RAISE Act harms everyone, particularly in sponsoring senators’ states

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Brown rot

Citizens of the United States, how do you like the Chilean peaches in your local grocery store?

Years ago, I lived in a suburb of Atlanta, and when I think of Georgia, I think of peaches, which are only a small part of the state’s $72 billion agribusiness industry.  Back in 2011, undocumented  farmworkers were fleeing the state due to increased government raids.  Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, noted that by April of that year, Georgia farms had already lost $300 million as unharvested crops rotted in the fields.

Georgia’s Governor at that time, Nathan Deal, created a program to use probationers to replace the immigrant workers.  But the program fizzled out almost before it started, as the new workers, unable to complete the backbreaking work in the hot sun, quickly walked off the job.

As current immigration law stands, it is almost impossible to fill farmworker jobs legally.  Allowing new, documented low-skilled workers seems like just the thing to solve the problem.

On August 2, 2017 Georgia Senator David Perdue stood proudly by the president’s side to unveil the RAISE Act that Senator Purdue, along with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas (whose state has a $16 billion farming industry), are introducing in the Senate.  The Act proposes a merit-based immigration system, so that highly educated immigrants who already speak English will be favored over those with lower skills and limited English.

Let’s set aside the fact that this proposal turns America’s founding principles on their head.  Instead, let’s look at the reasoning behind the proposal.

Senator Perdue remarked that “Our current system does not work.  It keeps America from being competitive, and it does not meet the needs of our economy today.”  I would agree, as would anyone who drives through Georgia’s and Arkansas’ devastated farmlands and sees the ripple effect their demise has had on the surrounding communities.  Yet Senator Perdue continued his remarks to state that “If we’re going to continue as the innovator in the world and the leader economically, it’s imperative that our immigration system focus on highly skilled, permanent workers who can add value to our economy and ultimately achieve their own version of the American Dream.”

It is interesting to note that the president and senators specifically indicated that they wish to emulate the merits systems used in Australia and Canada.  They did not point to any specific innovations coming from these two countries that demonstrate their world leadership in this area.  They also failed to mention the thousands of small businesses that employ Americans, started by immigrants who arrived with little or no English language skills, or those immigrants’ children (or grandchildren, such as the current president).  They similarly forgot to mention new Americans such as Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, who fled the Soviet Union as a six-year-old child, son of parents with limited English skills, or note that Google now employs hundreds of thousands in the United States and around the world.

The RAISE Act?  I think it stands for Raise American Imports; Suspend Exports.


John Oliver Blasts Immigration Bureaucracy

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John Oliver recently did a feature about the Kafka-esque difficulties faced by translators who have served the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the risk of their lives, when trying to obtain visas to the United States.  The video speaks for itself.  As a PS, the State Department changed its procedures about a week after this show.  Coincidence?  We’ll never know.  Warning:  the video contains language unsuitable for children.

Obama Turns Back on his Political Base – Immigration Politics

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President Obama has once again turned his back on the huge voting bloc that helped him into office, blaming “political pressure” for his failure to act.  American Immigration Lawyers Association President Leslie Holman elaborated on the scope of this betrayal in a press release this past weekend.

The fact is, the last time Congress did anything substantive about immigration was in late 2000.  There is no “right time” for the president to do the “right thing,” and nothing to indicate that if he waits, Congress will do the right thing.

Ms. Holman’s press release can be found on the AILA website: AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14090640

H-1B cap and denials have prevented job creation and wage growth for US-born tech workers

By | Employment-Sponsored Immigration, Politics, Tech Workers, USCIS, Visas | No Comments

it office

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s new report, Closing Economic Windows: How H-1B Visa Denials Cost U.S.-Born Tech Workers Jobs and Wages During the Great Recession, shows how existing H-1B visa lottery caps disproportionately hurt American-born tech workers by slowing job and wage growth in more than 200 metropolitan areas across the United States. H-1B visa denials in 2007 and 2008 caused these areas to miss out on creating as many as 231,224 tech jobs for American-born workers in the years that followed and cost U.S.-born, college-educated workers in computer-related fields as much as $3 billion in aggregate annual earnings.

Key report findings include:

  • The high number of H-1B visa applications that were eliminated in the 2007-2008 visa lotteries represented a major lost opportunity for U.S.-born workers and the American economy overall. The rejection of 178,000 H1-B visa applications in computer related fields in the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries caused U.S metropolitan areas to miss out on creating as many as 231,224 often highly-sought after tech jobs for U.S.-born workers in the two years that followed. The total number of U.S.-born workers with computer-related jobs would have exceeded 2 million by 2010 with that additional employment.
  • The U.S. tech industry would have grown substantially faster in the years immediately after the recession if not for the large number of visas that didn’t make it through the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries. The number of jobs for U.S.-born workers in computer-related industries would have grown at least 55 percent faster between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, if not for the applications eliminated in the recent H-1B visa lotteries. Computer firms could have added as many as three times more jobs for U.S.-born workers than they actually did during that period without all the unsuccessful H-1B visa applications.
  • U.S.-born workers without bachelor’s degrees were disproportionately hurt by the H-1B visa lotteries in 2007-2008. Because less-educated tech workers often play valuable roles supporting the work of high-skilled engineers, programmers, and others, they were particularly impacted by recent H-1B trends. By 2009-2010, U.S. metropolitan areas lacked as many as 188,582 computer-related jobs for U.S.-born workers without a college degree as a direct result of the large number of applications that were eliminated in the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries. The number of positions missing from the economy for U.S.-born, college-educated tech workers, in contrast, was between 24,280 and 42,642.
  • The H-1B visa lotteries in 2007 and 2008—and the denials resulting from them—greatly slowed wage growth for workers in computer-related industries. In 2009, the 1.1 million U.S.-born, college-educated workers in computer-related fields missed out on as much as $3 billion in aggregate annual earnings as a direct result of the large number of applications that were unsuccessful in the H-1B visa lotteries in the 2007-2008 period. From 2005-2006 to 2009-2010, wages for college-educated, U.S.-born workers with computer-related jobs grew by 1.7 percent. Without the earlier visa lotteries, their wages could have grown by as much as 4.9 percent during that period.
  • For some cities, the H-1B visa lotteries in 2007 and 2008 had a particularly large impact.  In New York City and Northeast New Jersey, the large number of H-1B visas that didn’t make it through the lottery for workers in computer-related fields caused the local economy to miss out on creating as many as 28,005 jobs for native-born workers in those industries by 2009-2010. The Washington, DC metropolitan area, including parts of Virginia and Maryland, lost the opportunity to create as many as 30,222 computer-related jobs for U.S.-born workers during that period; Chicago and Dallas Forth Worth passed up the opportunity to create as many as 27,329 such positions together.

This report was prepared for the Partnership for a New American Economy by Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis and the National Bureau of Economic Research; Kevin Shih, University of California, Davis; and Chad Sparber, Colgate University.

Immigration reform in unexpected places: Will DREAMers get a path to citizenship by being able to enlist in the military?

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On April 10, 2014 the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) held its annual National Day of Action (NDA) where AILA members meet with their respective representatives to discuss immigration issues. During last year’s NDA, the focus was on getting an immigration reform bill passed in the Senate. Thankfully, the Senate acted but unfortunately we still do not have a bill that has passed the House of Representatives.

Nancy and Andrea visited with our respective representatives from Illinois and Virginia. This year, the focus of NDA was to gather information from our Congressmen about what the misgivings were on immigration reform and also to bring attention to the inequities of our current broken immigration system.

Andrea and Nancy in the Rayburn Building

Andrea and Nancy in the Rayburn Building

During our visits we stressed the fact that even though we might not be able to get comprehensive immigration reform, there is much that the House can do to improve the immigration system we have in place, as well as addressing immigration issues in upcoming appropriations and DHS bills. Here is a link to the information brochure prepared by AILA regarding immigration reform: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=48032.

Since April there has been a lot of buzz in the media about immigration reform.  We hear a lot about how the House Republicans don’t want to pass immigration reform because they are not confident that President Obama would enforce the laws as they are written. We also hear that the White House is threatening to take up the issue of immigration reform on its own if the House doesn’t act soon. Unfortunately this type of uncompromising approach does not yield results. Because “comprehensive immigration reform” appears to be such a divisive topic, we have to find other ways through other laws to give our immigrant community the opportunity to get legal status.

In this vein, there has been movement in Congress to allow immigrants who were brought here as children to enlist in the military and gain permanent residence through their service. The ENLIST Act (H.R. 2377) is being offered by Republican Representative Jeff Denham (CA) as an amendment to the must pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Even House Speaker John Boehner has stated that they might be able to get a standalone vote on the Enlist Act instead of taking it up as an amendment to the NDAA.  Also this week, Senator Dick Durbin hosted a field hearing in Chicago on immigrant enlistment in the military.  Witnesses included Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen, members of the military, and two undocumented cadets from the Phoenix Military Academy.  If the ENLIST Act were to pass, this could mean a path to citizenship to a whole host of immigrants who had no such hopes before.

Even though change may not be coming in the form that we envisioned, we must never give up the good fight. As this latest turn in immigration reform has shown, the change can come from some of the most unexpected places.

NC Republicans learn that their base favors pro-immigrant candidates

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Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers from the Second District of North Carolina recently survived a primary challenge from Frank Roche, an anti-immigrant tea partier.

Like many tea partiers, the conservative Mr. Roche is in favor of government regulation only in those instances where he favors the regulations.  In a March 28, 2014 interview with David Steinberg of PJ Media, Mr. Roche stated that “we need to sharply reduce our yearly legal immigration.  We need to move away from family reunification as a basis for our immigration system, and go back to a national origins-based system, one based on the economic interests of the United States . . . [w]e must move away from official recognition of multiculturalism, identity politics, and political correctness.  These social counterparts to our immigration numbers are what makes immigration so damaging to the United States, so divisive.”

Apparently Mr. Roche believes that immigrants should be allowed in the United States only as long as they can be economically productive, leaving their families behind.  His aversion to multiculturalism is difficult to understand in a country whose roots stretch to all corners of the globe.

Luckily, the voters of North Carolina helped Congresswoman Ellmers soundly defeat Mr. Roche.  Her more moderate views favor stronger enforcement and reasonable reform of immigration laws.

A May 6 Washington Wire article called this contest “the nation’s only serious GOP primary challenge based on immigration policy.”  Ms. Ellmers’ 58 – 42 defeat of Mr. Roche shows that those who lean right also understand the valuable role that immigrants play in the United States.

We can only hope that other Republicans in Congress take note.