Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security led a closed-door meeting this week in Seattle, Washington with representatives from a number of industries and advocacy groups affected by immigration legislation. On Monday, Napolitano met with members of immigration advocacy groups, labor unions, local officials, police officers, representatives of farmworkers’ associations and other interested parties. In the meeting, Napolitano and the attendees discussed current and proposed changes to immigration legislation and enforcement.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration called for the auditing of the workforces of more than 650 businesses throughout the country, leading to major concerns voiced by businesses and relevant organizations that want to understand the impact of these changes in the implementation of policy at the national level.
“Secretary Napolitano believes it’s important to speak directly to the many individuals and groups that are impacted by our work,” said Matt Chandler, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security.
In the meeting, attendees voiced their concerns about recent ICE practices, including programs looking to utilize local law enforcement officials in the tasks of tracking illegal immigrants and due process rights for immigrants that have been incarcerated by federal officials.
While there had been earlier talk about comprehensive immigration reform entering the national agenda as a major news item this year, currently the issue has been substantially shadowed by current interest in healthcare reform. It is expected, however, that the Obama Administration, with Napolitano as its primary decision-maker, will push forward with shifts to changes in policy and implementation in the coming months.
According to a number of sources, it appears that the USCIS has increased the amounts of requests for evidence it has submitted to petitioners applying for new H-1B visas and permanent residency cards. The process of obtaining H-1B visas and green cards has been slowed down by this added set of requests for additional information. USCIS has asked some petitioners for corporate payroll records, zoning maps and other proofs of evidence for new H-1B and green card requests.
In response to complaints regarding this increase in documentation requests, USCIS commented that it has indeed increased its scrutiny of new H-1B visa and green card applications. This is due, USCIS states, to new restrictions set in place by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which includes a number of H-1B restrictions on companies that have received TARP bailout funds.
USCIS comments that it is requesting additional evidence in cases where it is possible that beneficiaries will not be working at the location of the petitioner, but may be working at a secondary location.
USCIS has just announced that it has now resumed Premium Processing services for R-1 Nonimmigrant Religious Worker petitioners. According to USCIS petitioners who have successfully passed an on-site inspection may request the premium processing service. USCIS defines “successful completion of a site inspection” as an inspection conducted at the employment location of the beneficiary which “has resulted in satisfactory completion of such inspection.”
Petitioners are not required to submit proof of their eligibility to USCIS to request premium processing of R-1 cases. Instead, USCIS will conduct a search in its electronic systems for verification of the successful completion of the site inspection upon receipt of the Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, when it is submitted with an R-1 petition.
According to Homeland Secretary, Janet Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon be proposing a new regulation that would get rid of the 2007 No-Match Rule. The No-Match Rule was blocked by court order just after it was issued; it has never taken effect. The rule called for procedures that employers could follow after receiving SSA No-Match letters or DHS notices that called into question employment eligibility information provided by their employees.
These notices typically would provide information to employers that an employee’s name and Social Security Number did not match SSA records months after the employee hire date. Many times, these No-Match cases were due to typographical errors or unreported name changes.
Napolitano and her department, who fully support the E-Verify program, believe that E-Verify addresses data inaccuracies that result in some No-Match cases and can better assess actual individuals unauthorized to work in the U.S.
Earlier this week, the Senate announced that its amendments to the Fiscal Year 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill should be included in the final version of that bill. The Senate has requested a conference with representative members of the House of Representatives to seek a resolution of differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
In preparation, the Senate has announced which Senators will be members of the conference. The House has not yet announced their conferees.
The House version of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill passed on June 24 by a vote of 389 to 37. Included in that version was a two-year reauthorization of the Basic Pilot/E-Verify program.
The Senate version of the bill passed on July 9 by a vote of 84 to 6.
An independent task force with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) just released a report on U.S. immigration policies. The task force calls for the Obama administration and Congress to push forward with comprehensive immigration reform. If not, the task force reports, the U.S. economy could weaken, the country’s diplomacy could be weakened and its national security threatened.
A major recommendation of the task force is that the effort to instill comprehensive immigration reform should be of utmost priority for legislators and should start as soon as possible.
The report was made up of a number of suggestions covering the breadth and depth of immigration:
(1) Comprehensive immigration should be a priority on current legislators’ agendas.
(2) The U.S. must work diligently to attract skilled workers from other countries; this should be the central component of U.S. immigration policies. The task force suggests that caps placed on employment-bas.
The U.S. Senate has added and passed two immigration-related amendments to the upcoming Fiscal Year 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.
The first amendment, sponsored by Senator Sessions (R-AL), proposes to reauthorize the Basic Pilot/E-Verify program and require that all federal contractors and subcontractors use the web-based compliance service. An additional sub-amendment was attached to this amendment by Senator Leahy (D-VT) that would permanently authorize the EB-5 Regional Centers program. These amendments were agreed to by a voice vote.
The second amendment, sponsored by Senator DeMint (R-SC), proposes to require the completion of a minimum of 700 miles of reinforced fencing along the Southwest border of the U.S. by the end of 2010. This amendment passed by a vote of 54 to 44.
If the overall appropriations bill is passed by the Senate, the bill will then go to conference, where representatives from the House and the Senate will then work to reconcile differences between their two versions of the bill.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today announced a new audit initiative by issuing Notices of Inspection to 652 businesses throughout the U.S. This number is astounding; it’s more than ICE issued throughout all of the last fiscal year. These notices have informed these businesses that ICE will inspect their hiring records to make sure that the businesses are complying with federal employment eligibility verification requirements.
“ICE is committed to establishing a meaningful I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law. This nationwide effort is a first step in ICE’s long-term strategy to address and deter illegal employment,” said John Morto, Assistant Secretary for ICE, Department of Homeland Security.
Federal law requires employers to fill-in and keep record of an I-9 Form for each person they hire to work in the U.S. the I-9 Form requires employers to verify the identities and employment authorization of their employees.
All 652 businesses that received Notices of Inspection today for I-9 audits were selected based on leads and other investigative information obtained by ICE. Names and locations of these businesses have not yet been released by ICE.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently announced that it has begun accepting electronic, web-based applications for nonimmigrant visas at a number of international consular posts, with the goal of having the new, web-based application system in place worldwide as soon as possible. Currently, consular posts in Ciudad Juarez, Dublin, Hamilton (Bermuda) Hermosillo, Hong Kong, Matamoros, Monterrey, Montreal, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Tripoli, and Vancouver accept these web-based applications and, shortly, the applications will be accepted at all posts in Canada.
Many of the above-stated consulates are requiring the use of the web-based nonimmigrant application form. To apply for a nonimmigrant visa using the new, web-based DS-160 form, please visit https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/, or, when applicable, the specified Web site page for the consular post you are applying at. When you have completed the form, you will receive confirmation; you should bring a print-out of this confirmation page with you to your personal interview. Additionally, if you were not able to scan in your photographs into the web-based application system, you should plan on bringing hard copies of those photos to your personal interview.