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Mapping the Impact of Colorado Compact

December 18th, 2014 by Romona Paden

800px-Flag_of_Colorado.svgTaking a “reasonable and common-sense approach to immigration policy” in the mountain state, self-described “everyday Colorado citizens” have created the Colorado Compact. The purpose of the compact is to provide “guiding principles and an example for civil discourse” at the federal level.

Colorado’s immigrant profile comes forth both on the state’s thriving startup community and within Colorado’s agriculture sector. In Colorado Compact’s recognition that “both industries depend on immigrants to prosper,” the coalition is working to improve the current worker visa system and “implementing a reasonable strategy to enforce immigration laws.”

Making up nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, raw numbers put immigrants in Colorado at just over 495,000. Since 2000, Colorado’s immigrant population has grown by a substantial 50 percent. Colorado’s immigrant community is largely representative of those coming from Mexico, South Korea and Germany.

Despite its comparatively small size, Colorado’s immigrant population has a large impact on the state’s economy. Also, Colorado’s immigrant population grew substantially over the last decade: there were over 50 percent more immigrants in Colorado in 2011 than there were in 2000.

According to the Partnership for a New American Economy’s Map the Impact project, Colorado employers were granted more than 3,500 worker visas in fiscal year 2011. On average, the report says, employers spend an average of $2,500 for each H-2B visa it sponsors and applies to multiple federal agencies in the process.

Seasonal and temporary workers staff amusement parks, hotels, landscaping services and the like. According to the Map the Impact report, “the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute, in fact, found that for every 100 H-2B visa workers, 464 jobs are created or preserved for American born workers. In Colorado, that means the visas authorized in FY 2011 alone supported almost 8,560 American jobs.” If the visa program were more streamlined, the report states, “job creation in the state could be even greater.”

Map the Impact researchers also make the case in the report that the DREAM Act benefits the state of Colorado. “Legalizing the 44,000 so-called DREAMers in the state would have an estimated $5.5 billion induced economic impact and also create almost 22,500 new jobs by 2030.”

Puerto Rican Immigration Trends Reflect Territory’s Decline

December 16th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Puerto RicoAs poverty on the island of Puerto Rico seems to only intensify with each passing year, the number of immigrants leaving the island to live in the continental U.S. continues to climb. More than 144,000 people left the island for the mainland than the other way around from mid-2010 to 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And analysis from the Pew Research Center study reports “economic opportunity” is the most common reason for Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland.

Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and therefore its residents are able to freely move from the territory to any of the states on the mainland without first obtaining permanent residency.

Migrants “fueled the island’s first sustained population decline in its history as a U.S. territory, even as the stateside Puerto Rican population grew briskly,” according to the Pew study.

Pew reports “substantial differences” in the life circumstance of Puerto Ricans born on the mainland as compared to those born on the island. Mainland-born demographics reflect a younger profile with higher household incomes than the island-born demographic. A college education is also more likely for those born on the mainland.

For those born on the island, trends reflect immigrants who are poorer than their predecessors. The population is also characterized by lower household incomes and a greater likelihood of living in poverty.

Interestingly, the population of Puerto Ricans living stateside has diversified in terms of geographic concentrations. Whereas 74 percent of Puerto Ricans lived in the Northeast region of the country in 1980, the rate dropped to 52 percent who lived in the region in 2012. The rate of growth for the Puerto Rican immigrant population in other areas of the country has been rapid. Especially in the South, Pews notes, the rate is on a particularly fast clip. Less than 10 percent of the Puerto Rican population on the mainland resided in the South in 1980. Now the region is home to around 30 percent of the population.

The number of island-born Puerto Ricans living stateside has ticked up to 1.4 million in 2012, up from 1.3 million in 2000. The number of stateside Puerto Ricans reached a record 4.9 million in 2012. Since 2006, stateside Puerto Ricans have exceed the number of those on the island.

Exec Order Success Relies on Institutional Organization

December 10th, 2014 by Romona Paden

emigrationEager to take advantage of the immigration reform that President Obama announced last month, Chicago area politicians are rallying the city’s business community as a key component in reaching out to undocumented residents who could gain legal status. Focusing efforts to get work authorization for undocumented immigrants is now a top priority they say.

Speaking to a group of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez told the audience that the battles faced by undocumented immigrants are far from over.

“The light doesn’t go green for another 178 days. So we’ve got to get ready to make sure everybody’s prepared,” Mayor Emanuel said, alluding to the estimated six months between the president’s announcement and implementation by the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS).

Because of the lag between the president’s statements on immigration reform and the overhaul of immigration rules on the part of USCIS, “not one person has been freed from the fear of deportation,” Rep. Gutierrez said. “So our job is to get them their work authorization.”

While the politicians beat the drum on immigrant registration, both also said businesses, educational, civic and social institutions as well as professionals of all stripes each has a role to play in order to reach the appropriate demographic.

“You all have a role to play,” the mayor told the coalition. “This is not the city’s responsibility. This isn’t the state’s responsibility,” he said. While the city will “put our shoulder to the wheel,” ultimately the task at hand is a shared responsibility. ”The president provided not the certainty that 4 to 5 million would get this,” he added, “but the opportunity for 4 to 5 million to get this.” In explaining the urgency, the mayor said, ”If we underperform, a lot of people are going to realize there’s not the momentum for immigration reform.”

As the politicians noted the importance of institutional leadership on reform, they also said the move toward reform opens the door to fraud as some will most certainly seek to take advantage of confusion and misinformation.  ”If somebody’s stepping forward, we’ve got to make sure there are legitimate operators helping them,” the mayor said.

Mayor Emanuel said the reforms were necessary so immigrants “can pick up a report card, go to a soccer game or a play after school, because they’re not living in fear.”

Unlawful Reentry Drives Federal Immigration Sentencing

December 9th, 2014 by Romona Paden

ICEImmigrants charged with illegal entry or attempted illegal entry into the United States has driven the growth rate of federal sentencing. According to Pew Research analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC,) almost half of the overall growth of federal convictions over the past two decades— 48 percent from 1992 to 2012—were the result of those convicted of federal reentry charges.

This is why making sure of proper immigration to the United States is a very important thing.

Unlawful reentry is a charge leveled against immigrants suspected of entry or the attempt to enter the U.S. illegally more than once. The charge can also apply to those immigrants who attempt to reenter the United States after having been officially deported. According to sources cited in the Pew report, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended most immigrants faced with the federal crime at the border.

During the 20-year-period examining USSC sentencing rates, the number of offenders sentenced in federal court more than doubled. In 1992, USSC reports sentencing of around 36,500 offenders. In 2012, almost 76,000 offenders had been sentenced in federal court. Where unlawful reentry cases are concerned, 1992 saw 690 cases. By 2012, unlawful reentry cases grew by 28 fold with 19,463 case convictions.

Unlawful reentry was the fastest growing type of conviction reported in the USSC numbers. Drug offenses were the second fastest growing type of conviction—22 percent.

The report identifies Latinos as representing 23 percent of unlawful reentry offenders in 1992. By 2012, the number of federally-convicted Latinos grew to 48 percent of offenders overall and an overwhelming majority of unlawful reentry offenders at 92 percent. According to the report, 12 percent of those sentenced on the federal level in 1992 were unauthorized immigrants. By 2012, 40 percent of those convicted of the crime were unauthorized immigrants.

USSC reports the sentence length of those convicted of unlawful reentry is around two years. In the years between 1998 and 2010, Pew reports immigration offenders accounted for 56 percent of the increase in federal prison admissions.

The Pew report is based on USSC data and covers all federal felony and misdemeanor cases from 1992 through to 2012. While the data includes all criminal immigration offenses sentenced under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the data isn’t inclusive of civil immigration charges heard in U.S. immigration courts.

Obama Follows on History of Presidential Immigration Orders

December 4th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Stars and stripesAlthough President Obama has been hit with plenty of accusations of overreach after announcing his executive actions on immigration in November, other U.S. presidents have likewise used their position to tweak the country’s immigration laws. Democratic and Republican presidents alike have bypassed the legislative branch with executive decisions that influence the nation’s immigration flows.

Political publication The Hill reports executive decisions on immigration go back as far as Herbert Hoover, the Republican president in office at the start of the Great Depression. Describing Hoover’s decision to issue immigration visas only to those capable of independence and self support as the “most far-reaching executive decision in the history of American immigration policy,” the president slashed immigration into the country by 90 percent as he attempted to preserve U.S. jobs for Americans.

It’s important to note President Hoover’s official executive immigration stance took the form of a press release, not an executive order. Still, the policy stayed in effect until 1936, the start of Franklin Roosevelt’s second term in the White House. According to reports, this is when FDR acted unilaterally in allowing Jewish holders of temporary visitor visas to stay in the United States.

More recent history has also seen immigration reform on the presidential level coming from the Republican sector. Under President Reagan and both President Bushes, presidential powers were applied to immigration policy. President Clinton on the Democratic side also applied presidential powers on immigration issues.

For President Obama, the November executive action on immigration follows the move he made on immigration in June 2012 with the adoption of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.) The DACA policy is estimated to affect around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The president’s more recent executive action extends to around 3.9 million undocumented immigrants, according to reports.

At the adoption of DACA, officials called the action an “exercise of discretion within the framework of existing law.” With the executive action the president took on immigration in late 2014, additional groups within the undocumented community are likewise protected on the same rationale.

Immigration Reform Reverberates in Real Estate

December 2nd, 2014 by Romona Paden

homeownershipReal estate is one business sector that could feel a healthy bump in activity as the result of President Obama’s executive order on immigration reform. As the reform calls for efforts to modernize and improve immigration programs—aimed at boosting inbound investment and entrepreneurship—commercial and residential property development will likely benefit as the reform reverberates throughout the economy.

Miami is particularly well-positioned to benefit from reform efforts that touch on reform efforts that are focused on the investment side of immigration. Investment visas—categorized as EB-5 visas—are given to immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in business and create at least 10 jobs. For areas like Miami, which already holds high-levels of attraction to both Latin Americans and Europeans, the president’s reform will likely drive development interest up.

The trend in South Florida real estate development already taps into foreign wealth. According to a trade publication for the region, developers have increasingly turned to the EB-5 visa as a method of funding to build commercial and residential projects.

The success of the EB-5 visa program in Miami is so great that the city has even created an EB-5 Regional Center for Foreign Investment in downtown Miami. With the president’s announcement of his executive order, which will be implemented through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, Miami-area foreign investment in real estate is only expected to grow.

One current project under construction via the EB-5 visa in South Florida is an 82-story building in Miami’s financial district. Estimated construction costs of the building are $800 million plus.

While foreign investors in South Florida are often from Latin America, it’s Chinese investors who headed up the EB-5 visa category in 2014. The Chinese demand correlates to the first time the U.S. reached its EB-5 visa cap of 10,000 during the fiscal year. With the reform from the president’s executive order, however, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil will likely continue as the primary foreign investors in South Florida real estate going forward.

Seizing on Latin American interest in the EB-5 visas, Luciana Zamith Fischer is a Miami-based attorney who gives investment seminars in Brazil. “They are increasingly becoming more interested in obtaining U.S. residency through EB-5 visas,” she says.

After Exec Order, GOP Must Move on Immigration

December 2nd, 2014 by Romona Paden

After President Obama’s announced executive order on immigration reformimmigration executive orders just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the to-date intransigent Republicans find themselves boxed in on moving forward. Rather than feeding a mire of uncooperative spite, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) says the president’s order frees up the GOP to pass reasonable reform legislation.

Although some in the leadership ranks of the GOP have characterized the executive order tantamount to picking a bar fight—as 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said—Sen. Flake says President Obama now has more pressure to sign conservative immigration bills that comes out of Congress. As the bills go through the process and are signed into law, the end result at least resembles comprehensive immigration reform.

“I think it will be easier in a sense,” the senator says.

The wheeling and dealing of this particular political scenario comes in the form of three non-negotiable concessions Sen. Flake and other Republicans want from the president. These center on border security, mandatory e-verify and temporary and high-tech visa programs.

On the border security portion of the Republican demands is a bill requiring a border apprehension rate of 90 percent apprehension before moving ahead with any permanent legalization of immigrants who are undocumented. As the executive order arguably tests constitutional boundaries, Sen. Flake says the president would be “harder-pressed to veto a border security bill, a tough one, than he would have before.”

Republican insistence on mandatory e-verify—a system that tracks the legal permission to work—goes with the party’s demand for tougher interior enforcement. Republicans also see an opportunity to put through business-friendly legislation on temporary and high-tech visas.

An editorial in the Washington Post puts it this way, “(Sen. Flake’s) hunch is that Obama, to quell the Republican rage on immigration and to make his executive action permanent, would ultimately take that deal.”

Obama Gives a Nod to Facebook with Immigration Announcement

November 24th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Mark Zuckerberg FacebookWhen President Obama’s announcement to take executive action on immigration reform was released on the White House Facebook page, it was a definite nod to the social networking site’s influence on the topic. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc.’s founder and CEO, has established himself as a Silicon Valley leader on immigration reform.

Zuckerberg is one of several Silicon Valley leaders behind Fwd.us. The nonprofit organization, which promotes the cause of immigration reform, is also backed by the likes of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The impetus behind the formation of Fwd.us was Zuckerberg’s first-hand witnessing of lost opportunities for undocumented young people. At a community event for tech-savvy high school students, Zuckerberg asked one particularly bright student where he intended to attend college. Because the student’s undocumented status blocked him from accessing financial resources, the DREAMer said college was a part of his future plans.

Although Fwd.us only came into existence in 2013, the president’s move to release the video about his upcoming executive action through the social networking site is indicative that the group has already established itself as highly influential.  The release of the video on Facebook, in fact, is a kind of quid pro quo as Zuckerberg has stepped onto the president’s turf by making congressional testimony on immigration in Washington D.C.

Silicon Valley’s interest on immigration reform is linked directly with a dearth of computer programmers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—are areas of study for many immigrants. Because the current immigration system is ineffective in keeping STEM graduates in the country, however, Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies are working toward reform. In other words, if STEM graduates can more easily extend their visas, Silicon Valley will have more access to those who are qualified for the technology work.

“We are only here because this country welcomed our forebears, and taught them that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from,” the president said on Facebook. “What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal—that all of us are created equal.”

President Obama Takes Executive Action on Immigration

November 24th, 2014 by Romona Paden

immigration executive ordersPresident Obama announced executive action on immigration reform just a couple of weeks after midterm elections that brought resounding defeat to Democrats. Among the most dominant features of the order is that close to 5 million undocumented immigrants have been granted a reprieve in their worry over possible deportation.

Speaking from the White House one week before the Thanksgiving holiday, the president laid out the central aspects of his order. These include tighter border security and an adjustment to rules surrounding immigrants with who are characterized as “highly-skilled” where workers will be granted visas. The third prong of the action is that undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria will no longer live with the daily possibility of deportation.

The president’s extension of temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants applies to the parents and families of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens who have no criminal record and who have been in the U.S. for five years or more. However, the parents of children who qualify to stay in the U.S. under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program aren’t among those who will be granted temporary legal status.

For undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will expand as sources say current age limits around the program will be dropped.

The president’s decision to move forward on immigration reform through executive action comes in the wake of Democrats’ defeat in the midterm elections. While a reform bill had passed the Senate, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have stalled on reform efforts.

The president addressed critics who call his executive order on immigration a grant of amnesty to those who came to the country illegally. Congressional passage of a comprehensive reform bill would make the executive action unnecessary, he said.

“Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” the president said in his speech. “It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it.”

Republican criticism of the president’s executive order began even before the speech was aired. Saying President Obama’s use of executive action is akin to an emperor’s passage of dictates, those opposed reform that bypasses Congress see the move as a threat to the nation’s democracy.

Obama Announces Pending Exec Order on Immigration

November 21st, 2014 by Romona Paden

immigration executive ordersCiting a broken immigration system where problems have been allowed to “fester for too long,” President Obama announced a pending executive order that will take “commonsense steps” toward reform. Through a brief one-minute video posted on the White House Facebook page, the president announced he would enact a set of executive orders regarding immigration reforms.

The president will use the executive order on immigration to “fix as much of it as he can,” the White House Facebook page says. Press reports covering the announcement speculate measures could extend amnesty to as many as 5 million undocumented people living in the United States, sparing them from possible deportation.

Besides protection from deportation, the president’s executive order will likely also extend work permit eligibility to millions of undocumented immigrants. The executive action isn’t expected to include a path to citizenship. Additionally, undocumented immigrants who benefit from the action won’t be entitled to federal benefits, which include health care tax credits through the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare.

Among the 5 million immigrants to whom deportation protection will likely be extended are the parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents—green card holders—who’ve been in the country for at least five years.

The president is also likely to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was introduced two years ago through another executive order. The parents of immigrants protected under DACA aren’t expected to be granted protections, however.

“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said in a video on Facebook.

Any executive actions taken by President Obama can be undone by the future president who will be elected in two years.

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