Construction of Virtual Border Fence Halted
The Obama administration has ordered construction to stop on a "virtual" fence along the U.S-Mexico border. The original plans called for surveillance cameras and sensors to be mounted along the 2,000 mile border, but cost overruns and missed deadlines have led to the decision to halt construction.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that the $50 million in economic stimulus funds that was set aside for the fence will be used instead for "tested, commercially available, security technology" including thermal imaging equipment and other surveillance equipment for border patrol officers.
Construction of the fence began during the Bush administration and was originally projected to take five years.
Numbers of Undocumented Immigrants Drop Due to Recession
The Department of Homeland Security now estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. dropped by 1 million from 2007 to 2009. 10.8 undocumented immigrants are estimated to be in the U.S. as of January, 2009.
California and Florida experienced the greatest drop in undocumented immigrants. Estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. vary greatly as these immigrants difficult to track, but experts agree their numbers have diminished substantially. This reduction is generally attributed to the recession. Undocumented workers typically work in industries that experience the greatest recession impacts, including construction, hospitality, and manufacturing. The construction industry has been especially weakened during the current recession.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection also reports a decrease in the number of apprehensions at the border. The number of apprehensions in 2009 was 53% lower than the number in 2008. This decrease may be also be due to increased deterrence.
The StartUp Visa Act of 2010 seeks to create a new employment based category for immigrant entrepreneurs, taking visa numbers away from the existing EB-5 category for immigrants who are investing at least $1 million in the United States.
The number of legal immigrants to the U.S., the bulk of which come through family-sponsorship, has not declined.
Schumer and Graham Outline Plan for Immigration Reform
Senator Charles Schumer (D) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R) outlined their plan for overhauling the U.S. immigration system in the Washington Post on March 19.
The plan has four main components: biometric Social Security cards to prevent hiring of illegal workers, increased border security and enforcement of immigration laws, a new temporary worker program, and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
The enhanced Social Security card proposed by Schumer and Graham would not be linked to a government database, but would contain a unique biometric identifier that would be stored only on the card. The Senators posit that this enhanced card would dramatically decrease illegal immigration. Employers could swipe these cards to determine someone's immigration status.
The proposal contains a measure that would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or Master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. Lower-skilled workers are also addressed. Schumer and Lindsey propose an increase in temporary work visas for these workers, allowing U.S. employers to hire temporary immigrant workers only after recruiting in the U.S. workforce. Successful workers will get the chance to earn a green card.
For immigrants currently here without documentation, Schumer and Lindsey's plan includes a path to legalization if the immigrants perform community service, pay back taxes and fines, and admit that they broke the law.
President Obama has expressed support for the plan, stating "I am pleased to see that Senators Schumer and Graham have produced a promising, bipartisan framework which can and should be the basis for moving forward." It thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders, and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system.
IN THIS ISSUE
USCIS Will Start Accepting H-1B Petitions on April 1
USCIS has announced that it will begin receiving H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2011 on April 1, 2010. H-1B visas are limited to 65,000 per fiscal year, plus 20,000 additional visas for beneficiaries who earned Master's degrees from United States institutions of higher education. USCIS will monitor the number of petitions as they are received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been reached. Requests for extensions, change of employment, change of employer, and concurrent employment are exempt from the cap.
ICE Releases Updated List of SEVP Approved Schools
On March 8, ICE released an updated list of SEVP (Student Exchange and Visitor Program) schools. The new list can be found on the website of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement located at www.ice.gov.
March on Washington for Immigration Reform - March 21,2010
Tens of thousands of people marched on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to express their support for comprehensive immigration reform. People traveled from all over the country to be present and encourage President Obama to take up immigration reform as promised.
Refugee Protection Act Introduced in the Senate
Senators Patrick Lehy and Carl Levin have introduced a new bill called the Refugee Protection Act of 2010. The proposed legislation would allow those who are granted refugee or asylee status a quicker path to permanent residency. It would also decrease detention time for asylum seekers who pose no threat to the U.S. Under existing law, people can qualify for refugee status if they belong to a persecuted race, religion, national origin or social or political group.