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If there is one policy that the Republicans are identified with more than any other, it is their commitment never to raise taxes - ever - on anyone - by any means. So goes the Grover Norquist pledge. When Chief Justice John Roberts called the individual mandate in the ACA a "tax" in order to uphold President Obama's historic health care reform, the Republican propagandists had a field day, as we all know. And when Mitt Romney briefly stepped out of line to call the mandate something else instead of a tax, he was quickly whipped back in by no less than Rupert Murdoch himself, along with a chorus of other right wing king makers.
So whatever other faults the Republicans may have on other issues, at least they will never, ever, raise taxes on anybody, right? Just read their lips. Actually it turns out that there is just a slight exception to their pledge. If you are not one of the wealthy few who would benefit the most from extending the George W. Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to make permanent, but you are just an ordinary American who works for a living, then your payroll taxes will go up.
At least, this is according to a proposal by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch called the "Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2013", co-sponsored by the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. As Ezra Klein describes it in washingtonpost.com (July 25), the Republican proposal would extend the Bush tax cuts, but not the payroll tax cuts which were originally part of President Obama's stimulus.
Why would allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire be a tax increase, but allowing payroll tax cuts for ordinary working people to expire not be a tax increase? The Republicans' answer is simple: the law cutting payroll taxes was not a "tax reduction". It was a "stimulus" Therefore eliminating the payroll tax reduction would not be a "tax increase" - it would merely be ending a stimulus. Get it?
Besides, the stimulus was only meant to be temporary anyway, wasn't it? Sure - exactly like the Bush tax cuts. Then what is the real difference between the Bush tax cuts and Obama's payroll tax reduction? Only one thing. The Bush tax cuts were skewed toward helping wealthy Republican campaign contributors, while the Obama payroll tax reductions were meant to help the average person.
Does this Republican elitism on taxes carry over into the area of immigration? In a recent comment, I took a look at Mitt Romney's website section on immigration. I pointed out that as far as the highly skilled and educated foreign elite are concerned, especially those with math, science and engineering degrees, Romney is promising to make visas and green cards easier. This is all well and good. There has to be a change in the Obama administration's irrational hostility toward the best and the brightest immigrants, who have such great potential to boost America's economy and competitiveness in the world.
If Romney is sincere about changing this climate of suspicion and paranoia, good for him. Of course, if he is elected, he will need to sit down and have a friendly chat with the two most powerful Republicans in Congress on immigration policy - Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Lamar Smith - behind closed doors of course. LOL with that.
But those would most likely not be the only closed doors it the Republicans take over the White House and both houses of Congress next January. The doors to America would in all probability start to slam shut against all other immigrants, including the great majority of less affluent ones without engineering, math, science or other specialized degrees. To appreciate this, let's flash back to the failed Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill of 2007. As everyone will remember, that bill started off as a bipartisan proposal to bring millions of unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and give them some form of legal status, upon certain conditions.
Under a series of Republican amendments, however, the conditions became stricter until it no longer became clear if anyone could comply with them all. At the same time, on the legal immigration side, with the Republican amendments the bill became elitist almost to the point of farce. Family immigration quotas would have been cut drastically (in order to reduce "chain immigration" - definition: immigration by Latinos and other brown people).
The entire employment based immigration system as we know it would have been scrapped, to be replaced by a point system. However, unlike the Canadian and Australian point systems which are by and large working quite well in promoting real diversity and equality of opportunity in those countries, the Republican point system would have been skewed in favor of advanced degree holders who were fluent in English. Get it?
Of course, as we all know the 2007 "reform" bill went down in flames, ignited by the "No Amnesty For Illegals" crowd. We may need to thank Lou Dobbs for saving our current employment and family based legal immigration system, which at least works for many people, despite all its faults.
But all this took place before the Tea Party, before Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, and Alabama's even worse one; before most people had heard about Kris Kobach or even Sheriff Joe, before Mitt Romney's kind invitation to Latino immigrants to "self-deport", and before the Republican movement to take away 14th Amendment birthright US citizenship from millions of minority American-born children.
To be fair, it was also at a time when deportations were amounting to only 250,000 per year, not 400,000, as under our current Deporter in Chief. But while there are at least some Democrats who favor genuine immigration reform, and a dialogue of sorts is at least possible with this administration - not everything is behind closed doors - the Republican face of immigration is clear:
Visas and green cards will be available for an elite few (si qua Grassley et Smith sinant - to paraphrase Virgil), and there will be enforcement only for everyone else. That is our choice - a seriously defective system which many average immigrants can still live with under the Democrats; or, under the Republicans, a draconian one under which only a small elite can hope to survive.
American media are so caught up in the trivia of politics that sometimes one has to look to overseas publications to see the big picture. To take one example, anyone who has been following this writer's comments in ID knows that I am not a big fan of Mitt Romney.
In contrast to some of my respected colleagues who not only believe, with good reason, that the Obama presidency has been a disaster for immigration, but also think that no alternative could possibly be any worse, I believe that Romney's far right extremist anti-immigrant demagoguery during the Republican primaries should be taken seriously.
Even if Romney did not really believe any of his own anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, Romney would still be beholden to his party's far right wing (is there any other wing?) if elected president.
If Romney becomes president, through a combination of Republican voter suppression laws and billionaire super-pacs, there is every chance that America will feel the full force of the extreme right Republican anti-immigrant agenda - criminalizing the entire immigration system, abolishing or limiting 14th Amendment birthright citizenship (which would not require a Constitutional amendment, but would need only one 5-4 Supreme Court decision), and taking away even the current facade of "prosecutorial discretion" and "deferred action" from the fortunate few who might benefit.
A "temporary" moratorium on some or all types of immigration is also by no means impossible if Romney and the Republicans take power. This is virtually a demographic imperative for the GOP. What would the pretexts be? The answer is easy: "We have to secure the border, eliminate fraud, and make sure that every single one of the 12 million people who have illegally invaded our country, are destroying our culture and are wasting our taxpayers' money in violation of our sovereignty, and their anchor babies, go back to their countries before we can admit any more legal immigrants."
But, despite this, I have to take Romney's side on one issue: Can we forget all the trivial nonsense about when Romney really left Bain Capital? Big deal. With this by way of introduction, let's take a look at the big picture of what is happening in America.. A good start is an article in The Guardian by Michael Cohen dated July 25.
Cohen describes the huge amount of resources that America has devoted in the past decade to fighting against the outside threat of terrorism in the wake of 9/11. He estimates that the US has spent more that $3 trillion since that time in combating terrorism, not counting the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And yet, he writes, there is criticism from both Democrats and Republicans of efforts to lower defense spending even to the unjustifiably high levels of five years ago. He also writes:
"In short, even as the obvious threat from terrorism has decreased, the US continues to squander blood and treasure in fighting it."
Cohen then contrasts this overallocation of resources to fighting outside threats with the neglect of the most essential needs of a large part of our population at home:
"Contrast this mobilization, with efforts, for example, to save the lives of those Americans who die from lack of healthcare coverage. From 2000 to 2006 - a time when the war on terrorism was operating at full speed - 137,0000 Americans died prematurely because they didn't have health insurance."... This isn't even to mention the creeping reality of global warming, which has the potential to threaten the homes and livelihoods of millions. And then, of course, there is America's high rate of gun-related deaths."
The reasons for this odd situation - in which Americans overreact to foreign challenges and barely react to real and growing domestic threats - are many... But whatever the reason, the result is the same - a nation that... is rotting from the inside because it has yet to come to grips with its own domestic maladies."
For all too many Americans swayed by hate propaganda, immigration is also perceived as a threat from outside - one which "justifies" wasting billions of dollars on border fences, the immigration detention gulag and a big increase in border patrol and internal enforcement personnel at a time when badly needed teachers, firefighters, police officers and postal workers are being laid off in droves.
At the same time, the reality of human suffering - to immigrants and American citizens alike - from our resistance to demographic change, from our search for scapegoats, and from our neglect of the basic needs and rights of large sectors of our population in favor of promoting the interests of the privileged few, is being ignored. No fair or rational immigration system or reform can come out of this environment. It is time for America to stop focusing on outside bogeymen and to deal with the real needs of our own people - immigrants included.
For some time, this writer has been warning about the dangers to the fairness of this November's election, and to America's democracy itself, arising from the voter suppression laws which have been enacted by Republican legislatures in at least a dozen states (including Wisconsin, whose law was struck down by a state court). True, in some solidly red states, strict voter ID laws keeping normally Democratic voters - minorities, the young and the less well off - away from the polls are not likely to make much difference.
But in normally Democratic states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, and in a critical swing state such as Florida, these laws may well make a big difference by disenfranchising huge numbers of normally Democratic voters. For example, Pennsylvania's Department of State estimates that as many as 759,000 of that state's residents, or 9 per cent of its registered voters, lack the required form of ID. However, in heavily Democratic and African-American Philadelphia, the number goes up to 18 per cent.
Moreover, many student photo ID's do not have expiration dates, which are required by that state's new law.Since Pennsylvania's officials have just conceded in a recent lawsuit seeking to block this law that there is no genuine issue of voter fraud, it is all too obvious that the only reason for the voter ID law is political. This is why the legislative leader in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, has been quoted as saying: "voter ID...is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania".
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott is actively trying to purge the voter rolls of Latinos. At one point, his list reportedly had over 100,000 names, but due to a lawsuit and other vigorous action by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the list was later reduced to a couple of thousand names and may now be on its way toward the vanishing point. But in Florida, even a few hundred votes can determine who occupies the White House, as we learned from the Supreme Court in 2000. Florida also has a voter ID law and many other voter suppression tactics in place.
While I have focused mainly on two states (I happen to have a voting age child - with required ID - living in each one), the same tactic of voter suppression for purely political reasons is at work in all the other states with voter ID laws enacted by Republican legislatures. In Texas, for example, 8 percent of whites lack the kind of photo ID required by its voter suppression law. Among African-Americans, the percentage is three times as high. There can be little doubt that the figures for Latino US citizens lacking the required voter ID are much closer to African-Americans than to whites.
This raises a frightening specter that Harold Meyerson writes about in an article in washingtonpost.com dated July 24. What would happen, he asks, if Romney wins a narrow victory this fall by a margin smaller than the number of young and minority voters who couldn't cast ballots because of the Republican voter ID laws that kept them away from the polls? The answer, he writes, is that the legitimacy of a Romney presidency obtained on the basis of racially suppressed votes would be called into question:
"If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats... More ominous still, by further estranging minority voters, even as minorities constitute a steadily larger share of the electorate, Republicans will be putting themselves in a position where they increasingly rely on only white voters and where there only path to victory will be the continued suppression of minority votes. A cycle more vicious is hard to imagine."
"And what should Democrats do if Romney comes to power on the strength of racially suppressed votes? Such an outcome and such a presidency, I'd hope they contend, would be illegitimate - a betrayal of our laws and traditions, of our very essence as a democratic republic."
It does not take much imagination to figure out what the consequences for immigration would be in a nation governed by a whites only party which, as in Apartheid South Africa, owed its power only to preventing brown people from voting. How eager would such a party, and its president, be to allow more Latino and other non-white immigrants into this country, to grant those who are already here without legal status any form of relief from deportation, or to recognize birthright citizenship rights for their American-born children? How easy would such a party be willing to make it for minority permanent residents to become US citizens?
Would such a racist party be more likely to support efforts by the states to criminalize the immigration laws, or to do so through a federal law similar to the draconian HR 3447 passed by the Republican House of Representatives in 2005? Would there be a moratorium on virtually all immigration, on one pretext or another? Just asking.
In another important decision, the BIA clarified in Matter of Ilic, 25 I.& N. Dec.
717 (BIA 2012) that only the principal beneficiary needs to satisfy the grandfathering
rules including physical presence for the purpose of adjustment of status under INA §
245 (i). See INA § 245 (i)(1)(C).
Svetislav Ilic who was the derivative beneficiary in this case) was put in removal
proceeding and then granted adjustment of status by IJ under § 245 (i), 8 U.S.C. §
1255(i) based on an approved I-130 petition for his wife. He qualified for this
section based on being the principal beneficiary of the petition filed by sister in
1999. Ilic was also the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition with a priority date
in 2004. He admitted that he was not present in the United States as of December 21,
2000. DHS argued that the rules of physical presence should apply to Ilic as well,
because he had become "principal grandfathered alien" since he was the "principal"
adjustment of status applicant.
The BIA explained that there are two categories of grandfathered aliens - principals
and derivatives. Therefore, different rules on physical presence apply. If Ilic, not
his wife, was a principal beneficiary, the regulations would require him to be
physically present in the US as of December 21, 2000. Although the BIA referred to 8
C.F.R. § 1245.10(a)(1)(ii) and 22 C.F.R. § 40.1 (q) and decided that Ilic was a
derivative. 8 C.F.R. § 1245.10(a)(1)(ii) states that the physical presence"requirement
does not apply with respect to a spouse or child accompanying or following to join a
principal alien who is a grandfathered alien." Consequently, the only applicant whose
physical presence as of December 21, 2000 matters, was his wife's. Based on that factual
finding the BIA remanded the matter.
Michele Bachmann, the paranoid Republican representative from Minnesota, is now in trouble with same more rational leaders in her own party because of her despicable attempt, without a shred of supporting evidence, to link Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, to a supposed "conspiracy" by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the State Department. Huma Abedin, a Muslim, was born in America to immigrant parents and is married to a Jewish husband, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. No sane person has ever questioned her loyalty to the US.
Bachmann's accusations (joined in by a few other Republican Congressmen on the extreme right lunatic fringe) have been justly compared to the tactics of the late Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, but some people who are not old enough to remember that era personally may not fully realize what this means. This writer was a high school student during the height of the McCarthy era in the first half of the1950's, personally met some people whose careers were destroyed or set back by his appeals to fear and falsehood, or at least had good reason to fear that they would be, and can remember hearing McCarthy's sneering voice on the radio or television saying things such as: "There is no such thing as being a little bit disloyal - or only partly a traitor".(This quote is as close as I can remember.)
Bachmann has been justly condemned for her vicious smear against Huma Abedin, a loyal American, by leaders in her own party such as Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehnor, and by all decent Americans, represented by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who is not known for taking partisan sides on any issue. However, the smear can never be completely undone, which is the very nature of a smear.
From now on, anyone who hears the name of Huma Abedin will automatically think of her as someone who was once accused of being part of an Islamist conspiracy, no matter how blameless she actually is. Ms. Abedin has reportedly already received at least one death threat. Her life will never be the same. It should also not be forgotten that Michele Bachmann is also notorious for having accused unnamed members of Congress for being un-American. McCarthy would definitely recognize her as a kindred spirit.
However, there is are at least two differences between Bachmann and Joseph McCarthy, both of which show how far to the right America has moved in the past 60 years. The first is that McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate, effectively ending his political career. The second is that McCarthy focused his attacks on his fantasy of "Communists" allegedly taking over the State Department.
He was not known for venturing out into other areas of bigotry and hate, even though there were ample opportunities to do so in that era of racial segregation and widespread anti-semitism. (Indeed, two of McCarthy's most notorious assistants, Roy Cohn and David Shine, were Jewish.)
In contrast, while, as mentioned above, House Speaker Boehnor has spoken out against Michele Bachmann, I would not advise any ID readers to hold their breath waiting for her to be censured by that chamber. Second, Michele Bachmann's poison is not limited to bigotry against Muslims. Instead, she is an equal opportunity hater who leaves no one out of her net. Her hatred of gays, for example, is just as paranoid as her hatred of Muslims. However, when is comes to bigotry, immigrants are second to none in Bachmann's universe.
No one has been an earlier or more consistent supporter of Arizona's storm-trooper inspired Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Hand over your papers!") anti-immigrant law than Michele Bachmann. As a presidential candidate, she also rushed out to meet with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix to seek his endorsement. But her hostility to brown immigrants goes even beyond this. Here is one of her quotes about immigration, as reported by columnist Ian Millhiser of thinkprogress.org:
"The immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960's when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws."
In other words, the 1924 immigration law, which imposed the infamous "national origins" quotas designed to keep Italians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and most other "non-Nordics" out of America, and similar laws excluding Asians and barring them from ever becoming US citizens, are Michele Bachmann's ideal of how America's immigration system should work. However, she is not alone in trying to take America back to the days of overt anti-immigrant racism. She is not the only Republican who has called for a return to the pre-1965 era of immigration..
Many Republicans also support the favorite proposal of anti-immigrant hate groups to take away 14th Amendment birthright citizenship from US-born children whose parents are neither permanent residents nor US citizens (including the children of parents with legal, but temporary visas).
Where does Mitt Romney stand on these blatant appeals to anti-immigrant bigotry and hate in his own party? We need to find out, but our chances of doing so are no greater than the likelihood of discovering what is in his tax returns.
In the immediate sense, 12 innocent Americans, one of them a six-year old girl, were killed, and 58 others injured, some of them for life, by a lone crazed gunman. But in the larger sense, all of these people were killed or wounded by the gun lobby.
Yet even after the massacres at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, not to mention countless individual acts of gun violence every day throughout America, few of our politicians in either party have the courage to speak out against America's senseless policy of letting virtually anyone who wants to do so buy even the most dangerous and destructive kinds of weapons.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York deserves to be commended by all Americans for speaking out in favor of tougher gun control laws, which have been blocked by the craven kowtowing in both parties to the all-powerful National Rifle Association. While this writer has no less sympathy and prayers for the victims of this latest mass murder and their families, and good wishes for the speedy recovery of all the wounded, than the president, his Republican challenger, and all other Americans, one cannot help being appalled by the obvious fear that President Obama showed in his speech to the nation on Sunday night to touch the subject of gun control, lest he be instantly doomed to a one-term presidency.
While of course, the victims should be remembered and the many acts of courage and heroism shown in this latest despicable act of violence praised, at the same time there is something surreal in all the vigils, speeches and other commemorations of an incident which could in all probability have been prevented. by stricter gun control laws.
To take the liberty of making yet another reference to classical literature, in the opening of the Iliad, Homer describes how the god Apollo causes a plague to break out in the Greek army besieging Troy because of an insult to one of the god's priests by Agamemnon, the Greek king. Back in the 8th century BC, when most scholars believe the Iliad was composed, most people in fact believed that plagues were caused by the gods.
Comparatively few people attribute a divine origin to illness today, and it would be somewhat strange if people were to hold prayer vigils for victims of diseases that are easily preventable or curable now by an injection or two or a few pills. But this is exactly what is happening in the case of mass murders by the use of guns which society has the power to keep out of the hands of vicious madmen such as the Aurora killer, or at least make it harder for such people to acquire.
Why did 12 people die and 58 others suffer wounds in this latest incident? Because our politicians are afraid to stand up against violence in the form of guns. President Obama, Mitt Romney and many other politicians in both parties are also terrified at the thought of standing up against hate, especially hate directed against immigrants. To their shame, Romney and most of his party are also actively exploiting this form of hate in order to try to take over the White House and both houses of Congress.
Because of the failure of leaders in both parties to take a stand against hate, many more than a dozen people have already died at the Mexican border and in immigration concentration camps (a/k/a detention facilities). Almost 400,000 people are having their lives destroyed though separations from their loved ones and crushed hopes and shattered dreams each year in our deportation system.
Other people, such as the distinguished Indian cancer researcher whom I mentioned in my comments last week, are being prevented from pursuing work in the US which may have the potential to save thousands, if not millions, of lives worldwide. Where is the courage to stand up against the evil of anti-immigrant hate and prejudice, which ruins countless lives just as surely as is the scourge of easily controllable gun violence?
Where are the vigils, the prayers, the television coverage, the marches, the speeches and, above all the action, for meaningful immigration reform and the end to hate and prejudice against immigrants who are here only to seek a better life in the US?
As a final note, suppose that the Aurora killer, dressed up in full military uniform and using high powered weapons to kill as many people as possible, had had an Hispanic or a Middle Eastern name. Would not the media be full of shouts for America to close its borders against all immigrants in order to protect against "terrorists", and to speed up deportations of Latino and Muslim immigrants even more?
This writer is willing to bet that if the Aurora killer had had an Hispanic name, either President Obama would have announced an immediate reversal of both his "prosecutorial discretion", and his "deferred action" initiatives for DREAMERS, or he would be under tremendous pressure to do so. However, the killer was white. Prayers and vigils will be enough this time, thank you.
On Monday, June 25, the Supreme Court ruled on the controversial Arizona Immigration Law, S.B. 1070, from 2010. The Court unanimously sustained the central “show me your papers” provision that requires state law enforcement to determine the immigration status of individuals they have stopped or arrested, if an illegal status is reasonably suspected. In the majority opinion, the Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy highlighted that officials already possessed the discretion to ask one’s immigration status, and this law simply makes the inquiry mandatory when suspicion is present. Many, including President Obama, worry that the Arizona Law could lead to racial profiling. “No American should live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” stated Obama.
However, the state law contains safeguards that instruct officials not to consider race or natural origin unless already permitted by law. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer claims that enforcing the law without resorting to ethnic profiling is possible and expected. Her claim will be put to the test when S.B. 1070 is put into action and officers are forced to legitimize their suspicion. The Supreme Court warned that they would be watching the implementation of the law, and their ruling leaves opportunities for future challenges and modifications, including the constitutional concerns with detainment, reasonable suspicion, interpretation and application of the law. These areas involving detainment, suspicion, and application are the primary areas of concern and it seems unlikely that the law can be carried out while remaining racially fair and unbiased.
The Supreme Court parted ways on three provisions of the 2010 Arizona Law that were blocked by the majority. The first made failing to register with the federal government and to carry proper registration documents a crime. Another provision made it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, or even to try to find work. The final blocked provision allowed officials to arrest individuals without a warrant for committing an offense they believed would make them deportable under federal law. While some Justices and legislators believe that States should have the right to make new policy if the government lacks these efforts, the majority blocked the three provisions because the State interfered with the federal government’s role in setting immigrations policy. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy says, “the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
With five other states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah – having already enacted immigration statutes similar to Arizona, the June 25 ruling most likely will not be the last decision enforcing the role states play in contesting illegal immigration.
In my July 17 comment I discussed the predicament of a distinguished Indian scientist and cancer researcher, whose work has been internationally recognized as holding out the potential to save many lives, and whose EB-1 immigrant petition based on extraordinary ability was quickly and easily approved by the USCIS.
Despite his long list of undisputed achievements, however, his immigrant visa application is being held up by the US embassy in New Delhi pending "verification" of the facts in his petition, almost all of which are matters of public record and many of which can be checked by a simple Google search within a few minutes, not to mention the extensive documentation in his file which was sitting on the visa interviewing officer's desk
My comment also pointed out that holding up visas for "verification" now appears to be a routine practice at US consular offices in India. Evidently, this practice began with the politically unpopular (among right wing anti- immigrant activists) H-1B visas, but this "cancer" (since it is hard to think of a more appropriate word), is apparently now spreading to processing of immigrant visas as well.
This is not to say that US visa officers should be prevented from checking the veracity of approved petitions. Sometimes discrepancies or questions may arise during a visa interview, or in the documents themselves, which make it appropriate to look into a matter further. But this is a far cry from adopting a policy which, in effect, assumes that every visa application may be fraudulent and require full investigation.
The only purpose of a rule which assumes that every visa applicant is guilty until proven innocent is to intimidate legitimate visa applicants, discourage them from trying to come to the US, and ultimately, find pretexts for denying visas. This is also extremely damaging to the reputation of the United States as a country which claims to, and needs to, attract the best and the brightest to our shores in order to maintain its world leadership and boost its economy.
In effect, America is saying to distinguished scientists and other highly educated professionals: "If you try to pursue your career in the US, we will assume that you are a liar and unfit to come to America unless and until we find some reason to decide otherwise in our own good time."
What a great way to ensure that the world's most talented cancer researchers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and achievers in every field of endeavor find their way to Canada, Australia or other less xenophobic countries. What does this do to America's image?
Is it really in the interests of America to become known as a country which is more interested in keeping its population white - let's not beat around the bush - than to gain the obvious benefits to our society of having top professionals from all over the world share their skills with us, rather than go somewhere else to help other nations compete with the US?
There can be only one reason why the Obama administration would wish to turn such a basic rule of fairness on its head and disgrace its own reputation in the world as a country which follows the rule of law. This is to appease the rabid anti-immigrant right wing of the Republican party, the Charles Grassley's, the Lamar Smith's, for whom every skilled visa application is "fraudulent" ipso facto and the idea of any immigrant who can actually benefit the US is an oxymoron.
Why is President Obama evidently so anxious to bow down and kiss the feet (a different part of the anatomy also comes to mind) of the anti-immigration bigots in the opposition party? Is he going to gain their votes? This is one of the great mysteries of his presidency. It is also one of the most important reasons why his presidency may last for only one term.
Most of the people who believe, as I do, that Barack Obama is the worst imaginable president for immigration (except for his opponent - but this is a subject for another comment), focus on the president's duplicitous approach toward granting relief from deportation to unauthorized immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic.
True to the "Now you see it - now you don't" tricks of magicians down through the ages, the president suddenly revealed "Prosecutorial Discretion" for relief from deportation in June, 2011, only to make it disappear in all except a few token cases. Now he is doing the same with "Deferred Action" for DREAMers. In this case, the show has been announced and is ready for the public to see. It is just the opening day that has been postponed - until when?
But to appreciate the full extent of this administration's hostility and paranoia toward immigrants, one has to look at its treatment of immigrants who, in any sane system, would be among the most desirable of all - namely those in the EB-1 extraordinary ability category.
One of my own clients is among India's leading cancer researchers. He is also the president of one of India's most prestigious medical and scientific research organizations, and the author of over 100 published articles in international scientific publications, which have been cited some 400 times by other researchers. He is also an editor or reviewer for a number of the leading publications in his particular field, and has made important original contributions to the diagnosis and prevention of the form of cancer in which he specializes, which have been recognized by other leading experts in and outside of the US.
His research has demonstrated the potential to save thousands, if not millions, of lives. Moreover, his accomplishments are not secrets hidden in the depths of an obscure lab off in some unknown place, but are all a matter of public record, independently attested to in published materials by other leading scientists internationally.
It only took the USCIS a few days to approve his extraordinary ability petition. But when he and his family appeared for their immigrant visa interviews at the US embassy in New Delhi, even though his entire file, consisting of well over a hundred pages of supporting documents, was clearly visible on the interviewing visa officer's desk, the interviewing officer said that more information would be required, and that processing would take about 8 weeks from the time he replied.
My client was then given a letter asking for information about his proposed "visit" to the US, including, among other things, an "itinerary", even though this was an application to become a permanent resident, not a visitor. The letter also asked him to repeat biographical details which were already in the officer's file.
My client responded promptly, fully and courteously. He also politely pointed out that he was applying for an immigrant visa, not a visitor's visa. In return, he received an email thanking him for responding to the "non-immigrant" visa section (!). Subsequent inquiries produced responses to the effect that the case had been set down for "advance processing" (also known as "administrative processing") and that therefore no estimated time period for completion could be given.
Administrative processing is an ubiquitous star chamber procedure which could mean anything from a routine security check to the application's having fallen into a black hole. Nevertheless, the client waited until the 8 - week processing period he had been told about by the interviewing officer was almost up, and then he put in another inquiry. (I had also inquired separately myself).
In response, he received a notice that his visa application was being held pending the embassy's attempt to verify some of the (unspecified) information contained in his application.
At first glance, this appeared quite curious. What kind of information did the embassy need to verify? That the applicant was indeed the president of a leading scientific research organization? That he had in fact authored over 100 scientific articles, a complete list of which, and a number of extracts from, were sitting in the file on the interviewing officer's desk?
Or, perhaps, was the US embassy conducting its own independent scientific inquiry to make sure that cancer is indeed a dangerous disease? Or, possibly, does the embassy possess the expertise to second-guess both the applicant and USCIS as to the value and importance of his scientific research, and its potential to save lives?
Some Internet research appears to have cleared up the mystery. It seems that this latest letter was just the newest form of boiler plate that is being issued to many other visa applicants, no matter what type of visas they are applying for. But while the boiler-plate may change, the hostility of this administration toward the most qualified immigrants of all has evidently not.