What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?

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

What Would the Proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 Mean for Business-Related Immigration?
By stacey On May 20, 2013 · Add Comment

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The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 sets the framework for Congress to address many immigration issues that have been suspended in a gridlock for several years in Washington. The proposed bill, crafted jointly by a group of four Democrats and four Republicans, together known as the Gang of Eight, was crafted to address four major immigration issues. If approved, this Act would: (i) tighten border controls, (ii) allow greater numbers of workers to immigrate legally, (iii) require employers to verify that all workers have legal status, and (iv) create an opportunity for those who are in the U.S. illegally to gain citizenship by following a detailed legal process.

Background

The U.S. is currently in its fourth and largest immigration wave. This wave began in 1965 reflecting the end of immigration limits based on nationality. According to Nancy Benac of the Associated Press in her April 8, 2013, article on the proposed act, the foreign-born population now accounts for approximately 1 in 8 U.S. residents, or approximately 13% of the population. Ms. Benac also states that out of the record 40.4 million immigrants who live in the United States, more than 18 million are naturalized citizens, 11 million are legal permanent or temporary residents, and more than 11 million are in the country without legal permission. (AP article published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/gang-of-eight)

Under present laws, the U.S. permits the granting of a significantly larger proportion of permanent green cards to family members of citizens and current permanent residents than to foreigners with job or other prospects here. About two-thirds of permanent legal immigration to the U.S. is family-based, compared to about the 15% that is employment based. Many members of Congress are interested in boosting employment-based immigration to help the U.S. economy, and to help the U.S. to compete more effectively with other countries around the world by attracting talent to the domestic workplace.

Business owners, entrepreneurs and business lobbying organizations are keenly interested in Congress changing the immigration system to allow the U.S. to attract foreign-born workers with various skill sets. Advocates also wish for workers who have legally worked in the U.S. for an extended period of time to qualify for permanent resident status with fewer obstacles. Despite guarded opposition by labor unions, language in the 2013 bill addresses these issues.

How Will the Bill Affect Business-Related Immigration?

The bill proposes a migration to a more merit-based immigration system by eliminating certain categories of family preferences that promote chain migration, while wholly eliminating the diversity visa lottery. The bill would prevent citizens from bringing in siblings while allowing citizens to sponsor married sons and daughters only if those children are under the age of 31. These changes set the stage for more business-based visas.

The bill would raise the cap on visas for highly-skilled workers seeking H1-B visa status from 65,000 to 110,000, which would be a huge coup and certainly appreciated by the immigration bar – few of us were immune to the frenetic rush to file before the April 1 deadline, and even then far too many legitimate prospective beneficiaries simply missed the boat due to the unreasonable limitations in this critical area.

The bill also proposes to increase the current cap for H-1B STEM graduates with advanced degrees from 20,000 to 25,000. STEM graduates possess degrees based around the natural sciences.

All of these proposed changes to the H-1B visa will allow students who have gone to universities in the U.S. to study and receive advanced degrees to stay in this country to work, and the U.S. will lose less of this pool of talent to foreign competitors. All of these proposed changes are expected to produce positive economic results.

Additionally, the bill creates a start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs. Under the INVEST program, two new types of visas, one for non-immigrant visas and the other for immigrant visas, have been proposed for entrepreneurs as detailed below:

(1) The non-immigrant INVEST visa is a renewable 3-year visa for investors who can show at least $100,000 in investment in his or her business from angel investors and/or other qualified investors over the past 3 years, and whose business has created no fewer than 3 jobs while generating at least $250,000 in annual revenues in the U.S. for the two years immediately prior to filing.

(2) The INVEST immigrant visa would be an entrepreneurial green card, the number of which would be capped at 10,000 per year. The INVEST immigrant visa would require that the applicant must:

Have significant ownership in a U.S. business (need not be majority interest);
Be employed as a senior executive in the U.S. business;
Have had a significant role in the founding/initial stages of the business;
Have resided for at least 2 years in the U.S. in lawful status;
and

Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs and which business must have received at least $500,000 in venture capital or other qualified investments; or
Have in the 3 years prior to filing a significant ownership in a U.S. business that has created at least 5 jobs, and the business has generated at least $750,000 in annual revenue for the 2 years immediately prior to filing.
Finally, the bill also proposes a guest worker visa program. This is among the more controversial aspects of the Gang of Eight bill and is known as “W visas.” This program would issue guest worker visas for low-skilled workers, defined in the bill as those whose jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Guest workers would serve three-year stints, renewable indefinitely, and would be allowed to bring their families with them. The program sets a first-year cap of 20,000 for the program, but the agency running it would be allowed to increase that to as high as 200,000 visas per year. This program could create a potentially huge source of future migration to the U.S., and raises the question of whether or not these foreign workers will be eligible for permanent residence or citizenship in later years.

Conclusion

Much of the proposed legislation in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is just an outline and framework that which the full Congress can refine and eventually act. Amendments and additional provisions will no doubt be included in any final version of the bill that is enacted by both houses. Congress has vowed to give this bill a long period of consideration and multiple hearings for comments and testimony. It will undoubtedly be many months before the final version of the bill is drafted and passed in any form. It is hoped that this detailed level of scrutiny will allow for a comprehensive and effective new immigration law that will have a positive effect on business and on the economy.

http://ecouncilinc.com/?p=2117&utm_source=eCouncil+Inc&utm_campaign=a3287d7f6e-May_Newsletter6_3_2013%283%29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_896120c70f-a3287d7f6e-26001245


10 things you need to know about the Senate immigration bill

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

by Raul A. Reyes

1:00 am on 04/16/2013

The path to comprehensive immigration reform has never been smooth. Coming the day before the Senate’s “Gang of 8” were to present their immigration proposal, the tragic events in Boston may have delayed its official announcement. It is a long-awaited proposal that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called “a starting point” on Sunday’s Meet The Press. In anticipation of its imminent unveiling, here are the major takeaways of the Senate plan.

Illegal Immigration

1. The Senate plan includes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented that will take 13 years. Undocumented immigrants who can prove continuous presence in the country before December 31, 2011 will be eligible to adjust their status. They must have clean records and pay taxes and a $500 fine, in addition to any fees. Then they can apply for “Registered Provision Immigrant” status.

2. People with Registered Provision Immigrant status can live and work legally in the U.S., and travel outside the country. Another $500 fine will kick in after six years as a Registered Provision Immigrant. After 10 years, a Registered Provision Immigrant may apply for a green card if they know English, pay taxes, and pay a $1,000 fine. It will take an additional three years for a green card to be converted into citizenship. However, these provisions are all dependent upon the Department of Homeland Security meeting their border security goals.

3. DREAMers and agricultural workers will have a shorter path to citizenship. People who were brought illegally to the U.S as children and would otherwise qualify for the DREAM Act can obtain green cards in five years (and are exempted from the $500 fine). They will then be eligible for citizenship immediately. The Senate plan also includes the AgJobs Act, which will allow current agricultural workers to obtain legal status through the Agricultural Card Program.

4. Some deportees will be allowed to legally re-enter the U.S. Undocumented immigrants who were here before December 31, 2011 and were deported for non-criminal reasons can apply to re-enter the country if they are the spouse or a parent of a citizen or lawful permanent resident. This is good news for many of the nearly 250,000 deportees with citizen children; they will have a chance to reunite with their families.

Legal Immigration

5. More visas will be allocated on a merit-based system. Our current system allows roughly two-thirds of legal immigration on the basis of family unification, and 14 percent based on employment. Now the allotment for employment visas for skilled workers and professionals will gradually rise.

6. The number of H1B visas will be increased. H1B visas are for workers with college degrees or in skilled occupations. They are capped at 65,000 per year, with an additional exemption of 20,000 for people with advanced degrees. This has often proved inadequate for the number of applicants; the 2014 cap was reached in only 5 days. The Senate plan raises the yearly cap to 110,000, and the advanced degree exemption to 25,000. To prevent employers from seeking to undercut American workers, employers will be required to pay H1B workers higher wages. Employers will face additional scrutiny from the government in order to prevent abuse of the H1B program.

7. Family-sponsored immigration will be somewhat curtailed. Within eighteen months of the bill’s enactment, citizens may no longer petition for visas for their siblings. Still, clearing the existing backlog of family-based visa petitions is a key goal of this proposal. And the existing V-visa program will expand to cover sponsorship of single adult children and married adult children under age 31.

8. Lower-skilled immigrant workers will be eligible for the new W-Visa. The W- Visa will cover people working in the service sectors as well as agriculture. Employers can petition the government to allow 20,000 such workers beginning in 2015, with this number rising as high as 75,000 within four years (The construction industry is limited to 15,000 workers a year).Immigrants on W-visas can move to other employers if they choose, and will be eligible for residency and citizenship. W-Visa immigrants may not be hired to replace striking American workers. Once the W-Visa program is operational, the much-maligned H2A visa program forseasonal agricultural workers will end.

9. No more Diversity Visas. The Senate proposal will end the “Diversity Lottery,” which allots 55,000 random visas to countries that are underrepresented in our immigration system. But people who were selected for the 2013 or 2014 Diversity Visas will still be eligible to receive them.

10. No immigration equality for same-sex couples. To the almost certain disappointment of the LGBT community and their allies, the Senate plan contains no provisions for immigration equality for same-sex couples.


U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone
Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration
by Walter Ewing

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, the bulk of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.
These are among the findings of a new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.
The report highlights the pointlessly inhumane treatment of non-violent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. But one in particular is Operation Streamline, which is basically a mass trial for border-crossers that convicts between 40 and 80 people per hearing for “illegal entry”—a misdemeanor offense. A group lawyer is provided for defendants, but limited time and the challenge of representing scores of defendants at once have raised concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel in this setting is apparent from the survey interviews. When asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?” recent deportees answered as follows:
40% said they were instructed to sign the form admitting guilt and not fight the charges against them.
40% were informed that they have legal rights.
7% were told nothing or could not understand what was said to them.
2% were asked to report any abuses against them.
1% were checked for their actual legal status.
No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.
As the report emphasizes, a first offense for unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence. But those who are convicted have a criminal record based solely on an immigration offense that will exclude them from legal residence or entry. If they are apprehended again, they will be charged with a felony for illegal re-entry and sentenced to a maximum two-year sentence. However, upon asking recent deportees what they understood about their sentence, only 71% mentioned that they would face some amount of jail time if they returned to the United States.
Operation Streamline accounts for much of the increase in deportations of “criminal aliens” in recent years, simply because of the rise in immigration offenders whose activities were previously considered administrative offenses. Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry increased from 3,900 cases to 43,700 between Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and FY 2010. During the same period prosecutions for illegal re-entry increased from 7,900 to 35,800. Roughly 48% of all immigration prosecutions now come from illegal entry and 44% from illegal re-entry.
And yet, despite the harsh consequences, many of the people ensnared by Operation Streamline and other immigration-enforcement programs continue trying to return to the United States because that is where their homes are. As the New York Times noted in a recent discussion of the report:
“…about 60 percent of the respondents said they planned to try crossing the border again in the near future. The reasons were clear: of the 1,113 recently deported migrants who were interviewed at ports of entry and in shelters in six border communities in Mexico, roughly 300 of them had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.”
The report concludes that border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders. The authors call for a reexamination of why we as a nation allocate so many resources to imposing criminal sentences and punishments on people with no previous criminal history or who have committed only minor legal infractions. Moreover, we must make distinctions among different categories of criminal offenses and provide relief for people who have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations. Otherwise, we are needlessly destroying the lives and families of people who call the United States home.


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