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Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

I Am Undocumented: A Face of Legal Immigration Gone Wrong

Posted by Administrator on April 19, 2012

Yes, I am white. Yes, I am highly educated   with a successful business. And yes, I, too, am now an undocumented immigrant.

In July 2001, before the Sept. 11th attacks, my family left our home country of South Africa and came to the United States to open a branch of our international training company. Since my husband and I have advanced degrees, extensive business experience and were able to make a substantial financial investment in America, we were both granted what’s called “L1 visas.”

Our company, specializing in advanced reading & information management training skills, was a mature 25-year-old business that had clients in the banking, transport, education and government sectors. We soon discovered that average reading skills in America are less than competitive with other developed countries, and this strengthened our resolve to make a difference. Volunteering at our children’s schools and at many non-profit organizations in our chosen city of Charlotte, North Carolina, became our new way of life. We totally immersed ourselves in our community, making lifelong friends and feeling more and more like Americans every day.

We established fundraising programs for community shelters and for the arts in Charlotte. We developed multinational cultural understanding and reconciliation awareness programs and programs to support AIDS awareness. And at the same time, we developed a specialist intelligence data analysis training course for the U.S. military and were soon commissioned to present this training at the Pentagon, NASA, Defense Intelligence Agency, US Air Force, Navy SEALs and the intelligence battalions of the US Marine Corps. This unique and exclusive proprietary intelligence data analysis program became essential to the defense of the nation and was described as saving American lives on the battlefield. My husband was awarded a 0205-Tactical Intelligence Officer “plank” by the Warrant
Officers of the Marine Corps for his “contribution to the enhancement of the intelligence analysis capabilities of the USMC.” Navy SEAL teams also benefited from this training and went on to terminate the nation’s greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden, and to stage a series of daring and successful rescues around the world.

Yet today, after 10 years of living legally in America, we have become overstays — “illegal immigrants” in the common derogatory vernacular. After building a successful business, buying a home, immersing ourselves in the community and educating our children to become contributing members of American society, we have been denied permanent residence and the U.S. military has been instructed to terminate our training because we are “illegal.” We have become victims of a dysfunctional legal immigration system that is badly in need of reform.

Mine is the story of a family who did not flee their home country for a better life in the US. Neither are we refugees or destitute, but rather a family of privileged, educated, skilled individuals with two gifted children who believed they could contribute to the American Dream with their advanced reading skills training company and offer their own children a first world educational experience.

Instead, we’ve become victims of a legal immigration horror story of deception, criminal fraud, financial ruin, discrimination, pain, uncertainly, insecurity and devastating implications — not only for this family’s future, but for the future of legal immigration itself.

I am at a loss as to why this country would choose to stop this training, deemed “essential to the analytic capabilities of the US military” and which “is saving lives on the battlefield” rather than simply correcting an immigration injustice. Or why, after 10 years of us paying taxes, buying a home and being exemplary citizens in every conceivable way, we are deemed unsuitable for permanent residence. It can only be described as a spectacular failure of an immigration system that is both dysfunctional and inhumane and in serious and urgent need of complete overhaul reform.  And our story is not unique. There are thousands of entrepreneurial families in this predicament today.  Many have chosen to slink away into the shadows and self-deport, leaving who knows how many U.S. citizens to join the ranks of the unemployed.

What kind of nation tolerates a 4.0-GPA high school student, identified as “talented” by the Duke Talent Identification Program, to be ripped out of a senior year at high school, or a gifted Dean’s-list college senior to be forced into abandoning the last year of university without graduating?  Yet after 10 years
of education in the American education system, at taxpayer expense (yes, mine and yours!), this is the position both my children find themselves in. What sane nation pays to educate people before expelling them?

What humane country asks that a family lose their home, their livelihood, abandon their life-changing business activities and income to support and educate their children, and walk away from everything they’ve invested here over 10 years?  One would think that the most difficult step should be to get into the U.S. in the first place and that permanent residence for contributing, tax-paying, property-owning and business-owning immigrants would be a natural follow- through. Yet it appears to be easier to enter America on a visa than to stay here with permanent residence. Is it a case of fleecing immigrants of their expertise and investment and then rejecting them once they have lesser “value” to the country?

A few months ago, I learned of the story of Jose Antonio Vargas and his media campaign, Define American, which seeks to elevate how we talk about immigration. Elevation and conversation is sorely needed.

Even though I am now an undocumented-documented-immigrant, or if you prefer, an illegal-legal-immigrant, I love this country. It is my home. And I will not stand by and watch an immigration system destroy lives and families. While I still have an ounce of breath in me, it will be to see comprehensive immigration reform in this country — that a more humane and functional system of immigration be introduced to benefit not only the country as a whole, but all immigrants at every level, of all racial and economic backgrounds.

Am I the face of a failed legal immigration system? Or perhaps the reason so many choose to come to AMERICA without papers?

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dianne-e-stewart/immigration-reform-undocumented-immigrants_b_1435199.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=546688,b=facebook

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Obama Pledges Immigration Reform Early in Second Term

Posted by Administrator on April 16, 2012

In his most specific pledge yet to U.S. Hispanics, President Barack Obama said Saturday he would seek to tackle immigration policy in the first year of a second term. But he cautioned that he would need an amenable Congress to succeed.

“This is something I care deeply about,” he told Univision. “It’s personal to me.”

Obama said in the television interview that he would work on immigration this year, but said he can’t get support from Republicans in Congress. Obama also tried to paint his Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, as an extremist on immigration, saying that Romney supports laws that would potentially allow for people to be stopped and asked for citizenship papers based on an assumption that they are illegal.

“So what we need is a change either of Congress or we need Republicans to change their mind, and I think this has to be an important debate during — throughout the country,” Obama said.

Romney aides have said that the former Massachusetts governor supports laws that would require employers to verify the legal status of workers they employ.

“President Obama only talks about immigration reform when he’s seeking votes,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Then-candidate Obama promised to tackle immigration reform in his first year. More than three years into his term, America is still waiting for his immigration plan.”

Hispanics are an increasingly important voting bloc in presidential elections. Obama won a sizable majority of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 election and his campaign is hoping for similar results this November.

Obama spoke to Univision, a network widely watched by Latinos in the United States, while in Colombia for the Summit of the Americas.

– Associated Press

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As tide of illegal immigrants goes home, will US economy suffer?

Posted by Administrator on April 8, 2012

Legal laborers – mostly Mexicans – picked winter lettuce near Somerton, Ariz., in February 2009. As more legal and illegal immigrants stay home, there is concern about how it will affect the US labor pool. This is part of the cover story project in the April 9 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly magazine.

Legal laborers – mostly Mexicans – picked winter lettuce near Somerton, Ariz., in February 2009. As more legal and illegal immigrants stay home, there is concern about how it will affect the US labor pool. This is part of the cover story project in the April 9 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly magazine.

The steady stream of immigrant workers who used to line up at Tim Dunn’s Arizona farm, ready to pick vegetable seed crops like black-eyed peas and garbanzo beans, has mostly dried up.

We just don’t see people walking up, looking for jobs like they used to,” he says. Now he has to pay a labor contractor to find enough people to tend his 2,200 furrowed acres under the harsh Sonoran sun near Yuma, in the southwestern corner of Arizona.

The dwindling supply of labor available to Mr. Dunn illustrates a significant shift in migration from Mexico, which has caused illegal immigration to drop to its lowest levels.

 

Even as states loudly debate new immigration restrictions – including Arizona’s proposed armed, all-volunteer state militia to keep Mexicans from sneaking across the US-Mexican border – research suggests the illegal immigration has slowed.

 

The migration explosion that since the 1970s had pushed millions of men, women, and children into the United States has fizzled, says Douglas Massey, a sociologist at Princeton University and codirector of the long-term, binational Mexican Migration Project. “We’re at a turning point, and what unfolds in the future remains to be seen. But I think the boom is over.”

 

Mr. Massey’s research shows that after the US recession hit, the illegal population fell from about 12 million to 11 million, where it has hovered since 2009. (About 60 percent of the illegal population is Mexican.)

 

Similarly, Homeland Security estimates released in March suggest that while the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the US grew 36 percent between 2000 and 2011, from 8.5 million to 11.5 million, that growth plateaued in 2010 and 2011.

 

“With no change in either direction, we’re roughly at a net zero,” says Massey, and adds that it’s something unseen since the late 1950s.

 

The 2004 movie “A Day Without a Mexican,” in which the state of California grinds to a halt when Mexican laborers suddenly disappear, satirized a thesis that is now a subject of real-life debate among experts.

 

What if the workers that farmers, hotels, and restaurants have relied on for decades don’t come back? Will crops rot, beds stay unmade, and dirty dishes pile high in restaurants? Those sectors can’t outsource labor; so will they slow, downsize, and will that create ripple effects across the already straitened US economy?

 

Experts agree that illegal immigration has declined sharply in recent years and cite the overall lack of work as the main reason many Mexicans choose to stay home.

 

But the big debate is how permanent the trend is. Most experts expect the flow to return once the US economy rebounds. But some say there are other factors at play that could keep Mexicans home, including more access to legal US work visas, border enforcement efforts on the US side and drug-war insecurity on the Mexican side, demographic shifts in Mexico, and growing economic incentives there.

 

The shrinking labor pool already is having an impact in agricultural fields scattered throughout the US, some say. For example, a University of Georgia report projects that, when 2011 figures are tallied, the state economy will show a $391 million loss due to farm labor shortages. Georgia is one of several states that – following Arizona’s footsteps – recently passed laws aimed at illegal immigration. Farmers across the country are experiencing near-term crop losses and scaling back operations, confirms Libby Whitley, president of Mid-Atlantic Solutions in Lovingston, Va. Her company handles visa applications for 600 employers who use temporary legal workers, mostly from Mexico.

In the more than a dozen states that require businesses to confirm employment eligibility through the Internet-based federal program E-Verify, employers are in a corner. “The em-ployers just really don’t have an option,” Ms. Whitley says. She adds that the farm labor workforce is 75 percent illegal.

 

Whitley has noticed growing interest in the H-2A visa program that brings in temporary seasonal farmworkers. But many employers still shun these visas, saying the program – which requires housing provisions and set wages – is too bureaucratic and costly. Advocacy groups long have maintained the program is fraught with employer abuse.

 

Massey says spot shortages are possible in sectors that employ large numbers of Mexican workers, particularly agriculture, but he believes that a gradual shift toward the use of guest workers may offset any potential labor deficiencies.

 

Mexicans in growing numbers are securing visas that allow them to hold temporary US jobs legally, says Massey. “The workers that are coming into the United States are not just agricultural workers, they’re workers in the non-agricultural sector, and increasingly, they’re skilled workers.”

 

The US State Department reports a 53 percent increase in temporary visas for seasonal farm work issued between 2006 and 2010. And other visa categories are driving the expansion, too, including those for professional health and technology workers under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

But even with the visas, the farm labor situation suffers, says David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in New York. “Those jobs really do seem to go begging when immigrants are pushed out, at least temporarily.”

In the long run, Mr. Kallick says, the US labor market probably would adapt: “Maybe wages and working conditions would go up enough to make the jobs more attractive, or maybe some farms would close up shop. Basically, though, I don’t think dishes wouldn’t be washed in restaurants without immigrants to do it.”

He says the flow of immigrants will return when the demand for workers is back, although “we’re not anywhere near there” yet.

“As long as the large wage differences between Mexico and the US exist, there will be incentives for people to endure the real risks of crossing illegally,” says Judith Gans, manager of an immigration policy program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She says that as jobs do become available, the pressure on the border will correspondingly increase.

In the long term, the changes in Mexico and shifts in migration in all of Latin America may ease the pull north of the border, Ms. Gans adds.

The impact of fewer illegal immigrants coming into the US will depend on how long it takes for the economy to bounce back, says Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington public policy group.

“In the intervening time, a lot can happen in a place like Mexico, where unemployment is relatively low right now,” she says. “Birthrates have dropped and the demand for workers has been rising. For young people entering the workforce, it may mean more opportunities and less reason to leave.”

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2012/0408/As-tide-of-illegal-immigrants-goes-home-will-US-economy-suffer/%28page%29/2


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Immigration changes mean many migrant nurses can’t stay in UK.

Posted by Administrator on March 28, 2012

From 6 April 2012, migrants from outside the EU earning less than £35,000 will not be allowed to settle in the UK.

Critics have accused ministers of risking patient health in favour of a “crude” immigration policy after government documents revealed that almost half of the migrant nurses will be forced to leave the UK under the new immigration rules.

A new UK government impact assessment reveals the change will cut the number of NHS nurses by “hundreds or low thousands” and cost the economy up to £433 million over the next 10 years as people leave.

The impact assessment stated: “We estimate 48 percent of migrant nurses, 37 percent of primary school teachers, 35 percent of IT/software professionals and 9 percent of secondary teachers would be excluded.” However, the assessment claims that the loss of the migrant nurses will not have a “significant impact” on the ability of the 698,000-strong nurse workforce in the country to carry out their duties.

But Gail Adams, head of nursing at the union Unison, claimed the losses would come on top of a current shortage of trained nursing staff and at a time when many nurses in what is a relatively elderly workforce will be moving into retirement.

“The government should think again about these restrictions on overseas nurses. They have cut the number of nurse training places by 20 per cent over the last two years, which means we will not have enough qualified nurses to cover those coming up to retirement,” Adams said. “These crude restrictions will make matters worse and create skill shortages in the future. The quality of care will obviously suffer if hospitals cannot recruit the nurses they need to ensure a safe ratio of nurses to patients.”

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Source: http://www.workpermit.com/news/2012-03-28/uk/immigration-changes-mean-many-migrant-nurses-wont-be-able-to-stay-in-uk.htm

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Georgia Bill may prevent services for illegal immigrants including obtaining a marriage license

Posted by Administrator on March 25, 2012

ATLANTA —A bill making its way through the Georgia Legislature could prevent illegal immigrants from being able to get a marriage license or access to water and sewage service in the state.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, has gotten a lot of attention because it would also bar illegal immigrants from the state’s public colleges, universities and technical schools. But another provision that’s generated very little discussion removes foreign passports from a list of identification documents that government agencies can accept for certain transactions. To be acceptable, foreign passports would have to be accompanied by federal immigration documentation proving someone is in the country legally.

“It’s very interesting that the reliability of foreign passports is being questioned by the Georgia Legislature when the Transportation and Security Administration has considered the passport to be a very secure form of ID,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “I think my worry is that perhaps some legislators might not be aware of the implications of this because it seems so innocuous. It doesn’t say on its face that undocumented immigrants can’t get water or can’t marry.”

Loudermilk said the possibility of preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining marriage licenses and access to water and sewer was not intentional. He added that an amendment was likely that would remedy that.

Versions of the bill have cleared the state Senate and a House committee. If the full House passes it, the Senate would have to approve changes made by the House before the session ends Thursday.

Under last year’s law cracking down on illegal immigration, the state attorney general’s office was charged with creating a list of “secure and verifiable” documents that government agencies could accept if they require identification for an official purpose. The list was released last summer and includes a U.S. passport, U.S. military identification card and a U.S. driver’s license, among other documents. It also includes foreign passports, the only document on the list that illegal immigrants would be able to obtain.

By removing foreign passports from the list, the new bill would technically prevent illegal immigrants from getting a marriage license in Georgia or from accessing water and sewage service in the many municipalities that require identification to turn on service. That’s because illegal immigrants wouldn’t have the extra paperwork needed to prove not only that they have a passport, but that they are in the country legally.

However, it’s possible illegal immigrants may not face much of a hurdle if local authorities don’t bring their policies in line with the list of accepted documents. In many instances, local authorities still accept documents that aren’t on the list approved by the attorney general.

A survey by The Associated Press of the websites or staff of probate courts in Georgia’s 25 most populous counties shows at least 21 currently accept a birth certificate or a foreign driver’s license as acceptable identification for those seeking a marriage license. Neither of those documents is on the attorney general’s list.

Unlike other utilities, which are generally managed by private companies in Georgia, water and sewage services are provided by local government agencies. Calls to water and sewage authorities in some parts of the state found that some currently accept foreign driver’s licenses, which is not acceptable under the current law.

Technically, an agency could be penalized under the law for accepting documents not on the attorney general’s list. But penalties are unlikely, as long as any problems that spark complaints are quickly rectified.

The author of last year’s illegal immigration crackdown, Rep. Matt Ramsey, said he believes all public agencies should comply with last year’s law and should accept only identification documents on the attorney general’s list. But the Peachtree City Republican added that he believes a U.S. birth certificate, though not a foreign one, should qualify as a “secure and verifiable” document. The attorney general’s office has the power to add documents to the list.

Source: http://www.independentmail.com/news/2012/mar/25/bill-may-prevent-services-illegal-immigrants/

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Court upholds ban on Texas immigrant housing law

Posted by Administrator on March 21, 2012

A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that stopped a  Dallas suburb’s ban on illegal immigrants seeking housing.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Farmers Branch overstepped  its authority in 2008 when it passed a law calling on the city’s building  inspector to check the immigration status of anyone wanting to rent an apartment  who wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

Under the law, illegal immigrants would have been barred from rental housing,  and landlords who knowingly allowed them to stay could have their rental  licenses barred.

The appellate court said the city was seeking to exclude illegal immigrants,  particularly Latinos, under the guise of policing housing.

“Because the sole purpose and effect of this ordinance is to target the  presence of illegal aliens within the City of Farmers Branch and to cause their  removal, it contravenes the federal government’s exclusive authority over the  regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country,” the  court’s opinion stated.

The city had appealed the decision of U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle, who  ruled two years ago that the law is unconstitutional after a lawsuit was filed  by apartment owners and tenants.

William Brewer, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said he sensed a  “strong undercurrent” throughout the appellate court’s decision that Farmers  Branch was engaged in discrimination. The ruling is particularly meaningful  because the 5th Circuit has a reputation for conservatism, he said.

Brewer noted that the ruling affirms Boyle’s decision that Farmers Branch  must pay the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, which before the appeal were nearly $2  million. He called that portion of the decision “a strong deterrent” against  other cities seeking to pass similar laws.

“Clearly, both the trial court and the appellate court recognize that this  ordinance was discriminatory,” Brewer said.

Farmers Branch Mayor Bill Glancy said he will talk with City Council members  before deciding whether to push for the matter to be heard by the full appeals  court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Glancy, who took office last year, said he supported the law and other  efforts to keep illegal immigrants out of Farmers Branch, a suburb with nearly  29,000 residents northwest of Dallas.

“Basically, it has discouraged people who are illegal from coming into the  city,” he said.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a nationwide advocate for tougher  illegal immigration laws who participated in the Farmers Branch case, said he  was not surprised by Wednesday’s ruling. Two of the three judges who heard the  case last year indicated they opposed the city’s law, Kobach said.

“The case is definitely not over,” Kobach said.

Source: http://journalstar.com/news/national/court-upholds-ban-on-texas-immigrant-housing-law/article_c43af86f-df24-5426-abdd-02bd54c4c288.html#ixzz1poWN95NH

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New prison in Texas for detained immigrants features salad bar, unarmed guards

Posted by Administrator on March 18, 2012

WASHINGTON D.C.—As prisons go, the detention center that opened in southern Texas last week may be a pleasant surprise for illegal immigrants and others awaiting possible deportation.

Behind tall walls, the grassy compound offers inmates a salad bar, a library with Internet access, cable TV, an indoor gym with basketball courts, and soccer fields. Instead of guards, unarmed “resident advisors” patrol the grounds in polo shirts and khakis.

It is a far cry from the grim and sometimes dangerous county lockups and local jails that hold most immigration detainees across the country.
The new 608-bed facility is in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio, and will house only adult men who present minimal safety concerns or flight risk, officials said. It is part of an effort by the Obama administration to improve conditions for some of the 33,000 people now in detention as their immigration cases are reviewed.

Built on 29 acres of former farmland, the new facility was designed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to give detainees more freedom of movement and easier access to lawyers and medical care, as well as family visits. The first detainees are expected to arrive later this month.

“We are not detaining people for punitive reasons,” said Gary Mead, head of enforcement and removal operations for ICE, which handles deportations. “So the conditions can be different.”

Officials said the facility was a model for two more planned centers, in Crete, near Chicago, and in Southwest Ranches in southern Florida. But those sites will include separate areas for medium- and high-security detainees.

ICE has come under fire from news reports, internal investigations and human rights groups for putting people who have not been convicted of crimes in local jails and other facilities where overcrowding, sexual assaults and poor health conditions are rife.

Aggressive enforcement efforts have meant more people are being deported than ever before. Last year, 396,906 people were deported, a record number for the third year in a row.

More than 217,000 had criminal convictions and would not have been be eligible for low-security detention.
Critics in Congress charge that the Obama administration is coddling people before they are deported. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said a new 400-page manual that requires detainees to be granted access to medical care, recreation and fresh food reads “like a hospitality guideline.”

“Changes to these facilities look more like recess than detention,” Smith said.

The $32-million Karnes City complex was built and will be managed by GEO Group Inc. a publicly traded company. It was built directly for Karnes County, but to specifications set by ICE, which limited public scrutiny and congressional oversight.

GEO Group plans to recover its construction costs with an estimated $15 million in annual revenue from operating the facility. ICE will reimburse Karnes County for each detainee it houses there.

The U.S. government paid GEO Group more than $910 million between 2003 and 2011 to manage and provide other services to detention facilities across the United States. Corrections Corp. of America, another company that manages prisons, won at least $631 million in contracts from ICE during that time.

Some critics argue that even low-security facilities are too harsh . They say the noncriminal detainees who qualify for such treatment should be given less onerous alternatives, including telephone check-ins and ankle bracelets.

“The idea that you can just rely on ankle bracelets is a delusion,” said Stewart Baker, former head of policy for the Department of Homeland Security.

But opposition to privately run prisons has a long history.

After years of documented abuses, such prisons were banned in Illinois in 1990. In August 2011, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed an amendment that expanded the ban to local and county prisons.

Those laws don’t apply to immigrants and asylum seekers, however. Seeking to block the planned facility at Crete, local advocacy groups are pushing to expand the ban so it applies to civil detention facilities.

“They will want to maximize their profits, and their revenue depends in large part on filling their beds,” said Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that has opposed the Crete facility. “They have every incentive to skimp on quality of conditions, space and care provided to detainees.”

“The private prison corporations are making a tremendous profit off the detention of asylum seekers and other immigrants in detention,” said Bob Libal, a senior organizer at Grassroots Leadership, a Charlotte, N.C.-based nonprofit group that opposes the use of for-profit prisons and detention centers.

The Southwest Ranches plan in Florida also faces strong local opposition. Citing concerns about traffic congestion, property values and water shortages, the city commission of Pembroke Pines, which surrounds the site, recently voted to deny water and fire services to the planned facility.

Last week, Corrections Corp. of America, which is supposed to build the complex, filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that city officials “intentionally and unjustifiably interfered with the advantageous business relationship.”

Source: http://www.q13fox.com/news/kcpq-new-prison-for-detained-immigrants-features-salad-bar-unarmed-guards-20120318,0,638278.story

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Top US immigration official says key rule change to take effect before January

Posted by Administrator on March 18, 2012

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas

UNIVISION NEWS  A rule change designed to decrease the time some undocumented immigrants spend away from their families could be implemented by the end of this calendar year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday.

The policy would allow some undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen family members to apply for a waiver from the so-called “three- and ten-year bars” from within the United States.

“We have committed to making it effective this year,” Mayorkas told reporters during a press conference to explain the agency’s strategic priorities for 2012. “I think we envision in the fourth quarter.”

The policy represents a change to existing immigration regulations that officials say prevent many people who are eligible for green cards through family ties from applying because doing so would subject them  to a three- or ten-year ban from the United States.

Under current law, people who leave the country after being in the U.S. illegally for more than 180 days, are banned from coming back for three years. The ban is extended to 10 years if the person is present unlawfully for more than a year.

Existing regulations allow those individuals to circumvent the ban through a waiver if they have a U.S. citizen parent or spouse who would suffer “extreme hardship” upon their removal from the country. In order to apply for the waiver, however, they have to leave the country.

Without a guarantee that their waivers will be approved — and facing an average processing period of six months even if it is approved — many prefer to stay in the United States illegally, rather than take the risk of long-term family separation.

The proposed changes aim to encourage them to go through the process by giving them some indication of whether an approval is likely before they leave.  A person applying for the waiver would still have to exit the country for a consular interview before the final adjudication, but the time he/she would have to spend away would be reduced to a matter of days.

The Obama administration first published a notice of intent to pursue a change in regulations in January. Mayorkas said Tuesday that USCIS will publish the actual proposal “imminently, in a matter of days or a week.” The public is then given 60 days to comment on the proposal, feedback that the agency will take into account in its final promulgation of the rule, expected to take effect by December.

Mayorkas also emphasized the agency’s efforts to strengthen initiatives to prevent fraudulent activity as a result of the new regulations.

“What we are seeing are cases of individuals who are misled by unscrupulous practitioners, or ‘notarios,’ who try to take advantage of the rule that is not yet effective and is only in proposed form, and not even yet in proposed form,” Mayorkas said. “We’re starting to see some victimization in the shadow of what is a tremendously important rule for the public.”

When the change was first announced in January, congressional Republicans, including Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), accused the administration of putting the interests of undocumented immigrants ahead of those of legal residents. Smith also characterized the change as a “back-door amnesty” for millions of people.

Mayorkas said the changes fall within the law and are merely intended to minimize the hardship of people who would be eligible for the waiver anyway. He added that the agency does not have an estimate of how many U.S. citizens, or how many of their undocumented family members, would benefit from the change.

“What this proposed rule does, is accomplish the law’s purpose more effectively and more efficiently. Nothing more and nothing less,” he said. “The law provides that a United States citizen who would suffer extreme hardship by virtue of separation from his or her children or spouse, may obtain a waiver to alleviate that extreme hardship… and the law also provides that before that waiver is granted and the individual is admitted to the United States, the individual must depart the United States. Those basic tenets of the law, both its purpose and its requirement, are fully realized in the proposed rule that will be published shortly…  And so I don’t believe that criticism is meritorious.”

 

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Legal immigrants face deportation for filing false tax return

Posted by Administrator on March 13, 2012

Akio and Fukado Kawashima came to Southern California in 1984 as lawful Japanese immigrants determined to succeed in business. They operated popular sushi restaurants in Thousand Oaks and Tarzana and recently opened a new eatery in Encino.

But after they underreported their business income in 1991, they paid a hefty price. The Internal Revenue Service hit them with $245,000 in taxes and penalties. The couple pleaded guilty and paid in full. A decade later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to deport them.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the final blow, ruling 6 to 3 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement — as the INS is now known — was within its authority to declare such a tax crime an “aggravated felony,” subjecting an immigrant to automatic deportation. Once limited to murderers and drug kingpins, this deportation trigger has steadily expanded over the years.

“It’s really sad — and really unfair,” Wakako Kawashima, the couple’s daughter-in-law, said at the door of her home in Thousand Oaks.

The restaurants have been the couple’s life work, she said, and the family is crushed that a mistake two decades ago could result in their deportation.

Tax lawyers said the ruling in the case of Kawashima vs. Holder sends an ominous warning to legal immigrants throughout the country, and especially to small-business owners whose tax liabilities may be large enough to attract IRS attention.

Under the court’s holding, an immigrant who makes a false statement on a tax return could face not only tax charges but also automatic deportation.

The Kawashimas never became U.S. citizens but were granted lawful permanent residency in the 1980s. They pleaded guilty in 1997 to filing a false corporate tax return, and the husband was given a four-month prison sentence.

“They paid a full restitution at the time to everything they owed the government,” said Thomas Whalen, a Washington attorney who represented the couple before the high court.

Immigration authorities issued the deportation order under a provision of law added by Congress in 1994 that defined “aggravated felony” to include crimes of “fraud or deceit” that cost the victims more than $200,000, a threshold later lowered to $10,000.

The couple had appealed to immigration judges and to the federal courts but lost in a split decision before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Their hopes were revived last year when the Supreme Court agreed to hear their appeal. Judges in other parts of the country had rejected the idea that underreporting taxes amounted to an aggravated felony.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking for the court, said the Kawashimas had “knowingly and willingly submitted a tax return that was false” and “therefore had committed a felony that involved ‘deceit.'”

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it was “implausible” to believe Congress saw this tax crime as “sufficiently serious to warrant the drastic measure of deportation.” Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed with her.

This decision “should send a shock wave through the resident alien community,” said Sanford Millar, a tax lawyer in Los Angeles. “What’s surprising is that this would be deemed an aggravated felony.”

The ruling could, for example, trigger deportation for immigrants working in the United States who fail to report foreign bank accounts as required by the IRS, he said.

But tax experts note that the ruling applies only to criminal tax violations, not civil claims that result in repayments.

Wakako Kawashima said her in-laws are “embarrassed” by the legal tangle and are still trying to absorb the ruling. “They know the decision, but they’re trying to figure out what to do,” she said.

Her husband, Hiroshi, 36, helps run the restaurants with his parents. On Friday, he was busy at work in Encino, helping to open the newest eatery in their mini-chain.

At the Thousand Oaks eating spot, called Cho Cho San, customers were beginning to fill the seats for the lunch rush. The restaurant, with gleaming glass doors and landscaped gardens, is a popular local stop for sushi and other Japanese specialties.

Stephanie Stanziano, a hostess, said news of the court’s decision had not reached the staff. She was saddened by the couple’s plight. “Oh, that’s terrible!” she said.

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/26/local/la-me-0226-deport-tax-20120226

Posted in Immigration | Comments Off on Legal immigrants face deportation for filing false tax return

Canada takes action on marriage fraud for immigration purposes

Posted by Administrator on March 10, 2012

A change in legislation means that any immigrant who is sponsored to become a   permanent resident by a Canadian partner will have to wait five years from   the day they are granted residency until they can sponsor a new partner to   come to the country.

Under previous legislation, it was easy for an immigrant who had begun a   relationship with a Canadian to leave them as soon as they had residency,   and quickly sponsor somebody else.

Many Canadians who believed themselves to be in genuine relationships have   been victims of this kind of fraud, made all the more painful by the fact   they were still held financially responsible for the person they had   sponsored for up to three years.

Announcing the new rule, which follows a series of consultations on marriage   fraud held in 2010, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism minister   Jason Kenney said the action was being taken “because immigration to   Canada should not be built upon deceit.”

“Many of the people who took part in the consultations made it abundantly   clear that marriage fraud poses a significant threat to our immigration   system,” he said. “Our government has listened to the victims of marriage   fraud and all Canadians, and acted to crack down on those who engage in   fraud and abuse Canadians’ generosity and our immigration system.”

The new rule was welcomed by anti-fraud groups but Don Davies, the official   opposition critic on immigration, said he felt it would be better to stop   the fraudsters coming to Canada in the first place.

“Where I would put my focus is on prevention rather than the defeatist   position of the minister, which is simply to ramp up penalties after the   problem has occurred,” Canadian newspapers quoted him as saying.

Others have criticised the move for unfairly penalising immigrants who are in   genuine relationships that happen to end after their arrival.

It is difficut to estimate exactly how many people in Canada, which allows   around 40,000 spouses or common-law partners to be sponsored each year, are   victims of marriage fraud, but the organisation Canadians Against   Immigration Fraud says the number of reported incidents “grows every week”.

Although the minister’s speech focused mainly on immigrants who deceive   Canadians into sponsoring them, cases of Canadian citizens who are complicit   in marriage fraud, for money or other reasons, are also far from rare.

The department for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism warns on its   website that anyone who pretends to be in a relationship to help someone   come to Canada can face “serious criminal charges”.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/9131253/Canada-takes-action-on-marriage-fraud.html

 

 

Posted in Immigration | 2 Comments »

 
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