US Census Releases Report on Foreign-Born Workers

A new US census report confirms that there are more foreign-born workers in the United States than ever before. Foreign-born workers represent 16% of the US workforce, which is lower only than percentages from the early 1900's. The report relies on data collected in 2007.

The report also found that naturalized US citizens in the workforce were more likely to have a bachelor's degree than non-naturalized workers or native born workers. Naturalized citizens were also more likely to be fluent in English and in some cases, another language as well.

Foreign-born workers from different parts of the world tend to work in different types of occupations in a pattern reflecting their educational achievements. Workers were clustered at positions requiring a lot of formal education or very little formal education, with less foreign-born workers at mid-level positions. For example, workers from Latin America were much more likely to work in construction, repair and maintenance occupations while workers from Asian countries were much more likely work in management, health care, and other professional fields

The report concludes that foreign-born workers are an important part of all segments of the US workforce. Every segment of industry employs foreign-born workers, some in higher numbers than others, but native born US workers still make up the vast majority of the workforce.


Detained Immigrants Being Transferred to Remote Locations

Over half of all immigrant detainees are being transferred to different detention facilities, often in locations far away from their families and lawyers. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the extent and ramifications of such transfers.

More non-citizens than ever before are currently being held in detention facilities. Some of these facilities are run by ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and some are state or local facilities that have contracted a portion of their space to ICE. Approximately 370,000 non-citizens are currently estimated to be held in detention, more than double the number from ten (10) years ago. As a result of increased detentions and overcrowding, a growing number of detainees are being transferred to remote areas without notice to their lawyers or families. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the states most likely to receive detainee transfers are Texas, California, and Louisiana

Immigrants in detention have the right to be represented by an attorney of their choosing and to present evidence in their favor at deportation hearings. This becomes increasingly difficult when a detainee is in a remote location, far away from his or her lawyer and witnesses that could testify in the case. Detainees charged with crimes under the US criminal justice system have a right to stand trial in the jurisdiction where the crime was allegedly committed. Immigrant detainees have no such right. Hardly any protections exist to prevent ICE from transferring detainees. Transferring detainees may also affect the substantive law that applies to their case. Federal jurisdictions differ on what specifically makes someone eligible for relief from removal or asylum, for example. The location detainees are transferred to and eventually tried in can make a huge difference in their cases.

The amount of multiple transfers is also on the rise. Many detainees are transferred to three or four different locations during the course of detention. With no notice to counsel or family members, it is increasingly easy for detainees to get lost in the system with no resources to help them. The report cites immigration attorneys who are constantly “losing their clients” as they are transferred without anyone's knowledge. The transfers result in increased costs, delays for immigration proceedings, and prolonged detention for the detainees.


ICE Changes Detention Procedures for Asylum Seekers

On December 16, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement announcing a change affecting those coming to the U.S. seeking asylum. ICE will no longer detain asylum seekers who have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country if the asylum seekers can establish their identity and do not present a flight risk or a threat to public safety.

The change is a result of efforts to reform ICE detention policies and focus on criminals and those who pose a threat of violence. “These new parole procedures for asylum seekers will help ICE focus both on protecting against major threats to public safety and implementing common-sense detention policies,” said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton All arriving asylum seekers are considered eligible for parole, which is a dramatic shift from the previous policy requiring asylum seekers to make requests for parole in writing.

The new guidelines will take effect on January 4, 2010.


New Public Charge Fact Sheet Released by USCIS

USCIS has recently released a new fact sheet discussing what it means to be a “public charge.” Someone who is likely to become a public charge is inadmissible to the United States. If a foreign national becomes a public charge, he or she can be deported from the U.S. So what exactly does it mean to be a public charge?

Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that anyone seeking admission to the United States or seeking status as a permanent residence is inadmissible to the US if they are likely to become a public charge. Family-based immigrants are required to overcome this ground by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with their applications for adjustment of status.

“Public charge” is defined to include any individual who is likely to become“primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” That said, immigrants are still allowed to apply for and receive certain government benefits, including disaster relief, treatment for communicable diseases, immunizations, and nutritional and health care programs for children.

USCIS has stated that the public charge evaluation will be made considering the foreign national's circumstances as a whole, including his or her age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.

Public Benefits Subject to Public Charge Analysis

If a foreign national receives certain types of public benefits, he or she could be deemed inadmissible to enter the United States. In cases where an Affidavit of Support was submitted, the government has the right to sue the sponsor for the value of any public benefits granted to the foreign national. These types of public benefits are:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Cash assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

State general assistance programs offering cash for income maintenance

Public assistance, including Medicaid, to support a foreign national living in an institution for long-term care

Public Benefits Not Subject to Public Charge Analysis

Foreign nationals may receive other types of benefits without it affecting their admissibility to the US. These benefits include:

Medicaid and other health insurance or services that is not being used for the support of long-term institutional care (including immunizations, testing and treatment of communicable diseases, prenatal care, emergency medical services, and short-term rehabilitation services)

Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Food stamps and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs

Housing benefits

Child care services

Low Income home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Emergency disaster relief

Foster care and adoption assistance

Public schools, including benefits under Head Start

Aid for elementary, secondary or higher education

Job training programs

Community-based programs or assistance, including soup kitchens, crisis counseling and short-term shelter

Non-cash benefits under TANF, including subsidized child care and transit subsidies

Earned cash payments, including Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, veteran's benefits, and other forms of earned benefits

Unemployment compensation

Cash benefits provided by public benefit programs that are not intended to maintain income, but are intended to avoid the need for on-going cash assistance for income maintenance, do not make foreign nationals subject to a public charge determination.



H-1B Cap for Fiscal Year 2010 Has Been Reached

The USCIS announced that the H-1B visas available for Fiscal Year 2010 have been used up. December 21, 2009 is the last day that H-1B petitions subject to the cap were accepted. The USCIS will conduct a random lottery to determine which petitions received on December 21, 2009 will be processed to meet the H-1B cap. Any petitions not selected will be returned with filing fees. H-1B petitions requesting extensions of stay, change of employer, or change in terms of employment will continue to be accepted.

Discussion on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Begins in Congress

Introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 has rejuvenated the congressional debate on immigration. The bill contains proposals regarding family reunification, sensible law enforcement, and a legalization program. Sponsors of the bill include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus.

Deadline Extended for REAL ID

The deadline for material compliance with the REAL ID Act has been extended after 46 out of 56 states and territories confirmed that they would not be able to comply by December 31, 2009. The REAL ID Act imposes certain federal standards for identification cards issued by the states and territories. The deadline for full compliance by May 11, 2010 remains unchanged.

H-1C Nonimmigrant Category Has Expired

The H-1C nonimmigrant visa category allows entrance for up to 500 nurses per year. Nurses may work in eligible health care facilities as defined by the statute. The statutory authority for the H-1C program expired on December 21, 2009 and has not been extended. The expiration of the H-1B category does not affect nurses who are already present in the U.S. in H-1C status. However, USCIS will no long accept new H-1B petitions.