Same Old Tune on Immigration

Reuben Navarrette wrote an interesting column recently for Real Clear Politics. The topic is  the continuing failure of the government to pass immigration reform. Here are the opening paragraphs.

This being soccer season, it's appropriate that many Latinos see President Obama and the promise of immigration reform like Lucy and the futbol.

This week, in El Paso, Obama again pledged to fix a broken system but not without an assist from Republicans. And again, he bragged about cracking down on illegal immigration. We're a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws.

Blah, blah.

It's a song that Latinos have committed to memory, and they usually hear it whenever Obama speaks to Latino audiences on or near Mexican holidays. Happy belated Cinco de Mayo!

In a more honest rendition, Obama would acknowledge that, for Democrats, the utility of the immigration debate is to give Republicans a chance to alienate Latino voters.

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Obama Visit to Texas Proves He's Serious About Immigration, Aides Say

President Obama is visiting Texas today, and will speak in El Paso about immigration reform. According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Obama will use the visit to talk about meaningful immigration reform — an uphill battle. Here are excerpts from the article:


President Barack Obama will use Tuesday’s visit to the Texas-Mexico border to put pressure on Congress to enact a new immigration policy.

But he’ll have a hard time convincing critics that the border is secure enough, or that his vision of change — which includes some path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — doesn’t amount to “amnesty” for lawbreakers.

After seeing Obama mostly set aside immigration until now, even some allies are skeptical about his commitment, though aides insisted he’ll keep pushing until it gets done.

“This is an important part of the campaign to build public awareness and public support,” White Housespokesman Jay Carney said Monday, adding that the president’s speech in El Paso on Tuesday is meant to “generate some pressure on Congress to take action. … We are congenital optimists here.”

Obama believes enough progress has been made on security since the last serious effort to overhaul immigration law, four years ago, that it’s time to try again, aides said.

“This border is as secure as it has ever been,” said a senior administration aide, briefing reporters ahead of the trip on condition of anonymity. Obama is making his first tour of the border as president, and the official said he wanted to see the progress after “the most sustained and serious action securing our Southwest border ever in our nation’s history.”

He has previously called for a new guest worker program, and for creating a path to eventual citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who overstayed visas or entered the country without permission.

Some immigration advocates expressed cautious optimism that Obama is serious — and not simply courting the Hispanic vote as thoughts turn to re-election.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing, and immigration reform is the right thing,” said Louie Gilot, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “If immigration is back on the table, it will take a lot of leadership to push this through Congress. I hope President Obama is up to the task.”

“I hope he can address the situation in Mexico which is bringing in newcomers,” both legal and illegal, Gilot said. “I want to hear that we have a plan in our country to help our neighbors.”

Obama aides ticked off signs of the progress and commitment to security.

For instance, there are now 20,700 Border Patrol agents, more than double the number since 2004 — though Republicans on Monday accused the administration of trying to take credit for a surge that started before he took office. And the number of intelligence analysts working on border security has tripled.

Article Says U.S. Must Strengthen Protections for Exploited Guest Workers

The New York Times opined, "Slavery and human trafficking are alive and well in the United States, according to lawsuits filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of farm laborers in Hawaii and Washington State and shipyard workers on the gulf coast." Maintaining "today's shackles are the threats of deportation and financial ruin," the Times says the US "urgently needs to strengthen protections for guest workers who are lied to by recruiters and tied to employers with too much power to exploit them." Indeed, a "recent agreement by the federal Labor and Homeland Security Departments to work together on immigration and labor enforcement at worksites is encouraging," and the Indian and Thai men "may win some money," but they "are only a handful of workers...stranded in a system that accepts their labor but fails to prevent their exploitation."

From the American Association for Justice news release. 


Bills to Punish Employers for Hiring Illegal Immigrants Hit Snag

Ideology ran into practicality in theTexas Legislature recently when business interests objected to Republican proposals to punish companies that hire illegal aliens. It will be interesting to see whether the "social-conservative" wing of the Republican party wins out over the "business-conservative" wing. This conflict was reported in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts from the article:

Business interests, including small contractors and GOP stalwarts, have raised concerns that could derail proposals to fine or lock up employers who hire illegal immigrants, Rep. Byron Cook, chairman of a top House committee, said.

Measures before the House State Affairs Committee would require employers to use the federal E-Verify system or make other good-faith efforts before hiring new workers, to ensure they are citizens or authorized to work in the U.S.

The toughest bill, by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would make intentionally hiring an illegal immigrant subject to jail time, although family maids and gardeners were exempted.
Employers could defend themselves against charges by showing that they asked for driver’s licenses or other verification, Riddle said.

The other bills, by Carrollton Republicans Reps. Jim Jackson and Burt Solomons, would push for state agencies to use E-Verify in their own hires and for contractors.

It’s part of a broad effort in the House to tackle illegal immigration, with measures that would challenge automatic U.S. citizenship for children born on American soil to illegal immigrants, and resolutions exhorting Congress to do a better job of securing the borders.

But when it comes to employment verification, businesses are pushing back. A steady stream of people testified that the E-Verify system is flawed, has too many false-positives and can be easily skirted by businesses that claim their workers are “independent contractors” not subject to the system.

Most of what needs to happen is at the federal level, said Cook, R-Corsicana, on Thursday.
“What we can do is limited and is subject to federal jurisdiction,” the chairman of the State Affairs Committee said.

Almost a dozen people testified Wednesday night that using the E-Verify system doesn’t stop the problem. Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business said each verification could cost a business $127.

David Coburn, a painting contractor from Austin, told the committee that he advertises for $13-an-hour jobs, and the applicants are all Hispanic. He said he complies with the law and checks their information, even though he suspects some are in the country illegally. He also said he has seen bidders for state contracts come in so low that he knows they must be using illegal immigrant laborers and not paying Social Security or other taxes.

Only a few people spoke in favor of the bills, saying the state should punish those who offer the jobs that attract immigrants and keep them in the country illegally. The bills were left pending in the committee.

Bankruptcy And Immigration - Does Filing For Bankruptcy Influence Immigration Status?

This guest post is courtesy of Oak View Law Group:

Debt issues are quite common nowadays. If you are slogging through a swamp of debts, Debt Settlement Company can help you out in this regard and can ease or eradicate your debt loads. You can file for bankruptcy as well but if you are a non-citizen of U.S and worrying how bankruptcy can affect your immigration issue, read the rest of the article, and find out whether filing for bankruptcy can jeopardize your immigration status or not.

There is no such specific law which states clearly anything about bankruptcy and immigration or any regulation which disqualifies anyone from the privileges of immigration in the US. However, bankruptcy might not have any direct influence on immigration status, it has some indirect ones for sure. The Bankruptcy Code pronounces clearly that "...only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title" [11 U.S.C. Section 109(a)]. The term "person" incorporates individual, partnership, and corporation... [11 U.S.C. Section 101(a)(41)].The bottom line is there is no requirement of citizenship in the bankruptcy code.


How Bankruptcy Affects Immigration Status 

·      In general, filing for bankruptcy won’t affect the citizenship applications in any way. However, whenever there are criminal convictions like holding credit cards in other people's names, writing "fraudulent" checks in more than one state, tax elusion, false transfers of assets, or filing an inaccurate bankruptcy petition, it would mandate the deportation crimes of "moral turpitude" and can adversely affect one’s immigration status.

·      To gain the lawful permanent citizenship of US, one must establish himself as of “good moral character” before US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Filing for bankruptcy might be deemed as a blemish on ones moral character and therefore won’t have a good impact on his or her immigration status.

·      Tax evasion is a serious matter of concern for people who are still immigrants or had applied for citizenship. People becoming a lawful permanent resident should not fail to file a required federal, state, or local tax return, or must not owe any federal, state, or local taxes that are overdue. However, someone filing for bankruptcy does not prove that the person has overdue taxes as well. If any immigrant works illegitimately and does not pay taxes on time or transfer money or property to another person in order to evade tax liabilities, and if these amounts exceed $10,000, he or she could be considered an "aggravated felon" and is conclusively estimated to be an outlaw and hence could be ostracized.


Bankruptcy and immigration around the world

While maximum countries have bankruptcy laws and procedures similar to those of the United States, some of the countries have different cultures and attitude towards the issue. In countries like China or Japan, most people are ignorant of bankruptcy and the suicide rate is quite high for people going through financial turbulence. However, in countries like Hong Kong no social stigma is attached to bankruptcy and it is accepted by almost everyone.


Final thought

Remember, the immigration officers no matter which country they belong to, always verify the immigrant’s financial status. Therefore, if you are an immigrant, stay honest while passing any information to the federal government and make sure that all your income is reported to the IRS on tax returns. If required, you can take help from immigration attorneys in this regard and determine whether bankruptcy can adversely affect your immigration status.


E-Verify is Not a Solution

Texas immigration attorney Mark Murov has a good article about the E-Verify system in his latest newsletter. His conclusion is that this is not a workable solution to our immigration problems. Here are excerpts from Mr. Murov's article:

Although the government claims that E-Verify, its electronic employment authorization program, is free, most companies which have been forced to use it (due to Federal Contracts and State laws) have found it necessary to utilize vendor programs, and to pay setup costs and ongoing service fees. A recent Bloomberg study states that if E-Verify had been mandatory for employers last year, it would have cost U.S. employers $2.7 billion. Moreover, 99.7% of employers have fewer than 500 workers and can least afford the expense. The Cato Institute issued a report which called E-verify Franz Kafkas Solution to Illegal Immigration.

Although E-Verify has improved somewhat in the fourteen (14) years since it was first rolled out, many companies have found that E-Verify does not work well for them or their workforce. E-Verify cannot detect all unauthorized workers. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it does nothing to detect identity fraud : if a worker presents genuine documents belonging to another person,

E-Verify will erroneously confirm him as work authorized. Additionally, due to errors in the database, workers who are in fact authorized sometimes lose their jobs, creating hardship to their families and to employers which incur the expense of replacing them.

The only way to fix the problem of unauthorized workers is to address this issue wtih Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). This means a more comprehensive package of reforms, including a legalization program that brings workers into compliance and taxes their income. CIR should include a workable Verification program to allow employers to verify their workers immigration status with greater confidence that they are doing the right thing. CIR means a solution which comprehensively addresses the future of foreign workers living and working here by creating working visa categories which employers need. CIR should also reform the systems by which the laws are enforced to create equity and certainty for workers and employers.

Its time for our Congress to do the right thing and fix our immigration system, in one piece of legislation. CIR is the only smart way to fix the problems with unauthorized employment and verifications.

Government Spends $12,500 for Each Person Deported from U.S.

Yesterday, immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble told a House subcommittee hearing that it costs approximately $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport each person removed from the United States.

This is only one of several reasons that most immigration lawyers believe deportation of illegal immigrants is not a workable solution to our current immigration problems. 

In 2010 ICE deported about 393,000 people from the United States, and the cost was almost $5 billion. It's estimated that 11 million people are currently in the U.S. without authorization. Extrapolating the ICE figures, it would cost the government almost $140 billion to deport them. We simply cannot afford to do that.

Salvadoran Consulate in Dallas Speeds Up Services

The Salvadoran Consulate in Dallas is working hard to process applications faster. This was reported in a recent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts from the article:

The last time Héctor Guatemala and Araceli Jiménez came to the Salvadoran Consulate in Dallas to request passports, they arrived at 8 a.m. and waited several hours before being called to the counter.

Five years later, the couple returned to renew their documents and noticed a big change – their request was processed within minutes. "I see things have improved because now they have appointments," said Guatemala, 44, a resident of Dallas.

The appointment system is one of the recent changes that José Mario Mejía Barrera, the new consul general of El Salvador in Dallas, hopes will improve services.

Mejía says he has been tasked by his government with improving relations between the consulate and the Salvadoran community in North Texas, protecting the civil and labor rights of immigrants, encouraging remittances and, most important, speeding up service.

The Dallas consulate, at 1555 W. Mockingbird Lane, serves about 100,000 Salvadorans in North Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas with six clerks and consuls.

More people are requesting services, but the lines at the consulate are shorter because the appointments are spread out over several weeks and the crowd is predictable. In the past, sometimes 70 to 80 people showed up one day, and only a handful the next. Now an average of 35 to 40 Salvadorans get services each day.

New, More Republican Congress Will Shift Immigration Debate to Stricter Enforcement

The incoming 2011 Congress will have a Republican majority, and the Associated Press believes (and I agree) that any immigration discussions will be focused more on border security and automatic birthright citizenship than on comprehensive immigration reform.

We may have lost our chance for meaningful reform by not passing new laws during the Bush administration or the first two years of the Obama administration. Here are excerpts from the AP article:

The end of the year means a turnover of House control from Democratic to Republican and, with it, Congress' approach to immigration.

In a matter of weeks, Congress will go from trying to help young, illegal immigrants become legal to debating whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship.

Such a hardened approach — and the rhetoric certain to accompany it — should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans' favor. But it also could further hurt the GOP in its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012.

Legislation to test interpretations of the 14th Amendment as granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants will emerge early next session. That is likely to be followed by attempts to force employers to use a still-developing web system, dubbed E-Verify, to check that all of their employees are in the U.S. legally.

There could be proposed curbs on federal spending in cities that don't do enough to identify people who are in the country illegally and attempts to reduce the numbers of legal immigrants. Democrats ended the year failing for a second time to win passage of the Dream Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a chance at legal status.

House Republicans will try to fill the immigration reform vacuum left by Democrats with legislation designed to send illegal immigrants packing and deter others from trying to come to the U.S.

Many of those attending a recent gathering of conservative Hispanics in Washington warned that another round of tough laws surrounded by ugly anti-immigrant discussions could doom the GOP's 2012 chances.

But more controversial measures such as attempts to deny citizenship to children of people who are in the U.S. without permission could be tempered by GOP leaders aware of the need to curry more favor with Hispanic voters.

2.3 Million Americans Reentered U.S. Without Proper Documents

A rather alarming report, detailed in the Los Angeles Times, shows that new travel restrictions requiring passports for American citizens to reenter the country are not being enforced.

These are American citizens, so perhaps we should not get too excited about the report, but it still makes you wonder about travel enforcement in general. Here are excerpts from the article:

Despite new travel requirements, more than 2.3 million Americans reentering the country by land or sea from Mexico or Canada failed to produce a passport, birth certificate or other secure document to establish identity and nationality, a government review has found.

Most people, including about 500,000 in California, were allowed to pass through ports of entry without the approved documents or without being sent to a secondary inspection post for a more in-depth examination, according to the report by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security.

Many travelers were allowed to pass after undergoing extensive questioning and producing at least a driver's license, the report found. Overall, 96% of travelers arriving at the 39 busiest land ports were in compliance with the new law, which took effect in June 2009.

The procedure for processing those without the required documents needs to be more precise and implemented across the board, the report said.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, approved by Congress last year, requires U.S. travelers reentering the country from Mexico or Canada to present documents, such as a passport or birth certificate, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

Out of more than 1 million people, including U.S. and foreign citizens, who legally enter the United States each day, about three-fourths arrive by land from Mexico or Canada, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.