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My friend Kenneth White gets the credit for poking holes in the claim by US consular officials in India of a substantial improvement in the visitor visa approval rates at Indian consular posts. I was told the denial rate was around 25% and told this represented a major improvement. But Kenneth sent me links to date from 2006, 2007, 2008 as well as 2011 and 2012, the most recent years available. The long and short of it is that the approval/denial rate in 2013 is pretty similar to what it's been for many years. In fact, the denial rate was less than 20% back in 2008. Granted, it was 30% in 2011 so last year was an improvement. But hardly the improvement that was represented. F-1 stats are harder to find so I can't report whether that claim is true or not.
Update, November 21, 6:07 pm:
Politico's Seung Min Kim reports that House Speaker John Boehner, (who has been doing everything in his power to kill immigration reform) has announced yet again that reform is not dead: She quotes Boehner as follows:
"I believe the Congress needs to deal with this...Our committees are continuing to do their work. There are a lot of private conversations that are underway to try to figure out how we best move on a common sense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue. Because it is a very important issue."
Not important enough, however, to consider taking up any proposal that would deal with the heart of reform, i.e legalizing 11 million Latino, black and Asian immigrants, or even discussing the Senate's CIR bill, which includes legalization.
See, John Boehner: Immigration work not dead, November 21
However, as long as Boehner says so, there will always be at least a ray of hope that Horace's line which I am so fond of repeating, Non omnis moriar ("I will not completely die"), may still apply to immigration reform.
Personally, given Boehner's and his fellow House Republicans' record of non-performance to date, I am not holding my breath. Boehner's statements about "private conversations that are under way" makes me think of a patient on life support in the ICU surrounded by doctors who are debating whether or not to save him - piece by piece, of course.
The following is my original post:
Ever since Speaker John Boehner announced last summer that the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill, including legalization and an eventual pathway to citizenship for 11 million mainly Latino immigrants, was Dead On Arrival in the House, reform optimists have been out in full force with their rose-colored explanations of why reform is not only alive and well, but is arriving soon.
In August, when Boehner sent the House into recess instead of taking up reform, the spin was that the House would take up reform in September, because the anti-immigrant side was "quieter" during the recess than pro-immigrant groups.
Then, when nothing happened in September and the Tea Party shut down the government in October and almost blew up the world's economy, the line was that when the government was temporarily reopened and the debt ceiling was raised for a few more short months, the Tea Party and its right wing Republican allies had been so bruised by that setback that immigration reform would now have smooth sailing, despite warnings that Boehner had no plans to take up reform before the end of this year.
Instead, reform ran into a shipwreck on November 13, when Boehner made official what we all knew anyway, namely that the House would not go to conference with the Senate on its CIR bill. But not to worry, we are told - the House is still working on reform piecemeal, instead of in one big package. What is wrong with that?
And if there is "not enough time" in the legislative calendar to take up reform this year, well, there is always 2014. Something as big as reform takes time, does it not?
I would agree with that last statement. Passing immigration reform does take time. Right wing anti-immigrant bigots first killed reform in the Senate in 2007 (in this century).
That was six years ago. But time does not automatically heal all wounds, when it comes to immigration. It only leads to deporting over a million more people, as long as the immigrant-haters have enough political power.
And that is the crux (or should I say "Cruz"?) of the matter. At least in John Boehner's calculus, the Tea Party and its allies from gerrymandered white-dominated Congressional districts control the House, and the future of his speakership. This is why their "piecemeal" reform bills (so far as we know) are enforcement heavy and reform lite, if at all.
This is also why none of the Republican proposals that are said to be under consideration in House committees (but not scheduled for a vote) deal with the heart of CIR, namely legalization for 11 million brown people - I do not even mention citizenship, because some CIR supporters appear to be willing to throw even that under the bus.
Granted, as a process, piecemeal is fine in theory. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) one of the leaders on CIR, has said so. President Obama has said so. But when one looks at the substance of the House's "piecemeal" bills to date, the whole argument collapses.
There is little or nothing in any of them that can truly be called reform. Senator Schumer and President Obama, ostensibly, are trying to facilitate a dialogue over reform with the House. In reality, they may only be calling Boehner's bluff.
Where does that leave reform for 2014? Not with very good prospects. Early next year, there will be more budget and debt ceiling battles.
These may be more destructive than the ones in October, because, this time, the Republicans really smell blood in the water over ACA, while it is the Democrats who are having problems keeping their unity on this issue.
Then, there is a little detail known as a Congressional election next year, which will without question divert time and focus away from immigration reform. But lack of legislative time or focus may not be the biggest obstacle to reform in 2014.
There is a good argument to be made that the Republicans, emboldened by all the media hype over the ACA website failure (to be sure, a better issue for the GOP to demagogue than Benghazi), are in a better position to hold on to the House and take over the Senate next year than anyone could have imagined, despite the hits that the Republicans took over the shutdown and are taking (especially among Latino voters) for killing immigration reform.
From their point of view, why should they do anything about reform before the 2014 election, when they may be in a better position to carry out its final burial and impose their old, familiar, enforcement only, deport 'em all agenda on the entire country in 2015?
This is why we should be very cautious about predicting any movement on immigration reform in 2014. Happy New Year!
Updated 11-21-2013 at 05:07 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it might be nice to look back at our country's earliest--and strangest--effort to help asylum seekers. I'm not talking about the Pilgrims, who came here long before our nation's independence. I'm talking about the French colony of Asylum, founded in 1793 on the shores of the Susquehanna River in northern Pennsylvania.
In those days, the United States and France enjoyed good relations, thanks in part to France’s key role during the American Revolution. When France’s own Revolution went bad, the United States was prepared to help refugees fleeing the guillotine—and to make a profit in the process.
...and that's why, even today, you can find good croissants in northern Pennsylvania.
Several prominent Pennsylvanians were involved in forming the Asylum Company, which purchased land and began constructing large houses in the untamed wilderness. The largest house, called “la grande maison,” was 84 feet long and 60 feet wide. It had eight fireplaces. Supposedly, it was built for Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI (she of the “Let them eat cake” fame). Unfortunately, Marie Antoinette was executed by the Revolution before she could find asylum in the U.S.
A number of prominent exiles did manage to reach Asylum, including members of the French Royal Court, soldiers, and businessmen. The exiles tried to re-create their aristocratic life style in America, and they enjoyed music and plays, brandy and fine wine. Ultimately, though, the idea of an aristocratic French Court in the Pennsylvania wilderness could not be sustained; the exiles yearned to return to France. One historian described the mood in Asylum:
As time went on [the French] grew to hate the work, the monotony, and the sordid hopelessness of their life at Asylum… Nostalgia had the colony in its grip.
Finally, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in France and ended the Revolution. He invited all French exiles to return, and promised to restore their estates. The celebration in Asylum supposedly lasted for days, and most of the residents returned to France by 1802. The Asylum Company itself proved a failure, with at least one principal landing in debtor’s prison.
All that remains today of Asylum are some archaeological ruins and a museum. The historic site serves as a reminder of our country’s earliest effort to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
My India journey has just ended and I'm speaking today in London at the Global Immigration Conference sponsored by the International Bar Association.
What to say about India after spending 12 days there? I visited Delhi, Chennai, Goa and Mumbai as part of a delegation from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We visited the US consulates in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai and got behind the scenes tours of each of these massive visa processing operations as well as had extensive meetings with the senior officials in each city.
I went in to the meetings somewhat jaded regarding what to expect from consular officials. After 23 years practicing immigration law, it's hard not to recall many instances where consular officers had a gatekeeper mentality. It was pretty refreshing to hear the message over and over again that the consulates view themselves as being in the "visa facilitation" business. And they had the hard data to prove it. Visitor and student visa approval rates have improved dramatically in India in the last few years and work visa approval rates are also very high. The consulates have been getting much more efficient as well with the typical wait at each consulate less than 45 minutes. I know this is true because we had the opportunity to see each consulate from "behind the window" and learn exactly how they've been using technology and outside vendors to be able to let consular officers focus on their core mission - reviewing the substance of the visa petition to determine an applicant's eligibility.
We also had the opportunity to "break bread" with the consular officials in each city. Having the opportunity to talk with these government officials over a meal really gave us an opportunity to better understand each other.
And, of course, having the chance to get to know India was really wonderful. What a country! The rapid pace of change in the country is apparent everywhere. Certainly the country has enormous challenges. The poverty is well known, as is pollution, public health problems and dealing with a population that is now 1.2 billion people. But the country is clearly on the move and those who dismiss India as a rising force in the world are making a mistake.
I also learned that there are many Indias. Each region is very different and there are many cultural differences (and languages) across the population. It seems that India is like the US in recognizing that the country's diversity is a strength, though, like the US, there are many who sew the seeds of disunity by attacking those who are different.
I know the knowledge I gained on the trip will help me better serve my clients and also give me better perspective when I write about the Indian-US immigration issues.
I've been monitoring news in the US and it looks like my trip was well-timed. Not that much has changed in the last two weeks. It's nice that everybody waited for me to get back to blogging and tweeting.
On November 18, 2013, the USCIS announced an enhancement to the E-Verify program that will help combat identity fraud by identifying and deterring fraudulent use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) for employment eligibility verification. USCIS will use a combination of algorithms, detection reports and analysis to identify patterns of fraudulent SSN use. This new safeguard will enable USCIS to lock a SSN that appears to have been misused, protecting it from further potential misuse in E-Verify. If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, E-Verify will generate a “Tentative Non-confirmation” (TNC). The employee receiving the TNC will have the opportunity to contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration field office.