Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The government shutdown has created some confusion in the immigration community. Certain governmental services that are an essential part of my work as an immigration attorney have either shut down or began operating on a limited basis. Until Congress gets it together and passes a new budget, this will become the operating status quo for my industry. Below is a quick list of governmental resources and a brief description of how the shutdown affects them. 

EOIR: Only Immigration Court functions that support the detained caseload will continue, but other functions are suspended. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is processing emergency stay requests as well as detained cases only, including case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds. For all our non-detained clients, cases will not be heard and moved to future hearing dates.

ICE:  ICE detention and enforcement operations will continue as it is considered an essential function. However ICE chief counsel trial attorneys will work only on detained docket during the shutdown. The ICE Community and Detainee Helpline will remain operational.

USCIS: All USCIS offices worldwide are open and individuals should report to interviews and appointments as scheduled. Since USCIS is supported by filing fees and not congressional appropriations it is not affected at all by the shutdown. However, its E-Verify program is not working during the shutdown. 

Customs and Border Protection operations are considered to be essential functions and would not be disrupted. However, if there are staffing cuts, it is possible that there would be some delays in processing applications presented at the U.S. border and at border crossings. There may also be delays in waiver adjudication.

Department of State functions will be delayed although most services will remain open. Travel plans for State Department personnel will mostly be put on hold, as will all new employment offers. The State Department has not released exact numbers of furloughs, but in previous shutdowns, furloughs were felt more heavily at the department's headquarters in Washington than at posts overseas.

Consular operations will continue which means that people would be able to get visas (and passports) in the U.S. and abroad at consular sites but these services could be heavily delayed. The shutdown of ancillary consular operations, including building support and the employment of local personnel, may impact the delivery of visa services, resulting in cancellation of visa appointments or delays in the processing of visa applications. In past shutdowns, visa processing was slowed down significantly and they only processed "life and death" situations. However now many of the visas are fee-supported so they promise not to delay visa processing. So short answer is nobody knows how they will be affected so foreign nationals should be prepared for delays in consular visa processing and, where feasible, may want to consider postponing travel outside the United States if a new visa would be required to reenter the United States if not absolutely necessary.

Passports: Passport processing will be delayed as many offices are inside buildings that will be shut down.

CIS Ombudsman: The CIS Ombudsman's Office will be closed and will not be accepting any inquiries through their online case intake system.

OFLC functions are not "excepted" from a shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, the OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses), it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. As of now, OFLC's web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System and the PERM system, are inoperative and unable to process any cases. PERM applications that need to be filed due to expiring recruitment or the need to preserve H-1B AC21 eligibility could presumably be filed by mail if necessary. There is a problem for H-1B extensions that cannot be filed without the LCA - USCIS has been contacted about this issue by AILA to allow filing without the LCA for now. 

DHS: Due to the lapse in federal funding, DHS’ website will not be actively managed.

DHS OIG: The majority of DHS OIG staff has been furloughed due to the lapse in appropriations.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The shut down will create even more of a delay for the immigration reform cause as Congress will completely shift gears to address their inept bargaining tactics instead of addressing this key piece of legislation. However, the nationwide immigration event, known as the March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect will still continue as planned on October 5. To learn more, please click here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Comprehensive Immigration Reform’s Second Wind

I was encouraged to learn this week that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is introducing legislation to combine the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May with a bipartisan border-security bill from the House Homeland Security Committee. Both bills received bipartisan support but not enough support from the GOP leadership to bring it to the House floor for a vote. To answer this bureaucratic stalling, Pelosi has announced her strategy to bring comprehensive immigration reform back into the spotlight with her mash-up of the year’s most well-supported, bipartisan attempts at immigration reform.

Whether or not her bill will win any favors with the GOP leadership is dubious – to be honest, I don’t think it was really her end goal. I think her goal is much more strategic. Immigration reform is such a heated debate, it’s unlikely any singular proposed bill will win over the GOP leadership at this time and I trust she and her aides recognize that. It is more likely that her strategy is to smoke out the GOP leadership. From this point, the GOP can either reveal themselves as unwilling to act on immigration reform by continuing to keep all immigration reform bills off the floor or they can call one of these bills to a vote. Either way, the conversation on reform can shift to one of action or inaction by the GOP.

The most immediate benefit of her strategy is that it will renew news coverage for immigration reform. Pelosi's bill will debut (tentatively) on Oct.5th, which is now National Day of Action. On this day, rallies and marches for immigration reform will take place nationwide – in over 40 U.S. cities – to demand comprehensive immigration reform.The need for comprehensive immigration reform is real. Families across the nation are suffering and have suffered due to politics and inaction by our representatives.With the spotlight back on immigration reform, it is Pelosi’s hope, and mine as well, that Congress will take action and pass something comprehensive reform. The good news is that the GOP has promised to make immigration reform a priority. But until something other than border patrol measures gets to the House floor for a vote, I'd be cautious to believe them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The American people are speaking and they’re saying “yes” to immigration reform. From both sides of the aisle, and all parts of the political spectrum, the left, the right, and the center are all coming out and registering their voices in support of immigration reform.  

Congressmen are actually listening as immigration advocates count 23 Republican members of Congress who have publicly come out in support of not just immigration reform for legal immigrants but a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants.

The Atlantic published a great article last week boldly exclaiming that Immigration reformers are winning in August. But despite the show of numbers for immigration reform, Roy Beck, executive director of the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA remains unconvinced that immigration reform will happen. He asserts that protests, rallies and shows of numbers do not necessarily correspond to votes in Congress. I have to say Beck is right – but only to a point. He is right when he says that our work is not done. Until a comprehensive immigration reform bill is signed into law, we can only be "winning" but we have not won. Even still, it is encouraging to see less and less people show up to anti-immigration rallies – like the sort Beck organizes, Turnout is so low that major anti-immigrant rallies have to be cut back and events have to be cancelled due to low participation. To this setback, Beck argues that his side does not need to come out in numbers in the same way as reform advocates since anti-reform advocates have the House in their pocket. Beck and his like minded supporters count on the House rejecting the Senate bill, which is the most immediate way comprehensive reform could be signed into law. 

The great thing about this fight for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) is that even if the House rejects the Senate bill forthright – the call for CIR  is becoming so loud - the House cannot possibly disregard this call to action. In fact, the House is under increasing pressure to pass something immigration related as their first order of business, And like Beck, I have trust in the political process because at the end of the day, it is in their best interest as politicians to take note of the changing tide of public opinion - which is shown by show of numbers. After all, the same people most likely to be involved in the political process now are most likely going to stay involved during re-election time. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The need for a more distinct line between the role of local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (ICE) agents is becoming more and more apparent. Pressure from advocacy groups to more strictly define the role of local law enforcement as their duties relate to undocumented immigrants is garnering some hopeful results with Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Cook County, Il, and Newark, NJ passing legislation to significantly limit the reach of ICE.

A recent civil rights lawsuit in New Orleans has brought attention to the unconstitutional practice of “excessive and unlawful custody” local police forces have taken to assist ICE beyond their duty to prevent crime and punish criminals. The New York Times reports that New Orleans Sherriff Marlin Gusman complied with an ICE request to detain two undocumented immigrants until ICE could come and take them  into custody. These two men were jailed at the time for minor offenses but were jailed for an additional 90+ days without a federal charge because of this ICE hold. The explicit limit for detaining someone for ICE is 48 hours – after which, the men should have been released. These men’s constitutional rights were clearly violated and in response to their case’s victory, New Orleans has opted to limit the role local law enforcement will play in future ICE detention cases.

California, recognizing this trend, is now considering a bill that would limit the role of local law enforcement in feeding inmates to ICE. Criminals charged for serious offenses such as felonies, would still be turned over for deportation, but others in jail for minor offenses would not be held on ICE’s behalf beyond the 48 hour maximum. I hope this legislation passes in California and I hope more legislation like this will surface soon in other states. Even an undocumented immigrant should not be detained for prolonged periods of time just because they are in the country without status if they are not criminals or if they only have minor offenses such as traffic offenses, which is most often the case. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment. Think about someone detained for90 days in jail for jaywalking. The punishment does not fit the crime.

We want local police officers to prioritize their efforts in a way that will make our communities safer and not to become an extension of ICE. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


There is some good news to report this week on the immigration front:

The Huffington Post reported yesterday that 400,562 young people or 72% of the estimated total eligible for DACA, have applied and been approved for deferred action since it was approved last August.

In response to overwhelming public support for aiding the Dreamers, 2 House Republicans who voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 are working on a Dream Act-like bill, called the Kids Act that would legalize, not just defer the deportation of Dreamers.

Due to wide public support and the President’s action the case to legalize Dreamers is a done deal as it seems like Congress will be able to come together for their cause. The issue now is to make the case to legalize their parents which is a much tougher case to make. There is still a long road ahead for comprehensive immigration reform but as the case for Dreamers show, civic action and public support can play a substantial role in influencing policy makers.

As a recent Washington Post article notes, there is a danger in the Houses’ piecemeal approach to immigration reform as it could be possible that the GOP concession to legalizing Dreamers will come at a cost of killing attempts at comprehensive immigration reform for the remaining 11 million undocumented immigrants. This is why this strategy is problematic. We need comprehensive immigration reform and to strike while the iron is hot as there is great public support for it now.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


The New York Times reports that immigration advocates see Congress’s 5-week summer recess as a crucial window to lobby the House to hold a vote for the comprehensive immigration bill that is currently tabled there. Should the House pursue its piecemeal approach to immigration reform, advocates fear issues like increasing border security will take precedence and leave the issue of a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. unresolved for a much longer time or leave the issue completely unresolved. This is unacceptable as deportations are increasing at a record pace every day.

Since a path to citizenship is included in the Senate’s comprehensive bill, immigration reform advocates are moving forward to launch several campaigns to get the House to vote on the Senate’s bill. One campaign that was both poignant and topical involved sending cantaloupes to more than 200 House members, with a note that said “This cantaloupe was picked by immigrants in California. You gave Steve King a vote. Give us a vote for citizenship.” In a speech last week, Steve King (R-IA), stereotyped immigrants as drug runners who taped marijuana to their calves making them the “size of cantaloupes.” This is not the first time that he made bigoted remarks.

Advocates also mentioned that if the Senate’s comprehensive bill were to be voted on in the House today, there would be enough bipartisan support to pass the bill. Therefore, advocates believe efforts to rally enough outcry from key constituent groups and the accompanying media coverage over the next 5 weeks can help pressure House GOP members and its leadership to act on this bill.

I want to encourage everyone to contact their Congress members in the month of August to support immigration reform, whether by calling their Washington D.C. office, local offices, writing letters or visiting with them if possible. Please do this as we need a final push to get the immigration reform bill passed!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The New York Times reports that over 100 big name donors to the Republican Party have written a letter to Republican members of the House urging them to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
The letter says: "Immigrants are often entrepreneurial, family-minded and guided by faith. These are Republican values. Immigrants play key roles at every level of the American economy. From high-skill workers to seasonal laborers, from big-city neighborhoods to small-town main streets, immigrants help drive our economic growth. These are Republican issues. Republicans ought to be welcoming immigrants and be seen as doing so."
The effort was organized by Carlos Gutierrez, who was secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush and was a founder of a “super PAC,” Republicans for Immigration Reform.
It's great to start having pressure on these politicians from within. If they are all afraid to lose their seats maybe losing some donors for their re-election campaign will force them to do the right thing for this country and support immigration reform.

Monday, July 29, 2013


In a very lengthy interview and opinion, the Washington Post talks to Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), one of the influential House members on the immigration reform bill.
In short, Rep. Gutierrez explains that E-Verify is here to stay, and will be a part of a final bill. More enforcement for everyone.
He is optimistic about the passage of some form of DREAM Act with a pathway to citizenship for people who arrived here as children, even though it did not pass Congress in 2010.
Interesting read on one politician's take on the issue.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Who knew?
The New York Times blog wrote an op-ed piece on how House Speaker Boehner is all of a sudden optimistic about immigration reform. If that is really true - great!
On the other hand he does not want to pass anything close to the Senate bill - which sends a signal that he would not be supportive of reform. Perhaps if the House votes in favor of some immigration reform, however partial, it will advance somewhere in conference committee.

Monday, July 22, 2013


CNN reports that the influx of immigrants into the United States has boosted the American economy by driving the housing market recovery.
U.S. Census Data suggests that immigrants have contributed approximately $3.7 trillion to the U.S. housing market. When there are more immigrants coming into the nation or a neighborhood, there is a higher demand for housing, which essentially renews local housing markets.
When immigrants stimulate neighborhoods, the local community prospers which in turn attracts U.S. native to it as well.
Because many immigrants look towards neighborhoods with low-cost housing, they are able to spur growth in once declining neighborhoods.
Immigration is good for the housing market recovery and economy as a whole.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Surprising news this morning. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, one of the longest serving members of the President's Cabinet, announced this morning that she is resigning as of early September to accept a position as the head of the University of California system. No word yet on replacements. Conceivably, this could make it a little easier to negotiate an immigration reform bill as Secretary Napolitano has - unfairly in our view - been labeled as soft on immigration enforcement and has been the frequent target of criticism from Republicans.
It may also make it much more difficult for reform to pass the House, giving them the perfect excuse not to act because they do not know who will lead the agency.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


A general pessimism has settled over the pro-immigration community after the House GOP caucus failed to endorse a comprehensive Senate-ish approach to immigration reform after meeting to talk about dealing with immigration this year. But I’d argue that the news is a bit or a mix.
House Republican Leaders issued the following statement after the caucus meeting today:
Today House Republicans affirmed that rather than take up the flawed legislation rushed through the Senate, House committees will continue their work on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system. The American people want our border secured, our laws enforced, and the problems in our immigration system fixed to strengthen our economy. But they don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem. The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.
So we know that the leadership is not a fan of a comprehensive bill and wants individual bills. And they emphasized that they want border security measures before a legalization program starts.
Other statements that emerged today from people like Raul Labrador and Daryl Issa made it sound like a legalization program is not off the table, but there should not be a special path to citizenship with the exception of DREAMers.
So while many are assuming immigration reform is dead, I can see the House – after the August recess – considering a legalization bill that would create a legal status similar to the RPI status in the Senate bill but which would not begin until after various border security triggers are met. There would only be a special path to citizenship for DREAMers but others could eventually get green cards through existing green card categories after more triggers are hit.
The question would then be whether Democrats would consider such a plan or simply ignore the House. Politically, the Democrats can do nothing and reap major rewards down the road since no matter what GOP members may be saying, the WILL be blamed for this failure and they will eventually lose the House when gerrymandering can no longer disguise demographic realities. On the other hand, Democrats could take a deal like this and wait until they've retaken the House to get a better program. And they WILL retake the House. Even if an immigration bill passes, the GOP's handling of the issue has effectively branded them as the anti-immigrant party and that is suicidal in 21st century America.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


USCIS just issued a Questions and Answers following SCOTUS' ruling that DOMA was unconstitutional. USCIS says that same-sex married couples may file a Form I-130 to petition for a spouse and can no longer  be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of the marriage.
If the couple was married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, or in a foreign jurisdiction that allows it, even though they are living in a state that does not recognizes same-sex marriage the couple can still file the petition. In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes.


Great news!
The House Judiciary Committee has just passed the Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visa Act (SKILLS Act), sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) along with 20 co-sponsors.
The SKILLS Act would nearly triple the H-1B cap and also increase employment-based green card numbers and add 4,000 immigrant visas for health care occupations, including nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other allied health care workers who work in rural or undeserved areas.
Unlike the current situation where these employees are subject to 6-7 year backlogs in the EB-3 category, these additional  immigrant visas are immediately available and not subject to retrogression.
This is the first step toward a House comprehensive immigration bill like the one passed in the Senate. However, the House is expected to debate the Senate bill and change many of its provisions. The House may administratively decide to have several smaller bills, rather than one large immigration bill. We hopefully await and see.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Essential Economy

Please read this great op-ed on immigration reform by my friend Todd Stein:

Immigration Reform: AJC.Com

The Essential Economy
Sam Zamarripa and Todd Stein
Immigration reform is vital to America’s economy. That simple reality is driving four Republican senators, some of whom are the most conservative members of Congress, to champion the immigration reform bill now being debated on the floor of the US Senate.
Sen. Marco Rubio recently wrote that an immigration reform bill that includes bringing millions of undocumented aliens out of the underground economy “will improve the labor market, increase entrepreneurship and create jobs, leading to a net increase in economic growth.”
For Georgia, the economic stakes are high because of what immigration reform could do to sustain and boost Georgia’s “Essential Economy,” defined by a recent report by Georgia Tech’s Innovation Services Group as the goods and services that are essential to our way of life and that have to be produced right here in Georgia.
A significant percentage of the approximately 440,000 people in the state illegally makeup the workforce that drives Georgia’s essential economy.
That workforce includes the men and women on the frontlines of Georgia’s agriculture industry, harvesting crops, picking produce, and staffing the state’s many poultry plants. It also includes the hotel maids and restaurant workers, the backbone of the hospitality sector that makes Georgia an attractive place to visit or to start or relocate a business.
The essential economy workforce is made up of truck drivers, warehouse personnel and construction workers who have turned manufacturing, logistics, and trade into three of Georgia’s most promising prospects for long-term economic growth. And it includes landscapers as well as nursing home attendants and personal care assistants who are in increasing demand as the state’s population ages.
According to the Georgia Tech report, the essential economy contributed $49 billion in 2010 to Georgia’s gross domestic product and its workforce contributed more than $110 million in sales tax revenue through purchases of goods and services in 2011. Despite the national recession that began in 2008, the essential economy has remained a steady and often times growing part of the economies in Georgia’s 159 counties for the past nine years.
These numbers illustrate that the future of Georgia’s economy depends on sustaining and growing the essential economy, which in turn, creates the foundation for all the jobs in the aspirational economy – the high-skilled, high-wage jobs that Georgia continuously tries to create and attract.
The alternatives to immigration reform – maintaining the status quo or trying to deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally – are both impractical and potentially disastrous for the state’s economy.
The status quo does not work in part because Georgia’s population, like the rest of the country is aging. More than 60 percent of the state’s population will be more than 60 years old by 2030, according to the Department of Human Services.
As Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican pushing immigration reform, recently explained, “Unless there is another baby boom in America, the only way to bring new workers into the country is through legal immigration – hi-tech, low-tech, and everything in between. We will be cutting our throat economically if we don’t improve our immigration system to have more legal immigration.”
As for deportation, which Sen. Rubio explains is not a practical solution, many of Georgia’s business leaders can tell you that it is the worst thing we do could to the essential economy. Georgia learned that lesson with House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. After the state legislature passed that law, approximately 40 percent of the state’s agriculture labor needs went unmet as unpicked crops rotted in the field, costing Georgia businesses more than $140 million.
 Republicans championing immigration reform in the Senate have been instrumental in identifying bipartisan solutions to challenging issues like improving border security and addressing the inadequacies and dysfunction of our current immigration system. But they have also kept their focus on the issue Americans say they care the most about – improving the nation’s economy.
One of the best ways we can achieve a stronger economy in Georgia is to support bi-partisan immigration reform in Washington that gives business owners and their employees certainty about their futures, and ensures that our essential economy has what it needs most to thrive – a robust and vibrant workforce.

Sam Zamarripa, a former Georgia state senator, is founder and co-president of  The Essential Economy Council.  Todd Stein, who served as majority counsel on the  U.S . Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs, is a lawyer with Kitchens New Cleghorn LLC and a lecturer at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.


Federal agents seized the franchise rights of 14 Seven-Eleven stores and announced criminal charges against 9 people responsible for bringing undocumented immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines to work in these stores, paying them a fraction of required wages for working up to 100 hours per week or more and putting them in employer housing from which they could not escape.
The allegations state that these owners earned $180 Million in this scheme, with stores located in New York City, Virginia and other places. The feds say they used identities and social security numbers of legal U.S. residents for this, as a way to avoid detection for over 10 years.
If true, horrible and ugly indeed. It is sad to see how immigrants could be brutally exploited by unscrupulous people.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Courtesy of Greg Siskind: It was a good day for immigration reform. 15 Republicans joined a solid block of every Democrat to pass a cloture vote 67-27 for the Hoeven-Corker substitute immigration bill - a key test vote on immigration reform. Today's vote s a pretty good indicator of what will happen on Thursday on the final vote in the Senate on the immigration bill. Six Senators couldn't make the vote because of flight delays. Two were definite Democrat votes meaning that 70 votes is a real possibility.

I mentioned earlier that I was able to watch the proceedings from the Senate gallery. Though I've made dozens of trips to DC over the years to work on immigration issues, this was actually my first time in the gallery for one of the two chambers in the Capitol. The atmosphere was somewhat party-like as the Senators gathered for a vote that turned out to be more lopsided than many would have initially imagined.

It's a pretty sure bet that the final vote on a Senate bill will come on Thursday. But there could still be more amendment votes. Senator Corker told reporters this afternoon that a deal for 10 amendments to be offered by each side might be considered. No word yet on which amendments might make the cut. Things are moving on the House side as well. The House Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the E-Verify and high-skilled worker bills. Those bills and the other enforcement bills that have already passed. This week we could also see the much-awaited House bipartisan bill (written by the Gang of 7) finally be introduced. It's writers clam to be finished with negotiating the framework.Whether that bill will be considered is still not known. Speaker Boehner says he would like a bill passed on the floor by the end of July. That would then lead to the House and Senate setting up a conference committee to try and hammer out a compromise. So there are many steps remaining before the bill would make its way to the President's desk for his signature.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Pursuant to HB87, as of July 1, Georgia companies with 11 employees or more will be required to enroll in E-Verify, the federal online system to determine the immigration status of newly hired workers, in order to maintain their business license in the state.
Larger companies with over 100 employees were already required to participate as of last year, but as of next week all companies, other than the smallest with 10 employees or less, will have to participate in E-Verify.
This will not help to curb illegal immigration as proponents of HB87 would argue, but that now law in Georgia.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


The Congressional Budget Office or CBO, issued an analysis of the Senate bill S. 744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, saying that immigration reform as suggested in the bill would have a positive impact on the federal budget, and pay for itself .
The CBO estimates that the bill would increase the population of the U.S. by 10.4 million people and increase federal direct spending by $262 billion over the next decade, but revenue would jump by $459 billion because of additional collections of income taxes and payroll taxes due to an increase in the legal work force in the U.S. That means the bill would decrease federal budge deficits by $197 billion over this 10-year period. Beyond 2023, immigration reform would increase the number of people eligible for federal benefits such as Social Security and Medicare. But CBO expects the additional revenues generated by additional workers in the U.S. would outpace this extra spending. It projects that immigration reform would reduce federal deficits by $700 billion over the 2024-2033 period.
This is good news because it is clear that the arguments against the bill  are not economically viable.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that a poll by likely Georgia voters recently conducted shows that Georgia voters strongly support the immigration reform legislation now before the U.S. Senate.
61% of the voters said they “strongly support” or “somewhat support” the immigration bill currently proposed by the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate. A whopping 78% of the respondents said they would strongly or somewhat support an immigration reform plan requiring “undocumented immigrants” to the U.S. to pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes and wait at least 13 years before becoming eligible for citizenship.
This is overwhelming support of the bill by the majority of Georgia likely voters, and Georgia is traditionally a conservative state so conservative members of the Senate and House be on notice that your voters support this reform and do something good about it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


And the President is right. Not only that the moment is now, the need for immigration reform is something that our Congress stalled for over a decade. We hope something will get done soon.
Washington Business Journal's Kent Hoover wrote an interesting article about the President's remarks as well as various comments from Republican leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who things the border security measures in the new bill are not strong enough. Is he kidding? They have a proposal to quadruple the budget at the border and use drones.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The Hill reports that Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday predicted the Senate would pass its immigration reform bill by July 4 and said a strong vote for the measure could force House Republicans to embrace the Gang of Eight’s bill, despite Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) vow to the contrary. They hope to win 70 votes in the Senate, including nearly a majority of Republicans.
This would be great news indeed if it passes the Senate with a large Republican majority.
The Republican party needs to pass this because now even the Tea party ultra conservatives Koch brothers support the measure. If they do not pass it they will alienate Hispanic voters for a very long time and the few hard hat voters who actually oppose the bill will not exactly vote Democrat next time around...
The full Senate is expected to begin debating the bill on June 10. The House is going to be very problematic, especially because of its Speaker Boehner but we'll see.
It's going to be interesting.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I just read this great Washington Post editorial that argues that restricting the labor market by keeping out immigrant workers is inconsistent with free market principles and is bad for the economy.
Stephen Moore talks about surveying the top 75 economists on their views on immigration and 9 to 1 are in favor of immigration as good for the economy, with even Milton Friedman, a very conservative economist saying that both legal and illegal immigration has a very positive impact on the U.S. economy.
I liked this part the most: "It is ironic that the right-wingers who argue against protectionism, against the minimum wage, against unions (which inflate wage rates) and against Obamacare want to keep domestic wages artificially high by restricting the labor market (e.g. keeping out immigrant workers). That effort is not only inconsistent with free market principles, but, according to stacks of research, it also is empirically dubious."
Yes, the anti-immigration reform politicians rely on dubious data and "research" to support their position where the evidence points in the other direction. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Good news, the immigration reform bill SB744 got out of the Senate judiciary committee yesterday with a few wonderful amendments.
One great amendment included adding the dual intent language to students (F-1), exchange visitors (J-1) which includes foreign doctors, E, O, P, V or W.
It also allows for a waiver for people previously removed in some cases.
There was a settlement between Senators Hatch and Schumer on H-1B cap - to go up to 180,000 based on market demand/need.
Also, increased portability for people applying for employment-based green cards and other provisions which are mostly positive.
Now the vote...

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber agreed today to certain immigration reforms, adopting a position similar to the U.S. Chamber and other business organizations. The Chamber says expanding the EB-5, J-1 and H-1B visa programs are critical to increased competitiveness.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber said employment, investment and student-based visas are of particular interest to it. It supports removing barriers to recruiting highly-skilled talent and expertise. The Metro Chamber's position states: "Strengthening visa policy to allow the world's best and brightest to work and invest in the U.S. is a path toward economic growth and expansion."

Great move by the chamber!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Economist at the Milken conference agree that immigration reform would boost the U.S. economy. Unlike the biased opinions recently appearing in the media by one economist saying it will cost a whole lot, most economists of note agree that immigration reform would boost the U.S. economy. Read more at:,0,3473468.story?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=9b99cb18c6-AILA8_5_1_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-9b99cb18c6-287750013


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started implementing the automated version of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, at air and sea ports of entry. Implementation will continue across the nation through May 21, to include air and sea ports of entry that support international arrivals.
CBP will stop giving away I-94s and instead stamp each foreign national's passport with the entry date, admission status and expiration date listed on the admission stamp and enter all their data into the electronic system. The individuals will be able to access their electronic Form I-94 by visiting and print out their I-94s.
As evidence of lawful admission submitted with a benefit request, USCIS will accept the electronic Form I-94 in paper format obtained from CBP’s website as equivalent to the paper versions of Form I-94. In lieu of submitting the electronic Form I-94 in paper format, USCIS will also accept photocopies of the passport pages that contain the individual’s biographical information, visa and admission stamp.
We'll have to wait and see how smooth this process will actually be...

Friday, April 26, 2013


Politico reports that the Mark Zuckerberg-backed organization pressing for immigration reform will launch its first wave of television ads Tuesday, in a move aimed at gathering support for a large-scale immigration deal on the right., the organization formed to push Silicon Valley’s priorities in Washington, will advocate for a new immigration law through a subsidiary group created specifically to court conservatives. It's a great initiative since the Democrats largely support this bill and this bill need a strong Republican support in order to pass Congress.
The ads feature clips of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to make its case to Republican-leaning voters who normally would not support immigration reform. No one on the right can "blame" Sen. Rubio of being a liberal since he is very conservative on almost every other issue out there so I command him for taking such a stand against his own party about this issue of immigration reform to do the right thing.
Read more at Politico:

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal just signed Senate Bill 160, a second bill after the notorious HB87 cracking down on illegal immigration. Not. This bill just denies further benefits to immigrants.
SB160 was passed late last month during the final hour of the legislative session, and will take effect on July 1, 2013. It will increase the list of public benefits that people without legal authorization to live in the U.S.  may not receive to include grants, housing assistance, retirement benefits and driver’s licenses.
People without a legal immigration status are not eligible anyway to receive grants, housing assistance  retirement benefits or driver's license but now thanks to this law abused women and children now cannot go to state sponsored shelters...
The only good thing about this bill (yes there is one good thing but only one) is that it will reduce delays in business license renewals. Right now an unintended consequence of HB87 requires Georgians holding professional licenses to prove they’re U.S. citizens or are in this country legally each time they apply for a renewal of the license (and the initial license of course). This requirement unduly burdened the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division and many delays (sometimes months) were reported for critical occupations such as nurses.

Friday, April 19, 2013


I did not have a chance to go through all the part of the new immigration law proposal but here is something to pick up conversations: a proposals to use drones as part of the border enforcement at the southwestern border of the United States with specifically the states of Texas and Arizona (and perhaps New Mexico) as a way to monitor illegal entries. If only the U.S. government would be able to look at underground tunnels...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Please read the very thoughtful analysis from my law partner Greg Siskind's summary section by section of the Immigration reform act introduced today at the Senate:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' widow who usually is media shy,  interviewed with NBC last night on “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” This is her first interview since husband Steve Jobs died in October 2011.
Powell Jobs interview focused on immigration reform especially for the youth or young adults who were brought here as children. Powell Jobs and documentary filmmaker David Guggenheim are promoting “The Dream is Now,” which follows young immigrants who cannot become U.S. citizens.
It's great that someone like her gets involved in this, we need more outspoken promoters of reform right now with Congress debating this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Politico is reporting more details on the Senate immigration bill. All terms appear to be negotiated and it could be introduced as early as tomorrow, but more likely next week. The timetable for the bill will be somewhat slower than what President Obama hoped. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings first and then begin markup in early May, according to the report. Great news, hope this passes this year!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Some good news for immigrants this week.
Two years ago the Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution urging all journalists to stop using the term "Illegal immigrant." The Associated Press finally announced today it would stop using this term too. Other organizations like the NY Times still are using the term, though they are said to be reviewing the policy now.
Here is part of the AP's explanation: The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Why did we make the change? The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)
So how should AP reporters write about these immigrants? Here's what the AP manual now says on the topic: illegal immigration entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission. 
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented. Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution. Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality? People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.
I never liked these words, they alienated and dehumanized the subjects which is what they were intended to do. We are talking about people, not aliens from the outer dimension an saying that a person is illegal is just plain wrong. I am glad these phrases will soon be gone from the press.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is organizing a Super PAC - political advocacy group for immigration reform issues that are near and dear to the tech community in the area. According to the San Francisco Chronicle Zuckerberg is ready to personally invest up to $20 million, and other technology leaders in the area may follow his suit. If this new advocacy group is going to be registered as a nonprofit, it could also be treated as a Super PAC – which is exempt from some donor disclosure rules, thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC.

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert made powerful examples against allowing Super PACs to continue during his coverage of the 2012 presidential elections last year. However, since Congress is unlikely to do anything about that any time soon, I am very happy that some of the tech leaders are putting serious money towards immigration reform specifically needed to combat our legal immigration crisis – no sufficient H-1B visas and immigrant visas for legal, skilled, professional and advanced degree workers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


From the LA Times:
Eight senators who have spent weeks trying to write a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration laws have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft — how to offer legal status to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants. According to aides familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. They also must have a clean law enforcement record.
Once granted probationary legal status, immigrants would be allowed to work but would be barred from receiving federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance. The eight Senators still have not decided how long it will be before immigrants could file for permanent residency. The President has proposed eight years. The LA Times reports that the Senate will likely make the path at least ten years.
Other unresolved issues: - how many visas for highly skilled workers - how the guest worker program will work - exit tracking of immigrants - how much money can be allocated for border enforcement. Finally, the goal of introducing the bill by March 22nd appears to be slipping and early April may now be the time frame.

Monday, March 4, 2013


In a last-minute attempt, some immigrant haters in Georgia added language to House Bill 125 that adds unjust and unnecessary changes to HB87. HB87 is bad enough, now HB 125 will exclude foreign passports from the list of "secure and verifiable" documents and add a driver's license to the list of "public benefits" although people have to pay to get them!

This is insane because many legal immigrants only have their foreign passports as proof of I.D. at least for the initial time in the country.

The ACLU of Georgia issued a very detailed letter explaining all these changes.

This is bad for people, including the legal immigrants in the state of Georgia. Call Governor Deal at (404)656-1776 and ask him to veto HB125.

Friday, February 22, 2013


A lawsuit that accused poultry company Sanderson Farms, Inc., of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants at a Moultrie, Georgia plant was recently dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Sanderson Farms (Nasdaq: SAFM) is the country's third-largest chicken processor.
The law suit was filed by former employees of that plant, claiming that plant managers and human resources staff conspired in illegal hiring practices, accepting “obviously fake” employment documents from immigrants in order to save millions of dollars in labor costs.
The plaintiffs have filed an appeal of the dismissal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


This is some good news for the immigration reform effort in Washington, D.C. Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO announced they had reached agreement on how to create a visa program for low-skilled workers. I actually like to call these employee highly skilled, because they are very skilled at what they do, but work in jobs that require less educated workers.
This is a key part of immigration reform which would create a work visa program that would meet the demands of employers without hurting the wages or job opportunities for U.S. workers. They agreed on a guest worker program, which is a huge step in the right direction.
Kent Hoover reports that he support of these two powerful organizations -- which fight each other on most issues -- could lead more members of Congress to vote for the bill. Read Kent Hoover's article in full here:

Monday, February 11, 2013


The ACLU of Georgia has sent letters to Sheriffs across the state of Georgia about ICE detainers and the "show me your papers" provision of HB87 advising them about how local law enforcement detention practices may be violating individuals' constitutional rights.
The letter reminds Sheriffs that ICE detainers are mere requests. Constitutionally, local law enforcement offices are shielded and supported by the right to set protocol under the Tenth Amendment, which prohibits federal commandeering of state officers by the federal government.
It also reminds the Sheriffs that ICE detainers do not have the force of “arrest warrants” and are issued by ICE administratively, rather than typical arrest warrants which are issued by judicial approval.
The letter further reminds Sheriffs that ICE detainers cannot substitute probable cause for arrests without a warrant and that they expire after 48 hours.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


WABE reports that licenses for more than 2,500 registered nurses are now on hold.
Who's to blame? HB87, Georgia's anti-immigration law....
The law created additional administrative burdens on each person trying to renew a professional state license (yes even U.S. citizens) to prove their legal status and the Secretary of State's office is faced with problems.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp says he does not have enough staff to handle the flood of renewal documents.
Debbie Hackman, the CEO of the Georgia Nurses Association, says the new requirement has caused a lot of hassle for Georgia’s 110,000 nurses. She also said out of all the licenses they have renewed, there’s only been one attempt by someone who was an illegal. And now these 2500 nurses who are mostly U.S. citizens cannot work.
HB87 needs to go away, another ridiculous consequence.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


From the LA Times:
A secretive group of House members from both parties is racing to complete an immigration bill in the next two weeks with an eye toward introducing legislation before President Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12, said two congressional aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The draft bill, written behind closed doors by three Democrats and three Republicans, so far includes a path to legal status, new border security measures and tighter restrictions on employers. It tracks closely with the blueprint laid out by the bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday, said the aides. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said in a statement that the senators’ principles “are compatible with discussions in the House.”
Diaz-Balart would not give details about those discussions and would not explicitly confirm he is a member of the group. Congressional aides confirmed that along with Diaz-Balart, Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, are part of the group, with Democrats Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, and the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Congress is still bickering about many issues, finances probably top the list, but immigration reform, a very tricky and sticky subject, may be passed this year after all. Congress has long struggled, so far without success, to create a way to legalize over 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and expand existing visa programs to allow more foreigners to work here, both higher educated professionals and entrepreneurs and skilled manual laborers.
We are hopeful that Republicans become more open to immigration reform after witnessing Romney’s dismal voting record with Hispanic voters, probably thanks to his “self-deportation” suggestion and anti-immigration positions. As Hispanic voters become a larger percentage of the voters in this country, it would be difficult for Republicans to ignore them and still win elections in the future.
Although most Republican members of Congress still consider immigration reform an amnesty, leading figures in the Republican party are now stepping in to voice strong support for immigration reform.
It is encouraging to see Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio backing immigration reform. Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) for example, announced recently that he would forego 20 years of seniority on the House Financial Services Committee to join the House Judiciary Committee which would be crucial to pass immigration reform in 2013.
Even conservative darling and VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan and former Senator Santorum who almost won the Republican nomination who is highly conservative support immigration reform as a high priority in the legislative session for 2013.
A new Super PAC was also recently formed by Carlos Gutierrez, a Citigroup vice chairman who was secretary of Commerce in the Bush administration and former chairman and CEO of the Kellogg Co. It seeks to raise funds and awareness to immigration reform.
It is also wonderful news that the business sector is pushing this time. U.S. businesses have been suffering shortages in both highly skilled and low skilled workers. Now, we hear more business groups coming together to discuss the need for immigration reform so that these companies can hire the employees they need now instead of struggling or off-shoring these jobs away. There also needs to be serious money involved in the lobbying effort. Unfortunately, this is the way it has become in Washington D.C.
Another surprising ally of immigrants is now the evangelical Christians, including the Southern Baptist Convention, who more than just praying, now began lobbying members of Congress for immigration reform as a moral issue to treat these “strangers” well, especially since the vast majority of these strangers are Christians. It’s just wonderful and the right thing to do. See: Kent Hoover's article, Washington Bureau Chief for The Business Journals.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013


Courtesy of Greg Siskind:

Huffington Post's Elise Foley has a great piece laying out where we are in the immigration reform debate.

Surprise! Kris Kobach Doesn't Favor Obama's Not Yet Announced Immigration Plan
The anti-immigrant crusader thinks that Obama is out of touch with the public. This from the guy who convinced the whole GOP that self-deportation was an electoral winner. I guess we should ask President Romney and Majority Leader McConnell what they think.

Paul Ryan Backs Rubio Immigration Plan
This has got to be a disappointment for the hardcore right wingers. Tea Party darling Paul Ryan is embracing immigration reform by endorsing Marco Rubio's immigration plan. The Rubio plan looks pretty similar to comprehensive immigration reform packages of the past and includes legalization of illegally present immigrants. So at least three Republican contenders for the presidency - Jeb Bush, Rubio and Ryan - are now backing immigration reform plans that include legalization paths for illegally present immigrants. Two of them - Ryan and Rubio - are recent converts to the cause. And one of them - Paul Ryan - carries a lot of weight in the Republican House of Representatives. A good day politically for the cause of immigration reform.

Maybe immigration reform is going to happen?

Monday, January 7, 2013


Not to be outdone by the George W. Bush administration, the Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report on the government's enforcement efforts from a the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan Washington think tank focused on global immigration issues.
In FY2012 the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by ICE and CBP, which includes the Border Patrol. It is alarming as this budget exceeds the combined budgets of the FBI, ATF, DEA and the U.S. Secret Service by about $3.6 billion dollars.
According to the report, "Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery," federal immigration-related criminal prosecutions also outnumber cases generated by the Justice Department. The 182-page report concludes that the Obama administration has made immigration its highest law enforcement priority.
It is very sad that immigration enforcement is the federal government's highest criminal law enforcement priority. How else can this gigantic budget and increased prosecution can be explained? And how does immigration enforcement help our security and well-being by deporting the vast majority of non-criminals? This year about 400,000 people were deported or removed.
Immigration reform should be a priority of the Obama administration, not only priority in speeches  but real action to change our broken immigration system. If the Republicans will not play ball and agree to some reform, President Obama should take a bold step and mandate orders from the top down, like he did with the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in helping these young adults who came to this country illegally.