Georgia Immigration Panel Meets, Elects Chairman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the new state panel charged with helping enforce Georgia’s immigration-related laws met for the first time and elected its chairman amid controversy over the law that created it and calls for one of its members to be removed. The board is responsible for investigating complaints that city, county and state officials are violating state immigration enforcement laws. Amid calls for Gov. Nathan Deal to remove panel member Phil Kent for views many immigrant activists label “extreme” and “racist,” the panel met and unanimously elected local attorney Ben Vinson the chairman. Deal’s office has so far declined to comment on calls to remove Kent.
USCIS Seeks Public Comments on Proposed Rule Impacting Certain Pending Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Applications
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is seeking comments on a proposed rule found here that would enable USCIS to process certain applications approved between 1995 and 1998 by immigrant investors under the EB-5 visa. The processes outlined in the proposed rule would provide an additional two-year period for most of these immigrant investors to meet the EB-5 investment and job-creation requirements. This rule would not impact any other applications or petitions filed under the EB-5 program. The public has 60 days, from Sept. 28 to Nov. 28, 2011, to submit comments on the proposal.
In Change, NYC Mayor Bloomberg Backs Obstacle to Deportation
The New York Times reports that in a reversal, the Bloomberg administration said it would support a New York City Council bill that hampers federal authorities’ ability to detain and deport foreign-born inmates on Rikers Island who are about to be released. The bill will not end the practice of Corrections Department officials sharing lists of foreign-born inmates with immigration authorities. Instead, it would prevent corrections officials from transferring inmates to federal custody, even immigrants in the United States illegally, if prosecutors declined to press charges against them, and if they had no convictions or outstanding warrants, had not previously been ordered deported and did not show up on the terrorist watch list.
Supporters of more restrictive immigration laws have criticized the Council bill as a get-out-of-jail-free card for illegally present immigrants. Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington said it amounts to “playing Russian roulette with public safety.” Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito dismissed that charge, saying the measure would affect only “people who do not pose a risk to safety and security.”
Investor Visas for $1B California Development Project Axed
The Associated Press reports that federal officials have shut down an investor visa program involving a $1 billion residential and commercial development in suburban Los Angeles. Immigration and Citizenship Services shut down the program, which allowed foreign investors to obtain permanent residency if they invested $500,000 in the El Monte Transit Village project development, while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development investigates the possible misuse of federal funds. City officials applauded the shutdown. The developer, Transit Village LLC, no longer has city support for the project and city officials fear investors may lose their money.
California Governor Signs Key Immigration Reform Bill
The State Column (CA) reports that California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act into law. The California version of the Dream Act, which has no relation to the proposed federal law with the same name, combines existing California laws to allow qualified students who are trying to legalize their immigration status the ability to apply for financial help such as Cal Grants and other forms of state aid to pay for their education. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us,” Brown said via press release.
Obama Jobs Council Calls for Sweeping Changes in Federal Policies
The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration’s jobs council, a group of corporate and labor leaders advising President Obama, is calling for sweeping and urgent changes in government policies to help with the economic downturn. The recently released jobs council’s report calls for eased immigration rules for high-skilled foreigners, including automatic work permits or provisional visas to all foreign students after they earn science, technology, engineering or math degrees from U.S. colleges or universities. “…when it comes to driving job creation and increasing American competitiveness, separating the highly skilled worker component is critical,” the council report states.
USCIS Announces “Entrepreneurs in Residence” Initiative
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas met with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Pittsburgh to announce a new agency initiative, “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” Mayorkas said the new initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities. Informed by summits with industry leaders, the agency will then employ a tactical team comprised of entrepreneurs and experts, working with USCIS personnel, to design and implement effective solutions.
DHS Announces 18-Month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan and Designation for South Sudan
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan for 18 months. She also designated the new Republic of South Sudan for TPS for 18 months. Both the extension and the new designation are effective Nov. 3, 2011, and will continue through May 2, 2013. TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to nationals of designated countries as part of the US Immigration Act of 1990. During the period for which a country has been designated under the TPS program, the registrants are allowed to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization and may not be deported unless they commit certain crimes. TPS does not lead to permanent residence status in the US.
Nov. 2 Hearing in Immigrant Wage Rule Challenge
The Associated Press reports that a Nov. 2 hearing is scheduled in Alexandria, Louisiana over a federal rule on H-2B visas that some Louisiana business interests say could hurt them by driving up wages for temporary immigrant labor. Opponents of the rule, including Louisiana foresters and seafood processors, say the changes could boost wages as much as 83 percent for some workers in the country on temporary visas. Backers of the new rules want the Louisiana case dismissed or moved to a federal court in Pennsylvania that has been dealing with the issue.
Federal Prosecutors to Visit Utah over Immigration Law
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that federal prosecutors will visit Utah to evaluate whether the U.S. Department of Justice should join civil liberties groups suing the state for its enforcement-only immigration law. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff will meet with two assistant U.S. attorneys to illustrate differences between Utah’s HB497 and the enforcement-only immigration bills in Alabama and Arizona that the Justice Department did contest. Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, the Republican responsible for HB497, defended the Utah bill as a more “measured approach” than the Alabama law that he feels “went too far.” Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said she believes the Utah law still violates federal immigration laws. “We think the Justice Department should step in and join the lawsuit in Utah and certainly some of the most recent court papers say they are considering that,” Tumlin said. Officials with the Justice Department did not provide comment.
Cain Says His Deadly Fence Plan Was “a Joke”
The New York Times reports that at two campaign rallies in Tennessee, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally. By the following morning, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cain rapidly changed his tone by calling the remarks “a joke.” Though Cain attempted to brush aside the comments by stating his feelings that “America needs to get a sense of humor,” Ed Wyatt of the New York Times reported that the comments did not seem to be introduced jokingly. Wyatt noted that the comments “drew loud cheers from the crowds,” and that at the second stop Mr. Cain added that he also would consider using military troops “with real guns and real bullets” on the border to stop illegal immigration.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Herman Cain’s suggestion that an electrical fence be used to control illegal immigration between Mexico and the United States drew the ire of the Latino lawmakers in the U.S. House. “Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain’s words show a lack of understanding of immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity,” said Charlie Gonzalez, head of the 21-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Cain apologized for his immigration comments but he said he would not back away from the idea of creating a fence to span portions of the U.S.-Mexico border.
New California Law Bars E-Verify Requirements for Employers
The Los Angeles Times reports that California passed legislation into law that prohibits the state, cities and counties from mandating that private employers use E-Verify. Ted Wegener, founder of the Southern California based Conservative Activists, expressed disappointment in having the gains his group made in pushing for E-Verify mandates “squashed” by state legislation. Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), who introduced the bill, said he felt that mandatory E-Verify was an unnecessary burden on businesses that often produced inaccurate results. “Why make a flawed system mandatory,” he questioned. For Wegener, the battle now shifts to the federal level, where Congress is considering a measure proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers.
Filipino Teachers in U.S. Sue Los Angeles Company
The Los Angeles Times reports that a group of Filipino teachers filed a federal lawsuit against a Los Angeles firm that helped get them their teaching jobs in Louisiana post Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuit accused the firm, Universal Placement International Inc., and its president, Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, of forcing the Filipino teachers to pay immigration fees that under federal law should have been paid by the districts that hired them. The Filipino teachers also claim that they were pressured into paying a second fee of as much as $8,000 before they would be allowed to leave the Philippines and additional fees once they arrived in the United States. Navarro’s attorney, Don A. Hernandez, said all the fees were fair and disclosed up front. Hernandez highlighted six teachers who have signed sworn statements asserting that they were happy with the services they received and that Navarro’s company’s prices were fair.
The teacher plaintiffs have also sued the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in Louisiana and Pasadena attorney Robert B. Silverman, accusing them of participating in a scheme that left many teachers saddled with debt and victims of “forced labor.” A judge dismissed human-trafficking claims against the school board but let stand allegations that the school system was negligent in hiring Navarro because she has been convicted of criminal fraud in the past. The teachers accused Silverman of malpractice for failing to advise them that the school districts should have paid their immigration fees, costing them thousands of dollars each. Silverman’s attorney, Brian Oxman, said the teachers’ lawsuit “has no factual or legal support.” The teachers’ lawsuit was filed in 2010 and is scheduled to go to trial in 2012.
Rand Paul Ends Hold On SSI Benefits
Politico (DC) reports that freshman Sen. Rand Paul agreed to lift his hold on a bill extending aid, known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), to elderly and disabled refugees living in the United States. Paul blocked the refugee aid bill over concerns that the funding could be used to help domestic terrorists. These worries were raised when two Iraqi-born terrorism suspects, who came to the United States through a refugee program and were receiving welfare benefits, were arrested this year in Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, Ky. Paul allowed the bipartisan bill to advance after Democratic leaders promised to hold a congressional hearing into how individuals are selected for refugee status and request an investigation into why the two men were admitted to the U.S. through a refugee program.
Cain Meets “America’s Toughest Sheriff”
The Hill (DC) reports that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain met with Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who bills himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is known for his aggressive, and often controversial, position on immigration. According to Arpaio, Cain is the fourth candidate to seek his endorsement. The Republican presidential hopefuls anticipate an association with the Arizona immigration lawman will reinforce their image as being tough on illegal immigration.
Sparks Fly Over Immigration at GOP Debate
Fox News Latino reports that the issue of immigration played a central role at the GOP debate in Las Vegas, often sparking barbed exchanges between candidates. Texas Gov. Rick Perry took the issue of immigration, which has plagued his campaign recently, and turned it against Romney. Perry called Romney a hypocrite for portraying himself as tough on immigration when he had once used a lawn service that employed illegally present immigrants. Romney, in turn, attacked Perry for allowing in-state tuition to illegally present immigrants, calling the program a “magnate” for illegal immigration. Michele Bachmann said that she would build a “double fence” and, in a reference to Perry and in-state tuition, would not allow any breaks for the undocumented. Herman Cain said he favored a comprehensive border protection plan, including troops.