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  1. Seriously? Why USCIS Needs to End Anonymous Decisions

    by , 02-03-2014 at 04:27 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Many of you may know our firm files a lot of cases for physicians. I co-write a treatise on the subject and chair a national organization of physician immigration lawyers. So when we got a request for evidence today from the USCIS Vermont Service Center questioning whether an employer filing for an H-1B visa for a physician really needs someone with a bachelors degree to fill the job of a physician, you're left wondering whether to laugh or scream. Maybe they thought the job was for a witch doctor. Or a spin doctor.

    We learned as well today that another firm got the same request for evidence today for a doctor so this can't be called an isolated incident.

    If this weren't all too common, maybe it wouldn't be worth writing about in my blog. But immigration lawyers across American get these kinds of things every day. And most simply respond to these ridiculous evidence requests by giving the officer what they ask for and never calling USCIS to the carpet on this.

    I've had an idea for years for how to reduce the number of abusive or downright silly decisions that come from USCIS (and the Department of Labor and Department of State). Make examiners actually have to sign their decisions. Immigration officers at the regional services centers are one of a small group of agencies that get to issue life changing decisions with complete anonymity. If you get audited by the IRS, investigated by the SEC, etc. the government official doing the auditing or investigating doesn't do it anonymously. Even USCIS local office examiners that interview applicants for green cards don't get to do their jobs anonymously.

    The reason why this change would matter so much is it would force examiners to think about whether they would be comfortable with their decisions making front page news. Chances are it would force people to use a little common sense before sending out something like the RFE we got today. Also, if there is a pattern of certain officers abusing their positions or showing incompetence, the public will be in a better position to hold USCIS accountable. Finally, because officers operate in anonymity, there is no way to determine if the officer has a conflict of interest. For example, let's say the officer was fired by a company or a law firm that files an application. Under the current rules, there is no way to ever learn this.

    I once asked a USCIS senior official why they have this policy and was told that it was out of fear of retribution being taken against the officer. Which was really completely insulting to America's immigrants and also an excuse that other agencies wouldn't dare to make. We have "sunshine laws" that apply to local, state and federal agencies which prevent government officials from being able to operate secretly. It's about time we moved away from the culture of secrecy at USCIS. The agency's officers should be prepared to stand by their decisions.

    Updated 02-03-2014 at 04:29 PM by GSiskind

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  2. Letters of the Week: Feb 3 - Feb 7

    Please email your letters to or post them directly as a comment below.
  3. Immigrant Rights Supporters Chain Themselves Together to Protest Deportation Policy

    by , 02-03-2014 at 08:37 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    I just received the following email from the National Day Laborer Organization Network:


    It's 2014 and President Obama hasn't stopped deportations yet so communities across the country are doing whatever we have to in order to stop them ourselves.

    Live streaming video by Ustream

    Right now, people in Austin, TX have locked themselves together to block the entrance of the Travis County jail
    that turns over an average of 19 people each week to ICE to be deported.

    They've launched a campaign for the Sheriff to follow the example of Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and other places that have passed policies refusing to submit to ICE's hold requests.

    Last week the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition met with the Sheriff to ask for a review of and a halt to deportations in the County that he rejected. Now they're back to demand it.

    Watch the action live here

    With the President admitting that stopping deportations is an option and with multiple local examples of how rejecting ICE's hold makes for better policy and stronger communities, actions like this shouldn't still be necessary. But until they get the message, it will only get louder.

    Not. One. More!
  4. Are Republicans Running Away From Their Immigration "Principles"? By Roger Algase

    Almost as soon as they came out with their enforcement-first, legalization-last immigration manifesto, also known as "Principles" or "Standards", the House Republican leaders appear to be running away from this document out of fear of retaliation by their irate white supremacist Tea Party base.

    POLITICO reports on February 2 that Paul Ryan (R-Wis), in a Sunday TV interview, not only reiterated the House GOP approach of enforcement before "amnesty" (the Tea Party's word for "legalization") but said that the whole question of whether the president would get an immigration bill to sign this year is "in doubt". See Paul Ryan won't commit to immigration action this year.

    In other words, there is good reason to believe that the House Republicans' widely heralded immigration reform "Principles" or "Standards" were not meant to be a basis for action, or even discussion, but only a meaningless public relations gesture to try to fool Latinos and other pro-immigrant communities into thinking that the GOP leaders were open to reform and willing to consider it seriously.

    But even if this manifesto was originally meant to be a a basis for discussion in good faith, the Republican leaders are running away from it faster than the anti-immigrant bigots in their party's base can say "boo!"

    The only realistic conclusion is that the Tea Party is still in the saddle and holding the reins on the Republican approach to immigration reform.

    Updated 02-03-2014 at 04:47 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  5. GOP Analyst Says Immigration "Principles" May Only Be PR Stunt. By Roger Algase

    The January 31 Immigration Daily editorial has some well-justified harsh comments about the latest article by Sean Trende, a Republican political analyst who opposes immigration reform as bad, not as policy, but for the political chances of his party. The ID editorial calls Trende a "traitor" to his own party for trying to lead it down the path of exclusiveness by writing off the Hispanic vote, something that will doom its long term chances of remaining a national party.

    Anyone reading Trende's article, On Immigration, What Are The Republicans Thinking? (Real Clear Politics, January 31) can only be appalled by its cynicism. There is nothing in it at all about doing what is best for America. Nor is there anything about the human cost of continuing mass deportations of millions of Latino and other minority immigrants, or the economic cost of turning away our best educated and most talented immigrants.

    Trende is only concerned about appeasing the GOP's intolerant white base and avoiding what he sees as a potential civil war over immigration within his party that could cost it a potential "landslide" in 2014. I am not a Republican political analyst and I am not concerned with what Trende thinks will help his party win elections - even though I agree that writing off the Latino vote or hoping that there are "other" ways to attract Latino voters without supporting immigration reform is simply delusional.

    But the most significant part of Trende's article is in his discussion of the (in his view, flawed) reasons why Republicans might be in favor of some sort of reform proposal.

    In his fourth reason, This is a PR push Trende writes:

    "Another option... is that this [supporting reform] is mostly a public relations push for Republicans. The idea would be that they would pass something with some sort of 'poison pill' in it that the Democrats wouldn't swallow. This would allow them [the Republicans] to push back on the 'Party of No' theme before the election. Moreover this would give them something to advertise for 2016 as the official position for 2017."

    Much as I would hate to find myself in the same company with Sean Trende, I think that the above is an excellent and very accurate summary of the just-released Republican "Principles" on immigration reform. This is for reasons that I have written about in more detail in my own January 31 Immigration Daily "blogging", and in my comment to an article on this topic by two of the most incisive and respected writers on immigration to be found anywhere, Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta, in that same ID issue.

    Trende continues, however, into territory that is so covered with cynicism that even I, with my own deep skepticism about the the Republicans' motives on immigration reform, have to struggle to follow him:

    "I think this is getting close, and at least has an element of truth about it. But you still encounter the problem that Democrats might decide there's no such thing as a poison pill here, within reason, and figure that they can fix any issues with the immigration system further down the line and call Republicans' bluff by passing whatever comes out of the House."

    Here, Trende gives away the Republicans' deepest fear: that no matter how outrageous their poison pills might be, immigration supporters might agree to them anyway and something associated with the word "reform" might actually pass and become law, causing the Republicans' right wing anti-immigrant base to sit out the 2014 election.

    He also warns that if the Democrats agree to legalization without a pathway to citizenship, they will not only have succeeded in passing an immigration bill, but will have the Republicans' insistence on "second-class citizenship" to use as an election issue.

    It is interesting to note here that the pro-reform side is not the only one that exaggerates the importance of citizenship issue. Trende is making the same mistake as many immigration supporters are doing.

    As I have pointed out in my previous comments, the real issue in reform is not citizenship, but legalization, i.e. relief from deportation together with work permission, for 11 million people.

    This is what the intolerant Republican base is denouncing as "amnesty". This is what killed reform in 2007 and stalled it in the House last year.

    If the only thing holding up reform were disagreement over the "special" pathway to citizenship, we would most likely already have reform, because the Democrats have almost unanimously expressed their willingness to cave on this issue in order to get an agreement. (And Trende is also correct in pointing out that this could be fixed later on by a Democratic majority in Congress.)

    But Trende has not given his fellow Republicans enough "credit" for their ingenuity in coming up with immigration poison pills. True, a poison pill on citizenship would probably not be enough to derail reform. But this is far from being the only poison pill implied in the House Republican "Principles" and in recent statements by leaders such as Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI).

    There are three even more devastating poison pills in the House Republicans' proposals: 1) overturning Arizona v. US by giving back bigoted state and local legislatures and officials power over immigration enforcement which the Supreme Court took away in 2012; 2) taking away the president's executive power to grant relief from deportation, which the Supreme Court also recognized and re-affirmed in the Arizona decision; and, 3) making legalization conditional on impossible to achieve enforcement "triggers" and financial requirements by the legalization applicants themselves.

    Even if, unbelievably, immigration supporters were to agree to all of these House GOP poison pills, the history of immigration reform negotiations over the past year shows that, almost inevitably, there would be others. I have written about this in my recent comment about the moving Republican immigration reform goalposts.

    Sean Trende, don't worry. The House GOP leaders are ahead of you on this one. They appear determined to make sure that there will always be enough poison pills to stop immigration reform from becoming law, no matter how much the pro-immigrant side is willing to give in.

    Updated 02-01-2014 at 08:52 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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