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Chinese Immig. Daily
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Despite the difficulties that civilian business face in securing visas for much needed foreign employees with special skills (STEM or otherwise), military outfits are having no problems. This is due to a program called MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest), which allows for foreign nationals holding virtually any US visa in current status to enroll in the military provided that they have critically important skills. This program is truly a schadenfreude.
Speakers of many lesser spoken languages such as Igbo, Moro, or Hausa are eligible as well as more commonly spoken languages like French - provided you come from an African country. Health care professionals able to serve as nurses or physicians are also eligible.
The irony of the program is that the same issue that faces private corporations searching for STEM employees- that is the great American scientist shortage - is faced by the military. They badly need people with critical skills, and for whatever reason our society cannot supply it, so they have to source from immigrants (and non immigrant foreign nationals). The difference between civilian and military though, is that one gets the benefit of having the commander-in-chief on their side.
Legal precedent for this program has existed for at least a century, with an argument that it may have since even longer. As stated in a Secretary of Defense release about MAVNI, "Non-citizens have served in the military since the Revolutionary War." Though, that seems a bit ambiguous since pretty much everyone had to be a non-citizen when there was not yet a country. Regardless, similar programs during WWII helped bring much needed Filipino sailors into the US Navy from the Philippines.
Today, France still retains their Foreign Legion which is a military unit almost entirely composed of non-citizens. (The unit supposedly also provides false identities to fugitives but that's another matter entirely). Askaris, (Swahili for soldier), for example, were African or Middle Eastern soldiers who were enlisted into European Armies during times of war. Spain, Austria, and Great Britain also had similar military branches for non citizens.
My own family would not be here today without this legal precedent. My Uncle John Papalos, the first American citizen on the Greek side of my family, was drafted during the Korean War. He served as a non-citizen and was later naturalized.
In any case, Executive order 13269 was signed by George Bush following the declaration of the War on Terror, which brought MAVNI into existence, the first time for a program of this nature since the Vietnam War. Since that point the program has been continuously extended and is now slated to end at some point in 2014, but last month this program became more widely known and advertised.
Amazingly MAVNI allows holders of virtually any visa to enlist, provided they are legal aliens. This means you theoretically could be in the US on a nonimmigrant student visa, quit school, enlist, and receive expedited citizenship. The categories of asylee, refugee, and temporary protected status were also included. The only requirement is that you hold the status for two years. MAVNI program expedites citizenship by circumventing the need for lawful permanent resident. That is, you do not need a green card.
The continued existence of these programs truly attests to the heterogeneous nature of our society. There are often needs that cannot be met by American citizens alone, and if one truly wishes to serve America, then rewarded commensurately. It should be noted however, that the existence of this program highlights a true need for human capital from outside of our current labor pool. While it's great that the military recognizes this, it is time that similar legislation applying to society in general is passed. The immigration system is in dire need of a revamp that can increase visas for STEM, temporary agriculture and low wage service jobs - all industries that are in high demand of human capital. And the best place to find it is in the huge number waiting in line to come to the US. Thus, I urge the government to use and enlarge this program.
On December 11, Immigration Daily commented on the alliance between immigration rights supporters and gay rights activists in the effort to overturn the invidious discrimination in the Defense of Marriage Act's (DOMA's) ban on recognizing same sex marriages for immigration purposes, an issue that is now up before the Supreme Court.
This issue could also be looked at as a battle between two of America's most revered poets on one side. and perhaps its best known sitting Supreme Court Justice on the other.
First, Emma Lazarus on immigration:
"Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the tempest - tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door." (From The New Colossus)
Next, Walt Whitman on gay rights:
"We two boys together clinging/One the other never leaving/Up and down the roads going/North and South excursions making/Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching/Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving," (from Calamus)
Now, on the other side - Justice Antonin Scalia on immigration:
"To the contrary, two of the Constitution's provisions were designed to enable the States to prevent 'the intrusion of obnoxious aliens through other States'." (from Justice Scalia's dissent in Arizona v. United States)
And Justice Scalia on gay rights:
"Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is a product of a law profession culture, that has largely signed onto the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct." (from Justice Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas).
America now has to choose between equality and respect for human rights, or a long history of prejudice against both immigrants and same sex couples. Which side will prevail? Which side are you on?
The 2012 Presidential election produced great advances in the fight for marriage equality as legislation passed in the states of Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Washington. The significance of these results is that for the first time voters supported the measure at the polls, instead of it simply being limited to the authority of state legislatures. The times of this issue being perceived as solely an intellectual debate are gone as it becomes a question of policy on all levels.
These new developments also present the question as to the impact such decisions may have on future legislation nationwide. The results in these four states have a critical impact as the issue has become a political reality and acceptable in the eyes of many voters. This places pressure on the state legislatures around the country to tackle marriage equality more directly. In addition, it will also push for resolutions on ending legal barriers to gay marriage at the federal level.
Yet, the majority of these legislative initiatives at state and federal levels cannot be addressed immediately. It will take time, but the November outcome gives marriage equality a push that previously had not existed. The critical and immediate significance of these new states' approval is the impact on previously disillusioned gay and lesbian voters. With recent failures in the movement, such as Proposition 8 in California during 2008 or a setback in Maine during 2011, the marriage equality movement needed these successes.
An important connection must be made to make clear that the marriage equality debate is multifaceted. The real question - now that more and more states are adopting same-sex marriage as a legal reality - is what will the federal government do? The complexities arise when one considers that immigration is a federal issue, while the debate of marriage equality is being left up to states. Immigration legislation allows for a foreign spouse to receive legal permanent residency through a green card through one's foreign spouse. The green card, in many ways, is the most straightforward path towards citizenship, due to the unlimited amount of green cards available to spouses of citizens. A problem presents itself in that federal authorities and legislation are not going to recognize same-sex marriages even if an individual state may allow it. Thereby, many of these same-sex couples may face deportation for the immigrant or leaving the country in the case of the American spouse.
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Surprise, surprise. Senate Democrats, led by New York Senator Charles Schumer, have blocked consideration of H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act, passed by the Republican-controlled House, which would have created an additional 55,000 green card visas each year for foreign students graduating from US universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.
A noteworthy but not widely reported feature of the failed House bill is that it would still have required STEM graduates to obtain a job offer and labor certification in order to qualify for one of the new green card visas. As any immigration lawyer or employer who has ever tried to obtain a labor certification for a client or employee knows all too well, this can be a complicated, expensive and time-consuming process, full of technical pitfalls.
If the House had really wished to make it easier for STEM graduates to remain in the US, it could have eliminated the labor certification requirement, or at least made STEM graduates with job offers eligible for Schedule A pre-certification. But, instead, the only possibility in the House bill for a waiver of the labor certification requirement for STEM graduates would have been based on a national interest determination. LOL with that one!
However, the real reason that the House bill was dead on arrival in the Senate was that it would have eliminated the Diversity Visa Lottery, which provides 55,000 green cards each year to citizens of countries with historically low immigration rates to the US. A large percentage of these green cards goes to people from sub-Saharan Africa, with many also being used by citizens of less developed Asian countries such as Bangladesh, as well as some countries in Eastern Europe.
An elite visa this is not. Nor is it perfect. There have been incidents of fraud, but can anyone name a single immigration program, or any government program for that matter, which has always been 100 per cent fraud free? In this past election, the Republicans tried to stop millions of non-white US citizens (many of whom were from Latino or other immigrant communities) from voting early, or without a difficult to obtain photo ID - in order to prevent "fraud".
But the Diversity Visa, more than any other, reflects the ideal that immigration in America has always stood for, though by no means always followed in practice. This ideal is one of a racially diverse society, based on equality of opportunity, in which the determining fact in who can come to and live in America is not wealth, status or the privilege of having received a top level education, something open only to the upper class in most countries around the world, but determination, hard work and the desire to contribute to American society.
The House STEM bill has more than thrown this great American tradition under the bus; it would have ripped up Emma Lazarus' poem and dismantled the Statue of Liberty. And it would have done this in the service of an overtly racial goal - reducing the number of African and Asian immigrants, and therefore the number of brown-skinned American born US citizen children who might one day vote against a party that is rapidly losing support among all voters except Southern and rural whites.
This is racial politics at its worst - despite, to be fair, another provision in the House bill which would have made it easier for the spouses and children of green card holders, many of them Latino, to come to the US while waiting for their own green cards to be approved. But, now that the House poison pill visa "reform" bill is no more, will this be the end of a Republican race-based immigration agenda? To be continued.
On Friday, November 30, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed its version of the STEM visa bill, which provides additional green cards to foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees from US universities in science, technology, engineering or math ("STEM") by a 245-139 vote, including 27 Democrats who supported the Republican measure. This immediately produced favorable headlines for the Republicans, such as the one in The Hill: "House passes GOP visa reform bill over Dem objections."
But before anyone rushes to conclude that the GOP has suddenly become the party of immigration reform while the Democrats want to maintain the current broken system, one has to look at the poison pill in the Republican version. This involves eliminating the diversity visa lottery, which provides 55,000 green cards each year for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US, including many African countries, as well as Bangladesh and a number of other Asian countries.
But what's the fuss? Some people (including, apparently, the Democrats who voted with the Republicans), may be asking this: who is more important to America, unskilled, less educated immigrants from Africa and Asia, or well educated immigrants from all over the world, with the cutting edge skills that will boost our economy, provide jobs, maintain American competitiveness in the global marketplace (and, as an entirely incidental benefit, of course, provide more work for business immigration lawyers such as the writer of this comment)?
The answer is that both types of immigrants are important, and it makes no sense at all to have to choose between them. No one will argue with the importance of making more green cards available to STEM graduates. But why must this be done at the price of reducing the number of less skilled African and Asian immigrants who might otherwise have no hope of ever being able to come to America?
And why must it be done as part of a separate bill, which does nothing to grant relief to the estimated 11 or 12 million mainly Latino immigrants who are in the US without legal authorization and in fear of deportation, or at least incarceration in America's immigration detention gulag? To be continued.