Department of Labor Proposes to Move Up Effective Date for New H-2B Prevailing Wage Rule

In the latest issue of the Federal Register, the Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing to amend the effective date of Wage Methodology for the H-2B visa program. The Wage Rule (a final rule, published in January of this year), revises the methodology by which DOL calculates prevailing wages to be paid to H-2B visa holders and US workers recruited for positions related to the H-2B program. The effective date of the original final rule was January 1, 2012.

After a court case in which plaintiffs argued that the 2012 date was an arbitrary date, DOL revised the implementation date of the Wage Rule to take effect 60 days from the publication of a final rule; this anticipated publication date is now on or about August 1, 2011, with the effective date being on or about October 1, 2011. Comments are currently being accepted regarding this implementation date change.

Georgia Anti-immigrant Law Faces Scrutiny

In a recent hearing led by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash, Georgia state attorney Devon Orland was pushed hard to defend the state’s restrictive and controversial immigration enforcement regulations. In the hearing, parts of which were published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thrash questioned the validity and complexity of the legislation, and was concerned that each district would translate and implement its own version of the enforcement law. Below is part of the transcript of Judge Thrash’s comments and perception of the state’s laws:

“You may have one county that says, okay, we don’t like all these Hispanic children in our schools so we are going to make it really tough on anybody that we suspect could be in this country illegally, and we are going to arrest them and detain them until they leave our county – except they can come here for two months to pick our Vidalia onions, and we are not going to bother them then.”

And then we like the people down at the Mexican restaurant, like the food there, so we are not going to bother the cook. And we are not going to bother the guy that does the mayor’s yard work. They’re a nice family, and we are going to leave them alone. But we are going to make life so difficult for everybody else that they are going to leave – except the ones we need to pick our crops or do yard work or wash the dishes in the restaurant.

“I mean, you are not going to have 50 systems of immigration regulation. In Georgia, you are going to have 159. Every county, every municipality is going to decide what its immigration policy is going to be under this law.”

SC Legislature Approves New Immigration Enforcement Bill

A new bill that would add two new processes to immigration enforcement received final approval by the state’s legislative body. The bill would require all of South Carolina’s police officers to check the immigration status of their suspects and all South Carolina businesses to check the immigration status of new hires through the E-Verify online employment eligibility verification system. The state’s House approved the bill Tuesday in a 69-43 vote. The bill has now been sent to Governor Nikki Haley; her sources state that she will sign the bill.

“If Washington refuses to effectively support our law enforcement officers by enforcing immigration laws, it is left up to the states to stand up and do what is right,” said State Senator Bobby Harrell (R., Charleston). “That is exactly what South Carolina did today by making sure our officers have the enforcement tools they need during this time of federal indecision.”

This new bill expands on already existing legislation which, at the time, was considered one of the country’s toughest immigration laws. The original bill required all police officers to contact federal immigration officials if they suspected someone was in the U.S. illegally.

New Gallup Poll Shows Americans Slightly Prefer Lower Immigration Rates

According to data from a new Gallup poll, Americans continue to show a slight preference for lower immigration rates. Gallup states that these perceptions are similar to what was seen last year and remain in line with poll data on the topic since 2002. Eighteen percent of polled Americans, however, favored increased immigration, the highest amount of Americans to state such an opinion since the question was first asked by pollsters in 1965.

Gallup data also show that Democrats and Independents are divided fairly equally between favoring decreased rates of immigration and maintaining the current immigration levels. Republicans presented with a higher preference for decreased immigration rates, but at a rate less than seen in recent years.

View more results at:

Proposed Bill Would Make E-Verify Mandatory

This week, a new bill was introduced in the House of Representatives that would require all employers to use E-Verify to electronically verify the immigration status of potential new hires. The new bill, the Legal Workforce Act (HR 2164) would remove the use of the current paper-based process, gradually replacing it with the use of E-Verify’s online technology for employment verification.

“E-Verify is a successful program to help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers,” said Rep. Lamer Smith (R-TX), the sponsor of the bill. “Despite record unemployment, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.”

While Smith and others do support the proposed bill, it will assuredly receive criticism from many, including the advocacy group, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who are already speaking against the bill. Chirla notes a report by the Government Accountability Office that stated E-Verify has multiple system errors and is prohibitive to small businesses due to increased costs of use.

ICE to Limit Work Restrictions for Eligible F-1 Students from Libya

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that it will offer special relief to some F-1 students from Libya who have experienced severe economic hardships because of the current civil unrest in Libya. ICE states that this relief will only apply to students who were lawfully present in the U.S. under F-1 status on February 1, 2011 (when the civil unrest began), and who are enrolled in an educational institution that his certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

Eligible students will be able to obtain employment authorization to work in the U.S., work an increased number of hours during the school term and, if needed, reduce their course load while still maintaining F-1 status.

“We want to ensure that students from Libya, who were here when civil unrest began, are able to continue their studies without the worry of financial burdens due to the armed conflict,” said Louis Farrell, SEVIS director. “The changes announced in this notice will allow eligible students from Libya to obtain employment authorization so that they can meet their basic living expenses while continuing to pursue their education in the United States.”

Massachusetts Will be Required to Participate in Secure Communities Program, Federal Officials Say

The federal government is going to force the state of Massachusetts to participate in the Secure Communities program. The Secure Communities program is a controversial program that tracks the names and fingerprints of any arrested person through federal criminal and immigration databases to check their citizenship status. Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval had sent a letter to USCIS on June 3 stating the state would not participate in the program, because only one in four people deported had been convicted of a serious crime.

Governor Deval’s rejection of Secure Communities follows in the footsteps of New York and Illinois, who had also chosen not to participate in the program. However, according to a USCIS representative, Deval’s rejection of the program will do little to delay the implementation of Secure Communities in Massachusetts.

Proposed Bill Would Allow DHS to Indefinitely Detain Immigrants

A new bill, just filed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), proposes to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to indefinitely detain immigrants. If passed, H.R. 1932, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act, would give DHS the power to detain and hold as long as it deems necessary certain “dangerous” immigrants who are under orders of removal but cannot be deported. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Dennis Ross (R-FL) would do the following, among other things:

(1) Remove key portions of two Supreme Court Decisions that stated an immigrant cannot be detained for a period over six months, even in cases in which the person cannot be deported.

(2) Give DHS the ability to detain immigrants for a range of offenses, including writing a bad check.

(3) Give DHS the ability to detain an immigrant for years without having to conduct a bond hearing in front of an immigration judge.

Detractors of the bill comment that, if the bill is passed, it will be challenged.

New York Opts Out of Secure Communities Program

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that his state will no longer participate in the Secure Communities program. New York is the second state to choose not to participate in this federal immigration enforcement program. “There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” wrote Cuomo in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. “As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program.”

New York will review whether the Secure Communities program is successfully meeting its goal to deport convicted felons, stated Cuomo’s office in a press release issued this week as well. The statement also commented that it appeared Secure Communities is not only failing in deporting convicted felons, but is also “undermining law enforcement.”

Secure Communities is an information-sharing program between state, local and federal enforcement agencies. It gives the FBI access to fingerprints taken by local police; the FBI then shares this information with Homeland Security.