Should the ‘school of life’ count for immigration?

July 1, 2014

06/30/14 Futurity

Migrant farmworkersThe United States should re-evaluate its immigration policy’s definition of skilled workers to include the informal skills of migrant workers.

A new study draws on a research project that involved interviews with 320 Mexican migrants and return migrants in North Carolina and Guanajuato, Mexico. The study identifies lifelong human capital—knowledge and technical and social skills—acquired and transferred throughout these migrants’ careers.

Skills among these migrants not only include basic education and English, but also technical and social skills and competencies acquired informally on and off the job throughout their lives—skills used in construction, domestic, retail, and hospitality work.

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Read the actual study here…

How Local Governments Are Hacking Immigration Reform

May 14, 2014

Minneapolis Protest Against SB 1070

The Atlantic, 5/13/14

States and cities are taking immigration reform into their own hands. With prospects for comprehensive legislation bleak in Washington, local governments have begun making decisions about who gets deported and who doesn’t by refusing to participate in a system that has come to rely on them. After a few years of slow but steady progress, local reform is now taking off.

In the last three weeks, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Denver, and counties in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and California have announced they will no longer help federal immigration police carry out deportations. These decisions, spurred by recent federal-court rulings, add to the growing chorus of state and local governments that have recently backed away from the deportation system: dozens of major cities and counties, two states, and counting.

This movement is a big deal, because local jails have become the frontline for immigration enforcement during the Obama Administration. As the wait for administrative action from the White House continues, local resistance is already stopping thousands of deportations every month. Even if Congress is able to pass a comprehensive reform bill, the current wave of local policy changes and judicial decisions will have altered the structure of immigration enforcement by making it much harder for federal officials to rely on local police and sheriffs. National reform is still crucial. But once you understand the depths of federal-local collaboration—and the recent pattern of resistance—it’s clear that the backbone of the immigration-enforcement dragnet is starting to weaken. Pushback is coming from places with some of the largest undocumented populations, and yet many outside the immigration policy world have overlooked it.

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Obama: 2-3 months for immigration reform

May 14, 2014

440px-Official_portrait_of_Barack_ObamaPOLITICO, 5/13/14

President Barack Obama laid down a deadline for immigration reform on Tuesday, saying House Republicans have two or three months to start acting on an overhaul before midterm election politics take over.

As he met with more than 40 law enforcement officials, Obama pressed the case that Congress has a “very narrow window” to complete immigration reform this year. He accused a “handful” of House GOP lawmakers of stalling reform but added that a number of Republicans are “realizing that blocking immigration reform is not a good idea.”

“The closer we get to the midterm elections, the harder it is to get things done around here … it’s just very hard right before an election,” Obama said Tuesday. “So we’ve got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives.”

His comments reflect a sense on and off Capitol Hill that lawmakers could still act on immigration reform this year, but that it’s dead unless that happens before the August recess. Obama has previously emphasized the truncated timeframe — for instance, at a Cinco de Mayo reception earlier this month, he urged reformers to mobilize “over the next two months” — but Tuesday’s comments appear to be the firmest yet on a deadline.

The Democratic-led Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, but House Republican leaders have ruled out that legislation in favor of their own approach. Obama stressed Tuesday that he was not “hell-bent” on making sure every word of the Senate bill, written by a bipartisan group of eight senators, reaches his desk.

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U.S. proposes immigration rules to help high-skilled workers

May 7, 2014

shutterstock_93480406Reuters, 5/6/14

Newly proposed rules for highly skilled immigrants to the United States, including a provision to allow their spouses to work, are aimed at making it easier to keep those talented science, technology and engineering workers in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

“These individuals are American families in waiting,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. “Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to do that.”

One of the two proposed regulation changes would allow the spouses of holders of H-1B visas, which are given to workers in fields such as science, technology and engineering, to have jobs in the United States while their spouses’ green card applications are being considered. Spouses of U.S. visaholders currently are not given permission to work.

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who announced the new regulations with Pritzker, said that change could affect as many as 97,000 people in the first year and some 30,000 annually after that.

The other proposed regulation change would give employers a wider range of methods to document that immigrant researchers and professors are among the best in their fields. The regulations would go into effect after a 60-day public comment period.

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Cinco de Mayo: Obama uses holiday to push immigration reform

May 7, 2014

obama_nieto_featureThe Christian Science Monitor, 5/5/14

President Barack Obama is telling Latino lawmakers and Hispanic advocates that they should press House Republicans to act on a broad overhaul of immigration laws. Obama says, “Tell them to get on board.”

Obama was observing the Mexican national holiday of Cinco de Mayo, or fifth of May, in the White House on Monday. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are using the day’s celebration to pressure House Republicans to follow up on legislation that passed the Senate last year.

The Senate bill would expand border security and provide a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Earlier Monday, Biden said those immigrants shared American values. Biden says, “They may not be citizens, but they are Americans.”

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Immigration Reform Isn’t Just About Numbers—It’s About Skills, Too

May 6, 2014

people - paper chain - community  working togetherThe Atlantic, 5/5/14

At a Hollywood conference on innovation on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden credited “constant and overwhelming” immigration for American creativity. Obviously, immigrants have contributed hugely to America’s legendary dynamism. From Alexander Hamilton to Sergey Brin, people born off these shores have founded new companies, invented new products, and disseminated new ideas. All the most enthusiastic tributes to immigration as a source of renewal are true. But those tributes are not the whole truth.

Since 1965, American immigration policy has tilted further and further in favor of the poorly educated and the unskilled. In consequence—and with full acknowledgement of the many, many spectacular individual success stories—American immigration policy in the aggregate has degraded the country’s skill levels and pushed the United States down to the bottom of the developed world in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving.

A new OECD report delivers grim news about how poorly Americans score in the skills necessary to a modern economy: “Larger proportions of adults in the United States than in other [advanced] countries have poor literacy and numeracy skills, and the proportion of adults with poor skills in problem solving is slightly larger than average, despite the relatively high educational attainments among adults in the United States.”

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Boehner’s mixed messages on immigration reform: Blames fellow Republicans, then Obama

May 6, 2014

Photo by J Scott Applewhite (AP)The Washington Times, 5/5/14

House Speaker John A. Boehner has emerged as the key figure of immigration reform legislation this year, and he has sent dramatically mixed signals about whether Congress will approve a bill.

At home in Ohio last month, he seemed to mock his fellow House Republicans by telling a local Rotary Club that they think immigration reform is too politically difficult. But returning to Washington last week, Mr. Boehner said the problem wasn’t his troops, but rather a trust deficit with President Obama. Advocates and opponents of immigration reform now say they don’t know where the House speaker stands on the issue as time runs short before November elections.

“He has been very consistent with his inconsistencies on immigration, so nobody knows what to expect or what to believe on this topic,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has long opposed granting legal status to illegal immigrants. He said talk of legalization is encouraging more illegal immigrants to try to enter the U.S.

Mr. Boehner replaces the president as the key figure on immigration reform. Mr. Obama long pledged to tackle the issue during his first year in the White House, and his political stock among Hispanics sank when he failed to follow through.

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Advocates Mount Final Push To Convince House To Pass Immigration Reform

May 5, 2014

Adcocates rally for immigrant rights in Dallas

Fox News Latino, 5/3/14

Advocates for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are mounting a final push to persuade the House to pass immigration legislation this summer, seeing one last window to act that will soon slam shut for good. If they don’t succeed by August, most say any chance of legislation will be over for the year, and all eyes will be on President Barack Obama to see if he acts on his own to curb deportations and accommodate some of the 11.5 million people here illegally.

The renewed focus on the GOP-led House comes amid chatter that immigration legislation — all but left for dead at the beginning of this year — is showing faint glimmers of life. Advocates point to recent comments by a handful of House Republicans, among them Speaker John Boehner, indicating an interest in getting it done.

The activity comes 10 months after the Senate passed bipartisan legislation with billions for border security, new visa programs to bring workers to the U.S., and a path to citizenship for the millions now here illegally. There is widespread agreement within the Republican establishment that the immigration issue has become a political drag on the GOP because of how it alienates Latinos, a fast-growing voter bloc. A wide-ranging coalition consisting of business groups, farmers, religious leaders, labor unions and others is pushing for reform.

Meanwhile Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the leading proponent on the Republican side, has been trying to sell fellow Republicans on legislation he’s drafted that deals with enforcement of the laws and a legal status for those without one. He contends that after years of trying he’s struck a balance that can bring both sides on board.

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Supreme Court declines to hear Nebraska immigration case

May 5, 2014

supreme-courtReuters, 5/5/14

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left intact a Nebraska town’s ordinance that cracks down on illegal immigration, declining to hear an appeal filed by a civil rights group. The 2010 ordinance in Fremont, Nebraska, includes a provision that bars landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.

Plaintiffs represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund sued, saying the measure was trumped by federal immigration law. The high court’s decision not to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal leaves intact a June 2013 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that the ordinance does not conflict with federal law.

The rental provision, one of only a handful around the country, requires prospective tenants to obtain an occupancy license. They must declare their immigration status. City police then check with the federal government. If a tenant is found to be an illegal immigrant, the license is revoked.

In March, the Supreme Court declined to take up two similar cases in which lower courts had struck down ordinances in Texas and Pennsylvania.

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Report on Deportations Shows Strict Enforcement at U.S. Border

April 30, 2014

migrantsThe Wall Street Journal, 4/29/14

A new report on deportations under the Obama administration paints a picture of two different approaches: a strict, “zero tolerance” policy at the U.S. border, where deportations are rising, and selective removals from the interior of the U.S., where deportations have fallen.

The number of formal removals at the border has risen every year under PresidentBarack Obama. At the same time, deportations from the U.S.’s interior have fallen for five consecutive years.

This dichotomy is rarely recognized by combatants on either side of the immigration debate. Immigration advocates staging round-the-clock protests focus on the overall figures, which have hit a record, and they denounce Mr. Obama as the “deporter-in-chief.” Conservatives say Mr. Obama is too soft on people living in the U.S. illegally but say little about stepped-up border enforcement.

The administration is “really trying to thread the needle,” said Marc Rosenblum, author of the report released on Tuesday by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. “They’re trying to be tough on enforcement, and to be humane and minimize the harm done to settled immigrant communities, and it’s pretty hard to do both.”

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