Friday, August 19, 2011

Obama To Ease Deportations of Noncriminals

The Obama Administration formally announced yesterday its support for a policy of easing deportations of non criminal immigrants. The announcement came in the form of a letter from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to Senator Dick Durbin and 21 other senators. The policy change will allow the government to concentrate its limited resources on deporting criminals while halting the removal of noncriminal immigrants with close family ties to American citizens and permanent residents.
The Napolitano letter is a formal endorsement of a policy change that has been slowly underway at immigration offices around the country this summer. It began with a memo from ICE Director John Morton on June 17 that announced his department would use “prosecutorial discretion” to halt the arrest, detention, and removal of noncriminal immigrants “to ensure that the agency’s immigration enforcement resources are focused on the agency’s enforcement priorities.”
This policy reversal is an admission by the Administration of the failure of its “get tough” policy of increasing deportations of undocumented immigrants that has infuriated Latino organizations without appeasing any of the anti-immigration lobby. The policy has clogged the immigration courts with over 300,000 cases leading to backlogs in many courts of 2-4 years and longer.
The new policy was discussed in a White House blog by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs who stated, “There are more than 10 million people who are
in the U.S. illegally; it’s clear that we can’t deport such a large number. So the Administration has developed a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first.” Ms. Muñoz further stated noted that the Administration “will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record.”

In practical terms, it is still unclear how DHS will proceed. We have seen the first stages of this policy implemented over the summer as government attorneys have been quick to move to terminate deportation proceedings against noncitizens who clearly qualify for relief, including spouses or parents of U.S. citizens. We have also seen a more lenient policy with regard to motions to reopen prior deportation proceedings, particularly where the individual is now eligible to apply for a green card.

Still uncertain is how the program will be expanded. The administration is hinting at providing work authorization for immigrants who would qualify under the Dream Act, a proposed law that would give eventual citizenship to those who were brought to the U.S. as children and have completed high school and college or military service. Would this policy also apply to young people who have so far escaped detection and arrest by ICE? Would it include others who do not qualify under the Dream Act but are raising families in the U.S. and paying taxes? Will applicants first have to be placed in removal proceedings to get work cards? How will the administration deal with deserving individuals who have existing deportation orders but have never returned home?

The Administration has yet to answer any of these questions other than to say they will review these maters on a “case by case basis.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians

The Obama administration recently announced that Haitians who received temporary protected immigration status (TPS) due to the massive earthquake striking their country last year will be allowed an additional year and a half to live and work in the United States.

Initially, TPS was available to all Haitians who continuously resided in the U.S. since the day of the earthquake: January 12, 2010. Under the new law, Haitians who have arrived as late as January 12, 2011 and have continuously resided in the U.S. may obtain TPS. The extension will not be granted to people who have been convicted of a felony or at least two misdemeanors and will expire on Jan. 22, 2013.

To this day approximately 48,000 Haitians living in the United States have secured temporary protected status since the earthquake, and an estimated 10,000 more would be eligible under the extension.

Guidelines from immigration services were issued last week and can be found at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Google, eBay, Intel and Yahoo! All Had Founders Who Were Born Overseas"

The NY Daily News reports that Mayor Bloomberg met with the world-wide winners and finalists of a program that allows them to launch their businesses in New York City. In addition to $15,000 to $20,000, the winners also receive free office space for six months.

Meeting these foreign born individuals, Mayor Bloomberg stated his desire for immigration restrictions to be removed so that it would be easier for immigrants to begin business and ventures in New York. He stated that "we must continue to attract the best, brightest, and hardest-working to make sure the next great company is founded here." Mayor Bloomberg went on to say: "Talented entrepreneurs from across the globe entered this competition with the goal of getting help to establish their ventures in the City. We want them and other budding business leaders from around the world to start their ventures here, and one of the most important things we need to make that a reality is immigration reform. Without sensible changes to immigration laws, we risk missing out on the next big thing. That would be a big loss for our City's economy or our country's future."

The six finalist teams were from leading business and engineering schools in India, Singapore, France, the Czech Republic and Canada. This week is also Immigrant Heritage Week, which was established by the mayor in 2004 in New York. During this week, Mayor Bloomberg’s offices are working with StoryCorps to collect and share immigrant stories of how they arrived to New York.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Obama Begins Push for Immigration Reform

Many activists blame President Obama for not making Immigration a priority in the nation. In fact, the Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants, hitting a record 392,000 in the fiscal year of 2010. In hopes to change the anger communities feel towards his administration, Obama has made some recent moves to draw attention back to immigration reform.

The Wall Street Journal and numerous other outlets have reported that Obama has held private meetings to discuss immigration with political figures such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, business leaders such as John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable; and religious leaders such as Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House, stated to the New York Times that Obama intends to start the immigration debate this year. In a town meeting last month, Obama stated that immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”

It is clear that Obama has started to push for immigration legislation; however, many still have doubts regarding the President's sincerity and suspect his actions are solely for political reasons. Opposition is always anticipated where talks about immigration reform develop. During these times, advocates are encouraged to build support for proposals, especially for one expected from the President shortly.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Activists and Lawmakers Pressure Obama for Immigration Reform

Both during his campaign and early on in his election, President Obama promised to work on bringing immigration reform to the country. He stated numerous times that he would champion a comprehensive resolution, and allow the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and allow them to take steps to become legal citizens. In fact, at the NALEO conference in 2008, Obama stated, “[w]e must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day.”

Unfortunately, Obama has not lived up to his promises. Advocates are finally coming out to pressure Obama to do so. Most recently a campaign entitled “Change Takes Courage” has started. This campaign consists of immigration activists and lawmakers who are challenging Obama through a series of nationwide events. The organizations are specifically asking Obama to “provide relief to parents of citizen children, military veterans, DREAM-eligible youth and immigrants with deep roots in their communities who work and have families here; to curb ICE programs that undermine the public safety of all communities; and increase protection of all workers.” You can learn more about the campaign at their website:

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Obama’s home state Illinois has also started a campaign entitled “Campaign for American Children and Families” to pressure Obama. This campaign focuses on U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen families who are being split by deportations. Rep. Gutierrez started a 20 plus city tour. Tour stops will mostly be held at large church gatherings and include families, students eligible for the DREAM Act, and others caught up in deportations. The tour began in Rhode Island on April 2nd. To learn more about the tour please visit Rep. Gutierrez’s website at

Although Obama has not released a blueprint for immigration reform, pressure from lawmakers, activists, and the people of this country is a strong step forward to force Obama to carry out his promises.

Friday, April 1, 2011

NY DREAM Act Introduced in State Senate!

After the DREAM Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate, the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) had vowed to work towards a NY version of the DREAM Act. On March 21, 2011, they prevailed in their struggle. State Senators Bill Perkins (District 30) introduced the New York DREAM Act (S. 4179) and State Senator Dan Squadron (District 25) has co-sponsored the bill.

Although there is no path to citizenship, the NY version of the DREAM Act will provide State benefits to those that meet its requirements. As reported by the NYSYLC, the benefits include access to financial aid for higher education, access to driver’s licenses, work authorization and access to health care. In order to qualify for these benefits, the young person must have arrived to the United States before the age of 16, be under the age of 35, have resided in New York State for at least two years, have obtained a high school diploma or GED equivalent from an American institution and have good moral character.

Governor Cuomo has not publicly stated his opinion regarding the NY DREAM Act. To urge the Governor to publicly state his support for the NY DREAM Act, visit Take one minute to sign the petition and message it to Governor Cuomo.

To get active in the New York State Dream Act Campaign 2011 please visit

Follow us on twitter at ImmigrationNY for instant updates on the NY DREAM Act.

Friday, March 25, 2011

StartUp Visa Bill Introduced to Help Immigrants Build Businesses in America

Educated workers have recently been opting to return to countries such as China and India, booming the businesses in such countries. To tackle this problem, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Startup Visa Bill in an effort to build partnerships with U.S. investors and immigrants. The Bill was first introduced in February of 2010 and was revised and reintroduced last week. Many stakeholders were critical of the first version due to its stringent requirements and barriers; however, the new version seems more promising.

In the new version, the StartUp Visa Bill will make both individuals living within the U.S. and those living outside the U.S. eligible for Startup Visas if they meet specific requirements:

Immigrants living outside the U.S. would be eligible for a visa if a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially sponsor their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. To obtain permanent residency within the U.S., after two years, their business must have created 5 new jobs and raised not less than $500,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $500,000 in revenue.
Immigrants living outside the U.S. will also be eligible to apply for a visa if they have controlling interest of a company in a foreign country that has generated, during the most recent 12-month period, not less than $100,000 in revenue from sales in the U.S. To obtain permanent residency within the U.S., after two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.
Immigrants currently living and working inside the U.S. on an unexpired H-1B visa; OR immigrant entrepreneurs currently in the U.S. who have completed a graduate level degree in science, technology, engineering, math, computer science, or other relevant academic discipline from an accredited United States college, university, or other institution of higher education would be eligible for a visa if they demonstrate annual income of not less than roughly $30,000 or the possession of assets of not less than roughly $60,000; and have proven that a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially back their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $20,000. To obtain permanent residency within the U.S., after two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.

Keep in mind that a qualified U.S. investor is a U.S. citizen who must have invested $50,000 every year for the previous three years. This Bill will increase entrepreneurship among immigrants, create jobs, and boost the U.S. economy.

Follow us on Twitter at ImmigrationNY for instant updates on the progression of this Bill.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Support the People of Japan

On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck with a violent earthquake of 8.9 magnitude, which was then shortly followed by a Tsunami. Together both caused severe damage to the country killing thousands and leaving millions seriously affected. Approximately 13,000 individuals have been confirmed dead or reported missing. Temporary shelters have been created for those who have lost their homes, however these shelters are amid freezing temperatures. There are currently 450,000 people in these shelters.

Furthermore, Japan is now facing a nuclear crisis due to explosions caused by the earthquake and Tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The World Bank issued a report saying the damage from Japan's earthquake and tsunami could amount to as much as $235 billion. Rebuilding Japan after this destruction has been reported to take at least five years.

It has been reported that foreign countries are preparing for their citizens to leave Japan - the first planeload of Americans has already left. Last week, the U.S. government chartered a flight evacuating one hundred American nationals.

Although it has been reported that Japan was a well prepared country for such intense national disasters, the country needs all the support it can get. Please support Japan while they face these humanitarian crises. Use this Google Response page to donate to the victims in Japan:

You can donate through a number of organizations including the Japanese Red Cross Society, International Medical Corps, UNICEF, and Save the Children.

With today’s technological advances, you can also donate through your mobile devices. Here are a few options:

Text JAPAN to 20222 To donate $10 to Save The Children
Text MERCY to 25283 To donate $10 to Mercy Corps
Text REDCROSS to 90999 To donate $10 to American Red Cross
Text 4JAPAN to 20222 To donate $10 to World Vision

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

States Take Action on Immigration Issues

Ever since the Federal government failed to enact laws bringing immigration reform to the country, States have increasingly decided to take this matter into their own hands. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reported that in 2010 State legislators from 46 different states and the District of Columbia introduced more than 1,400 bills and resolutions relating to state immigration issues. A detailed description on the types of laws introduced and/or passed can be found here:

The most controversial adoption of state immigration law occurred last April in the state of Arizona. Arizona adopted Senate Bill 1070 which, among other changes, makes it a misdemeanor to not carry papers showing immigration status, and allows police officers to detain individuals reasonably suspected of being in the country without proper authorization. Although most hoped that what happened in Arizona would stay in Arizona, the bill is influencing other states to take action. Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island attempted to pass similar bills, however none were enacted into law.

Other examples include the state of Oklahoma, which sought to ban motorists from picking up undocumented day laborers; South Carolina, which is considering making it a felony to sell fake identification cards to undocumented immigrants; and Texas, which recently introduced House Bill 2012 proposing to criminalize the hiring of undocumented immigrants, with the exception of undocumented immigrants hired for domestic/household work.

However, not all state action has followed the Arizona-style. In fact, the state of Utah recently passed legislation creating a state guest-worker program, which would allow undocumented immigrants to work legally in the state by paying fines of up to $2,500 and passing a criminal background check. This law will need a federal waiver and if received will take effect in two years. Utah legislators removed provisions similar to that of Arizona SB 1070, but included requirements that police officers verify the immigration status of individuals stopped or detained for crimes. Utah, New Mexico, and Washington are the few states left allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World's largest CEO's call for Immigration Reform

The world’s most successful CEOs recently declared that Immigration Reform is essential if the United States is to remain competitive in the global market. The 2011 Consumer electronics show in Las Vegas featured a panel discussion between the CEOs of Xerox, Cisco and General Electric on the keys to developing innovative technology. The panel promoted national policy changes to education, taxes, export and immigration. The view of the panel was the United States current immigration polices ostracizes foreign workers, and students, thus alienating some of the world’s most talented work force. The CEOs, not surprisingly, admitted that they have a policy of hiring the best potential employees- no matter where they live. Clearly if these workers are not welcome in the United States the companies will be forced to outsource their business to other countries, further decreasing opportunities for American workers. The panel suggested a policy change which would allow students to earn their residency or citizenship by studying at a United States University. This would be a change from the current policy which only provides a temporary status to students. This temporary status allows them to study in the United States, but then does not allow them to stay and put their educations to use at American businesses, forcing them to take the skills they learned to foreign countries and most likely competing businesses.