Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Senate passes sweeping immigration overhaul

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

In a bipartisan vote, the Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping, historic overhaul of the nation’s immigration system – the first attempt to tackle such reform in six years. But the bill appears to face a procedural brick wall in the GOP-led House, with Republican leaders vowing instead to move forward on their own measures.

Fourteen Republicans joined with all Democrats to back the legislation, which would revamp the nation’s legal immigration system, send unprecedented resources to the nation’s southern border, and offer millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.

The final vote was 68-32.

To mark the history of the occasion, Vice President Joe Biden presided over the vote and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid directed senators to vote from their seats in the chamber.

The gallery above the chamber was crowded with tourists, DREAM Act proponents, self-described undocumented immigrants, and members of the media. After the vote tally was announced, a young spectator shouted “Yes we can!” This came even as Biden urged those in attendance to refrain from voicing reaction.

The bipartisan drafters of the legislation, which was first formally unveiled in April, came one by one to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to make deeply personal appeals for the passage of a bill they described as a compassionate, economically sound measure necessary to maintain the American Dream central to the nation’s identity.

“Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining City on the Hill. We are still the hope of the world,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida conservative and Cuban-American whose support of the legislation was key to wooing Republican support. “Go to our factories and fields. Go to our kitchens and construction sites. Go to the cafeteria of this very Capitol. There, you will find that the miracle of America still lives.”

“Pass this bill and keep the American covenant alive,” urged Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat on the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that first unveiled compromise legislation in April.

In emotional remarks right before the vote, Reid invoked the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who led the failed effort six years ago to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“Sen. Kennedy knew the day would come when a group of senators divided by party, but united by love of country, would see this fight to the finish,” he said. “That day is today.”

In the face of great fanfare and emotion on Thursday, the bill remains many hard-fought steps from the president’s desk, and the victory for backers of the reform may ultimately be short-lived.

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the immigration legislation faces a rocky path in the GOP-controlled House, where opposition to the citizenship provision is significantly stronger. Boehner has pledged not to bring the Senate bill up for a vote, pointing instead to smaller pieces of immigration legislation  focused on border security and enforcement. On Thursday, he reiterated that he will not bring legislation to the House floor that does not have majority support from the Republican conference, and he extended that pledge even to merged legislation that could blend House- and Senate-passed bills.

In a statement lauding the Senate’s passage of the bill, President Barack Obama urged the diverse coalition of groups that worked for reform to keep up the fight as the House turns its attention to the immigration issue.

“Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”

“Today, the Senate did its job, he said. “It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Despite the difficult road ahead, the Senate’s passage of the bill represents the furthest legislative progress on a comprehensive immigration bill since 2006. That effort passed the upper chamber but languished without support from the House. Another attempt in 2007 fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation in the Senate.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2013, prior to the final vote on the immigration reform bill.

The home stretch for the months-long Senate process to pass the bill comes after a last-minute deal to add a massive influx of funding and resources for the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling the number of border security agents on patrol and requiring the completion of 700 miles of fencing. That compromise – labeled “almost overkill” by cosponsor Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee – was designed to recruit more Republicans to push the legislation over the finish line.

Opponents of the border “surge” drafted by Corker and Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota say there’s no guarantee that the legislation’s border security goals will be met before undocumented workers are eligible to apply for green cards.

The legislation’s foes also contend that the citizenship proposal amounts to “amnesty” that rewards lawbreakers without sufficient protections against new waves of illegal immigration.

“The amnesty will occur, but the enforcement is not going to occur, and the policies for future immigration are not serving the national interest,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill. “I urge my colleagues to vote no.”

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/27/19174577-senate-passes-sweeping-immigration-overhaul?lite


Deals for industries, immigrants tucked in Senate bill

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

WASHINGTON — Foreign retirees could live in the United States for longer periods each year if they agree to make hefty cash investments in real estate. Overseas snowboard instructors could enter the USA under visas now reserved for athletes, and beach resorts could hire more lifeguards and groundskeepers from abroad.

The massive immigration overhaul working its way through the Senate is peppered with benefits like these for specific industries and immigrant groups — even as it aims to tackle three core policy objectives: creating a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in this country illegally, strengthening border security and increasing enforcement of laws that guard against the employment of undocumented workers.

“This is one of the primary reasons that our immigration laws, like our tax code, are so complicated,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA, which opposes increased immigration. “Congress treats it like a Christmas tree.”

“Each time a new special interest comes through the door, they just stick on a new ornament for the special interest,” she said.

Proponents of the bill, however, say the measures already in the bill reflect the need to fix many parts of a broken immigration system Congress last overhauled in 1986.

“This bill is the best chance for a lot of people to have a lot of their specific issues addressed,” said Bob Sakaniwa,of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group advocating for the overhaul. “There’s been this pent-up demand.”

Even before the immigration debate began on the Senate floor last week, the overhaul included provisions long the focus of intense lobbying by an array of interests groups. For instance, the technology industry lobbied successfully to secure more visas for foreign engineers, programmers and other high-skilled workers, while the bill sets aside 10,500 visas each year for Irish immigrants.

More changes are expected during the weeks of debate ahead.

Among the measures inserted in the bill:

•A provision granting foreign retirees 55 and older a three-year, renewable visas if they invest $500,000 in U.S. real estate. They must live in this country at least six months each year and have health insurance.

A separate measure would allow older Canadians to remain in the United States for up to eight months each year — up from six months under current law.To qualify, Canadians must own a home here or have a long-term rental agreement. They also must have health insurance and cannot work in this country.

The 70,000-member Canadian Snowbird Association lobbied Congress for years to extend the time limit, including a letter-writing campaign two years ago that targeted every lawmaker on Capitol Hill, said Evan Rachkovsky, the group’s research officer.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and one of the so-called Gang of Eight senators who crafted the bill, backed the measure.

Both foreign visa measures were supported by a powerful U.S. interest: The National Association of Realtors, which spent $41.5 million to lobby Congress last year.

Advocates say relaxing the requirements advance U.S. economic interests. Foreigners bought $82.5 billion in real estate between March 2011 and March 2012, or nearly 5% of all sales, according to a study by the Realtors’ group. Canadians accounted for nearly one-quarter of purchases by international buyers.

“The real estate industry has been through a really difficult patch,” said Marcia Salkin, managing director for legislative policy with the National Association of Realtors. “This makes it easier for foreign investors to purchase property in the U.S. and have enough time here to use that property.”

•A measure that would make it easier for resorts to hire foreign ski and snowboard instructors by allowing them to work in the USA under the same program used by professional athletes and entertainers.

Currently, foreign ski instructors are hired under a 10-month visa program established for seasonal employees. Visas used by foreign athletes can be renewed for up to a decade under current law. Industry officials say they’ve had a hard time finding certified ski instructors with the language skills to serve growing numbers of foreign visitors.

The 2012-13 ski season drew about 3.5 million foreigners to U.S. slopes, up from 3.15 million foreign skiers the previous year, said Dave Byrd, of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, which lobbied for the change. The spending by foreign tourists, the groups says, sends big ripples through the economy — especially in the rural areas surrounding many ski resorts.

“If we don’t have the language skills and the high certification to serve these international tourists, that’s money we are leaving on the table,” Byrd said.

The measure was advanced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democratic member of the Gang of Eight, whose state accounts for about 20% of the nation’s ski visits.

Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said it’s wrong to characterize the measure as a home-state carve-out, given the benefits it will bring to a ski industry that has a coast-to-coast presence.

“We don’t look at this as a state-specific issue,” Bozzi said. “It’s an issue we may be more in tune to because it’s an industry that’s larger in our state.”

•Another provision that would increase the number of foreigners who can enter the USA each year to fill non-agricultural seasonal jobs in a wide range of industries – from landscaping and seafood processing to hotels and touring carnivals.

Under current law, no more than 66,000 of these so-called H-2B visas can be granted each year. The immigration plan would temporarily boost the number of these workers in the USA by not counting returning foreign workers toward the annual cap.

In 2007, after Congress approved a similar provision in a spending bill, the number of workers entering the USA on the visa hit 129,547, State Department records show. That provision has expired.

It was one of several measures long sought by a broad consortium of businesses, known as the H-2B Workforce Coalition, which has challenged U.S. Department of Labor’s recent efforts to hike wages for seasonal employees. Businesses say the wage increases threatened thin profit margins in industries where it’s hard to fill jobs with American workers.

Ana Avendaño, who works on immigration policy for the AFL-CIO, calls the seasonal program a “blueprint for worker exploitation.” Some workers, she said, pay high fees to recruiters to enter the program. Once in this country, the workers cannot change jobs without risking deportation. Labor successfully sought a provision to stop recruiters from collecting fees from visa holders, but “is working hard to improve” other parts of the bill, she said.

Jeff Blomsness, co-CEO of North American Midway Entertainment, said he hires about 250 to 300 foreign workers each year under the program to staff his traveling amusement parks.His employees generally come from either South Africa or Mexico and do everything from assembling rides to selling cotton candy at state and county fairs.

He said it’s hard to find U.S. workers willing to take on jobs that generally last a few months each year, require them to live in mobile bunkhouses and travel non-stop. “It’s not the lifestyle most people want.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/immigration-industry-deals/2425041/?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=b5452e475e-AILA8_6_18_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-b5452e475e-287739493


Senate Floor Debate Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise, Adhere to Certain Principles to Ensure A Workable System

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

For Immediate Release

Senate Floor Debate Must Maintain Spirit of Compromise,
Adhere to Certain Principles to Ensure A Workable System

June 11, 2013

Washington D.C. – Today, the long-awaited opportunity to reform the country’s dysfunctional immigration system moves one step closer to reality as the full Senate begins consideration of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee set a high standard for civility and transparency during its markup of the bill last month, and we urge the full Senate to continue in this vein. The bill that emerged from committee offers a workable plan that takes a balanced approach to immigration reform. Evidence, rather than grandstanding and rhetoric, should drive the debate on the Senate floor. Common sense and good policy can trump political one-upmanship, as long as Senators keep the following principles in mind.

– A closed border does not facilitate a robust immigration system. Piling on additional border-enforcement measures that are grounded more in politics than effective law enforcement is a waste of resources, and ignores the fact that ending illegal immigration requires a balance of enforcement measures, new immigration programs for future labor needs, and a working E-Verify system. Also, while there is a need for secure borders, there is also a need for further streamlining and efficiently facilitating the daily cross-border flows of people, goods, and services important to the critical economic relationships between the United States and Mexico and Canada.

– Triggers must be reasonable, not designed to derail legalization. The legalization provisions of the bill should not be held hostage to border triggers that set unrealistic goals or impose overly burdensome procedures. Such triggers unnecessarily hold up the important process of bringing millions of undocumented individuals out of the shadows. Border security and legalization go hand in hand. We should not delay identifying and documenting those who reside in our country.

– Legalizing more than 11 million undocumented immigrants is an economic, social, and moral imperative. Making the process simple, straightforward, and fair means no unnecessary requirements, reasonable application procedures, realistic time frames, and strong family protections. Efforts to undermine or weaken the current proposal or to prevent these individuals from becoming lawful permanent residents, thus creating a permanent underclass with no opportunity for citizenship, would be a mistake of historic proportions.

– Immigrants must have the opportunity to fairly present their cases. A fair and just immigration system includes ensuring access to counsel for immigrants unable to represent themselves, limits on detention, and proportionate penalties for immigration violations. The temptation to continue to make immigration laws “tougher” without any moderation or respect for case-by-case decision-making must be avoided. For more than 20 years, Congress’s solution to immigration problems has been to layer on more punitive measures, ultimately creating a system that is often unbalanced and unfair. S. 744 attempts to restore some of the fundamental principles of fairness, due process, and proportional punishment that are the hallmark of the American judicial system.

– The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have discretion to use its resources wisely. We need smart security measures that actually work, not high-priced, politically driven strategies that don’t. DHS must be given the discretion to deploy resources and implement border-security policies that are based on sound, effective law-enforcement strategies and not political theater. In order to achieve maximum effectiveness, DHS must have discretion to develop strategies that are tailored to the current border challenges and employ cutting-edge technology.

– The United States needs a workable, efficient, and flexible immigration system that responds to the rapidly changing demands of a 21st century economy, technologies, and migration patterns. People live and work and innovate in ways that are different than they were 20 years ago, and yet our immigration system continues to operate on a series of static quotas and rigid requirements that ignore advances in every sector of our economy and the way we live today. We can protect the wages and working conditions of all workers without sacrificing business opportunities.

For many years we have said that we must fix our immigration system. Today marks the next step in the process of creating an immigration system that can change and grow with the needs of our nation.

###

For more information contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524

 


New Americans in Texas

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Lone Star State (Updated May 2013)

Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of the economy and electorate in Texas. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up roughly 1 in 6 Texans, and one-third of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for more than 1 in 10 registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for billions of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $265 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $102.1 billion and employed more than 600,000 people at last count. At a time when the economy is still recovering, Texas can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.

Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Texas’s population and electorate.

  • The foreign-born share of Texas’s population rose from 9.0% in 1990, to 13.9% in 2000, to 16.4% in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Texas was home to 4,201,675 immigrants in 2011, which is more than the total population of Los Angeles, California.
  • 33.2% of immigrants (or 1,393,937 people) in Texas were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011[vi]—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 6.7% of the state’s population (or 1.7 million people) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • 11.8% (or 1,194,544) of registered voters in Texas were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2008 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.

More than 1 in 4 Texans are Latino or Asian—and they vote.

  • The Latino share of Texas’s population grew from 25.5% in 1990, to 32.0% in 2000, to 38.1% (or 9,791,628 people) in 2011.  The Asian share of the population grew from 1.8% in 1990, to 2.7% in 2000, to 3.9% (or 999,118 people) in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Latinos accounted for 20.1% (or 1,697,000) of Texas voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 1.4% (118,000), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • In Texas, 87.7% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
  • In 200986.2% of children in Asian families in Texas were U.S. citizens, as were 93.2% of children in Latino families.

Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs to Texas’s economy.

  • The 2012 purchasing power of Latinos in Texas totaled $216.2 billion—an increase of 560% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $48.8 billion—an increase of 969% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Texas’s 447,589 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $61.9 billion and employed 395,673 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available.  The state’s 114,297 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $40.2 billion and employed 206,545 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrants are integral to Texas’s economy as workers and taxpayers.

  • Immigrants comprised 21% of the state’s workforce in 2011 (or 2,645,538 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Immigrants accounted for 21% of total economic output in the Houston metropolitan area and 16% of economic output in the Dallas metropolitan area as of 2007, according to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute.
  • Unauthorized immigrants in Texas paid $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, which includes:
    • $177.8 million in property taxes.
    • $1.4 billion in sales taxes.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised 9% of the state’s workforce (or 1,100,000 workers) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Texas, the state would lose $69.3 billion in economic activity, $30.8 billion in gross state product, and approximately 403,174 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Immigrants are integral to Texas’s economy as students.

Naturalized citizens excel educationally.

  • In Texas, 28.9% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 15.2% of noncitizens. At the same time, only 29.3% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 53.7% of noncitizens.
  • The number of immigrants in Texas with a college degree increased by 91.5% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
  • In Texas, 75.2% of children with immigrant parents were considered “English proficient” as of 2009, to data from the Urban Institute.
  • The English proficiency rate among Asian children in Texas was 85.7%, while for Latino children it was 80.7%, as of 2009.

 

Published On: Fri, Jan 11, 2013

http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/new-americans-texas


How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Fare in the New Immigration Bill

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Fare in the New Immigration Bill

shutterstock_64313536With the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote last week to pass S.744 on to the Senate floor, a new proposal for spurring immigrant entrepreneurship and innovation will be before Congress. Title IV, Subtitle H of the bill creates the INVEST visa (Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies) for immigrant entrepreneurs. This new visa program would allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States, start businesses, and create jobs in America. There would be two types of INVEST visas. A nonimmigrant INVEST visa would be renewable provided certain initial investment, annual revenue, and job creation criteria are met within an initial three-year period. The immigrant version of the INVEST visa would have basically the same criteria just at higher thresholds. The committee also adopted an amendment that permanently authorizes the EB-5 Regional Center Program, which has created tens of thousands of American jobs and attracted over $1 billion in investments since 2006.

 

While there is always room for improvement of proposed immigrant pathways, the INVEST visa represents progress for immigration and entrepreneurship.

While we’ve heard little about the proposed entrepreneur visa programs amid the broader comprehensive immigration reform conversation, they are important to include due to the substantial contributions immigrant entrepreneurs make to the United States. Immigrant entrepreneurs have founded some of the most successful large businesses in the United States. And immigrant small business owners operate establishments in local communities from coast to coast and throughout America’s heartland. 

The contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs and small business owners are clear. For example, the Fiscal Policy Institute reports that immigrant-owned small businesses employed 4.7 million people in 2007 and generated an estimated $776 billion in receipts. Immigrants make up 37 percent of restaurant owners and 43 percent of hotel and motel owners in communities across America. Furthermore, a report for the Partnership for a New American Economy shows that immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses in 2011 but only accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population, and the rate at which immigrants started new businesses grew by more than 50 percent from 1996 to 2011.

Amid the wealth of evidence on the positive benefits immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the United States, local places are beginning to take note and highlight these contributions. Cities across the Rust Belt and Midwest, for instance, are implementing various “welcoming” initiatives aimed at integrating immigrants and immigrant businesses into their communities. As these communities experience demographic change and native-born population decline, they’re seeking ways in which to attract immigrants to settle, start businesses, create jobs, and spur economic growth. Examples of such initiatives include Global DetroitWelcome DaytonGlobal ClevelandWelcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, and the Chicago Office of New Americans, among others. As these programs recognize, immigrant business owners often play a critical role in helping revitalize local communities that may otherwise have succumbed to blight and decay. Ultimately, places of welcome are places that thrive. Welcoming initiatives throughout the country – from small towns to large metropolitan areas – are poised to encourage an environment where immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs can help reinvigorate aging populations, renew communities, and revitalize local economies.

While there is always room for improvement of proposed immigrant pathways, the INVEST visa represents progress for immigration and entrepreneurship. And while immigrant business owners may come through all immigrant channels, a visa program that effectively encourages and facilitates more entrepreneurship and job creation is economically beneficial.

http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/05/28/how-immigrant-entrepreneurs-fare-in-the-new-immigration-bill/


Will Immigration Reform Correct the Immigration System’s Gender Bias?

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

Will Immigration Reform Correct the Immigration System’s Gender Bias?

shutterstock_29804098Within the current immigration system, many women confront systematic barriers when trying to gain legal status. This is one of the main conclusions drawn from a study conducted by social scientists Cecilia Menjivar and Olivia Salcido. Based on a 10-year-long research project on immigrant women in Arizona, the authors identify specific instances in which gender inequality is ingrained in the formulation, interpretation, and implementation of immigration laws.

 

Because of gender biased structural barriers, women who apply for permanent residence tend to rely on male relatives to petition for them in the legalization process.

According to the study, immigration law presumes and reinforces women’s status of dependency, hindering women’s legal incorporation in the host society. For example, for women, employment-based visas are very difficult to obtain. This is true even for many women who “support their families as heads of households by literally working day and night.” In part, this relates to the types of occupations that the law encodes as high-demand jobs. These occupations tend to be elusive for women, and the types of work typically performed by immigrant women are not adequately recognized in the current system. As a result, women who apply for permanent residence tend to rely on male relatives to petition for them in the legalization process. Because of additional structural barriers—such as access to education and skill acquisition in their countries of origin—women have fewer opportunities than men to apply as principal visa holders. 

Other problems identified by the study relate to the specific obstacles that women encounter when they seek protection through the Violence Against Women Act or petition for asylum. These hurdles range from burdensome and difficult-to-obtain paperwork (e.g. proof of abuse) to more structural issues concerning how “well-founded fear” of persecution is defined. In particular, the authors underscore that the standard interpretation of immigration and refugee law is based on male experiences and, therefore, does not adequately recognize the risks that women are exposed to in their home countries.

Moreover, the obstacles for women’s legal integration do not end with the petitioning phase. Even after a woman successfully begins the legalization process, it is sometimes difficult for her to secure employment outside the home because work authorizations often take a long time to be issued.

Reforms in immigration law that are currently being debated offer an opportune moment to address these issues. In particular, the recently introduced “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act’’has raised concerns regarding the potential gender bias in some provisions.  For example, evidentiary requirements for different steps in the legalization process (e.g., continuous employment or proof of work requirements) may put women who work at home at a disadvantage. Similarly, the merit-based point system may not offer realistic avenues for immigration for caregivers or women from countries with few opportunities for human-capital acquisition. As the bill continues to be debated, these issues cannot be overlooked if achieving greater gender equality is a goal.

http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/05/29/will-immigration-reform-correct-the-immigration-systems-gender-bias/


Anti-immigrant advocates have it wrong on the labor market

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

Anti-immigrant advocates have it wrong on the labor market
By Jennifer Rubin, Published: May 30, 2013 at 11:00 amE-mail the writer

Milton Friedman (left) shakes is greeted by President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan (The Washington Post)

Milton Friedman (left) shakes is greeted by President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan (The Washington Post)

Next to Ronald Reagan there is no greater icon in the pantheon of modern conservatives than Milton Friedman.
His name has been taken in vain in the immigration reform debate, so Stephen Moore sets the record straight:
In 1984, when I was working at the Heritage Foundation, I surveyed the top 75 economists in the country on their views on the economics of immigration. There are few issues that economists agree on so universally: The views of the Keynesians and free marketers ran equally about 9 to 1 in favor of immigration.
Friedman responded to the survey by saying that “legal and illegal immigration has a very positive impact on the U.S. economy.” He believed that one of the most powerful forces of freedom was that people could “move across borders and vote with their feet.” He wholly rejected the idea that immigrants are undesirable because they compete with Americans for jobs and lower wages. The free enterprise system, he argued, “created the high wages in the first place.”
Friedman also abhorred the welfare state. Moore responds:
As another late great economist — William Niskanen, a member of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and chairman of the Cato Institute — once put it: “Better to build a wall around the welfare state than the country.”
It is ironic that the right-wingers who argue against protectionism, against the minimum wage, against unions (which inflate wage rates) and against Obamacare want to keep domestic wages artificially high by restricting the labor market (e.g. keeping out immigrant workers). That effort is not only inconsistent with free market principles, but, according to stacks of research, it also is empirically dubious.
The recent buzz that there really isn’t a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math (known collectively as STEM) workers is belied by the experience of hundreds of tech companies that are willing to expend additional money in finding and relocating skilled workers from overseas. There, too, research suggests the anti-immigrant forces are peddling snake oil.
Are these companies are mistaken about a STEM shortage? Jonathan Rothwell and Neil G. Ruiz of Brookings are out with a new study that says no, there really is a reason why U.S. companies have to go overseas:
The vast majority — 90 percent — of H-1B applications are for jobs requiring high-level STEM knowledge. This finding is based on our analysis of Department of Labor survey data on the knowledge needed to perform occupations. The evidence shows that these vacancies are harder to fill than other job openings.
Labor market experts interpret the duration of a job opening as an indicator that qualified candidates are hard to find. Such an interpretation of vacancy survey data is empirically grounded in both historical and many contemporary labor market surveys from private firms and state governments. . . . H-1B workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally ($76,356 versus $67,301 in 2010) and even within the same occupation and industry for workers with similar experience. This suggests that they provide hard-to-find skills.
In sum, if you believe in free markets, you shouldn’t advocate artificially restricting the U.S. labor market and you should consider the market-driven behavior of a raft of industries. But then again, the anti-immigration forces believe many things that aren’t so. That is the prerogative I suppose, but they shouldn’t invoke Friedman when doing so, and lawmakers should understand what they are saying isn’t supported by evidence.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/05/30/anti-immigrant-advocates-have-it-wrong-on-the-labor-market/?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=d52811544d-AILA8_6_3_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-d52811544d-287739493


Experts from Left and Right Agree on Economic Power of Immigration Reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

shutterstock_115685188

In recent years, study after study has demonstrated a simple yet economically powerful truth about broad-based immigration reform: workers with legal status earn more than workers who are unauthorized—and these extra earnings generate more tax revenue, as well as more consumer spending, which creates more jobs. As a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) points out, this fact implies that states with appreciable unauthorized populations stand to gain economically from immigration reform that includes a legalization program for the unauthorized. Moreover, a new open letter to Congressional leaders released by the conservative American Action Forum illustrates that it is not only liberal advocacy groups like CAP which recognize the economic potential of immigration reform.

The CAP study begins by quantifying the immense economic gains to the nation as a whole that would flow from a new legalization program:

“If the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States were provided legal status, then the 10-year cumulative increase in the gross domestic product, or GDP, of the United States would be $832 billion. Similarly, the cumulative increase in the personal income of all Americans over 10 years would be $470 billion. On average over 10 years, immigration reform would create 121,000 new jobs each year. Undocumented immigrants would also benefit and contribute more to the U.S. economy. Over the 10-year period they would earn $392 billion more and pay an additional $109 billion in taxes—$69 billion to the federal government and $40 billion to state and local governments. After 10 years, when the undocumented immigrants start earning citizenship, they will experience additional increases in their income on the order of 10 percent, which will in turn further boost our economy.”

The study then calculates the economic gains from legalization over the course of 10 years for 24 states where 88 percent of all unauthorized immigrants live. Among these are:

Arizona: Legalization would yield a cumulative increase in Gross State Product (GSP) of $23.1 billion; $1.5 billion in additional taxes paid by formerly unauthorized immigrants; and an average of 3,400 new jobs created annually.

Florida: Legalization would yield a cumulative increase in GSP of $55.3 billion; $3.1 billion in additional taxes paid by formerly unauthorized immigrants; and an average of 8,000 new jobs created annually.

Pennsylvania: Legalization would yield a cumulative increase in GSP of $14.8 billion; $810 million in additional taxes paid by formerly unauthorized immigrants, and an average of 2,100 new jobs created annually.

Virginia: Legalization would yield a cumulative increase in GSP of $16.3 billion; $670 million in additional taxes paid by formerly unauthorized immigrants, and an average of 2,400 new jobs created annually.

The study rightly points out that “the sooner we grant legal status and provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, the sooner all Americans will be able to reap these benefits.”

Lest pro-reform views be portrayed as the exclusive domain of political liberals, the May 23 American Action Forum letter to Congressional leaders was signed by 111 conservative economists, including  American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Director of the Congressional Budget Office; Arthur B. Laffer, former Chief Economist at the Office of Management and Budget; and R. Glenn Hubbard and Edward Lazear, former Chairmen of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The letter acknowledges that “immigration reform’s positive impact on population growth, labor force growth, housing and other markets will lead to more rapid economic growth. This, in turn, translates into a positive impact on the federal budget.” Therefore, the signatories urge Congressional leaders “to pass a broad-based immigration reform bill that includes a U.S. visa system more attuned to economic policy objectives. We believe a reformed and efficient immigration system can promote economic growth and ease the challenge of reforming unsustainable federal health and retirement programs.”

Both the CAP report and the American Action Forum letter are signs that numerous experts from across the political spectrum recognize the economic power and potential of immigration reform. Done right, immigration reform legislation could serve as a significant stimulus for the U.S. economy. The dysfunctional status quo, on the other hand, serves no one’s best interests.

http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/05/24/experts-from-left-and-right-agree-on-economic-power-of-immigration-reform/


First Hurdle Cleared in Immigration, but Bigger Ones Remain

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

By 

Updated: May 21, 2013 | 8:50 p.m.
May 21, 2013 | 8:00 p.m.

An American flag, about 150 years old, is flown during an immigration-reform rally at the Capitol last month. (AP Photo)

The first step in passing major immigration legislation went pretty smoothly, all things considered. The Senate Judiciary Committee late Tuesday approved a bill that would give 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and require employers to electronically verify all new hires.

The bill offers the biggest changes to immigration law in almost 30 years.

The committee’s action clears the way for a full-fledged Senate to take up the bill after Memorial Day. But making progress toward passage will only get more difficult. The “Gang of Eight” Republican and Democratic sponsors are fighting for every additional Republican vote in the full Senate, hoping that the measure will pass with “yes” votes from almost all of the 55 members in the Democratic caucus and at least 15 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans.

The latest supporter of the bill is Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who voted for the bill out of committee after reaching a deal to ease access to H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. He is asking for a few more changes to the bill before a Senate vote, but his support in committee is significant.

Reform advocates are happy with the committee vote, even though they know there are many ways the bill could still die. After five arduous days of debate, with committee members slogging through hundreds of amendments, the immigration proposal emerged largely unchanged from the basic framework initially offered in April by the Gang of Eight.

The bill’s path to citizenship is still intact, despite attempts from some committee Republicans to remove the ability of newly legalized immigrants to become naturalized citizens. The electronic verification requirement is still being phased in over several years to accommodate small businesses, despite an attempt to speed up the mandate that would have threatened businesses’ support of the bill.

Advocates consider the legislation the answer to problems raised in 1986, when Congress passed legislation giving amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants and put in place a paper authorization system for employers.

America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry, an avid supporter of legalization for undocumented immigrants, noted that the 1986 bill didn’t allow for future immigrants to enter the country for low-skill jobs such as restaurant workers, roofers, or nannies. So those workers simply entered illegally. Now there are 11 million of them. The immigration legislation on the table would create several ways for employers who need those foreign workers to get them here and not be forced to pay them under the table.

“You have options where those immigration categories didn’t exist before,” Sharry said. “We now have a lever to turn. If the demand goes up, you can increase the visas because you have a visa category that didn’t exist before. You couldn’t do that.”

The final hours of the committee’s deliberation illustrated the deep emotional struggles that the bill’s sponsors grappled with in order to reach agreement with members of the opposing party and those with opposing viewpoints. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., waited until the bitter end of the hours-long session to discuss his controversial amendment that would give same-sex couples the same immigration benefits as heterosexual couples. The proposal was dubbed a deal-killer by Republicans, so Leahy did reluctantly withdrew it.

“I don’t want be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” Leahy said.

“There will be another day, Mr. Chairman,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a bill sponsor who said he would have voted against Leahy’s proposal because it upset the agreement from the Gang of Eight.

Another amendment offered by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to allow U.S. citizens to sponsor siblings or married adult children for green cards in cases of extreme hardship, was rejected with regrets from otherwise supportive Democrats. The ability to sponsor siblings and adult children for green cards, a right that exists under current law, was traded away in favor of merit-based visas to end so-called chain migration, at the request of Republicans.

If those amendments were difficult for Democrats to deal with, the Republicans on the Gang of Eight had their own problems. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., had been voting for days against amendments that they themselves wanted because they knew it would upset Gang Democrats. For example, Flake and Graham voted against proposals to increase the number of guest workers allowed in the bill, because Democrats did not want to upset unions that are vigorously attempting to keep the visa numbers low to protect American jobs.

As the bill moves to the full Senate, its sponsors got a huge boost on the Republican side from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Tuesday that he would not stand in the way of the legislation on the Senate floor. “The Judiciary Committee has not in any fundamental way undone the agreements that were reached by the eight senators. And so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate,” he said.

Even with a pass from McConnell, other Republicans are expected to make a fuss, and it will be an exercise in patience and political savvy to navigate their protests. Gang member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is not on the Judiciary Committee, says the bill won’t pass if all 100 senators don’t have their say. That’s going to mean a lot of floor time for senators to talk about everything from drones to chicken-processing plants to dairy workers.

For more information:http://www.nationaljournal.com/first-hurdle-cleared-in-immigration-but-bigger-ones-remain-20130521?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=6e48f3428c-AILA8_5_23_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-6e48f3428c-287739493


Mark Zuckerberg group launches TV blitz

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

By ALEXANDER BURNS

4/23/13 3:15 PM EDT

POLITICO

The Mark Zuckerberg-backed organization pressing for immigration reform will launch its first wave of television ads Tuesday, in a move aimed at shoring up support for a large-scale immigration deal on the right, strategists for the group told POLITICO.

FWD.us, the organization formed to push Silicon Valley’s priorities in Washington, will advocate for a new immigration law through a subsidiary group created specifically to court conservatives. Americans for a Conservative Direction will spend seven figures to run ads in more than half a dozen states, according to strategists who sketched out the organization’s plans.

The sales pitch leans heavily on clips of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to make its case to skeptical Republican-leaning voters. The ad campaign is the first wave of advocacy advertising from FWD.us, and an early test of the group’s ability to move the political debate.

The conservative-oriented FWD.us affiliate running the ads has assembled its own blue-chip board of advisers, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sally Bradshaw, the former chief of staff to Jeb Bush; Dan Senor and Joel Kaplan, the former George W. Bush advisers; and Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who serves as the campaign manager for FWD.us.

Brian Walsh, the former NRSC communications director, is working closely with the group on communications and strategy.

In a statement, Jesmer said the TV offensive was aimed at giving air support to Republicans in Washington who have gone out on a limb to forge an immigration deal.

“Conservative leaders in Congress have put forward a bold plan with the toughest enforcement measures to secure our broken borders and hold those who have broken our laws accountable. Americans for a Conservative Direction is committed to supporting this effort as Congress gets to work on the real solutions that will fix our broken immigration system, secure our borders and help grow our economy,” the GOP strategist said.

FWD.us, a registered not-for-profit, will also have an arm focused on reaching out to progressive and independent voters, dubbed the Council for American Job Growth. Both affiliate groups are incorporated as LLCs.

And while both entities will be funded through the FWD.us umbrella organization, strategists said they will have independent boards to shape their political activity.

In six states – Texas, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky – the Americans for a Conservative Direction commercials will feature clips of Rubio extolling the virtues of a tough-but-fair immigration compromise. Voters in a seventh state, South Carolina, will see 60-second ads praising the conservative credentials of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Republican advocate for immigration reform.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/mark-zuckerberg-immigration-group-launches-tv-blitz-90511.html#ixzz2Rs5ToiWP


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