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Temporary Skilled Workers Enrich America’ s Competitive Edge

Via AILA
09/27/2006

The
recent debate over immigration policy commonly depicts immigrants as
undocumented, uneducated people who flood our borders without
inspection. Although many immigrants who enter this country are
unskilled laborers who provide essential services in many sectors of
our economy, of equal importance to the immigration debate are the
highly educated foreign professionals whose skills play a vital role in
the enrichment of our economy. These foreign born workers bring unique
perspectives and expertise that are essential to maintaining America’s
competitive edge as the leader of the global marketplace.

The United States economy has shifted significantly over the past
fifty years. We are no longer the blue collar nation that we once were.
The transformation of our economy from a manufacturing economy to a
knowledge-based economy has created a growing demand for highly skilled
technical workers. This demand has been accompanied by a decline in the
number of native-born students seeking degrees in the fields of
science, engineering and technology. Our prestigious graduate
institutions currently train more foreign nationals than U.S. citizens
in these important fields. These U.S trained specialists, both native
and foreign-born, cannot fill the demand for highly-skilled workers in
key occupations. U.S. businesses must be able to recruit and hire
additional foreign-born professionals to alleviate temporary labor
shortages in specific occupations.

To keep America competitive, we must increase the number of
specialized worker visas awarded. H-1B visas, or temporary skilled
worker visas, are currently capped at only 65,000 annually. Yet in
recent years, this “cap” is reached in a couple of months and U.S.
businesses are barred from hiring foreign-born professionals for the
remainder of the fiscal year. In order to increase the number of highly
skilled professionals in this country, we must reform the employment
based immigration system and provide a sufficient amount of avenues
through which U.S. businesses can legally employ specialized workers.

At the same time, we must increase recruitment and training of U.S.
students as well – in order to accelerate this process, a hefty portion
of the processing fees for the H visas are directed to the education
and training of U.S. students in science and technology.

It is important that skilled workers are not overlooked in the
current debate regarding comprehensive immigration reform. Raising the
H-1B visa cap is vital to maintaining our leadership in the world
market. We must retain the educated professionals whom we have trained
internally in order to benefit from the unique skills that they
possess. By sending the best and the brightest workers back to their
respective countries, we only create competition for ourselves, thereby
diminishing America’s economic clout. By retaining foreign nationals,
we may ensure that U.S. businesses have the most highly qualified
workers in their fields, helping America maintain its edge in an
increasingly competitive global economy. the most highly qualified
workers in their fields, guaranteeing maximum success and economic
prosperity.


 

New Program Aims to Help Employers Comply with Immigration Law

Via HR.BLR.com
07/27/2006


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a new initiative to help employers ensure that they are hiring and employing a workforce that is authorized to work in the United States.


Called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE), the program is designed to build cooperative relationships between government and businesses to strengthen hiring practices and reduce the employment of illegal aliens. The initiative also seeks to accomplish greater industry compliance and corporate due diligence through enhanced enhanced federal training and education of employers .


Under the program, the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will partner with companies that will serve as charter members of IMAGE and liaisons to the larger business community.


As part of this program, businesses must also adhere to a series of best practices, including the use of the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To date, more than 10,000 employers are using the Basic Pilot Employment Verification to check the work authorization of their newly hired employees.


ICE will provide training and education to IMAGE partners on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, and anti-discrimination laws. ICE will also share data with employers on the latest illegal schemes used to circumvent legal hiring processes. Furthermore, ICE will review the hiring and employment practices of IMAGE partners.


Those companies that comply with the terms of IMAGE will become “IMAGE certified,” a distinction that ICE says could become an industry standard.


In order to participate in the program, companies must first agree to a Form I-9 audit by ICE. They must also use the Basic Pilot Employment Verification program when hiring employees. In order to become IMAGE-certified, partners must also adhere to a series of best practices. These include the creation of internal training programs for completing employment verification forms and detecting fraudulent documents. IMAGE partners must also arrange for audits by neutral parties and establish protocols for responding to no-match letters from the Social Security Administration. ICE is also asking employers to establish a tip line for employees to report violations and mechanisms for companies to self-report violations to ICE. A full list of best practices can be found at www.ice.gov .

U.S. said helpless in hiring of aliens

Via The Washington Post
06/19/2006

The federal government is not capable of helping employers determine
whether workers in the U.S. are illegal aliens, a government official
will testify before a Senate subcommittee this afternoon.

    Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security and justice
for the Government Accountability Office, said that two decades after
Congress ordered the government to create a program to prevent the
hiring of illegals, such a program still doesn’t exist.

    Immigration specialists have “found that the single most
important step that could be taken to reduce unlawful immigration is
the development of a more effective system for verifying work
authorization,” Mr. Stana said in prepared testimony obtained by The
Washington Times.

Continue reading

Immigration reform could hurt construction

Via SouthCostToday.com
05/12/2006

Controversial immigration
legislation currently under consideration in Congress could bring about
a critical shortage of workers in the home-building industry, industry
figures said.

“The
home-building industry could be in danger of losing a significant
portion of its labor force,” if immigration reform doesn’t include a
guest worker program and a program to address illegal immigrant issues,
according to spokesman Michael Strauss of the 225,000-member National
Association of Home Builders.

Strauss
was referring to legislation that Congress is currently considering.
There are three dueling bills in Congress, each offering different
versions of immigration reform.

Continue reading article

Critics say U.S. naturalization process too slow

By Tim Vandenack
The Hutchinson News


DODGE CITY –
It was the 1980s, and with few work options at home in
Chichihualco, Mexico, Oscar Marino looked north of the border.

“I saw my family, the poverty,” Marino said.

In
the 1970s, his father had worked with a permit that let him travel
between the United States and Mexico. But with no such option available
when his turn to enter the workforce came up, Marino, now a meatpacker
here, took matters into his own hands.

“That pushed
me to come here illegally,” he said, remembering the mad scramble over
a chain-link fence separating Tijuana from southern California.

Many
others have similar stories – there are perhaps 12 million illegal
immigrants in the country, some say – and immigration experts and
others say it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Though there might be
jobs, scant means exist for low-income, low-skilled foreigners to enter
the United States legally to take them, prompting many to sneak across
the border.

“I would have gone that way if I could,”
said Marino, now a legal U.S. resident, referring to the program that
let his father enter the country. “It didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t.”

Indeed,
it strikes Angela Ferguson, a Kansas City, Mo., immigration attorney,
whenever she hears people say they have no problem with immigrants, as
long as they enter legally.

“They just don’t have a clue of how difficult the process is,” said Ferguson, who also practices in Garden City.

‘A long wait’

In
light of the apparent disparity between labor demand and supply, a
controversial U.S. Senate proposal emerged last month that would allow
more foreigners in to do low-skilled work. Some decry such plans as
misguided, saying lack of workers isn’t the issue, but depressed wages
that don’t appeal to natives.

A guest-worker element
would let up to 325,000 people in per year on a temporary basis, said
Laura Reiff of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which favors
moves to grant some illegal immigrants pathways to legal residency.
Another prong would increase the quota of low-skilled workers
potentially eligible for U.S. residency from about 5,000 per year to
250,000.

As is, the most common means for Mexicans
to attain legal residency here and the ability to work legally are
through U.S. citizen or U.S. resident family members. Latinos,
particularly Mexicans, account for the largest share of southwest
Kansas’ immigrant population, and Mexicans account for the biggest
chunk of the nation’s overall undocumented population.

But
the process can take years, trying the patience of someone hoping for a
job now. First there’s the paperwork, background checks and medical
exams. Then there’s the delay while U.S. authorities process the
information.

“It’s a long wait,” said Consuelo
Sandoval of United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries in Garden
City, which assists immigrants.

People without a family member to petition on their behalf essentially are out of luck.

The
Mexican spouse or minor children of a U.S. citizen, meanwhile, face the
shortest wait, as little as a year. From there, the wait gets longer
and longer, particularly for legal residents petitioning for their
Mexican family members. Residency is one step short of citizenship. For
instance:

* The unmarried Mexican children over 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen must wait more than 15 years.

* The brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen must wait more than 12 years.

*
The spouse and minor children of a U.S. resident must wait more than
six years. That is the largest category of people Sandoval helps
process.

* The unmarried children over 21 of a legal resident must wait more than 14 years.

The
wait stems from the backlog of cases U.S. officials must process and
annual quotas set for each country. For processing of residency
requests, U.S. immigration officials divvy the world into five zones:
Mexico, the Philippines, India and China – which all together account
for the bulk of petitions – and the rest of the world.

Continue reading article

Making sure teams look good on paper

Via Star-Telegram

05/07/2006

By RAY+ BUCK
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Assistant general manager Keith Grant of the Mavericks has obtained working visas for non-U.S. citizens plenty of times.

It’s the NBA way — importing players from abroad — and it’s viewed
by league officials as an “international” phenomenon with no end in
sight.

When the “Dream Team” captured Olympic gold at Barcelona in 1992,
NBA rosters were dotted with 21 international players from 18 countries.

This past season, NBA teams could boast 82 international players from 38 countries and territories.

Playoff teams, too.

Going into Round 1, there were 44 international players from 25
countries and territories among the 16 teams — including the Mavericks
with three, and led by the defending champion Spurs with seven.

So, you get the idea. Grant has been filing forms with the U.S.
State Department and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for
quite some time now.

But nothing prepared him for what happened last October.

The Mavs had just beaten the New York Knicks 104-102 in an
exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. While the rest of the team
flew to Detroit, Grant used a day off between games to chauffeur
DeSagana Diop to Toronto.

Diop, who had changed teams (Cavs to Mavs), was in need of a new P-1 visa.

The “P-1” is available to “priority professionals” with
“extraordinary skills” — such as doctors, researchers, entertainers
and athletes.

It’s the same visa used by Major League Baseball (actually, for any
international players on 40-man rosters) and the NHL, where 31 percent
of its players hail from beyond North American borders.

Anyway, back to Grant and Diop.

“DeSagana and I flew to Toronto, got a morning appointment and had
his visa by that afternoon,” Grant said. “But then, our flight to
Detroit was cancelled. Our only option was taking two commuter planes
— Toronto-to-Cleveland and Cleveland-to-Detroit.

“So, I told DeSagana, ‘Let’s just drive.'”

Grant was used to driving players from the northeast corridor to
either Toronto or Ottawa over the years, all in the quest for visas.

“So, we’re crossing the Canadian border in a Jeep rental — me and
DeSagana — and [the 7-foot] DeSagana is sitting halfway in the
backseat because he’s so long,” said Grant, who stands 5-11.

“I mean, we’re sitting there … The Odd Couple at its finest. Needless to say, we’re made to pull over, step inside and answer a few questions.”

NBA, MLB systems work

The adventures of a long-legged Senegalese power forward, with visa
in hand, doesn’t pack the same political punch as illegal immigration
and border control.

Maybe that’s the beauty of sports.

Pro teams have become more and more proactive in getting the proper immigration papers into the hands of their players.

“The process hasn’t gotten any easier, but we’re getting much more
organized,” said Kim Bohuny, vice president/NBA basketball operations.

Procuring players’ visas varies from sport to sport, from league to
league, even from level to level. But the goal is the same — make it
happen.

NBA players receive P-1 visas for the length of their contracts, which are usually three to four years and always guaranteed.

Conversely, major and minor league baseball players are required to
return to their native countries at the end of each season and reapply
for new visas.

Players not on the 40-man roster — even those with major league
jobs — must vie for “H-2B” visas. These visas are capped (66,000
available per year) and quotas are set.

All types of laborers crossing U.S. borders are eligible for H-2B visas: landscapers, loggers and minor-league infielders alike.

“An ‘H-2B’ is a specialized work visa but not the ultimate
specialized work visa,” said John Lombardo, director of minor league
operations for the Rangers. “Obviously, a P-1 — with no cap — is
incredibly simpler” to obtain and renew.

The Rangers, as with all MLB teams, obtain visas for every player in the organization, from Class A rookie league to the majors.

Each visa costs the Rangers $340 — minimum.

“It normally takes 45-60 days to get a P-1 or H-2B visa,” Lombardo
said. “Or else, you can send a $1,000 premium-processing fee and get a
visa in 10 days.”

It’s the responsibility of MLB — serving as an industry — to make
sure that all 30 teams are “certified” to make individual visa requests.

In turn, MLB gets an assist from the government.

Said Lombardo: “We do receive — I don’t want to call it ‘special
treatment’ because it’s not — but we do have a dedicated person
working in Homeland Security who helps expedite the process as much as
possible for our players.”

On the Rangers’ current 40-man roster, there are 12 international
players — nine from the Dominican Republic; one each from Japan,
Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Each visa order requires the team to package up 15-20 pages of
documents, including the player’s contract. The player then goes to his
consulate, shows proper ID and secures his visa.

That hasn’t changed.

What has changed, however, is heightened U.S. scrutiny after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Going into 9/11, there was a lot of corruption — not from the U.S.
side but from the international side — in the visa process,” Lombardo
said. “Things got lax…like family members getting piggy-backed onto a
player’s visa.”

Historically, Dominican players have had a reputation for “visa problems,” causing them to miss the start of spring training.

“I just think the Dominican Republic is still paying the price for
some of that corruption, even though it’s not there now,” Lombardo said.

There are more Dominican players than any other international group
in the majors today. And they all arrive at once, Lombardo noted.

Right-handed reliever Omar Beltre — a once highly regarded
Dominican prospect of the Rangers — was implicated a couple of years
ago in an alleged multiple-player visa scam, preventing him from U.S.
entry.

“If a player has made a mistake — somewhere, somehow — or his
paperwork is not in order…he’s not getting in,” said Lombardo,
referring to no one in particular.

“Since 9/11, the visa process has become much more difficult,” Lombardo added. “They’re cracking down. Thank goodness for that.”

Don’t forget hockey

Basketball players average 20 to 22 years old after well-documented
careers with their national teams. Baseball often sends teen-agers to
the States.

The NBA also secures a temporary “visitor’s visa” for any player who
wishes to come to the United States before the June draft for a
non-payment, individual workout for a team.

But the NBA and MLB aren’t alone in helping non-U.S. citizens’ entry
into the country to play pro sports. American-based NHL teams are part
of a league that is about 52 percent Canadian-born.

The Stars finished the season with 11 Canadians, six Finns and a total of 21 players born outside the United States.

“The P-1 visa allows players to travel outside the U.S. and play
hockey in Canada…[and] is valid through the term of the player’s
contract,” said Lesa Moake, Stars director of hockey and team services.

“There are some European countries [Czech Republic, Latvia and
Russia] that require a Canadian visa as well. I file those
multiple-entry visas with the Canadian consulate, and they are valid
for one year.”

A player with a P-1 visa can apply for a green card, which allows
non-U.S. citizens to reside permanently and work in the United States.

That process usually takes “a minimum of two years,” said Moake,
adding, “If a player has a green card and leaves the U.S. to play for a
team in Canada, he is required to surrender his green card.”

Minor-league hockey players receive 10-month visas.

“It’s tougher for minor-league teams,” said Eric Schultz, an immigration lawyer for Sacks, Kolken & Schultz of Buffalo.

One of Schultz’s accounts is the Central Hockey League, which includes the suddenly-now-in-limbo Fort Worth Brahmas.

Unlike P-1 visa holders, H-2B players must get the blessing of the U.S. Labor Department before a contract can be signed.

“Only if it can be certified that sufficient recruitment has been
done to look for U.S.-citizen players or green-card holders will the
Department of Labor authorize permission for employment to be offered
to a non-U.S. citizen,” Schultz said.

Not so, for the big boys.

Said Terry Lyons, vice president/NBA international communications:
“I see NBA coaches, players and fans saying, ‘May the best man play.'”

This idea of open competition may be where immigration in sports shines brightest.

If nothing else, filling out all that paperwork must seem worthwhile.

  • For more online information on immigration in sports:

    www.uscis.gov

    www.us-immigration.com

    www.sackskolken.com

  • Staff writer David Sessions contributed to this report.

  • USCIS REACHES H-2B CAP FOR FIRST HALF OF FISCAL YEAR 2006 – Press Release


    Washington, D.C.– U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2006 (FY 2006). USCIS is hereby notifying the public that December 15, 2005 is the “final receipt date” for new H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates prior to April 1, 2006. The “final receipt date” is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 33,000 H-2B workers for the first half of FY 2006.


     


    USCIS will apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions which are subject to the cap and were received on December 15, 2005. This process will select the number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS will reject all cap-subject petitions not randomly selected. USCIS will also reject petitions for new H-2B workers seeking employment start dates prior to April 1st that arrive after December 15, 2005. USCIS will continue to accept petitions for new H-2B workers seeking employment start dates on or after April 1, 2006 that arrive after the “final receipt date” only if such petitions are supported by a valid temporary labor certification.


     


    Petitions for both current and returning H-2B workers do not count towards the congressionally mandated bi-annual H-2B cap. “Returning workers” are exempt from H-2B cap limitations. In order to qualify, the worker must have counted against the H-2B numerical cap between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2005. Any worker not certified as a “returning worker” is subject to the numerical limitations for the relevant fiscal year. Petitions received after the “final receipt date” which contain a combination of “returning workers” and workers subject to the H-2B cap will not be rejected, and petitioning employers will receive partial approvals for those aliens who qualify as “returning workers” if otherwise approvable.


    USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:


     


    • Extend the stay of a current H-2B worker in the United States;


    • Change the terms of employment for current H-2B workers and extend their stay;


    • Allow current H-2B workers to change or add employers and extend their stay; or


    • Request eligible H-2B “returning workers.”


     


    More information about the H-2B work program is available at http://www.uscis.gov or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.