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USCIS Publishes Final Rule For Certain Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs

Posted on by Ruby Powers in State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

WASHINGTON— USCIS has published a final rule to modernize and improve several aspects of certain employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. USCIS has also amended regulations to better enable U.S. employers to hire and retain certain foreign workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents. This rule goes into effect on Jan. 17, 2017.

Among other things, DHS is amending its regulations to:

  • Clarify and improve longstanding DHS policies and practices implementing sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act related to certain foreign workers, which will enhance USCIS’ consistency in adjudication.
  • Better enable U.S. employers to employ and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions (Form I-140 petitions) while also providing stability and job flexibility to these workers. The rule increases the ability of these workers to further their careers by accepting promotions, changing positions with current employers, changing employers and pursuing other employment opportunities.
  • Improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved Form I-140 petitions by maintaining a petition’s validity under certain circumstances despite an employer’s withdrawal of the approved petition or the termination of the employer’s business.
  • Clarify and expand when individuals may keep their priority date when applying for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.
  • Allow certain high-skilled individuals in the United States with E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or O-1 nonimmigrant status, including any applicable grace period, to apply for employment authorization for a limited period if:
  1. They are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition,
  2. An immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance for their priority date, and
  3. They can demonstrate compelling circumstances exist that justify DHS issuing an employment authorization document in its discretion.

Such employment authorization may only be renewed in limited circumstances and only in one year increments.

  • Clarify various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including, among other things, providing H-1B status beyond the six year authorized period of admission, determining cap exemptions and counting workers under the H-1B cap, H-1B portability, licensure requirements and protections for whistleblowers.
  • Establish two grace periods of up to 10 days for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN nonimmigrant classifications to provide a reasonable amount of time for these individuals to prepare to begin employment in the country and to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status.
  • Establish a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers when their employment ends before the end of their authorized validity period, so they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
  • Automatically extend the employment authorization and validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or Form I-766s) for certain individuals who apply on time to renew their EADs.
  • Eliminate the regulatory provision that requires USCIS to adjudicate the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, within 90 days of filing and that authorizes interim EADs in cases where such adjudications are not conducted within the 90-day timeframe.

For more information, visit the Working in the U.S. page or read the rule in the Federal Register. USCIS plans to host a national stakeholder engagement regarding this final rule. Visit this page to sign up for an email alert to receive the invitation from the USCIS Public Engagement Division.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis), and the USCIS blog The Beacon.


In a crowded immigration court, seven minutes to decide a family’s future

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
His courtroom rarely came to order, and by now the judge had decided it was a waste of time to try. Interpreters explained legalese in three languages. Adults squeezed into crowded seats while children crouched in the center aisle. A court official stood near the doorway and worried about the building’s fire code. “Por favor,” he said in halting Spanish, as another family tried to enter. “No mas.”

Judge Lawrence Burman sat quietly in front of the chaos, adjusting his reading glasses and sifting through a stack of files on his bench. He had 26 cases listed on his morning docket in Arlington Immigration Court — 26 decisions to make before lunchtime about the complicated future of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The state of U.S. immigration

See how immigration trends have shifted over the years.

“The rocket docket” is what lawyers had begun calling this schedule, warning clients that their future could be decided in the time it took to walk to the restroom and back.

“Next,” Burman announced. “Let’s go. Busy day.”

At a time when Congress and President Obama have signaled an increased willingness to reform the immigration system, they insist on urgency by repeating a series of skyrocketing numbers: 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, at least 50,000 more trying to enter every month, 21,000 agents patrolling the borders, $18 billion spent each year on enforcement and about 1,000 people deported each day.

In Burman’s courtroom, the urgent number on this January morning was smaller but just as daunting. He had an average of seven minutes per case.

While Congress and the White House make promises about the future of undocumented immigrants, this is the place where decisions must be made — day after day, case after case, in one of the 57 overwhelmed immigration courts across the country. Here, on the second floor of a high rise in Crystal City, tissue boxes are stacked near the courtroom entrance and attorneys push rolling file cabinets, because a briefcase is no longer sufficient to hold caseloads that have tripled in the past decade.

Undocumented immigrants try to prove they deserve to remain in America by bringing their versions of America with them to court: wives carrying family photo albums; babies wrapped in American flag blankets; pastors, bosses, neighbors and community soccer teams, all of whom fill the courthouse and sometimes kneel in the hallways to chant or to pray.

“Somos Americanos,” one group said. We are Americans.

Now Burman looked at his docket and called up a case: Mario Iraheta, 36, father of three, citizen of El Salvador, longtime resident of the United States. For Iraheta, the future of immigration reform was not about Congress, or Obama, or two political parties positioning for a presidential election in 2016. It was about the next seven minutes.

“Court is in session,” Burman said.

An empty seat

Iraheta’s seat in the courtroom remained empty. A clerk turned on a television near the prosecutor’s table, and up came a video feed to a detention facility in Farmville, Va. Suddenly Iraheta appeared on screen, his hair still wet from the shower, in a room 165 miles away.

This was the latest symptom of a deportation system backlogged with 350,000 cases. Since the government often lacks the time and the resources to transport detained immigrants, they often attend their hearings remotely.

“Farmville, Room 294, can you hear us?” a court interpreter asked. The screen seemed to freeze. The court took a short recess while a technician fixed the video feed. As the recess continued, Iraheta’s wife, Maria, and two sons stood up in the second row of the courtroom and walked toward the video screen. “There he is!” said Dylan, 9, an American citizen, tugging at his mother’s shirt. They stood within view of the camera so Iraheta could see them. “Oh, God,” Iraheta said, wiping his eyes as they smiled and waved. “You came. Thank you.”

He had not seen all of them together for seven months, since he got into his car to drive to his sister’s house for a Sunday barbecue and was pulled over by police for drinking and driving, a mistake that threatened to undo the life he had built in the Manassas suburbs. He had crossed into the United States illegally in 2000, and Maria had followed a year later. He worked in construction; she walked two miles each evening to wash dishes at IHOP for $8 an hour. They paid taxes, joined a church and raised three kids, now 19, 15 and 9. Two months after Iraheta was apprehended and placed into deportation proceedings, his family celebrated the birth of his first granddaughter — “an honest-to-God second-generation American,” one cousin said.

For 14 years, Iraheta and Maria had shared the same bed in a small apartment, but now they could think of little to say. He motioned for his boys to come closer to the camera so he could study their haircuts. “You look nice,” he said. “Grown up.”

Maria wondered if she should tell him about the debts they were accumulating to the thriving deportation industry: the $300 she had paid a driver to take her to visit him in Farmville; the $25 they spent on 18-minute phone calls; the $5,000 and counting in legal fees to a succession of notaries and lawyers; the work shift she was missing now, to support him in court. He wondered if he should tell her about the nightmares he’d been havinglately, in which he returned to El Salvador, got lost at the airport and was stabbed by a gang of men trying to steal his jeans.

“Today will be a new beginning for us,” he said instead. “You look beautiful. We are smiling. They will see we are a good family.”

“I hope so,” she said, now wiping her eyes, too.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she said, but now the recess had ended, and Iraheta’s lawyer approached the bench.

Crimes or mistakes?

“Your Honor, we would request that you set a bond in this case,” said Ricky Malik, Iraheta’s lawyer. “My client is a longtime resident. He is not a flight risk. He would like the opportunity to be reunited with his family.”

“We would contend that he is a flight risk,” the prosecutor said. He reached into his case file and pulled out two court documents, criminal convictions for hit-and-runs.

Malik looked over the charges. Both were misdemeanors for property damage of less than $1,000, one from 2003 and the other from 2004. The first time, Iraheta had hit a car in a parking lot and driven away, scared that he would be deported because he didn’t have a driver’s license. The next time he had hit a car in the rain, fled, felt guilty and went to a police station a day later to fill out a report.

If Burman decided that the crimes indicated poor character — what the law refers to as “moral turpitude” — Iraheta would not only be ineligible for bond but also much more likely to be deported to El Salvador.

“These are small property incidents,” Malik said. “We would argue that these are not crimes of moral turpitude but unfortunate decisions.”

Malik knew that his argument was a long shot, but so was everything else about his job. He represented 300 undocumented immigrants from Manassas to Richmond, mostly working-class Mexicans and Central Americans who came to him after they had been apprehended and placed in deportation proceedings. His clients were not the perfect face of undocumented immigration but the complicated heart of it — not college graduates, or victims of violent crime, or active military members, or breast-feeding mothers, or“dreamers,” or members of any one of the small groups for which Obama has created patchwork immigration solutions. His clients were people like Iraheta, whose mistakes had been compounded by fear and bad luck, and whose paths to stay in the United States were as complex as they were uncertain.

“To be honest, these odds are not good,” Malik had told Iraheta’s family during an early meeting about his case. To stay in the United States, Iraheta needed to file for his case to be reopened, win bond, file for deportation relief and then win again at trial — and even that unlikely outcome would only return him back to where he started, free but undocumented. Nonetheless, Maria had borrowed money and cashed out her savings to pay Malik for a few months of work, and here he was five months later, providing representation for free, taking on what immigration lawyers called another “case of conscience.” Unlike criminal defendants, undocumented immigrants are not guaranteed a lawyer, and the 40 percent who appear in court without representation are several times more likely to be deported. Malik didn’t want a family broken apart because it couldn’t afford his billable hours.

“Your Honor, my client is not a perfect person, but he is a good person,” Malik said now, lifting his hands.

“What if it was your car that he hit?” Burman said.

“For all we know this could have been a dent, $150 in damages,” Malik said.

“Or it could have been $850,” Burman said.

He turned away from Malik and looked at Iraheta on the monitor, studying him, searching for some impression of the man on the screen.

“I have gone back and forth on this issue,” he said. “Are these crimes of moral turpitude? This is tough.”

‘Impossibly stressful’

Tough: That was his job. Tough was hearing 1,500 cases per year while federal judges decided 440. It was sharing one law clerk with other immigration judges while each federal judge had four clerks of his own. It was being scheduled to sit on the bench for 36 hours a week and listen to asylum cases that detailed people’s escapes from gangs, rapes, beheadings, human trafficking and torture; and then having to objectively ask those people for the documents, for the scars, for the proof; and then making a judgment about the character of those people, first through a video feed and then through an interpreter; and then judging the merits of their cases in the shifting landscape of immigration law; and finally taking a deep breath, synthesizing so much information, and rendering a lawful, smart, artful, confident decision on the spot, because the schedule allowed little time for reflection or written decisions before the next case began.

“Like doing death-penalty cases in a traffic-court setting,” one immigration judge said in testimony before Congress about the job.

Burman was known as one of the country’s best: an immigration judge since 1998, working in Los Angeles, Memphis and now Virginia, mastering the changing nuances of the law even as his caseload continued to grow. Like all immigration judges, it was his responsibility to act in some ways as a de facto lawyer for unrepresented immigrants, notifying them of possible forms of deportation relief. He was funny, kind and sometimes sarcastic. He called the rotating cast of interpreters and court security guards by their first names. Lawyers on both sides considered him fair and empathetic — a small miracle given the pressure he was under.

A group of psychiatrists surveyed immigration judges about their work in 2008 and concluded that the job was “impossibly stressful,” with burnout rates exceeding those of prison guards or physicians in busy hospitals, and since then the courtroom conditions had only worsened. The law becomes more complex each time widespread reform defaults to more piecemeal solutions. A hiring freeze has reduced 272 judges to 249, and a congressional proposal to hire 225 more stalled last year in the House. Nearly half of the judges who are left will be eligible for retirement in the next year, which means caseloads are again expected to rise.

“The volume is constant and unrelenting,” one immigration judge wrote in a survey about job satisfaction.

“Similar to a factory assembly line,” wrote another.

“The drip-drip-drip of Chinese water torture.”

“Not enough time to think.”

“I can’t take this place anymore.”

“This job is supposed to be about doing justice. The conditions under which we work make it more and more challenging to ensure that justice is done.”

Now Burman looked beyond Malik into the courtroom benches, where Iraheta’s wife was praying, clasping her hands on her lap. What would constitute justice in this case? To grant bond and return a family to its life in the United States? Or to detain and eventually deport a man who had snuck into the country and then broken its laws?

Nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, and here came the same murky decision every seven minutes: Who would be allowed to stay, and who would be forced to go?

“I feel badly for the family,” Burman said, but he had made up his mind. On this day, in this court, the two car accidents counted as crimes of moral turpitude. He turned back to Malik. “Do you want to set aside a right to appeal?”

“So no bond?” Malik said.

“Yes. That is my ruling.”

‘We are out of time’

Malik looked down at his desk. The prosecutor reached for the next case file. The judge began to fill out his paperwork.

“Your Honor, I would like to simply ask for your kindness,” Iraheta said, speaking on the video screen. He had been silent until this moment, a forgotten member of his own proceeding, but now he leaned toward the camera and begged. “I need to be there to take care of my family,” he said. “Please. I know I made terrible errors and horrible mistakes. I would like to ask for your kindness.”

“I promise if given the opportunity I will do everything I can and try to change in every manner possible.”

“I think it is too late for that. I’m sorry. We are out of time.”

Iraheta tried to speak faster, and then louder, but the courtroom had already returned to motion. Lawyers huddled with their clients. More families streamed in through the crowded entrance. Malik consoled Iraheta’s family in the hallway outside, explaining that he would stay detained until another hearing unless he chose to be quickly deported. Burman stretched his back and looked back down at his docket. So many cases still to decide. Seven minutes each.

“Okay,” he said. “Next.”


Rubio, House GOP again warn immigration bill lacks support without border fixes

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
By Kasie Hunt, Frank Thorp and Carrie Dann, NBC News

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that there will not be enough votes in the House to pass the Senate’s immigration bill as it is currently written even if the legislation can find the 60 votes it will need in the upper chamber.

“I can tell you that the bill as currently structured is not going to pass in the House. And I think it’s going to struggle to pass in the Senate,” Rubio said after a meeting between Senate and House conservatives.

Rubio’s comments came shortly before Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho conservative who has been working on immigration in the House, said he will no longer be a part of an eight-person bipartisan working group that had recently hit snags in negotiations.

Labrador left the talks after a standoff over whether newly legalized immigrants who were previously undocumented should be eligible to receive government-based health care, the issue he called the breaking point that caused him to part from the group.

“I think my exit just means that I couldn’t agree with them on language,” Labrador told reporters, “I don’t think it means anything for immigration reform.”

Earlier Wednesday, Rubio said border security provisions must be strengthened before conservatives will support the bill in sufficient numbers to make it law. He has pledged to push amendments to the bill that would stiffen those requirements and potentially shift the power to craft security plans from the Department of Homeland Security to Congress.

“If the changes don’t happen, the bill can’t pass,” Rubio said. “We’ll keep working. We won’t abandon the effort. We’ll keep working to ensure the bill can pass.”

The Senate bill is expected to be taken up on the floor of the upper chamber next week. Rubio, along with Democrat and fellow “Gang of Eight” member Sen. Bob Menendez, has said that it does not currently have the 60 votes required for passage, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated last week that it would be “pretty easy” to pull together sufficient support.

But Rubio pointed to the Republican-controlled House as a major factor, even if the bill passes the Senate with broad bipartisan backing.

“Let’s remember – the goal here is not to pass a bill out of the Senate,” he said. “The goal here is to reform our immigration laws. And that requires something that can pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by the president.”

Rubio and a handful of other GOP senators — including Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — met with conservative House Republicans for over an hour in the basement of the Capitol to discuss the immigration reform efforts. Attendees described the meeting as an “open discussion” where participants voiced concern about passing legislation that could mirror what happened in 1986, when President Reagan signed a bill offering ‘amnesty’ to millions of undocumented immigrants.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the House will not take up the Senate bill wholesale.

“It’s very clear that the House will not take the Senate bill,” Goodlatte said, noting that the panel that he chairs is working through smaller pieces of legislation to beef up border and interior enforcement.

Some House Republicans are pessimistic that a larger package could be signed into law by the end of the summer at all.  Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told reporters Wednesday “It may pass in the Senate, but I don’t see it passing into law.”

“The border security piece of this is a big, big stumbling block,” Fleming said, “I don’t think Republicans are going to support anything that is milquetoast in the way of border security.”

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/05/18780685-rubio-house-gop-again-warn-immigration-bill-lacks-support-without-border-fixes?lite


John Boehner begins to sketch immigration plan

Posted on by Ruby Powers in immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
By SEUNG MIN KIM and JAKE SHERMAN | 6/9/13 11:12 PM EDT

Speaker John Boehner has been stunningly silent about his plans to move immigration reform through the House.

But privately, the Ohio Republican is beginning to sketch out a road map to try to pass some version of an overhaul in his chamber — a welcome sign for proponents of immigration reform.

If his goal is met, it’ll be a busy few weeks.

The speaker wants House committees — Judiciary has primary jurisdiction — to wrap up their work on a version of immigration legislation before the July 4 recess. And he would like immigration reform to see a House vote before Congress breaks in August.

His goal is to begin moving either bite-size immigration bills or the bipartisan House immigration group’s legislation through committees before the Senate passes its bill, which could happen by the end of this month. The Senate Gang of Eight plan is on the Senate floor this week and is expected to get a vote before the July 4 recess.

It’s an ambitious plan, considering House leadership has not yet settled on what bill it will advance.

Boehner’s thinking, and the fact that Republican leadership is willing to discuss the process for immigration reform, represents a significant shift and suggests a new urgency for Republican leadership. It is a moderately good sign for the prospects of immigration reform in the House. After months of coy talk from Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), any sign of planning for legislation is a positive development for reform proponents.

The leadership’s plan is to allow the bipartisan group to release its legislation and closely monitor how it is received by House Republicans. If it’s decried as too lenient, leadership could fall back on Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) small-bore proposals, which he has been slowly considering in committee. They so far include measures governing E-Verify, and changing the high-skilled and agricultural worker visa programs.

Republican leadership prefers to move immigration reform in pieces, rather than a large bill. But that’s pure procedural calculation, since a House-passed bill would have to be meshed with any Senate bill before it is sent to the White House.

Passing an immigration overhaul will be difficult in the House. The wide gap between the two parties has been on display recently, as the bipartisan immigration working group has experienced fits and starts in releasing its legislation. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), whose presence in the group was comforting for conservatives, recently dropped out. There is a pocket of conservatives that are opposed to a new process that would legalize the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

Another question will be how the House handles the Senate’s bill, should it pass the upper chamber. A senior GOP leadership aide said they would consider putting that measure into the committee process if it passed the Senate.

Of course, there are elements in leadership who think immigration reform will never pass the House. There is too much resistance to sweeping legislation, not to mention the charged issue of immigration reform splits the party in many directions.

Immigration reform is one piece of an increasingly busy summer on Capitol Hill. This week, the House will consider the National Defense Authorization Act. In the coming weeks, there will be a lengthy debate on the House floor on government spending. And there is sure to be healthy debate around intelligence reauthorization, after it was revealed that the National Security Agency is culling massive amounts of Internet data. Congress is also facing a stare down over student loan rates — the House and Senate have to come to an agreement with the president or rates will double.

Boehner’s timeline for immigration reform, and the fact that he is discussing it, also has skeptics.

Multiple Democratic aides familiar with the emerging legislation said Sunday that Boehner’s timetable is ambitious, but is feasible. A standoff over health care for undocumented immigrants was the final roadblock for House negotiators, but that was settled when Labrador dropped out of the negotiations over the dispute.

“Without any outstanding issues to resolve, our bill is nearly ready,” one Democratic aide familiar with the House discussions said Sunday.

That aide said the group — now down to seven members after Labrador’s exit — was still planning on releasing a single bill. Democrats and some Republicans have strongly advocated for a comprehensive approach because they say the components of immigration reform are too interconnected.

Meanwhile, the immigration bill moving through the Senate got a significant boost from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who announced on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and with a lengthy statement on her website that she was supporting the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

Ayotte was long considered one of the likeliest Republican votes for the Gang of Eight, and the former state attorney general is a frequent ally of Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona — two members of the Senate group.

In her statement Sunday, Ayotte said she wants amendments that would tighten border-security measures, which will be crucial in luring more Republican votes. She also defended the 13-year pathway to citizenship that has become a flash point for some conservatives, calling its requirements “strict” and “tough but fair.”

“We need to stop the flow of illegal immigrants,” Ayotte said in her statement. “And we need to bring undocumented people out of the shadows to separate those seeking economic opportunity from those seeking to harm us [who must be deported].”

Ayotte joins the four Republican senators in the Gang of Eight — McCain, Graham, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona — in supporting the bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) backed the bill in committee but is insisting on more changes to provisions involving taxes and benefits before the legislation earns his support on the floor.

Other leaders are eager to move comprehensive immigration reform along. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in May that she wanted Congress to pass an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws by August.

And in his weekly address on Saturday, President Barack Obama said there is “no reason” preventing lawmakers from sending him a bill by the end of this summer.

“We know the opponents of reform are going to do everything they can to prevent that,” Obama said in his address. “And if they succeed, we will lose this chance to finally fix an immigration system that is badly broken.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/john-boehner-immigration-plan-92471.html


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


Houston Attorneys Speak Out On Immigration Reform

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

THELAW.TV Houston
Houston Attorneys Speak Out On Immigration Reform
Friday, May 24, 2013

By THELAW.TV

Immigration reform has dominated the political landscape in Washington for much of the year.
There’s widespread agreement that the immigration system needs a comprehensive overhaul. Yet, there’s little agreement on what the change should look like. Democrats want a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But many Republicans oppose anything that looks like “amnesty.”
We asked prominent Houston-area immigration attorneys to speak out on this hot button issue.
Here’s what they had to say:

Q: As an experienced immigration attorney, do you believe that we will see comprehensive immigration reform become law during this President Obama’s administration?

“It’s like trying to swallow an elephant. I hope Congress has the stomach for it.”
– Adan G. Vega, Esq., Law Offices of Adan G. Vega & Associates

“I think the House and Senate are too far apart to reach a compromise.”
– Emily Neumann, Esq., Reddy & Neumann, P.C.

“Yes, I believe that the groundswell of support is growing within Congress to enact this needed legislation this year. Both parties have been applauded for their bipartisan efforts and the chance to show that Washington can work together. The majority of Congress do not want to appear to be obstructionists.”
– Pamelia Barnett, Esq., Barnett Law Group

“Change is on the horizon during this administration because minorities made a huge impact on the 2012 presidential election and showed us all that they are a force to be reckoned with. I support an immigration reform bill that affords the same rights to all qualifying individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Immigration reform should include LGBT individuals and their families. Times are changing and as Americans we must lead the way.”
– Gia Samavati, Esq., Samavati & Samavati

“Immigration attorneys are reluctant to be hopeful for comprehensive immigration reform due to many failed prior attempts. However, I believe we are closer than we have been in many years to a resolution. It is in both parties’ interest to pass comprehensive legislation that will ultimately impact millions of lives, improve security, and boost our economy.”
– Ruby L. Powers, Esq., The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers

What do you think about immigration reform? Will it happen? What will it look like? Let us know.

http://blog.chron.com/legalnews/2013/05/houston-attorneys-speak-out-on-immigration-reform/


Obama Will Seek Citizenship Path in One Fast Push

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

By 

Published: January 12, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to push Congress to move quickly in the coming months on an ambitious overhaul of the immigration system that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, senior administration officials and lawmakers said last week.

Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats will propose the changes in one comprehensive bill, the officials said, resisting efforts by some Republicans to break the overhaul into smaller pieces — separately addressing young illegal immigrants, migrant farmworkers or highly skilled foreigners — which might be easier for reluctant members of their party to accept.

The president and Democrats will also oppose measures that do not allow immigrants who gain legal status to become American citizens one day, the officials said.

Even while Mr. Obama has been focused on fiscal negotiations and gun control, overhauling immigration remains a priority for him this year, White House officials said. Top officials there have been quietly working on a broad proposal. Mr. Obama and lawmakers from both parties believe that the early months of his second term offer the best prospects for passing substantial legislation on the issue.

Mr. Obama is expected to lay out his plan in the coming weeks, perhaps in his State of the Union address early next month, administration officials said. The White House will argue that its solution for illegal immigrants is not an amnesty, as many critics insist, because it would include fines, the payment of back taxes and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status, the officials said.

The president’s plan would also impose nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers; add visas to relieve backlogs and allow highly skilled immigrants to stay; and create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.

A bipartisan group of senators has also been meeting to write a comprehensive bill, with the goal of introducing legislation as early as March and holding a vote in the Senate before August. As a sign of the keen interest in starting action on immigration, White House officials and Democratic leaders in the Senate have been negotiating over which of them will first introduce a bill, Senate aides said.

“This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democrat who is a leader of the bipartisan discussions.

A similar attempt at bipartisan legislation early in Mr. Obama’s first term collapsed amid political divisions fueled by surging public wrath over illegal immigration in many states. But both supporters and opponents say conditions are significantly different now.

Memories of the results of the November election are still fresh here. Latinos, the nation’s fastest-growing electorate, turned out in record numbers and cast 71 percent of their ballots for Mr. Obama. Many Latinos said they were put off by Republicans’ harsh language and policies against illegal immigrants.

After the election, a host of Republicans, starting with Speaker John A. Boehner, said it was time for the party to find a more positive, practical approach to immigration. Many party leaders say electoral demographics are compelling them to move beyond policies based only on tough enforcement.

Supporters of comprehensive changes say that the elections were nothing less than a mandate in their favor, and that they are still optimistic that Mr. Obama is prepared to lead the fight.

“Republicans must demonstrate a reasoned approach to start to rebuild their relationship with Latino voters,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the director of immigration policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Latino organization. “Democrats must demonstrate they can deliver on a promise.”

Since the election, Mr. Obama has repeatedly pledged to act on immigration this year. In his weekly radio address on Saturday, he again referred to the urgency of fixing the immigration system, saying it was one of the “difficult missions” the country must take on.

Parallel to the White House effort, Mr. Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, have been meeting with a group of at least four other colleagues to write a bill. Republicans who have participated include John McCain of Arizona, who has supported comprehensive legislation in the past; Jeff Flake, also of Arizona, who is newly elected to the Senate; and Mike Lee of Utah. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida participated in one meeting last month.

Democrats in the meetings include Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat; Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Basic tenets for the bill, Mr. Schumer said, were that it would be comprehensive and would offer eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants who follow a prolonged process to correct their status.

“This is a bottom line,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview on Thursday. “The Democrats have made it clear we will not accept a bill without a direct path to earned citizenship.” He said senators from both parties had been “pleasantly surprised” at how rapidly the talks had proceeded.

Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American who has emerged as a star in his party, is making immigration one of his primary issues. He has advocated taking changes in pieces, arguing that lawmakers will get better results if the politically and practically tangled problems of the immigration system are handled separately.

Mr. Rubio has been preparing a bill that would provide legal status specifically for young illegal immigrants, known as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children.

Mr. Rubio said Thursday that the piecemeal approach was “not a line in the sand” for him. But he said he would insist that any legalization measure should not be unfair to immigrants who played by the rules and applied to become residents through legal channels.

His proposals would allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary status so that they could remain in the country and work. Then they would be sent to the back of the line in the existing system to apply to become permanent residents, without any special path to citizenship.

Mr. Rubio said he hoped to rally Republicans to support changes. Speaking of Latinos, he said, “We are going to have a struggle speaking to a whole segment of the population about our principles of limited government and free enterprise if they think we don’t want them here.”

In the Republican-controlled House, the future of a comprehensive bill remains unclear.

Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican who follows immigration issues, said he remained opposed to “amnesty of any kind.”

He said that the Obama administration had been lax on enforcement, and that he would “continue working to secure our borders and enforce existing immigration law.”

But groups backing the overhaul say they are bigger and better organized than in the past. Last month, the labor movement, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and other sometimes-warring factions, affirmed a common strategy. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it would work with labor, Latino and church organizations to pass the overhaul this year.


Obama and Rubio Immigration Plans: What’s the Difference?

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

By TED HESSON (@tedhesson)
Article
Jan. 14, 2013
Broad outlines describing how immigration reform could look in 2013 emerged this weekend. Officials from the White House spoke to The New York Times about possible tenets of reform while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) elaborated on his vision in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

What’s the difference between the Obama and Rubio plans? Here are some bullet points to get you up to speed:

What Obama Wants

Type of bill: Comprehensive. That will mean lots of immigration policy changes packaged into one piece of legislation, like the 2010 healthcare bill.

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants: The White House has said that it will reject any bill that doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people in the country without papers. The path to citizenship would be earned, meaning immigrants would need to pay back taxes along with “other hurdles,” according to The New York Times. The White House’s 2011 blueprint for reform says those other hurdles could involve criminal background checks, learning English and paying a processing fee.

Timeframe for citizenship: The most recent article by the Times didn’t cover this, but Obama’s 2011 blueprint shows a pathway that would take eight years to reach a green card and five additional years to earn citizenship.

Workplace enforcement: The president wants a national system to check the legal status of all workers. One such system, E-Verify, is already in place. Less than 10 percent of U.S. businesses use E-Verify but firms have increasingly begun to use the program in recent years. E-Verify has drawn criticism from immigrant rights and business groups for being unreliable and forcing employees further into the shadows.

Immigration backlogs: Getting a visa from certain countries, like the Philippines and Mexico, can take decades, and leaders in sectors like farming, technology and healthcare say they need more immigrant workers. The president plans to add more visas to reduce the overall wait time to obtain one, according to The New York Times, but hasn’t been specific about what he would do.

Guest worker program: One of the main reasons for illegal immigration is that there are no legal pathways that allow low-wage workers to come to the U.S. The president would like to create a guest-worker program to provide a way for those workers to enter the country legally.

What Rubio Wants

Type of bill: Piecemeal. Rubio told the Wall Street Journal that it would be better to have four or five separate immigration bills than one large legislative package. He cited the healthcare bill as an example of a big bill where bad policies got lost amid hundreds of pages. But on the piecemeal approach, he said, “it’s not a line in the sand for me.”

Citizenship for the 11 million undocumented: Rubio supports legal status for the undocumented, but he hasn’t endorsed a special pathway to citizenship. The Journal calls his version of legal status “a form of temporary limbo.” According to Rubio, immigrants should earn legal status through a process similar to Obama’s approach to citizenship by paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check. After that, they could apply for a green card and potentially pursue citizenship.

Timeframe for citizenship: Rubio wouldn’t say how many years undocumented immigrants should have to wait for a green card, but he said it “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way.” He added that the wait shouldn’t be “indefinite,” either.

Pathway for DREAMers: Rubio said he favors a faster pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications. Earlier this year, Rubio was developing an alternative to the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer citizenship to undocumented youth who attend college or serve in the military. Rubio’s alternative would have granted DREAMers legal status but not citizenship. The senator’s efforts became moot, however, when President Obama circumvented Congress and used his executive power this June to allow qualifying DREAMers to stay in the country and work legally.

Workplace enforcement: Workplace enforcement appears to be a point of common ground in both early outlines for reform. Like the White House, Rubio believes there should be a national system to verify that workers are here legally, whether that system be E-Verify or something else.

Immigration backlogs: Compared with the reports coming out of the White House, Rubio has put forward a more detailed explanation of how he would change the visa system. His main goal is to increase the number of visas for highly-skilled workers. There are two ways that can happen: either changing the distribution of visas — to have more for skilled workers and less for family members — or by upping the number of skilled-worker visas. Rubio said he prefers the second approach. “I don’t think there’s a lot of concern in this country that we’ll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs,” Rubio told the Wall Street Journal.

Guest-worker program: Rubio also supports a guest-worker program, and he spoke to the Journal about how such a program would be particularly beneficial to farmers and farm workers. “The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well,” he said. “When someone is [undocumented] they’re vulnerable to being exploited.”

It’s important to keep in mind that these are just the early outlines of reform. The White House, for instance, hasn’t officially announced its plans (although reform could surface during the State of the Union address).

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen dubbed the “Gang of Eight” are working on their own bill. The group, led by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), haven’t gone public with what will be included in their legislation beyond the core commitment to an earned pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Sen. Schumer assured The New York Times that despite other legislative pushes, immigration is still a top priority: “This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way.”


Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver announcement – January 3, 2013

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

After a year of waiting all of 2012, we have it folks! The provisional unlawful presence waiver is being published today, January 3, 2013 and will become effective on March 4, 2013 (60 days later).

For more info

Secretary Napolitano Announces Final Rule to Support Family Unity During Waiver Process

Release Date:
January 2, 2013

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced the posting of a final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children and parents), who are in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances. The final rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. The process will be effective on March 4, 2013 and more information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks at http://www.uscis.gov/.

“This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa,” said Secretary Napolitano.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 4,000 comments in response to the April 2, 2012 proposed rule and considered all of them in preparing the final rule.

“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves,” USCIS Director Mayorkas said. “The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.”

Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the U.S. and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa. Under the existing waiver process, which remains available to those who do not qualify for the new process, immediate relatives cannot file a waiver application until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad and the Department of State has determined that they are inadmissible. 

In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process.

Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives must still depart the United States for the consular immigrant visa process; however, they can apply for a provisional waiver before they depart for their immigrant visa interview abroad. Individuals who file the Form I-601A must notify the Department of State’s National Visa Center that they are or will be seeking a provisional waiver from USCIS. The new process will reduce the amount of time U.S. citizen are separated from their qualifying immediate relatives. Details on the process changes are available at http://www.regulations.gov/.

For more information, visit www.uscis.gov.


Obama Promises Immigration Reform if Re-Elected, According to Iowa Paper

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

October 24, 2012

Washington –  In an interview with the Des Moines Register, U.S. President Barack Obama said that if he wins the election in two weeks it will largely be thanks to his strong lead among Latino voters.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2012/10/24/obama-promises-immigration-reform-if-re-elected-according-to-iowa-paper/#ixzz2AK5xFMID


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