The DREAM Act

The DREAM Act

With DACA slated to end in six months, it is incumbent on Congress to pass an immigration bill that would protect the individuals who would be deported without the protection of DACA. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2017, S.1615, would do just that and more. Thankfully both of our Senators are co-sponsors of this bill and it currently has bipartisan support in the Senate, where this bill will need to fight for its survival is in the House.

The DREAM Act is a long one, so this post will focus on a summary of the key points of this bill. If you would like to read the text of the bill, this link will take you there: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1615/text.

As you may know, there have been multiple versions since 2001 of the DREAM Act, with the 2010 version coming closest to passing. This current version of the DREAM Act is considered stronger than many of these past bills and provides individuals three paths towards U.S. citizenship: “college, work, or the armed services” (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/dream-act). There also are different statuses of residency that an individual would go through: conditional permanent residence, lawful permanent residence and then naturalization – the process by which someone who is not born into U.S. citizenship becomes a U.S. citizen.

The American Immigration Council explains these different phases of residency as follows, “

STEP 1: CONDITIONAL PERMANENT RESIDENCE

An individual is eligible to obtain conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for up to eight years, which includes work authorization, if the person: entered the United States under the age of 18; entered four years prior to enactment and has since been continuously present; has not been convicted of a crime where the term of imprisonment was more than a year, or convicted of three or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence was 90 days or more (with an exception for offenses which are essential to a person’s immigration status); and has been admitted to an institution of higher education, has graduated high school or obtained a GED, or is currently enrolled in secondary school or a program assisting students to obtain a diploma or GED. In addition, anyone who has DACA would be immediately granted CPR status.

STEP 2: LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENCE

Anyone who maintains CPR status can obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR status or a “green card”) by satisfying one of the following requirements: Higher education: Complete at least two years of higher education; Military service: Complete at least two years of military service with an honorable discharge; or Work: Demonstrate employment over a total period of three years. Individuals who cannot meet one of these requirements can apply for a “hardship waiver” if the applicant is a person with disabilities, a full-time caregiver of a minor child, or for whom removal would cause extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child.

 

 

STEP 3: NATURALIZATION

After maintaining LPR status for five years, an individual can apply to become a U.S. citizen. According to the Migration Policy Institute, as many as 3.4 million individuals would qualify under the 2017 version of the Dream Act, and over 1.5 million would eventually obtain a green card (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/dream-act).”

This current DREAM Act would also, “Improve college affordability for undocumented youth and other immigrants by changing rules that limit their access to in-state tuition and college loans.… [In addition], There is also a hardship exception for people who cannot meet the education, military, or employment requirement. These are important factors which recognize that not everyone is on a college track and that people may have unique circumstances, such as being the caregiver of a minor child…. Another way in which this bill is stronger than prior versions is the more generous age requirement. People who entered the U.S. before their eighteenth birthday can qualify, and there is no upper age limit. Previous versions limited the act’s benefits to people who entered before their sixteenth birthday and were under age 30…. [Another key aspect of the bill is that it] does not currently contain provisions that expand border militarization, detentions, or deportations,” (https://www.nilc.org/issues/immigration-reform-and-executive-actions/dreamact/dream-act-2017-summary-and-faq/).

As noted, there is going to be a fight over this bill in the House and House Democrats are pledging to make it an epic one. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), “threatened… to back a government shutdown if the House failed to pass the Dream Act… Gutierrez is hoping to pass an immigration bill by December, [stating], The coming Christmas has to be a Christmas of joy for all of us or none of us,” (http://thehill.com/homenews/house/349940-house-dem-well-shut-down-the-government-if-house-doesnt-pass-dream-act). The Huffington Post reports that the House will allow any Congress member who wants to be a co-sponsor on the bill to become one, previously people had to sign up in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican so that the bill would always have equal support and have a low number of co-sponsors since Democratic sponsors exceed Republican sponsors. Following this change, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that the House Democratic leadership would be going for 100% support from Democrats, all 246 – that is a whole lot of co-sponsors (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dream-act-house-sponsors_us_59b07519e4b0b5e531037e8c; https://www.congress.gov/members?q={%22congress%22:%22115%22}). And to ensure that there will be a fight, House Speaker Ryan has stated that the DREAM Act will not pass the House without new immigration enforcement being added to the bill, “Look, here’s the point I keep making on this, is this DACA dilemma that we are experiencing here, why do we have it? It is a symptom of a bigger problem. And the bigger problem is we do not have control of our borders. And because we do not have control of our borders, we have this problem. So it’s just reasonable and natural that we should address the root cause of this problem, lack of control of our borders, and get border security, interior enforcement, the things that you need to do to secure your borders so that you don’t have a DACA problem 10 years from now. So we want to address the cause and the effect, the symptom and the root cause of the problem. And that is only reasonable. And that is what our point is. And so there is a compromise to be had here, and that’s what this compromise looks like, in my mind…. If we just rubber-stamp a standalone [sic] Dream Act, then we’re going to have another Dream Act that we’re going to need in 10 years from now,” (https://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2017/09/08/ryan-the-house-will-not-pass-the-dream-act-without-new-immigration-enforcement-measures-n2378928).

Thus it is incumbent upon us to reach out to Duncan Hunter and let him know that we want him to become a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act and support a “clean” bill i.e. no amendments adding immigration enforcement.

Additional information on this bill can be found at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/05/us/politics/dream-act-daca-trump-congress-dreamers.html

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/08/549549872/after-reaching-budget-deal-democrats-look-to-trump-on-dream-act

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A Few Facts on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

A Few Facts on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

With Congress back in session it is time to resume our emails, phone calls and efforts at having our voices heard. With Mr. Trump signaling that he will repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the onus for protecting these Americans shifts to Congress and thus let us contact Mr. Hunter and express our support for DACA recipients.

Since facts do matter, here are some basic facts on DACA….

According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services,

“You may request DACA if you:

  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety”. (Source:https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca#guidelines).

The fee for applying is $495 and biometric data (for example, fingerprints) are gathered as well as recorded as part of the application process. Once an individual receives approval under the DACA program, that person cannot be deported for the next two years – an individual needs to reapply for DACA status every two years – and receives a work permit as well as driver’s license (depending on their state). Someone who has received DACA status cannot vote or receive any federal entitlement programs such as food stamps, Social Security or federal financial aid. In addition while under DACA status an individual cannot become a U.S. citizen and/or receive amnesty. Thus it is important to keep in mind that DACA simply defers potential deportation and allows the individual to go to school and/or work while their potential deportation is put on hold. Source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/i-src.defineamerican.com/2017/08/170825-DACA-Facts.pdf

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found the following positive impacts from DACA [note, format has been changed and references to footnotes have been removed]:

“1. The 1.3 million young undocumented immigrants enrolled or immediately eligible for DACA contribute an estimated $2 billion a year in state and local taxes. This includes personal income, property, and sales and excise taxes.

 

  1. DACA-eligible individuals pay on average 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Their effective tax rate is higher than the average rate paid by the top 1% of taxpayers in state and local taxes of just 5.4 percent and is on par with the average rate paid of 9.4 percent paid by the middle 20 percent of taxpayers.

 

  1. Continuing DACA and ensuring all who are eligible for the program are enrolled would increase estimated state and local revenue by $425 million, bringing the total contribution to $2.45 billion, and increasing the effective tax rate for those enrolled to 9 percent.

 

  1. Replacing DACA with a path to citizenship could provide nearly $505 million in additional state and local taxes, increasing total contributions to at least $2.53 billion a year.

 

  1. Repealing the temporary legal status and work authorizations permitted by DACA would reduce estimated state and local revenues by nearly $800 million, and drop the total contributions to just over $1.2 billion annually.

 

  1. Every state benefits from the economic contributions of the young immigrants eligible for DACA (see Appendices 1 and 2). For example, the 379,000 young immigrants living in California are contributing more than $534 million to the golden state while the 2,000 immigrants in our nation’s capital contribute $2.7 million to the District. Likewise, every state stands to lose considerable revenue if we do not maintain the protections and opportunities DACA has allowed.” Source: https://itep.org/state-local-tax-contributions-of-young-undocumented-immigrants/

On the topic of state and local taxes… the Pew Research Center states that California leads the nation with the number of DACA recipients. Out of the roughly 790,000 immigrants who have received DACA 222,795 are Californians (this is the number of people who have received DACA, which is not the same as the number of applicants – since individuals need to renew every two years and the program has existed for five years, the number of applications exceeds the number of people in the program). Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/01/unauthorized-immigrants-covered-by-daca-face-uncertain-future/

And a 2016 United We Dream, National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress survey of DACA recipients found the following to be true of DACA recipients:

“95% [are] currently working or in school

48% got a job with better working conditions [due to their DACA status]

63% got a better paying job [due to their DACA status]

90% got a driver’s license or state ID

54% bought their first car

12% bought their first home

41% have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, 80% of whom are registered to vote”. Source: https://unitedwedream.org/press-releases/new-national-survey-of-daca-recipients-proof-that-executive-action-works/

If you want to read more and learn about the real lives of some DACA recipients, the Center for American Progress has a podcast and few articles of note:

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2017/08/30/438173/bonus-episode-fate-hands-mr-trump/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2017/06/22/434822/taking-giant-leaps-forward/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2017/07/31/436377/trumps-immigration-policies-harming-american-children/

HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

It is easy to forget that since the inception of America, individuals who were not US citizens have fought alongside US citizens in every war – from the Revolution and Civil War right on down to our current wars. In bygone ages it was one way for an immigrant community to prove how loyal and American they actually were, for example there were three Irish only units during the Civil War (http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/the-irish-brigade).

“Since the American Revolution, immigrants have been woven into the fabric of our military. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign-born composed half of all military recruits by the 1840s, and were 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War. Reportedly, half a million foreign-born troops from 46 countries served in World War I, amounting to 10 percent of the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, Congress expedited naturalization applications of noncitizens serving honorably in the U.S. armed forces, exempted them from existing age, race, and residence requirements, and ‘eliminated the requirement for proof of lawful entry to the U.S.’ Noncitizens served in the Vietnam, Korea, and Desert Storm conflicts, and immigrant service continues to be of vital importance in the post-September 11 period of conflict. Roughly 70,000 noncitizens enlisted into active duty service between 1999 and 2008, representing about 4 percent of all new enlistments. As recently as 2012, there were 24,000 noncitizens in the military, with 5,000 [lawful permanent residents (LPRs)] LPRs enlisting every year…. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from all over the globe,” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf). Throughout our history it has been and still is Congress that grants permission and sets the requirements for non-US-citizens to participate in the military. To learn more about the current requirements, go to page 14 of the above pdf.

Despite service to their adopted home, many service members and Veterans do not gain assistance navigating the complex immigration process, which many people need legal help to complete, and which can prove to be life changing if the service member or Veteran gets into legal troubles or other situations that can result in deportation. It should be noted that having a clear criminal history is a requirement for getting into the military and many experts argue that legal problems often arise in part due to the experiences war exposes people to. The well documented struggles transitioning out of the military to civilian life as well as the mental health struggles of Veterans apply regardless of the individual’s citizenship status (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

HR 3102 aims to rectify this injustice by creating an “Office of Service Member Naturalization” within the Department of Defense (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3102/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+3102%22%5D%7D&r=1). The purpose of this office would be: “(1) to identify members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States; (2) to inform such members of the availability of naturalization assistance to facilitate such members in becoming citizens; (3) to help such members complete the naturalization process before their separation from the uniformed services; and (4) to coordinate points-of-contact at military installations to ensure that personnel who are responsible for assisting members through the naturalization process successfully complete their assignments,” (source: see above). These points of contact would make the necessary forms (Form N–400, Application for Naturalization, and Form N–426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service) available and would, “assist members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States in completing the process to become a citizen of the United States. If, through no fault of the member, a member whose service has been honorable is unable to complete the naturalization process before separation from the uniformed services, the naturalization office shall continue to work with the member until completion of the naturalization process, “(source: see above).

It should be noted that this bill does not impact the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, which the Trump administration referenced ending last week (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/us-politics/trump-immigrant-soldiers-military-army-scheme-deportations-president-considers-scrapping-a7821636.html). Per the Department of Defense, “The Secretary of Defense authorized the military services to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible,” (https://www.defense.gov/news/MAVNI-Fact-Sheet.pdf). In essence this program offers citizenship as an incentive for foreign-born individuals, who have professional skills the military needs, to work with the US military and is a program that primarily has been used to recruit individuals specific to a country the US has a military presence in (https://www.law360.com/articles/941737/sen-urges-mattis-to-honor-citizenship-for-service-contracts; http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-considers-ending-program-to-speed-up-citizenship-for-foreign-born-service-members/article/2627677). HR 3102 applies to individuals (the majority of whom came to the US as children) who have voluntarily enlisted into the US military independent of any incentives, regardless of skill levels and generally out of a sense of loyalty, duty and patriotism.

A very interesting and possibly unexpected fact is that, “By the Pentagon’s own analysis, noncitizens have demonstrated commitment to the military beyond their citizen peers. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that “[they] are extremely dependable … some eight, nine, or ten percent fewer immigrants wash out of our initial training programs than do those who are currently citizens. Some ten percent or more than those who are currently citizens complete their first initial period of obligated service to the country.” General Pace’s testimony has been echoed in various reports prepared by and for the military, with one report stating “relative to citizen recruits, noncitizen recruits generally have a stronger attachment to serving the United States, which they now consider to be ‘their country,’ and have a better work ethic.” As service time increases, noncitizens’ retention rates surpass those of U.S. citizens by even wider margins, with the dropout rate for noncitizens reportedly nearly half that of U.S. citizens when service reaches four years. Noncitizen soldiers have also served with great distinction, with immigrant service members accounting for 20 percent of all individuals who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just like their citizen brothers and sisters, noncitizens have given their lives to protect and serve the United States.” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

These facts speak for the issue and it is hard to close on a powerful note, but the words of former CA Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher eloquently speak to the issue, “”If you are willing to give your life for your country, your country should be willing to give you citizenship” (http://www.deportedvets.org/).

California is actually doing quite a bit to help Californians who have served and are not US citizens become naturalized and an interesting article on this is: https://www.courthousenews.com/san-diego-leaders-lobby-bring-back-deported-veterans/. A non-profit working to help deported Veterans is: http://www.deportedvets.org/ and the ACLU report referenced earlier is a resource rich in history, information and data: http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf. If you don’t have an opinion on this issue and thus this bill, I encourage you to gain more knowledge.

HR 3004… A Fiercely Anti-Immigrant Policy Couched as a Source of Protection

HR 3004… A Fiercely Anti-Immigrant Policy Couched as a Source of Protection

HR 3004, known as Kate’s law, would institute fines and mandatory jail sentences for undocumented immigrants who return to the U.S. after having been denied admission, deported or ordered to be deported. If the individual has committed no prior crimes then the jail sentence would be for 2 years. If the individual had previously been convicted of an offense(s) the sentences begin to escalate: 3 or more misdemeanors or a felony would result in 10 years, a past sentence of 30 months or less would lead to 15 years in jail, 60 months or less would result in 20 years, 3 or more felonies would result in 25 years and prior offenses such as murder, rape or kidnapping would also result in 25 years in jail (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-115hr3004ih/xml/BILLS-115hr3004ih.xml). The bill provides for no exceptions and no appeals process: “Greg Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said ‘It’s a one-size-fits-all justice that is going to produce sentences that don’t fit the person’s circumstances or facts of life…. People who have lived here a long time may go to visit family in Mexico and then get picked up on the way back in’” (http://thehill.com/policy/335717-republicans-look-to-fulfill-trumps-vow-on-kates-law).

This bill is named after Kate Steinle who died a tragic death and whose life was wastefully cut short. Her shortened life is a deep tragedy, which nothing, including this bill, can make better. The conservative right has taken her name, the circumstances of her death and used them to cloak a prejudicial policy, used them to pretend that this bill is about protecting and safeguarding Americans.

Ms. Steinle’s tragic death occurred as follows: “Kate Steinle, a thirty-two-year-old woman… was inadvertently killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, on a San Francisco pier in July of 2015. According to the ballistics expert who testified in the preliminary court hearing, in August 2015 in San-Francisco courts, Lopez-Sanchez’ gun was pointed towards the ground. He shot the gun-foolishly enough, trying to shoot seals-and the bullet ricocheted off the pavement, fatally wounding nearby Kate Steinle. Lopez-Sanchez, admittedly is a terrible representative of any group of people; he had been deported on five separate occasions previously, and immigration authorities had wanted him for a sixth deportation” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samanta-honigman/kates-law-and-the-license_b_9789508.html).

Shortly after Ms. Steinle’s death Bill O’Reilly began crafting a proposal, championing and pushing for “Kate’s Law”, ignoring all facts, reality and the impact this law would have: http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/07/09/kates-law-petition-oreilly-calls-new-federal-law-after-kate-steinles-murder, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/kates-law-mandatory-sentencing/403990/. Since O’Reilly’s rally cry this bill has been introduced in various fashions and up until now it has always been defeated by Democrats. This bill has also become near and dear to the hearts of the conservative right, including Mr. Trump’s.

Regarding those pesky facts… in 2015 it was estimated that the law (the current bill is not an exact replica of the 2015 bill but quite close) would increase the federal prison population by 57,000 people and that the bill would cost roughly $2 billion per year (the U.S. Bureau of Prisons annual budget request in 2015 was $7 billion) (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/kates-law-mandatory-sentencing/403990/). In addition to being quite expensive, this bill operates entirely independent of reality. Reality is that immigrants are less dangerous than native born individuals, as the following excerpt from the American Immigration Council’s Special Report shows:

Higher Immigration is Associated with Lower Crime Rates

Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary. 

Immigrants are Less Likely than the Native-Born to Be Behind Bars 

According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.

The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent—more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.

Immigrants are Less Likely Than the Native-Born to Engage in Criminal Behavior 

A variety of different studies using different methodologies have found that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in either violent or nonviolent “antisocial” behaviors; that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be repeat offenders among “high risk” adolescents; and that immigrant youth who were students in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s and are now young adults have among the lowest delinquency rates of all young people.” (excerpt taken from:https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states).

Thus it is imperative that we speak up and let Rep. Hunter know that we do not support this unfounded bill, which will do nothing to improve the safety of all who live in our beautiful border region.

H.R. 2407 – Changing the Heart of America’s Citizenship and Immigration agency

H.R. 2407 – Changing the Heart of America’s Citizenship and Immigration agency

No one needs me to cite statistics or opine on the fact that we are a nation based on immigration and that we as a nation have often struggled with lovingly embracing immigrants. Yet over the years, our laws and institutions have striven to embody and exemplify our best values, our welcoming spirit and our belief that we are open to those who desire to move from their homelands to ours.

H.R. 2407 the “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Authorization Act”, which is currently being reviewed by Committees within the House – one of them being the House Education and the Workforce Committee – is a bill that does away with the presumption that immigrants come to America for positive reasons and chips away at the American belief that immigrants are a rich as well as strong element of our national fabric.

H.R. 2407 desires to establish a “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services” agency within the Department of Homeland Security – this bill does not create a new agency or change the Department it is under, there currently is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency in the Department of Homeland Security, rather this bill changes the mission, the focus of the agency. The USCIS agency this bill creates would continue to perform all citizenship and immigration duties and would develop new policies, craft strategy, provide advisement and thus influence/dictate the official U.S. policies on citizenship and immigration. As noted it is the essence of the agency that would change, as evidenced by the mission statements of the current and the intended USCIS.

The current mission statement of the USCIS is, “Mission Statement… [the]USCIS will secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus). This is a statement that upholds America as a nation of immigrations – that we are a beacon of hope and opportunity. This statement makes it clear that USCIS is primarily there for its customers, those aspiring to gain immigration and citizenship status. This statement is also crystal clear that it is the government’s duty to educate and teach the duties of American citizenship.

The strategic goals denoted on their website underscores this mission statement, “USCIS’ strategic goals include: Strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system. Providing effective customer-oriented immigration benefit and information services. Supporting immigrants’ integration and participation in American civic culture. Promoting flexible and sound immigration policies and programs. Strengthening the infrastructure supporting the USCIS mission. Operating as a high-performance organization that promotes a highly talented workforce and a dynamic work culture” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus).

Contrast the values upheld in the current USCIS with those the new USCIS would espouse. The mission statement of the new USCIS is: “The mission of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is to efficiently adjudicate petitions and applications for immigration benefits for foreign nationals seeking lawful immigration status in the United States and for individuals seeking to become citizens of the United States in a manner that detects and prevents fraud, protects the jobs and working conditions of American workers, and ensures the national security and welfare of the American people” (italics added for emphasis) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).

 

So to be clear, the presumption that America is a nation of immigrants is supplanted with presumptions that immigration fraud is widespread, that immigrants threaten US jobs and that the fact of being an immigrant means a person is a potential risk for the wellbeing of our nation and its residents. In the new USCIS the purpose of the agency is not help its customers navigate the system, the purpose is to protect America from the criminal, economic and terror threat inherent from immigrants. None of the presumptions within the new USCIS mission statement are supported by reality and it is mind boggling to truly take in what this mission statement implies (see end of the blog for links to information on the truthfulness of the presumptions).

Another core belief within the new USCIS is that those immigrating to the U.S. should lose their culture in exchange for American culture (which is of course not monolithic, but that does not seem to matter to the author of this bill). No longer would it be the focus of the USCIS to teach American civics and citizenship, but rather there would be an injunction for the agency to push the adoption of American culture “There is established within United States Citizenship and Immigration Services an Office of Citizenship. There shall be at the head of the Office of Citizenship a Chief who shall— promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities, as well as assimilation, for eligible aliens who are interested in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States” (italics added for emphasis)  (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).

Assimilation is a term that may not be known by everyone but every student of multiculturalism knows the term all too well and every child of an immigrant has tasted it too. Assimilation is the process by which a minority culture is swallowed up by the dominant culture and thus the minority culture fractures or even disappears. It is what was done when Americans in power decided to round up the children of Native American tribes and send them to distant boarding schools, it is what caused waves of immigrants to not teach their children the heritage, traditions, language or customs of their distant homes and it has been shown to be of great psychological cost as well as damage to people. And while assimilation may not be a term known by those outside of the circles of psychology, social work, anthropology, social justice, etc… it is absolutely a term that anyone writing a bill for an immigration agency ought to know and steer clear of, unless of course they know exactly what the term means.

(In case you are curious, acculturation is the term that describes someone moving from one culture and learning a new culture thus becoming bi-cultural, having roots and ties to both heritages. Research shows that acculturation leads to the healthiest, most integrated immigrants. For a brief discussion on assimilation versus acculturation: http://pediaa.com/difference-between-assimilation-and-acculturation/. For lengthier discussions look at the writings of Derald Wing Sue: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/dw2020/ and Stanley Sue: https://www.paloaltou.edu/faculty/stanley-sue two brothers who are preeminent American psychologists on the issues of multiculturalism.)

To close, it is only the tiniest fraction of Americans who can claim to have no immigrants in their family tree and so why are we writing bills that stand in sharp contrast to what our foremothers and forefathers needed most when they arrived on these distant shores? Why are we attempting to craft a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that shrinks the open arms, the welcoming heart that our nation has aspired to be?

Information on immigration fraud is a bit difficult to find due in part to the complexity of defining the issue. There are two kinds of immigration fraud: document fraud also known as identity fraud and benefit fraud. Document fraud is falsely saying you are someone you are not in order to get around immigration laws while benefit fraud is lying and/or falsifying information in order to gain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to (https://www.ice.gov/identity-benefit-fraud). There is a fraud detection unit within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/directorates-and-program-offices/fraud-detection-and-national-security/fraud-detection-and-national-security-directorate and an official page warning individuals on how to avoid being defrauded https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams. Official government Immigration Data & Statistics can be found at: https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics

For information on the fact that immigrants do not threaten the jobs of native born or naturalized Americans:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/artcarden/2015/08/28/how-do-illegal-immigrants-affect-american-workers-the-answer-might-surprise-you/#7aac6328771a, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/an-aging-us-is-revitalized-by-immigrants, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/immigrants-are-replacing-not-displacing-workers, http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/all-u-s-jobs-did-not-go-to-immigrants/

For information on the fact that immigrants are not a threat to the well-being of native born or naturalized Americans: https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/immigrants-and-crime/486884/, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/terrorism-immigration-risk-analysis, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/politics/a-sweeping-order-unlikely-to-reduce-terrorist-threat.html?_r=0, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2017-04-21/trumps-immigration-restrictions-will-hurt-americans

H.R. 2233 – A supposed reform to the H-1B visa program

H.R. 2233 – A supposed reform to the H-1B visa program

The H-1B visa program, created in 1990, was designed to allow U.S. employers to hire non-U.S. workers on a temporary basis thus enabling companies to fill positions for which there is a shortage of American workers. Some of the key components of the H-1B visa are that workers need to have at minimum a B.A. or specialized training for the designated job and can only be sought out if no U.S. citizen or legal resident can be recruited to fill the position. In addition the guest worker needs to be paid the prevailing wage. Finally, the number of H-1B visas is capped though the exact number of visas available has varied throughout the past years, currently it is capped at 85,000 visas (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-visas-tech-workers-h1b-20150217-story.html; https://www.law360.com/articles/919056/immigration-bill-roundup-visa-extensions-h-1b-reforms). For more information on the specific requirements of the H-1B visa: https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupation/understanding-h-1b-requirements.

While this visa program has been regarded as a genuinely good idea it has also become prone to misuse and abuse, due to loopholes and the quest for profit. These misuses and abuses occur on both sides of the equation, some examples of which are U.S. employers intentionally skipping over American workers and filling the position with H-1B visa recipients whom they pay below the prevailing wage and foreign staffing agencies trapping individuals into debt. For information on the misuse and abuses of this visa program:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/are-u-s-jobs-vulnerable-to-workers-with-h-1b-visas/, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/28/-sp-jobs-brokers-entrap-indian-tech-workers,https://www.revealnews.org/article-legacy/visa-program-for-best-and-brightest-also-used-to-fill-low-wage-jobs/, https://www.bostonfed.org/publications/new-england-public-policy-center-policy-report/2014/demand-for-h-1b-visas-in-new-england-an-analysis-of-employer-requests-for-highly-skilled-guest-workers.aspx, http://www.epi.org/publication/h-1b-visa-needs-reform-to-make-it-fairer-to-migrant-and-american-workers/.

Due to the problems with this visa program there are and have been widespread calls for reform and a bill that would provide reform is currently under review by the House Education and Workforce Committee. Before looking at what changes this bill would create to the visa program, a quick look at the originator of the bill for some clarity on what the intentions of the bill might be.

The “American Jobs First Act” was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and his opinions on Immigration stated on his, official U.S. Congress, website make one question what his intent for the H-1B visa program is – whether he truly has the best intentions for the visa program in his sights,

“[Congressman Brooks]… introduced the American Jobs First Act, which would reform     the foreign-worker visa program (H-1B visa program), a broken system which exacerbates the country’s labor shortage and depresses wages by bringing in foreign workers to compete with American workers…. Congressman Brooks believes the federal            government has been derelict in its border protection and immigration duties with both short- and long-term adverse effects. Illegal aliens receive free health care at America’s      hospitals, driving up health care costs and delaying emergency room care for American       citizens. Illegal aliens get free K-12 education, driving up education costs by requiring         more English as a Second Language instructors and reducing funds for American citizens.      Illegal aliens take jobs in the blue collar trades, causing wage suppression and denying    jobs for American workers. Congressman Brooks supports and will vote for any            substantive measure that removes illegal aliens from America”           (https://brooks.house.gov/issues/immigration).

While this succinctly states Rep. Brooks’ opinions on immigration, it is also compelling to know that he addressed the House floor in November 2016 supporting Mr. Trump’s allegations that non-U.S. Citizens voted in the election. Rep. Brooks went further stating that “tens of millions of noncitizens are a threat to register to vote, and vote, in America’s elections” (https://brooks.house.gov/media-center/news-releases/news-release-brooks-addresses-house-support-president-elect-trump). Another opinion of Rep. Brooks’ is that the solution to the high cost of health care is to “deport the illegal immigrants” and thus it is not extreme to state that Rep. Brooks seems to regard immigration as a scourge that must be done away with (https://brooks.house.gov/media-center/in-the-news/ijrcom-congressman-proposes-radical-solution-rising-cost-health-care-deport). Which brings us back to the bill he introduced and whether this bill truly is what is best for the H-1B visa program?

The main points of H.R. 2233 are as follows: “This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the H-1B nonimmigrant visa (specialty occupation) program, including by declaring that a petitioner employer:

  • is offering an annual wage to the H-1B nonimmigrant that is the greater of the annual wage paid to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident employee who did identical or similar work during the previous two years, or $110,000, if offered not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act;
  • will not require an H-1B nonimmigrant to pay a penalty for ending employment before the agreed on date;
  • will not replace or contract to replace a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident with one or more nonimmigrants;
  • has not displaced, furloughed, terminated without cause, or otherwise involuntarily separated a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident employee during the four-year period beginning two years before the H-1B visa petition was filed; and
  • shall attest in the H-1B application that during the previous two-year period there has not been an employee-initiated strike or an employer-initiated lockout, and that no employee in the same or substantially similar occupational classification has been displaced, terminated without cause, or otherwise involuntarily separated without cause” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2233?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2233%22%5D%7D&r=1).

These amendments to the visa program seem to make it financially unwise if not downright impossible for a company (what company has not “involuntarily separated” an employee from her or his position during a 4 year time period) to hire anyone through the visa program, thus in effect ending the H-1B visa program. While reform is needed gutting the visa program is hardly the solution.

Ask Senator Feinstein to make a statement about S.54, the Protect American Families Act

Ask Senator Feinstein to make a statement about S.54, the Protect American Families Act

Senator Cory Booker introduced a rather short and succinct bill with a title almost longer than the bill itself. The bill (S.54) is called the “Protect American Families from Unnecessary Registration and Deportation Act of 2017” or the “Protect American Families Act”. Not to wax too poetic, but the bill is almost beautiful with its six mini paragraphs. And while its brevity is certainly something worth noting, the content of the bill is what has caught my eye and is what we are focused on.

The heart of the bill states, “the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or any other Federal department may not create or implement a law enforcement or national security program that requires, or has the effect of causing, people to register or check in on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship; and … no Federal funds may be used to create or implement an immigration registry or check-in program.” (truly that is it – check the bill out at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate bill/54/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S54%22%5D%7D&r=1). Thus this bill would prevent the creation of a Muslim registry, which was one of Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges, and as we are all learning Mr. Trump truly believes he has a mandate to fulfill his pledges (https://govtrackinsider.com/s-54-would-prevent-the-creation-of-a-registry-of-muslim-immigrants-f6fdb88987cc#.qoxw6dlts).

As noted earlier, this bill was introduced into the Senate and therefore needs to make it out of the Senate for it to have a chance at becoming law. There is a possibility some Republicans might support this bill given the public statements certain  Republican Senators made against and the public uproar against the Executive Order Muslim ban. And this is where we come in….

The bill is currently in committee, and yes you guessed it – it is in the Judiciary committee, specifically the Immigration and the National Interest subcommittee on which our very own Senator Feinstein sits. So, let’s connect with Senator Feinstein and urge her to make a public statement about this bill, her voice is listened to by citizens in, as well as outside of CA, by the media and by her peers. She has the political clout to raise awareness about this bill, thus triggering constituents of Republicans who also sit on this subcommittee/committee to express their support. Stated slightly more succinctly, we want Senator Feinstein to speak up about this bill, we want to encourage her to shop this bill around, thus triggering a domino effect of support for the bill.