Don’t Forget Skilled Workers Who May Have to Wait For A Few Centuries Before Getting the Green Card

Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech was so warm and embracing of immigrants when compared to Donald Trump’s acceptance speech a week earlier. These were some of her key remarks on immigration:

We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good-paying job can get one. And we’ll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy. We will not ban a religion. We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight terrorism.

I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to kick them out.

Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together – and it’s the right thing to do.

Compare these words to Trump’s speech when he only spoke about how immigrants would bring doom and gloom, and thundered that “nearly 180,000 people with criminal records ordered deported from our country are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”

All this is so refreshing and noble when Clinton speaks about building a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants, enacting comprehensive immigration reform and not profiling a group of immigrants solely because of their religion. However, not a word was said about skilled immigrants who are already in the pipeline for a green card, but for the fact that their priority dates have not yet become current. Most of these skilled immigrants were born in India and China who are caught in endless backlogs because of a limited supply of green cards each year set by Congress in 1990, and further stymied by annual caps for each country. We hope that Clinton also would include these immigrants in her forthcoming speeches referencing immigration, who have always been legal and are employed in good paying jobs, as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

David Bier at the Cato Institute has emerged as a fresh and new scholarly voice on immigration. It has always been known that an individual who got sponsored by an employer today in the India employment-based third preference (EB-3) would need to wait for about 60 years before he or she got the green card. In Bier’s new report, No One Knows How Long Legal Immigrants Will Have To Wait, he calculates that there are “somewhere between 230,000 and 2 million workers in the India EB-2 and EB-3 backlogs, so they’ll be waiting somewhere between half a century and three and a half centuries. It is entirely possible that many of these workers will be dead before they receive their green cards.” Ironically, if these workers, by some stroke of luck were able to file I-485 applications in the past, such as the class of 2007 adjustment applicants, their children whose age was artificially frozen below 21 under the Child Status Protection Act will be mature adults before they can immigrate with their parents as “derivative children”. On the other hand, if a child’s age could not be frozen through the filing of an adjustment of status application in past years when the priority date may have become current, they will not be able to remain “derivative children” under the CSPA in the unlikely event that their parents may qualify for green cards in their life time and if the children are still alive.

It is readily obvious that Congress needs to infuse a greater supply of green cards each year in the EB categories, and even lift the country limits, as countries like India and China get more adversely impacted than Lithuania or Finland. While it is desirable that Congress fix this problem immediately, we know that Congress is mostly paralyzed at present. However, one should at least be giving these unfortunate skilled workers top priority in any comprehensive immigration deal if Clinton becomes president and can achieve her stated goal to implement reform within the first 100 days of her presidency. Trump, on the other hand, with his America first policy may be more inclined to curb legal immigration rather than fix it, leave alone expanding it.

While different groups of immigrants justly advocate for expanded immigration benefits, it is important that they all remain united. It may be tempting for skilled legal workers to only seek immigration reform for their group as they have been legal while undocumented immigrants broke the law. However, it is not that undocumented people choose to remain undocumented. They too want to become legal but the current immigration system does not provide adequate pathways for different categories of immigrants to become legal and get onto a pathway to permanent residence. And for those who are here legally and on the pathway to permanent residence, they have to wait impossibly for decades, and now Bier shockingly speculates that it may be centuries. Legal skilled workers, many of whom are on H-1B visas, should not be jettisoned because it has become fashionable to think that they away jobs from US workers. They compliment the US workforce, and most have gone through the labor certification process that required their employers to first test the US labor market before proceeding with their green card applications. Once they get green cards, there will be a surge of entrepreneurial talent in the nation’s economic blood stream.  Finally, immigrants already in the US should not pull up the drawbridge behind them and block new H-1B workers. It is important for fresh and talented immigrants to come to the US to achieve their dreams. All we need is an immigration system that has many more pathways to America and is consistent with the needs of the nation in the 21st century.

The present immigration system is broken and can be likened to a terminally ill patient who is suffering from multiple organ failure. The goal for treating such a patient is not just to repair one organ, such as the heart, and leave the other organs in a state of disrepair. This approach will certainly not nurse the patient back to health. All the vital organs in the patient must be revived at the same time. The same holds true for our immigration system, which is like a terminally ill patient. All its components, like body organs, must be repaired. This includes but is not limited to more visas for skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs, faster pathways for loved ones to unite with their family in the US, more opportunities for investors and essential workers, and also a path for the 11 million undocumented to legalize their status. We must also not forget to reform the system for those seeking refuge in America from persecution and other kinds of crimes such as trafficking and sexual violence, and provide more waivers for those who would otherwise be deportable if they have ties with the US or can demonstrate rehabilitation. While Clinton’s message for immigrants is positive and upbeat, she must remember to include all affected immigrant groups, especially legal skilled workers who have been hopelessly waiting for their green cards.

The Lazarus Effect: How Comprehensive Immigration Reform Can Survive The House GOP and Come Back to Life

By Gary Endelmanand Cyrus D. Mehta

“The only true test of leadership is the ability to lead and lead vigorously”

President John F. Kennedy

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution on Friday calling on Congress to pass immigration reform by the end of the year. Unlike the Senate Bill, s. 744, the Border, Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which grants a path way to citizenship, the RNC resolution contemplates legalizing immigrants who came to the US above the age of 18, but only by granting them 2 year renewable work permits. For those who came to the US as minors, they would get a renewable 5 year permit. There is no pathway to citizenship in the RNC’s resolution.

This tepid resolution is completely at odds with BSEOIMA, which will dramatically reform the immigration system. Although the bill does not have everything that everyone wants, S. 744 offers a pathway to legalization for the 10 million undocumented, a new W visa to allow for future flows of lower skilled immigrants and attempts to clear up the backlogs in the employment and family preferences. It also reforms the existing system in many ways by removing the 1 year bars to seeking asylum, creating a startup visa for entrepreneurs, clarifying a contentious provision under the Child Status Protection Act, providing greater discretion to both Immigration and Judges to terminate removal proceedings, among many other beneficial provisions.

Therefore, it remains uncertain whether any measure that the House passes can get reconciled with BSEOIMA, which truly reforms the immigration system. The intransigence in the GOP controlled House, while frustrating the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe that a reformed immigration system will benefit America, also further foreshadows doom for the party in future elections.  What caught our attention was a statement by Senator Rubio on the anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, one of the main Republican architects of BSEOIMA, when he warned his party members in Congress that if they did not pass a reform bill then President Obama could extend the administrative relief for young people to everyone through administrative action.

The authors have since 2010 been advocating the ability of the President to ameliorate the plight of non-citizens trapped in a broken system through administrative measures. We have also proposed that the President can resolve the crisis in the backlogs in the employment and family based preferences by not counting derivative family members.  It was thus heartening to know that Rubio also acknowledged the President’s ability to pass an executive order, although he sees this more as a threat for his party.  First, if Obama provides ameliorative relief to millions of immigrants, it will benefit the Democrats in future elections, just as DACA benefited the President in his reelection in November 2012. Second, if the President were to expand DACA to a broader group of undocumented people, and allow them to apply for work authorization and travel permission, this might be better than the GOP immigration reform proposal, if it got passed into law as part of a compromise with the Senate. Such an executive order will not be accompanied by a needless and expensive militarization of the border (which is also a feature of S. 744), along with mandatory E-Verify that will bog down business large and small.  It will not include draconian provisions that the House might likely pass in exchange for legalization, such as authorizing enforcement of immigration law by state police or criminalizing undocumented status.

This is not to say that a Presidential executive order is a substitute for comprehensive immigration legislation. The President will not be able to grant permanent residence to the undocumented, only work authorization and travel permission, and the family and employment based preferences will continue to have a limited supply of visas. Still, in the absence of Congress passing a comprehensive bill to reform the broken system, something is better than nothing. As we have already commented, if we do not count family members, that in itself would dramatically reduce waiting times in the family and employment preferences. Many of the people who will be legalized under an executive order may be able to ultimate get permanent residence through existing pathways.  It is true that the President will not be able to increase badly needed H-1B visas through executive fiat, but it may be possible to give employers greater access to the unlimited O-1 visa by broadening the definition of “extraordinary ability” to allow many more accomplished foreign nationals to work in the US. While an executive order will not include a new start up visa, if the current Entrepreneurs Pathways initiative is implemented faithfully, many entrepreneurs can start companies in the US under existing work visa categories.

While the authors support the passage of  S.744, it is tempting to add that executive action can avoid the economic illiteracy that plagues the H-1B wage provisions embraced by the Senate as the price of passage and avoid the misguided tendency of House Republicans to extend this inflationary regime to other categories such as the TN.  Unlike S. 744, it will not discourage employers from hiring foreign nationals by mandating artificially inflated wages for foreign nationals, a feature of S. 744 that sharply conflicts with expanded H-1B quotas and more generous provisions for employment-based migration. It will not cripple start-up companies who badly desire key foreign personnel but will under the new law be unable to afford them. It will not price American companies out of the green card sponsorship market, divert precious funds that would otherwise be invested in cutting-edge research or  dry up surplus capital that would be better spent on equipment modernization. Executive action will be devoid of the hugely inflationary wage rules adopted by the Senate as part of the deal making that resulted in the passage of S. 744, thereby encouraging more employers to refrain from moving jobs offshore or to low wage labor markets out of the United States. As a result, when compared to S. 744, action now by President Obama might make it more, not less, likely that companies will sponsor foreign workers for green cards.

The President always has this ace up his sleeve, which is the ability to grant relief through an executive order, to force Congress to pass immigration reform. If Congress in fact fails to pass immigration reform, the President can actually bring about immigration reform, which may look better than any of the reform proposals being floated by the GOP in the House. Of course, a future President can get rid of such administrative measures, but this usually does not happen as it would be politically too dangerous to further alienate the Latino vote. It is more likely that a future Congress will bless such administrative measures like the way BSEOIMA did with DACA recipients. So, in light of  all the uncertainty regarding the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill, a Presidential executive order, or the potential for one (as Rubio presciently realized)  may not be such a bad thing.

The invocation of executive action would allow the undocumented to remain in the United States with the opportunity for employment authorization and seek to utilize existing avenues for transition to lawful permanent resident status. It puts them in the same position as everyone else who seeks the green card. From this perspective, executive action would be consistent with the compromise proposal advocated by House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte ( R-Va.).  Many of the undocumented already have, or will, over time, acquire adult US citizen children; others may marry American citizens and still others could attract employer sponsorship. Keep them here, allow them to come in from the shadows, and let the undocumented regularize their status through the disciplined utilization of existing remedies. Not only is this a solution that does not require the House GOP to abandon dysfunctionality as their prime governing philosophy, something they are manifestly loath to do, but, even if Congressional ratification subsequently is felt necessary or desirable, this is precisely the path to legalization that Represenative Goodlatte has already outlined.

The President cannot grant more L-1 intra-company transferee visas but he can restore the relevancy of those that now exist by ending the war on claims of specialized knowledge. No new allowances for extraordinary ability can come through the stroke of a pen but an enlightened decision to banish the suffocating Kazarian final merits determination would give new hope to aliens who now have none but otherwise satisfy what the law requires.  Only Congress can exempt green card categories from the tender mercies of PERM but no legislative sanction is required to halt the use of audits as a tool of intimidation. The need for change should not blind us to the ample opportunities for remediation that the present law affords.  As valuable as comprehensive reform is, as badly needed as the benefits it will bring most surely are, no law will succeed if those who enforce and interpret it lack the moral courage and political will to usher in a newer world. As that fan of Tudor prerogative told us long ago in no less contentious times, “the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

(Guest author Gary Endelman is Senior Counsel at FosterQuan)

Some Preliminary Observations Regarding the Proposed “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”

As most readers of this blog are likely aware, earlier this week the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of 8” – that is, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – introduced a proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill.  A copy of the bill as introduced is available on Senator Schumer’s website.  Its short title is the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”, and so I will refer to it in this blog as BSEOIMA, although that acronym is somewhat more difficult to pronounce than previous well-known immigration bills such as 1986’s IRCA and 1996’s IIRIRA.  (Personally I would tend to pronounce it “B’soyma”, although Angelo Paparelli reports that Dan Kowalski, Editor-in-Chief of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, has dubbed the bill “BESSIE MAE”.) Broadly speaking, it combines increased border security with a new “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI) status available to much, but not all, of the current undocumented population – primarily those present in the United States since December 31, 2011 who lack any significant criminal record – and various provisions designed to handle the “future flow” of immigration somewhat differently than our current system, such as a merit-based system of awarding some immigrant visas to those who accumulate an appropriate number of “points” in a system reminiscent of that currently used in Canada.

The Immigration Impact blog of the American Immigration Council has already published some preliminary reactions to BSEOIMA, and AIC and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have also released a detailed summary of the bill.  In this blog post, I do not claim to provide a comprehensive summary of the bill, which is after all 844 pages long, and which has already been summarized by AIC/AILA (and others as well).  Instead, I will simply highlight some of the portions of the bill that caught my attention on a first read-through, with citations to the page number of the introduced bill on which they appear.  Readers should keep in mind that this is a preliminary assessment of complex legislative language that may change in the future (assuming the bill passes at all), so it should not be taken as a precise description of the future final version of any provision; it is, so to speak, a first-draft reaction to the first draft of the bill.  Because this is an entirely subjective list of some provisions that happened to catch my attention, it is also naturally skewed to the sorts of provisions that were of interest to me as an attorney practicing immigration law; I do not mean to deprecate the significance of the substantial provisions for increased border security with which the bill begins, for example, but since I am not in the habit of advising people to enter the U.S. unlawfully or smuggle in others, they are of less direct relevance to my practice and thus attracted less of my initial attention.And this is not even a list of every single provision that caught my attention on a first read—such a list would be a bit too lengthy for a blog post. With those preliminaries out of the way, here are some of the provisions that were interesting to me and may be interesting to readers as well:

Nonimmigrants who are lawfully present according to DHS or DOS records will not be eligible for the new RPI status, even if they have violated status or been employed without authorization—apparently making the analysis under BSEOIMA different from the one that was used under IRCA to determine whether applicants were known to the government to be here unlawfully by the key date and thus eligible for legalization. Pages 64-65.  While nonimmigrants with a currently valid status as of the date of introduction of the bill are excluded from RPI status, however, if they have already been lawfully present for 10 years or finish accumulating that total period of consecutive lawful presence after the bill passes, they’ll be able to apply for LPR status under the new merit-based system, about which more below.

Expunged convictions don’t count for purposes of determining eligibility for RPI status, but otherwise any felony, an aggravated felony, or 3 misdemeanors will disqualify RPI applicants, except for convictions under state and local laws having immigration status/violations as essential elements—for example, some crimes created by Arizona’s recently infamous SB 1070.  Pages 61-66.

There is a limited discretionary waiver under which some people could be eligible for RPI status even after previous departure or removal, at pages 71-72.  While the language is complex, it appears that the waiver will be potentially available to certain “DREAMers” (those who would have been eligible for relief under the previously proposed DREAM Act that is in large part incorporated in BSEOIMA), spouses and children of U.S. citizens and LPRs, and parents of U.S. citizen or LPR children.

Employers will be able to continue employing people who they know are, or will be, RPI applicants, pending adjudication of the application for RPI status, without violating the INA.  Page 78.  This will help avoid the specter of employers being reluctant to assist with the RPI applications of their employees because, having come to know that their employee lacks valid immigration status authorizing employment, they would otherwise be supposed to fire them.

RPIs will not be able to be absent from the United States either for a continuous period of more than 180 days, or for more than 180 days in any calendar year, without extenuating circumstances; otherwise they will lose their status and not be able to adjust status to permanent residence.  Pages 89-90, 94-95.

While there are limited exceptions based on age and disability, most RPIs will need to show that they have been continuously employed or had resources above 125% of the poverty line, or have been full-time students, in order to adjust to LPR.  Pages 96-99.

The DREAM Act is present in modified form as proposed INA section 245D: the DREAMers will only need to be RPIs for 5 years before they can become LPRs, instead of the usual 10.  There can be a “streamlined procedure” for those who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  The DREAMers (including the DACA grantees) will be able to apply for naturalization as soon as they complete their 5 years of RPI and adjust to LPR (but not sooner).  Pages 110-116.

The “AGJobs” bill benefiting certain agricultural workers, which like the DREAM Act has been floating around for a number of years, also makes an appearance in BSEOIMA. Like DREAMers, AGJobs “blue card” holders will be able to adjust after 5 years under certain circumstances, not 10 years like other RPIs. See pages 150-255.

We learn on page 262 of BSEOIMA that while siblings of U.S. citizens and married sons and daughters over 31 would no longer be separate family preference categories, they would get points in the new merit-based system that will make up a substantial portion of future immigrant visa numbers.  Although the diversity lottery in its current form would be abolished, the preference for diversity in the current lottery system also lives on somewhat in the form of an award of points to people from countries from which fewer than 50,000 nationals were admitted in the previous 5 years.  (Page 263.)  You will also be able to get points in the new system for things like speaking English, being between the ages of 18 and 37 (you get the most points for being between 18 and 24), having specific types of employment, or even civic involvement.  See pages 260-265.

Beginning on October 1, 2014, people whose employment-based petitions and family-based petitions filed before the Act have been pending for more than 5 years will begin to become eligible for merit-based visas on that basis (although this eligibility will not be immediate for everyone affected, but will phase in over a 7-year period).  People who have been “lawfully present” for not less than 10 years will also be eligible for this non-points-based side of the merit-based visa system.  See pages 270-273.  RPIs will not be able to adjust status to LPR except under this second merit-based track, based on 10 years lawful presence—a provision which may hopefully be changed before the bill is finally enacted, since it seems unnecessarily cruel to prohibit, for example, an RPI who marries a U.S. citizen from becoming an LPR in the same way that any other lawful entrant who became a bona fide immediate relative of a U.S. citizen could adjust status under section 245(a) of the INA (even if they had, for example, overstayed a tourist admission).  Pages 108, 269-274.

Anyone, including RPIs and others, who was lawfully present and work-authorized for 10 years before becoming an LPR, will be able to naturalize 3 years after becoming an LPR instead of 5.  Pages 109-110.

BSEOIMA will recapture previously unused visa numbers from past fiscal years, so that should also reduce the backlog of people awaiting immigrant visa numbers. Pages 276-279.

Spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) will become “immediate relatives” not subject to a visa number limit. Pages 280-281.

The BIA’s highly dubious decision in Matter of Wang, 25 I&N Dec. 28 (BIA 2009), rejecting automatic conversion and retention of priority dates under the Child Status Protection Act, would be overturned legislatively by a provision of BSEOIMA making even clearer how automatic conversion is supposed to work.  Pages 287-288.

Priority dates from any approvable-when-filed immigrant visa petition will be transferable to any other petition, regardless of category.  Page 288.

The numerical per-country limitations will be raised to 15% for family-based cases and eliminated for employment-based cases, which is good news for Indian and Chinese nationals who currently face substantial employment-based backlogs, and also (to a somewhat lesser extent) good news for Mexican and Phillipine nationals who currently face substantial family-based backlogs. Pages 294-296.

Visa number usage calculations would no longer include employment-based derivatives, the employment-based first preference (all three subcategories), aliens with a doctorate, or former J nonimmigrant physicians who have completed their 2-year foreign residence requirement under section 212(e) of the INA or obtained a waiver thereof.  Pages 299-303.  STEM graduates with a master’s degree or higher (as a practical matter this just means masters since doctorates are separately exempt) would be able to be exempt from the visa number limits if they have a job offer from a US employer and earned their degree within the 5 years preceding the petition filed for them.  These STEM immigrants would not require labor certification.  Pages 304-312.

V visas will be extended to cover all family preference immigrants with approved petitions, but siblings and married children over 31 (whose family preferences are anyway being phased out under BSEOIMA) won’t get work authorization if they come on V visas, and will only be allowed to be present for 60 days per fiscal year.  The unmarried sons and daughters, and married ones under 31, will get work authorization with their V visas and will be able to stay on a longer-term basis.  Pages 313-317.  So for the family preferences that will continue to exist, this is like the old V visa; for siblings and over-31 married sons and daughters, it’s more like a dual-intent B-2 tourist visa.

The cutoff for stepchildren will be parental marriage by 21 years of age, consistent with the other “child” definitions of most of the rest of the INA, instead of the current age-18 cutoff.  Page 322.

The general cutoff age for adoptions valid under the INA will be extended from 16 to 18. Pages 322-323.

Immigration Judges and DHS would gain new discretionary authority to terminate removal proceedings or admit someone to the U.S. if removal or refusal of admission is against the public interest or would result in hardship to certain U.S. citizen or LPR immediate family members, although this new authority would not apply in the case of certain criminal removability grounds and certain other grounds of removability.  Pages 328-331.

H nonimmigrant petition beneficiaries who entered the US before age 16 and had a baccalaureate or higher degree from a US institution would be exempt from the unlawful presence bars (that is, the 3- and 10-year bars). The unlawful-presence waiver for others, under section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the INA, would be extended to cover hardship to a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, son, daughter, or parent.  Pages 331-332.

J-2 spouses and children of J-1 exchange visitors would not be subject to the INA 212(e) foreign-residence requirement.  Also, physician training even under a status such as a J-1, which ordinarily requires a foreign residence which one has no intention of abandoning, would be dual-intent (that is, would not require such a foreign residence). Pages 367-370.

The exemptions from the English and civics testing requirements for naturalization in the case of certain older immigrants would be expanded somewhat.  Those who are over 65, and have lived in the US as an LPR for 5 years, would be exempt from the English/civics tests.  The limited exemption from the English language requirement, under which the applicant is still required to take the U.S. civics test but can do so in their native language, would apply with 50 years of age plus 20 years as an LPR, 55 years of age plus 15 years as an LPR, or 60 years of age plus 10 years as an LPR.  For those 60 years of age or older who had been LPRs for 10 years, the civics-test requirement could be waived on a case-by-case basis.  Pages 393-394.

The one-year filing deadline for asylum claims would be eliminated, and people who have been granted withholding of removal but denied asylum because of the one-year deadline would be allowed to reopen their cases. Page 552.

Over the next three fiscal years, there would be 75 new Immigration Judges appointed each fiscal year, for a total of 225, in an effort to reduce the backlog of immigration court cases.  Pages 566-567.

H-4 spouses will be employment authorized so long as they are from a country that grants reciprocal benefits to U.S. citizens. Pages 663-664.

H-1B nonimmigrants whose employment terminates will have a 60-day grace period, and will also be considered to be maintaining H-1B status during the pendency of “a petition to extend, change, or adjust their status” that is filed during such 60-day grace period. Some low-risk H-1B nonimmigrants, as well as A, E, G, (other) H, I, L, N, O, P, R, or W nonimmigrants, can have their visas renewed in the United States at the discretion of DOS.  Pages 664-667.

F-1 student status will be dual-intent for a bachelor’s degree or above: that is, students applying for visas to study in bachelor’s degree programs, doctoral programs and so on will not need to show intent to return to their home country afterwards, but can plan to remain in the United States and put their valuable knowledge to use here.  Pages 725-727.

E-4 nonimmigrant visas, which would function like the current E-3 visas available to Australian nationals working in a specialty occupation, will be created for South Korea and other countries with which we have free trade agreements as recognized by DHS with the concurrence of DOS and the US Trade Representative.  There is a limit of 5,000 E-4s per sending country, which does not include derivative spouses and children. Pages 732-733.

There will be E-3 visas created for Irish nationals which only require a high school education or at least 2 years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least 2 years of training or experience (a la the current diversity visa standard).  Page 734.

O-1s will get portability between employers like what H-1Bs have now.  Pages 736-737.

Nonimmigrants with a pending application for extension of stay and related work authorization are authorized to continue employment until the application is adjudicated (as opposed to the current limited regulatory extension of employment authorization). Page 738.

Canadians over age 55 will be allowed to come as B-2 visitors for up to a 240-day period out of any 365 days, and maintain a home here, as long as they also have one in Canada.  Pages 742-744.

Retirees over 55 will be able to get a new Y visa, renewable in 3-year increments, if they use at least $500,000 to purchase one or more residences in the US which sold for more than 100% of the most recent appraised value (per their local property assessor), reside here for more than 180 days per year, and meet certain other financial requirements.  Pages 744-746.

A limited number of new W nonimmigrant visas will be available for workers in O*Net Job Zone 1, 2, and 3 occupations, but they will not be available for  higher job zones (requiring more than 2 years of preparation) or positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or involving “computer operation, computer programming, or computer repair”.  Pages 776-778, 803-804.

W status is for an initial term of 3 years, renewable for additional 3-year periods.  You have to first apply at a consular post abroad to be designated a “certified alien”.  If you are unemployed for more than 60 days, you have to leave. You can only work for a registered employer, and they have to first carry out recruitment for their desired registered position and fail to find a “qualified United States worker . . . who is ready, willing and able to fill such position”.  The recruitment is reminiscent of PERM recruitment for professional occupations, except that a “U.S. worker” would be defined more broadly than under PERM, to include anyone with unrestricted work authorization, rather than only U.S. citizens, LPRs, asylees, refugees, and temporary residents such as RPIs or their IRCA equivalent.  Pages 785-786, 789-804.

The registered W-visa position continues to be registered if the employer has filed an I-140 petition for the W worker by the end of the 3-year period.  It will cease being so if the petition is approved or denied, or the employment of the worker is terminated. Pages 805-806.  This raises the question of what happens if the petition is approved, but the priority date is not current—is the worker then stuck in limbo?  That may be an unintended flaw in the legislation that can be fixed as the bill moves forward.

W visas are, at least, dual-intent, page 828, so it isn’t a problem that the W worker is anticipating such a petition being filed for him or her.  But, W nonimmigrants will not be able to take advantage of the prong of the merits-based visa system that will allow others to become LPRs after being in lawful status for 10 years.  Page 271.  This, too, is an anomaly that may hopefully be fixed as the bill moves forward—why should W nonimmigrants be treated less favorably than absolutely everyone else who is lawfully present?

The W nonimmigrant may terminate his employment for any reason and take up employment with another registered employer in another registered position.  Page 819.

There will be new X nonimmigrant visas, and a new immigrant visa program, for qualified entrepeneurs.  The qualifications have to do with number of jobs created, financing devoted to your company by qualified venture capitalists etc., and/or your company’s revenue.  You will need to maintain nonimmigrant status for at least two years before you can petition as an entrepreneur immigrant (although not necessarily as an X nonimmigrant).  Pages 828-844.

And thus ends this first list of some highlightsof BSEOIMA.  Watch this space for additional blogging about BSEOIMA either from this author or from others at Cyrus D. Mehta and Associates, PLLC…

The Way We Count

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.” Rene Descartes

Now is the time to change the way America counts green card numbers.  Congress is presently debating comprehensive immigration reform and grand events are likely to reshape the legal landscape. Yet, at such a seminal moment we ought not lose sight of the value of technical modifications that can have enormous consequences.  Most Americans, including virtually all policy makers, would be surprised to learn that the majority of green cards awarded each fiscal year go not to the principal aliens themselves but to dependent family members, thus reducing even further permanent migration to the United States. In fact, as the waiting lines over the past decade have grown ever longer, this pattern has become more pronounced.  A quick overview of green card distribution during the first decade of the 21st century quickly makes this evident.  Let us take employment based migration in the employment-based first preference (EB-1) category as our data sample. In 2000, there were 5,631 new arrivals under the EB-1, 2,241 went to the principal vs. 3,390 to family members. This means that family members accounted for 58.67% of EB-1.  In 2012, there were 1,517 new arrivals under the EB-1. 516 went to the principal & 1001 to family members. This means that family members accounted for 65.98% under the EB-1. Things are getting worse.
It need not be that way. Neither the law nor logic commend or require such a result. Without creating a single new immigrant visa, Congress can eliminate quota backlogs and restore relevance to a green card system that is sorely in need of such restoration. The solution is simple but elegant: Count all members of a family together as one unit rather than as separate and distinct individuals. Do that and systemic visa retrogression will quickly become a thing of the past. Nor is this merely something for idle academic debate. Rather, it is essential if the path to legal resident status for the undocumented is ever to mean anything. Under any conceivable iteration of CIR, even if there is an expansion of immigrant visa numbers in the preference categories, the undocumented will be relegated to the back of the green card line behind those patiently waiting under the legal system. Unless a solution is found to remediate the tyranny of priority dates, the undocumented like the ancient Israelites who left Egypt, will never enter the promised land.

Section 203(d) of the INA is the provision that deals with family members. Let us examine what INA § 203(d) says: A spouse or child defined in subparagraphs (A), (B), (C), (D), or (E) of section 1101 (b)(1) of this title shall, if not otherwise entitled to an immigrant status and the immediate issuance of a visa under subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section, be entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration provided in the respective subsection, if accompanying or following to join, the spouse or parent. There is nothing in INA § 203(d) that explicitly provides authority for family members to be counted under the preference quotas. While a derivative is “entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration” as the principal, nothing requires that family members also be given numbers.  Is there not sufficient ambiguity in INA § 203(d) to argue even under current law that family members should not be counted against the quotas?

There is no regulation in 8 C.F.R. instructing what INA § 203(d) is supposed to be doing. Even the Department of State’s regulation at 22 C.F.R. § 42.32 only parrots INA § 203(d) and states that children and spouses are “entitled to the derivative status corresponding to the classification and priority date of the principal.” 22 C.F.R. § 42.32 does not provide further amplification on the scope and purpose of INA § 203(d). We acknowledge that INA 203(d) derivatives are wholly within the preference system and bound by its limitations.. They are not independent of numerical limits, only from direct limitations. It is the principal alien through whom they derive their claim who is counted and who has been counted. Hence, if no EB or FB numbers were available to the principal alien, the derivatives would not be able to immigrate either. If they were exempt altogether, this would not matter. There is a difference between not being counted at all, which we do not argue, and being counted as an integral family unit as opposed to individuals, which we do assert. We seek not an exemption from numerical limits but a different way of counting such limits. 

INA § 203(d) took effect under IMMACT 90. It still remains a mystery as to why INA § 203(d) was enacted. There was no need to do so since family members were counted in the pre-IMMACT90 quotas. No clear answer can be gleaned from the legislative history of IMMACT 90. Though family members were explicitly exempted from being counted in the House bill, such exemption was removed in conference with the Senate. Ultimately, Congress enacted INA § 201(d), which set a numerical limit of 140,000 for EB immigrants, and it appears that the intent of Congress in IMMACT 90 was to count family members in the final legislation. Was INA § 203(d) introduced to ensure that family members would be counted especially after the House sought to exempt them? Or was it the converse? Could INA § 203(d) have been a vestige of the House’s intent that was never taken out – to make sure that, even though these derivatives would  be counted against enlarged EB cap, they would not be left out in the cold but still get the same “green card” benefits as the principal?

If the Executive wanted to reinterpret INA § 203(d), there is sufficient “constructive ambiguity” here too for it do so without the need for Congress to sanction it. We have explained this in our prior article, Why We Can’t Wait:   How President Obama Can Erase Immigrant Visa Backlogs With A Stroke Of A Pen,,0201-endelman.shtm. If this happened, the EB and FB preferences could instantly become “current.” The backlogs would disappear. The USCIS might even have to build a new Service Center! But we do not want to end on such optimism and throw all caution to the winds.. Thus, we propose a simple technical fix in Congress, which is to exclude family members from the FB and EB quotas. We do not see why this cannot be accomplished as there is already a pedigree for such a legislative fix. The proposed wording to INA 203(d) would be a simple add on to the current text, such as: “All family members, including the principal alien applicant, shall be counted as one unit for purposes of INA 201(c) and 201(d) limitations. They shall not be counted on an individual basis.” Not only did Congress try to remove family members in IMMACT90, but also attempted to do so in S. 2611, which was passed by the Senate in 2006. Section 501(b) of S. 2611 would have modified INA § 201(d)(2)(A) to exempt family from being counted in EB cases. The EB and FB numbers ought not to be held hostage to the number of family members each principal beneficiary brings with him or her. Nor should family members be held hostage to the quotas. We have often seen the principal beneficiary being granted permanent residency, but the derivative family members being left out, when there were not sufficient visa numbers under the preference category during that given year. If all family members are counted as one unit, such needless separation of family members will never happen again.

Even an increase in the visa numbers in a reform proposal, which might seem adequate today, will again result in backlogs shortly based on the uncertainties with economic booms and busts as well as the varying size of families. An immigration system that does not count derivatives separately will have more of a chance to remain viable before Congress is again required to expand visa categories a few decades later. This will also go a long way in restoring balance and fairness to our immigration system. Sometimes even small things can cast a giant shadow.

Wanted: Great STEM and Tandoori Chicken

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

There is no doubt that a Startup Visa would unleash amazing entrepreneurial activity in the United States, which would result in many jobs. The latest version of the Startup Visa Act 3.0 would provide 75,000 visas to individual who are already here in F-1 and H-1B status if their companies receive an investment of $100,000 per year and employ a minimum of two workers in the first year. A three year visa would be given to those who meet this condition. If within the three years, they employ an additional worker each year, they can apply for permanent residency.

According to a Kauffman Foundation study, the Startup Visa could conservatively lead to the creation of between 500,000 and 1.6 million jobs, which in turn could give a boost to the US economy of between $70 billion and $224 billion a year. A more optimistic estimate would result in 889,000 jobs and a boost to the economy of around $140 billion per year. Vivek Wadhwa, a big proponent of this bill, estimates an even bigger boost if half of these companies are engineering and technology companies. Many of these entrepreneurs, according to Wadhwa, will go on to build new companies based on their success, and could also develop breakthrough technologies and some of them could also be the next Google or Apple.

So if this is a no-brainer, why is Congress not passing the Startup Visa Act 3.0? The truth is that no standalone immigration bill will pass unless it is tied to a broader Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. Indeed, there is an interesting debate between Wadhwa and Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez on this issue. Guiterrez, although he supports a Startup Visa, has openly admitted that he will not allow it to pass unless Congress is willing to reform the entire immigration system.  Wadhwa feels this is “political gamesmanship” on the part of Guiterrez, and that the Startup Visa can be passed first in order to give the American economy a big boot and this would lead to increased public acceptance for broader immigration reform. Guiterrez, on the other hand, feels that once he allows this to happen, it will be more difficult to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The disagreement between Gutierrez and Wadhwa may be a false polarity. A nation needs both social justice and good economics; indeed, social justice is the best economics. A good example of the synergy between social justice and economics is Sergey Brin, who is the co-founder of Google. He came to the US with his parents at the age of six because they faced anti-Semitism in their native Russia. Although Brin graduated from Stanford in computer science, he did not come to the US on an H-1B visa or benefitted under any employment or investor visa category in our immigration system. His parents were able to come into the US based on an immigration program that was designed to protect foreign nationals from intolerance in their native countries. Still, Brin after coming to the US as a youngster was able to go on to found Google, considered one of America’s best and most innovative companies today.

Both Wadhwa and Guiterrez have a point. However powerful the stimulus flowing from the Start Up visa, enactment of Comprehensive Immigration Reform along with the Startup Visa would be infinitely more potent. Reforming a broken system, which includes legalizing the 10 million plus undocumented immigrants in the US, as well as providing quicker and more sensible pathways to legal status, could unleash even greater wealth. Immigrants of all stripes are essentially very entrepreneurial. An undocumented person who is provided legal status can also start a business and this individual need not be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) graduate. Even a non-technology company can create jobs such as a restaurant or grocery chain. Immigration should not be viewed as a zero sum game, and giving opportunities to foreign nationals in the US can result in more American jobs. Under our broken system, it is virtually impossible for an entrepreneur who wishes to start a North Indian cuisine restaurant to bring in a foreign national tandoori chef. A reformed immigration system should hopefully give this entrepreneur access to such a chef from India. A restaurant’s success is possible because of its chef, and when that great tandoori chef can be quickly hired from India, people will start coming to the restaurant resulting in the hiring of restaurant managers and waiters locally in the US. This restaurant’s success can then be replicated, and the entrepreneur can develop a branded chain of tandoori restaurants all over the US, resulting in many more jobs locally.

According to another report sponsored by Cato Institute – The Economic Benefits Of Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Raul Hinjosa-Ojeda, the legalization of 11 million immigrants would be equivalent to more than $1.5 trillion added to GDP over 10 years. The study considered the economic impact under three scenarios: a legalization program that would ultimately result in a pathway to citizenship, a temporary worker program with no option for permanent resident status and the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Hinjosa-Ojeda concludes that the legalization of undocumented immigrants would provide the most economic benefits to the US. On the other hand, removing undocumented immigrants would be most expensive, costing $2.6 trillion to the GDP over a 10 year period.

The debate between Wadhwa and Gutierrez can be put in a larger perspective. If you believe, as Wadhwa does, that the purpose of immigration is to create wealth, unleash creativity and foster productivity, then the focus should be on entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals. This explains his approach. If, however, you are mainly concerned with social justice, then you argue for a more comprehensive approach which is what Gutierrez does. It comes down to what you think is most important and what you think has true moral legitimacy. For those who use immigration to bring about social justice, it is family not employment immigration that is morally legitimate. The focus is on using immigration to help the individual immigrant, reunite families, to fight intolerance, poverty and injustice. It is not to make American employers more competitive, and there’s also an impulse to protect US workers.  Wadhwa, on the other hand, sees an ethical value and legitimacy in work itself, in work as a creative expression of individual talent. He looks for new avenues especially in STEM fields to unleash creative potential within the culture and context of a capitalist economy.

The economic boom that an enlightened immigration policy would ignite is generational in its dimensions. The immediate benefit from the entrepreneurial energy of the immigrant generation would be transformed and expanded by the diversified talents of succeeding generations. The Tandoori cook of one generation is often followed by the cutting-edge geophysicist of the next. Precisely as the American economy itself is inherently dynamic, the role that immigrants play in it also constantly evolves. For this reason, the sharp contrast provided by Gutierrez and Wadhwa that seem so vivid now will, over time, fade into a more nuanced yet no less compelling portrait.  Gutierrez realizes that an enlightened immigration policy can only exist in a compassionate society where social mobility is a lubricant of national cohesiveness. Wadhwa appreciates that immigration is an asset to be maximized not a problem to be controlled. Like all transformational moments in American history, this is pre-eminently a time to try something new.

A month before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln spoke to our issue in our time:

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. 


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

It is so refreshingly wonderful to think that what was once unthinkable could become a possibility – a bill to comprehensively reform our broken immigration system. Even  the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last Tuesday, where there was a willingness to  legalize the 10+ million undocumented population, when in the past the tunnel vision mindset of the GOP controlled House was to find ways to either deport them or make it hard for them to remain in the US.

The fault line of contention in the debate is whether to grant a pathway to citizenship or not for those who will be able to legalize their status. Many House GOP leaders have stated that they would rather find a middle ground between deporting the undocumented people and providing them with citizenship, which is obviously being opposed by advocates for immigration reform.  Even the Obama White House is opposed to this. For instance, Raul Labrador, a rising GOP leader from Idaho in the House has said that he would vote for providing legal status to the undocumented, but not a green card, which would provide a path to citizenship. The rationale for this is that those who have not” played by the rules” should not be rewarded with a quick path to citizenship. But the underlying motive for denying a path to citizenship is the fear that these new citizens will vote against the Republican  party. On the other hand, Jose Garcia, a Democrat from Florida believes that not providing a path to citizenship would create an underclass in the US, which is not in keeping with American values. He also cites the examples of the French and German systems where immigrants are not allowed to become French or German, and this has resulted in the kind of social unrest in those countries that we have not seen in the US. It is worth noting that the heavyweight Republican from California, Darrell Issa,  has recently backed a path to citizenship. He stated, “Ultimately, if you’re allowed to remain in this country permanently, in almost all cases, there should be a path to citizenship. That is what Abraham Lincoln would have said. That’s what the Republican Party stands for.”

We too advocate for a path to citizenship in an immigration proposal that will legalize the status of undocumented workers. We also believe that if the GOP provides a path to citizenship, they need not fear losing them as future voters. Many immigrants can be wooed by the GOP as they too share conservative values, and making it through their own enterprise. Elections have consequences and demography is destiny, especially when it comes to politics. Not wanting to remain a permanent minority, or even lose control of the House of Representatives in the next election cycle, even the most stalwart immigrant bashers in the House GOP leadership are suddenly finding religion and coming to terms with the truth on immigration. Any repentance,  however forced or late is coming, should be accepted. Politics is, if nothing else, that most practical of professions.

Still, even under the most liberal proposal, citizenship is not likely to come automatically or even quickly. First, there will be a probationary period of legal status, and after some years, they will be allowed to apply for green cards. After obtaining a green card, one has to wait either five years, or three years (if married to a US citizen) to be able to naturalize. It is hoped that those opposed to citizenship because they believe that people will become citizens the day after a bill is enacted are educated about the long and arduous wait even under a system that provides a direct path to citizenship. A bi-partisan group of Senators also favor a path to citizenship, but have attached conditions before those legalized can obtain green cards, which is that Congress must first be satisfied that the border is under control. This too is being opposed by immigrant advocates and the White House as those in control of this trigger will always find an excuse to say that the border is not under control.

However much the authors of this blog want a pathway to citizenship without conditions, we also fervently hope that a once in a lifetime deal to reform the immigration system must not break down on the citizenship issue. There can be many other pathways to citizenship, and it is not true that the undocumented who get a legal status will be part of a permanent underclass.We would refute and reject any proposal that would render anyone legalized permanently ineligible for citizenship.First, let’s take a realistic view on how long folks have been waiting under the current immigration system. Many who have met all their conditions to apply for a green card have been waiting under a backlogged family or employment preference category for more than a decade. The India employment-based third preference is so backlogged that an Indian-born beneficiary of a labor certification filed today by an employer may have to wait for 70 years before he or she can apply for a green card!!  With respect to being on a path to citizenship, they have been worse off than an undocumented person who may legalize under a new immigration reform law.

Thus, the first order of priority in any comprehensive immigration proposal is to reform the existing legal immigration system. If we expand visa numbers available in the various immigrant visa categories, as well as create more pathways for people to become permanent residents, those already waiting should be able to become permanent residents more quickly and we would even have less illegal immigration in the future. Making legal immigration possible makes illegal migration unnecessary.The 10 million undocumented non-citizens who get legalized, but may not have a direct path to citizenship, could benefit and find other pathways through a reformed and expanded immigration system. Indeed, most of the undocumented who would legalize may already be working or have their own businesses. In a reformed immigration system, they should be able to apply for green cards through their employers or by virtue of having businesses relatively quickly, and then be on a path to citizenship. For example, an undocumented nanny who provides valuable childcare while the parents work, after obtaining a probationary legal status, should be able to get sponsored by an employer for a green card relatively easily and quickly under a reformed immigration system. The same should be true for one who has owned a business for a certain period of time and has hired US workers or has generated a certain amount of revenues over a few years.

Indeed, this is how all nonimmigrants get green cards, and then become US citizens. The only problem is that it is too hard and takes too long. Then, there are also few avenues for obtaining a green card. If the GOP refuses to provide a direct pathway to citizenship, or a path to citizenship based on conditions, or even if a direct path to citizenship takes a long time,  let’s not fuss too much about it and let’s get on with the goal of reforming the immigration system. In fact, we should use it as a bargaining chip to ensure that we reform the system in such a way that there would be many other readily available paths to citizenship. Then, not having a direct path through a legalization program may not matter so much!Now is the time to bring the undocumented from the shadows into the bright sunshine of freedom. By giving them a stake in society in a fair and balanced manner that respects the law and promotes our values, Congress will make us all proud and turn the page on the next chapter of the American story.


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

It may have taken the Bolsheviks 10 days to shake the world but the presidential election last week did it in one. The political calculus on comprehensive immigration reform changed utterly and likely forever.

Hispanic voters accounted for 10% of voters on November 6th, reaching double-digits for the first time, and President Obama won them by a 71-28% margin. The number of registered Latinos soared by 26% in the past 4 years to an astonishing 12.2 million. The Hispanic rejection of Governor Romney contrasts sharply with the 44% of the Hispanic vote won by former President Bush in 2004. The latter pushed for CIR in 2007 and remains the only President ever to make a televised speech on immigration from the Oval Office. Moreover, the last time that CIR passed the US Senate in 2006, 23 of the 62 Aye Votes, came from Republicans, including one from then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Nor have Hispanics always been in love with President Obama under whose administration deportations reached record levels. Despite his 2008 promise to move on CIR, the President had done precious little until this summer, something he had to admit under tough questioning at a forum sponsored by the Spanish-language Univision network. Then came the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative and the momentum for change took off. On the day after the election, an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed a majority of all Americans (57%) backed a pathway for citizenship to bring the undocumented in from the shadows; among Hispanics the notion was even more popular (82%). Fox News commentator Sean Hannity proclaimed that his position on CIR had “evolved”;Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who rode to re-election on her state’s nativist immigration law now thought that CIR was “fine and dandy”; libertarian Senator Rand Paul announced an intent to make CIR a key plank in his run-up for 2016 and old-time immigration stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who had seemingly found their old views radioactive in recent years now rediscovered them, eager to join in bipartisan CIR discussions with their Democratic colleagues.

In his first news conference after his reelection on November 14, 2012, President Obama expressed confidence that he could pass an immigration reform bill early in his second term. He said that we should “seize the moment” buoyed by the strong endorsement he received from Latino voters favoring him over Mitt Romney.

Here is a transcript of the section of the news conference dealing with immigration:

Q: And also, what lessons, if any, did Democrats learn from this last election and the Latino vote?

OBAMA: Well, I think what was incredibly encouraging was to see a significant increase in Latino turnout. This is the fastest-growing group in the country and, you know, historically what you’ve seen is Latino vote — vote at lower rates than the broader population. And that’s beginning to change.

You’re starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country. And it is why I’m very confident that we can get immigration reform done. Before the election, I had given a couple of interviews where I predicted that Latino vote was going to be strong and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about their position on immigration reform. I think we’re starting to see that already.

I think that’s a positive sign. This has not historically been a partisan issue. We’ve had President Bush and John McCain and others who have supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past. So, we need to seize the moment.

And my expectation is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration.

OBAMA: And, in fact, some conversations I think are already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like. And when I say comprehensive immigration reform, it’s very similar to the outlines of previous immigration reform. I think it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken. Because we have to secure our border. I think it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and — and taking advantage of them.

And I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity, are here to –simply to work. I’ve — it’s important for them to pay back taxes. It’s important for them to learn English. It’s important for them to potentially pay a fine, but to give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country, I think is very important. Obviously making sure that we put into law what — the first step that we’ve taken administratively dealing with the DREAM Act kids is very important as well.

The one thing that I’m — I’m very clear about is that young people who are brought here through no fault of their own, who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, want to serve in our military, want to go to school and contribute to our society, that they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation. That we should give them every opportunity to earn their citizenship. And so, you know there are other components to it, obviously. The business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skilled workers.

And I am a believer that if you’ve got a PhD in physics, or computer science who wants to stay here, and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for them to stay here, we should try to encourage him to contribute to this society. I think that the agricultural sector, obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they’ve got a workforce that helps deliver food to our table. So there’re gonna be a bunch of components to it, but I think whatever process we have needs to make sure border security’s strong, needs to deal with employers effectively, needs to provide a pathway for the undocumented here, needs to deal with the DREAM Act kids.


While it is remarkable that the strong Latino support has changed the dynamic on immigration reform, let us not forget that comprehensive immigration reform should also encompass all others who have been mired under a broken immigration system. President Obama did make reference to “[t]he business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skilled workers,” but he said it more as an afterthought. We completely and wholeheartedly support a pathway to legalization and citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have otherwise led productive lives in the US and benefit the country in more ways than one. Immigration reform should not be viewed as only a Latino issue, it is an American issue. The view that reform is a Latino issue is not surprising due to two reasons. First, most Americans continue to think that immigration benefits the immigrants not themselves. Second, because of that, business immigration is not deemed to have the ethical legitimacy the same way that family migration has. For that to change, for sweeping CIR to become reality, all of us must realize that immigration is not a problem to be controlled but an asset to be maximized.

Immigration reform will surely benefit immigrants, but in turn, will also benefits America. It will create a stimulus for the economy and make employers more competitive. We therefore hope that immigration reform will ameliorate the plight of beneficiaries of approved I-140 petitions who are stuck in the endless employment-based third (EB-3) backlogs. These are people whose employers have obtained labor certifications years ago, and who are in the pipe line for a green card, but for the oversubscription in the preference category. Indeed, the wait for an India EB-3 whose labor certification is filed today is anticipated to be 70 years. This is dysfunction at its worst. The wish list for reform is endless and that is because the system is so broken. We clearly need to expand family-based visa numbers too, and it is clearly inhuman to tolerate spouses of permanent residents to be waiting for 3 years before they can get green cards. We should bring back more due process as well as give more discretion to the USCIS or the Immigration Judge to decide whether an immigrant convicted of a crime should stay or be deported. The 3 and 10 year bars have had the perverse effect of creating a larger undocumented population in the US. Because of these bars, many are caught in a federal Catch-22. They are unable to apply for green cards in the US, but if they return to their home country to process for a visa at a US consulate they will be barred for 10 years. Ironically, sluggish economic growth has done what ever-stricter border enforcement could not. Illegal immigration has consistently receded in recent years, spiking in 2000 under President Clinton but down by a third by the time that President Obama took office. Between 2005-2010, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that as many Mexicans departed these shores as arrived. Today, net migration from Mexico is non-existent.

We focus here in this blog on the need to also reform our employment-based immigration system. Future blogs will focus on other reform proposals. Any CIR proposal needs to contemplate an expansion of the number of green cards under the employment-based preferences so that an employer is able to obtain the services of a foreign national more quickly after the US labor market has been tested through the labor certification process. We also need more temporary work visas. The current 65,000 H-1B cap, along with the additional 20,000 H-1Bs reserved for graduates with advanced degrees from US universities does not meet the demands of US employers. Moreover, we eed to provide an incentive for foreign students whom we educate, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, to not leave and compete with the US from their home countries. Studies have shown that the US is losing in the competition for global talent, and any reform proposal needs to stop this bleeding. There should also be better oversight over officers who are bent on denying temporary work visas because they have self-appointed themselves guardians of the economy or because they do not like a certain business model, such as India-based IT consulting, which is what the Neufeld memo sought to do. Officers must faithfully apply the law as intended by Congress. Finally, we also need to have a visa that will encourage entrepreneurs and startups in the US.

In addition to broadly reforming the employment-based immigration system, here are some additional pointers that can greatly improve the system we have presently. Even if there is reform of the employment-based immigration system, backlogs could still build up again the coming years. When the numbers in the employment and family-based system were last increased under the Immigration Act of 1990, who would have envisaged that the EB-3 for India would be a 70 year wait! As part of CIR, INA §203(d) should be modified to specify that family members should not be counted separate and apart from the principal alien to stop double or additional counting. Such double counting undermines the principle of family unity which is at the core of our immigration values. Also, when the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was enacted, the kind of visa retrogression we have today did not exist. Congress never anticipated systemic visa backlogs particularly affecting EB3 and EB2 for India and China. That is why they wrote the age formula the way they did. Not until the priority date is current can the pendency of the I-140 be subtracted from the chronological age to give you the CSPA age. In any CIR proposal this should be changed so that you only look to the age of the child when the I-140 is approved. That would make the CSPA relevant to backlogged categories, which is not now the case. We also propose that INA § 245(a)(3) be modified to allow the filing of an adjustment of status application without regard to the priority date. This could be possible for both FB and EB beneficiaries who have an approved an I-130 or I-140 petition. Such adjustment of status applications will be provisionally submitted with final approval subject, as under current law, to the immediate availability of an immigrant visa number.

With regard to H-1B visas, the truth is that a cap on H-1Bs is a cap on the US economy and should be removed. Since many Indian and Chinese students start work in the United States as temporary H-1B workers, we propose the creation of a streamlined or Blanket H-1B application process for large H-1B employers similar to the Blanket L system under which work visa applications can be presented directly to US Consulates abroad, thus bypassing the need for individual H applications with the USCIS. Allow large H-1B employers to enter into centralized application arrangements with US Consulates in connection with the Blanket H-1B similar to what the USCIS now offers many corporate employers so that economies of speed, efficiency, and informed adjudication can be achieved on a consistent basis. It would also be a good idea to remove the six-year maximum imposed by the Immigration Act of 1990 and transform the H-1B visa into what it really is, namely a “pre-immigrant” instead of a “non-immigrant” visa that it is not now and never has been. Also, end the ban on spousal employment for H-4s that cruelly and unnecessarily puts the promising careers of countless professional spouses into the deep freeze. There should be a broader more accessible visa, unlike the very limited H-2B visa we have today, for essential factory, hotel, restaurant, construction and farm workers. That will be the only way to ensure that the undocumented population does not build up again.

If the labor certification procedure will still exist in a CIR proposal, the notion of minimal qualifications that is required when an employer files a labor certification is wholly artificial and does not exist in the real world. Although the points system was suggested in earlier CIR proposals in 2006 and 2007, a points-based system may not effectively match the skills of potential immigrants with prospective employers. Those who wish to be productively self-employed as entrepreneurs can avail of a specific startup visa. CIR is a good opportunity to broaden the application of the equally qualified standard from academic to all PERM labor certification cases. We also suggest removing the need for print advertisements in all PERM cases since many employers, especially in IT, advertise only on the Internet; allowing use of experience with the same employer, and eliminating the need for a fixed job description that can never change no matter how long a wait till the green card. Keeping a PERM application so static will be totally unrealistic for EB backlogs if they again begin to accumulate.

The shocks waves of November 6th are only a harbinger of things to come. A new study by the Pew Hispanic center predicts that, within 20 years, 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote as compared to 23,7 million today. Hispanics are younger and have a higher birth rate than other groups. If the rate of Hispanic political participation reaches the level of Whites and African-Americans, we could experience a doubling of Hispanic voters by 2032. Hispanic voters will constitute fully 40% of the growth in the American electorate between now and 2030. If the rate of Hispanic naturalization rises, this would be even more powerful since 5. 4 million permanent residents of Hispanic heritage did not vote. Nativists should also take note of the fact that about 800,000 Latinos turn 18 each year. Furthermore, it was not just the strong Latino turn out in favor of Obama. Even Asian Americans, who make up 3% of the electorate, overwhelmingly supported Obama.

The graying of America may be the most serious domestic problem of the next quarter-century. As the massive baby boomer generation slouches towards retirement, an aging population needs the fountain of youth. Immigration may be the magic elixir. The US Census Bureau estimates that the number of elderly people over age 65 could rise from 34.6 million today to 82 million by the year 2050. This trend will be most evident between 2011 and 2030 when those baby boomers born from the late 1940’s to the early 1960’s hit retirement age. Census experts predict that the numberof senior citizens over this period will soar from 13% to 20% of the population. During the same time, the number of foreign-born people living in the United States should dramatically increase, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the general population. Their number should grow from 26 million today to 53.8 million by the year 2050, an increase from 10 to 13% of the population. If these census statistics are correct, continued high levels of immigration will be necessary to provide a large enough workforce to support a rapidly aging America. The Census Bureau predicts the immigrants will become a majority in Texas within the next 14 years; five states will have a majority of non-White residents by 2025 and, in the course of the next half-century, Latinos may comprise about 25% of the entire US population. That’s a lot of folks and they will no longer be concentrated in a select number of states, such as California, New York, Texas, or Florida, but will be distributed throughout the nation. They will be the deciding votes in elections on all levels and their voice will be a strong and powerful one in setting the political agenda. In 1998, the National Immigration Forum joined with the Cato Institute to publish a study by Stephen Moore on the fiscal impact of immigration. What he found was startling and directly relevant to the problem so much on the mind of Chairman Greenspan. Most immigrants arrive in the United States in the floodtide of their working years; more than 70% of them are over age 18 when they get here. Stephen Moore estimated that there were roughly 17.5 million immigrants now in America whose education was paid for by their home countries, not US taxpayers. He concluded that this represented an infusion of unearned human capital worth some $43 trillion into the US economy. At a time when fewer and fewer wage earners will have to be paying for growing retirement benefits enjoyed by more and more elderly, it is worth remembering that immigration is one of the main forces keeping the Social Security Trust Fund afloat. In 2007, for example, the Social SecurityTrust Fund realized a net benefit of $120-240 billion from undocumented workers in the shadow economy representing 5.4%-10.7% of the Fund’s total assets of $2.24 trillion. Immigration is an essential strategy that responsible policy makers must use in a robust way to solve the systemic problem of financing Social Security

For all these reasons, there is no alternative to sweeping comprehensive immigration reform. We are all in this together. The American poet James Russell Lowell famously wrote that “once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.” This is our moment. The time to act is now.

Obama Wins and so Does Immigration Reform

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

Since President Obama’s decisive re-election victory, there has been a growing realization, mainly among Republicans, that the party will continue to be decimated in future elections if it does not take action on reforming the broken immigration system. It is clear that Romney’s comments on self-deportation, along with his embrace of Kris Kobach, the architect of the anti-immigrant laws of states like Arizona and Alabama, hurt him terribly among Hispanic voters in his quest for the White House. Recently, House majority leader John Boehner has pledged to work with the President and the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, to reach a deal on immigration. This would have been unthinkable before the election results on Tuesday, November 6 and is like music to the ears of immigration advocates who have been complaining for years about the need to fix the immigration system.

This bonhomie among GOP leaders and pundits for positive immigration reform may be short lived. Rancor may soon set in, as it is already happening, with regards to preventing the “fiscal cliff.” The country is still divided evenly, and a foreign newspaper, the Times of India, after the 2012 elections, astutely called us “The Divided States of America.” We still ardently hope that Congress can bring about comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), which would include an expansion of green card categories and temporary visas, along with the legalization of the 12 million or so undocumented people living here and contributing to the US. In order to prevent a buildup of the undocumented population in the future, reform must also allow for visas that would facilitate future flows of legal workers.

While all this is achievable, and a deal can be struck, it could also come apart if the bottled up enmity between the two parties flares up again. Notwithstanding the likes of Sean Hannity moving over to the side of CIR, there is bound to be rebellion in the rank and file of the Republican party, which considers CIR anathema. In his stirring victory speech Obama said, “We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.”But Obama still has the ability to deliver his promise to the Hispanics, Asian Americans and others who voted him in and routed Romney in the event that Congress enters into another stalemate. He has a powerful card up his sleeve, and this is his ability to provide relief through administrative action.

Administrative action is not a perfect alternative, as the President does not have the power to give green cards without Congressional authorization. But he does have the power to defer the deportation of large groups of undocumented immigrants, as he did through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which we have shown can withstand judicial scrutiny. He can expand DACA to a broader group of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for say 5 years, and have not been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors. As we have shown in our prior blog, Issues Ripe for Rulemaking: Some Modest Proposals, there is no prohibition anywhere that would bar USCIS from allowing the beneficiary of an approved I-140 or I-130 petition to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole. No action by Congress would be required. This could be done purely by act of regulation or even through a policy memo. For those who want a statutory basis, the USCIS can rely on its parole authority under INA 212(d)(5) to grant such interim benefits for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.” This we have explained previously in Comprehensive Immigration Reform Through Executive Fiat.

Knowing the power of the President to take action on his own, Congress will want to remain relevant and protect its institutional prerogative by enacting legislation so as to avoid creating the opportunity for the exercise of presidential initiative.  That is why Obama might want to enlarge DACA to other groups, not as an alternative to CIR but to make it more likely. If he announces broader initiatives, he can use them as a bargaining chip to withdraw if and when Congress acts. The President remains the First Officer of our Government and, as the Republicans are beginning to realize, the political saliency of the immigration issue can no longer be denied or deferred. By keeping the pressure on through the sustained but disciplined assertion of executive initiative, the President makes it more likely, not less, that CIR will make the bumpy transition from rhetoric to reality.


I write this blog with some sarcasm. The family fourth preference (F-4), which allows US citizens to sponsor their siblings for a green card, is horrendously backlogged. It takes over 10 years for a brother or sister of a US citizen to obtain a green card. If the sibling was born in the Philippines, the wait could well be over 25 years. So, why is it a piece of cake?
After the State Department released its Visa Bulletin for October 2012,   the F-4 at least for the worldwide category appears to be more advantageous in terms of waiting time than say the employment-based third preference (EB-3) for India, which is applicable to jobs that require bachelor’s degrees or at least two years of training or experience. The EB-3 for India is so backlogged that it could take a US employer 70 years before the Indian worker it sponsors gets a green card.
What was also disappointing with the October 2012 Visa Bulletin was that the employment-based second preference (EB-2), after being unavailable all summer, emerged in October with a cutoff date of September 1, 2004. This means that employers who filed labor certifications on behalf of foreign national workers with advanced degrees on or before September 1, 2004, can apply for their green cards today.  This does not bode too well because in April 2012 the cutoff date for the India EB-2 was May 1, 2010.  It should have emerged in October at the same cut off level, not back at September 1, 2004. Perhaps, the reason for this giant leap back in time is because many in the EB-3 with priority dates going back to 2004 and earlier are upgrading into the EB-2.  Noted immigration attorney Carl Shusterman has quite correctly called the October 2012 Visa Bulletin a disaster.
But jokes aside, the F-4 is actually a good hedge against the broken legal immigration system in the United States. If you have a brother or sister with kids who are 6 or 7 today, file the I-130 petition and then forget about it. Treat it like a long term stock in a new startup that will increase in value in the years to come.  By the time the green card comes through for your sibling, his or her kids would be 17 and 18, old enough to start college in the US as green card holders rather than  on an F-1 student visa. Note that spouses and children can derivatively get their green cards with the principal beneficiary.  If these kids were born in India, think of the benefit this would give them after they graduate from college and get a coveted job in the US – and let’s hope by then that the US economy would have turned around through some breakthrough technology that would result in an abundance of jobs!  Assuming that the EB-3 was as backlogged in 2023 as it is today, because Congress continued to remain in permanent gridlock, those kids would have to wait about 70 years to get their green card under the EB-3. Instead, the F-4 that you filed with a great deal of foresight today would benefit your nephews and nieces by the time they come of age and are ready to pursue their hopes and dreams in the USA.
What if the kids are no longer children by the time your sibling gets the green card under the F-4? What if they have already turned 21 or more as a child is one who is under 21 under the Immigration and Nationality Act? These are all good and relevant concerns. Fortunately, some of these kids may be able to freeze their age under the Child Status Protection Act. If the child is 23 years old at the time the date on the I-130 petition becomes current, then under INA § 203(h)(1) it is possible to subtract from that age the time that the I-130 petition took to get approved from the time it was filed. For example, if the USCIS took two and a half years to approve the I-130 petition from the date it was filed, then you can subtract 2.5 years from the child’s age, and if the age is reduced so that it falls below 21, then the child can still immigrate with the parent. Thus, it is actually to your advantage if the I-130 petition takes a long time to get approved as that much more time can then get subtracted from the age of a child who may have turned over 21 on the date of visa availability. Fortunately, the processing time at the Vermont Service Center for an F-4 today is just short of 2 years. Processing times will be longer if the USCIS issues a request for more evidence before approving the I-130 petition.  So don’t get too anxious if the I-130 under the F-4 does not get approved so quickly. This time will prove to be precious to reduce the age of a child who is over 21 a decade or more from today, when the visa becomes available under the F-4.
If we had a better immigration system, I would not waste time extolling the so called virtues of the F-4. But when so many preference categories have gone out of whack – 70 years for the India EB-3 and the EB-2 seems to also be going the same way– then we must grasp at straws and the F-4 is certainly one until Congress is able to bring sensible reforms to our immigration system.