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E-Verify Expands Across 16 More States

March 30th, 2015 by Romona Paden

E-Verify Mandatory

E-Verify

En route to the goal of covering all 50 states, support of the federal E-Verify program—used for work authorization checks—was added in January in 16 states around the country. At the end of last year, only five states and the District of Columbia incorporated E-Verify in the employment process.

As the E-Verify electronic program compares employee-provided Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form information to government records with the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.) By matching the information, employers determine an new hire’s work authorization status.

E-Verify, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Verification Division of USCIS, and the Social Security Administration, is likewise promoted as providing benefits to those who create a personal account on the program’s Self Check feature. With Self Check, account holders can lock a Social Security number to prevent fraudulent use.

While the identity protection element is promoted by program stakeholders as a promotable feature, officials denied the suggested incorporation of “dynamic, multidimensional, knowledge-based authentication technology” as suggested by The Society for Human Resource Management and the Council for Global Immigration.

Officials are using the E-Verify program as a stepping stone toward community outreach. According to reported numbers, more than 500,000 employers use the E-Verify programs and it’s adopted by approximately 1,400 new companies every week.

The 16 states to make E-Verify available to workers are: California, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Besides the District of Columbia, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi and Virginia already used E-Verify.

The rollout to the 16 states is a part of DHS’ effort to see all 50 states adopt the E-Verify program.

H-1B Spouses Gain Work Opportunity

March 25th, 2015 by Romona Paden

homeownershipLife in the United States could soon get a lot better for H-1B nonimmigrants and their families. Beginning later this spring, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extends approval to certain H-4 dependent spouses to pursue and accept employment opportunities in the country.

The employment authorization eligibility, which becomes effective on May 26, falls under the umbrella of President Obama’s executive action on immigration that he announced in November. The initiative amends DHS regulations and is part of the president’s overall effort to modernize, improve and clarify the visa programs.

H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are eligible for employment authorization include:

  • Those who are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; and
  • Those who’ve been granted H-1B status under the amended 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act that permits H-1B nonimmigrants to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit of their H-1B status.

Spouses who seek employment authorization must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization along with supporting evidence and a $380 fee.

The change in employment authorization rules is expected to reduce economic burdens and personal stresses for nonimmigrants who are H-1B visa holders and their families.  Easing the stress of transitioning from nonimmigrant status to LPR status works to facilitate the integration into American society. DHS likewise expect the extension of employment eligibility to spouses will likewise reduce the number of H-1B nonimmigrants who abandon their efforts to remain in the United States.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez said extending employment eligibility to spouses not only helps H-1B immigrants and their families, but the move is also good for the country’s economy.  “Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodriguez says in a press release. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

In its first year, the rule change is expected to affect nearly 180,000 people. In subsequent years, estimates say the change will affect 55,000 people annually.

DACA Immigrants Allowed to Claim Federal Tax Benefits

March 23rd, 2015 by Romona Paden

EIT CreditsTax season looks a little brighter this year for immigrants who  have never received a refund check. For those who have been granted deferred deportation status under President Obama’s executive action and who have received a Social Security number, this year’s tax season carries the right to claim credits on federal tax returns.

Access to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—aimed at low- and moderate-income households—is particularly noteworthy. For the 2014 tax year, the credit is worth more than $6,200 for tax payers with three children who didn’t earn more than $53,267. According to reports, almost 28 million tax payers claimed $66 billion for the EIC in the 2013 tax year.

In February, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner John Koskinen testified in front Congress to explain IRS tax enforcement policies within the framework of the president’s executive action issued in November.

Because it’s classified as a refundable credit, filers can claim EITC even in cases with no tax liability. “Under the new program, if you get a Social Security number and you work, you’ll be eligible to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit,” the commissioner said.

Additionally, the commissioner testified that because the window to file amended returns is open for three years, immigrants can file retroactively to claim the credit. Immigrants can make the retroactive claim even in cases where no tax return had been filed previously. For these retroactive returns, immigrants are required to demonstrate their off-the-books labor for those years.

Some undocumented immigrants—only about 700,000– who have filed tax returns in previous years used an individual Taxpayer Identification Number.  Others, the commissioner testified, used false Social Security numbers or didn’t file a return at all.

Congressional Republicans disagree with the IRS’ interpretation of the EITC. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, for instance, said the IRS decision to allow retroactive credit “undermines congressional policy of not rewarding those for working illegally in the United States.”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina took issue with the revelation that the president never checked with IRS officials to gain an understanding of the tax implications of his move. “If Congress had passed a law doing exactly what the president did, we would have had not only an estimate of the costs, but we would have also been required to propose ways to pay for the programs,” he said. “This is just another example of the administration operating outside the rule of law.”

Immigration Expands in Indiana

March 19th, 2015 by Romona Paden

STEM GradWith a 57.9 percent growth rate in the immigrant population in just over a decade, diversity in the state of Indiana is on a healthy upward trajectory. Reaching a population of more than 300,000 in 2011, the Hoosier state’s immigrant population has shifted from origins primarily in Western Europe to a demographic dominated by origins in Mexico, India and China.

Through the 1960’s, most immigrants settling in Indiana hailed from Western Europe. According to numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center, the trend shifted in the 1990’s, putting Mexican nationals in the lead in terms of immigrant demographics. Mexican-born immigrants now comprise 36.6 percent of the state’s foreign-born population.

According to a Map the Impact report, 4.6 percent of Indiana’s population is comprised of immigrants. Interestingly, immigrant business ownership in the state measures at 5.2 percent. Immigrants’ overrepresentation in business ownership generated an average of $721 million in business income from 2006 to 2010.

The Map the Impact report, a project sponsored by The Partnership for a New American Economy, likewise makes a strong case for an immigrant workforce. According to Map the Impact, Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) determined that undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 7,600 jobs and generate more than $630 million for the state by the end of this decade.

Further positive economic effects likewise occur with the expansion of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. With this, REMI estimates an additional 3,200 jobs would be added to the state’s employment rolls, bringing in more than $279 million to the Gross State Product.

With top research institutions in the state—like Purdue University and the Indiana University system—science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is likewise a critical component in Indiana. Immigrants are again critical in this realm as nearly half—47.1 percent– of Indiana’s STEM students who were working toward Master’s or PhD degrees in 2009 were foreign born.

A particularly sticky point where the STEM fields are concerned is too often students in these programs end up leaving the state because these gifted students have no clear path to stay in the United States after graduating. The equation amounts to a dearth of workers who are skilled in technology and innovation—skill sets needed to move the state’s economy forward.

New York Farmers Support Immigration Reform

March 17th, 2015 by Romona Paden

agricultural workerWith an agricultural industry reaching into the multiple billions of dollars, New York farmers are throwing their weight behind efforts to maintain a healthy immigrant workforce through year-round and a flexible guest worker visa program for seasonal employees. To this end, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton told officials in Washington that the organization would offer support of the expansion of the E-verify program on the condition that it is linked with other reforms.

E-verify is a federal program whereby employers can determine if employees are legally qualified to work in the United States.

“We look for a stable workforce on our farms,” Norton is quoted as telling reporters in a late February conference call.

As Norton lays out the issue, the Republican “secure the border first” approach to immigration is ineffective for the Farm Bureau constituency. New York dairies and other farms say effective immigration reform amounts to addressing the labor side of the equation.

The value of New York’s agricultural industry in 2013 came in at $5.7 billion. The state leads the country in the production of yogurt, cottage cheese, pumpkins and cabbage New York is ranked the No. 2 state in the country in terms of the production of apples, squash and maple syrup. The state’s production levels in terms of milk, grapes and cauliflower comes in at No. 3 in the country.

Norton and the Farm Bureau are focused on the issue because the usual Washington gamesmanship around immigration meant the last Congress declined bipartisan legislation to secure the border, create a path to citizenship and streamline farm guest worker programs. Republicans in the current Congress are focused on defunding President Obama’s executive order.

“Everyone agrees that there is a problem,” said Norton, “but there is no trust or faith on either side.”

The New York Farm Bureau efforts are harmonious with those of the Western Growers, a trade association that represents many California farmers. California’s agricultural industry is reportedly valued at $46.4 billion with vegetable, fruit and nut crops. Western Growers estimates a farm labor shortage hovering in the range of 15-20 percent.

Latino Immigrants Struggle in School

March 11th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Latinos in SchoolsResearchers are sounding the alarm as the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group—Latinos—are found to consistently under-perform academically compared to their white, Asian and black counterparts. Often behind their peers even at the beginning of their academic careers, the gap only tends to widen as student progress through school.

Vanessa Cardenas, vice president of the immigration research organization Progress 2050, says the situation has significant consequences in terms of the nation’s stability. Progress 2050 is the immigration research arm of the Center for American Progress.

“Closing racial gaps is no longer only a moral imperative for the nation.  but it’s also an economic imperative given the demographic changes,” said  Cárdenas. “By the time our kids are entering into kindergarten they are already behind and it’s not like non-Hispanic kids are waiting around for them to catch up. As they advance, every year the gap becomes bigger.”

Experts say it’s common for Latino immigrant students to live in homes where family members only speak Spanish. For many 5-year-olds, then, the first day of kindergarten is their introduction to English. Additionally, teachers who don’t speak Spanish have little opportunity to build any significant rapport with students who are more comfortable with their native language.

In terms of specifics, Latinos run behind in terms of reading and math. Latino SAT scores trend lower than non-Latino scores. High school and college graduation rates are also lower for the Latino demographic than they are for others. According to reported numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, trends over the past quarter century show Latinos dropping out of school at higher rates than any other ethnic group.

At the college level, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows 74 percent of associate degrees earned in the country go to white students; 11 percent go to black students; 9 percent go to Hispanics. For students earning bachelors degrees, 77 percent are white; 9 percent of students are black; 6 percent of these graduates are Hispanic. At the highest levels of academia, only 5 percent of master and doctoral degrees are awarded to Hispanics.

Schools Begin Offering Aid to Undocumented Immigrants

March 9th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Executive Orders

Although federal financial aid is unavailable to undocumented students, a growing number of universities are making education more obtainable by offering direct assistance to students.

When President Obama ordered protected status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the move toward legal status reverberated into the ivory towers of academia. While DACA did nothing to give undocumented students a helping hand in terms of federal financial aid, the executive order correlates with a trend toward making education accessible to those who live in the United States as undocumented immigrants.

Without citizenship, undocumented immigrants have no access to Pell grants or other types of federal assistance. And although some schools quietly offered university-backed funding to the best and brightest undocumented students, the DACA program means schools are more open about their offer of support to these students.

Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania is one such school that recently began offering more financial aid to undocumented young people. In a press release on the school’s site, Daniel Porterfield, Franklin and Marshall College president, said the school is “extending an inspiring message to others in higher education and public life. As we have invested in a talent strategy that benefits all students, we’re showing other institutions it’s possible to increase financial aid, enhance academic excellence and deepen the talent of the student body.”

In December, the president fostered the academic outreach by hosting the second White House College Opportunity Day of Action. Among the initiatives adopted at the summit was the commitment to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates.

“We all know the STEM fields are pivotal to American economic competitiveness, national security, public health, energy independence, job creation, and our ability to prolong the health and productivity of the older members of our aging society,” Porterfield told the summit attendees. “To succeed, we need to draw the top talent from the full American mosaic, and from the full spectrum of the American economy.”

Although the number of institutions offering school-backed assistance isn’t known, more than a dozen states have adopted an in-state tuition rule.  States that include New York, New Jersey, Texas and California allow undocumented in-state high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at state schools, which is often substantially less expensive than the out-of-state tuition rate.

Louisiana Offers Immigrants “Gateway of America”

March 4th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Reform Rally

Although its immigrant population is relatively small compared to its other regional neighbors, Louisiana’s culture and heritage are shaped by diverse groups of immigrant.

With a range from Acadians (Cajuns), Creoles, and French settlers to the Irish, Germans, Chinese, Africans, Haitians, and Canary Islanders who followed, immigrants settling in the “Gateway of America” at the Port of New Orleans have planted a hefty footprint in Louisiana’s economy and cultural heritage. Despite the notable immigrant influence in the state, reported numbers attributed to the Pew Hispanic Center puts the state’s foreign-born population at around 173,000— just under 4 percent of the state’s total population.

Gulf region catastrophes are among the most substantial influences on current immigration trends in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill were both devastating events on the area. Since then, the area has worked to move forward in its recovery, working to rebuild industrial development. Correlating to recovery of the shipbuilding and Gulf Coast seafood industries, the state has seen a notable influx of Mexican workers, according to a Map the Impact report on the state.

Reported research on the state’s immigrant population likewise reflects a significant entrepreneurial contribution from immigrants living in Louisiana. In terms of national numbers, immigrants start more than a quarter of businesses in some of the country’s fastest growing industries. This includes health care, construction, retail and educational services. Specifically where Louisiana is concerned, immigrants in the state generate $691 million in business revenue annually. The number of immigrant business owners in the state is reported at 14,726—8.2 percent of all business owners in the state.

While immigrant business owners are already making a significant impact on Louisiana’s economy, reported numbers from Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI), providing a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will generate more than 5,700 jobs and more than $500 million for the state by the end of the decade. Where an expansion of the H-1B program is concerned, REMI estimates an additional 1,800 jobs with more than $169 million for the state.

Nationals from Mexico, Vietnam and China comprise Louisiana immigrant’s to countries of origin. In the first decade of the century, in the years from 2000-2010, Louisiana’s foreign-born population grew by 45.6 percent.

Map the Impact is a project developed by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The project looks at immigration issues and trends across each of the 50 states.

Central America Immigrant Influx Causes Court Delays

March 2nd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politics

The surge of Central American immigrants that began last summer has resulted in long delays for immigrants with legalization cases working through U.S. immigration courts.

When Maximiano Vazquez-Guevarra, 34, recently won his appeal to become a legal permanent resident, the Mexican national still had to make one final appearance in front of an immigration judge in Denver. But as the Department of Justice (DOJ) prioritized Central American immigrants—primarily comprised on mothers with children and unaccompanied minors– on federal court dockets, Vazquez and others like him who have low-priority cases are facing prolonged delays in the administration of legal processes.

As the influx of Central American immigrants has been especially hard hitting in New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Denver, a published report says immigration attorneys in those areas are reporting hearing cancellations. As the Central American immigrants move to the front of the line, “work permits, green cards, asylum claims, and family reunifications hang in the balance,” reads an Associated Press story.

Initially, delayed court dates are being rescheduled for Nov. 29, 2019. While immigration advocates immediately called out the rescheduling date as an excessive delay, a subsequent report says government officials used the November date simply as a temporary fill. “The 2019 date is merely a default temporarily used for thousands of non-priority cases after a flood of unaccompanied minors and adults with children crossed the border last year,” an article in The Los Angeles Times reads. “An agency spokeswoman said the 2019 date will almost certainly change for nearly every person who is scheduled for that day.”

Before July 2014, priority immigration cases only included those where immigrants had been detained. Revised policy now calls for prioritization of unaccompanied minors and families facing deportation status. While reports say the total number of cancelled hearings is currently unknown, pending cases for immigrants who aren’t in detention is greater than 415,000, according to numbers distributed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review—the DOJ’s immigration court oversight body.

Hearing delays can be both helpful and hurtful to immigrants awaiting their day in court and depend on individual situations. In some cases, the fear surrounding delay includes dated evidence, witnesses who disappear, the death of sponsoring relatives and dependent children who become adults. On the flip side, a delay can offer some immigrants the additional time they need to build a stronger case.

Integration, Support Mechanisms Key to Immigration Success

February 25th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsInnovation and growth fostered by a vibrant immigration system fueled the president’s formation of a task force that’s focused on integration and support mechanisms.

One of the immigration initiatives President Obama discussed in his November 2014 announcement—the White House Task Force on New Americans—is rooted in the longstanding recognition of immigration as a crucial underpinning of thriving cultures and economies. By identifying key factors in maintaining vibrant immigration patterns, the task force is intended to drive immigrant success.

Focusing on “civic, economic and linguistic integration of new Americans” and through the creation of “welcoming communities for all residents,” the president hopes to maintain immigrant innovation. According to the presidential memorandum on the task force, “Civic integration provides security in rights and liberties. Economic integration empowers self-sufficiency and allows new Americans to give back to their communities and contribute to economic growth.” The memo also discusses the importance of English language adoption, identifying proficiency as important for “employment and career advancement along with active civic participation.”

In essence, the task force calls for federal agencies to develop methods of outreach to immigrants. Departments of Education, Labor, Agriculture and others have all been tasked with finding ways to “expand and replicate successful models.” The idea here is to maintain the United States as a highly desirable destination for people all around the world.

Operationally, the task force calls for federal agencies to develop relationships with local public and private leaders in community, business and religious communities. As federal agencies and local entities develop constructive conversations around immigration, the president hopes to determine “additional steps the Federal Government can take to ensure its programs and policies are serving diverse communities that include new Americans.”

Ensuring opportunity to immigrants is fundamental to ensuring a healthy nation. While foreign-born residents make up 13 percent of the nation’s population, the demographic also represents more than 16 percent of the country’s workforce. What’s more the group accounts for 28 percent of all new businesses. As President Obama notes, “It is important that we develop a Federal immigrant integration strategy that is innovative and competitive with those of other industrialized nations and supports mechanisms to ensure that our Nation’s diverse people are contributing to society to their fullest potential.”

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