farmers Branch acknowledged Monday that the city asked 11 apartment complexes to check whether prospective tenants were in the country legally, even though a federal judge has blocked enforcement of the city’s ban on rentals to illegal immigrants.

City Manager Gary Greer called the situation, involving an annual application for a rental license, inadvertent and an “unfortunate error.”

Management of seven of the 11 complexes signed the form, though two crossed out the improper language, Mr. Greer said.

It wasn’t known whether anyone had been turned away from an apartment, though Mr. Greer said: “To my knowledge, there is not anyone that is carrying this out. We will be checking into that, to be sure they understand that they don’t have to. …

“I’m doing everything I can do right now to make sure it never happens again.”

The city’s voters overwhelmingly approved a measure last May to require apartments to obtain proof of legal status before renting to anyone.

But lawsuits challenged the constitutionality of the measure, and U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement until the legal issues can be resolved. The case hasn’t yet reached trial.

Apartment complexes’ licenses to rent units expire at the end of each calendar year, and they must submit a new application. The city sent a proper license application to every complex in November. It asked applicants to acknowledge that they had received a copy of the apartment ordinances and would abide by them.

But early this month, when resending applications to complexes that still hadn’t renewed their licenses, the city inadvertently used the wrong form, Mr. Greer said. That version specifically mentioned a provision that requires landlords to verify that prospective renters are in the country legally.

Mr. Greer said the application form had been drafted in fall 2006, after the council first approved an ordinance banning apartment rentals to illegal immigrants. At the time, there were no lawsuits and no injunctions in place.

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 22, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting today that the government  will increase the fines levied against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The increase will be 25 percent, and is the first incrase in nearly a decade. Excerpt from the article:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for investigating illegal hirings, has stepped up its enforcement of the employer sanctions law in the past year, leading to a dozen major busts. Currently, fines range from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the offense. The agency says some penalties could include at least six months in jail.

Posted on February 20, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Today USCIS issued a press release explaining the recent decision to forego certain aspects of the FBI background checks. Here is the press release:

Federal Litigation Removed as Sole Basis to Expedite Check

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no longer routinely requesting the FBI to expedite a name check when the only reason for the request is that a mandamus (or other federal court petition) is filed in the case.

USCIS may continue to request an expedited FBI name check if the case meets one of the other approved criteria, including:

1. Military deployment, 2. Age-out cases not covered under the Child Status Protection Act, and applications affected by sunset provisions such as diversity visas, 3. Significant and compelling reasons, such as critical medical conditions, and

4. Loss of social security benefits or other subsistence at the discretion of the USCIS District Director.

The FBI name check is an invaluable part of the security screening process, ensuring that our immigration system is not used as a vehicle to harm our nation or its citizens. USCIS also requests an FBI name check to screen out people who seek immigration benefits improperly or fraudulently and ensure that only eligible applicants receive benefits.

Information about the FBI name check is available on the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center toll free at 1-800-375-5283.

Posted on February 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Phoenix is the latest city to try to do what the federal government refuses to do — resolve the nation’s perceived illegal immigration problems. Phoenix police will now start asking all people arrested in that city whether they are in the U.S. legally. Here are excerpts from an article in the New York Times:

The police in this city at the center of the immigration debate will soon ask all people arrested whether they are in the United States legally and will in certain cases report the information to the federal authorities, Mayor Phil Gordon announced on Friday. People stopped for civil traffic violations like speeding will not be questioned, nor will crime victims or witnesses. All those arrested on criminal charges like drunken driving and murder will be asked by officers whether they are in the United States legally. The police may decide to recommend checking by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The change includes having the police notify the immigration agency about people who are detained but not arrested who officers have “reasonable basis” to believe are illegal immigrants. A conservative legal group said the policy did not go far enough. Civil rights advocates suggested that people who appeared to be Latino or spoke with accents would be more likely to be checked than others. Hispanics make up 34 percent of Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city, with 1.5 million residents. The program departs from a policy that is more than 10 years old that bars officers from asking people about their legal status in most cases. It also sets Phoenix apart from most other big cities with large immigrant populations, including New York and Los Angeles. The police in those cities generally avoid such questions over fears that they would lead to racial profiling and discourage immigrants from cooperating with the police.

Posted on February 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting article about the effect of Oklahoma’s anti-immigrant laws on that state’s economy. Obviously there are two points of view to this situation, but this article points out some of the unintended financial consequences for Oklahoma. Here are excerpts:

The splintered trees, downed branches and piles of wood still littering nearly every neighborhood of this sprawling city two months after a devastating ice storm stand as a testament to something more than the ferocity of nature.

The debris is also a sign of the effectiveness ofOklahoma’s new law intended to drive illegal immigrants out of the state — the strictest such statute in the nation.

The branches are still here, many of the law’s critics say, because the undocumented workers who would have cleaned them up are not. “You really have to work hard at it to destroy our state’s economy, but we found a way,” said state Sen. Harry Coates, the only Republican in the state Legislature to vote against the immigration law. “We ran off the workforce.”

Continue Reading…

Posted on February 14, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News today has a very interesting story about Oklahoma’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant laws, and how those laws may provide templates for other states to follow. The article also notes several downsides of the tough laws, and emphasizes that while such laws might work in Oklahoma, a state with an estimated 7% Hispanic population, the situation would be much different in Texas, with an estimated 36% Hispanic population. Here are excerpts:

Welcome to the nation’s laboratory for a crackdown on illegal immigration. Last year, Oklahoma’s Legislature passed, by huge margins, the nation’s toughest law on illegal immigrants, making it a felony to harbor, transport, shelter or conceal undocumented immigrants.

This summer, the same law also will allow U.S. citizens to sue employers if they think they were fired in favor of illegal workers. Employers in the state say they already see the results: “A total lack of workers,” said Doug Forrest, a Tulsa site-preparation contractor and golf course builder. “This is potentially sending our state into a recession.”

Proponents of the law don’t see such economic harm.

Meanwhile, some Texas lawmakers are already promising bills that mirror Oklahoma’s House Bill 1804.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, said the Oklahoma measure has proved that even as Congress deadlocks on immigration, a state can protect itself against what he calls threats to public health and safety posed by a porous border.

“You don’t have to round up 20 million illegal aliens,” Mr. Berman said. “Stop the two free benefits you’re giving them – free health care and a free education – and they’ll go back across the Rio Grande.”

In December, Oklahoma Treasurer Scott Meacham said “some short-run pain” to that state’s economy might occur, if reports of temporary labor shortages in construction, agriculture and oilfield services industries proved severe and long-lasting.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several Oklahoma business groups recently sued to overturn the law, saying it improperly steps on federal government turf.

Only one group has tried to track the law’s effects on population. The Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, after checking with schools, churches, and bus lines with service to Mexico, estimated that between 15,000 and 25,000 illegal immigrants have left Tulsa County since the law was passed.

Several Christian denominations have said they’ll continue to urge parishioners to aid strangers, even though the law threatens those who transport or shelter “aliens” with at least one year in prison and/or at least a $1,000 fine.

In November, messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma passed a resolution saying the law “will not change their ministry to any people,” according to the Southern Baptist group’s Web site.

Last year, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law that:

•Restricts illegal immigrants’ access to driver’s licenses and ID cards.

•Cuts off several forms of public assistance for illegal immigrants. Emergency medical care, disaster aid and certain immunizations are exempted.

•Makes it harder for illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition.

•Encourages state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.

•Makes it a felony to harbor, transport, conceal or shelter illegal immigrants.

•Requires state and local governments to use a federal database that allows them to check potential employees’ work eligibility.

•Starting this summer, private employers and government contractors will have to verify employment eligibility of all new hires. Employers who don’t could be sued.

This year, Oklahoma lawmakers are considering bills that would:

•Designate English as the state’s official language.

•Let law enforcement seize the property of those who transport, hire or rent to illegal immigrants.

•Make public schools report how many illegal-immigrant children are enrolled.

•Repeal last year’s law.

•Repeal all of last year’s law, except for its ban on most public benefits.

Posted on February 13, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The March 2008 Visa Bulletin is available at the State Department, but still shows no availability of visas for employment-based second-preference for citizens of India. 

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 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 4, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that tougher anti-immigrant laws in nearby states are encouraging immigrants (legal and illegal) to move to Texas. Depending on your point of view, this is either bad for Texas taxpayers or good for Texas businesses. We’re getting a lot of new labor into the Texas market, but for those who believe immigrants are a drain on state-provided services, it’s not a positive development. I’m not one of those people, so I welcome the new residents. Here are excerpts:

Illegal immigrants are coming into Texas, but not from where most people think.

The rush is coming from Oklahoma, Arizona and other states, places that have recently passed tough new anti-illegal immigrant laws.

The Oklahoma statute, which took effect in November, makes it a crime to transport, harbor or hire illegal immigrants. Effective Jan. 1, the Arizona law suspends the business license of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. On a second offense, the license is revoked.

In Tulsa, Okla., the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has estimated that 15,000 to 25,000 illegal immigrants have left the area. One builder estimated that 30 percent of the Hispanic workforce left Tulsa.

“There’s been a tremendous impact in Oklahoma City,” said David Castillo, the executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve had several companies close shop and leave the state. Banks have called us and say they’re closing 30 accounts per week.”

Enrique Hubbard, Mexico’s consul general in Dallas, said a dozen Mexican families from Oklahoma have applied for consular documents listing their new homes in the Dallas area. He expects more to arrive because jobs are available in North Texas.

Texas’ reputation as a welcoming destination has experts predicting more immigrants will come to Houston and other cities in the state. Texas has not passed any statewide law targeting the employment of undocumented workers.

Posted on January 30, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s the latest update on the “border war” between Texas landowners and the federal government. The government is trying to get access to the private land in order to do surveying in advance of building a border fence or wall that would cut off many landowners from their primary water source – the Rio Grande. From the Dallas Morning News:

A federal judge has ordered Cameron County property owners to open their land to the government for border fence surveying, but not before he denied the government the right to take the land without a hearing.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville ordered 10 landowners to comply with the government’s request for access to their land for 180 days. Two others were near settlements with the government.

But Judge Hanen’s order revealed he had denied a request from the federal government for a swift and private order like the one it received in a similar case in Eagle Pass. In filing its suit, the Justice Department asked Judge Hanen to rule immediately without participation from the landowners, a legal maneuver that is allowed in eminent domain cases.

Posted on January 20, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS has released the latest application and receipting update:

USCIS Application and Receipting Update

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) advises customers that processing of fee payments and entry of cases into our tracking system remains behind schedule due to the tremendous increase in the number of applications filed. As a result, applicants are experiencing delays in receiving notices of receipt. USCIS is working hard to deal with the increased volume.

  • Date Received in Mailroom – USCIS will honor the actual date that an application was received in our mailroom; this date will be indicated on the receipt (in the Received Date box) when Form I-797, Notice of Action, is mailed. You can see a sample Form I-797 under “Related Links” on this page. If your case is affected by the receipt delay, arrival of your receipt may take up to 12 weeks for adjustment-of-status applications and 15 weeks for naturalization and other applications.

  • Weekly updates on Receipting – Until this situation is resolved, USCIS will provide these weekly updates on progress in issuing receipt notices to our customers. Additional information is available in Frequently Asked Questions, located under “Related Links” on this page.

  • Applications Received Prior to Posted Receipting Dates – If your application was received by USCIS before the posted dates below and you still have no receipt, please contact USCIS Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-375-5283.

We appreciate your understanding.

IMPORTANT:

Contact Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-375-5283 for:

Change of Address – If you have submitted your application and are changing your address, but have not yet received your receipt. (If you have a receipt, you can report your change of address from our website, using USCIS’ Change of Address Online.)

Unusual Delay – If you have not received a receipt within the timeframe indicated below for the Service Center where you filed your application.

As of January 4, 2008, USCIS had completed initial data entry and issued receipt notices for applications and petitions except for I-130s (Petition for Alien Relative) which are being receipted at the Chicago Lockbox facility, as noted below:

Chicago Lockbox (as of 1/18/08)

Form Number               Date Received

I-130                                 11/13/2007

All Other Forms                Current

Posted on January 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An article in the Houston Chronicle and a press release by the Department of Homeland Security both warn of border crossing delays to be caused by the new rules regarding identification requirements, effective January 31, 2008. Congress is wanting to delay the effective date of requiring passports, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is warning against that. Here are excerpts from the Chronicle article and from the DHS press release:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Thursday said the Bush administration would press forward with plans to require passports for anyone crossing into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada — despite a move by Congress that delays the mandate until June 2009.

“I want to get as close as possible to getting this implemented as I can during this president’s term in office,” Chertoff said, during a meeting with Hearst Corp. executives at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

At issue is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative’s requirement that travelers entering the U.S. by land or sea show passports or other approved documents to border officials.

The passport requirement became law in 2004 and was originally set to take effect this Jan. 1. But Congress has delayed the rule several times at the behest of border-state lawmakers who say the requirements are too cumbersome and would mean major changes for people accustomed to easily crossing the U.S.-Canada border to shop and work.

As part of a massive spending bill approved Wednesday — and expected to be signed into law by President Bush — members of Congress delayed the passport requirement until June 1, 2009, at the earliest.

Chertoff on Thursday lashed out at the lawmakers who pushed for the postponement and said they were more concerned about the bottom line of businesses than in keeping the nation’s borders secure.

Critics in Congress, including Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., have complained that the passport requirement will cause major headaches for residents who live along the U.S.-Canada border and are accustomed to easily traveling between the two countries.

The Department of Homeland Security also is moving ahead with plans, effective next Jan. 31, that require U.S. travelers to show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and government-issued ID to enter the country, rather than relying on travelers’ own statements that they are U.S. citizens.

Chertoff defended the passport requirement, saying it would streamline the assortment of documents that are now presented to border inspectors.

“It is impossible to expect our border inspectors to be able to verify that all of these different kinds of ID are genuine,” Chertoff said. “The way to correct it is to reduce the number of documents (that can be used as identification at the border) and ultimately require that they have certain security features.”

“Delaying this documentation requirement is keeping the door to illegal immigrants open,” Chertoff said. “It is a little silly to spend a lot of money building a fence when you’re kicking the door wide open and saying anybody can come in if they can wave a piece of paper that they can (easily counterfeit).”

DHS Ends Oral Declarations at Borders, Reminds Travelers of New Procedures on January 31

Continue Reading…

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 January 17, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN has written about the continuing saga of the Texas-Mexico border fence and the property owners denying the government access to their lands. This article discuss land owned by Eloisa Tamez. Here are excerpts:

Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said the fence will not be stopped by opponents like Tamez.

“Can we simply abandon an enterprise because it is a problem for a particular individual?” Chertoff told CNN. “I don’t think I can accept that.”

Chertoff believes a fence would curb the steady stream of illegal immigrants making their way across the border and lessen the flow of drugs. He also argues it will increase the safety of Border Patrol agents who have faced increasing violence.

The government wants to build 700 miles of fence along the Mexican border, including 370 miles of it by the end of this year. About 70 miles of fence is to be built in the Rio Grande Valley by year’s end, if the government gets its way.

The Border Patrol has stepped up its efforts in the Rio Grande Valley with more lights, and sensors to pick up movement. A levee built along the river has a muddy road on top used by Border Patrol vehicles to patrol the area.

Richard Cortez, the mayor of the border town of McAllen, Texas, believes hiring more Border Patrol agents, deepening the Rio Grande River, and clearing its banks of tall vegetation would provide better border protection than the fence.

Cortez calls the fence “a multibillion dollar speed bump,” which will slow, but not stop, illegal immigration.

“It is a false sense of security,” he says. “America will not be safe. America will continue to waste resources on something that is not going to work.”

Posted on January 14, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Conservative columnist Linda Chavez has an interesting opinion piece in today’s Dallas Morning News. She writes about the recently-passed immigration enforcement law in Arizona and reflects that the lack of use of the law indicates that citizens of Arizona understand they are better off with illegal immigrants than without them. Here are excerpts:

Arizona has been ground zero in the fight against illegal immigration – but a funny thing happened earlier this month when a new anti-illegal-immigrant state law went into effect. Nothing.

The law, one of the toughest in the nation, requires jurisdictions to investigate complaints by ordinary citizens against local businesses that may be employing illegal immigrants. But apparently most Arizonans have better things to worry about.

A new study by the conservative think tank Americas Majority Foundation ( www.amermaj.com) suggests a possible explanation why more Arizonans aren’t rushing to run off illegal workers. It turns out that Arizonans may be better off – not worse – because of the presence of so many immigrants in the population.

States with the highest percentage of immigrants or the largest recent influx of immigrants – 19 “high immigrant jurisdictions” in all – are wealthier and have better employment numbers, and most boast better crime figures than those with fewer immigrants.

These statistics don’t mean that illegal immigration is not a problem for many jurisdictions. Illegal immigrants do impose costs, including increased health care and education expenses. Ironically, one of the growing costs is for incarcerating illegal immigrants picked up in raids or for offenses that usually don’t justify jail time.

These increases are a direct result of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. And if states like Arizona decide to vigorously enforce their new laws, we can expect to see these costs go up without much, if any, offset in savings to those jurisdictions.

The immigration debate is likely to continue undeterred by the facts the Americas Majority Foundation has pulled together. But the overwhelming majority of Americans – two-thirds to three-fourths, according to most polls – have no wish to see most long-term illegal residents rounded up and sent home.

What they do want is a more concerted effort to secure the borders so the numbers don’t keep increasing. Once we get this election year behind us, maybe the sound of silence emanating even from places like Arizona will finally be heard.

Posted on January 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This information is excerpted from the U.S. government’s Social Security Administration Web site, and explains to non-citizens how they can legally obtain Social Security numbers. For more detailed information visit the SSA Web site.

How do I apply for a Social Security number and card?
In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for a Social Security number. To apply for a Social Security number:

Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and show us original documents proving your: Immigration status; Work eligibility; Age; and Identity. Then, take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office.

Immigration status
To prove your U.S. immigration status, you must show us the current U.S. immigration document, I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, issued to you when you arrived in the United States. If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you also must show us your I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show us your DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Work eligibility
For most foreign workers, we only need to see your I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Some foreign workers also must show their work permits from DHS (I-766 or I-688B). International students must present further documentation. For more information, see International Students And Social Security Numbers (Publication No. 05-10181).

What can you do if you need a number for tax purposes?
If you need a number for tax purposes and you are not authorized to work in the U.S., you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Visit IRS in person or call the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676), and request Form W-7, Application For An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Do you need a number for other government services?
Lawfully admitted noncitizens can get many benefits and services without having a Social Security number. You do not need a number to purchase savings bonds, conduct business with a bank, register for school or apply for educational tests, obtain private health insurance, apply for school lunch programs or apply for subsidized housing.

Posted on January 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The following information is available on the Department of State’s Web site.

Implemented on January 23, 2007, all individuals traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.

Beginning JANUARY 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens traveling by land and sea will need to present either a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport.

Please note the passport requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory.  U.S. territories include:

* American Samoa* Guam* Northern Mariana Islands* Puerto Rico* Swains Island

* U.S. Virgin Islands

Due to the increase in passport applications, the effective dates of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative have been amended.  At a later date, to be determined, the departments will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The proposed rules require U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have either a U.S. passport; a U.S. passport card; a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI; a valid Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders.  The expected date of implementation is Summer of 2008.

Posted on January 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

From the February 2008 Visa Bulletin comes this sad and disappointing notice:

INDIA EMPLOYMENT SECOND PREFERENCE HAS BECOME “UNAVAILABLE”   

Despite two retrogressions of the India Employment Second preference cut-off date, demand for numbers by CIS Offices for adjustment of status cases has remained extremely high in recent months.  As a result the annual limit for the India Employment Second preference category has been reached, and the category has become “unavailable” effective immediately.

Posted on January 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This is the latest information from USCIS about the current filing backlog:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) advises customers that processing of fee payments and entry of cases into our tracking system remains behind schedule due to the tremendous increase in the number of applications filed. As a result, applicants are experiencing delays in receiving notices of receipt. USCIS is working hard to deal with the increased volume.

  • Date Received in Mailroom – USCIS will honor the actual date that an application was received in our mailroom; this date will be indicated on the receipt (in the Received Date box) when Form I-797, Notice of Action, is mailed. You can see a sample Form I-797 under “Related Links” on this page. If your case is affected by the receipt delay, arrival of your receipt may take up to 12 weeks for adjustment-of-status applications and 15 weeks for naturalization and other applications.

  • Weekly updates on Receipting – Until this situation is resolved, USCIS will provide these weekly updates on progress in issuing receipt notices to our customers. Additional information is available in Frequently Asked Questions, located under “Related Links” on this page.

  • Applications Received Prior to Posted Receipting Dates – If your application was received by USCIS before the posted dates below and you still have no receipt, please contact USCIS Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-375-5283.

We appreciate your understanding.

IMPORTANT:

Contact Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-375-5283 for:

Change of Address – If you have submitted your application and are changing your address, but have not yet received your receipt. (If you have a receipt, you can report your change of address from our website, using USCIS’ Change of Address Online.)

Unusual Delay – If you have not received a receipt within the timeframe indicated below for the Service Center where you filed your application.

As of December 31, 2007, USCIS has completed initial data entry and issued receipt notices for applications and petitions received on or before the dates indicated:

California Service Center

Form Number               Date Received

I-130*                              8/30/2007

All Other Forms             Current

*All I-130s received after the indicated date have been forwarded to USCIS Chicago Lockbox for data entry.

Nebraska Service Center

Form Number               Date Received

All Forms                        Current

Texas Service Center

Form Number               Date Received

N-400                             12/7/2007
All Other Forms              Current

Vermont Service Center

Form Number               Date Received

I-130*                                7/29/2007N-400                             12/4/2007

All Other Forms              Current

*All I-130s received after the indicated date have been forwarded to USCIS Chicago Lockbox for data entry.

Chicago Lockbox (as of 1/8/08)

Form Number               Date Received

I-130                                 10/10/2007

All Other Forms                Current

Los Angeles Lockbox

Form Number               Date Received

All Forms                         Current

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 January 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post reports today on the exceptional prominence of immigration in the campaigns of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Here are excerpts:

The imagery of the mailings is designed to pack a wallop: a Mexican flag fluttering above the Stars and Stripes, the Statue of Liberty presiding over a “Welcome Illegal Aliens” doormat, a Social Security card emblazoned with the name “Juan Doe,” a U.S. passport proclaiming, “Only one candidate has a plan to STAMP out illegal immigration.”

As Republican presidential candidates troll for votes, they have flooded mailboxes in Iowa and New Hampshire with such loaded images. Their campaigns have filled the airwaves, packed their Web sites and taunted their adversaries, proclaiming their concern over porous borders and accusing opponents of insufficient vigilance.

No issue has dominated the Republican presidential nomination fight the way illegal immigration has. Under consistent attack for inconsistent conservatism, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has turned to the issue again and again to shore up his conservative credentials. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, running as the law-and-order candidate, has been forced onto the defensive by immigration policies in his city.

And just days after he delivered a passionate defense of the humanity of undocumented children in a Republican debate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee presented one of the most punitive immigration platforms seen in this campaign season, rejecting legislation to provide the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they finish high school, attend two years of college or join the military.

The strategy poses a real risk. As the rhetoric and the policy proposals have grown increasingly strident, the eventual nominee’s ability to win Latino support in swing states such as Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico may be coming increasingly into question.

Latino and other minority groups see racial codes in many of the words the Republican candidates have used — for instance, “illegals” rather than “illegal immigrants.” And hovering around the campaigns are far more strident figures and organizations. Immigration groups were taken aback when Huckabee accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the border-security Minuteman Project, calling it “providential.”

Posted on December 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News came up with a surprise today — the newspaper has named as Texan of the Year for 2007, the “Illegal Immigrant.” This followed a long countdown, in which the paper named various Texans who figured prominently in news stories this year. The News ran a lengthy article about the Texan of the Year, and I recommend reading it. Here are the first few paragraphs:

He is at the heart of a great culture war in Texas – and the nation, credited with bringing us prosperity and blamed for abusing our resources. How should we deal with this stranger among us? He breaks the law by his very presence. He hustles to do hard work many Americans won’t, at least not at the low wages he accepts. The American consumer economy depends on him. America as we have known it for generations may not survive him.

We can’t seem to live with him and his family, and if we can live without him, nobody’s figured out how.

He’s the Illegal Immigrant, and he’s the 2007 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year – for better or for worse. Given the public mood, there seems to be little middle ground in debate over illegal immigrants. Spectacular fights over their presence broke out across Texas this year, adding to the national pressure cooker as only Texas can.

To their champions, illegal immigrants are decent, hardworking people who, like generations of European immigrants before them, just want to do better for their families and who contribute to America’s prosperity. They must endure hatred and abuse by those of us who want the benefits of cheap labor but not the presence of illegal immigrants.

Especially here in Texas, his strong back and willing heart help form the cornerstone of our daily lives, in ways that many of us do not, or will not, see. The illegal immigrant is the waiter serving margaritas at our restaurant table, the cook preparing our enchiladas. He works grueling hours at a meatpacking plant, carving up carcasses of cattle for our barbecue (he also picks the lettuce for our burgers). He builds our houses and cuts our grass. She cleans our homes and takes care of our children.

Yet to those who want them sent home, illegal immigrants are essentially lawbreakers who violate the nation’s borders. They use public resources – schools, hospitals – to which they aren’t entitled and expect to be served in a foreign language. They’re rapidly changing Texas neighborhoods, cities and culture, and not always for the better. Those who object get tagged as racists.

Whatever and whoever else the illegal immigrant is, everybody has felt the tidal wave of his presence. According to an analysis of government data by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, Texas’ immigrant population has jumped a whopping 32.7 percent since 2000, a period in which immigration to the United States has exceeded, in sheer numbers, all previous historical eras. Half the immigrants in the state – 7 percent of all Texans – are estimated to be here illegally.

Though many would agree that the status quo cannot be sustained – more illegal immigrants arrive each year than legal ones, a sure sign that the system is a joke – neither Texas nor the nation seemed nearer in 2007 to resolving this complex crisis. We can’t deport 12 million people who already live here, but we can’t leave our back door open indefinitely. Compromise comes hard because the issue is tangled up with the most basic aspects of everyday life, down to the core of what it means to be American.

This essay cannot put a name or a face to an illegal immigrant, because that would subject him to possible deportation. Because he lives underground, the illegal immigrant becomes, in our rancorous debate, less a complex human being and more a blank screen upon which both sides can project their hopes and fears.

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 December 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting story Sunday about the declining student population in Irving, Texas. Speculation is that the decrease, which will cost Irving money in state funding, is due to the city’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. As you know, Irving has been reporting to Immigration Services whenever an undocumented alien is stopped for a traffic ticket or for any other criminal offense. Hundreds of Irving residents have been deported recently. Here are excerpts from the story:

The Irving school district has lost 656 students since the end of September, and officials attribute the decline to a crackdown on illegal immigrants and the shutting down of aging apartment complexes.

School officials said they don’t know exactly why hundreds of students have disappeared since the district hit its peak enrollment of 33,189. But the losses outpace previous years. Last year, Irving schools lost 283 students during the same period.

Superintendent Jack Singley said a city code-enforcement crackdown on declining apartments where many low-income families live may have caused people to leave town. And some immigrants may have left Irving because they feared deportation.

“We’re watching our enrollment very carefully,” Mr. Singley said. “This probably will be the toughest year to predict future enrollment for many reasons. There are many changes in our community.”

School administrators are concerned because they stand to lose state funding, which is based on how many students attend school each day.

The superintendent and principals have tried to assure parents that their children are safe at school. Mr. Singley raised concerns early in the year that deportations were causing parents to go “on the run” and withdraw children from the schools.

“I think the reason is the climate in Irving,” school board president Michael Hill said. “If parents are pulling their kids out of school for fear of what they’re hearing throughout the city, my concern is: Are the kids in school at all?”

The school district’s students are about 73 percent economically disadvantaged and 67 percent Latino this year. Many of them are the children of immigrants.

About 39 percent of students are classified as limited English proficient, the highest in North Texas. The district continues to go through considerable change, losing white students as it gains Hispanics.

Mr. Singley reassured parents in a letter that the school district does not assist law-enforcement officials with deportations.

Posted on December 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that two regional training centers will open in Dallas in January for new employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a government agency swamped by naturalization petitions. Excerpts:

The move comes as the agency hires 1,500 additional employees nationwide to deal with a surge in citizenship applications. The increase has caused processing time to triple, to up to 18 months in Texas and nationwide.

The number of naturalization applications nearly doubled, to 1.4 million, in fiscal year 2007, as some legal immigrants tried to meet a July deadline for a fee increase, and others reacted to a crackdown against illegal immigrants that spilled into the legal immigrant community.

“These facilities will enhance the agility and focus to confront the complex national security challenges ahead, provide excellence in customer service, and operate effectively across interoffice and organizational boundaries,” agency director Emilio Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Dallas has one of only three regional offices for Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Homeland Security Department that has faced mounting lawsuits over the processing delays.

Posted on December 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An article in the Los Angeles Times today says that one-third of Americans think that illegal immigrants should be denied basic social services. On the other hand, 60% of Americans are in favor of a path to citizenship for immigrants who are here illegally but have not committed crimes. Here are excerpts from the article:

Those crosscurrents create treacherous political waters for the major presidential candidates in both parties, many of whom have tended to avoid spotlighting the issue. But all the White House contenders have been forced to confront the issue repeatedly under questioning at campaign events and candidate forums.

Some poll respondents, in follow-up interviews, expressed frustration that the candidates have not been more forthright in addressing immigration-related issues.

The poll indicates that illegal immigration is not the most important issue voters have on their minds, but that most people view it as a key concern.

Asked what problem is a top priority for presidential candidates to address, 15 percent said illegal immigration — the fifth most-mentioned topic behind the war in Iraq, the economy, protecting the country from terrorist attack and health care. Asked how much of a problem illegal immigration is, 81 percent of voters said they considered it important, including 27 percent who said it was one of the most pressing problems facing the country.

The poll also makes clear that voters make a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants: Asked if illegal immigrants had made a positive or negative contribution to their community, 36 percent said negative (21 percent said positive, 29 percent said the impact was not discernible).

When the same question was asked about legal immigrants, only 12 percent said their impact was negative.

(46 percent said positive, 31 percent said no discernible impact).

When those who said immigrants had a negative impact were asked precisely how, the reasons most often cited were increased crime (30 percent), loss of American jobs (35 percent) and increased cost of social services (19 percent).

Voters are divided about what the best solution is to the problem of illegal immigration, but a strong majority expressed support for a proposal discussed in Congress — part of a package backed by President Bush — that would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

The plan, under which illegal immigrants could become citizens if they have no criminal record, register in the U.S., pay a fine, learn English and meet other requirements, was supported by 64 percent of Democratic voters and 62 percent of Republican voters.

However, that plan died in Congress under fire from critics who called for the U.S. to do more to tighten border security before considering liberalized treatment of illegal immigrants.

Posted on December 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has an article today stating that in 2008 construction will begin on approximately 150 miles of fencing along the Texas-Mexico border. This fence project has been the subject of heated debate in the border communities. The fear is that a fence, which will of course have to be built on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, and not in the river itself, will have both environmental and economic adverse effects on Texas and Texans.

Many landowners will see their property bisected by the fence, and many more will lose access to needed water from the river. Small businesses along the border are concerned that they will lose customers if border crossings become less convenient for Mexicans authorized to come to Texas.

Here are excerpts from the article:

More than 150 miles of fencing is to be constructed along the Rio Grande in Texas. Fourteen miles of fence was built in El Paso several years ago.

“We’re going to see steel barriers erected on the borders where U.S. and Mexican cities adjoin. These will slow down illegal crossers by minutes, but that will be long enough for agents to turn them back,” Chief Hill said.

“In the open areas outside the cities, we’ll build a virtual fence that uses radar to detect entry and then key a camera to that point.”

Opposition to the fence by politicians, business leaders and border residents has been loud.

“It’s one of the few issues around which virtually every group along the border is organized and united,” Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said earlier this year. “No one on the border likes the wall. But Washington isn’t listening.”

Posted on November 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

My friend Reid Trautz is is the Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Practice and Professionalism Center, where he provides ethics guidance and practice management information and consulting services to AILA members to help them improve their businesses and the delivery of legal services to their clients. Reid is back again with his annual Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers. If you have a lawyer on your shopping gift (or anyone else, for that matter) you’ll find some great gift ideas here:

My Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers is back for the third consecutive year, with an expanded array of noteworthy recommendations for the lawyers in your life. Not a tie, gavel, or kitschy brass scales on this list, just gifts that any self-respecting, hard-working, red-blooded American lawyer wouldn’t love to have-if they had the time to find it themselves and tell you about it!

Once again, I’ve compiled this list as a public service for my learned professional colleagues and their time-sensitive, gift idea-starved family, friends, partners, associates and, dare I say, appreciative clients? Yep, that means that once again I make no money on this guide. No Google Ad Words, referral fees, nor sponsorships. Consider it pro bono publico!  The gift ideas are in no particular order (except I’m hoping my wife notices I put the iPhone first), and range in price from under ten dollars to several hundred. Enjoy!

Posted on November 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Yesterday, USCIS issued a reminder to employers about the new I-9 form, which must be used beginning December 26, 2007. Here is the text of the reminder:

USCIS Reminds Employers to Transition to New

Employment Eligibility Verification Form by Dec. 26, 2007

WASHINGTON

–U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will announce in a Federal Register

(Rev. 06/05/07)N printed on the lower right corner of the form) which is now the only version valid for use. In that Nov. 7 announcement, USCIS explained that employers would have 30 days, beginning on the date the Federal Register notice is published, to transition to the revised form. Accordingly, effective Dec. 26, 2007, employers who fail to use the revised form will be subject to applicable penalties.

On Nov. 7, USCIS announced the availability of the revised version of Form I-9 (includes the revision date —

Both the revised form and the “Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing the Form I-9” are available online at www.uscis.gov. To order forms, call USCIS toll-free at (800) 870-3676. For forms and information on immigration laws, regulations, and procedures, call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Posted on November 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

In an article today, the New York Times reports that a recent U.S. Census Bureau study shows that for the first time ever, two Hispanic surnames have broken into the top ten most common names in the United States. Here are excerpts from the article:

Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.

The number of Hispanics living in the United States grew by 58 percent in the 1990s to nearly 13 percent of the total population, and cracking the list of top 10 names suggests just how pervasively the Latino migration has permeated everyday American culture.

Garcia moved to No. 8 in 2000, up from No. 18, and Rodriguez jumped to No. 9 from 22nd place. The number of Hispanic surnames among the top 25 doubled, to 6.

Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

And because recent Hispanic and Asian immigrants might consider themselves more identifiable by their physical characteristics than Europeans do, they are less likely to change their surnames, though they often choose Anglicized first names for their children.

The latest surname count also signaled the growing number of Asians in America. The surname Lee ranked No. 22, with the number of Lees about equally divided between whites and Asians. Lee is a familiar name in China and Korea and in all its variations is described as the most common surname in the world.

Smith — which would be even more common if all its variations, like Schmidt and Schmitt, were tallied — is among the names derived from occupations (Miller, which ranks No. 7, is another). Among the most famous early bearers of the name was Capt. John Smith, who helped establish the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Va., 400 years ago. As recently as 1950, more Americans were employed as blacksmiths than as psychotherapists.

In 1984, according to the Social Security Administration, nearly 3.4 million Smiths lived in the United States. In 1990, the census counted 2.5 million. By 2000, the Smith population had declined to fewer than 2.4 million. The durability of some of the most common names in American history may also have been perpetuated because slaves either adopted or retained the surnames of their owners. About one in five Smiths are black, as are about one in three Johnsons, Browns, and Joneses and nearly half the people named Williams.

The Census Bureau’s analysis found that some surnames were especially associated with race and ethnicity.

More than 96 percent of Yoders, Kruegers, Muellers, Kochs, Schwartzes, Schmitts and Novaks were white. Nearly 90 percent of the Washingtons were black, as were 75 percent of the Jeffersons, 66 percent of the Bookers, 54 percent of the Banks and 53 percent of the Mosleys.

Posted on November 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

For the first time in 16 years, the Federal Government has made major changes to the mandatory I-9 Immigration Form. All new employees must fill out these forms. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that the new I-9 form to verify new hire eligibility requirements will include changes that better reflect current employment eligibility verification requirements. Actually, on the revised form, the government has eliminated several documents from List A of the List of Acceptable Documents. These documents eliminated are the Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-570), Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570), Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-151), the unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327), and the unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571).

USCIS has made available a 47 page I-9 handbook for employers. The handbook informs employers about the reasons for the I-9 form and gives instructions for proper completion of the form.

Posted on November 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

I’ve written before about the perceived problems with relaxed restrictions on Mexican trucks entering the United States and going beyond the previously set mileage boundaries. There’s a blog with a great deal of information about this situation and other, related matters. Check out the Mexico Trucker blog.

Posted on November 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

There is an exhaustive article at ILW.com about how exactly we should refer to people who are in the United States without proper authorization. The article is definitely worth reading.

This is a proposed guideline for the use of the terms “undocumented immigrant,” “illegal immigrant,” and “illegal alien” on Wikipedia.

Eventually, it ought to recommend a term to be used when it is impossible to avoid the use of an adjectival description for people who enter or reside in a country without legal authorization. At the moment, it contains three proposed guidelines, recommmending “undocumented immigrant,” “illegal immigrant,” and “unauthorized immigrant” respectively. When a consensus is reached by Wikipedians on the talk page, one should be kept and all others removed, with the arguments that led to their defeat merged.

Preface

Wikipedia’s articles on immigration policy are, at present, extremely inconsistent in their use of terms to describe illegal immigration. A person who enters or resides in a country without legal authorization is sometimes described as an asylum seeker, sometimes as an undocumented immigrant, sometimes as an unauthorized immigrant, sometimes as an unlawful immigrant or illegal immigrant, and sometimes as an illegal alien. A consistent policy is desirable in order to resolve controversies.

The more common terms are all politically charged in the United States, the location of a substantial number of English-language Wikipedia users, and the controversy exists just as much in the offline world as in Wikipedia. Supporters of granting citizenship to people who have entered or reside in the country without legal authorization tend to use the term “undocumented immigrant,” while supporters of increased enforcement of immigration laws tend to use the terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien.” [1]

The issue is less pressing in other English-speaking countries, where the vast majority of immigrants who enter without legal authorization tend to apply for asylum, and are therefore known uncontroversially as “asylum seekers.” Unfortunately, this term does not apply to the vast majority of immigrants at issue in the United States.

Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature. Consequently, we need to establish from reliable sources, what the majority of English speakers use globally.

Continue Reading…

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 October 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that the City of Irving may have come to an agreement with immigration-rights advocates regarding the arrest and deportation of so many illegal aliens in Irving recently. Here are excerpts from the article:

Illegal immigrants may be able to avoid being arrested in Irving if they can provide police with a Mexican identification card, a utility bill or a similar document, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

“You have a better chance if you can identify yourself,” Mayor Herbert Gears said after meeting with immigration-rights activists. “If you can’t identify yourself, you’re going to have no chance.”

The acceptance of the Mexican ID, known as a matrcula consular, and other documents besides state-issued ID cards comes as activists have encouraged the mayor to help prevent more people from being deported as part of the Criminal Alien Program. Irving officials began using the program in September 2006 and have since turned more than 1,600 arrestees over to federal authorities for deportation.

Mr. Gears explained that if someone is stopped for a traffic violation, that person’s chances of avoiding jail will be better with proof of identification. If the police can confirm someone’s identity, that person will be issued a citation and let go.

The mayor also agreed to help create an educational campaign to inform people of immigration laws.

Posted on October 13, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has a very good series of articles today about the immigration situation in Irving, Texas. Irving’s “deportation” of a large number of undocumented aliens has been the subject of national discussion. These articles explain both sides of the situation.

Posted on October 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

ABC News is reporting that a federal judge today blocked enforcement of new efforts to crack down on illegal immigrant workers. Here are excerpts of the online article:

Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction against a program that would force employers to verify Social Security numbers and fire workers whose numbers did not match official records.

The federal program developed by the Department of Homeland Security is at the heart of a new crackdown on the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But the “no-match letter” program was challenged in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO and other labor groups claiming it was unlawful and hurt all workers, including legal ones affected by errors in the data base.

“The balance of hardships tips sharply in plaintiffs’ favor and plaintiffs have raised serious questions,” Breyer said in his ruling.

Breyer still has to rule on a permanent injunction, but workers’ rights groups celebrated Wednesday’s decision.

“This was really about targeting workers rights generally,” said Ana Avendano, director of immigrant programs at the AFL-CIO. “The win is about preventing the Bush administration from causing further harm to workers in this country.”

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the administration was disappointed with the ruling and added:

“Coupled with the near daily stories about local communities taking immigration matters into their own hands, this ruling serves as another reminder that Congress need to enact comprehensive immigration reform to establish a system that is secure, productive, orderly and fair.”

Breyer had already blocked the Social Security Administration from sending out 140,000 letters to employers with 8 million employees whose names did not match their nine-digit identification numbers.

Under the proposed program, employers notified of a “no-match” would have 90 days to confirm that an employee was in the country legally or fire him if not.

Employers also could face fines as well as criminal charges if they did not comply with the program.

The judge also said the threat of a criminal prosecution against an employer “reflects a major change in Department of Homeland Security policy.”

Mailing out new no-match letters to employers “would result in irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers,” Breyer wrote.

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 October 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

United Press International has an interesting article about the fact that although illegal immigrants cannot vote, they are included in the official U.S. Census. And the census is what determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

Since the House is set at 435 seats, changes in population never increase the total number of seats. The changes only redistribute the seats. So if the population of Texas increases more than the population of New York, Texas could gain and seat and New York could lose one.

The point of the article is that increasing numbers of illegal aliens in some states could cause those states to gain seats in the House of Representatives, even though the aliens cannot vote. Here are excerpts:

U.S. states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants could receive additional seats in Congress after the 2010 census is conducted.A University of Connecticut study concluded Arizona, Texas and Florida could all see their House delegations increase due to rising populations that include sizable numbers of illegal immigrants.Although they can’t vote, such aliens are included in the census. The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News predicted Tuesday the pending 2010 headcount could be the subject of a political fight as Democrats and Republicans jockey for position before House seats are reallocated.

The Connecticut study also predicted California and New Jersey would likely keep their current number of seats while states with fewer immigrants, including New York, Illinois and Ohio, will lose a seat or two.

Posted on October 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN has an interesting article online about a sailor in the U.S. Navy who may have to quit the service because his wife is being threatened with deportation. Here are excerpts:

Eduardo Gonzalez, a petty officer second class with the U.S. Navy, is about to be deployed overseas for a third time. Making his deployment even tougher is the fact his wife may not be around when he comes back.

His wife faces deportation to Guatemala — her home country that she hasn’t seen since 1989. He also doesn’t know what would happen to his young son, Eduardo Jr., if that happens.

“I like being in uniform and serving my country, but if she goes back I’m going to have to give it all up and just get out and take care of my son and get a job,” he said.

“Defending the country that’s trying to kick my family out is a thought that always runs through my mind.”

The U.S. military does not have a policy to deal with such cases. Each is handled case-by-case, not by the military, but by immigration authorities. The government doesn’t have numbers on how many military members are in predicaments similar to Gonzalez’s.

Immigration officials also said marrying a U.S. citizen does not mean the spouse is automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship or permanent legal status.

Article Correction
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Eduardo Gonzalez’s immigration status when he entered the United States as a boy. He and his family entered the country legally. Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves who teaches immigration law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, said she believes there should be an overall policy dealing with the potential deportation of family members of active duty military members.

“You got to understand. When you’re in a combat zone, you need to be focusing all of your energies on fighting the enemy. You can’t be worried that your loved ones back home could be shipped off to a foreign country where you’re never going to see them again,” she said.

Stock also said the government is conflicted about how to treat such cases. On the one hand, the government is supposed to be providing military families with assistance, housing and other forms of benefits while their spouses are overseas. On the other hand, the same government is trying to deport the very same people.

“What’s happening right now is, because of the dysfunction and complexity of our immigration laws, we’ve got people fighting overseas who are facing the impossible situation of having family members facing deportation back home,” she said.

In Gonzalez’s case, his wife, Mildred, came to the United States with her mother in 1989 when she was 5 years old. They were granted political asylum because of their status as war refugees from Guatemala.

In September 2000, Mildred’s mother applied for legalization and included her daughter in that application. Her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, according to Gonzalez.

However, six weeks earlier, Gonzalez and Mildred got married, canceling Mildred’s ability to apply for legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under the age of 21. As a result, her legal status still remains in jeopardy.

A judge in June granted her a one-year extension to remain in the United States. If her legal status does not change by June 8, 2008, she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

That’s just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

“What you’re talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that’s just outrageous,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. … There’s no justification for that kind of policy.”

Gonzalez said that type of response is unjustified. “I’m trying to make his country better — my country better — and it should be her country too.”

“I understand the laws have to be followed and guidelines and a system must be maintained, but on the other token, there are times when the situation is just out of their reach,” Gonzalez said.

His wife, Mildred, added, “We didn’t come here to break the law. We just want to feel safe and have a home just like everybody else.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Woko, a member of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division who faces his third tour in Iraq, understands just how Gonzalez and his family feel. His wife and children could be sent back to Nigeria.

“My heart is bleeding on the thought that my wife could be deported back to Nigeria while I am deployed in Iraq,” he said. “I am extremely distressed and distracted by the thought.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Gonzalez: “We are not asking for anything. We are just asking for our families to stay with us.”

Posted on October 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

These figures go along with yesterday’s post, and show the country of origin of current unauthorized immigrants. Mexico is by far the leader, with more immigrants than all other countries combined. Statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.

country of birth of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2006 and 2000

Estimated Population in January

Posted on October 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

My friend Ren Castilla has written an excellent guest editorial for the Dallas Morning News about the immigration situation in Irving, Texas, his current, and my former, hometown. In fact, this is by far the most rational and logical discussion of the situation that I have seen.

I have posted before about Irving’s participation in the Criminal Alien Program, in which the Irving police call the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement department pretty much any time they detain a Latino without proper immigration paperwork. This has resulted in illegal aliens being deported because they committed traffic violations, regardless of the positive contributions they may have made to the community in the years they lived here.

The editorial is so good, I’m going to take the liberty of publishing it in its entirety. Please don’t tell  the Dallas Morning News…

When the Irving City Council adopted the Criminal Alien Program earlier this year, it was in response to the mounting pressure from the community and a council member to participate in the federal program 287g, an immigration enforcement section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

The majority of the City Council wanted no part of 287g ,and neither did Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd, partly because city jailers would come under the supervision of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and partly because ICE wants the city to underwrite the cost of implementing the program.The minority community wanted no part of 287g because it gave wide discretion for police officers to pick people off the streets who looked suspiciously Hispanic and maybe undocumented.

Long before the City Council formally adopted the Criminal Alien Program, Chief Boyd established a working relationship with ICE, whose district offices were in Irving and whose nearby agents were invited on a regular basis to make a sweep of Irving jails. ICE did identify criminal illegal aliens and had them deported.

When a resolution came before the city council to adopt the Criminal Alien Program, it did so with the support of the minority leadership of Irving, including those Hispanics outside of Irving who are now organizing protests denouncing the program.

The Criminal Alien Program was seen as a better alternative to 287g. It rid our communities of criminal illegal aliens who were drug dealers and other felons preying on our community.

So why did it turn sour?

ICE moved its office from Irving to Dallas, and the agents who had regularly entered Irving jails were no longer available to make on-site visits. Face-to-face interviews switched to telephone interviews. The procedure now had jailers deciding when to call ICE for a telephone interview with a detainee.

If a jailer can’t establish identity, call ICE.

That’s the rub.

When it was reported that ICE was now deporting 300 people a month (mostly Hispanic), suspicions were aroused. And rightly so. Individuals were turned over to ICE for traffic violations and failure to provide proper identification, in some cases for public intoxication.

Traffic citations are nothing new. What changed is that now there are consequences for these traffic violations in Irving. ICE is in the picture under the Criminal Alien Program.

What didn’t change were the old practices for processing individuals to determine identification. No identification? You speak Spanish? Call ICE. Irving police say this procedure applies to everyone without regard to race. Maybe.

What the demonstrations and shouting matches did was call to our attention that there are flaws in the Criminal Alien Program.

Now that the shouting has stopped, it is time for the mayor, the police chief and the minority leadership in Irving to come up with workable guidelines for the program palatable to all sides.

For example, at what point should jailers call in ICE, especially when they detain Spanish speakers with limited English speaking ability? Entering the United States is a civil offense, not a criminal offense, so why equate one with the other?

Most traffic violations – driving without a license or public intoxication – are all class C misdemeanors. It is certainly less serious than a felony. So maybe felonies should be the triggering mechanism to call in ICE. Failure to show proof of identity is cause for being taken to jail for fingerprinting. But if fingerprinting brings up no criminal record or outstanding warrants, does calling ICE have to be the next step?

These are all important questions for the mayor, police chief and minority leadership in Irving to consider.

There is no indication that the City Council is going to rescind the Criminal Alien Program, even though fear of police is spreading throughout Irving’s Hispanic community. Stories of random police stops to check IDs are beginning to surface.

It’s time for Irving to take back its city and regain control of a program gone bad. A solution-based dialogue is an important first step.

Ren Castilla is executive dean of North Lake College South Irving Center and chairman of the Mayor’s Human Relations Advisory Committee. His e-mail address is castilla@dcccd.edu.

Posted on October 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Here are some interesting statistics from the Department of Homeland Security regarding the states in which illegal immigrants live. California, Texas, and Florida account for almost 50% of all unauthorized immigrants.

State of Residence of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2006 and 2000

Estimated population in January

Posted on October 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times is reporting today that federal judge Charles R. Breyer has extended for ten more days the tempovary delay in implementing the government’s no-match Social Security letter plans. Here are excerpts from the story:

The ban further delayed the start of a rule, which establishes steps an employer must follow after receiving a notice from the Social Security Administration, known as a no-match letter, reporting that an employee’s identity information does not match the agency’s records. According to the rule, originally scheduled to take effect Sept. 14, if the employee cannot clarify the mismatch within 90 days, the employer would be required to fire the worker or risk prosecution for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Those immigrants often provide false Social Security numbers when applying for jobs.

“It is clear to me at this point there would be irreparable harm to the plaintiffs,” Judge Breyer commented at the end of the hearing, rejecting the government’s main argument. “It just seems to me looking at it that this is a potentially enormous burden on the employer,” the judge said, adding that he would issue a ruling within 10 days.

The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and several San Francisco labor organizations. They were joined by the United States Chamber of Commerce and several national small business associations.

In court documents, the business groups argued that the impact of the rule in terms of hiring and training office workers to comply with the new procedures and deadlines, and firing employees whose discrepancies were not resolved in time, would be “substantial, immediate and irreparable.”

The labor organizations said that Social Security’s records contained many errors that could lead to legal workers, including American citizens, being unjustly fired under the new rule.

The government countered that the rule did not represent any departure from current immigration laws or impose any new burdens on employers, but was designed to help employers by clarifying past confusion about what they had to do to comply with the law.

Posted on September 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The news (and protests) about the City of Irving’s policy of reporting the immigration status of everyone stopped for a traffic violation or detained by the police for any other reason has many immigrants afraid to live in or even drive through Irving.

Whether you’re a legal or illegal immigrant or an American citizen, it can be helpful to know how best to avoid being stopped by the police for any reason.

First and foremost, know and obey all traffic laws. The best source for learning the rights and responsibilities of Texas drivers is the Texas Drivers Handbook, available free from the Web site of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Obviously the police will, and should, stop any driver who runs a red light, speeds, doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or commits some other major traffic violation. But police look for other, less obvious, driving errors also. They are trained to do this in order to get drunk drivers off the road, but it’s a good idea for each of us to know what activities might catch the eye of a patrol officer.

There are preventive steps you can take to avoid being stopped. Many of these steps will help you avoid making the driving mistakes that might lead a police officer to decide to pull you over.

Let’s assume you are about to drive a car. If you are at all uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the car you are driving, you are much more likely to make mistakes or drive erratically. And if you are not driving well, you are more likely to get stopped by a police officer.

If you are driving a car you are not used to–a friend’s car, a car you just bought, or a car you have not driven in awhile–it is important that you take a moment to remind yourself where everything is before you start to drive: emergency brake, transmission, turn signals, windshield wipers, headlights, high beams, hazard lights, and so on. To get an overall feel for the car, just grip the steering wheel and put your foot on the brake. Also make sure that the seat and steering wheel are adjusted properly for you.

Taking a few seconds to do this is especially important if you are used to driving a car with a different kind of transmission. If, say, you are driving an automatic when you are accustomed to a manual, spending a minute or two to familiarize yourself with the car can make the difference between getting where you are going safely and slamming on the brake in a frantic search for a non-existent clutch.

Also make sure everything on the outside of your vehicle is in working order and that your vehicle registration tags are current. Police officers often use a minor vehicle infraction like broken taillights or expired registration tags as a reason to stop a vehicle. Things like broken taillights are especially likely to get you pulled over at night when they can be easily seen.

Before you start driving, know where you are going, how to get there, and how to get back home. Getting lost and trying to find the right road will inevitably lead to errors in your driving.

If the unfortunate occurs, and you are stopped, know your rights and what to expect when you are pulled over.

If you have any questions about these matters, please 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 September 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has an article today about a large protest of the immigration policies of the city of Irving, a suburb of Dallas. In a nutshell, Irving’s policy is to check the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested in the city. This has resulted in a very large number of immigrants who have been deported after being stopped for a traffic violation or other minor infraction.

Obviously there are two schools of thought on this subject. One is that any person here illegally should be found and deported. The other is that a city has no business trying to enforce a federal law, and it’s disruptive to the community and to the lives of individuals for good, hard-working people to be deported just because they got traffic tickets.

Here are excerpts from the Dallas Morning News article:

Angered over a record number of recent deportations in Irving, more than 1,000 protesters waved U.S. flags and chanted “We are America” as they rallied Wednesday night at City Hall.

Demonstrators called for Irving officials to put a moratorium on turning over suspected illegal immigrants to federal officials until immigration laws are reformed nationally. They also urged people to call Mayor Herbert Gears and ask him to stop deporting people from the city’s jail.

“We need to raise our voice and we need to ask for changes about the things we don’t like here,” said Hector Flores, a leader in Irving’s Hispanic community.

A few people who support the deportations carried signs in favor of the illegal immigration enforcement.

“Our compassion starts at home, and our charity starts at home,” said Sue Richardson, a longtime Irving resident and vice president of the Greater Irving Republican Club.

At the heart of the contention is Irving police’s use of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Criminal Alien Program. The plan provides for round-the-clock communication with federal authorities and is designed to detain illegal immigrants who have been accused of a crime. It’s the latest tool being used by local governments in the absence of a federal overhaul of immigration laws.

“It does not deal with illegal aliens; it deals with criminal illegal aliens,” said Irving City Council member Tom Spink.

Tensions over the practice have simmered for months among residents, officials and City Council colleagues. But the program has recently become a lightning rod for controversy with publicity about the growing number of people Irving police hand over to federal officials for deportation each month.

Opponents say police are overzealous. Supporters believe the program is the perfect answer to a national problem. And some residents and council members say police still aren’t going far enough to combat illegal immigration.

Irving police have turned over at least 1,600 people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement since June 2006. In response, Mexican Consul Enrique Hubbard Urrea last week warned immigrants from his country to avoid Irving. And community leader Carlos Quintanilla said he would organize a boycott of Irving businesses if the city persisted.

Opponents of the program say Irving police are unfairly targeting Hispanics. They say that many Hispanics have become afraid of police and that families are being torn apart as parents are deported thousands of miles from their children.

“This isn’t justice,” said Deyla Reyes, a Northlake College student. “We need to stop this. These people have come here to work. We cannot support this program.”

Many people at the rally accused Irving police of racial profiling and turning Hispanics over for deportation because of minor traffic infractions.

“We’re not just hurting people driving without driver’s licenses,” said Luis DeLaGarza, a political consultant who helped organize the rally. “We are hurting the economy in Irving. We need to have immigration reform.”

Mr. Gears said a major part of the problem isn’t Irving’s policy. Instead, it’s lack of knowledge of the law. He said many people – including natural-born citizens and legal immigrants – aren’t aware of consequences that come with traffic citations, which can include license suspension. And many minorities, he said, wrongly assume that police officers who ask for identification are trying to prove citizenship.

Mr. Gears said he has overseen investigations into every complaint about the program but has found no wrongdoing or malice on the department’s part.

Posted on September 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Update to my post of September 9, 2007, about Mexican trucks being allowed deeper into the United States:

The Senate voted this past week to ban (again) Mexican trucks from U.S. highways.  By a 74-24 vote, the Senate approved a proposal by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) prohibiting the Department of Transportation from spending money on its pilot program  to give Mexican trucks greater access to the United States.

Posted on September 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article about nonemergency hospital services for illegal immigrants in Fort Worth. Here are excerpts:

A poor illegal immigrant who goes to the John Peter Smith Hospital emergency room in Fort Worth gets the same care at the same price as any other indigent resident.

The Rev. Sergio Diaz is working to expand health care services available for illegal immigrants in Tarrant County.

But the same person who goes to a JPS clinic for nonemergency treatment is often faced with a hefty bill. Unlike other large urban public hospital systems in Texas, JPS excludes illegal immigrants from its charity program that provides preventive healthcare.

Trying to balance politics, medicine and money, the Tarrant County Hospital Board of Managers will debate and possibly decide Tuesday whether to spend millions to provide free or low-cost nonemergency medical care to thousands of illegal immigrants.

The Rev. Sergio Diaz of Iglesia San Miguel, an Episcopal church in Fort Worth, said he has been fighting for this issue because of the damage caused by inadequate health care. He said members of his church – many of them illegal immigrants – can’t get preventive health care and that some have died from complications from treatable diseases such as diabetes.

“This touches my heart because most of my people are immigrants,” said Mr. Diaz, a member of Allied Communities of Tarrant. “I’ve seen a lot of people suffering.”

Health care has become a major part of the national debate about illegal immigration, and the costs even led Dallas County officials to send bills to Mexico and other countries demanding payment for some of its expenses at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

The debate has also been simmering for more than a year in Tarrant County, where Allied Communities of Tarrant, a coalition of churches and social-justice activists, has pushed for the expansion of charity care. At the same time, a local conservative group favoring a crackdown on illegal immigration has been urging the board to retain the existing policy.

Dennis Killy, a member of the Tarrant Alliance for Responsible Government, said expanding cheap health care to illegal immigrants is an insult to citizens and to those who came to the United States legally. It simply rewards those who ignore federal law, he said.

“Where does it end?” Mr. Killy said. “When do we stop paying our tax money for something we’re getting nothing for?”

Mr. Killy said he believes a significant majority of board members support his group’s position and would not change the JPS policy. Officials with Allied Communities of Tarrant said they think it’s going to be a closer vote.

Three board members, Erma C. Johnson Hadley, Dan Serna and Ronnie W. Coulson, all declined to comment on how they might vote.

“It’s my obligation to leave my mind open,” Mr. Serna said.

Mrs. Johnson Hadley, board chairwoman, said this is a difficult decision that generates strong opinions and mixed emotions among many people. She said she met with Sen. John Cornyn and told him that this is something that needs to be addressed in Washington.

“We feel somewhat put out that we’re having to deal with a federal issue,” she said.

People supporting a tougher stance on illegal immigration see this as a critical financial issue. They worry that a change in policy will cost taxpayers dearly.

The cost of this possible expansion, however, depends on who’s adding the numbers.

The hospital district hired Phase 2 Consulting of Austin to conduct a study, which was released in July.

Estimating the number of illegal immigrants in Tarrant County at 107,000, the study calculated that expanding the charity program would cost the hospital district an additional $41.3 million right now. That number would increase to $114.4 million by 2017, according to the study.

Allied Communities of Tarrant conducted its own study in February that came to a dramatically different conclusion. Quoting 18th-century literary figure Samuel Johnson and a passage from the Bible’s book of Leviticus in the introduction, the alternative study estimated the cost to be between $2 million and $4.2 million added to the hospital district’s $600 million-plus budget.

Parkland officials estimated their cost for nonemergency care for illegal immigrants was $22.4 million in the past year – about halfway between the two Tarrant County estimates.

Patricia Gaffney, a member of Allied Communities of Tarrant who helped research and write the report, challenged some of the basic assumptions of the Phase 2 study. She said that study projects a 56 percent increase in Tarrant County’s illegal immigrant population in the next decade even though federal reports show that illegal immigration is decreasing.

Ms. Gaffney also said the Phase 2 study overestimates the number of illegal immigrants who would use the service. Many are wary of government programs because of their immigration status, she said.

Mr. Killy said he is more likely to believe an independent, third-party report than one created by a group advocating for one side of the issue.

Dave McElwee, another member of Tarrant Alliance for Responsible Government, said that aside from the immediate cost, he also worries about the message that expanded health care would send.

“I think there ought to be programs for the indigent but not for those in the country illegally,” he said. “All this does is act as a magnet for other illegals.” 

If the board votes Tuesday to expand health care, it’s not clear how quickly such a change would be implemented, JPS senior vice president Robert Earley said. He said the board and Tarrant County Commissioners have already approved the 2007-08 budget, and no funds are set aside for additional health care costs for illegal immigrants.

This is the second time this issue has come up for Tarrant County. For part of 2004, the board opened up all its programs to illegal immigrants. JPS officials were uncertain about whether a new state law allowed or mandated them to provide nonemergency charity services to illegal immigrants. Mr. Early said a ruling by the Texas attorney general and statements of intent from the sponsor clarified that the law didn’t require the expansion.

At the time, JPS officials said the expanded program cost them up to $4 million for six months. Mr. Earley said the participation was probably limited three years ago because the program wasn’t actively promoted by the hospital district and there were questions about how long it would last.

The board voted in August 2004 to make immigration status a factor for the JPS charity nonemergency care.

Officials with Allied Communities of Tarrant and the Texas Hospital Association also said most urban public hospitals in the state don’t limit health care service because of immigration status, but neither had conducted a comprehensive study.

Dr. Ron Anderson, chief executive of Parkland Memorial Hospital, which does not exempt illegal immigrants from its charity programs, said the decision by JPS did not affect his system.

But he said that it makes sense to get all low-income residents preventive health care in neighborhood clinics. When he came to Parkland in 1982, the system had no clinics and about 182,000 emergency-room visits annually.

Since then, the system opened neighborhood clinics countywide, and the emergency-room visits fell to 145,000 even though the population has nearly doubled.

“The truth is, if you don’t provide this care in the clinic, you’ll provide this service in the emergency room,” Dr. Anderson said.

AT WHAT PRICE?
Two studies were created this year estimating the cost of expanding nonemergency health care to illegal immigrants in the John Peter Smith Hospital system. One was created by Allied Communities of Tarrant, which supports the expansion, and the other by Phase 2 Consulting on behalf of JPS.
ACT study Phase 2 study
Current cost $2 million to $4.2 million $41.3 million
Estimated number of illegal immigrants 96,800 107,000
Percentage of illegal immigrants projected to use the new service 27 percent 7 percent
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research

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 September 9, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Teamsters’ union and truckers in general have been protesting the recent change in U.S. policy that now (as of last Thursday) allows Mexican trucking companies to drive anywhere into the United States. Previously, the law required Mexican trucks to drive no farther than about 25 miles into Texas, and somewhat farther into Arizona. The change is a part of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While there very well may be economic self-interests at play in these protests, the Teamsters say their primary concern is the safety aspect of allowing Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways.

The U.S. plans to grant permission to approximately 100 Mexican trucking companies by the end of 2007. This is part of a one-year pilot program intended to discover whether it would be safe to eventually allow all Mexican trucking companies into the United States.

Despite assurances from the U.S. government that all Mexican trucks will be inspected for drugs and for illegal immigrants, that the trucks will meet safety regulations, and that the drivers will be well-trained, there is considerable uncertainty among many Americans.

Because the main highway from Mexico into the U.S. runs through the Texas cities of Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas, and Fort Worth, we may find out fairly soon whether Texas drivers will be exposed to unusual dangers from the Mexican trucks.

Posted on August 31, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting tonight that a federal judge in San Francisco has put a temporary hold on the “no match” letters scheduled to be sent out by the Social Security Administration next week.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the AFL-CIO, and another hearing on the issue is set for October 1, 2007. The U.S. District Judge making the ruling was Maxine Chesney.

Posted on August 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

I agree with Governor Rick Perry! Now that is a statement you will not see very many times. But in an article in today’s Dallas Morning News Perry is quoted as taking a reasonable approach to border enforcement and a guest worker program. Here are excerpts from the article:

Lawmakers in Washington have failed to see the economic benefits of legal immigration and how a temporary worker program can coexist with greater border security, Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday as he concluded a three-day energy trade mission to Mexico.

Mr. Perry spoke passionately about the two pressing issues between the nations: an immigration overhaul and securing the border without building fences between neighbors.

“We know how to deal with border security, and you don’t do it by building a fence,” Mr. Perry said at a news conference before meeting with President Felipe Caldern.

Border crime can only be reduced with “boots on the ground” and perhaps some limited fencing in urban areas, Mr. Perry said. Last year, he said, half a dozen police surges at key points along the border reduced crime up to 60 percent.

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 August 21, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As a result of the inability of Congress to enact workable immigration reform, the Bush Administration has announced plans to increase enforcement, placing employers in a difficult position. The Administration’s latest plan requires employers to resolve discrepancies between employee records and those of the Social Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security. Once the employer has notice of a discrepancy in Social Security number or immigration status information from what is referred as a “no match” letter, the employer has 90 days to re-verify the information. If the employer is unable to correct the discrepancy within this time frame, the employer has the following two choices: (1) terminate the employment, or (2) continue the employment. If the employer chooses the first option and terminates the employment, he or she may be faced with lawsuits by employees. If the employer chooses the second option, he or she may be faced with severe civil and criminal sanctions from the Department of Homeland Security.Employers often receive “no match” letters for several reasons, such as clerical errors or failure to register a change of name after marriage. Both employers and employees can face bureaucratic delays in attempting to document and correct records. With this new enforcement plan employers will be made to jump through hoops, and employees could face potential termination as a result of these delays. These enforcement measures could have serious consequences on industries such as agriculture, hospitality, and construction.The construction and agriculture labor pool relies in significant part on undocumented or illegal immigrant labor. Nationwide, it is estimated that undocumented illegal workers number more than 12 million, with approximately 2.4 million of those workers employed in construction.American society continues to be redefined by immigration, but the modern illegal immigrant community faces different challenges than previous immigrant populations.After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government consolidated Immigration and Naturalization Services (now known as Citizenship and Immigration Services) with the Department of Homeland Security. As a result of the merger between these two agencies, there has been great emphasis on “tightening” America’s borders.There is now a greater focus on regulating the entry and conduct of undocumented illegal immigrants through the primary investigative department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Despite the economic and social reliance on undocumented laborers, Congress continues to introduce bills geared toward immigration enforcement rather than reform, having serious consequences for the industries that employ these immigrants.Potential employers of illegal immigrant laborers should closely monitor immigration reform and enforcement legislation as both could potentially pose severe punishments for such employers. The punishments may include prison sentences for employers who are repeat offenders, and/or fines of up to $10,000. Should such legislation take effect, it is likely that a national labor shortage may occur. The labor shortages in the affected industries would result in increased costs, strains and delays on local businesses as well as the community overall. Unfortunately, we may have to wait for at least the next two years for comprehensive immigration reform. As of now, with the enforcement-only approach immigrant employees and their employers are faced with a huge road block. Employees are unable to apply for legal status because no paths to legal status are available under the current system. Employers cannot find legal workers because no employment visas exist for such workers.

Enforcement-only legislation is not the answer. Congress needs to resume negotiations of comprehensive reforms that will secure our nations future by creating clear paths to lawful residence, providing new worker programs, eliminating backlogs in family immigration, assuring due process and protection of civil liberties while safeguarding our national security interests.

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 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 July 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Immigrants, and immigration lawyers, are getting whiplash from trying to keep up with the government’s changing opinions on the latest visa bulletin. First they’re accepting all application, then they’re accepting in application, now — we’ll, who can say for sure?

The Washington Post had an article this week about the situation. Here are excerpts:

The government did an about-face Tuesday and announced it is accepting applications for green cards filed by skilled immigrant workers.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Homeland Security Department, said in a news release it will accept the applications through Aug. 17. Applications already filed, which the agency planned to reject, also will be accepted.

The decision was good news for skilled immigrants.

We are pleased and elated. It’s very good to see a government agency see it’s made a mistake, acknowledge a mistake and fix a mistake,” said Crystal Williams, associate director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Every month the State Department announces how many visa numbers are available, which immigrants need to get in line for green cards or visas to enter the U.S. It can take years for some immigrants to get the numbers.

In June, the State Department said all eligible skilled workers could submit applications to become legal residents. But on July 2, it said the 60,000 available visa numbers were no longer available because Citizenship and Immigration Services had suddenly reduced its backlog of green card applications.

The about face resolves an immigration embarrassment that angered members of Congress and outraged workers and employers.

The process needs review, CIS Director Emilio Gonzalez said in a statement.

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 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 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times has devoted their lead editorial to the ridiculous and scandalous situation regarding the July Visa Bulletin. Here is the editorial:

Immigration Malpractice

The prickliness and glacial ineptitude of the immigration system is old news to millions of would-be Americans. Immigrants who play by the rules know that the rules are stringent, arbitrary, expensive and very time-consuming. But even the most seasoned citizens-in-waiting were stunned by the nasty bait-and-switch the federal bureaucracy pulled on them this month. After encouraging thousands of highly skilled workers to apply for green cards, the government snatched the opportunity away.

The tease came in a bulletin issued by the State Department in June announcing that green cards for a wide range of skilled workers would be available to those who filed by July 2. That prompted untold numbers of doctors, medical technicians and other professionals, many of whom have lived here with their families for years, to assemble little mountains of paper. They got certified records and sponsorship documents, paid for medical exams and lawyers and sent their applications in. Many canceled vacations to be in the United States when their applications arrived, as the law requires.

Then they learned that the hope was effectively a hoax. The State Department had issued the bulletin to prod Citizenship and Immigration Services, the bureaucracy that handles immigration applications, to get cracking on processing them. The agency is notorious for fainting over paperwork — 182,694 green cards have been squandered since 2000 because it did not process them in time. That bureaucratic travesty is a tragedy, since the annual supply of green cards is capped by law, and the demand chronically outstrips supply. The State Department said it put out the bulletin to ensure that every available green card would be used this time.

After working through the weekend, the citizenship agency processed tens of thousands of applications. On Monday, the State Department announced that all 140,000 employment-based green cards had been used and no applications would be accepted.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, the definition of a hangdog bureaucracy, says the law forbids it to accept the applications. The American Immigration Lawyers Association says this interpretation is rubbish. It is preparing a class-action lawsuit to compel the bureaucracy to accept the application wave that it provoked.

The good news is that immigrants’ hope is pretty much unquenchable. Think of the hundreds of people standing in the rain in ponchos at Walt Disney World on Independence Day, joining the flood of new citizens now cresting across the country. They celebrated on July Fourth, but for many of them the magic date is July 30, when a new fee schedule for immigrants takes effect, drastically jacking up the cost of the American dream.

The collapse of immigration reform in the Senate showed the world what America thinks of illegal immigrants — it wants them all to go away. But the federal government, through bureaucratic malpractice, is sending the same message to millions of legal immigrants, too.

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 July 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Here is a friendly reminder from USCIS about the enormous increase in filing fees effective July 30, 2007. Click to see the shocking new fees.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds its customers that the agency’s new fee schedule is effective on July 30, 2007. Applications or petitions postmarked or otherwise filed on or after that date must include the new fee.

USCIS announced the new fee schedule last month following a comprehensive review of nearly 4,000 public comments.  Under the new schedule, application and petition fees will increase, on average, about 66 percent.  Still, the schedule does include benefits for some families with children and also expands the availability of fee waivers and exemptions.

For more information concerning the final fee rule, we invite you to visit USCIS’ Web site at www.uscis.gov/21stCenturyService.  There, you can learn how the agency will Build an Immigration Service for the 21st Century based upon this new fee structure.

Posted on July 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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 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 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 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 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 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 14, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

We have some great news for all those who has been waiting for their priority date to become current in an employment-based immigration category. The July 2007 visa availability bulletin, which was released yesterday shows that all employment preference categories (except for Third “Other Workers” ) have been made “Current” for July. This means that as of July 1, 2007, everyone who has been waiting to file their I-485 Application for Permanent Residency can do so.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding this unexpected change in the visa availability bulletin. Many feel that this has been done in an effort to generate increased demand by Immigration Services for adjustment of status cases, and to maximize number use under the annual numerical limit.

Even though the employment categories are now current, that does not mean that they will remain this way. There is the possibility that not all Employment preferences will remain ‘Current” for the remainder of the fiscal year. Should the rate of demand for numbers be very heavy in the coming months, it could become necessary to retrogress some cut-off dates for September, most likely for China-mainland born and India, but also possibly for Mexico and Philippines. Several governmental organizations and officials believe the numbers will retrogress severely by 2008.

If you have a priority date that is now current, please contact us immediately to begin your adjustment of status application. You cannot afford to waste any time as there is no guarantee as to how long your priority date will remain current.

Here is the June 2007 Visa Bulletin:

VISA BULLETIN FOR JUNE 2007

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 11th 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. 2. Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000. Section 202 prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.

3. Section 203 of the INA prescribes preference classes for allotment of immigrant visas as follows:

FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES

First : Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second : Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, and any unused first preference numbers:

A. Spouses and Children: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older): 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third : Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth : Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCES

First : Priority Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second : Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third : Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “Other Workers”.

Fourth : Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth : Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of P.L. 102-395.

4. INA Section 203(e) provides that family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas be issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition in behalf of each has been filed. Section 203(d) provides that spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal. The visa prorating provisions of Section 202(e) apply to allocations for a foreign state or dependent area when visa demand exceeds the per-country limit. These provisions apply at present to the following oversubscribed chargeability areas: CHINA-mainland born, INDIA, MEXICO, and PHILIPPINES.

5. On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and “U” means unavailable, i.e., no numbers are available. (NOTE: Numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed below.)

Fam-ily All Charge- ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPP-INES
1st 01JUN01 01JUN01 01JUN01 01JAN91 22APR92
2A 22APR02 22APR02 22APR02 01MAY01 22APR02
2B 01DEC97 01DEC97 01DEC97 08MAR92 01OCT96
3rd 15MAY99 15MAY99 15MAY99 08FEB88 01JAN85
4th 08JUN96 08JAN96 22JAN96 15JUL94 01MAR85

*NOTE: For June, 2A numbers EXEMPT from per-country limit are available to applicants from all countries with priority dates earlier than 01MAY01. 2A numbers SUBJECT to per-country limit are available to applicants chargeable to all countries EXCEPT  MEXICO with priority dates beginning 01MAY01 and earlier than 22APR02. (All 2A numbers provided for MEXICO are exempt from the per-country limit; there are no 2A numbers for MEXICO subject to per-country limit.)

AllCharge-abilityAreasExceptThose

Listed

CHINA-
mainland born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIP-PINES
Employ-ment
-Based
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01JAN06 01APR04 C C
3rd 01JUN05 01JUN03 01JUN03 01JUN03 01JUN05
Other
Workers
01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
Iraqi & Afghani Translators 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06
5th C C C C C
Targeted Employ-ment Areas/
Regional Centers
C C C C C

The Department of State has available a recorded message with visa availability information which can be heard at: (area code 202) 663-1541. This recording will be updated in the middle of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.

Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the NACARA, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105 – 139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.

B. DIVERSITY IMMIGRANT (DV) CATEGORY

Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a maximum of up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to permit immigration opportunities for persons from countries other than the principal sources of current immigration to the United States. The Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997 stipulates that beginning with DV-99, and for as long as necessary, up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually-allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This reduction has resulted in the DV-2007 annual limit being reduced to 50,000. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than seven percent of the available diversity visas in any one year.

For June, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2007 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately
AFRICA 27,000

Except:Egypt:21,800Ethiopia:18,900Nigeria:

14,600

ASIA 6,800
EUROPE 19,000 Except:Ukraine

11,850

NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 7
OCEANIA 1,100
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 1,750

Entitlement to immigrant status in the DV category lasts only through the end of the fiscal (visa) year for which the applicant is selected in the lottery. The year of entitlement for all applicants registered for the DV-2007 program ends as of September 30, 2007. DV visas may not be issued to DV-2007 applicants after that date. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2007 principals are only entitled to derivative DV status until September 30, 2007. DV visa availability through the very end of FY-2007 cannot be taken for granted. Numbers could be exhausted prior to September 30.

C. ADVANCE NOTIFICATION OF THE DIVERSITY (DV) IMMIGRANT CATEGORY RANK CUT-OFFS WHICH WILL APPLY IN JULY

For July, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2007 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately
AFRICA 35,500

Except:Egypt:22,600Ethiopia 22,900

Nigeria 16,150

ASIA 7,750
EUROPE 23,000 Except:
Ukraine 13,000
NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 12
OCEANIA 1,800
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 2,500

D. EMPLOYMENT THIRD PREFERENCE “OTHER WORKER” CATEGORY FOR JUNE

A few “Other Worker” numbers which had been allocated for April were returned unused at the end of the month. As a result, a very small June allocation has been possible, for applicants with priority dates before October 1, 2001. The category will become “Unavailable” once again beginning in July and will remain so for the remainder of FY-2007.

E. EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA AVAILABILITY DURING THE COMING MONTHS

The current level of demand in many of the Employment-based categories has been much lower than anticipated. As a result, the June cut-off dates have been advanced significantly in an effort to maximize number use under the annual numerical limits. At this time it appears likely that there will be additional advances during the coming months.

All readers should be aware that such cut-off date movements should allow for action to be finalized on a significant number of Citizenship and Immigration Services adjustment of status cases. Once that level of demand begins to exceed the supply of available numbers it will be necessary to make “adjustments” to the cut-off dates. At this time is in not possible to estimate when this is likely to occur, but it is expected.

Posted on June 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) made a statement on their Web site yesterday that Federal immigration officials had illegally deported a U.S. citizen last month. Pedro Guzman, who is 29 years old, is currently missing in Mexico.

Mr. Guzman was born in Los Angeles and raised in California. He was serving time in jail for a minor misdemeanor offense when he was deported to Tijuana on May 10, 2007. Mr. Guzman is developmentally disabled, does not read or write English well, and knows no one in Tijuana.

Currently, it is not clear why Mr. Guzman was removed from the United States. The ACLU of Southern California stated that even though he was deported illegally, Federal officials in the United States have refused requests from family members to assist in the search for Mr. Guzman. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in a written statement, denied that Guzman’s deportation, which followed immigration checks at the jail, was improper.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a U.S. citizen has wrongfully been deported from the United States. There are documented cases where citizens have been deported, usually to Mexico. Although this rarely happens, the most common scenario is when a person automatically becomes a citizen (usually through a parent who naturalizes) and never realizes that he or she has also acquired U.S. citizenship. It is extremely rare to hear of a case like Mr. Guzman’s, who was born and raised in the U.S., and then deported as an adult to Mexico.

Under federal immigration law, there are absolutely no circumstances which allow a citizen to be deported if they were born in the United States. For those who naturalize in the U.S., the only basis for deportation is if they lied or committed fraud on their citizenship applications.

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 June 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post has an excellent article today discussing the recent trend toward choosing all-powerful immigration judges for political reasons, rather than choosing them based on experience in immigration matters. Here are excerpts from the lengthy article:

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.

Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation’s largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.

Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers — deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Department officials say they changed their hiring practices in April but defend their selections. Still, the injection of political considerations into the selection of immigration judges has attracted congressional attention in the wake of controversy over the Bush administration’s dismissal last year of nine U.S. attorneys.

All the judges appointed during this period who arrived with experience in immigration law were prosecutors or held other immigration enforcement jobs. That was a reversal of a trend during the Clinton administration in which the Justice Department sought to balance such appointees with ones who had been attorneys representing immigrants, according to current and former immigration judges.

Some judges and other immigration experts are highly critical of the administration’s practice of placing political allies on the courts. “When we start seeing people who look like [they’re fulfilling] someone’s political debt get these positions, it starts to become disturbing,” said Crystal Williams, a deputy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“Immigration law is very complex,” said Denise Slavin, an immigration judge since 1995 in Miami, who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union. “So generally speaking, it’s very good to have someone coming into this area with [an] immigration background. It’s very difficult, for those who don’t, to catch up.”

One was Glen L. Bower, whom Bush initially nominated to the tax court. He was never confirmed because lawmakers noted that his amended tax returns showed he had taken inappropriate deductions for entertainment, gifts and meals for three consecutive years. A former Republican state legislator, Bower was the revenue director to then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan (R), who would be convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

A few months earlier, another failed tax court nominee, Francis L. Cramer, a former campaign treasurer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was appointed as an immigration judge. Cramer’s bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association’s taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: “We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve.”

Cramer was then hired by the Justice Department’s tax division and was briefly lent to the department’s Office of Immigration Litigation. Ashcroft approved him as an immigration judge in March 2004. The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, criticized the appointment, saying, “Converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion.”

Another politically connected lawyer, Garry D. Malphrus, was appointed to Arlington’s immigration court in 2005. He had been associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and, before that, a Republican aide on two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees.

During the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election that brought Bush to office, Malphrus took part in the “Brooks Brothers riot” — when GOP staffers from Washington chanted “stop the fraud” at Miami’s polling headquarters.

Other appointed Republican loyalists include lawyer Dorothy A. Harbeck, who represented New Jersey’s last GOP candidate for governor; Mark H. Metcalf, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state Senate and U.S. Congress from Kentucky who went on to several positions at the Justice Department unrelated to immigration; and Chris A. Brisack, a former Texas county GOP chairman who had been named by Bush, the governor at the time, to the state’s Library and Archives Commission.

Bruce A. Taylor, who was appointed as an immigration judge in Arizona last year, was general counsel for two conservative anti-pornography groups, Citizens for Decency Through Law and the National Law Center for Children and Families. Taylor also worked as a senior counsel in the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, but his rsum does not indicate immigration-related experience.

The recent pattern of hiring for immigration judges provoked a 2005 lawsuit by the government’s chief immigration lawyer in El Paso for 22 years. Guadalupe Gonzales — no relation to the attorney general — alleged she was denied a judgeship twice in favor of less-qualified white men who were hired without an open application process.

Her suit alleged that, between 2001 and late 2005, only two Latinos were appointed nationwide as immigration judges. Justice Department records make clear that the immigration bench is overwhelmingly male and white, even though Spanish-speaking people from Latin America make up at least 70 percent of the caseload.

The Justice Department responded in court papers that Gonzales’s lawsuit should be thrown out; it argued that she had not identified a discriminatory practice and that immigration judges did not have be hired as part of a competitive process. It said that all but four immigration judges chosen during the period in contention — from late 2003 to 2006 — were hired without public competition.

In September, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the department, finding that Gonzales “had identified a particular policy that has a discriminatory effect on a particular group.” Sullivan said that one judge hired in El Paso did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Neither, the judge said, had Gonzales’s level of experience.

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

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

Each year thousands of asylum and immigration cases are overseen by judges. In the last few years, however, the judges’ decisions have come under attack as judges issue decisions which are widely inconsistent. On June 1st, the Dallas Morning News featured an article that detailed the discrepancies often found in Immigration Courts.

The article states that a study by three law professors was released last Thursday that shows that the outcome of asylum applications may be influenced by factors such as the location of the court and even the sex and professional background of the judge. The study, which can be found at www.ssrn.com, said Immigration Courts in Dallas and Houston grant only 37% of all cases that come before them. The authors of the study go on to state that the immigration system is a “refugee roulette” since the outcome of case is determined by the “spin of a wheel” – the assignment of a case to one immigration judge rather than another.

Immigration judges are trying to defend their decisions by stating that cases, especially asylum cases, are highly personalized and that as judges they have little to go by other that their own gut feelings about the case. Lawyers, case workers, and appeals courts are now criticizing this approach, because it seems that judges are allowing their personal feelings to affect their rulings.

The law professors’ study found significant discrepancies in the way asylum cases are handled. For example, female judges grant asylum at a rate that is 44% higher than male judges. Asylum applicants are also “considerably advantaged” if the judge reviewing their case has had previous experience in immigration law versus a judge whose background is in homeland security.

Another criticism of Immigration Courts is overwork and understaffing. In 2006, a study revealed that U.S. Immigration Court caseloads had jumped 39% in the previous five years. Even with the increased caseload, the courts have not seen much additional staffing or resources dedicated to alleviating the workload. To add on to this, two of the four immigration judges in Dallas retired this year, doubling the workload of the two judges remaining.

Several organizations such as The Rights Working Group and Human Rights First have been working diligently to make changes to the courts. Unless significant changes are made to the current immigration court system it is unlikely that any of these problems will be resolved

Click for a complete version of the Dallas Morning News article.

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 25, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Number 106Volume VIII

Washington, D.C.

VISA BULLETIN FOR JUNE 2007

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 11th 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. 2. Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000. Section 202 prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.

3. Section 203 of the INA prescribes preference classes for allotment of immigrant visas as follows:

FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES

First : Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second : Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, and any unused first preference numbers:

A. Spouses and Children: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older): 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third : Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth : Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCES

First : Priority Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second : Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third : Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “Other Workers”.

Fourth : Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth : Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of P.L. 102-395.

4. INA Section 203(e) provides that family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas be issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition in behalf of each has been filed. Section 203(d) provides that spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal. The visa prorating provisions of Section 202(e) apply to allocations for a foreign state or dependent area when visa demand exceeds the per-country limit. These provisions apply at present to the following oversubscribed chargeability areas: CHINA-mainland born, INDIA, MEXICO, and PHILIPPINES.

5. On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and “U” means unavailable, i.e., no numbers are available. (NOTE: Numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed below.)

Fam-ily All Charge- ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPP-INES
1st 01JUN01 01JUN01 01JUN01 01JAN91 22APR92
2A 22APR02 22APR02 22APR02 01MAY01 22APR02
2B 01DEC97 01DEC97 01DEC97 08MAR92 01OCT96
3rd 15MAY99 15MAY99 15MAY99 08FEB88 01JAN85
4th 08JUN96 08JAN96 22JAN96 15JUL94 01MAR85

*NOTE: For June, 2A numbers EXEMPT from per-country limit are available to applicants from all countries with priority dates earlier than 01MAY01. 2A numbers SUBJECT to per-country limit are available to applicants chargeable to all countries EXCEPT  MEXICO with priority dates beginning 01MAY01 and earlier than 22APR02. (All 2A numbers provided for MEXICO are exempt from the per-country limit; there are no 2A numbers for MEXICO subject to per-country limit.)

AllCharge-abilityAreasExceptThose

Listed

CHINA-
mainland born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIP-PINES
Employ-ment
-Based
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01JAN06 01APR04 C C
3rd 01JUN05 01JUN03 01JUN03 01JUN03 01JUN05
Other
Workers
01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
Iraqi & Afghani Translators 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06 18SEP06
5th C C C C C
Targeted Employ-ment Areas/
Regional Centers
C C C C C

The Department of State has available a recorded message with visa availability information which can be heard at: (area code 202) 663-1541. This recording will be updated in the middle of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.

Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the NACARA, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105 – 139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.

B. DIVERSITY IMMIGRANT (DV) CATEGORY

Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a maximum of up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to permit immigration opportunities for persons from countries other than the principal sources of current immigration to the United States. The Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997 stipulates that beginning with DV-99, and for as long as necessary, up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually-allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This reduction has resulted in the DV-2007 annual limit being reduced to 50,000. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than seven percent of the available diversity visas in any one year.

For June, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2007 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately
AFRICA 27,000

Except:Egypt:21,800Ethiopia:18,900Nigeria:

14,600

ASIA 6,800
EUROPE 19,000 Except:Ukraine

11,850

NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 7
OCEANIA 1,100
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 1,750

Entitlement to immigrant status in the DV category lasts only through the end of the fiscal (visa) year for which the applicant is selected in the lottery. The year of entitlement for all applicants registered for the DV-2007 program ends as of September 30, 2007. DV visas may not be issued to DV-2007 applicants after that date. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2007 principals are only entitled to derivative DV status until September 30, 2007. DV visa availability through the very end of FY-2007 cannot be taken for granted. Numbers could be exhausted prior to September 30.

C. ADVANCE NOTIFICATION OF THE DIVERSITY (DV) IMMIGRANT CATEGORY RANK CUT-OFFS WHICH WILL APPLY IN JULY

For July, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2007 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately
AFRICA 35,500

Except:Egypt:22,600Ethiopia 22,900

Nigeria 16,150

ASIA 7,750
EUROPE 23,000 Except:
Ukraine 13,000
NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 12
OCEANIA 1,800
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 2,500

D. EMPLOYMENT THIRD PREFERENCE “OTHER WORKER” CATEGORY FOR JUNE

A few “Other Worker” numbers which had been allocated for April were returned unused at the end of the month. As a result, a very small June allocation has been possible, for applicants with priority dates before October 1, 2001. The category will become “Unavailable” once again beginning in July and will remain so for the remainder of FY-2007.

E. EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA AVAILABILITY DURING THE COMING MONTHS

The current level of demand in many of the Employment-based categories has been much lower than anticipated. As a result, the June cut-off dates have been advanced significantly in an effort to maximize number use under the annual numerical limits. At this time it appears likely that there will be additional advances during the coming months.

All readers should be aware that such cut-off date movements should allow for action to be finalized on a significant number of Citizenship and Immigration Services adjustment of status cases. Once that level of demand begins to exceed the supply of available numbers it will be necessary to make “adjustments” to the cut-off dates. At this time is in not possible to estimate when this is likely to occur, but it is expected.

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

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 May 16, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The city council of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has unanimously passed several ordinances making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for immigrants to live and work in the city.

The measures include apartment renters providing proof of citizenship or residency and making English the city’s official language. Additionally, the new measures allow police to participate in a federal program that would enable them to check the residency status of suspects in custody and initiate deportation proceedings in certain cases.

One exception to the ban on immigrants is for mixed-status families. They may enter into a lease or rental arrangement if the family is already a tenant, the head of household or spouse has eligible immigration status, and the family includes only the head of household and spouse and their parents or minor children.

Apartment complex owners could be fined up to $500 a day for violating the law.

U.S. citizens will now have to provide a signed declaration of citizenship or U.S. nationality, confirmed by a U.S. passport or “other appropriate documentation in a form designated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as acceptable evidence of citizenship status.”

Non-citizens who want to rent an apartment in the city will have to provide:

* A signed declaration of eligible immigration status,

* One form from a list of documents designated by ICE as acceptable evidence of immigration status, and      

* A signed verification consent form.

Unfortunately, as Congress drags its feet on passing any kind of immigration reform law, more and more municipalities are expected to “take the law into their own had” and pass city ordinances that probably won’t pass constitutional tests, but will cause untold agony for residents and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to try to enforce in court.

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 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 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 April 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Yesterday, large crowds gathered at the Dallas City Hall for an immigration-rights rally. The rally comes exactly one year after the 2006 immigration march which was believed to be the largest social protest in Texas history.

The point of yesterday’s rally was specific – to encourage others to become U.S. citizens, to vote and to lobby for immigrant rights in the United States. This year’s crowd was smaller in number; estimates put the crowd somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 people.

Many of the people at the rally were illegal immigrants or children of illegal immigrants. Many in the crowd held signs that read “No to 2903” That refers to an ordinance in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch that would make it illegal for landlords to rent apartments to illegal immigrants.

Speakers also asked those who are citizens to vote, and asked those eligible to become citizens to take that step. Volunteers at nearby booths provided information on the rights of immigrants, filing immigration paperwork, and registering to vote.

For more information, please read the article in the Dallas Morning News.

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 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 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 March 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The American Civil Liberties Union has officially filed a lawsuit against federal immigration officials at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility that is located in Tyler, Texas. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of the children confined at this facility.

The ACLU claims in its lawsuit that both adults and children are being detained at this facility in jail-like conditions and that the children are not being provided with adequate schooling or medical care. The ACLU also states that the children are not allowed to bring either books or toys into the facility.

Many of the people who are currently detained in the facility are those who are seeking asylum in the United States. They could potentially wait more than 200 days before they are scheduled for a hearing with an immigration judge who would decide whether they will stay in the U.S. or be deported.

The ACLU’s main argument for the release of the children from the detention facility is that it is against the law and against American values to place children in a jail-like setting, without access to school or recreation.

Posted on March 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

News reports claim that United States citizens are selling  birth certificates and Social Security cards to illegal immigrants, often to get money to purchase necessities such as food or medicine.

Seven defendants from the Corpus Christi area pleaded guilty this week to selling their birth certificates and Social Security cards for $100 each. Seven more defendants pleaded guilty to buying or reselling the documents as part of a ring that sold documents to illegal immigrants seeking jobs in Dodge City, Kansas.

Posted on March 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported today by the Associated Press, six National Guard troops serving at the Mexican border became U.S. citizens Friday. The six members of the Texas National Guard were deployed to aid the U.S. Border Patrol after President Bush called for 6,000 troops on the southwest border in May, and are believed to be the first to become eligible for expedited citizenship because of their work helping to guard the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nearly 25,000 military service members on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, have taken advantage of an executive order signed in 2002 allowing active military personnel deployed for anti-terrorism duties to immediately apply for citizenship, skipping the previous one-year service period. Typically, noncitizens must wait three to five years before applying for citizenship.

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 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The debate over the future of immigration policy in the United States is expected to become one of the most pressing issues before Congress this year. Many misconceptions regarding the impact of immigration to the United States, however, may delay the passing of laws which favor immigration.

It may come as a surprise, but the United States benefits greatly by allowing foreign nationals to live, study and work in the country. For example:

  • A study released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California found that immigrants who arrived in the State between 1990 and 2004 increased wages of native workers by an average of 4%.
  • Another study conducted by the Immigration Policy Center in Washington D.C. showed that immigrant men between the ages of 18 to 39 had an incarceration rate five times lower than people born in the United States.
  • By increasing consumer demand, immigrants generate economic growth which benefits the middle-class. Immigration is also a major contributor to the expansion of Hispanic and Asian-American consumer markets, which in 2004 was estimated to make up 12% of the nation’s purchasing power.
  • Immigrants in the United States also stimulate the economy by starting up new businesses and attracting investment capital from their home countries.
  • Many packing houses, farmers, and companies that require employees to engage in physical labor depend on immigrant workers since there are simply not enough United States citizens who are willing and able to take those jobs. Additionally, highly skilled immigrants are a major reason for United States dominance in the fields of science and engineering.

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 February 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas issued a press release this month that details the trial and conviction of a Houston immigration lawyer and her legal assistant. It’s hard to believe a lawyer would blatantly violate federal laws this way, but this should be a warning to anyone hiring a lawyer for immigration purposes. Always tell the truth throughout the course of your immigration case. If you file fraudulent papers or lie under oath, the penalties are severe. Here is the press release:

February 14, 2007

IMMIGRATION LAWYER AND HER ASSISTANT FOUND GUILTY OF VISA FRAUD

(HOUSTON, TX) – A federal jury has convicted a Houston immigration attorney of conspiracy and fraud arising from a scheme in which false and fraudulent documents were filed with visa applications to permit foreign nationals to enter and remain in the United States, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced today.

Yali Huang, 44, the attorney, convicted of all counts alleged against her — conspiracy and four counts of visa fraud — was immediately ordered into federal custody following the return of the verdicts. Huang’s assistant, Yongping “Mary” Liu, 49, tried along with Huang, was convicted of one count of visa fraud and acquitted on the four other counts. She, too, was immediately ordered into federal custody following her conviction. Both women will remain in custody pending a May 16, 2007 sentencing hearing. The guilty verdicts were returned on Tuesday, February 13, 2007, after more than two weeks of trial and approximately twenty hours of deliberation.

“We will investigate anyone who files false petitions to circumvent the federal immigration laws,” said Robert Rutt, the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the lead agency involved in the investigation of this case. “And continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify those who choose to exploit our systems.”

Continue Reading…

Posted on February 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. has another provocative column online. I may have to just put all his columns here since he’s had so many good ones recently. This one is titled “Anti-Immigrant Mob Creates False Heroes” and is about the two border patrol agents imprisoned for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler.

Navarrette talks about what many of the “anti-immigrant” people don’t mention when they show their outrage about these agents being imprisoned just for “doing their jobs.” The agents tried to cover up the incident. They picked up their shell casings and filed a report that made no mention of the shooting. Here are excerpts from the article.

The world is upside down. A posse of Republican lawmakers who, when opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants, like to talk about how rules must be followed and how we shouldn’t reward lawbreakers. They’re now demanding that a pair of convicted felons be rewarded with a presidential pardon.

Ex-Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos were sentenced to 11 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, after a jury convicted them of shooting an unarmed suspect and then covering it up.

Compean fired at least 14 rounds and Ramos fired once, hitting Aldrete-Davila. The agents then collected the shell casings, failed to report the shooting, and filed reports that made no mention of the incident.

None of this is heroic, except to the anti-immigrant mob, which has been making excuses for Compean and Ramos while accusing U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whose office prosecuted the case, of being an agent of the Mexican government.

As his name gets dragged through the mud, you’d think that Sutton might hold a grudge. Not so.

“I have a lot of sympathy for some of the folks who are worked up because the narrative that they read is so different from the reality of what the jury heard,” Sutton told me.

But what about those unsympathetic Republican hacks, Minutemen vigilantes and conservative bloggers who are using this case to further their own agendas? For Sutton, it’s a reminder that there is no substitute for the American justice system. While not perfect, that system is designed to dole out justice based on facts and law, not politics.

“It’s why we litigate these things in a courtroom and not on cable television or the Internet,” he said.

Be glad that’s so.

Posted on February 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Although Congress has been debating immigration legislation, everyone should be advised that currently no temporary worker program exists for aliens unlawfully present in the United States. Congress has not passed any legislation that would create a temporary worker program. Therefore, there are no benefits currently available, because this program does not exist.

No one should pay any fees or fines to any person or organization claiming they can help apply for or receive benefits for a temporary worker program. Be suspicious of persons or organizations that claim they can assist in applying for benefits that do not exist.

For more information please visit www.uscis.gov.

Posted on February 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As an update to a previous post about the ridiculous imprisonment of the Ibrahim family, I’m pleased to report that the family has now been released from prison. The Dallas Morning News has a story today about the family. Excerpts from the article:

Immigration officers arrested Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife, Hanan, and four of their children in November at their Richardson home more than two years after their petition for asylum was denied.

Hanan Ibrahim, 34, who is five months pregnant, has been incarcerated since then at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, near Austin. Four of her children, Hamzeh Ibrahim, 15; Rodaina, 14; Maryam, 8; and Faten, 5, also were detained at the same center.

Meanwhile, her husband, 37, was being held at the Rolling Plains Regional Jail in Haskell, near Abilene. Attorneys for the family expect him to be released soon also.

Escalating violence in their homeland swayed a federal immigration panel Friday to reconsider the family’s asylum request, nullifying the order for removal from the U.S.

“Clearly the public glare of how horrible it is for children being detained and the family being split up caused this,” Theodore Cox, one of the family’s attorney, said of the decision.

Before Friday’s order, lawyers for the Ibrahims pointed out the family was willing to leave the United States but had nowhere to go. Travel documents issued to the family by the Jordanian government expired and the country refused to accept them. Other countries were not willing to take them or issue them travel documents.

Posted on February 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On September 30, 2001, a Palestinian family, the Ibrahims, entered the U.S. on tourist and business visas. They were unable to return home, however, since that would require traveling through Israel and Jordan. This was impossible since their temporary Jordanian passports had expired and Israel does not allow Palestinians to return home through that country.

Unable to return home, the Ibrahims applied for asylum, but their case was denied. A deportation order was issued for them to return home. Once again, this was impossible for the Ibrahim family. The family members were then classified as “stateless,” which implies that they have no country to be deported to.

Three months ago, however, the family was arrested during a raid at their Richardson apartment by immigration enforcement officers. The arrest came over two years after the family’s request for asylum was denied. The family, which includes Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife and four children, are now being held in a detention facility in Taylor, Texas. Mr. Ibrahim’s wife is also five months pregnant.

Much attention has been drawn to this case since four children, who range from the ages of five to fifteen, are also being detained. Lawyers who are working to help the Ibrahims, have taken action in federal district court so that the family may be released.

The lawyers representing the Ibrahim family contend that there is no justification for the detention of the family or the young children. The petition seeking their release notes that the children have been traumatized by being held in a jail like setting and are being deprived of education. The lawyers also argue that there is no basis for detention since the family does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Posted on February 1, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Nearly 50 people were taken into custody yesterday morning at a suburban Houston trash collection company in a raid to check for illegal immigrants. According to witnesses, federal agents arrived at around 6 a.m. and immediately assembled all of the employees in one area in the back of the facility. There, they began questioning workers and checking their drivers’ licenses and Social Security cards.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and sheriff’s department officials brought in several buses to the facility, presumably to transport undocumented workers.

The company has stated that there were immigration problems in 2005, but since then they have voluntarily signed up for the Basic Pilot program. Companies that take part in Basic Pilot can check the Social Security numbers that job applicants provide against a national database of Social Security and immigration records. Even using the program, however, illegal immigrants were found to be working at the company.

Most of the workers detained are from El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua, and they now face deportation from the U.S. Additionally, some of those arrested in the raid may face federal criminal charges for reentering the U.S. after deportation and also for the use of fraudulent documents to gain employment.

Posted on January 31, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This morning, Immigration Services announced a proposal to adjust filing fees for immigration and naturalization benefits. It is estimated that the new fees would be an 86% increase over the current fee structure. Immigration Services states that there is a need for an increase in the fee structure to improve customer service, strengthen the security of the current immigration system, and to modernize the organization’s infrastructure.

It is estimated that the increase in fees will eventually lead to a 20% decrease in processing time by the end of 2009. Previously, Immigration Services routinely adjusted fees for inflation, and the last increase took place in October 2005.

The proposed fee structure will undergo a comment period for sixty days beginning February 1, 2007.

For more information please see this Adobe Acrobat file from the USCIS Web site.

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 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Over the past several months, Bush administration officials and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been trying to convince businesses that rely heavily on foreign workers to join a little-known program that would spare them from federal raids so long as they voluntarily handed over their workers’ documents so the government can scan them for fraudulent information.

To prevent unlawful employment and reduce vulnerabilities that help illegal aliens gain employment, the Department of Homeland Security introduced the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program. The goal is to assist employers in developing a more secure and stable workforce and to enhance fraudulent document awareness through education and training.

The program calls on businesses to submit all I-9 employee eligibility verification forms to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for an audit and to ensure the accuracy of wage reporting by verifying workers’ Social Security numbers.

As part of IMAGE, ICE will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, use of the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program and anti-discrimination procedures. To obtain these benefits, a company will have to submit to an I-9 audit by ICE, and verify the Social Security numbers of their existing labor forces.

According to ICE, “The IMAGE program also serves to foster improved relations with businesses vital to U.S. national interests as part of ICE’s role in critical infrastructure protection.”

Currently, participation in the program is voluntary. An employer that complies with IMAGE will become “IMAGE certified,” a distinction ICE hopes will become an industry standard.

The government’s efforts under IMAGE are much broader than those under another program, Basic Pilot, in which businesses voluntarily enroll. Companies that take part in Basic Pilot can check the Social Security numbers provided by job applicants against a national database of Social Security and immigration records.

In December 2006, ICE rounded up nearly 1,300 immigrants in raids on meatpacking plants run by Swift & Co. The arrests were highly criticized by Swift’s President, who stated that the company relied in good faith on the Basic Pilot program, and had participated in the program since 1997. The system, however, did not identify stolen Social Security numbers or numbers that are being used in multiple locations. A Swift spokesperson stated that the company will not participate in the IMAGE program since they do not see any benefit in signing up for additional obligations when the Basic Pilot program had flaws in identifying illegal workers.

Posted on January 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. has yet another provocative column online. This one concludes that Americans will never be able to find a solution to immigration concerns because Americans are the problem.

His basic premise is that as long as Americans are addicted to illegal immigrant labor, we shouldn’t complain about illegal aliens coming to America. Here are excerpts from the article:

I’m a Mexican-American. In fact, I never feel more American than when I am in Mexico — a country with rich and poor and little in between, with too much corruption and too little opportunity.

Tijuana is an exception. It’s buzzing. According to Baja Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther, the unemployment rate is a measly 0.8 percent. Moreover, he said, the city retains as much as 70 percent of the people who migrate here from other parts of Mexico with the intent of crossing the border.

Did you catch that? To curb illegal immigration into the United States, root for the economies of Mexican border cities. If more people stayed there, fewer would come here.

Don’t expect the dim bulbs in Congress to figure this out. The only thing members could agree to do last year was approve a fraction of the funding to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border state governors were disgusted. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called the fence “ridiculous” and provocative toward Mexico. And yet, there are Americans who love the idea of a fence along the border. For them, such a barrier must seem impassable and impenetrable.

Recently, after a speech in San Diego, a woman presented me with her own solution: A high-speed rail connecting Tijuana with Southern California. That way, she said, people could work in the United States during the day and be home in Mexico before sunset.

I love the idea. Not because it’s any good but because it illustrates better than 1,000 columns the schizophrenic way in which many Americans complain about illegal immigrants even as we feed our addiction to illegal immigrant labor.

It also shows why Americans will never be able to find the solution — because we’re the problem.

Posted on January 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An Associated Press story in the Dallas Morning News today describes a recent study regarding the skin color of immigrants, and the effect the may have on their earnings. The disturbing conclusion of the study is that lighter-skinned immigrants earn more money, due to the prejudices of U. S. employers. Here are excerpts from the article:

Light-skinned immigrants in the United States make more money on average than those with darker complexions, and the chief reason appears to be discrimination, a researcher says.

Dr. Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants to the U.S. from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned an average of 8 percent to 15 percent more than similar immigrants with much darker skin.

“On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education,” Dr. Hersch said.

Other researchers said the findings are consistent with other studies on color and point to a skin-tone prejudice that goes beyond race.

Dr. Hersch took into consideration other factors that could affect wages, such as English-language proficiency, education, occupation, race or country of origin, and found that skin tone still seemed to make a difference in earnings.

That means that if two similar immigrants from Bangladesh, for example, came to the United States at the same time, with the same occupation and ability to speak English, the lighter-skinned immigrant would make more money on average.

Although many cultures show a bias toward lighter skin, Dr. Hersch said her analysis shows that the skin-color advantage was not due to preferential treatment for light-skinned people in their country of origin. The bias, she said, occurs in the U.S.

Economics professor Dr. Shelley White-Means of the University of Tennessee at Memphis said the study adds to the growing body of evidence that there is a “preference for whiteness” in America that goes beyond race.

Dr. William Darity Jr., an economics professor at the University of North Carolina, said Dr. Hersch’s findings are similar to a study he co-authored last year on skin tone and wages among blacks.

“We estimate that dark- or medium-skinned blacks suffered a discriminatory penalty of anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent relative to whites,” he said. “This suggests people cue into appearance and draw inferences about capabilities and skills based on how they look.”

Dr. Darity said it is not clear whether the bias is conscious or subconscious.

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 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On January 12, 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new program that will allow immigrants in the United States 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 that was mailed to USCIS.

Effective immediately, USCIS will now accept change of address information online. This new service will reduce processing time since Immigration Services typically receives over one million change of address requests each year. Additionally, this new services is convenient and easy to use. Please visit the USCIS Web site for more information.

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 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 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to the Dallas Morning News, a Web site that allows people to monitor the border between the United States and Mexico by live video, has resulted in the capture of only ten illegal immigrants. The Web site underwent a month long test to determine if the idea of monitoring illegal immigration through video was feasible.

The site, www.texasborderwatch.com, allows a person to view the Texas/Mexico border from eight different cameras. The Web site also allows viewers to e-mail reports of any suspicious activity. Previously, the images from the cameras were only available to law enforcement and the owners of the land where the cameras were located.

Governor Rick Perry’s plan is to put $5 million worth of cameras on the border so people in the U.S. can monitor illegal immigration. The cost of this initial test was $200,000. Critics of the Web site, however, stated that the cameras led to the arrests of only ten of the more than 12,000 undocumented illegal immigrants caught each month.

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 January 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Kraft & Associates’ immigration lawyer Dilnaz Saleem will be making a presentation on immigration laws and news Saturday January 13, 2007, from 4:00 p.m. To 5:00 p.m. The event will be at the East Branch of the Irving Public Library, located at 440 South Nursery Road, Irving, Texas. The presentation is open to the public. There is no requirement to register, and admission is free. There will be a question and answer session after the speech.

Please click this link for a map to the library.

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 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Columnist Reuben Navarrette, Jr. has written an interesting article for CNN, wondering what action, if any, the Democrats will take on immigration reform, now that they are officially in power in both the House and the Senate. Navarrette says almost 70% of Latinos voted Democratic in the 2006 election, but warns Democrats what might happen if immigration reform is not passed soon. The article concludes:

In the days after the election, there were newspaper articles in which sources in Congress said Democrats might want to put the immigration issue on the back burner and — certainly in the so-called 100-hour agenda to be kicked off this week — concentrate on easy victories such as raising the minimum wage, expanding stem cell research, lowering prescription drug prices and tightening congressional ethics rules.

But lately, there’s been talk of a bipartisan coalition in Congress that could approve an immigration bill that gives illegal immigrants a path to legal residency and perhaps even defund 700 miles of border fencing approved in the last session.

Sources in Congress are saying that the process will begin in the Senate as early as this month. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, are expected to introduce legislation. It should pass.

Then all eyes will be on the House, which could take up the issue later in the year. What if House Democrats get cold feet and fail to deliver, and Latinos hold them accountable? Let’s just say, they may not want to unpack those boxes just yet. In two years, they may have to find their way back to those smaller offices.

Posted on December 30, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

NSEERS – NATIONAL SECURITY ENTRY-EXIT REGISTRATION SYSTEM

Special Registration Procedures

The United States set up a program known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) after September 11, 2002, for the protection of those residing in the United States. NSEERS is targeted specifically toward foreign nationals born in specific countries on or before November 15, 1986. Men and women from the following countries must register with NSEERS:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

NSEERS is a way to keep track of certain people from one of these countries who would like to enter or leave the United States. There are more than 35 million immigrants registered in this system and they are required to register with immigration authorities at a port of entry or at the ICE office.

A foreign national who has to go through this procedure, must notify the authorities of any address changes, changes in employment and changes in schools attended. The notification has to be done within 10 days from the date the change takes place and after the foreign national has been in the United States for 30 days or more. Students can make their notification of address changes through Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

It is possible that foreign nationals who have to register with NSEERS would have to show proof of their registration with NSEERS if they want to file a petition or application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If that person is unable to provide proof of registration, he or she would then be sent by the USCIS to an ICE office for an NSEERS interview to find out what can be done at that point.

Those who are in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa and who fail to register regularly or meet the requirements of NSEERS during their stay in the U.S. will be considered out of status. They are then subject to being arrested, being held in detention, given fines and/or being removed from the United States. This could also affect any future rights this person would have for coming to the United States. These decisions, however, are made on an individual basis and depend on the circumstances of that person’s particular case.

United States citizens and lawful permanent residents, refugees, certain asylum applicants, those who have been granted asylum, diplomats and those who have been admitted into the U.S. with “A” or “G” visas are exempt from registering under NSEERS.

The good news for those who have to register with NSEERS, but have not gone through the process correctly, is that they are able to request a waiver for all or parts of the special registration requirements as long as this is done within one year. The request has to be made in letter form, and needs to be sent to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP will give rulings only for requests that include relief from arrival or departure registrations. The request letter, which is sent to the director of the port of entry where the foreign national will be applying for entry, needs to be accompanied by a detailed description of the relief being requested, the name of the applicant, date of birth, a Fingerprint Identification Number and one passport style photograph. Along with all of these, any documents that support the person’s application should be included.

It is important to note that if the waiver is not approved in writing prior to the interview or the person’s departure date, the person needs to appear for the interview or report to the port of departure office.

In addition, if someone wishes not to go through the registration procedures on a regular basis, that person needs to provide a written explanation for why he or she should be excluded from the special registration procedures. The request needs to be sent to the INS district office in the area where that person is living. While that person is waiting for a response, all the special registration procedures need to be followed until the INS notifies the person in writing that the request has been approved.

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 December 28, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has a good article about the scarcity of work visas for unskilled labor, and the effect this shortage has on businesses seeking workers. Only 5,000 work visas are available every year for unskilled laborers.

The article quotes Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service:

“There are only 5,000 visas in the system for people to come that way,” said Ms. Meissner, now a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. “There are probably 500,000 people added to the illegal population each year, and the large majority are unskilled. Things are so out of kilter.”

Ms. Meissner’s task force called for a restructuring of the chaotic visa system and stronger employment-based immigration policies.

Initially, the plan calls for:

* Temporary visas to be issued for short-term stays and work assignments.

* Provisional visas to allow employers to recruit foreign-born workers for permanent jobs and possible future immigration.

* And permanent immigration for those who graduate from provisional status.

The system initially would allow about 1.5 million visas a year.

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 28, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Another lawsuit has been filed against the Texas city of Farmers Branch, in an effort to prevent the city from enforcing recently-passed laws dealing with immigrants.

This suit is brought by The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. They are attempting to block a city ordinance that would  fine apartment owners up to $500 a day for renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance is to go into effect January 12, 2007.

The gist of the suit is that it will force families to break up, and it discriminates against Latinos. This lawsuit is the third to be filed against Farmers Branch since the new ordinances were passed late last year.

Posted on December 26, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

This information regarding litigation relating to ICE raids at Swift meat packing plants is from the AILF Web site:

On December 12, 2006, ICE officials arrested 1,282 noncitizen workers on administrative immigration violations at Swift meat packing plants around the country. Sixty-five individuals also have been charged with criminal violations related to identity theft or other violations, such as re-entry after deportation. ICE raided six Swift plants located in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. ICE did not bring charges against Swift officials during the raids. This Litigation Clearinghouse Issue Page provides information about the federal court litigation related to the raids.

Developments

Swift Employees File RICO Suit for Damages
Valenzuela v. Swift, No. 06-CV-2322 (N.D. Tex. filed Dec. 15, 2006)

On December 15, 2006, only three days after the raids on Swift factories, eighteen Swift employees filed a civil suit against Swift. The complaint alleges that Swift hired undocumented workers in an attempt to “illegally depress and artificially lower” the wages of its employees. The plaintiffs, who had the “legal right” to work at Swift, are suing for damages. The suit alleges that Swift’s actions violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

Union Brings Suit After Swift Raids
Yarrito v. Meyers, No. 06-CV-2494 (D. Colo. filed Dec. 13, 2006)

On December 13, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union filed a petition for habeas corpus and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of Swift employees detained during the raids. Plaintiffs’ suit alleges that the Department of Homeland Security’s conduct in carrying out the Swift plant raids violated and continues to violate the detained Plaintiffs’ right to be free from arbitrary prolonged and indefinite detention. Plaintiffs also claim that DHS violated their right to counsel by denying them access to counsel and any means to obtain counsel in a prompt and effective manner.

The day the suit was filed, United States District Judge John Kane signed an Order to Show Cause why the Petitioners’ Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus should not be granted. In the Order to Show Cause, the court ordered that the habeas applicants remain in custody and within the jurisdiction of the court until further order from the court.

DHS’ December 18, 2006 response to the Order to Show Cause outlined the purpose of the raid. According DHS, the “worksite enforcement action” was in response to an ICE investigation that revealed that a large number of workers at Swift’s Greeley, Colorado compound were in the United States illegally and had obtained employment by stealing the identities of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents. DHS says that the “enforcement action” took place in a calm orderly fashion and that no Swift employees requested counsel. DHS also claims that the court lacks jurisdiction to grant the writ of habeas corpus. Specifically, DHS asserts that the union does not have standing as next friend, and because applicants and the Union have failed to exhaust administrative remedies. In addition, DHS asserts that Petitioners fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because the government provided applicants with the requisite due process protections.

Court Denies Preliminary Injunction to Stop Raids
Swift v. ICE, No. 06-CV-314 (N.D. Tex. filed Nov. 28, 2006)

On November 28, 2006, Swift filed a complaint seeking judicial review of ICE’s planned shut down of six of Swift’s plants and the “mass removal” of suspected undocumented workers. The complaint alleges that ICE’s plan “would have a direct impact on many legal workers, as well as suspected illegal workers, and would irreparably harm Swift by interfering with its legal business operations and by damaging its reputation.” The complaint also outlines Swift’s efforts to cooperate with ICE investigations and comply with the INA.

The court held a closed hearing on December 6, 2006 to consider Swift’s request for a preliminary injunction. On December 7, 2006, the court issued an order denying the preliminary injunction. The court concluded that it was unlikely that Swift would succeed on the merits of the case and that an injunction would impede ICE enforcement activities and would be contrary to the public interest. Upon the parties’ stipulation, the court dismissed the case on December 14, 2006.

Posted on December 18, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. has an opinion piece at CNN online today in which he attributes a sinister motive to the “spin” Immigration and Customs Enforcement put on the recent raids at Swift & Company’s meat packing plants in several states. Navarrette objects to the depiction of the raids as a crackdown on identity theft. Excerpts from the article:

The worry used to be that illegal immigrants were stealing welfare. Then it was jobs. Now, we’re told, they’re stealing people’s identities.

For as long as anyone can remember, illegal immigrants have been working with the aid of bogus Social Security numbers. And this was seen for what it was — a violation of U.S. immigration law.

But last week, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up 1,282 illegal immigrants by raiding meat processing plants in six states — Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Utah — the operation was marketed as a crackdown on identity theft.

Why spin this as a crackdown on identity theft? That has a sinister ring to it, as if illegal immigrants were using stolen credit cards and withdrawing money from ATMs. More than likely, the extent of it was that people were using Social Security numbers that didn’t belong to them so they could work at dirty jobs that Americans wouldn’t do — just as they have for generations, before the phrase “identity theft” entered the national lexicon.

Of course, if this were presented as an immigration crackdown, people might ask: Why were no charges filed against the employer — Swift & Co? The world’s second-largest meat processing company has “never condoned the employment of unauthorized workers, nor … knowingly hired such individuals,” Swift & Co. President and CEO Sam Rovit said in a statement.

Note the word: knowingly. Rovit didn’t just fall off the meat wagon. He’s read the statute. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act made it a crime to “knowingly” hire illegal immigrants.

That’s a monster loophole. Suddenly, whenever there is a raid, no one knows anything. Illegal workers? Who? What? Where?

It’s cynical, and it’s the sort of thing that makes it hard to believe that Americans are serious about combating illegal immigration. How can we be if we don’t address the problem at its source?

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 December 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas Governor Rick Perry, normally an ultra-conservative, surprised most members of his conservative base yesterday. In a speech to border officials, Governor Perry said that  ideas such as a fence along the border, cutting off public education for illegal immigrants, and changing the law to take away birthright citizenship are “divisive.”

Perhaps now that the election is over, and Perry won a multi-candidate race with far less than a majority of the total vote, he is moderating his political views in order to attract more of the Latino population.

Whatever his motivation, and whatever his sincerity, those of us who try to help immigrants appreciate his new positions.

The decision by the Supreme Court will certainly reduce the number of people who are deported from the United States each year for minor drug offenses. The Supreme Court also made it easier for some immigrants convicted of drug possession under state law to remain in the country.

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 December 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Immigration courts have often deported immigrants residing in the United States for minor drug offenses. This occurred because under the Immigration and Nationality Act any immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony was deportable. An aggravated felony included any felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.

As a result of this, thousands of immigrants were deported from the United States. Minor drug convictions under state law were being used to remove aliens from the U.S. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided on December 5, 2006, that immigration courts cannot deport aliens convicted of minor state drug offenses that are not felonies under federal law.

Immigration is currently regulated under federal law. Therefore, in order for a person to be deported, the offense committed must be considered to be an aggravated felony under federal law, regardless of its categorization under state law.

Currently, those who are convicted of misdemeanors (both felony and state) are allowed to apply for certain waivers if they are placed in removal proceedings. This is not an option for those who have been convicted of felonies. The Supreme Court now holds that the only time when a waiver is not available to an immigrant in deportation proceedings is for a crime that is a felony under federal law.

The decision by the Supreme Court will certainly reduce the number of people who are deported from the United States each year for minor drug offenses. The Supreme Court also made it easier for some immigrants convicted of drug possession under state law to remain in the country.

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 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.

Posted on November 27, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a thought-provoking editorial about the Texas panhandle town of Cactus, where approximately half the population is illegal, and most work at the Swift meat-processing plant.

The Face of Desperation: Cactus confirms need for reform

There’s no reason to move to Cactus, a lonesome and woebegone Texas Panhandle town. There’s not much there aside from a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant, where the work is nasty and bone-crushingly hard. But as The Dallas Morning News reported in a three-part series last week, the slaughterhouse draws thousands of workers from Mexico and Central America who come out of raw desperation. Town officials estimate that three of every four people living there are illegal immigrants.

Anyone who romanticizes the illegal migrant worker population should talk to Cactus officials. The town is chaotic and crime-ridden. There’s drunkenness and drug abuse, robbery and prostitution, and fraudulent schemes that exist solely because illegal immigrants are easy targets for exploitation. Zoning and food safety regulations might as well not exist. Cops are overwhelmed. The rule of law is, in many cases, nothing more than a nice idea.

Lawlessness is intolerable.

So, round ’em up and ship ’em home? Do that, the plant closes and the town dies. Period. Does anybody really think Americans are going to be willing to relocate to this miserable hamlet, where, according to the News reporters, “most yards are dirt, weeds and gravel” – and to do so for grim, backbreaking jobs that pay little more than twice the minimum wage? Said a local preacher who ministers to the exhausted workers, “It is a job for animals.”

But these are not animals. These are human beings who toil largely beyond the protection of labor laws, for employers who drive them to work harder and faster, putting cheaper meat on American dinner tables.

Grinding the face of the poor is also intolerable.

Whether you’re a friend or foe of the lawbreaking migrants, it’s easy to maintain opinions and an untroubled mind about the crisis when you don’t have to live face-to-face with its complex legal, economic and moral realities.

Nothing about this crisis is abstract in Cactus. Cactus is reality. Nobody in Cactus can live in denial about the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform to account for hard facts. We can’t let Cactuses grow indefinitely. That this situation festers because America chooses denial is perhaps the most intolerable thing of all.

Posted on November 27, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Douglas Dispatch has a story about local rancher Roger Barnett, who was sued for threatening a hunting party of Latinos with a rifle in 2004. Here are excerpts from the newspaper article:

The jury assessed a total of $210,000 in damages, but found Barnett only partially to blame for the incident. As a result, he will have to pay approximately $98,000 to principal plaintiff Ronald Morales, his father, and three girls.

Speaking after the verdict, Morales said he felt justice had been served.

“We came to court and spoke the truth, and the jury heard that truth,” he said. “Hopefully this sends a message that you can’t point a gun at little kids – or anybody for that matter – and then threaten to shoot them.”

Morales sued Barnett after the rancher confronted Morales’ hunting party on Oct. 30, 2004, and accused the group of trespassing on his property outside Douglas.

During the incident, Barnett took out an AR-15 assault rifle from his pickup and pointed it toward the group, which included Morales’ father, Arturo Morales; his daughters, Angelique and Venese Morales; and the girls’ friend, Emma English.

The hunters, all of whom are Americans of Mexican decent, said Barnett insulted them with racial slurs and threatened to shoot them – charges Barnett denied. Ronald Morales said he tried to get the county attorney to press criminal charges against Barnett, but was told no jury would convict him.

Morales’ attorney, Jesus Romo Vejar, said he hoped the local prosecutor would now reconsider filing criminal charges against Barnett, and he hoped others who had had problems with the rancher also would be encouraged to file civil claims.

Barnett estimates he has detained and turned over to the Border Patrol between 10,000 and 12,000 illegal immigrants during the past decade.

The five members of Morales party sued Barnett for assault, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in favor of all five of the plaintiffs on the claims, but split responsibility between Roger Barnett, Ronald Morales and Arturo Morales.

Posted on November 21, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story at Breitbart.com today, “Nearly all air travelers entering the U.S. will be required to show passports beginning Jan. 23, including returning Americans and people from Canada and other nations in the Western Hemisphere.” The story goes on to say:

The date was disclosed Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an interview with The Associated Press. The Homeland Security Department plans to announce the change on Wednesday.

Until now, the department had not set a specific date for instituting the passport requirement for air travelers, though the start had been expected to be around the beginning of the year. Setting the date on Jan. 23 pushes the start past the holiday season.

The requirement marks a change for Americans, Canadians, Bermudans and some Mexicans.

Currently, U.S. citizens returning from other countries in the hemisphere are not required to present passports but must show other proof of citizenship such as driver’s licenses or birth certificates.

Visitors from most countries in the hemisphere are required to show passports. However, people from Canada, Bermuda _ and those from Mexico who enter the U.S. frequently and have special border-crossing cards have been allowed to use other forms of identification, including driver’s licenses.

Posted on November 21, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Question: How long after becoming a permanent resident does it take to become a United States citizen? What are the requirements for naturalization?
Answer: First, all applicants for U.S. Citizenship must be at least 18 years old. Second, a person is eligible to apply for citizenship if he or she has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence. The Applicant must prove that he or she has continuously resided as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least five years prior to filing for citizenship. Marriage-based petitions are an exception to the five year requirement and such applicants may apply for citizenship after three years.

The Applicant must also prove that s/he has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous 60 months. (i.e. the 30/60 rule). The Applicant must prove s/he has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period. Generally, the statutory period is five years. The statutory period is three years for person’s who obtained permanent residence through a marriage-based petition. The prospective citizen must have an ability to read, write and speak ordinary English, and have an understanding of basic U.S. history and government.

Question: I would like to file a visa petition for my spouse. Want documents do I need to bring to the interview to prove a valid marriage? 
Answer: You can prove the validity of your marriage with many different types of documents. For example, your U.S. Federal Income Tax Return should show either ‘married filing jointly’ or ‘married filing separately.’ Other examples include a lease agreement with both your names on it; new joint bank account statements; notarized affidavits from friends and relatives; letters and/or cards addressed to you as husband and wife; proof of vacations taken together, and junk mail addressed to you both. USCIS will want to see evidence of cohabitation, evidence of jointly held assets, jointly filed income tax returns, and other evidence which will tend to show that you married your spouse for love, and not solely to get your green card.

Question: I was granted permanent residency based on my marriage to a citizen. There were conditions placed on my status. What does this mean?
Answer: You are a permanent resident on a conditional basis. This means that your residency was granted to you less than two years after the date of your marriage. Your residency expires two years from the date it was given to you. You will need to file for removal of these conditions 90 days prior to the expiration of your residency status. To do this, you will need to show that you are still married and are in a bona fide marriage.

Question: I entered the U.S. illegally several years ago and married a citizen last year. Am I eligible to apply for permanent resident status?
Answer: Adjustment of status occurs in the United States after an individual has been inspected and admitted or paroled by presenting her/himself for inspection. A Form I-130 petition and a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, can be filed simultaneously only where it is for an immediate relative. Obtaining your “green card” in the U.S. can only take place if you entered the country with a valid visa. If you did not you will have to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. You will also have to submit a waiver showing extreme hardship to your spouse if you were forced to remain outside the U.S.

Question: What do I need to prove in order to obtain a visitor’s visa to the United States?
Answer:
There are several issues that affect whether a visitor visa will be given to an applicant. Everyone applying for a visitor visa is presumed to want to immigrate to the USA on a permanent basis. In order to rebut this presumption a person has to provide evidence that they will return to their home country prior to the expiration of their visa. This might include proof that you were invited to visit for a short vacation based on a letter in affidavit form from a friend or family member in the U.S. Also, besides establishing the reasons for the visit, you will also need to prove that you have every reason to return to your home when the purpose of your trip is accomplished. This might include evidence of employment that you will be returning to. Bank accounts, evidence of relatives in your home country, and ownership of property in your home country are all examples of facts that you may want to provide.

Question: I just realized that my green card expired. What do I do to obtain a new one?
Answer:
First, you should not travel with an expired green card. You will also need to file an application to replace your green card. This will be done on Form I-90. You will not lose your permanent resident status if you do not renew your Green Card nor will your permanent resident status will not expire or change. However, you are required by law to carry evidence of your status and it is best to apply for a new green card as soon as possible.

Question: I am a naturalized citizen. Is there any way my citizenship can be taken away from me?
Answer: Yes. If within two years of becoming a citizen the USCIS finds that the person acquired citizenship through misrepresentation, then administrative revocation can take place. If the time limit of two years has expired the government must file suit in federal court to have the person “denaturalized.” However, the chances of this ever happening are very small.

Question: Is there any new immigration reform that has been made into law? How will the new immigration law affect me?
Answer: As of May 25, 2006, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed immigration reform bills. The Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611) on which May 25, 2006 while the House passed the The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) on which December 16, 2005. Both bills vastly differ from each other in terms of content and law. The bill passed in the Senate encompasses a greater part of immigration benefits issues, while the bill passed in the House focused mainly on protection and security.

In order for any immigration reform bill to be made into law, a conference committee formed of both Senators and Representatives will convene to create one bill based on compromises. After one bill is drafted, both the Senate and the House will vote on it, if passed in both the Senate and the House, the bill will be sent to the President who can then either sign it into law or reject it. Currently there is no schedule set for the conference committee or vote date on the bill.

Question: I would like to travel outside the United States. Do I need to apply for advance parole before leaving the country?
Answer: There are certain classes of people who need to obtain advance parole before leaving the U.S. They include aliens in the United States who wish to travel abroad but have:1. An application for adjustment of status pending; 2. Been admitted as a refugee or have been granted asylum; 3. Been granted benefits under the Family Unity Program; 4. Been granted Temporary Protected Status; 5. An asylum application pending; and/or

6. An emergent personal or bona fide reason to travel temporarily abroad.

The purpose of advance parole is that it enables an alien to come back to the U.S. after traveling abroad without the necessity of obtaining a visa to the U.S., and it preserves whatever application the alien has pending with the USCIS.

Question: I obtained permanent residency based on my marriage to a U.S. citizen. We are now divorced. Can my green card be taken away from me or cancelled?
Answer: It depends. If your status is that of a conditional permanent resident, and your marriage has been terminated, it is possible for the alien to obtain a waiver of the termination. A waiver of the termination is granted to the alien if the alien can show that the marriage was a union in good faith and the alien was not at fault for his failure to file the joint petition to remove the condition. Generally speaking, if the conditional permanent resident can show that the marriage was entered into in good faith, it is presumed that he was not at fault for failing to file a joint petition.Divorce does not adversely affect an alien’s immigration status after the alien obtains permanent residence unconditionally.

Posted on November 20, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, several controversial laws were enacted in order to prevent future acts of terrorism. One of these laws was the Real ID Act, which was passed in May 2005. This law was enacted in order to establish national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards as well as to make it extremely difficult for terrorists to use immigration laws to their advantage.

Currently, forms of identification, such as driver’s licenses, are issued by the states, not by the federal government. States set the rules for what data is found on any identification card, and the states also maintain databases of ID card holders.

Beginning on May 11, 2008, however, a federal agency will not be able to accept any identification card issued by a state unless it meets certain requirements. Most of these requirements are already used by the states. The main source of controversy regarding the Real ID Act is the fact that in order to obtain any state issued ID card the applicant must show that he or she is lawfully present in the United States. States will also be required to collect a variety of data including name, home address, Social Security number and other identifying information, and to keep it this information in a shared database accessible to all states and the federal government. In addition, if a state does not comply with the requirements of the act, it will not be able to receive any sort of federal funding.

This requirement will make it impossible for those who are in the U.S. without any legal immigration status to obtain a state issued identification card. Without this card, a person will be unable to obtain automobile insurance, travel on any airline, apply for Social Security, or even enter federal buildings.

The Real ID Act also contains provisions in order to prevent terrorists from using the asylum process in order to reside in the United States. The Act sets forth a more rigorous standard that will make it more difficult for an applicant to be granted asylum. Furthermore, the Real ID Act provides that an alien who contributes funds or other materials to support a terrorist organization is inadmissible and deportable unless he did not know, and should not have known, that he was helping a terrorist organization.

Congress estimated that the costs of implementing the Real ID Act would be approximately $100 million. New studies, however, suggest that states will incur costs of more than $11 billion in order to meet the requirements set forth by the Act.

Many of those in favor of immigration feel that these new rules put unreasonable burdens on aliens trying to prove they are escaping from persecution, and unnecessarily broaden the definition of terrorist activity such that many will suffer “guilt by association” even if they don’t support terrorism. In the end, most feel that the burdens, costs and legality of the Real ID Act outweigh any potential benefit that would result from its enforcement.

Posted on November 18, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Xerox Corporation has set up a Web site that allows us to send Thank You cards to our troops overseas. Here is the explanation from the site:

The mission of Let’s Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.

The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.

All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3 Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops.

Xerox is committed to helping people across the nation express their gratitude to our troops overseas. The launch of this program is aimed at reminding them how much Americans appreciate their service.

Posted on November 13, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has a thoughtful editorial today regarding rule changes to prevent illegal aliens from receiving free medical treatment for their children. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

Hospitals and doctors across the country report that newborns have been denied coverage since a federal policy that prohibits automatic Medicaid eligibility to babies took effect this year. And it’s only a matter of time before this new law results in unintended tragedy.

Before President Bush signed the change into law in February, babies in most states were automatically eligible for Medicaid. States had to cover children’s medical expenses for one year. The new policy requires that parents also fill out an application and prove the child is a U.S. citizen. The problem? Processing birth certificates can sometimes take weeks – or months.

Texas has long required proof of identity for Medicaid applicants. But the additional proof of citizenship requirement is making it more difficult to get help at chronically understaffed and overwhelmed eligibility offices in such cities as Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

The new guidelines are designed to curb fraudulent abuse of Medicaid benefits, a worthy goal. But innocent children should not be left vulnerable because of possible paperwork tie-ups.

Even worse, misinformation might keep parents from taking their child to the hospital until the baby is gravely ill. Also, consider that denying health care now will only be more costly when the child ends up in the emergency room – which by law must provide help to all in need.

One thing we can all agree on is that denying medical services to a young child – who has no culpability in where he or she is born – is cruel and unusual punishment. Let’s get this straightened out before we read about that first needless infant death.

Posted on November 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. has an article on CNN warning Latinos that a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives may be no better than the current Republican-controlled House.

I refuse to be as pessimistic as Mr. Navarrette, but he does make some valid points. Here are excerpts from his article:

Just because a GOP-controlled House of Representatives screwed up immigration reform six ways from Sunday doesn’t mean that House Democrats will do any better, or that they’ll even feel compelled to try. Remember this is the same bunch of cowards whose leadership, a few months ago, produced a 25-page booklet laying out what they intended to accomplish if they won control of the House. The booklet left out any mention of immigration reform beyond that piece of low-hanging fruit: border security.

Political experts agreed that Democrats were terrified that the immigration issue would hurt them in conservative districts. Hispanic Democrats were furious and publicly criticized the leaders of their own party for dodging the immigration issue.

Now, my hunch is that we’re even less likely to see anything resembling amnesty for illegal immigrants under a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives than we were when the Republicans ran things.

Three reasons:

  • With Republicans in charge, you had their benefactors in the business community pushing hard for legalization in the hopes that it might provide additional workers. Democrats’ benefactors are in organized labor, which has — in the last decade or so — come around to supporting legalization but not if it’s tied to a guest worker program, which might be the only way that Republicans would sign on;
  • Once Democrats taste power, they’re going to like it, and they’re going to want to keep it. So they’re likely to keep their heads down and not do anything that might increase the likelihood that voters will take a corrective action in 2008 and bounce them back into the minority. At the top of the list is passing anything that looks, sounds or smells like amnesty;
  • And Democrats won’t think twice about betraying their Latino supporters on this issue because they take Latino votes for granted anyway. They haven’t come up with a new strategy for getting Latino votes since the 1950s when Texas Democrats used to parachute into Hispanic neighborhoods at election time with tacos and beer.

    So it’s a safe bet that, even if Democrats retake the House of Representatives, Latinos eventually will come out on the losing end.

Posted on October 30, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) has an interesting article that lists the approximate number of illegal immigrants in each U.S. Congressional District. The relevance of this information is to give an insight into the reasons for the immigration law votes of U.S. Representatives. For instance, in my own congressional district, the 32nd District in Texas, the approximate number of undocumented aliens is 120,000 — slightly over 18% of the total population. Yet my Representative, Congressman Pete Sessions, is strongly against comprehensive immigration reform. Here are quotes from the article:

Introduction:

Over the past year, Congress has debated major changes to immigration law as a response to undocumented immigration. While this debate has relied heavily upon estimates of undocumented immigration at the national level, less attention has been paid to the number of undocumented immigrants in local areas–and almost no analyses have considered the size and scope of undocumented immigration in each of the 435 congressional districts. Yet the size of the undocumented population in each congressional district is an important consideration in gauging whether or not a representative’s stance on a particular immigration policy or initiative has a basis in the actual, local impact of undocumented immigration.

An earlier IPC analysis showed that the number of undocumented immigrants was surprisingly low in the districts of key representatives leading the effort to restrict immigration. For example, there are relatively few undocumented immigrants in the districts of either Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-6th/CO), chair of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, or Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-5th/WI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Both were champions of H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act–an enforcement-only immigration bill passed by the House of Representatives on December 16, 2005.1

However, the extent of undocumented immigration in congressional districts is important for reasons beyond the interpretation of a representative’s voting record. Undocumented immigrants are counted by the census, the population estimates of which are used to apportion congressional districts, to re-draw the districts of state representatives and senators, and to delineate districts for a wide variety of municipal services (schools, police, fire protection, etc.). In addition, undocumented immigrants have a significant impact on local economies if they are present in sizable numbers. On the one hand, they contribute by paying taxes, purchasing consumer items, and–increasingly–becoming homebuyers. On the other hand, they utilize health care and social services that can strain local and state budgets. Moreover, many undocumented immigrants live in households that include native-born children, meaning that the welfare of millions of U.S. citizens depends in large part on the welfare of their undocumented parents.

Continue Reading…

Posted on October 28, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Public Notice

USCIS REMINDS APPLICANTS TO APPLY FOR TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR HOLIDAY TRAVEL ABROAD BEFORE THE END OF OCTOBER 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) anticipates an unusually high volume of requests for advance parole and other travel documents this winter, given  the occurrence of three major religious observances – Christmas, Hanukkah, and Hajj during the month of December. USCIS urges applicants needing a travel document (Reentry Permit, Refugee Travel Document, or Advance Parole) to file

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (available online at www.uscis.gov), before the end of October 2006. 

If you are applying for renewal of your advance parole document (I-512L or I-512), USCIS will accept and adjudicate a Form I-131 filed up to 120 days before the date your current advance parole expires. If you currently have a valid reentry permit or refugee travel document that will soon expire, you may obtain a new reentry permit or refugee travel document by filing Form I-131 and returning the current document to USCIS.  A new Form I-131 may be filed regardless of the expiration date of your current reentry permit or refugee travel document.

Please Note:

Individuals requesting advance parole must be approved before leaving the United States. Travel outside of the United States without advance parole may result in serious consequences including being unable to return to the United States and having pending immigration-related applications denied.  An asylum applicant who leaves the United States on advance parole and returns to the country of claimed persecution shall be presumed to have abandoned his or her asylum application absent compelling reasons for such return.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, stipulates that immigrants who depart the United States after being unlawfully present in the United States for certain periods can be barred from admission to lawful permanent resident status, even if they have obtained advance parole. Those immigrants who have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days, but less than one year are inadmissible for three years; those who have been unlawfully present for a year or more are inadmissible for 10 years. Immigrants who are unlawfully present and depart the U.S. and subsequently re-enter under a grant of parole, may nevertheless be ineligible to adjust their status.

USCIS recommends all immigrants with pending applications for adjustment of status check the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov, call customer service at 1-800-375-5283, consult an immigration attorney, or an immigration assistance organization accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals before making any foreign travel plans.

Posted on October 26, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Lou Dobbs, the CNN commentator who is very much opposed to loosening restrictions on immigration, has written an interesting article about the proposed border fence. Here are some selected quotes from the article:

President Bush will sign the Secure Fence Act into law Thursday at a public ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room, reversing his earlier decision to withhold the pomp and circumstance.

House Republicans demanded the formal proceedings for public relations purposes, claiming this fence is a major accomplishment for Congress ahead of our November midterm elections.

I’ve said from the beginning that we can’t reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can’t control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports. Constructing the border fence certainly is a good beginning to our efforts to control our borders, but let’s be honest about the legislation: It isn’t nearly enough, and far more must be done. A congressional victory lap isn’t in order for funding only half of a 700-mile fence along a nearly 2,000-mile border.

Between 12 million and 20 million illegal aliens are living in the United States. But as that range suggests, no one — not the Border Patrol, not Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security — has any true idea how many illegal aliens are here. Why not?

I suspect one major reason is the same federal government that refuses to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws is determined not to accurately measure the number of illegal aliens in the country so as to further cover up both the cost of illegal immigration and the necessity of creating a rational public policy.

Illegal aliens are an important part of a one trillion-dollar underground economy in America, according to Barron’s. Illegal employers hire illegal aliens who pay little or no income taxes, and whose children are provided free schooling. Illegal aliens receive medical and social services, and over the past decade have displaced more than two million low-skilled American workers from their jobs.

Increased drug trafficking constitutes another reason we must control our borders immediately. No matter how the government of Mexico resists, the Drug Enforcement Agency says as much as $25 billion in drug money crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each year. And that doesn’t even count the money made from middleman and end-user transactions in the drug trade. In fact, more cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana enter the United States from Mexico than from any other point.

Control of our border with Mexico must be established if we are to be successful in resolving our illegal immigration crisis and winning the war on drugs. We do want to win, don’t we?

Posted on October 16, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Under the two-year-old Dallas Office Rapid Adjustment (DORA) program, applicants undergo on-the-spot interviews when they submit their visa petition and application for adjustment of status at the same time. Many of those who attend their DORA appointment, however, learn that they are not eligible to participate in the program. In order to participate in the DORA program, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:

1. The petition must be for a family member who has a visa immediately available to them (a spouse, parent or child of a United States Citizen),

2. The applicant was a Diversity Lottery winner, or

3. The applicant is a special immigrant with an approved I-360 Visa Petition.

There are many rumors and misconceptions about this pilot program among immigrants. Please understand that this is not an amnesty, nor is it President Bush’s new proposal to grant work permits to illegal aliens. This is simply another option available to immigrants who would be otherwise eligible for adjustment of status.

Also, it is very important to make sure that you are eligible for adjustment of status when you use the DORA program. Prior removals, departures (voluntary or not) or refused admissions can have serious consequences on eligibility. Many applicants have been detained and deported without warning at adjustment interviews.

The DORA program was initially begun to adjudicate simpler cases. This system, however, is not for everyone. If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for adjustment of status, you may need to consult with an immigration attorney. It is important to make sure you are in one of the above-mentioned classes of persons eligible to obtain permanent residency at the time of your DORA appointment.

Posted on October 14, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State has issued the Visa Bulletin for November. You can see the entire bulletin at the State Department Web site. We have copied important sections below:

On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and “U” means unavailable, i.e., no numbers are available. (NOTE: Numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed below.)

Fam-ily All Charge- ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPP-INES
1st 22APR01 22APR01 22APR01 01JUL93 15NOV91
2A 01SEP01 01SEP01 01SEP01 01DEC99 01SEP01
2B 01FEB97 01FEB97 01FEB97 22FEB92 15AUG96
3rd 15NOV98 15NOV98 15NOV98 01JAN95 08FEB91
4th 22OCT95 22APR95 01AUG95 22OCT93 01MAY84

*NOTE: For November, 2A numbers EXEMPT from per-country limit are available to applicants from all countries with priority dates earlier than 01DEC99. 2A numbers SUBJECT to per-country limit are available to applicants chargeable to all countries EXCEPT  MEXICO with priority dates beginning 01DEC99 and earlier than 01SEP01. (All 2A numbers provided for MEXICO are exempt from the per-country limit; there are no 2A numbers for MEXICO subject to per-country limit.)

Employ-ment
-Based
AllCharge-abilityAreasExceptThose

Listed

CHINA-
mainland born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIP-PINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 15APR05 01JAN03 C C
3rd 01JUL02 01JUL02 22APR01 08MAY01 01JUL02
01OCT05 01OCT05 01OCT05 01OCT05 01OCT05
Other
Workers
01MAY01 01MAY01 01MAY01 01MAY01 01MAY01
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
5th C C C C C
Targeted Employ-ment Areas/
Regional Centers
C C C C C

The Department of State has available a recorded message with visa availability information which can be heard at: (area code 202) 663-1541. This recording will be updated in the middle of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.

Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the NACARA, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105 – 139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.

B. DIVERSITY IMMIGRANT (DV) CATEGORY

Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a maximum of up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to permit immigration opportunities for persons from countries other than the principal sources of current immigration to the United States. The Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997 stipulates that beginning with DV-99, and for as long as necessary, up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually-allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This reduction has resulted in the DV-2007 annual limit being reduced to 50,000. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than seven percent of the available diversity visas in any one year.

For November, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2007 applicants chargeable to all regions/eligible countries as follows. When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers BELOW the specified allocation cut-off number:

Region All DV Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed Separately
AFRICA 8,500 Except:Egypt5,600Ethiopia5,600Nigeria

4,300

ASIA 2,600
EUROPE 5,700
NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) 6
OCEANIA 280
SOUTH AMERICA, and the CARIBBEAN 350

Entitlement to immigrant status in the DV category lasts only through the end of the fiscal (visa) year for which the applicant is selected in the lottery. The year of entitlement for all applicants registered for the DV-2007 program ends as of September 30, 2007. DV visas may not be issued to DV-2007 applicants after that date. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2007 principals are only entitled to derivative DV status until September 30, 2007. DV visa availability through the very end of FY-2007 cannot be taken for granted. Numbers could be exhausted prior to September 30.

Posted on October 12, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News includes three opinion columns regarding the 700 mile fence legislation recently passed by Congress. None of the three are complimentary to Congress.

Syndicated talk show host Lynn Woolley discusses the hypocrisy and cynicism of the Congressmen and Senators in passing border fence legislation as a “symbolic gesture,” without funding legislation or any real expectation the fence will actually be built. Woolley says:

By dismissing recent border fence legislation as a “symbolic gesture,” Sen. John Cornyn has accomplished one thing with conservatives: He made us wonder if we can ever trust him again.

The House, Senate and finally President Bush got on board for actually doing something to enforce our leaky, dangerous borders. A bill to build 700 miles of border fence passed by landslide numbers. Even John McCain and Hillary Clinton voted for it, as did Mr. Cornyn.

But now Mr. Cornyn tells us it was all for show, that the fence will never be built. He says it’s too expensive and that Congress simply won’t appropriate the money. He says this as if we should have known all along and were playing some little game.

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman also believes the fence will never be built, and says that if it is built, it will not be effective in preventing illegal immigration from Mexico. According to Chapman:

And what will this lengthy barrier accomplish if and when it is finished? It will certainly prevent transient Mexicans and Central Americans from crossing the border in the places where it stands. But it won’t prevent them from crossing elsewhere, as they did when fences were erected in the San Diego and El Paso areas. Since the government began cracking down in those places, total illegal immigration has actually risen.

Instead of making their way through urban areas, undocumented foreigners have eluded capture by trekking across remote deserts and mountains, paying human smugglers to shepherd them into the United States. Instead of snaring more illegal entrants, we’re now arresting fewer.

A longer, more formidable fence can once again divert illegal immigrants to more dangerous routes and increase the fees charged by smugglers to arrange passage. As long as higher-paying employment beckons to impoverished people on the other side of the border, though, the cost and risk will still look modest next to the potential payoff. The fence can make illegal entry harder, but it won’t make it any less popular.

The third opinion is from Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. Llosa concludes:

Most walls in the history of civilization were walls of necessity to keep enemies or freedom away. This time, it’s a wall of choice. The choice to be seen to be doing something that everyone knows will never work – and may perhaps never actually be completed because, by the time they figure out how to erect the fence across the rugged bluffs and ravines of southern Arizona, Mexico could become a first-world nation and gringos could be flocking to the south!

Posted on October 12, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As election day rapidly approaches, it is important to understand the viewpoints each candidate for Texas Governor has on current immigration laws and proposed immigration reform. Understanding each candidate’s viewpoint will help you make a better decision on November 7, 2006.

Currently, the U.S. is home to approximately 10 million undocumented workers and their families. It is estimated that there are over one million illegal immigrants living in Texas. Each candidate has developed a plan to deal with illegal immigration and secure the Texas border.

Current Republican Governor Rick Perry wants to take action to tighten border security. This will include using the National Guard to patrol the U.S./Mexico border. He will ask for $100 million to fund border security efforts and will authorize the building of “border jails” to hold illegal aliens.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an Independent and former City of Austin Mayor, states that she will provide double the power of the Texas Rangers so that they can lead state border security measures and she will provide them with $15 million to do so. She believes that Texas must do more to protect the borders along the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico by taking all necessary steps to prevent illegal immigration.

Kinky Friedman, an Independent candidate, would like to send 10,000 Guardsmen to the border. He also wants to impose fines of up to $50,000 on companies that hire illegal immigrants, and require foreign workers to buy a taxpayer ID card and pass a criminal background check. He would also like to make the Mexican government fund the cost of illegal immigration in Texas.

Chris Bell, a Democrat and former Congressman from Houston, said that he wants to focus on employers who hire illegal workers, but has said that trying to deport illegal immigrants already here would be difficult. He also supports the McCain-Kennedy bill that would provide a so-called “pathway to citizenship” for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, provided they had jobs, learned English, paid fines, and met certain other requirements.

Each candidate for Texas Governor has a different stance on illegal immigration and immigration reform, and your vote will help determine the future of immigration in the United States.

If you have any questions on how to become a citizen or where and how to vote, please contact us or visit www.immigration-law-answers.com.

Posted on October 5, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. State Department has released information about how to register for the fiscal year 2008 Diversity Lottery. Entries must be received between noon (Eastern Time) on October 4, 2006, and noon on Sunday, December 3, 2006. Applicants may access the electronic Diversity Visa entry form at dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period. Paper Entries will no longer be accepted.

A maximum of up to 55,000 Diversity Visas (DV) each fiscal year will be made available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Citizens of countries that have more that 50,000 persons immigrate to the United States each year are not eligible to participate in the Diversity Lottery Visa Program.

Requirements for Lottery Entry:

1. Citizens of the following countries ARE NOT eligible to participate: Canada, China (mainland born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

2. However, even if you are from one of the above-mentioned countries, you may still be able to participate in the Diversity Lottery program. First, if you were born in a country that is not eligible, but your spouse was born in a country that is eligible, you can register for the lottery. Second, if you were born in one of the ineligible countries, but neither of your parents was born there or resided there at the time of your birth, you may apply for the program if at least one of your parents was born in an eligible country.

3. Applicants must meet either the education or training requirement of the diversity lottery program. You must have EITHER a high school education (or its equivalent), OR two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. Visit the State Department Web site for a list of qualifying occupations.

If you cannot meet these requirements, you should NOT submit an entry.

Important Facts

1. Submitting more than one application will disqualify you from registration. Every application received will have an equal chance of being selected.

2. No fee is charged to enter the diversity visa lottery program.

3. Those applicants who are selected will be notified by the Kentucky Consular Center with specific instructions on how to proceed. Persons not selected will not receive any notification.

4. In order to receive the immigrant visa, you must meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law. This means that persons who have previously entered the country illegally, have criminal convictions, or who are from countries identified as sponsors of terrorism will not be eligible for the visa.

For more information, please visit the State Department’s detailed instructions for Diversity Visa Lottery application.

Posted on September 27, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. House and Senate negotiators agreed this week to spend $1.2 billion to install fences and vehicle barriers along hundreds of miles of the Mexican border. This provision was slipped into a spending plan for the Department of Homeland Security.

The House and Senate are still arguing and negotiating over other bills relating to immigration matters, but no one expects real immigration reform to pass before the Congress adjourns September 30, 2006, to begin full-time campaigning for the November elections.

Posted on September 25, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Yet another story about the effect on growers of the current uncertainty about immigration laws appeared in the New York Times recently. The focus of this article was the fruit growers of California. Here are a few excerpts:

Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal Mexican migrant workers out of California this year, farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains on the state’s shrinking seasonal farm labor force.

Labor shortages have also been reported by apple growers in Washington and upstate New York. Growers have gone from frustrated to furious with Congress, which has all but given up on passing legislation this year to create an agricultural guest-worker program.

Last week, 300 growers representing every major agricultural state rallied on the front lawn of the Capitol carrying baskets of fruit to express their ire.

This year’s shortages are compounding a flight from the fields by Mexican workers already in the United States. As it has become harder to get into this country, many illegal immigrants have been reluctant to return to Mexico in the off-season. Remaining here year-round, they have gravitated toward more stable jobs.

“When you’re having to pay housing costs, it’s very difficult to survive and wait for the next agricultural season to come around,” said Jack King, head of national affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

California farms employ at least 450,000 people at the peak of the harvest, with farm workers progressing from one crop to the next, stringing together as much as seven months of work. Growers estimate the state fell short this harvest season by 70,000 workers. Joe Bautista, a labor contractor from Stockton who brings crews to Lake County, said about one-third of his regular workers stayed home in Mexico this year, while others were caught by the Border Patrol trying to enter the United States.

As they sum up this season’s losses, estimated to be at least $10 million for California pear farmers alone, growers in the state mainly blame Republican lawmakers in Washington for stalling immigration legislation that would have addressed the shortage by authorizing a guest-worker program for agriculture. Many growers, a dependably Republican group, said they felt betrayed.

“After a while, you get done being sad and start being really angry,” said Toni Scully, a lifelong Republican whose family owns a pear-packing operation in Lake County. “The Republicans have given us a lot of lip service, and our crops are hanging on the trees rotting.”

Posted on September 23, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Bruce Schneier, of Counterpane Security, has written a disturbing column in the Dallas Morning News about the dangerous technology additions to new passports. His opinion is that the radio-frequency identification chips to be installed in new passports will make travelers more susceptible to identity theft.

These RFID chips store an electronic copy of passport information, including your name and photo. The potential problem is that RFID reader machines can scan this information without touching the passport — the passport merely has to be within a short distance of the reader. This means  a crook could set up a reader at a hotel, bank, or any other place you show your passport. The crook could then read your passport information and use that for illicit purposes.

While the U.S. State Department has taken certain security measures to guard against such ID theft, Schneier’s biggest concern is that passports issued with the new RFID chip will have a normal lifetime of ten years. Surely by ten years from now, crooks will have come up with new and improved ways to steal your passport information from the RFID chip.

The column concludes with this warning:

The Colorado passport office is already issuing RFID passports, and the State Department expects all U.S. passport offices to be doing so by the end of the year. Many other countries are in the process of changing over. So get a passport before it’s too late.

With your new passport you can wait another 10 years for an RFID passport, when the technology will be more mature, when we will have a better understanding of the security risks and when there will be other technologies we can use to cut the risks. You don’t want to be a guinea pig on this one.

Posted on September 20, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in a Rocky Mountain News article, Colorado’s new tougher immigration enforcement law may have unexpected costs. Several state agencies have put in requests for a combined $2.5 million in budget increases in order to properly implement the new law. Supporters of the bill had said the agencies would be able to handle any increased workload within their original budgets. Excerpts from the article:

The Colorado legislature passed the measure during a special session in July, a law some say imposes the toughest immigration rules in the nation.

House Bill 1023 went into effect Aug. 1 and establishes strict identification rules that require tens of thousands of Coloradans to prove to local and state agencies they’re in the country legally before they can obtain most government benefits.

Several agencies said Monday they are still working to identify the programs that fall under the law’s umbrella as well as 15 other measures passed this summer and last spring that overlap and present their own set of challenges.

The Department of Revenue, for example, has fielded numerous complaints of longer wait times at DMV offices as clerks verify the legal immigration status of people applying for licenses and identification cards.

Also, more than 1,700 people have been caught attempting to use fake documents to get a driver’s license or ID card in just the first month of the new law.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s 64 counties are in charge of administering welfare benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid to more than 100,000 residents. And, many county human services departments have had to hire additional workers to verify the legal status of people applying for benefits, said Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services.

“We’re getting into the more difficult areas of the legislation to determine certain aspects of what services are in or out,” she said. “You can predict some of the costs and certain things, but as more things and more situations come to light, we’ll have to determine the needs accordingly.”

State officials said it will likely take months before they clearly understand the costs and scope of the new immigration laws. “It’s important to remember that we’re two months out from the special session. It’s relatively soon,” Sobanet said. “If it turns out that people were getting benefits they shouldn’t have been, then we may see a reduction in costs. But that remains to be seen.”

Posted on September 19, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article about the failure of all Latino immigrants to learn the English language. The point of the article, as all of us who regularly deal with Hispanic clients understand, is that this failure to learn is not due to laziness or a conscious decision not to learn English. It’s because English is not easy to learn — especially by adults with full-time jobs and families to raise. Here are some excerpts from the article:

In the Edin Espino family, late of Guatemala and now living in one of southwest Houston’s sprawling, immigrant-filled apartment complexes, the best English is spoken by 4 1/2 -year-old preschooler Edin Jr.

The senior Espino, 27, understands enough to get by at his two jobs, one in a grocery store produce section and another at a nearby restaurant, but he can’t hold a conversation. His wife, Clara, 33, understands the occasional word. Three-year-old German and Aida, 16 months, perk up when they hear “bye-bye” and other commonly used terms. But after six years in the U.S. living in one of the city’s urban barrios, Spanish is the dominant language spoken inside and outside their home.

“I want to learn English. I know it would help me get ahead. But I have to work 65 hours a week to raise my children and pay my bills. That has to come first before anything,” says Espino.

Fewer than half of the Houston residents who speak one of the city’s top three non-English languages consider themselves fluent in English, according to recent census figures. The languages, unsurprisingly, are Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese.

The percentages are about the same nationwide for the same three languages.

“Many immigrants don’t speak English, but it’s not because they are lazy or don’t want to learn it or want to make everyone else speak Spanish or Vietnamese. They just have other priorities like providing for their basic needs,” says Nelson Reyes, executive director of the Gulfton Area Neighborhood Organization.

Posted on September 18, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

In an Associated Press story widely reported in newspapers and on Web sites, Stillmore Georgia is described as a near ghost town after the loss of much of its immigrant population.

The town of about 1,000 people was practically depopulated when federal agents swept up more than 120 illegal immigrants and sent them to immigration court in Atlanta. As the AP article stated, “The sweep has had the unintended effect of illustrating how vital the illegal immigrants were to the local economy.” Here are other excerpts from the story:

In August, the federal government reported that Georgia had the fastest-growing illegal-immigrant population in the country. The number more than doubled from an estimated 220,000 in 2000 to 470,000 last year. This year, Georgia lawmakers passed some of the nation’s toughest measures targeting illegal immigrants, and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue last week promised a statewide crackdown on document fraud.

At Sucursal Salina No. 2, a store stocked with Mexican fruit sodas and snacks, cashier Alberto Gonzalez said the owner may shutter the place. By midday, Gonzalez had only six customers. Normally, he would see about 100.The B&S convenience store, owned by Keith and Regan Slater, the mayor’s son and grandson, lost about 80 percent of its business.”These people come over here to make a better way of life, not to blow us up,” complained Keith Slater, who keeps a portrait of Ronald Reagan on the wall. “I’m a die-hard Republican, but I think we missed the boat with this one.”Since the mid-1990s, Stillmore has grown dependent on the paychecks of Mexican workers, who originally came for seasonal farm labor, picking the area’s famous Vidalia onions. Many then took year-round jobs at the Crider plant, with a work force of about 900.

Crider president David Purtle said federal agents began inspecting the company’s employment records in May. They found 700 suspected illegal immigrants, and supervisors handed out letters over the summer ordering the 700 to prove they came to the United States legally or be fired. About 100 kept their jobs.

The poultry plant has limped along with half its normal work force. Crider increased its starting wages by $1 an hour to help recruit workers.

Posted on September 14, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story in the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado farmers are running short of workers and face potential losses of millions of dollars this growing season because of new state laws scaring off immigrant laborers. Excerpts from the article:

Colorado farmers, ranchers, dairies, packing plants and green industries, such as sod growers and nursery owners, are especially concerned about a law that goes into effect Jan. 1.

That law, approved during the special legislative session on immigration in July, requires employers to verify Social Security numbers and save proof that workers are legal.

The state will perform random audits and employers face a $5,000 fine for the first violation and up to $25,000 for the second offense.

Gov. Bill Owens, who convened the special session in which the new law was passed, said a labor shortage isn’t an excuse to break the law, according to spokesman Dan Hopkins.

“It’s been devastating,” said Andy Grant, of Grant Family Farms near Wellington, the state’s largest organic grower. “Farm workers in America are afraid to travel to Colorado.”

Seasonal and migrant workers make up about half the state’s agricultural labor force, said Jimmie Dean of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents 18,000 family farms in Colorado.

Jared Koch of the Colorado Farm Bureau, which has 28,000 members, said the new immigration laws could chew a $59.9 million hole in the state’s agricultural production in each of the next three years.

An American Farm Bureau Federation’s study, using federal statistics, estimated that 50 percent to 75 percent of the nation’s agricultural labor force have “questionable” documents, said Austin Perez, the federation’s director of congressional relations.

The figure may be higher in Colorado, said Dawn Thilmany, a professor of agricultural economics at Colorado State University.

“Most estimates say 85 to 90 percent of the agricultural labor force are illegal in some way, either undocumented or have illegal documents,” said Thilmany.

“The political scene is changing,” said Luis Indacochea, another supervisor at Grant Family Farms. “Word is getting to the people in the farmworker community that people without documents can no longer find work. You mix that with the rumors that go around, and you end up with a bad situation. I do believe word has gotten out that Colorado is a hostile place.”

While most producers say they check documents, no one knows how many workers are legal or illegal.

“Everyone presents themselves as legal. We already check their documents,” said Bruce Talbott, of Talbott Farms in Palisade.

Farm worker wages have traditionally been low, but growers say they’ve gone up without attracting new workers.

Frank Eckhardt grows sugar beets, onions, feed corn and alfalfa near Greeley. He said he usually pays workers $7 to $7.50 an hour, but offered $10 an hour this year and couldn’t find enough help.

“We and a lot of farmers have lost up to 50 percent of our production because we didn’t have workers,” said Grant, who grew vegetables on 2,000 acres last year, but will harvest only 500 acres this year.

Farmers across the state echoed Grant and pushed for a new federal guest worker program, which could provide enough qualified help.

“We need a way to get workers that are legal and dependable,” said Mackie O’Neal, of O’Neal Produce, which ships cantaloupes and onions from the Arkansas Valley near Rocky Ford.

Under the current federal guest worker program, agriculture producers apply for temporary visas, known as H2As, but the wait for help can last up to a year and many requests go unfilled.

“You don’t know if you are going to get all the workers you need or not,” said Sharon Harris, executive director of the Colorado Greenhouse and Nursery Association, which also relies on seasonal workers.

Congress adjourned without passing a better guest worker program.

“The H2A program is so expensive and so difficult. We’ve watched Washington

$5,000 Fine for first offense for employing an illegal immigrant

$16 billion: annual farm revenue in Colorado

$59.9 million: Estimated potential losses because of labor shortages

50% to 75%: Estimated share of the work force with questionable documentation.Sources: American Farm Bureau Federation, Colorado Department Of Agriculture

Posted on September 13, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in today’s Dallas Morning News, the organizers of the much-anticipated MegaVoto drive hoped to register 1000 new voters in Dallas County, but only got 40 to sign up.

The organizers aren’t giving up though — they’re going to concentrate their efforts on Latinos who are already registered to vote, and encourage them to go to the polls in greater numbers than in the past.

Posted on September 11, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the town of Hazelton, Pennsylvania has granted tentative approval to revisions to its controversial Illegal Immigration Relief Act in an attempt to help the law survive legal challenges.

Posted on September 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Hispanic Magazine, in the August 2006 issue, named Dallas as the fourth best U.S. City for Hispanics. The magazine mentioned the fact that more than 1/3 of the residents of Dallas are Hispanic, and the Latino Cultural Center calls Dallas home, as do many Hispanic, Mexican, and Spanish arts programs.

The magazine article said “…several organizations such as the area’s Hispanic chamber, Hispanic Bar Association, DFW Hispanic Bankers, a society for Hispanic engineers, the DFW Minority Business Development Council and others make for an excellent support system for Latino professionals.”

To satisfy your curiosity, the top three U.S. cities were Miami, San Antonio, and Albuquerque.

Posted on September 6, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

“Border War,” a documentary by David Bossie, that is aimed to wake up the national conscience premiered last week in Burbank, California, and will be released on DVD in October. It is based on Mr. Bossie’s vision of undocumented immigrants being delinquents who ruin our American dream by taking advantage of it, and rob the jobs other Americans can occupy.  David Bossie is president of the ultraconservative organization Citizens United, which has the purpose of reaffirming traditional American values.

However, as an article in the Washington Post points out:

Bossie was fired as an investigator for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee after overseeing the release of recordings of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s phone conversations with Whitewater figure Webster L. Hubbell. The tapes were edited to create the impression that Clinton was involved in billing irregularities at the Arkansas law firm where she and Hubbell worked.

Posted on September 6, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

An article in the Mercury News details an Associated Press study showing that the large immigration rallies last Spring have not resulted in increased voter registration among Hispanics. Excerpts from the article:

Protest organizers — principally unions, Latino advocacy groups and the Catholic Church — acknowledge that it has been hard to translate street activism into voting clout, though they insist they can reach their goal of 1 million new voters by 2008.

“I was anticipating a huge jump in registration. I didn’t see it,” said Jess Cervantes, a veteran California political operative whose company analyzes Latino voting trends. “When you have an emotional response, it takes time to evolve.”

It is impossible to count exactly how many new registrants were inspired by the new movement, because counties typically do not ask for race or ethnicity.

New registrations were up this year compared with last year, but they were well below the numbers in 2004, and the increase is not surprising at a time Democrats and Republicans are struggling for control of Congress. Even without that factor, the numbers do not indicate the watershed awakening advocates had envisioned.

Latino voters are a pivotal voting bloc, especially with their numbers projected to continue to grow. But they have long voted in numbers far below their share of the population, in part because many are under 18 or not U.S. citizens. A study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that while Latinos accounted for half the nation’s population growth between the 2000 and 2004 elections, they represented only one-tenth of the increase in votes cast.

Posted on September 5, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News columnist with the wonderful name of Macarena Hernandez recently interviewed Irving, Texas mayor Herbert Gears about the increasingly large immigrant population of that Dallas suburb. Mr. Gears says we need more civil conversations about immigration. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

And if there is a city that knows about immigration – legal or not – it’s Irving, which is home to one of the largest North Texas concentrations of foreign-born residents, primarily Latino and Asian. In fact, nearly 70 percent of public elementary schoolchildren are Latinos.

“Given current demographics, we’ll have this diversity forever,” he tells me. “It is never going to be reversed.”

And since that’s the case, he says, then let’s embrace it.

Irving, now a majority-minority city, began its transition about 20 years ago when white families fled to other suburbs and Spanish-speaking immigrants began moving in. Coping with the changes hasn’t been easy, Mr. Gears says, but it had to be accomplished. The way he sees it, what some would call the “Mexicanization” of the United States is really a part of the cultural fusion that has historically linked our state to its southern neighbor.

“You want to build a 100-foot-wall along the border, build it,” Mr. Gears tells me. “And you can inspect anyone else who comes through from head to toe. But that’s a completely different issue from what you do with the people already here.”

Too often, Mr. Gears says, the debate centers around the short-term costs of illegal immigration. People forget or ignore that even undocumented workers pay their share of taxes and boost their local economies. But perhaps immigrants’ biggest contribution to their new home is their children.

Considering native-born fertility rates are down and those 65 years and older are expected to make up nearly a quarter of this country’s population by 2030, Mr. Gears believes this infusion of young energy is a blessing for cities like his. In the long run, it’s these younger Americans who will be paying for the pensions of future retirees.

Whether here legally or not, immigrants are “giving birth to new Americans,” he says, “and that’s what allows America to continue to be strong.”

Posted on September 1, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

A report issued today by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgetown states that Hispanic buying power and African-American buying power are each expected to total $800 billion this year. Asian buying power is expected to be about $427 billion.

According to the report, California accounts for 27% of Hispanic buying power, and Texas accounts for about 18%.

Posted on August 30, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As mentioned August 22, 2006, in a previous post, the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has a proposal pending to penalize local employers for hiring undocumented workers, and to penalize landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. This is viewed as racist by some people.

In response, some area Hispanic leaders have come up with an interesting  proposal of their own. They are encouraging Latinos, here legally or not, to purchase each of the 157 homes currently available for sale in Farmers Branch, including the home of the City Councilman who made the original proposal.

Posted on August 26, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

A California temporary employment agency that supplies farm workers sued a grower and two competitors last week, alleging the other companies were unfairly cutting labor costs by hiring undocumented workers. This is expected to be only one of many such lawsuits around the country, as businesses become more frustrated by the lack of enforcement of immigration laws by the federal government.

In this particular case, the temporary employment agency is alleging that fruit growers are refusing to hire workers from them, because the growers can hire cheaper, undocumented, workers from other temp agencies. Such a case would probably be difficult to win, but could certainly have a deterrent effect on employers.

Posted on August 25, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of implementing a new travel policy that will require U.S.citizens to carry a passport when returning from Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean. This is a big change from the current situation, where citizens with little more than a drivers license can come and go across borders with ease.

The new rules will go into effect at the beginning of 2007. The current proposal is that as of January 8, 2007, the rules will apply to air and sea travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Passports will be required for overland crossings by January 1, 2008.

So no more spur-of-the-moment shopping trips to Mexico for Texans in border communities, and perhaps substantial decreases in tourists taking cruises to Mexico or the Caribbean. The expense and waiting time to acquire a U.S. Passport may deter tourists and shoppers alike.

Estimates are that only 27% of U.S. Citizens have passports. My advice is to apply for a passport now, if you don’t already have one. You never know when you might need one in a hurry.

Posted on August 19, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

According to an Associated Press article in the Houston Chronicle, the federal government has released a new report showing that about 11 million illegal immigrants were living in the U.S. at the start of 2006, up from about 8.5 million at the start of the year 2000. The government acknowledged the difficulty of getting an accurate count in its report. Quoting from the article:

In March, the Pew Hispanic Center used Census Bureau data to estimate that the United States had 11.1 million illegal immigrants in March 2005. The center used monthly population estimates to project a total of 11.5 million to 12 million in March.

Mexico is the largest contributing country of illegal immigrants, with nearly 6 million in the U.S. in 2005, the government said. El Salvador, Guatemala, India and China followed with a combined contribution of about 1.4 million unauthorized immigrants.

The greatest increase in illegal immigrants in the country was among Mexicans, a jump of 260,000 from 2000 to 2005. The greatest percentage increase in the immigrant population in those years was among people from India, 133 percent, and Brazil, 70 percent.

California had the largest illegal immigrant population, with 2.8 million in January 2005, followed by Texas with 1.4 million and Florida with 850,000.

Posted on August 12, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had an interesting article this week about the proper phrases to describe foreign nationals in this country without valid documentation. The point of the article is that how we label those who cross the border does affect public opinion.

The newspaper interviewed a select number of people, and quoted their opinions. For excerpts from the article, keep reading. For the full story, click the link above.

To Dell Eriksson, they’re “illegal aliens.” ‘Immigrant’ — as a term — is someone here lawfully,” said Eriksson, a retiree from Brooklyn Center who thinks the country lets in too many foreigners.

Nathan Thompson contends these people are “undocumented workers.”The word ‘illegal’ conjures images of hardened criminals coming to the U.S. … and that is completely false,” said Thompson, a teacher who lives in St. Paul. “The phrases ‘illegal alien’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ appeal to base-level emotions and cut off debate.”

The war of words is more than semantics, say researchers who study such matters. What you call these men and women shapes public opinion of them, and that in turn frames the debate over how to change immigration laws.

For example, if these people are “undocumented workers,” the Senate’s plan to create a guest-worker program so they can work here legally would seem to be the logical solution. But if they are “illegal aliens,” the House immigration proposal that focuses on tightening border security sounds like a sensible approach.

The problem is, none of the descriptions is really accurate, said former U.S. Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner, now an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. “This is not a simple thing,” Meissner said.

Many “undocumented” workers actually entered the country with documents, but then overstayed their visas, she said. And immigrants can be legal or illegal based simply on what country they’re coming from.

Meanwhile, individual immigrants are not necessarily illegal, but there can be illegal immigration, Meissner said. Even the federal government can’t make up its mind. The U.S. Census Bureau calls them “unauthorized immigrants.” Other federal agencies refer to them as “illegal aliens.”

Even the news media are divided on the wording. Fox News, for example, calls them “illegal aliens.” Most major newspapers call them “illegal immigrants,” although the National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls that term “dehumanizing.”

Even Meissner grapples with wording. She said she has been using the terms “unauthorized migrant” or “unauthorized immigrant” — but not exclusively. And she also uses the term “illegal” to describe the phenomena of immigration, and sometimes to describe people as well.

Posted on August 9, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As detailed in a Dallas Morning News article, vehicle crashes are becoming a “steady source” of migrant deaths.

According to the article, stricter border enforcement is causing smugglers to take greater risks. One tactic is cramming many immigrants into a van or SUV, and driving over rougher terrain to cross the border. This puts the vehicle in danger of overturning, with resulting death or injury to the occupants. This week, an SUV overturned in Arizona, killing nine people and injuring a dozen more. There were 21 people in the vehicle.

Posted on August 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

As noted in a Dallas Morning News article about the Dallas Office of Rapid Adjustment, the test program is catching the eye of Washington politicians. DORA is designed to speed up the processing of Green Card applications, and to prevent long stays in the U.S. By foreign nationals who are ineligible for legal permanent residence.

In most of the country, aliens who apply for a Green Card are given a temporary work permit while their applications are processed. The processing time can range from months to over one year. In the meantime, the aliens are permitted to live and work in the U.S. even though they may actually be ineligible for the Green Card itself.

The Dallas Office of Rapid Adjustment pilot program cuts the processing time to no more than 90 days, so temporary work permits are not required. That allows eligible applicants to get their Green Cards quicker, and allows USCIS to weed out the ineligible applicants before they are issued temporary work permits.

The newspaper article implies that one reason the two-year-old pilot program has not been implemented nationwide is that the government could lose perhaps $350 million or more in fees if it increases efficiency.