Thursday, February 24, 2005


SAFER Act Extreme Answer to Immigration Reform?

US Congressional Rep's are jockeying for position in anticipation of President Bush's immigration reform proposal. The extreme nature of some of the legislation make it clear that some compromise is in order at some point. Efforts to restrict immigration generally are being tied into concerns to "make America safe from terrorism." Some of the proposals really only pay lip service to that fight

The restrictionist side is represented at this point, by the Real ID Bill HR 418, (Rep. Sensenbrenner) that was recently passed by the House of Representatives, which would require States to deny driver's licenses to undocumented aliens by requiring controls on the issuance of licenses if they are to be recognized as adequate identification in a number of essential areas. The bill also makes it much harder to prove eligibility for asylum in the US.

Also, the SAFER Act HR 688(Rep Garrett) recently reintroduced in the House reworks the Immigration & Nationality Act in a number of key areas, some changes are quite extreme. I have not seen an analysis of this bill yet, so I'll focus here on some of its more interesting aspects:

Makes the non-displacement attestation for H-1B's required of all employers (only applies to H-1B dependent employers currently)

Imposes an additional $100 anti fraud fee for all applications, immigrant or non-immigrant, with only a few exceptions.

Requires Permanent Residents to register annually, commencing on the first anniversary date after obtaining residency.

All aliens who are not fingerprinted or photographed at the time of visa application must register and be fingerprinted within 30 days of entry if staying in the US for more than 30 days.

In addition to any other requirements to register, SAFER Act requires all aliens in the US to register with Homeland Security every three months, commencing 60 days after the date of entry into the US.

Allows consuls to require "visa term compliance bonds" as a condition of granting a non-immigrant visa. The compliance bond premium may be forfeited under certain conditions such as:
The visa holder changes address without giving USCIS and the bond issuer 60 days notice, or
the visa holder changes schools, jobs or occupations without the written permission of both USCIS and the bond issuer, or the visa holder fails to report to USCIS at least annually (not clear if the other requirements to report count in this case.)

If the visa holder violates any conditions of the visa or the visa bond, the USCIS can order the visa cancelled and the visa holder arrested.

Here is an interesting provision: "At anytime before (my emphasis) a breach of any of the conditions of the bond, the surety or bail agent may surrender the principal (the visa holder) any office" of DHS charged with immigration enforcement or border protection. Sec 304(c) (6)(a). This appears to allow bounty hunters to bring a visa holder suspected of a possible visa breach to haul that person into USCIS.

In fact, together with the Sensenbrenner bill, the SAFER bill seems to be attempting to initiate a new era of bounty hunting. So, an immigration bond can be fulfilled if the bounty hunter turns the alien into the authorities under certain conditions (it says nothing about dead or alive.)

In the work authorization area, the bill makes it unlawful to claim any kind of deduction or benefit from activities resulting from unlawful employment AND gives any individual a right of action to sue on behalf of the US, to recover the value of the benefit. The individual would then be entitled to 25% of the amount recovered.

There is a lot more in the SAFER Bill: Temporarily suspending most visa, adjustment of status processing, etc., while the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security gets its house in order. In removal proceedings, preventing immigration judges from granting continuances to allow an alien to become eligible for relief, or granting an illegal entrant a motion for a change of venue to another location, restrictions on habeus corpus, and so on with the usual anti-immigration favorites.

At this point the bill is still in raw proposed form. The coming weeks will see how much of this gets passed to the Senate to be thrown into the legislative mix.


Monday, February 14, 2005


The New York Times > Washington > State Dept. Relaxes Visa Rules for Some Scientists and Students

The New York Times > Washington > State Dept. Relaxes Visa Rules for Some Scientists and Students
The NY Times reports this morning that the Visas Mantis clearance process is being relaxed a bit by allowing clearances to last as long as four years for students and two years for working scientists. The Visas Mantis process calls for State Department review of visa applications where the applicant appears to be doing advanced research or business activity in an area involving "sensitive technology". The process is meant to keep critical technologies that could harm the U.S. from falling into the wrong hands. The fields of sensitive technology that Visas Mantis covers are set forth in the Technology Alert List and are pretty broadly defined (last time I looked Urban Planning was one of the area covered.) It particularly affects high tech companies in the area of Advanced Computer and Microelectronic Technology. The hope is that this will cut down on the volume of clearance requests forwarded to the State Department and make the clearance process relatively faster. These security clearance requests are particularly frequent at U.S. consulates in China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Migration Issue back in forefront of Bush Agenda?

Thoughts of heavyweight immigration reform, in the forefront of the new administration's policy initiatives, were brought to a full stop as a result of 9/11. It now appears safe to broach the subject again, even though there is active opposition among the restrictionist camp and a split among advocates on what shape reform should take. One has to wonder how much political capital the administration will have to push its reform initiative into law.

In his State of the Union speech on February 2nd, the President reiterated remarks he made one year earlier when he first revived the idea of the guest worker program as a way of dealing with a disfunctional system that has designated a class of over 1 million individuals in the U.S. "America's immigration system is also outdated, unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists. "

This brief statement was quickly overshadowed by Social Security reform (which promises to be the monumental battle of this four year administration,) national security, Iraq, etc, pretty much everything else. Virtually none of the issues he addressed (except perhaps support for the U.S. troops in Iraq,) will result in quick, general agreement. When it does come time to pick his battles, it is still up in the air how much energy the President will have to fight the one for immigration reform, where the individuals who would be most affected are not part of the politically included in the U.S.



The New York Times > Spouses Sidelined in Bids to Get on Fast Track for Green Card

The New York Times > New York Region > Spouses Sidelined in Bids to Get on Fast Track for Green Card
The USCIS program to fast track U.S. citizen spouse permanent residency applications has been terminated, at least in New York. That office of the USCIS announced this last week. It was picked up in the NY Times today. The program was started 8 months ago in various backlogged USCIS district offices and aimed to provide an adjudication of a green card application by a U.S. citizen spouse within 90 days instead of two years.

Many people were advised to refile their green card applications to take advantage of the program. However, those who did so now appear to be caught in the middle: If they refiled in Nov-Dec timeframe, they will not be fast tracked and their filing fees will not be refunded, according to the New York Times. They apparently have also lost their original place in the queue. A spokesman stated that the program was simply an internal management tool and not a guarantee of faster processing. See story for details.

The program apparently still continues in Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.

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