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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

The Budget Deal and the Immigration Debate

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

The President has yet to sign a bill to raise the debt ceiling, but now that the bill has passed the House, the odds are pretty likely the measure will become law. The debate over the last few weeks reminds me of the immigration debate. Public opinion polls clearly tell us that most Americans basically agree on the best approach to addressing debt - mix spending cuts while rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and closing corporate tax loopholes. We know, however, that the opinion of the majority doesn't matter - just the opinion of a small Tea Party minority in the Republican Party that can back primary opponents and fail to turn out in general elections. Even hinting at compromising on taxes is out of the question for some of the more extreme members of Congress.

And that is basically the same story that has played out over the last few years on immigration. The same folks that refuse to compromise on taxes also refuse to consider any immigration legislation that provides for anything other than lifetime banishment from the US for individuals who are out of status. Fines, long waits, English tests, public service mandates, criminal checks, paying back taxes - none are enough.

In both the debt and immigration debates, opponents of compromise would be willing to see the country suffer severe consequences rather than accepting anything less than 100% of their demands. In the case of the debt ceiling debate, we face prolonging the recession by relying too heavily on cuts to balance the budget and still could suffer a downgrade in our credit rating because without increasing revenue, we can't get close to balancing our books. In the case of immigration, we know industries like agriculture are threatened by the enforcement bills being considered and we are missing out on the job creation benefits of immigration as Congress remains paralyzed.

And then there are the specific consequences of the budget deal to consider. We don't know yet where the specific cuts are going to come from, but we do know that Congress has until Thanksgiving to find about $2.5 trillion to cut from the budget over the next ten years. And we know that other proposals floated recently had major reductions in spending that affects immigration processing. For example, the "Gang of Six" proposal called for an immediate $65 billion cut at the Department of Homeland Security. That would no doubt lead to mass layoffs at DHS, USCIS and ICE which would translate in to longer waits and worse service for those processing immigration applications coupled with a serious reduction in immigration enforcement efforts. The Labor Department would share a $70 billion cut under the same plan which could impact labor certification processing and the enforcement of H-1B worker protections. The Simpson Bowles commission called for the elimination of the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority and a 2/3 reduction in Medicare funding for physician training, all proposals that would have immediate and devastating consequences for physician immigration.

Of course, while tax increases are largely off the table (at least for a while), immigration programs could be a source of new funds. Fees from visa programs for entrepreneurs, uncapping green card categories, DREAM Act and legalization program fines, etc. are all potential sources of billions of dollars and wouldn't involve any painful sacrifices on the part of Americans. Perhaps the cold hard realities of having to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security or raising taxes in order deal with the debt will bring back the pragmatism that used to be a hallmark of our political culture.


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  1. gg 's Avatar
    Four More Abuse Claims Against Arpaio

    PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces four more lawsuits from people - two of them attorneys - who say Arpaio's officers abused them after illegally arresting them last year for protesting Arizona's immigration law.
  2. George Chell's Avatar
    Over the short term, cuts in ICE, cancellation of border walls, cuts in DHS budgets etc. will lead to more illegal immigration, not less. However, education budget cuts will mean fewer American students in universities and the they will try to make up the shortfall with increasing the number of foreign students. This has already happened at the University of Washington, Seattle and University of Colorado, Boulder. Fewer American students admitted means fewer skills, which means either more skilled immigration or jobs moving abroad with the vicious circle continuing. As I said, the antis would have gotten sympathy if they had made a case for training more American students to compete globally and fought for more eduction budget. But, for obvious reason (Racism being the foremost) they did not and continued to make a case for doubling nurse and physicial salary...and in this era of austerity that will not fly, however much delusional individuals such as Ronil Hira might push for it.
  3. George Chell's Avatar
    "Perhaps the cold hard realities of having to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security or raising taxes in order deal with the debt will bring back the pragmatism that used to be a hallmark of our political culture."

    The only way they will save SS amd Medicare from cuts is by creating more jobs and keeping them in this country. With the budget cuts fewer Americans with skills will be available. The antis will insist that the corporations have to double the salaries to attract Americans..that is what not only racists at CIS and FAIR such as Kirkorian and Stein say, but also seasoned folks like Borjas and Hira insist! Such a prescription is a recipe for more jobs moving abroad, lesser tax revenues and even more draconian cuts. Barring some unprecedented budget available to train more Americans to compete in the global economy, cash stripped universities will insist on admitting out of state and foreign students who can pay...which means shortage of Americans with skills required to compete and a surplus of foreigners trained in this country...which means given the current budget situation, we will need MORE SKILLED IMMIGRATION, NOT LESS...DOUBLING SALARIES FOR US PROFESSIONALS IS NOT AN OPTION UNLESS YOU WANT MORE CORPORATIONS TO FAIL OR MOVE ABROAD! THIS IS THE STARK REALITY CONFRONTING US POLICY MAKERS!!!
  4. gg 's Avatar
    10 Signs a Double-Dip Recession Is Around the Corner
  5. Nurse Waiting's Avatar
    Mandate of 2008 elections was to end wars and stimulate economy. Mandate of 2010 elections was for congress to work on jobs. Just like Obama wasted his first two years on healthcare, entitlements, this batch is busy wasting it on spending cuts, smaller government (in short ideologies). Sure people care about debt of federal government or healthcare reform but not at the cost of time being wasted away from working for generating enough jobs.

    One of the easiest ways for generating jobs is to let folks waiting for GC get them easily. This will enable them to buy cars, houses etc and stimulate economy. These folks are already here working in jobs (no Jack they cannot be thrown out) and are waiting for GC to settle down permanently. I am sure there are countless other ideas to stimulate the economy without relying on taxpayers but only if folks in congress would read mandate of people correctly.
  6. Jack's Avatar
    "Fines, long waits, English tests, public service mandates, criminal checks, paying back taxes - none are enough."

    The rule-of-law position is that in order for the law to mean anything, we have a duty to enforce it to the letter. If that strikes you as unbending, consider the implications of your alternative. Immigration is no longer determined and controlled by us but left up to whoever and however many happen to show up--de facto open borders. If it doesn't work to our benefit, we are simply stuck with it. You would have us reward disrespect for our sovereignty and violation of our laws. What does that beget? How will the law ever be taken seriously if we don't enforce it?

    The "earned legalization" you describe is not limited to a few people who entered legally but through some unusual circumstance fell "out of status", i.e., a mercy exception. Virtually every person who entered illegally could become legal--a mockery of the immigration law. It would be so meaningless, such a joke, why even bother having it? We'd still be open borders but at least then the law would not be debased.

    The "hoops" you list are, in practice, just amnesty sugar coating designed to fool suckers and exclude as few people as possible from the legalization. Back taxes? How do you accurately calculate it? Even if you could, the typical legalization beneficiary would not even have owed income tax. English test? That will be a promise to try to learn English, enrollment in some class, etc. No real test. Background checks? By USCIS? For tens of millions? How cursory would THAT be? Fines would be criticized by the usual suspects as unfair, classist, and (of course) racist. With or with a hardship exemption, there wouldn't be any consequences for non-payment. All of these things are designed to sell the amnesty or legalization, not weed people out. The people pushing it don't want to weed anyone out.

    People who complain that "nothing is enough" tend to be "anything is too much" when it comes to enforcement and accountability to law. If there are "anything less than 100% of their demands" enforcement people, there are also "anything less than 100% of their demands" non-enforcement people. They have a track record against all enforcement yet we are supposed to take their pro-enforcement lip service seriously when it comes to CIR. Maybe they could get their beloved amnesty (at least a partial one) if they allowed, e.g., E-Verify or Secure Communities to establish some control. Instead, it's legalization for nothing or total amnesty first, then enforcement (yeah, right).

  7. gg 's Avatar
    Progress on Immigration, Education Key to Reviving Jobs, Tech Leaders Say

    By Juliana Gruenwald
    Updated: August 2, 2011 | 5:39 p.m.
    August 2, 2011 | 5:19 p.m.

    Education and immigration reform dominated Tuesday's meeting of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness on ways to boost the nation's struggling economy.

    The council met at cloud-services provider VM Ware's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to solicit ideas on how to jump-start the economy and create more jobs. Those ideas will help form a list of recommendations that the council will make to President Obama in September, council member and AOL cofounder Steve Case said.

    Case was joined by council members John Doerr, a partner with the high-profile Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers; and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer. Also present were two nonmembers--Aneesh Chopra, the federal chief technology officer, and Reed Hastings, Netflix's CEO.

    Case, who is leading an effort focused on high-growth companies, said more needs to be done to promote entrepreneurs. "If we want to get the economy going and jobs going, we need to get more attention on entrepreneurship," he said. "If every part of America worked liked Silicon Valley, we would have a booming economy."

    Sandberg and others underscored the need for immigration reforms that would make it easier for companies to keep talented foreigners in the United States, pointing to the difficulty that Facebook and other firms have had obtaining visas for skilled workers from abroad.

    Sandberg said if Facebook had been unable to get an H-1B visa for a Facebook engineer from Spain who was leading a key project after graduating from Stanford, the company would have moved him and his project offshore. She added that other companies such as Google have been forced to do just that because of the problems they have faced in getting work visas and green cards for high-skilled foreigners.

    Sandberg praised moves the Obama administration announced on Tuesday to make it easier for high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs to come and stay in the United States. The Homeland Security Department announced that it was clarifying its frequently asked questions to make it more clear that immigrant entrepreneurs can sponsor themselves for an H-1B visa, which are reserved for high-skilled foreign workers, and also took steps to speed up the processing time for foreign entrepreneurs seeking a visa reserved for those who pledge to invest money and create jobs in the United States.
    Case urged those in attendance to push lawmakers to unbundle reforms related to visas and green cards for high-skilled foreigners from the broader debate over comprehensive immigration reform. That "is the only way to get [to the] issue of high-skilled workers in the next 12 months," he said.
    Echoing concerns raised by tech firms for years, Sandberg said that the U.S. needs better graduation rates and must get more students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. "We are not investing for the future," she said. "We are falling behind in every way possible."

  8. Colina's Avatar
    Why would there "no doubt" be "mass layoffs" at USCIS? Except for E-Verify and the citizenship grant program, they're entirely fee-funded.
  9. My 2 cents's Avatar
    "immigration programs could be a source of new funds"

    Legal immigrants are already being being harassed enough with high filing fees right now & forever waiting. To make revenue from immigration, start issuing GC's for anyone in the US 3 yrs or more with no country caps, allow visa stamping in the US etc.

  10. gg 's Avatar

    U.S. to Assist Immigrant Job Creators


    In its quest to spur job growth and jump-start the economy, Washington is reaching out to foreign entrepreneurs.

    Alejandro Mayorkas, chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, on Tuesday will unveil several initiatives designed to attract and retain foreign entrepreneurs, particularly in the high-tech sector, who wish to launch start-up companies in the U.S.

    Among the initiatives is a plan to make it easier for some foreigners to qualify for legal permanent residence, or green cards, if they can demonstrate their work will be in the U.S. national interest. The changes will also include a way for entrepreneurs to obtain work visas without a job offer from an established company.

    Mr. Mayorkas also plans to announce that his agency will be training its examiners on how visa-eligibility requirements apply to entrepreneurs.

    "In this economy, it certainly is in the interest of this nation to welcome foreign talent," Mr. Mayorkas said in an interview.

    The changes come as increasing numbers of software entrepreneurs have been taking their start-ups to other countries, often after completing advanced degrees in the U.S., because of the difficulty in securing temporary work visas and permanent residency here.

    Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting scholar at the University at California, Berkeley, who studies immigrant entrepreneurs, estimates the new measures could yield "tens of thousands of start-ups and hundreds of thousands of jobs."

    The measures won't require congressional approval because they don't constitute changes in current immigration law. Instead, clarifications will be issued for existing visa categories with the objective of enabling more entrepreneurs to gain entry into the U.S. and of bringing more speed and efficiency to the visa-application process.

    "The Obama administration is getting the immigration system engaged in creating jobs," said Steve Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University Law School. "They are trying to facilitate the ability of entrepreneurs to get temporary work visas and green cards when the economy is in the doldrums."

    Generally, immigrant entrepreneurs must have a specific job offer to qualify for an employment-based immigrant visa or green card, such as in the category for individuals with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences and business.

    As part of the new initiatives, foreign entrepreneurs will be eligible for a so-called EB-2 immigrant visa without a specific job offer, as long as they demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the U.S. national interest.

    The government is also seeking to bolster use by foreign entrepreneurs of H-1Bs, which are temporary work visas for foreign workers in a specialty occupation.

    The H-1B program has been a mainstay of software companies and other businesses that seek foreign nationals to fill certain jobs, and an employer-employee relationship has generally been a prerequisite for qualifying.

    As part of the new measures, a sole entrepreneur can qualify for an H-1B if the individual's employment is decided by a corporate board or shareholders of the start-up company.

    Mr. Mayorkas will also unveil enhancements to the EB-5 investor program, which enables foreign investors and their families to qualify for green cards if they invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. project that generates at least 10 jobs.

    His agency is also seeking to speed up the approval process by hiring additional adjudicators to evaluate applications and enabling petitioners to make their case before an expert panel should their application require further evidence or be denied.

    The moves come as demand for H-1B visas has fallen. As of July 22, USCIS had received approximately 21,600 H-1B petitions out of 65,000 available for the 2012 fiscal year. The agency had received approximately 26,000 such applications for the same period last year.

    Several factors are at play, including higher fees for the visas and increasingly better opportunities in countries such as India that entice their skilled workers to return home rather than stay in the U.S.

    While completing his Master's degree in computer science at the University of Southern California in 2008, Anuj Agarwal launched a company called, a start-up that makes a product used by search engines and digital-media companies. Unable to get a U.S. visa for himself and expecting his workers would have the same trouble, Mr. Agarwal moved the company to India.

    "After realizing we had visa barriers to the U.S., we opened another company here," Mr. Agarwal said in an interview from Mumbai.

    Norberto Guimaraes of Portugal said he had to leave the U.S. in May 2010 after his student visa expired and his H-1B petition was denied because he lacked an employer to sponsor him, even though he was the founder and chief executive of his start-up.

    "I had to sell the start-up that I had created while doing my M.B.A. at U.C. Berkeley together with another M.B.A. colleague," he said.

    Mr. Guimaraes was able to return to the U.S. this year, sponsored for a work visa by another company.
  11. Another Voice's Avatar
    "Instead, it's legalization for nothing or total amnesty first, then enforcement (yeah, right)."

    Yeah right Jack for the past 20 years it has been all enforcement and nothing else. Look at where we are today on Immigration nowhere near solving it or even touching it with a 10 ft pole unless is something enforcement. Keep doing the same thing and expect a different result is either the definition of crazy or stupid pick one..... Your folks keep moving up the posts on enforcement and nothing will be enough until the US resembles some thing like Germany in 1945 or the old USSR fear everyone and trust nobody not even your neighbor they may be illegals because they are brown... Is time for a different approach enforcement only = status quo and today's reality. That only works for people like you so you can continue to pump fear and anger towards immigrants and use it as a wedge issue between natives and immigrants.
  12. Jack's Avatar
    "nothing will be enough until the US resembles some thing like Germany in 1945 or the old USSR"

    We don't even bother to review potential visa overstays numbering in the seven figures. We don't even have employment verification. We don't even bother to check if the ID name and number match. We have established technology to check the immigration record (just as we routinely do with criminal records) of people arrested. The anti-enforcement lobby is pushing back--just against the immigration part, natch. ICE recently released a list of 27 broad excuses ("This list is not exhaustive...") to not enforce the law and increased veto power to prevent the law from being enforced. John Morton said he listens to anti-enforcement groups but makes no mention of the majority who wants the law enforced.

    Refusal to compromise on amnesty is a principled stand which maintains the integrity of the system--refusal to go along with ANY form of immigration law enforcement looks more like obstructionism and keeps the system from ever working. The distinctions are stark--those you want the law to mean something vs. those determined to make it a nullity. Those who favor accountability vs. those who believe it should be ignored with impunity.
  13. George Chell's Avatar
    "The distinctions are stark--those you want the law to mean something vs. those determined to make it a nullity."

    Nope. It is those who want the economy to recover vs those who want to take it down hiding behind a dumb law! How many laws do we enforce anyway? Traffic laws in Virginia or Washington DC anyone?
  14. Another Voice's Avatar
    "Those who favor accountability vs. those who believe it should be ignored with impunity."

    Those who "favor accountability" have been passing enforcement only agenda in congress, they got the fence, boots on the ground, e-verify, more deportations in this administration that any other in history(going to reach the million soon), I-9 audits, 10 times the number of employments fines than any other times in history, no match rules, 10 year ban on visa over-stayers or border crosser, 287 G, Secure communities, State none-sense laws. I am not sure where are the impunity folks you are talking about.... you must be talking about the 12-10 million that have not gotten deported yet.... Keep at the talking points Jack the reality will hit you in the face everytime.
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