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Posted on March 7, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 30, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on November 15, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on August 12, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on June 9, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on March 23, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on February 3, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 14, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on November 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

This excellent editorial appeared recently in the Dallas Morning News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on November 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

Posted on June 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on May 27, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on May 24, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on May 18, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

Posted on April 19, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Thankfully, we may not need to place the order.

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

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

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

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

The middle-income

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

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

Influx of buyers

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

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

Shilling writes: “If the current excess of 2.4 million houses were purchased at today’s median home price of about $184,000, the inflow from foreigners would be $88 billion, assuming they put 20 percent down and borrowed the rest in this country.

“If they paid cash, the inflow would be $442 billion. Besides stimulating the domestic economy, this would vastly help the U.S. foreign accounts and support the dollar. The mere announcement of this program would probably go a long way toward stabilizing house prices.”

And stabilizing house prices is very important. It may be the whole ballgame. Without productive action, Shilling estimates home prices will fall an additional 20 percent by the end of 2010. That would leave nearly 25 million homeowners upside down, or owing more on their homes than they are worth.

This is something worth writing about to your representative or senator.

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a good editorial about obstacles to be faced in enacting immigration reform legislation with a new administration and new Congress. Bottom line – it won’t be easy, but it must be done. Here is the editorial:

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

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

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

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

But let’s not kid ourselves. Obstacles remain.

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

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

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

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

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on December 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

From the Brownsville Herald comes a story about a recent USCIS proposal to require holders of old green cards with no expiration dates to turn them in and get a newer version. The stated reason for the proposal is to allow USCIS to get current personal contact information on these green card holders.

The problem for green card holders will be that this will give USCIS an opportunity to run criminal background checks, and if any minor infractions of the law are found, the green card holder could be subject to deportation. It’s going to be a very tricky matter. Here are excerpts from the article:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is considering a proposal to eliminate hundreds of thousands of green cards that were issued between 1979 and 1989. The cards, which were issued without expiration dates, would be upgraded to store personal information electronically. Officials at CIS say that the new cards would be more difficult to counterfeit. Like cards issued after 1989, they will expire every ten years. “The photos on the old cards are more than 18 years old,” said Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for CIS, “and the security features are not as good.” She explained that the new card includes holograms of U.S. presidents, which are difficult to duplicate. CIS is currently reviewing comments that have been submitted in response to the proposal. As of now, there is no timeline for implementation. If the proposal, which was issued on Aug. 22, moves forward, legal permanent residents would have 120 days to apply for new cards. Failure to comply with this would be a misdemeanor, which could result in $100 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days. Immigration attorneys are concerned about the financial burden their clients will bear if the proposal is implemented. The card costs $290 plus an additional $80 for fingerprinting and photo fees.

Permanent residents who replace their green cards will also be subject to criminal background checks. If an infraction–even one as minor as a traffic citation–is uncovered, they might be asked to provide relevant paperwork, including proof of an indictment and its dismissal.

Posted on October 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The blog of the New York Times has an interesting post today about the “breaking point” being reached in the farmworker immigration situation. The bottom line is that farmers are not finding enough workers, due to immigration crackdowns. And while there are still unemployed American citizens, very few of them have any experience in farm work (or are interested in learning).

There may be a farmworker provision attached to another bill and presented to Congress before the end of the year, but that is very tenuous at this point.

Posted on September 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Reuters news service reported on the Democratic debate Sunday night in Florida, and said the candidates were attempting to win over Hispanic voters with promises of comprehensive immigration reform. The debate was broadcast in Spanish on Univision. Here are excerpts from the article:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who would be the first Hispanic U.S. president, said, “I object to the dehumanizing of people that want to be part of the American dream.”

He and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd are the two fluent Spanish speakers in the Democratic field.

“The politics of fear are the most dangerous politics in our country, and those people who deal with fear and frighten the American people on this issue ought to be dealt with accordingly,” Dodd said at the University of Miami debate, billed as a discussion of issues crucial to Hispanic voters.

Hispanics are the country’s biggest and fastest-growing minority group, accounting for about 15 percent of the population and at least 14 million potential voters in 2008.

President George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, but Democrats see a growing opportunity to win over Hispanics alienated by the hard-line Republican stance on immigration.

Efforts at a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws collapsed in the U.S. Congress amid a bitter debate on the future of undocumented workers and illegal immigrants in the United States, many of whom are Hispanic.

The Democrats condemned a bill passed last year by the then Republican-led House of Representatives but never approved by the full Congress that cracked down on illegal aliens and boosted border security efforts.

Richardson lampooned plans to build a fence along the Mexican border to protect against illegal immigration.

“If you’re going to build a 12-foot wall, you know what’s going to happen? A bunch of 13-foot ladders,” Richardson said.

But Clinton, Obama and Dodd defended their votes to build a wall, included in a Senate immigration bill not passed by the full Congress, as a necessary part of greater border security.

“We’ve got to secure our borders. That has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said.

The questions were asked in Spanish and the candidates heard English translations through earpieces. All the candidates answered in English and were translated for the Spanish-language audience.

Richardson complained about the restrictions on speaking in Spanish.

“I’m very proud to be the first major Latino candidate to run for president,” said Richardson, adding he was “disappointed” that 43 million Latinos would not “hear one of their own speak Spanish.”

Posted on August 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Bush administration announced plans today to crack down on illegal immigration in several ways. MSNBC.com is one of the many media outlets reporting the basics of the new policies. Here are excerpts from their article:

The latest measures mainly involve tighter enforcement of existing laws – posing a challenge to the many US employers now reliant on migrant workers.

“The message we are conveying today is pretty simple: we are serious about immigration enforcement,” said Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary.

Mr Bush made immigration reform a priority of his second term, backing bipartisan legislation that aimed to strengthen border security while offering a path to citizenship for the estimated 12m illegal immigrants already in the US.

But the bill collapsed in June amid fierce opposition from grassroots Republicans, who accused Mr Bush of offering an amnesty to those who entered the US illegally.

The measures announced on Friday reflected the pressure on Mr Bush to get tough on the highly charged issue of illegal immigration.

The White House acknowledged there was little chance of Congress passing immigration legislation in the foreseeable future. “Until Congress chooses to act, we’re going to be taking some energetic steps of our own,” said Mr Chertoff.

One rule proposed on Friday would mandate employers to sack workers unable to verify their legal status within 90 days. Employers who failed to comply would face possible criminal fines and sanctions. “We’re going to continue to clamp down on employers who knowingly and wilfully violate the laws,” said Mr Chertoff.

Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, promised to streamline existing visa rules to help industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, that rely on migrant labour. “We will use every available tool to provide America’s farmers, ranchers and small businesses with a legal workforce, to stay in business and keep our economy strong,” he said.

Edward Kennedy, the Democratic senator who helped craft the failed immigration bill, said the proposals were no substitute for comprehensive reform.

“Without strong new laws, the administration’s plan will do little to enhance our security and will hurt millions of immigrant families who are contributing so much to our communities and our economy,” he said.

Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator who opposed the bill, said the measures were not tough enough. “I won’t be happy until I see action that’s more than just a press conference and words on a piece of paper.”

Posted on August 9, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a thought-provoking editorial about the consequences of a new proposal to crack down on employers of illegal aliens. What would happen if 8,000,000 workers lost their jobs suddenly? Here’s the editorial: 

Critics of comprehensive immigration reform often insist that simply enforcing the laws we already have would go a long way toward solving our growing illegal immigration problem.

We don’t entirely disagree. We do believe strongly that a national strategy should include more than a fence along the Mexican border and deporting every person without papers, but who can be against enforcing current law?

So we were pleased to hear that the Department of Homeland Security intends to crack down on employers who hire workers here illegally with tougher rules that require firing anyone using false Social Security numbers to get work. Backing that policy will be more raids of suspect job sites.

The old employer excuse: “Hey, they had papers.”

The feds’ new rejoinder: “Hey, you should have known better. We sent you a no-match letter.”

In short, if the Social Security Administration can’t connect a number filed with it to a real identity, employers will be notified by mail. Instead of ignoring these notices, as often happened in the past, or just passing them along to the worker to deal with, employers will have 90 days to resolve discrepancies. If they can’t, they must fire the worker or face a $10,000 fine per illegal immigrant.

“There are not going to be any more excuses for employers,” said Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, “and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly ignore the law.”

Fair enough.

But let’s also be clear about the consequences. The feds say they expect to send out 140,000 no-match letters this year, covering more than 8 million workers. We seriously doubt employers will risk $10,000 fines for the vast majority of them.

That means untold numbers of workers out of jobs. Some will go home. Others with spouses or kids in school might roll the dice and try to use those same forged documents to find another job. In the most desperate circumstances, some may even turn to crime to survive.

Imagine for a moment the increased strain this will place on our social service network – food banks, emergency health care and our already overstuffed jails. This is where “too bad for them” falls apart as a response. Everyone who pays taxes will foot the bill.

This is one reason we continue to push Congress to renew the immigration debate. A biometric ID card – close to impossible to forge – was one excellent idea that got washed away in anti-reform tide, as did a realistic guest worker program that would have given hundreds of thousands of needed workers a way to work within the law.

Targeting employers makes sense, as long as we realize who will pay the price.

Posted on July 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting that a federal judge has thrown out the Hazelton, PA, anti-immigration law. Cities around the country have passed similar laws, and those laws may be in jeopardy also. Here are excerpts from the AP story:

The Illegal Immigration Relief Act sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Another measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.

U.S. District Judge James Munley declared it unconstitutional Thursday and voided it based on evidence and testimony from a nine-day trial held in March.

The city will almost certainly appeal.

Posted on June 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This is the official statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association on the failure of the comprehensive immigration reform bill to pass in the U.S. Senate:

Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07062865 (posted Jun. 28, 2007)”

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate, in failing to pass a key procedural obstacle to the passage of its immigration reform legislation, today failed not only immigrants and their families and employers, but failed the country.

Our current immigration system is badly broken. Twelve million undocumented immigrants live and work in America without any opportunity whatsoever to earn full legal status and eventual citizenship. Our borders are not secure even with an historic level of enforcement. Family and employment-based immigration backlogs grow by the hour, requiring decades-long waits in many cases. U.S. employers cannot legally hire essential immigrant workers or needed highly skilled professionals, because no system is provided to afford necessary immigrant workers legal entry. The agricultural industry is unable to find sufficient workers and those undocumented working in the shadows labor under a badly broken system. High school students who excel are barred from continuing their education because they cannot obtain legal status. Immigrants seeking to feed their families and the chance to be part of the American dream continue to die in the desert seeking entry, and detention centers that are actual tent cities continue to grow.

The Senate bill was admittedly deeply flawed. Backroom negotiations and a convoluted amendment process ensured that the bill in its current form would not have led to workable reform. But the Senate has denied the House a chance to weigh in on this pivotal national issue to try to get things right, and to pass an immigration reform bill that would serve the interests of this country and its families, its businesses, and its immigrants.

AILA will advocate vigorously to ensure that the immigration reform debate stays alive, that Senators be held accountable for their actions, and that the House move boldly to take the lead and not replicate the Senate’s mistakes.

Any immigration reform bill must include the following necessary architecture for meaningful, effective reform:

(1) A clear path to lawful residence for those who come forward, pay fines, and demonstrate their commitment to become Americans by earning their status through working and learning English.

(2) A new worker program that includes labor protections, job portability, and a realistic path to permanent residence.

(3) The elimination of the existing unconscionable backlogs in family immigration, preservation of meaningful family immigration with reasonable quotas, and recalibration of our employment-based immigrant visa quotas to accommodate the needs of our dynamic and growing economy.

(4) Smart border and worksite enforcement mechanisms that protect our national security interests, while respecting civil rights.

(5) Due process and civil liberties protections that guarantee immigrants their day in court, judicial review, and a meaningful opportunity to seek waivers and discretionary relief.

The Senate bill that foundered on the Senate floor today gave the appearance of adhering to this skeletal architecture, but its content, flawed from the beginning of the process, was further compromised by harsh amendments that were supported by a majority of Senators in order to secure passage of the bill and to try to keep the legislative process moving forward.

AILA’s top objections to the Senate bill included:

(1) Decimation of the employment-based immigration system through creation of a mis-named “merit-based” point system that disconnects employment-based immigration from employer sponsorship and eliminates existing avenues of migration for aliens of extraordinary ability, multinational executives, and outstanding researchers.

(2) Evisceration of family-based immigration by eliminating 4 out of 5 long-recognized family relationships that qualify an individual for green card sponsorship in exchange for a partial reduction of the backlogs in those categories.

(3) Lack of meaningful opportunities for new temporary workers to transition to permanent residence.

(4) Lack of sufficient future numbers for employment-based immigrants at all ends of the skill spectrum.

(5) Unwarranted restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant visa programs.

(6) Lack of sufficient confidentiality protections for Z-visa applicants.

(7) Harsh due process restrictions that violate fundamental protections guaranteed to all persons under our constitution.

For years, AILA has been at the forefront in advocating for a comprehensive solution to the multitude of problems plaguing our immigration system. Our collective experience on the frontlines of immigration law and policy highlights the dire and urgent need for workable reform that advances the nation’s economic, social, and national security interests.

AILA will do everything possible to assist and to support the Senate and the House to craft an immigration reform bill that comports with our tradition as a nation of immigrants.

###

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Posted on June 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

A procedural vote in the Senate on the comprehensive immigration reform bill fell far short of passing today. The result is that the bill is probably dead for now, and likely won’t return until the year 2009 — after the November 2008 elections. At that time we will have a new President and probably a number of new Senators.

The bill was killed mostly by Republican senators worried about re-election. Their concern of appearing to be weak on illegal immigration assures we will continue with the status quo, which is essentially ignoring the illegals.

The irony of the situation is that by refusing to deal with the immigration crisis, the senators have not only guaranteed that things will continue to get worse, but they have also probably galvanized Latino citizens and ensured organized opposition to their own re-elections.

Posted on June 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Senate Wednesday killed a Republican proposal to require all adult illegal immigrants to return home before they could qualify for permanent lawful status in this country.

Also defeated was a Democratic proposal to restrict lawful immigration status to those who have been in the United States for four years rather than the current provision restricting status to those in the U.S. before January 1, 2007.

Each of these amendments was designed to make the bill more palatable to conservatives who describe the currently proposed bill as “amnesty.”

There are about two dozen more amendments that must be voted on before a test-vote on the entire bill, now scheduled for Thursday.

Posted on June 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

 A story in the Dallas Morning News today said the restaurant industry, or at least a sampling of it, is supporting the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate. Here are excerpts from the article:

More than 200 people attending a restaurant industry convention in Dallas this week called on Congress to take action on a stalled Senate bill that addresses illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The e-mails in support of movement on Senate Bill 1639 were sent via a political action booth at the Southwest Foodservice Expo at the Dallas Convention Center.

The restaurant industry has become heavily dependent on immigrant workers as its traditional pipeline of workers – teens and twenty-somethings – dries up.

Growth in that portion of the population has slowed, and many young workers are choosing non-restaurant jobs.

The National Restaurant Association estimates it will need an additional 100,000 workers over the next five to 10 years.

(A lawyer representing the industry) …said his restaurant clients support the Senate bill as an improvement over the status quo.

“What immigration reform will do is help millions of industry workers, and it will help employers who are worried that they may make a mistake and could face the brunt” of enforcement action from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said.

(One restaurant owner) …said he has not studied the legislation, but he hopes Congress moves quickly to enact reform.

“It needs to be resolved one way or another,” he said.

Posted on June 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Senate voted Tuesday to start debate again on the immigration reform bill. The vote was 64-35 to revive the bill. It still faces hurdles in the Senate, and perhaps even greater hurdles in the House.

Posted on June 26, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Debate starts up today in the U.S. Senate on the pending comprehensive immigration reform bill. U.S. News has a brief summary of the current situation in this online article. Excerpts:

Here they go again. The Senate is about to engage in another round of the seemingly endless fight over America’s immigration laws. It’s officially the members’ second shot in the past month at pushing through a “grand bargain” piece of legislation that tries to give a little to every interest group while not entirely satisfying any of them. A compromise, they say.

The debate kicks off on Tuesday with a procedural vote just to get the full debate underway. It’s been that kind of step-by-step battle all along for an unlikely trio in arms: President Bush, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona. And no one is absolutely certain the Senate will pass that first test. Some conservatives opposed to the bill say support is eroding.

If the procedural hurdles are overcome, however, the road to change there on out will be anything but smooth. It’ll take a great deal of legislative handiwork and backroom wheeling and dealing to get through this week before the July 4 recess with a bill in hand. “This is a complicated bill,” says Joel Kaplan, deputy chief of staff for policy at the White House. “It’s taken some time for people to understand what’s in there.” Talk about an understatement. Cabinet Secretaries Carlos Gutierrez of commerce and Michael Chertoff of homeland security have become virtual tenants up on Capitol Hill, pushing and prodding recalcitrant senators.

The pivot points?

*The Bush administration has included $4.4 billion in border security funding as a sweetener to its Republican brethren worried about law, order, and enforcement. Whether that shifts votes remains to be seen.

*For the high-tech business community, the linchpin is an amendment pushed by Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Kyl of Arizona. It would give employers more flexibility in whom they hire and would increase the number of visas for skilled workers by 40,000. The business community was opposed to the bill in its earlier incarnation, and if this amendment fails, look for high-tech corporations to back away.

*Other key issues to watch will be whether there is any sort of provision in the bill that makes family reunification a key part of immigration policy and whether an amendment passes that requires a “touchback provision” for illegal immigrants who want legal status to return to their home countries.

What all that means for the bill’s ultimate fate is unclear. “There are so many moving pieces,” says Kara Calvert of the Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington industry group. “So many people are reserving whether they’ll vote for it.”

Part of the thinking of the bill’s chief backers is that they just need to get the process rolling and that once they get the debate underway in the Senate, they’ll have time to renegotiate troubling pieces. Looking down the road, they think they’ll buy themselves time to modify the bill in the House of Representatives–even though its fate there is especially unclear and a bloc of “amnesty”-rhetoric opponents awaits–and then even later when the House and the Senate try to come together with one piece of legislation to send to the president.

Posted on June 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

That was the lead sentence of a recent article in the Biloxi Sun Herald. It has to do with an odd quote from Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. Here are excerpts from the article:

Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., was talking to reporters Wednesday about the immigration bill, when he said, “If the answer is ‘build a fence’ I’ve got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain’t no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence.”

“Now people are at least as smart as goats,” Lott continued. “Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it.”

“I’m not proposing an electrified goat fence,” Lott added quickly, “I’m just trying, there’s an analogy there.”

Asked for clarification as to what exactly the analogy was, Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said that the senator supported a variety of measures in the immigration bill, including unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, radar and more border patrol agents, as well as a fence to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.

“A fence in and of itself is not enough,” said Youngblood. “You can have technology to support the fence and to supplement the fence.”

Acknowledging the flak he’s taken, Lott said Wednesday, “I keep trying to tell everybody ‘calm down, calm down, let me be the one that offends the left, the middle and the right.’ I’m doing great, aren’t I? But it gives you a level of utopia that is just so blissful.”

“I don’t worry about offending anybody anymore, ” said Lott, “because I’ve already offended everybody.”

Posted on June 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story at Bloomberg online, Texas Senator John Cornyn says “momentum is building” against the comprehensive immigration reform bill now pending in the U.S. Senate.  Here are some excerpts from the story:

The Senate will need 60 votes on June 26 to resume debate on the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration policy since 1986. The measure, Bush’s top domestic priority, would create a guest- worker program and a path to legal status for 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Cornyn cited fellow Texan Kay Bailey Hutchison, as well as Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, as examples of Republicans who may have supported the measure and are now opposed. Supporters said they weren’t counting on those senators to reach 60 votes.

A June 7 Senate vote fell 15 short of the total needed, with seven Republicans joining 37 Democrats and one independent to move toward final passage. Cornyn voted in opposition.

In an attempt to resuscitate the measure, Senate leaders agreed this week on a limited package of about two dozen amendments to be considered next week.

Cornyn said that isn’t enough.

“This is a bill that was written behind closed doors by a small group of senators, and now it’s being brought to the floor again without an opportunity to offer, freely offer, amendments and to have the kind of debate that I think this topic deserves,” the senator said.

Cornyn said the congressional debate on what to do with the 12 million immigrants illegally in the U.S. has “fallen short” because it has focused only on whether to give them citizenship or deport them.

The current proposal, which would let undocumented immigrants gain legal status after paying a fine, isn’t sufficient punishment for people in this country illegally, the senator said. “It looks like we’re selling American citizenship,” he said.

Cornyn said the U.S. would be in “big trouble” if failure to pass immigration legislation blocked an increase in the number of visas for skilled workers, as sought by technology companies including Google Inc., owner of the most popular Internet search engine, and Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker.

“This is more than just about low-skilled, relatively poorly educated individuals who are picking crops or working on construction sites,” he said.

“This is about keeping the best and the brightest, the kind of people who train in American universities and who we end up now, under our current policy, sending home so they can compete with us and take jobs overseas,” the senator said. “I actually would like to see us pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

With the backing of Democrats who backed the legislation earlier this month, supporters will need almost two dozen Republicans to move forward.

“We’ll find out on Tuesday if there’s 60 senators,” Cornyn said. “It really changes minute by minute.”

Posted on June 21, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Various wire service reports say the  Bush administration will delay for at least six months a rule that U.S. citizens must show passports when crossing the border by land or sea.

The announcement marks the second time in a month that officials have scaled back security plans in response to complaints.

Beginning in January, land and sea travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be allowed to present a birth certificate and driver’s license in lieu of a passport.

Starting next year, travelers also will no longer be able to make an oral declaration of U.S citizenship to re-enter the country.

The modification is expected to last at least until the summer of 2008, when officials hope to require passports or similar documentation at all land and sea crossings.

The problem is caused by the government’s inability to produce passports sufficient to meet the demand, an indication to some people of extremely poor planning on the part of the Administration. Surely they have know for many months that there would be a flood of passport applications right before the new restrictions took effect.

Now we have to face the question of whether our border security is being made more vulnerable because of this bureaucratic bungling. This delay could cause our borders to be more porous, as terrorists will be able to use false documents to sneak across the border.

Posted on June 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

There’s an interesting post today at the always excellent Immigration Prof Blog about the immigration reform bill being split into small pieces in the House of Representatives. I’m going to shamelessly copy the entire post, but please add this blog to your list of regulars.

House May Break Up Immigration Bill

US News & World Report summarizes much of what’s happening on the immigration debate today:

The immigration bill is back, with the Senate expected to debate it over the next two weeks. Senate passage is by no means assured, but the measure appears to have a fighting chance of surviving the legislative maneuvers and counter-maneuvers expected of the next couple of weeks. Keen observers of the current debate, however, have long expressed reservations about the chance of anything close to the Senate “grand bargain” (the bipartisan legislation including both border security measures and a “path to citizenship”) making it through the House. In the House, Republicans seem firmly opposed to the legislation — while Democrats are wary of passing any immigration bill without GOP support.

But now Democratic leaders may have found a partial way out of this impasse. The Washington Times reports this morning House Democrats “say they may break the immigration issue up into a series of smaller bills that would put off the tougher parts and allow others to pass, such as border security, and high-tech and agriculture worker programs that have clear support.” That “could buy Democrats more time to work out the tougher aspects of immigration, such as what to do about the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now here, but it would go against the Senate’s massive catchall approach and contradicts President Bush’s call for a broad bill to pass.” Click here for the rest of the story. bh

Posted on June 14, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

From the New York Times Web site Thursday evening:

WASHINGTON, June 14 — Senate leaders announced an agreement this evening to put a comprehensive immigration bill back on track for further debate and possible passage.

Senators Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader from Kentucky, agreed on a timetable for the bill and for a limited number of amendments to be offered.

The agreement, coming after President Bush’s pledge earlier today to provide $4.4 billion for border security, revives a bill that had stalled in the Senate and was all but given up for dead.

“We met this evening with several of the senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations,” Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of the energy bill.”

The measure would tighten border security, put many of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the country on a path to eventual legal status and create a guest-worker program.

The additional money for border security is intended to assuage Republicans who have strongly criticized the plan as amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell said they had agreed that Democrats and Republicans alike would be given a chance to further refine the bill to their liking.

Bringing as many senators as possible on board is crucial in the Senate, since 60 votes are required there to overcome procedural hurdles in order to vote on the bill itself. With lawmakers, and their constituents, wanting different things in an immigration bill, support can easily erode.

Moreover, any bill that emerges from the Senate will have to be reconciled with what the House of Representatives passes, assuming that the House passes a bill. But this evening’s accord, however tentative, rekindled hopes that a bill might be approved by the full Congress this year.

The announcement followed renewed lobbying by President Bush, who is eager to have a bill overhauling the immigration system and who has been emphasizing border security in recent days. He has been doing so to appease those lawmakers who complain that the bill as it stands would grant amnesty to lawmakers, no matter what its supporters say to the contrary.

Mr. Bush’s emphasis on security, backed up by his push for more than $4 billion aimed at “securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site,” plus continuing sentiment among lawmakers to give the bill another chance, lay behind the accord between Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell.

Only a week ago, Mr. Reid declared with some disgust, “We are finished with this for the time being.” Now, things are apparently back on track, at least for the time being.

Posted on June 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to press reports, President Bush has not yet given up hope of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. Excerpts from wire reports:

Speaking in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, Bush acknowledged disappointment that the legislation — aimed at bringing 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows — collapsed Thursday in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“Listen, the immigration debate is a tough debate. I’m under no illusions about how hard it is,” he told a news conference.

“There are people in my (Republican) party that don’t want a comprehensive bill. There are people in the Democrat Party that don’t seem to want a comprehensive bill.”

But he said that he would, upon his return to Washington, get in touch with leading Democrats and Republicans who do support the legislation to get it firmly back on track.

“I’ll be going to the Senate to talk about a way forward on the piece of legislation,” he said.

“I’m going to work with those who are focused on getting an immigration bill done and start taking some steps forward again. I believe we can get it done. I’ll see you at the bill signing.”

Billed as a “grand bargain,” the proposed law would grant a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, establishing a merit-based points system for future immigrants, and create a low-wage temporary worker program.

It also envisions a border security crackdown, punishment for employers who hire illegal immigrants and an attempt to wipe out a backlog of visa applications from those who have gone through legal channels.

Posted on June 8, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story today in the New York Times, the sponsors of the Senate immigration reform bill are promising to continue working on a compromise bill, even though the original bill has been pulled from the Senate calendar. Here are excerpts from the Times article:

WASHINGTON, June 8 — The authors of a comprehensive immigration bill said today that they would try to resuscitate the measure, which stalled Thursday when the Senate refused to cut off debate, as President Bush urged senators from both parties to bring the bill back to the floor.

“We are not giving up, we are not giving in,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who helped write the bill in months of negotiations with the White House and a small bipartisan group of senators.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chief Republican architect of the bill, voted against limiting debate. He said he wanted to give conservative Republicans “a little bit more time to get amendments together, to get them considered, so that we can finish the bill with an opportunity for everyone to have their say.”

The president said he understood the reservations some lawmakers had. “And like many senators, I believe the bill will need to be further improved along the way before it becomes law,” he said.

Mr. Bush said, as he has many times, that his administration is committed to securing the country’s borders. And he reaffirmed his position that the bill, which would require illegal aliens to pay penalties and go to the back of the bureaucratic line before they could gain legal status, does not smack of amnesty.

“They will have to prove themselves worthy of this great land,” he said.

Mr. Bush’s remarks were in his weekly radio address, the text of which is typically released on Friday but not to be reported until his radio address the next day. Today, the text was offered for immediate release, a signal of the importance Mr. Bush attaches to efforts to revive the immigration bill.

The Senate had been debating the bill for two weeks. Mr. Kyl said he hoped the majority leader, Senator “Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, would allow a few more days of debate, if supporters of the legislation could agree with opponents on a list of 12 or 13 amendments that could be considered at some time in the future.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a co-author of the bill, said talk show hosts were partly responsible for derailing it.

“I’ve listened to talk show hosts drumming up the opposition by using this word amnesty over and over and over again,” Mrs. Feinstein said. In 15 years in the Senate, she added, “I’ve never received more hate or more racist phone calls and threats.”

Speaking at the site of the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, Dan Barlett, the White House counselor, called for action to move the bill forward. “The best way to proceed is for Republicans and Democrats to come together and vote on this legislation and then we can move it into the House of Representatives,” Mr. Bartlett said.

Mr. Bush had been a strong proponent of the sweeping immigration overhaul that crumbled in the Senate on Thursday night, leaving the future of one of the administration’s chief domestic priorities in serious doubt.

After a day of tension and fruitless maneuvering, senators rejected a Democratic call to move toward a final vote on the compromise legislation after Republicans complained that they had not been given enough opportunity to reshape the sprawling bill. Supporters of cutting off debate got only 45 of the 60 votes they needed; 50 senators opposed the cutoff.

“We are finished with this for the time being,” said Senator Reid, as he turned the Senate to work on energy legislation.

Mr. Reid did, however, leave the door open to revisiting the immigration issue later this year and said he would continue to explore ways to advance a plan. “We all have to work, the president included, to find a way to get this bill passed,” he said.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

USCIS Advises Public Regarding Immigration Fraud and Proposed Immigration Reform Legislation

This notice is to inform the public that although the U.S. Senate is debating and considering immigration legislation (S.1348), that bill has NOT passed into law.  Legislation must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President, before it becomes law.  Information about the legislative process is available from the Library of Congress (http://thomas.loc.gov/).

If immigration reform legislation does become law, U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will advise the public on how to proceed.  Until then, individuals should be cautious of any persons, organizations or businesses claiming to assist in applying for benefits under the immigration reform legislation.

– USCIS –

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting, on the CNN Web site, that the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill has been withdrawn in the Senate, essentially killing the bill for now. Excerpts:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people unlawfully in the United States failed a crucial test vote in the Senate Thursday, a stunning setback that could spell its defeat for the year.

The vote was 45-50 against limiting debate on the bill, 15 short of the 60 that the bill’s supporters needed to prevail. Most Republicans voted to block Democrats’ efforts to bring the bill to a final vote.

The legislation, which had been endorsed by President Bush, would tighten borders, institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers and give as many as 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.

Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who had made no secret of his distaste for parts of the bill, said he would withdraw it but keep working toward eventual passage.

“I, even though disappointed, look forward to passing this bill,” Reid said. But he said he needs help from the White House.

“This is the president’s bill,” Reid said. “… We can’t do it alone over here. We need some help.”

Most Republicans voted against ending debate, saying they needed more time to make the bill tougher with tighter border security measures and a more arduous legalization process for unlawful immigrants.

All but a handful of Democrats supported the move, but they, too, were holding their noses at provisions of the bill. Many of them argued it makes second-class citizens of a new crop of temporary workers and rips apart families by prioritizing employability over blood ties in future immigration.

Still, they had argued that the measure, on balance, was worth advancing.

“We can all find different aspects of this legislation that we differ with,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the leading Democratic architect of the bill.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a short, but important, editorial about the proposed immigration reform bill. The editorial is directed at those who fear an influx of immigrants is a threat to American culture. Here is the editorial:

American Culture

What worries some Americans about all this immigration talk in Washington is that new waves of immigrants could so change our culture that America no longer seems recognizable. The worry is a legitimate one. Our country has always churned with change, but none of us want to lose sight of our history, ideals and customs.

Given the red-hot rhetoric surrounding the Senate’s immigration bill, you may not think the proposal responds to those worries. It does, though, and in a constructive way. For example, the legislation would:

*Require every immigrant who qualifies as a permanent legal resident to learn English and take civics classes before they become citizens.

The bill is very detailed about what’s included in those civics classes. Immigrants must learn about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, major court decisions and the civil rights movement, among other parts of our national story.

They likewise must know about the founding fathers, various elected officials, scientists, inventors, equal-rights activists, entrepreneurs and artists. All of that would require a working proficiency in English, too.

*Let the Department of Homeland Security constantly review and update the nationalization test and assist immigrants who want to become citizens.

We hope a large part of the money devoted to helping immigrants assimilate goes to nonprofits, churches and other nongovernment organizations. Mediating institutions, like small churches, often are in a better position to reach immigrants than the feds.

*Put on the Internet a curriculum designed to teach English to those who don’t know it. Nonprofits and other local groups could download it and train immigrants in English. Today, the curriculum can be expensive to purchase.

There’s value in preserving America’s heritage, including the use of English. The immigration bill being fought in Washington embraces that value, which is one more reason for the Senate to pass the legislation. It will ensure that our customs are passed on to future immigrants.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on June 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The debate over the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate is heating up. Two of the organizations running TV ads now. You can visit their Web sites at Where’s The Fence and Texas Employers for Immigration Reform.

Posted on June 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s issue of the Dallas Morning News has an interesting article explaining how some Texas employers are eagerly awaiting passage of new immigration reform laws. Employers hope that immigration reform will lead to a more stable legal workforce.

The article states that employers would like to see some sort of error-proof employment verification system, a tamper-proof worker identification card, and a temporary worker program set in place. Currently, the Senate is debating a proposed immigration bill that would create a temporary guest worker program. This program would make 200,000 visas available annually to foreign workers. Employers believe that a guest worker program is vital to the success of a growing U.S. economy.

Although many employers favor immigration reform, some local business groups have urged the Texas senators to suppress the bill. In fact, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson have rejected the bill, saying that it will repeat the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty law. Although the 1986 law provided immigration benefits to millions of illegal aliens, it did nothing to curtail illegal immigration.

Many employers believe that the current employment eligibility verification system is also in need of improvement. The system checks the nine digit social security number of employees to see if it matches with wage and tax reports of federal records. However, the system does not ferret out the use of authentic social security cards, even if they are borrowed, stolen, or rented by illegal immigrations.

In recent months, several corporations and businesses have suffered from immigration raids and have been charged with violations of the nation’s immigration laws. Employers state that even though they had unknowingly hired illegal immigrants, they had complied with the employment eligibility verification system, which is voluntary for employers, but did not realize they had hired undocumented workers. Even though the employer may have gone through all the steps to make sure they were hiring legal workers, the system obviously is not 100% accurate. Companies and businesses hope that immigration reform, by creating a guest worker program and providing visas to illegal immigrants in the United States, will correct the deficiencies found in the current system.

Click for a copy of the Dallas Morning News article in its entirety.

Posted on May 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Today, Immigration Services announced that a final fee structure was set in place that increases filing fees associated with immigration-related petitions and applications. This new fee structure is set to become effective on July 30, 2007. Immigration Services stated that the increase in fees for the vast majority of cases will eventually lead to a 20% reduction in average processing times for applications by the end of the year 2009.

The new fee structure, however, makes it extremely expensive to file the most common immigration cases. For example, a person will have to pay $675 for an application to become a U.S. citizen. The current cost is $400. If you are planning on filing a petition to bring your spouse or a relative to the United States, the cost will nearly double, making the filing fee $355.

These new fees do not affect cases that have already been filed, and will not apply to cases filed before July 30, 2007. If you are interested in beginning your immigration-related case, it is vital that you begin your case today so that you are not affected by the increase in immigration filing fees!

For more information about the new fee structure, please visit this special page of the USCIS Web site.

Posted on May 20, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

Good Starting Point

But immigration plan will need some work

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

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

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

The selling points

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not.

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

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

What needs work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* 18,000 new border agents

* Ends “catch and release” of illegal immigrants

* 70 new radar towers

* Resources to detain 27,500 illegal immigrants a day

* An electronic verification system for all employees

* Illegal workers lose their jobs

* Employers face big fines

Posted on May 18, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This important document from the American Immigration Lawyers Association is printed here in full. Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07051768 (posted May. 17, 2007)”

Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Title I

Title I requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that the triggers are met before the Title IV (Guest Worker) and Title VI (Z visa ) programs can begin, with the exception of probationary status for Z workers and the programs for agricultural workers.

  • Triggers include:
    • 18,000 (CBP) Border Patrol hired
    • Construction of 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing
    • 70 ground-based radar and camera towers along the southern border
    • Deployment of 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and supporting systems
    • The ending of catch-and-release
    • Resources to detain up to 27,500 aliens per day on an annual basis
    • The use of secure and effective identification tools to prevent unauthorized work.
    • The receiving and processing and adjudicating of applications for Z status.
  • Title I also includes authorities and resources to augment border security including:
    • physical infrastructure along the border
    • additional field and investigative agents
    • comprehensive plans and studies of the border region
    • revisions to law enforcement techniques and enhanced authorities.

Title II

Title II provides for interior enforcement of immigration laws.

  • The stiffening of laws and penalties relate to:
    • the detention of criminal aliens
    • the definition of aggravated felony
    • gang violence
    • passport, visa, and immigration fraud, including marriage fraud
  • Other provisions include language regarding:
    • Increased penalties for illegal entry and reentry
    • encouraging aliens to depart voluntarily
    • prohibiting aliens from possessing firearms
    • alternatives to detention
    • state and local law enforcement reimbursement and training
    • the streamlining of background checks for immigration status

Title III

Title III addresses workplace enforcement by increasing penalties, revising and making mandatory a system of electronic employment verification, and promoting information sharing.

  • This Title designs a worksite enforcement system that relies on electronic employment verification and a reduced list of documents that may be presented to employers to prove identity and work eligibility.
    • Also increases penalties significantly over current law for unlawful hiring, employment, and recordkeeping violations.
  • Verification of employees: As of the date of enactment, employers in national security-related industries, industries involving critical infrastructure, and federal contractors may be required to electronically verify employees, including new hires and/or current employees, with additional employers or industries added after 6 months.
    • All employers would be required to electronically verify new hires within 18 months of enactment, or on the date on which the Secretary certifies that the system is operational.
    • Once the system is implemented, all employers would be required to verify all current employees within by 3 years after enactment.
  • Structure of the EEVS: After the date of hire but no later than the first day of employment, the employer must transmit to the EEVS via the Internet the data that the employer has taken from the worker’s identity and work eligibility documents.
  • Inconclusive determinations: Where the EEVS cannot conclusively determine the status of a worker’s eligibility, a further action notice is issued and the individual must contact the appropriate federal or state agency to initiate resolution of status and the individual continues to work while the agency resolves his or her status.
  • Final nonconfirmation: If the employer has received a final non-confirmation regarding an individual, the employer must terminate the employment of the individual, unless the individual files an administrative appeal of a final non-confirmation notice within 15 days.
  • Data and Information Sharing: The Commissioner of Social Security must information to the Secretary of DHS regarding data contained within the Social Security database as in relates to employment verification.
  • Fraud and tamper resistant social security cards: Not later than 180 days after date of enactment, the Commissioner is required to begin work to administer and issue fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant Social Security cards.

Title IV

Title IV establishes a new temporary Y worker program to address future labor needs of temporary foreign workers and discourage future illegal employment of undocumented individuals. The title also includes measures to protect the rights of U.S. and foreign workers and prevent the U.S. employer from abusing the program.

  • Structure of new visa programs: This title creates a new future temporary worker program for workers who are coming to the U.S. to perform temporary job that the U.S. employer is unable to fill. It provides for:
    • non-seasonal Y temporary worker (Y-1 visa)
    • seasonal temporary worker
      • Y-2A for agricultural workers, sheepherder, goat herders, and dairy workers
      • Y-2B for non-agricultural workers; and
    • their spouses and minor children (Y-3 visa).
  • Matching Willing Workers with Willing Employers: All Y workers must be matched to a “willing employers” through an electronic database in order to qualify for a Y worker visa.
  • Families of Y visa holders: can only accompany Y workers if the worker can:
    • show proof of valid medical insurance and
    • demonstrate that the wages of the principal Y nonimmigrant(s) are 150% above poverty level for the household size.
    • Spouses and children who do not qualify for Y-3 visa may be admitted under other nonimmigrant status.
  • Period of admission: A Y-1 worker can be admitted for a two year period that can be renewed twice if that worker spends a period of one year outside the United States between each admission.
    • A Y-1 accompanied by dependents is afforded a single two year visa, non-renewable.
    • Workers with Y-2A and Y-2B visa qualify for 10 month visas; no extensions may be granted.
  • Permanent Bar: Y worker who fails to timely depart is permanently barred from any future immigration benefit.
  • Wage: The employer must attest that the Y worker will be paid not less than the greater of the actual wage paid by the employer to all other similarly situated workers or the “prevailing competitive wage.”
  • Numerical Limitation: The Y-1 visa program has an initial cap of 400,000 with yearly adjustments based on market fluctuations.
    • There are no numerical limitations for Y-2A while the Y-2B visas are initially capped at 100,000 with yearly adjustment based on market fluctuations.
    • The market-based fluctuation is adjusted every 6 months during the fiscal year.
    • The Y-3 visa for spouses and minor children limit may not exceed 20% of annual limit for Y-1 visas.
    • A newly created Standing Commission will make recommendations to Congress regarding the Y visa numerical cap for each fiscal year following the initial year of the program

Title V

Title V restructures and rebalances the current system by which green cards are distributed.

  • Rebalancing of Immigrant Visa Allocation: Resets the number of family-based, family backlog, merit-based immigrants, and eventual Z immigration green cards.
    • The family categories are less than under current law since several of the extended family categories are reduced, while the merit-based is increased over the current employment-based levels after the processing of the family-based backlog.
    • An annual total of 440,000 visas are allotted to process the backlog of family-based categories.
    • It is estimated that the family backlog cases can all be processed in 8 years.
    • An annual total of 10,000 visas are set aside for exceptional Y workers.
  • Merit Based Points System: The current employment based green card system will be replaced by a merit based points system.
  • Reducing Chain Migration and Permitting Petitions by Nationals: Elimination and reconfiguring of the following family-based preference categories:
    • First: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens
    • Second: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents other than spouses and minor children of permanent residents
    • Third: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens
    • Fourth: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens
    • Sets cap of 40,000 per fiscal year on category for parents of U.S. citizens.
    • Sets cap of 87,000 per fiscal year on the second preference category for spouses and children of permanent residents.
  • Elimination of Backlog: If the family-based visa petition in the eliminated category is filed before May 1, 2005, the petition can be processed under the prior law.

Title VI

This title provides a new visa for most individuals currently living within the U.S. illegally.

  • Creates a new four-year, renewable “Z” nonimmigrant visa to address the undocumented population within the U.S. The visa is split up into three groups:
    • a principal or employed alien (Z-1),
    • the spouse or elderly parent of that alien (Z-2),
    • and the minor children of that alien (Z-3).
  • Cut off Date: In order to be eligible for this visa, one must have been illegally present within the U.S. before January 1, 2007.
  • Fees and Penalties: To apply, an alien seeking Z-1 status must be currently employed and pay fees and penalties totaling $5,000 (less for derivative Z’s) to be eligible for a green card under the merit-based system.

    Probationary, the Permanent Z Status: Once an applicant submits a completed application, fingerprints, and is cleared by one-day background checks he will receive probationary benefits which can eventually be converted to a Z nonimmigrant status after all background checks are clear and the triggers set forth in Title I are achieved.

  • LPR Status: A Z-1 nonimmigrant may adjust status to lawful permanent residence after the family backlog under Title V is eliminated if the Z applicant:
    • Satisfies the merit requirements in the points schedule set forth in Title V.
    • files the application for adjustment in the Z-1’s country of origin and
    • pays a penalty of $4,000.
  • DREAM ACT: Individuals under the age of 30 that were brought to the United States out of their own control as a minor are eligible to receive their green card after 3 years rather than 8.

Title VII

Title VII includes a number of miscellaneous provisions involving assimilation, including increased funding for the office of citizenship and integration ($100M)

Posted on May 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting that an agreement has been announced between Senate leaders and the White House regarding comprehensive immigration reform!

Quoting AP:

“The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the United States. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.”

“The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called “point system” that would for the first time prioritize immigrants’ education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.”

“The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and – after paying fees and a $5,000 fine – ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.”

“They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.”

“A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called “triggers” had been activated.”

“Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.”

“In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end “chain migration” that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it’s an unfair system that rips families apart.”

“Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card – except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.”

“New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.”

The House is not expected to act until a bill passes the Senate, and any Senate bill could run into strong opposition in the generally more conservative House of Representatives. Still, this is a dramatic first step on the path to true immigration reform in the United States.

Posted on April 13, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On March 26, 2007, a new waiver pilot program began at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This new program decreases the time it takes for a decision to be reached in I-601 waiver applications.

Under current immigration law, if a person enters the United States illegally (without being admitted and paroled) they are not eligible to receive immigration benefits. It is very common for foreign nationals to enter the U.S. illegally and subsequently marry U.S. citizens. Once this occurs, the citizen will begin the process that will enable the spouse to obtain a green card. This process, however, is not finalized in the U.S., but involves a final interview at a U.S. consulate in the foreign national’s home country. For Mexican nationals most interviews are scheduled at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

At the interview, the applicant files an I-601 waiver package to request that Immigration Services excuse the prior illegal entry into the U.S. and unlawful presence in the United States. This waiver package normally took between nine months and a year to process and reach final decision. During this time, the applicant was required to remain in Mexico until a final decision had been reached.

With the new Waiver Pilot Program, Mexican nationals may be able to obtain a decision on their waiver packages within less than 48 hours. This is a very exciting program as it makes the waiver process much more practical for most applicants who found it extremely difficult to spend a year outside of the U.S. while their case was pending.

Previously, people had to leave their home, family members, young children, and jobs for up to a year while waiting for a decision. Now, they may only need to wait a week or two for the entire process to be completed.

You may be a candidate for this exciting new program! If you have any questions, or would like to begin the process to use the new pilot program, please contact us.

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

Posted on March 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a Dallas Morning News Article, Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman David Swinford plans to eliminate a significant number of pending bills that have been designed to target illegal immigration. He states that the majority of these bills are in violation of either federal law or state law, and would therefore be a waste of time for consideration before the Texas Legislature. Here are excerpts from the article:

Mr. Swinford, R-Dumas, said this week that he would let about 40 bills, such as one that would challenge the citizenship status of children born to illegal-immigrant parents, languish in his committee. He asked Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office to review the measures first to determine whether they violate the U.S. or state constitutions or federal law.

Still alive – so far – are bills that would make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition rates at state colleges; resolutions demanding that the federal government crack down on illegal immigration; and a bill that would require local police to ask people they contact about their citizenship status. Mr. Swinford declined to identify all of the bills he wants to squash.

After historic protests against anti-immigration proposals across the nation last year, several lawmakers ran on platforms that included reining in illegal immigration. The state GOP included restrictions in its platform that immigrant advocates decried as inhumane and divisive – including a wall along the border with Mexico.

Texans consistently say in polls that they don’t think illegal immigrants should have access to public services such as health care. They are more receptive to allowing immigration as part of a guest-worker program.

Mr. Swinford refuses to put the House through a bitter fight in a losing battle, he said – particularly after a statue bill that passed his committee unexpectedly sparked an emotional, racially tinged two-hour debate in the House last week.

“On purpose, I’m not putting anything down here that just tears the House apart … and that we’d just lose on appeal,” he said.

Among the bills that will remain alive is a bill that would require police to ask about citizenship status, a bill to require proof of legal residence in order to pay in-state tuition, and resolutions urging the federal government to tackle illegal immigration. One of the bills that will not go forward is one that was designed to test the “birthright citizenship” principle, under which all children born in the United States are citizens, even if their parents are illegal immigrants.

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Good moral character.

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

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

* Renouncement of any foreign allegiance or foreign title.   

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

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

Posted on March 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on March 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain will be introducing a revised version of their immigration reform plan to Congress. The bill was blocked last year because Republican leaders in the House were opposed to any immigration proposal that would allow illegal aliens to eventually become citizens.

The Kennedy-McCain plan will largely mirror the immigration bill that was introduced last year, which would call for the installation of a 700 mile border fence, double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol, and add new penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers. The bill will also allow most of the 12 million undocumented workers to eventually earn immigration status. The bill would allow illegal aliens to become citizens by learning the English language, paying a $2000 fine, paying back taxes, and passing a criminal background check.

The proposal once again includes a provision for a temporary Guest Worker program. This would allow immigrants in the U.S. to work under a temporary visa program.

Congressional leaders indicate that they hope to reach a decision on immigration reform soon, and before the 2008 presidential election campaign pushes to the forefront of politics.

Those in favor of immigration reform still have a tough battle ahead of them. Even though the Republicans are no longer in control of Congress, the Democrats still need their support, and major Republican leaders are still not on board for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This could possibly slow down or even stop the passage of immigration reform this year.

Posted on February 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

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

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

Posted on January 30, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The ILRC Forecast on Immigration Reform
Judith Golub, Executive Director

With the November mid-term elections behind us and the 110th Congress convened, what is the prognosis for immigration reform? While it would be an uphill fight, reform could be enacted this year, given both the public’s demand that Congress fix our nation’s problems (and our broken immigration system being one of the primary problems needing attention) and some momentum remaining from last year’s Congressional debate. Both Democratic and Republican Senate leaders have prioritized immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 9) on the very first day of the 110th Congress and has reserved floor time to consider the issue. This “placeholder” bill will be replaced most likely with a reform package, perhaps one negotiated by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ). Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged that immigration is a pressing concern needing to be addressed. On the House side, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, wants to produce “a practical and bipartisan bill that gets broad support” and believes that “if everybody can lower their voice, just stop yelling and go through the issues one by one, that we can come to consensus.” However, a determined opposition led by Senate and House Republicans are expected to put roadblocks in the way of reform.  In contrast, President Bush in his State of the Union address underscored the fact that “convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration.  Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate – so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.”

But what kind of reform remains the question, as does whether there will be reform at all – given the “convictions that run deep.”  While the following does not exhaust the possibilities, below are four scenarios:

*         The “good enough” scenario in which a measure passes that includes both hard pills to swallow and significant positives and can be implemented.  This will be a very uphill fight;

*         The “get done what we can” scenario in which, due to time constraints and other roadblocks, a smaller scale package passes (that includes AgJobs and DREAM Act and other measures along with some enforcement provisions) that has sufficient Congressional support and will provide the foundation for future reform;

*         The “not good enough” scenario in which a measure passes that does not depart significantly from last year’s Senate-passed bill, S. 2611, should be opposed on its merits and cannot be implemented; and

*         The “crash” scenario in which too many constraints, conflicts, and roadblocks stand in the way so that Congress fails to address reform this year. 

Several factors will help determine which scenario might become reality and include: 

Continue Reading…

Posted on January 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The possibility of comprehensive immigration reform has been in the forefront of the news for the last several months. Thousands of people in the United States are currently waiting for developments in immigration law. Even more, who are in the United States illegally, believe the passing of new laws will lead to amnesty or eventual citizenship.

Waiting for a new law to pass, however, may prevent you from obtaining immigration benefits now, and may even lead to possible denials of immigration status in the future. Those who are hoping for “amnesty” may find it more productive to begin their immigration cases now, since there are many ways of obtaining a green card in the U.S., even for those here illegally.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or have relatives who are citizens, there may be different avenues available to you today that would make you eligible to receive your permanent residency. If you have been a victim of persecution in your home country, you may be eligible for asylum. If you have been in the U.S. for a certain length of time, you may also be eligible for immigration status. These are just a few examples of the groups of people who can begin their immigration cases today so that they may obtain permanent residency.

More important, there are many people who are waiting for immigration reform to pass believing that this will provide them a clear and free path to citizenship. This is simply not the case. In fact, many people who have legal options available to them now, may lose those options should any immigration reform be passed in the future. Furthermore, while it is likely that one day immigration reform may pass, we have no idea what benefits, if any, it would provide.

Rather than wait for an amnesty that may never arrive, take steps today to obtain legal status in the United States. Meanwhile, if any immigration reform is passed before your case is completed, there will be less of a chance that your status will be compromised. Finally, simply waiting and not taking any action is almost never a good idea.

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

Posted on January 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Texas state Senator Dan Patrick, whose other job is as a right-wing radio talk show host, filed a bill yesterday in the Senate that would impose a 10% tax on any money transferred by wire from Texas to a foreign country. The proceeds of this new tax (New taxes from  a Republican?) would be used to improve border security.

The object of course is to penalize immigrants who wire money back home to help support their families. This is made clear by the fact that the bill would exempt any transfers of $5000 or more. Why exempt larger transfers? Because these are normally made by businesses, and we certainly don’t want to do anything  that would hurt businesses — we only hurt consumers in Texas.

Posted on January 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Farmers Branch, Texas city council could repeal its ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants in a vote scheduled today. Farmers Branch’s current ordinance, passed in November, requires apartment managers to obtain proof that tenants are U.S. citizens or in the country legally. Council members also approved resolutions making English the official language of the Farmers Branch, and allowing local authorities to become part of a federal program so they can enforce immigration laws.

Landlords who do not enforce the ordinance face fines of up to $100 per day per violation. Under current practices in Texas, tenants typically provide not much more than a driver’s license or other photo identification to prospective landlords.

A resident of Farmers Branch, Guillermo Ramos, filed a suit in state district court against the city. The suit alleges that the city violated open meetings laws by debating the merits of the existing ordinance behind closed doors, then voting on it in an open meeting, but not giving residents a chance to see the wording of the ordinance or comment on it before the council vote.

On January 11, District Court Judge Bruce Priddy issued a temporary restraining order delaying enforcement of the ordinance. Last week, the city council asked the city attorney to draft a new version of the ordinance to put to voters in a May election.

Posted on January 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial by the staff of the Dallas Morning News today hit just the right tone for a  way out of the current immigration mess. Excerpts:

A prosperous city and state with a promising future. That’s what everyone reading this surely wants to build for themselves today and for the generations to come.

Everyone has a role, primarily our lawmakers in Austin and Washington, but also the Editorial Page of The Dallas Morning News. In the coming year we’ll use our voice to exhort political leaders in strategic areas that can help form a sound foundation for our society.

We’ll identify those areas of focus today and monitor progress through the year. Some of these causes will be familiar to readers, as we have championed them in the past.

Our primary agenda for elected leaders in 2007 is this:

Immigration

Hazelton, Pa. Farmers Branch. The Texas Legislature. The more that local communities and state governments take immigration problems into their hands, the more the situation cries out for Washington to finally provide a lasting answer.

What needs to happen: Comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration law to go along with stiffer border-security measures already under way. Reform needs to include a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. State and local governments, meanwhile, need to resist the urge to pass laws better handled by the feds.

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