In a recent Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times, Sheldon G. Anderson (Chairman and Chief Executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation), Warren E. Buffett (Chairman and Chief Executive of Berkshire Hathaway), and Bill Gates (former Chairman and Chief Executive of Microsoft) called on Congress to reach a compromise to remedy our “irrational” immigration laws. In this piece, these three business leaders stated that “the three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. . . You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement.” In reviewing the current impasse, this piece notes that “it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities . . . and then to deport them when they graduate.” The Hammond Law Group applauds these statements by Mr. Anderson, Mr. Buffett, and Mr. Gates. We also agree with their conclusion that “whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to deal.” These statements are a call to action that every member of Congress should consider as they review whether or not their choices are truly reflecting the best interests of our country.
One year has passed since the Senate approved the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” In June of 2013, hopes were high that comprehensive immigration reform would become a reality. One year later, these hopes seem misplaced. The Washington Post recently reported that lawmakers on both sides don’t believe that immigration reform will be successful until President Obama leaves office. Despite statements by both Democrats and Republicans that immigration reform is critical to the survival of their parties, opposition from House Republicans has prevented the passage of any reform. With the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary election to a tea-party challenger whose campaign focused on an anti-immigration platform, immigration reform advocates have lost a critical supporter. Despite these negative developments, there is still time for comprehensive immigration reform to pass. The Hammond Law Group urges readers to contact their representatives to express their support for immigration reform.
The Hill is reporting a major hurdle for the Senate CIR bill has been cleared with a large bi-partisan majority. A vote on the full Senate bill could come as early as this week.
The Senate is expected to begin debating the CIR bill on June 10th. A full version of the bill with mark-ups and the latest amendments (1922 pages long) can be found here. Senator Schumer is predicting that the Senate will pass a bill by July 4th and that it will enjoy bi-partisan support, with at least a 70-30 margin.
In a letter to lawmakers published earlier this week by the NY Times, the Union representing USCIS officers and examiners announced their opposition to the Senate Immigration bill. I read the letter and seriously laughed out loud and then I shed a little tear (not really as I am not in the least bit emotionally in touch with myself). The letter derides illegal aliens, USCIS Headquarter policies, orders received from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama’s executive orders, Federal regulations properly enacted under the APA and the current Immigration and Nationality Act. They also take shots at immigration lawyers for representing illegal aliens but, hey lawyers are fair game !
The part of the letter where they complained about being pressured to issue approvals and not having an opportunity to question petitions is particularly laughable to readers of this blog in the IT and healthcare staffing field. The scrutiny which H-1b and L-1 petitions face today is unlike anything in the past 25 years. The denial rates have soared with absolutely no change in the law. The RFE’s being issued are filled with boilerplate and often appear as if they have been issued without even a cursory reading of the record. In the last week alone, I have received an RFE challenging whether or not a physical therapist requires a college degree and another one that questioned whether a US Master’s degree in Computer Engineering was relevant to a Software Engineering position. We routinely see the USCIS questioning extensions for petitions which have been approved several times in the past with identical facts and law. If there is indeed a culture of approval, my clients are not enjoying it. In fact, the immigration bar has labeled the current culture as a “culture of No”.
It is often difficult for many of us to accept that we are subject to a higher authority and we often feel the need to rebel. We see it in the terrible 2’s and 3’s and we see it in petulant teenagers and now we see it expressed by the USCIS examiners and officers. The legal role of administrative adjudicators is to apply the rules properly and fairly. In the context of immigration petitions, the job of the examiner is to approve petitions which meet the legal regulatory standards and are supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Period, end of story. Instead, today we have countless examples of USCIS examiners and officers at the Service Centers and certain Consulates applying a different set of standards than those contained in the law and often, we experience an utter and inexplicable refusal to acknowledge uncontroverted facts. The complaints listed in this letter are simply further evidence of this rebellion. The examiners and officers do not like the authority imposed over them so they unilaterally impose their own view of how things ought to be when they adjudicate petitions. Until we get a new set of laws, I’d simply like to see the current laws followed. Don’t let politics and your own beliefs influence your adjudication of petitions. If you can’t accept that role, try for a transfer to the IRS where it seems like that type of behavior is acceptable.
Update: I’m not alone in my thoughts on this topic. Check out the great blog post by Cyrus Mehta, a well-respected immigration attorney from New York. Enjoy, bookmark, and then, of course, return to my blog !
Update#2 : Once again, another well respected immigration attorney shares my disgust with the USCIS Union letter. Read the blog post of Angelo Paparelli. Bookmark his blog as well but, don’t displace mine as your homepage 🙂
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 13-5 has passed a CIR bill and the bill will now move forward to consideration by the full Senate. It is expected that the Senate will take up the bill in June. We will post a final version as soon as it is available. Our office will also be providing a summary of key elements of the bill for clients.
The Senate Judiciary Committee spent several days last week discussing the almost 300 amendments proposed by committee members. Many of the more anti-business and anti-H-1b amendments proposed by Sens. Grassley and Durbin were defeated however, several measures did pass. TechServe Alliance has posted a brief summary. Advocacy, education, and lobbying continues to be needed to protect the utilization of H-1b visas by staffing and consulting firms.
In a report released earlier this week, the NFAP claimed that the Senate’s proposals to restrict the usage of H-1b’s were not based on sound evidence and represented poor economic policy. This report was issued before Sen. Grassley and others introduced amendments which would create even further restrictions on the H-1b. Whether or not the Senate will allow uncontroverted facts and sound economic policy to get in the way of imposing restrictionist policies is yet to be seen.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee have proposed almost 300 amendments to the Senate CIR bill. Many of these amendments would have disastrous effects on IT staffing cos. Senator Grassley, a long-time opponent of the H-1b program and its use by IT staffing cos. proposed 77 himself. A listing of the amendments can be found here at ILW.com.