Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

USCIS Knows What Its Problems Are. Will It Now Fix Them?

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Recently, the USCIS conducted a survey of more than 5,000 “stakeholders” (folks who care about and participate in the U.S. immigration system in some way).  These stakeholders were asked to identify the key areas of concern for them.  The USCIS has now released its initial report from this survey, identifying the areas of concern most frequently raised by stakeholders.  The report is enlightening.

This initial report lists the following areas of concern, in order, that USCIS will address:

  • National Customer Service Center
  • Nonimmigrant H-1B (specialty occupations)
  • Naturalization
  • Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
  • Family-Based Adjustment of Status
  • Employment-Based Immigrants Preference Categories 1, 2 (priority workers, professionals and holders of advanced degrees) and 3 (skilled workers and professionals)
  • Refugee and Asylum Adjustment of Status
  • Form I-601 (Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility)
  • General Humanitarian Programs
  • Employment Authorization and Travel Documents

The USCIS has committed to:

convene working groups to review each of the issue areas. Leaders from across USCIS will join analysts, adjudicators and customer service representatives in examining policy and instructional documents that guide our work. USCIS will follow the federal rulemaking process whenever appropriate, and once approved, new policies will be available electronically.

While it is all well and good to internally review and examine policies and procedures, isn’t that the source of the problems with these listed areas of concern?  After all the biggest problem identified by stakeholders is the Customer Service it offers!! I challenge the USCIS to involve stakeholders in these working groups so that not only are real concerns voiced, but solutions can be discussed in an open forum, generating more and better ideas than have been coming out of USCIS since its formation.  Making stakeholders and customers wait to comment on “”possible” internally generated changes until “potential” federal regulations are published (comments which are frequently ignored by USCIS in the rulemaking process) is more of the same old way of doing business.

Director Mayorkas should follow the promise President Obama made shortly after he entered office to make the internal decision making process more open and transparent.  Enough of internal working groups.  Let’s really fix these problems.  Together.

Senator Schumer, You are Wrong!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Last Week Congress passed its first major piece of immigration legislation in several years.  The Border Security Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 (H.R. 5875)

Besides the fact that the bill itself is a joke–passed without debate, study or analysis as to its effectiveness, there are two major problems–Funding of the $600 Million Dollars Bill, and the “Real” purpose of the bill.

First the “real” purpose of the bill–Schumer and other Democrats have barked loudly that the bill is intended to shut the mouths of border crazies who refuse to discuss any change to our nightmarish national immigration policies until America is safely tucked inside a sealed bubble, invulnerable from entry by anyway but the purest foreign national.  Senator Sessions from the border state of Alabama, who can only be described as absolutely crazed on the issue of immigration, responded to this strategy:

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was hopeful that the bill would bring Republicans back to the bargaining table. But one key GOP Senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, threw cold water on those hopes, calling the bill “more like an effort to receive positive press” for Democrats rather than a genuine attempt to stop illegal immigration.

“Make no mistake: while this small measure can have some value, if it is not followed by strong, sustained action; it is yet another gesture without consequence,” Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement issued Thursday.

“The ‘Masters of the Universe’ in Washington are always proposing new plans to deal with the massive illegality at the border,” said Sessions. Last week, Sessions and Arizona Sen. John McCain, another key Republican, said the $600 million bill was only the first step in toughening the border.

So much for Republicans now happily agreeing to Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Just in case Senator Schumer (and President Obama) did not get the message from Senator Sessions, let me make it perfectly clear:  Republicans will NOT support any type of immigration reform that recognizes the reality we are currently in.  Period.  President Obama, Senator Schumer–If you cannot do it without Republicans, you are not going to do it.  My suggestion is that you get the Democrats to fulfill the campaign promise of immigration reform, or kiss the Latino vote goodbye.  Clearly, the Republicans do not care about their future as a party of inclusion, do the Democrats also not care?

Now, the Second BIG problem with this bill–It is NOT paid for!  Senator Schumer said that this bill would funded on the backs of employers of foreign national employees–specifically those who have more than 50 employees, and who’s workforce is more than 50% made up of H-1B and/or L-1 workers.  For those specific companies, the USCIS is now going to collect an ADDITIONAL $2,000 fee, over and above the  H-1B filing fee of $2,230 and the L-1 filing fee of $820 these companies already pay to USCIS to file (but not necessarily approve) the application.

This full funding of this bill is unclear (like most bills that come out of Congress), but the funding is summarized as follows:

Rescinds from unobligated balances certain funds for: (1) U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology; (2) Transportation Security Administration (TSA), aviation security; (3) FEMA, administrative and regional operations; and (4) Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, periodic censuses and programs. Directs the Department of Defense (DOD) to pay in FY2010-FY2011 the full costs associated with deployment of the National Guard along the Southwest border.

So, while it is unclear how much Senator Schumer hoped to raise from his H-1B and L-1 visa stunt, perhaps a little math is in order.  So far this fiscal year, the USCIS has received about 43,000 H-1B applications for new H-1B workers (of a total 85,000 that are available).  That leaves 42,000 potential H-1B applicants to pay the $2,000 Schumer Fee.   If every one of those cases paid the Schumer Fee, that would raise $80,000,000.  That leaves only about $520,000,000 to be funded by the L-1 visa program and the other cost shifting noted above.  There are not even 85,000 L-1 applications filed in an entire year by all applicants, let alone the specific applicants to which this law applies.  Couple the numbers problem with the USCIS attack on the specific type of employer that Senator Schumer is targeted, and the resulting sharp decrease in usage of the H-1B and L-1 visa by those employers, and what becomes clear is that the Schumer fee cannot possibly raise more than a few million dollars.  How pathetic.

So, once again, as citizens, we are left holding the debt for Congress’ effort to throw more money at the border, without a solution to our immigration crisis.  Senator Schumer, you are wrong.   This bill is not about border enforcement, nor is it about getting Republicans to play ball on immigration reform.  This bill is about money; money to special interests who will benefit from it’s spending. But this new law is not about fixing a broken immigration system.   You probably don’t want my advice, but here it is anyway.  The next time you move forward on immigration legislation Senator Schumer, I suggest aiming a little higher in your aspirations and fix the system, don’t just repair a broken pipe.

Suing Arizona—What Choice is There?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

From my Op-Ed today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

There is no surprise in the Obama Administration’s lawsuit to stop enforcement of Arizona’s immigration law–SB 1070.  President Obama must defend federal authority to act exclusively on immigration law.  The Supreme Court has long held that states cannot impinge on federal authority, unless those state laws are “consistent” with Federal law.  Arizona’s SB 1070 is not consistent with federal law, despite protestations to the contrary.  SB 1070 goes far beyond that 1940 law on which it claims to be based and which was designed to round up Japanese, German and other “enemies“ in a time of war.

Everyone understands the frustrations associated with undocumented immigration.  But the Obama Administration (nor any Administration) cannot tolerate 50 different states passing 50 different state laws on a federal issue like immigration.  It is already a nightmare in the context of E-Verify.   If President Obama does not act, he gives tacit approval to the notion that states can pass conflicting and impossible to fairly enforce immigration related laws.  By going to Federal court he signals that SB 1070 encroaches on federal immigration law.  Faced with this choice, there is no choice at all.

Have We Really Come To This?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The headline in a report on KGUN9 (a Tucson, Arizona TV station) reads:

Group of illegal immigrants shot at, 1 wounded near Rio Rico (AZ)

Apparently a group of undocumented immigrants  were shot at while walking in the desert away from the border  on Friday.   The reports indicate that two men wearing camouflage used high-powered rifles to shoot at them.   One of the five immigrants was wounded in the attack and was treated by local authorities in the hospital.  This same group also told authorities that they had passed two bodies nearby during their trek.

Another Headline in the Arizona Republic Reads:

Phoenix murder of Latino man called hate crime

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has alleged that the May 6 fatal shooting of a Mexican-American man in south Phoenix by a neighbor shouting racial epithets was a hate crime. The allegation was filed June 9 as one of six aggravating factors that the office raised in the case of Gary Thomas Kelley. Aggravating factors allow judges to enhance prison sentences in the event of a conviction. Kelley, 50, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela, 44. He also is accused of menacing Varela’s brother Antonio with a gun. According to initial police reports, Kelley shouted, “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die.” Varela, in fact, was a third-generation, native-born U.S. citizen.

George Santayana, a notable philosopher, coined the phrase, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”   We have seen this type of hatred before, all starting with a belief that the majority was just trying to get people to “obey the law.”  Xenophobia has a long history in America.  Isn’t it time we got over our fear of the foreign, and embrace what our own experiment in democracy has shown:  That immigration makes us stronger!

Use as a simple example, the U.S. National Soccer Team, making a run for advancing into the next round of the world cup. The names on this team reflect a vibrant country of immigrants and acceptance of diversity:  Howard, Guzan, Spector, Hahnemann, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, Bornstein.  This is not a team of  ”native” Americans, but team of immigrants.  Stronger becuase of their diverse backgrounds, not weaker.

Yet, we struggle with a national debate on immigration, fueled in some part by fear, some part by racism, and some part by economics.  But, can you answer me this question:  Why do State Legislators keep spending so much time on the immigration issues, when they have other more important issues to deal with? Do state legislators really believe that if every immigrant left their state, that every other issue would disappear?  Everyone would have jobs, there would be adequate healthcare for all, there would be no shortfall in state revenues, and crime would be eliminated?  Do they really believe this?  Or are these demagogic legislators really just trying to stir up hatred, distrust and their supports for election purposes?

We all can understand the economic argument, although the facts bear out that deporting 12 million people is not only economically non-viable, but would be a 1.7 TRILLION dollar hit to our economy.  To some extent, we can understand the fear of the new, the fear of the stranger. Such fear has been around for as long as we have been a nation. That we will have to get over, and I believe that cooler heads will prevail.

What we cannot understand is the race based legislation that is being passed in places like Arizona.  You can argue that SB 1070 is not race based. BUT, the intent of the legislation is clear–chase Hispanics from Arizona.  Many other states around the US are going to try to adopt this type of legislation.  But, like legislation from prior years which targeted African Americans, and Asian Americans, and even German Americans, this legislation will be laid in the dust bin of history.  I just pray it happens before more people are killed, before more people take the hidden race baiting of laws like SB 1070, to the action stage. We do not need more deaths, we need more leadership.  Leadership that will solve this crisis and create an immigration solution that works FOR America, not against it.

The Fees, The Fees, Where are the Fees (Going Up!)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The surprise announcement of a proposed fee increase at today’s USCIS stakeholder meeting should take no one by surprise.  USCIS plans to raise filing fees by “generally” 10% or so across the board, except for Naturalization (which is already at an outrageous $675, but will really now be $680) and Adjustment of Status, which is only going up 6% (by $55!!), but the Form I-140 filing fee is increasing by 20% to $580 and Premium Processing is skyrocketing to $1,225!!!  USICS is doing this at a time when inflation has been basically nonexistent, there has been zero accountability from USCIS, and quality of service levels have dropped across the board.

Director Mayorkas has said that the USCIS is taking further steps to cut spending by $160 million from its $2.5 BILLION dollar budget (less than 1%). There is no doubt that USCIS is hamstrung by Congress, which gives USCIS virtually no funding. And, federal law is clear that USCIS does have to recoup some costs from users of its services. These mandatory recoverable costs include:

• Direct and indirect personnel costs, including salaries and fringe benefits such as medical insurance and retirement;
• Physical overhead, consulting, and other indirect costs, including material and supply costs, utilities, insurance, travel, and rents or imputed rents on land,buildings, and equipment;
• Management and supervisory costs; and
• The costs of enforcement, collection, research, establishment of standards, and regulation.
OMB Circular A-25, User Charges (Revised), par. 6, 58 FR 38142 (July 15, 1993).  INA section 286(m), 8 U.S.C. 1356(m), also provides DHS broader discretion to include other costs in their “recapture” from filing fees.
A very interesting and potentially very expensive (for users) change in the regulations is that USCIS is setting up the new fee structure to NOT be tied to Form numbers, such that for the Form I-129, used for many nonimmigrant visas, they can charge separate and disparate filing fees for each type of visa.  The USCIS also is now effectively limiting the types of Forms for which fees can be waived by rewriting the regulation on fee waivers.

What is disturbing to me is that there is nothing in the announcement about reducing the over-hiring from previous two years  (staff cuts) or even reducing salaries.  Frankly, that is the first place EVERY business in America starts.  Heck, even the Department of Transportation had to furlough 2,000 people from its employee roles in March because of a budget fight with Senator Bunning.    Why is there such a reluctance to cut positions or salaries?.  It is quite clear that the USCIS is overstaffed.  Otherwise how do you explain the extraordinary number of unnecessary and redundant Requests for Evidence from the Service Centers that appear to be nothing more than “make work” for examiners? Nor is there anything in the USCIS fee increase proposal about trimming other areas of its budget, including the virtually useless “call centers,” employees benefits, or any other expense.

The real issue here is not necessarily the outrageousness of yet another fee increase, but really the source of funding for USCIS.   More than 95% of USCIS’s funding comes from user fees.  I know of no other federal agency which gets this much of their funding directly from its users. In that respect, USCIS is in many ways like a private business.  If Congress is mandating that USCIS be funded from is users like a private business, then USCIS needs to operate like a private business and be run as such. That would start with cutting not just “expenses” but overhead, which includes much of the over-hiring that was done in the previous administration.

Further, let’s look at what we are NOT getting in this fee increase–quality control, employee accountability, and performance metrics.  We don’t know how USCIS measures its employees or its programs, and we do not know what criteria they use, particularly for “rogue” examiners who issue unnecessary and overbroad RFEs and denials. We are also getting no RATIONAL explanation for the HUGE fee increase for premium processing, other than the USCIS needs the extra money to modernize its systems!

Now, this is a proposed rule.  So I strongly urge every person who reads this to submit formal comments on the proposed rule through www.regulations.gov.  The comment period runs for 45 days, beginning June 11, 2010 and ending July 26, 2010.   Additional detail on the methodology and data USCIS used to develop these fees will be available at www.regulations.gov on June 11, 2010.  I would encourage us to voice our strong opposition to these fee increase until USCIS justifies this increase with better performance, and real budget cuts, not a superficial less than 1%!

Perception is Reality

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

One of my favorite movie lines is from “The Princess Bride.” Vizzini, the mastermind behind the kidnapping of Princess Buttercup, upon seeing the Man in Black pursuing them keeps repeating the word “inconceivable.” Finally, Inigo Montoya, one of of Vizzini’s then assistants says: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That simple statement applies to so much in the immigration law world that it is hard to even define situations where it does not apply. Much of what we deal with is really about our perception of what the law is, not about what the law actually says. This is true for legislation and for court decisions. Today, this statement seemed more true than ever. I received an email from the Center for Immigration Studies, the anti-immigration “think tank,” promoting a new web program it is hosting on “Local Law Enforcement Authority to Check Immigration Status.” This email comes with this teaser:

This program . . . “discusses a recent court decision affirming that local law enforcement officers may question suspected illegal aliens encounter [sic] about their immigration status and then contact immigration authorities (ICE). Known as Estrada v. Rhode Island, this important decision should reassure local officers that they are not obligated to look the other way when they discover immigration law violations and provide guidance on reasonable actions officers may take in questioning foreign nationals.”

Thus comes into play Inigo Montoya’s statement, to paraphrase here–I do not believe that case means what you think it means. After all, if a court had stated that police officer could pull people over and question them about their immigration status and have no other reason for doing so, don’t you think that we would have all heard about this by now? Heck, the nutty proposed law in Arizona is exactly this, no? Having police ask people their immigration status based upon “reasonable suspicion” is the basis of Senator Russell Pearce’s brainchild. I thought, how could I have missed such a seminal case. Or, perhaps, the folks over at CIS are giving a court’s decision a little more “spin” than it actually deserves?
Go ahead, read “Estrada v. Rhode Island.” This case is exactly NOT about a law enforcement officer’s right to ask questions about a person’s immigration status, with no other basis for stopping the person. The case is about whether or not a police officer can be sued under civil rights and others laws, for engaging in this behavior. The case is NOT a constitutional analysis of the legality of the officers actions in the context of a criminal or immigration related case. Rather, this is a civil case brought by the ACLU of Rhode Island seeking civil damages against the officer because of his actions towards the plaintiffs in the litigation.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals explicitly did not rule on the legality of the officer’s action, but rather ruled on whether or not he enjoyed “qualified immunity” for so doing. By finding that the officer was immune from civil suit, the 1st Circuit did not uphold his actions as legal, it simply said he could not be sued over them, expressly NOT ruling on the broader question here.
In the totality of the circumstances, we cannot say that a reasonable officer in Officer Chabot’s position would have understood that his conduct violated Tamup’s constitutional right.
This is not exactly a rousing endorsement for law enforcement officers to engage in what is effectively racial profiling. Given the prospective Arizona law, there is no doubt behind CIS’s efforts to encourage law enforcement officers to stop and question people they believe are undocumented. What should be clearly understood is that no court has found it reasonable to stop and question a person about their immigration status, just because of how they look. But, perception being reality in immigration law, I fear that such activity could become the “law of the land.” That would be a tragic reality.

Return to Sender- Russian Adoption Case

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The case of a 7-year-old Russian boy who was returned to Moscow by his adoptive U.S. mother has highlighted the challenges families face when an international adoption goes wrong.

For those of you that don’t know, an American woman, Tori Hansen, adopted a little boy in Russia. He had been removed from his alcoholic biological mother’s care a few years ago and put in an institution. He came to the United States, resided in the home of Ms. Hansen as her adopted son for several months and then last week, she put him on a plane back to Russia with a note pinned inside his jacket that read “I no longer wish to parent this child.” Apparently the child had emotional difficulties, was violent and difficult to control. That Hansen wasn’t aware of his potential problems prior to the adoption is hard to believe. A quick internet search of “Russia” and “older children” and “adoption” yields a host of potential challenges, including attachment disorders, behavioral problems and psychological issues. What is she trying to say? They don’t have google in Tennessee?

The problem is that you can’t put your adopted child back on a plane and send them off to a foreign country just like you can’t put your biological child on a plane and send him off the a foreign country with a note pinned to his jacket stating that you no longer wish to parent. This little boy was the subject of a full and final adoption decree in Russia. That means that as soon as he entered the United States, he became a US citizen. He has the same rights and privileges as any other American child. And his “mom” has the same obligations as if she had given birth to him. Nobody’s suggesting that she struggle along for years with a child that she cannot handle but there were resources available to her. She could have sought counseling for herself and the little boy, taken a parenting class, gotten to the bottom of his issues, or placed him for adoption with another family. The only things she couldn’t do was drive him out of town and drop him off on the side of the road or put him on a plane back to Russia or otherwise dispose of him.

There’s a lot of talk about criminal charges- abandonment, neglect etc. I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the fact that the Russian authorities could also come after her for child support until this little boy reaches 18 (or 21 if he goes to college.) I’ve also heard that the Russian authorities are considering halting all adoptions by American citizens. I’m not sure that this is going to happen. 12 Russian children have been murdered by their US adoptive parents over the past 10 years and 3 others that I can think of were adopted by pedophiles and if that didn’t do it, I don’t know that this will either. I would definitely expect a slow down in the process. It would be really unfortunate if this turned out to be the last straw- according to the State Department 1,600 orphans were adopted by US families last year and the vast majority of those adoptions were successful. A U.S. government delegation will arrive in Moscow next week to discuss rules for American parents who want to adopt Russian children. I think everything will be ironed out. After all, Russia wants its orphans to find families. Expect further updates from the State Department.

Grace Kennedy

Time to fix immigration system, Campos says

Monday, March 29th, 2010

David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, states that now is the time to fix the immigration system.

After more than a year of campaigning, President Obama finally won much-needed and long-overdue changes to our health care system. Achieving what four other presidents could not, Obama broke through the political impasse to obtain health care coverage for the vast majority of uninsured Americans. The president now needs to take this mandate and act quickly on what should be the next major item on his domestic agenda: modernizing our immigration system.

Comprehensive immigration reform requires a balanced and measured approach that includes a broad legalization component, a foreign policy that promotes meaningful and equitable economic development in the region, and humane enforcement measures that strengthen, rather than divide, local communities.

Right now, more than 12 million people live under the shadow of fear because they lack legal immigration status. Many are hardworking mothers and fathers who, rather than watch their families suffer under the brutality of poverty and political turmoil, made the difficult and often dangerous decision to leave their homeland in search of the American dream. Many are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who fled death threats and persecution, or whose same-sex partners lack the legal right to file a petition on their behalf.

Even though many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, contribute to our economic and social advancement and want to be fully integrated into our society, the dread of deportation makes civic engagement a risky endeavor for them. Perhaps most importantly, they fear reporting crime in their neighborhoods or mistreatment in the workplace, making all of us less safe and causing labor standards to sink across the board.

A broad legalization program would be good for the economy. According to research from the Migration Policy Institute, as our country has become more educated, our share of native-born low-skilled workers has fallen significantly. That is why immigrant workers have become such a needed and ready source of labor for various industries, including construction, agriculture, food processing, and building-cleaning and maintenance, just to name a few.

The blueprint set forth by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham on March 18 (”Marchers hoping to focus attention on immigration,” March 21) prioritizes curbing unauthorized immigration as a primary function of immigration reform. They focus on increased militarization and security measures at the border and in the interior of the country. While I recognize that we have a right and obligation to protect our borders and that any comprehensive immigration reform package must contain some enforcement provisions, enforcement has its limitations.

For one, increased enforcement has not been the panacea many thought it would be. Even though border-enforcement spending has tripled since 1993, it has failed to deter significant numbers of unauthorized migrants from attempting entry. This is because illegal-immigration patterns are largely the result of macroeconomic needs in our economy as well as macroeconomic changes in the economies of immigrants’ home countries. In other words, no wall, military force or barbed wire will stop people from attempting to cross the border if staying behind is tantamount to misery, despair or even death. Thus, in addition to enforcement, we need a foreign policy that promotes meaningful and equitable economic opportunities for all.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/28/INB61CKBI7.DTL#ixzz0jaPLJ4RW

The Immigration Malaise–Is the Mojo Gone?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Are we back in the 70’s? As a child of the 70’s myself, I have not so fond memories of the economy and the politics of that era. I am experiencing a sort of deja vu right now as I consider the possibility of immigration reform happening during this Congress.

Now, don’t get me wrong. there were good things about the 70’s. At some point I will think of them and write a blog about them. But, for now, let’s focus on the parallels that cause me concern.

The 70’s were famous for “stagflation.” a seemingly unending period of increasing prices, no or slow growth, coupled with a general feeling of the blah’s among the American People. We had lost our “mojo.” It was tough to find jobs, and what jobs you could find were not one’s you wanted to do. The politics of the era were even worse. Simply put: Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon, Ford, Carter. Not exactly a pantheon of great issues or leaders.

Here we are in 2010. We have a non-growing economy, with no “stagflation” but with a general sense of the “blahs.” Few employers are hiring, and no one is willing to take risks. Again it feels like that unique American mojo has dissipated. Politically? Well what can you say? If anything, the partisanship, and cross party rivalry is even worse than during the 70’s. Nothing is effectively getting done, and certainly nothing that requires courage is passing Congress.

Which, finally, gets me to my point. The entire immigration structure in America appears to have lost its way. Congress is lacking the courage and political will to tackle a difficult but necessary issue. The government agency responsible for “service” is currently in “screw you” mode, trying every which way to limit the ability of employers to get visas for prospective employees, seeing “fraud” under every bush and behind every tree, and trying its best to dissuade folks from actually using the immigration system. The agency responsible for enforcement recorded an increased number of removals for FY2009, and is on track for a “better” year this year. The agency in charge of letting folks into the country legally, is doing a terrific job of turning away nonimmigrants with valid visas. The agency responsible for protecting American workers jobs is doing such a great job that many employers with audited petitions now wait TWO years or more to see if the advertisement they ran TWO years ago was adequate for a position available TWO years ago, which the person can then wait another 7 years to fill permanently. Overall, I would say the immigration system has lost its mojo.

So, what can we do. Enlist Austin Powers to find the Mojo? Or, push forward with hope and a belief that the good and right will ultimately prevail. What caused me to ponder on this was rather unusual. I was listening to “great speeches in history” on my IPod, and happened upon Ronald Reagan’s’ Inaugural Speech from 1981. I particularly love this quote:

Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.

Whether you believe that President Reagan was a great President or not, you have to admit, the speech was inspirational. And, it made me think. Maybe not all hope is lost. If there were only someone to inspire us. If only there were someone to move us forward as a country on the issue of immigration. Right now, I am still searching for that leader, that voice. Let’s hope she shows up soon.

BIA on Application of the Modified Categorical Approach to Conviction Assessment

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Another bad decision issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals, February 19, 2010 — more often in recent months the Department of Homeland Security is trying (successfully sometimes) to go behind a state court’s conviction records to sustain removability charges against an individual in immigration proceedings. Obviously the line between federal and state is becoming very blurred, and it seems as though regardless of the conviction issued by a state court, federal court judges have free will to re-define the actual meaning of a conviction!! It is difficult enough when the immigration laws treat certain misdemeanor convictions as felonies, but the added burden of having to argue against the admission of facts, evidence, police reports, etc., is ridiculous!! Why not just combine state court and immigration court proceedings, and make life that much easier for the government?! This is absurd and immigration judges should not have discretion to re-try a case which has already been decided in a state court!!