THE U.S. IMMIGRATION NEWSLETTER IS PUBLISHED BY AN INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATION.
New York, August 2011
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Washington, D.C.: Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat and a Representative of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with 10 others, was arrested outside of the Whitehouse in late July, as they were protesting against deportations of Illegal immigrants and lack of immigration reform. The group of people that were arrested was part of a larger group of protesters that claim that the number of deportations executed under President Obama is greater than under any other U.S. president. The arrested protestors sat down in front of the Whitehouse in an area where stopping is not permitted, and people are required to keep moving. Washington D.C. Park Police says 11 people were arrested, because they violated the regulations against demonstrating in front of the Whitehouse, and because they did not obey the officials who asked them to leave. Gutierrez has been a U.S. Representative for 18 years, and is regarded as the highest elected official among Latinos in the United States. He is also considered to be the leader of comprehensive immigration reform nationally, and has a key role in pushing the DREAM Act in Congress. The point of the demonstration in front of the Whitehouse was to protest against what the demonstrators call “inaction” from President Obama on both the DREAM Act and on immigration reform. Luis Gutierrez was also arrested in May of last year during another demonstration in front of the Whitehouse. That time Gutierrez said that he would not move until the immigration system was reformed or he was arrested.
Business Leaders want More H-1B Work Visas Washington, D.C.: Several U.S. business leaders were among people testifying before a Senate judiciary subcommittee late July, asking for an increase in the number of work visas to be available for skilled foreign workers, as U.S. companies struggle to find qualified labor among U.S. citizens and residents. Others, who were also giving testimony at the hearing, urged the senators to restrict foreigner’s access to U.S. work visas, saying that fraud and abuse of certain visa programs, particularly the H-1B and the L-1 Work Visa programs, hurt the U.S. work force. Among the business leaders, Nasdaq president Bob Greifeld claimed American tech companies are set back by complicated visa restrictions that keeps them from hiring entrepreneurs from overseas. Greifeld pointed out that countries like India and China make it easy and attractive for scientists and engineers to come, and he thinks the U.S. too should prioritize highly skilled foreign workers in a review of the legislation regulating work visas. Brad Smith from Microsoft said they currently have 4,500 job openings. He says they can’t find enough U.S. citizens or residents who qualify, and they can’t get enough visas to fill the positions with foreign workers. Therefore pressure is now building up to move many of Microsoft’s computer science jobs abroad. U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (D) of Iowa, on the other hand, expressed concern that current visa laws in the U.S. are too loosely regulated and vulnerable to fraud and exploitation by large outsourcing firms both in the U.S. and abroad. Ron Hira, a professor from Rochester Institute of Technology, agreed that the current visa regulations can hurt U.S. workers, and suggested several measures to improve the system and to make sure that qualified U.S. citizens and residents get the jobs before foreign workers do.
Sacramento, CA: Fourteen people have been arrested in Sacramento for taking part of a grand-scale fraud, arranging dozens of sham marriages with the objective of obtaining lawful permanent residency and ultimately citizenship for clients from Eastern Europe and Russia. According to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, this case of immigration fraud is the first its kind in Sacramento. According to Wagner, the leader of the group of people behind the scam is a 55-year-old man of Russian decent who has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen. In July, he and 13 others were charged with the crimes of arranging or participating in sham marriages where people from Russia and Eastern Europe paid as much as $10,000 to marry Americans for the purpose of obtaining green card and citizenship. Marrying a U.S. citizen is the most easily available option for many foreigners who wish to immigrate to the U.S., as U.S. citizens who marry non citizens can petition the U.S. government on behalf of their foreign spouses. U.S. Attorney Wagner says that the group of people that were arrested in connection with the immigration scam has received large sums of money over several years, and that some of the charged were involved in several marriages. The ringleader has been investigated by agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since 2006, after the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State passed on information of bogus visa petitions filed on behalf of Russians and Ukrainians. Court documents suggest that the ring leader has assisted at least 10 foreigners to enter fake marriages to get into the United States.
Washington, D.C.:The U.S. House Judiciary Committee in late July moved to abolish the Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery) by approving the Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act in a 19-11 vote. The bill now moves to the full U.S. House of Representatives. According to Lamar Smith, the Green Card Lottery is open to fraud and gives opportunity to terrorists, thus compromising national U.S. security. Bob Goodlatte, Republican from Virginia who introduced the bill, agrees that the visa program is a threat to national security, and says the U.S. Immigration system should be based on the county’s needs rather than on pure luck on behalf of a small number of applicants. John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, is one of the bill’s opponents and says that scrapping the Green Card Lottery would make it nearly impossible for Africans to immigrate legally to the U.S., and it would make it harder for all prospective immigrants to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. Conyers says he wants to improve the Diversity Visa Program rather than abolishing it, and ads that the U.S. immigration system would look very different if it didn’t have the visa lottery, “and not in a good way.” The fist Diversity Visa green cards were issued in 1995, and since that time more than 785,000 visas have been awarded to applicants who won the lottery. The Diversity Visa Program was created in 1990 to make the immigrant population in the U.S. more diverse.
Washington, D.C.: Testimonials from both sides of the party line were quite divided on the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act” (HALT) in a U.S. House Judiciary committee hearing late July. The HALT bill was introduced to put a stop to the way President Obama can use his executive powers to decide which cases of illegal immigration the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should prioritize. A Republican representative from Texas, Lamar Smith, introduced the bill as a reaction to the way DHS chooses to target supposedly dangerous illegal immigrants first, and at the same time choosing to not prioritize deportation of other undocumented immigrants, particularly those who have been in the United States for a long time. In Smith’s words, President Obama chooses to enforce only certain laws. Another witness speaking for the HALT bill, says that Obama’s administration would prefer to welcome as many immigrants as possible to the U.S., and at the same time decrease immigration enforcement efforts and give amnesty to as many illegal immigrants as they can. One witness who spoke against the bill argued that HALT would be “costly, misguided and Irresponsible.” According to her testimony the HALT Act would hurt millions of American citizens and residents. Another opponent said that President Bush during his last two years as president granted 29,000 deferred actions, while the Obama administration has only averaged 28,000 deferred actions. Before the hearing, the Immigration Policy Center published a report that says HALT would end Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Humanitarian Parole and Deferred Action.
Moscow, Russia: Sixty government officials from Russia have been put by the U.S. State Department on a visa blacklist used by immigration officials. This means the Russian government officials will be unable to travel to the United States. The reason for the travel restrictions put on the Russians is their involvement in a corruption case in Russia. A 37-year-old lawyer who uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme in which the Russian officials were involved, were put in prison where he later died. The lawyer was working for a U.S. company and spent almost a year in Russian prison, and died after he was denied medical treatment for an illness. There are even suggestions that he was tortured in prison. Several legislators in the U.S. has been pushing a bill that would ban travel and freeze the assets of the Russians involved in the case, but the U.S. State Department says it has the authority, and even the responsibility, to deny visas to individuals who are involved with violating human rights, and that the Russians have already been marked for travel restrictions. Among the Russians put on the visa blacklist are officials from the Russian Interior Ministry, the Federal Tax Service and the Federal Security Service, as well as judges, prosecutors and prison officials. The Russian government actually promoted several of the involved after the death of the lawyer, but under international pressure eventually announced that two prison doctors would be prosecuted.
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