What's New in the World of Immigration?

08/11/2017 - President Trump is endorsing an immigration plan that will hurt job growth and the U.S. economy overall, according to two recent studies.

From CNN Money / By Patrick Gillespie and Tal Kopan

In a report published Thursday, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School said the immigration plan, dubbed the RAISE Act, would result in 4.6 million lost jobs by the year 2040. It also found that the U.S. economy would be 2% smaller than it would be under the current immigration policy during that time. Last week, Trump threw his support behind the RAISE Act, a bill crafted by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton. The proposal seeks to cut legal immigration to the U.S. by 50% within a decade.

"If you have fewer workers, we will have less economic growth," said Kimberly Burham, a managing director at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan research team at UPenn.

Economists say the U.S. economy depends on foreign workers to grow the labor force and maintain growth. Since 2000, Baby Boomers have been retiring at a much faster pace than the U.S. job market has been growing, according to data from the Atlanta Federal Reserve and Labor Department.

There were 27 million foreign-born workers in the United States last year, government figures show. "Immigrants, especially new immigrants, are highly productive and if we decrease that number, that will harm economic growth in the short and long run," said Burham.

The White House claimed the Wharton study had "major methodological faults" and that the economic gains it assumes come "at the expense of American workers."

"The estimates show that the job 'losses' under their RAISE Act model are far smaller than the reduction of foreign workers - effectively meaning a net increase in available jobs for Americans. The passage of the RAISE Act would raise wages and increase economic opportunity for Americans who have been left behind under the failed policies of past administrations," a White House official told CNNMoney.

The RAISE Act seeks to limit the ability of immigrants to get permanent residency in the form of green cards, restricts immediate family members who can be sponsored for visas and eliminates the international diversity lottery. Instead of replacing those green cards, it would overhaul the employment-based visa system, switching over to a point-based system that places heavy emphasis on higher education, salary and English-language skills.

Another analysis, shared first with CNN, found that blocking low-skilled immigrants from entering or staying in the country could also have vast ramifications for small business creation in the U.S.

Low-skilled immigrants have started millions of small businesses in the U.S., despite having less than a bachelor's degree, according to New American Economy, an advocacy group founded by Michael Bloomberg.

According to the group's analysis of Census Bureau data, more than 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. don't have a bachelor's degree. Of those 2.1 million, 445,000 had businesses in construction and more than 100,000 were in landscaping or building services.

Under the RAISE Act's point system, it would be almost impossible for an immigrant with just a high school education to qualify for long-term residency in the U.S.

The group also pointed to past studies that have found that in 2010, one in 10 Americans in the private sector were employed by an immigrant-owned business, that immigrants are twice as likely as U.S.-born Americans to start their own business and that immigrants own more than one-quarter of Main Street businesses in the U.S., including over half of grocery stores and one-third of restaurants.

Supporters of the bill argue that it will raise wages for working Americans and increase the portion of college-educated immigrants who enter the country legally.

"We will build an immigration system that raises working wages, creates jobs, and gives every American a fair shot at creating wealth, whether your family came over on the Mayflower or just took the oath of citizenship," Cotton said when introducing the bill last week.

Despite the White House's support, the bill has little chance of passing in its current form. Many Republicans who support a merit-based system would prefer one that also values low-skilled immigrants, especially lawmakers with heavy agricultural constituencies. When asked about the bill, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn called it a conversation starter and a "beginning not the end."

07/25/2017 - Add NoteBookmarkShare AILA Urges House to Reject Wasteful and Unnecessary Border Wall Spending

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) strongly opposes adding funding for a wasteful and unnecessary border wall to the appropriations package set to be voted on later this week. Members of the House plan to add the $1.6 billion in funding to a "minibus" spending measure covering, among other things, Defense, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs. In an effort to get votes for the wall, appropriators are attaching it to funding for programs helping America's military service members and veterans.

"Funding $1.6 billion for an unnecessary border wall is nothing but wasteful spending generated from an idea touted on the campaign trail: we need to 'build a great wall.' Earlier this month, House appropriators yielded to the President's demand for billions in funding for a massive ineffective and cruel deportation force. Now the President's party leadership is trying to go around the normal process by slipping border wall money into a larger funding package," said Annaluisa Padilla, AILA President. She continued, "Instead of a funding bill that covers the entire Department of Homeland Security (DHS), party leadership is tacking money for a wall, panned by border state representatives from both parties, onto funding for other vital and necessary programs. The wall will wreak havoc on local communities, and Congress needs to stand against this effort and these wasteful budget games."

Greg Chen, AILA Director of Government Relations noted, "The House is deceiving the public by saying the wall serves any purpose other than fulfilling President Trump's campaign promise. Border apprehensions have hit historic lows over the past two decades, so the wall has nothing to do with national security or protecting border communities. Behind all the fake bluster about security, the House proposal excludes money for federal emergency disaster relief, Coast Guard, and other DHS programs that actually protect our homeland. This proposal is a shameful and massive waste of Americans' tax dollars that advances the Administration's singular purpose of building a behemoth deportation machine to remove people who have lived here for years, including Dreamers and their families, damaging our entire nation."

07/24/2017 - USCIS to Resume H-1B Premium Processing for Certain Cap-Exempt Petitions

From ILW.COM

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions effective immediately. The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. Additionally, there is an annual “master’s cap” of 20,000 petitions filed for beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

Premium processing will resume for petitions that may be exempt from the cap if the H-1B petitioner is:

* An institution of higher education;

* A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or

* A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.

Starting today, those cap-exempt petitioners who are eligible for premium processing can file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Form I-907 can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately for a pending H-1B petition.

USCIS previously announced that premium processing resumed on June 26 for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program as well as interested government agency waivers.

USCIS plans to resume premium processing of other H-1B petitions as workloads permit. USCIS will make additional announcements with specific details related to when we will begin accepting premium processing for those petitions. Until then, premium processing remains temporarily suspended for all other H-1B petitions. USCIS will reject any Form I-907 filed for those petitions, and if the petitioner submitted one check combining the Form I-907 and Form I-129 fees, USCIS will have to reject both forms.

07/18/2017 - Trump Should Show Some Political Courage and Endorse Immigration Protection for Dreamers

July 18, 2017. Los Angeles Times Editorial Board.

Seven years ago, Congress had a chance to take a humane approach to people living in the United States illegally not through their own actions, but through the actions of their parents. Arriving as children, some of these immigrants were smuggled across the border while others entered legally but their families failed to leave when they were supposed to. Many weren’t even aware of their immigration status until they tried to get a job or had some other official contact that required proof of citizenship or a Social Security number. Many also know no other country — they have been raised as Americans, educated in American schools, and share American dreams and values. It would be cruel to send them packing now.

To lessen the threat of deportation for those who arrived in the United States as children, the House in 2010 passed the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for those who met certain conditions. But Democrats in the Senate failed to muster enough support to bring it to a vote, so it died. In the wake of that political debacle, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, using prosecutorial discretion to grant temporary relief for people who met roughly the same conditions spelled out in the failed Dream Act. Of the 1.3 million people eligible for protection — a renewable two-year card granting permission to live and work in the United States — some 750,000 have applied for and received it.

Enter Donald Trump. One of the mainstays of his presidential campaign was demonization of immigrants in the country illegally and bellicose promises to deport them all, build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. But Trump was strangely, for him, conciliatory about the Dreamers — those who would have been eligible for protection under the Dream Act. After initially pledging to “immediately end” the program once he moved into the Oval Office, he softened on the campaign trail.

He should show some political courage, endorse the DACA provisions and defend them should Texas carry through with its threat to sue.

As well he should. The usual arguments for escalating deportations — that low-wage immigrants compete unfairly with U.S. citizens, and that they somehow pose a threat to public safety — are especially hollow when applied to those brought into the country as young children.

As president, Trump has expressed sympathy for the Dreamers’ plight and has left the DACA program alone even as he ramped up deportations and ended Obama’s planned extension of protections to parents of citizens and legal residents, but who are themselves in the United States illegally. Yet Trump also has not endorsed DACA, likely fearing backlash from political supporters who bought into his draconian views on immigration.

Those waters were further muddied recently when Texas and several other states threatened to file a legal challenge to DACA if Trump did not rescind it. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly told members of Congress that he thought the Obama executive action that created DACA was likely illegal and an abuse of executive power. He questioned whether the Trump administration would defend it in court if the states did sue. Trump responded that he would make the decision on DACA, not Kelly or U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions (whose antipathy to immigration runs deep). Meanwhile, the Dreamers are left in limbo as the infighting in the White House continues between the hard-liners who want to end DACA and those whose hearts aren’t made completely of ice.

The best solution here is a comprehensive immigration overhaul that would include a reprieve for the Dreamers, but it’s quixotic to think that this White House, and this Congress, would ever agree on humane reforms. The closest we came was the 2013 “Gang of Eight” Senate bill that, while imperfect, offered a bipartisan blueprint for dealing with immigrants who are in the country illegally, among other improvements in the law. That measure died in the House when Republican Speaker John A. Boehner refused to let it come to a vote.

Trump can move us in a better direction. He should show some political courage, endorse the DACA provisions and defend them should Texas carry through with its threat to sue. That would leave some of his core supporters frothing at the mouth, but that’s what a leader does — makes the tough calls in the country’s best interests regardless of the politics.

06/18/2017 - Refugees Contribute More In Taxes Than They Ever Receive in Benefits

By Melissa Cruz, immigrationimpact.com

Refugee resettlement has long been a cornerstone of United States foreign policy, but in the first weeks of the Trump administration, the president attempted to suspend the decades-long program in favor of a more isolationist approach. One reason the president gave for wanting to temporarily bar the world’s refugees was their supposed financial burden—but a new study (http://www.nber.org/papers/w23498) suggests that refugees ultimately pay far more in taxes than they receive in welfare benefits.

According to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), refugees who entered the country as adults will have paid an average of $21,000 more in taxes than they received in benefits over their first 20 years in the United States.

This greatly exceeds the amount the government pays in relocation costs and social programs per refugee—roughly $107,000, compared with the estimated $129,000 each pays in taxes across all levels of government.

The study further points out that refugees experience a significant increase in employment rates and earnings over time, two factors that ultimately add to the U.S. labor market, not stifle it. Though refugees initially experience lower rates of employment and pay, this changed substantially after just six years of living in the United States. Researchers found that refugees were able to accomplish this despite arriving in America with significant language and educational barriers, in addition to experiencing trauma in their home countries.

This was especially true for those that arrived to the country before the age of 14. Those refugees typically graduate high school and enter college at the same rate as their U.S.-born peers, the researchers found.

These statistics dispel the all-too-common myths that refugees drain the U.S. economy and rely on taxpayers.

“You can’t just look at one side of this equation. [They’re] getting benefits, but they’re also generating income,” said William Evans, one of the paper’s authors and a Notre Dame economist. “They’re living [here], so therefore they are paying taxes.”

The NBER paper comes on the heels of the administration’s most recent attempt to curb refugee funding. In his federal budget proposal, the president called for a 25 percent cut in funds for refugee resettlement on American soil. The budget also requested a 13 percent decrease in U.S. contributions typically reserved for international aid groups helping refugees abroad.

Based on humanitarian principles alone, America’s responsibility to offer aid to those seeking refuge is clear. But in undercutting the fiscal arguments against refugee resettlement, these statistics leave little room to reason otherwise.