Immigration News - November and December of 2009

12/30/2009: White House Prepares for Immigration Overhaul Battle

Whatever proposal Obama puts forward will probably meet equally determined opposition. Another complication is the calendar: Midterm elections are in November, and polls show that the public is more worried about joblessness and the fragile economy than anything else. So embracing an immigration bill is a gamble for the White House, which already has a packed agenda for 2010: economic recovery, global warming legislation and tougher regulation of financial institutions. - LA Times

12/30/2009: U.S. Government Moving to Deport Longtime Legal Residents with Criminal Convictions

If immigrants have been in the U.S. fewer than five years, they can be deported for a single crime of "moral turpitude," a broad term that includes shoplifting and pot possession. If they're here longer than five years, they can be deported for either one aggravated felony or two crimes of moral turpitude. - Mercury News

12/28/2009: Immigration Reform Facing Long Odds

Immigration reform is increasingly looking like a political albatross that could hurt Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections whether President Obama succeeds or fails in overhauling today's widely disliked system. After postponing action for a year because of the national economic crisis and a drawn-out debate over health reform, President Obama is being pushed by advocates of comprehensive reform to fulfill the campaign promise he made in 2008. - Houston Chronicle

12/28/2009: Exchange Visitor Program – Secondary School Students

On December 23, 2009 the State Department published in the Federal Register a proposed rule titled Exchange Visitor Program – Secondary School Students. The Department revised existing regulations to provide greater specificity and clarity to sponsors of the Secondary School Student category with respect to the execution of sponsor oversight responsibilities under the exchange visitor program. This rule is being withdrawn because it was submitted prior to OMB completing review. The proposed rule is withdrawn in its entirety. - Federal Register

12/27/2009: Side-by-Side Comparison of 2006, 2007 and 2009 CIR Bills

A very nice summary and comparison of the three versions of CIR bills over the past few years.

12/27/2009: Families Separated by Miles, Years and Immigration Laws

When Peter Aldeza first arrived in Illinois from the Philippines, he filed U.S. Immigration paperwork to allow his older brother and sister to join him. That was 26 years ago. Just last month, his sister, Sionie Sales, finally arrived to live in the U.S., in what has been a bittersweet reunion of once-close siblings now trying to become reacquainted. She was an exuberant 26-year-old when he left home. She is a grandmother now. - Chicago Tribune

12/27/2009: Director of the Nebraska Service Center to Retire

Jerry Heinauer, director of the Nebraska Service Center for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will retire at the end of December. As he steps down, Heinauer supervises a staff of about 600 at the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services in Lincoln, one of four of its kind in the U.S. - Journal Star

12/23/2009: Exchange Visitor Program — Secondary School Students

The Department of State is proposing to amend and improve the Exchange Visitor Program regulations by providing greater specificity and clarity to sponsors of the Secondary School Student category with respect to the execution of sponsor oversight responsibilities under the exchange visitor programs. This section of the regulations governs Department designated exchange visitor programs under which foreign secondary school students (ages 15–181/2) are afforded the opportunity to study in the United States at an accredited public or private secondary school for an academic semester or an academic year while living with an American host family or residing at an accredited U.S. boarding school. Specifically, the Department is proposing to amend existing regulations regarding the screening, selection, school enrollment, orientation, and monitoring of overall quality assurance on behalf of student participants; and the screening, selection, orientation, and quality assurance monitoring of host families. - Federal Register

12/22/2009: USCIS Reaches FY 2010 H-1B Cap

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2010. USCIS is hereby notifying the public that Dec. 21, 2009 is the “final receipt date” for new H-1B specialty occupation petitions requesting an employment start date in FY 2010. - News

12/19/2009: Change of Filing Location for Form N-400

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced revised addresses for applicants filing an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) at USCIS Lockbox facilities in Phoenix and Dallas. This filing address change takes effect immediately. - USCIS Update

12/17/2009: Woman Accused of Bilking, Threatening Immigrants in N.J.

For upwards of $1,000, Rosa Blake offered to help dozens of undocumented immigrants from Portugal, Brazil and elsewhere navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth toward citizenship. She showed them official looking documents, promised to expedite green-card applications and claimed to work for the federal government, authorities said...But, federal prosecutors say, Blake was a fraud. - The Star-Ledger

12/15/2009: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Introduced Today

Rep. Luis Gutierrez unveiled a new comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill in Congress today. Immigration Policy Center published a quick summary, and here is an excerpt on employment-based immigration:

"The bill contains several measures designed to reduce long backlogs in family and employment immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processing:

  • Permits the 'recapture' of unused employment-based visas and family-sponsored visas from fiscal years 1992-2008 and allows future unused visa numbers to roll over to next fiscal year.
  • Exempts immediate relatives from the annual cap on the number of immigrant visas, and increases the number of visas which may be issued per country per year.
  • Permits qualified workers eligible for an employment based petition to receive work authorization until a visa becomes available.
  • Exempts from skilled worker numerical cap U.S. educated foreign nationals who receive science, technology, engineering and math degrees and other critical workforce graduates.
  • Exempts foreign nurses from current numerical limitations and provides new programs to fund and develop domestic nursing supply and encourage training of other domestic health care professionals."

12/14/2009: Permanent Residence Eligibility for Surviving Spouses and Children of U.S. Citizens

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas today announced that DHS has fully implemented recent legislation allowing USCIS to approve immigrant petitions for permanent resident status in the United States filed by or on behalf of widows and widowers of U.S. citizens and their unmarried children under 21 years old. - DHS Press Release

12/12/2009: Budget Crunch Could Force Fee Hikes at Immigration Agency

Just as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is digging itself out from under an enormous backlog of citizenship and naturalization applications, a sharp decline in applications -- and the processing fees associated with them -- threatens the agency's fiscal future.

In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters on Thursday, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS since August, said the agency halved the naturalization application processing time from eight months in 2008 to four months in 2009, and cut adjustment-of-status processing times from nearly 14 months to 4.3 months during the same period. It also has eliminated a backlog in an FBI name check program. - GovExec.com

12/12/2009: New USCIS Email for Canadian Customers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced the creation of a general inquiry mailbox for customers in Canada. Currently Canadians cannot access the National Customer Service Center through the 1-800 number to ask about general immigration questions. Canadian customers may now inquire about general immigration information at USCIS.Canada@dhs.gov in addition to obtaining immigration information on this webpage.

12/12/2009: Update on H-1B Cap Count

As of December 10, 2009, approximately 62,500 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been filed. USCIS has approved sufficient H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Any H-1B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H-1B cap of 65,000. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.

12/11/2009: E-Verify to Allow Self-Verify

U.S. immigration authorities are planning to add a self-check system so workers can pre-screen themselves with E-Verify, the controversial electronic database used on a voluntary basis by some employers to screen their employees. The move would try to bridge the gap between the two sides in the immigration debate by putting power in the hands of workers, who could make sure of their status before applying for new jobs. - Washington Times

12/11/2009: DOS Proposed Fee Increase

This rule amends the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services (Schedule) for nonimmigrant visa application and border crossing card processing fees. The rule raises from $131 to $140 the fee charged for the processing of an application for most non-petition-based nonimmigrant visas (Machine-Readable Visas or MRVs) and adult Border Crossing Cards (BCCs). The rule also provides new application fees for certain categories of petition-based nonimmigrant visas and treaty trader and investor visas (all of which are also MRVs). - Federal Register

12/10/2009: DOL Regulations - Live Q&A Session with ETA

This is Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Jane Oates, welcome to the Employment and Training Administration's Web chat on its Fall Regulatory Agenda. We look forward to your participation in the regulatory process. Today, we will answer questions on the ETA agenda and will take your suggestions on the agency's current priorities. Although the discussion today is not part of the formal rulemaking process, we hope this dialogue will encourage you to submit formal comments when rules are proposed. This Web chat is part of our efforts to foster broader stakeholder involvement in the formulation of regulations that have an impact on the day-to-day work and lives of many Americans. - ETA Live Chat Transcript

12/10/2009: USCIS Memo on Temporary Acceptance of H-1B Petitions Without LCAs

The recent implementation of DOL's iCERT system has resulted in increased processing times for certain LCA certifications. There have been instances in which employers and beneficiaries have reported being negatively impacted by the increased processing times as it can delay their ability to file initial, extension of stay and change status H-1B petitions - Neufeld Memo

12/10/2009: January 2010 Visa Bulletin

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTIONS FOR CUT-OFF DATE MOVEMENT IN THE EMPLOYMENT PREFERENCES FOR THE REMAINDER OF FY-2010?

Based on current indications of demand, the best case scenarios for cut-off dates which will be reached by the end of FY-2010 (September 2010) are as follows:

Employment Second (EB-2):
China: July through October 2005
India: February through early March 2005
If Section 202(a)(5)were to apply:
China: October through December 2005
India: October through December 2005
Employment Third (EB-3):
Worldwide: April through August 2005
China: June through September 2003
India: January through February 2002
Mexico: January through June 2004
Philippines: April through August 2005

Please be advised that the above date ranges are only estimates which are subject to fluctuations in demand during the coming months. The actual future cut-off dates cannot be guaranteed, and it is possible that some annual limits could be reached prior to the end of the fiscal year.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTIONS FOR CUT-OFF DATE MOVEMENT IN THE FAMILY PREFERENCES?

WHY DID MOST EMPLOYMENT CUT-OFFS REMAIN UNCHANGED IN RECENT MONTHS?

Many of the categories were "unavailable" at the end of FY-2009, which resulted in excessive demand being received during October and November. Coupled with the fact that CIS Offices have been doing an excellent job of processing cases, this has had an impact on cut-off date movements. Some forward movement has begun for January as we enter the second quarter of the fiscal year.

Cut-off date movement in most categories continues to be greater than might ordinarily be expected, and this is anticipated to continue for at least the next few months. This is because fewer applicants are proceeding with final action on their cases at consular posts abroad, and the volume of CIS adjustment cases remains low. Once large numbers of applicants begin to have their cases brought to final action, cut-off date movements will necessarily slow or stop. Moreover, in some categories cut-off date retrogression is a possibility. Therefore, readers should be aware that the recent rate of cut-off date advances will not continue indefinitely, but it is not possible to say at present how soon they will end.

12/09/2009: Chinese College Students Flocking to U.S. Campuses

The increase also reflects a "strong dialogue" between the two countries, says U.S. State Department deputy assistant secretary Alina Romanowski. She says the recent growth can't be pinned to specific changes in visa policy, but some U.S. college officials say they detect a friendlier attitude among U.S. embassies and consulates, which review visa applications. One key question for any country is whether visa-seeking students can prove they will return to their home country upon graduating from a U.S. college. - USA Today

12/05/2009: DOL FAQ on PERM Appeals

"The following “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) are to clarify best practices for filing a PERM appeal request with the National Processing Center (NPC). The Department of Labor (the Department) has created three distinct appeals queues. Distinguishing the type of review being sought by the employer ensures the appeal enters the correct processing appeals queue. Employers are encouraged to follow these FAQs as guidance for future appeal filings." - PERM FAQ

12/05/2009: The Startup Visa And Why The Xenophobes Need To Go Back Into Their Caves

Every time I publish a research paper on immigration or write an article for BusinessWeek or TechCrunch, the xenophobes rush out of their caves to launch mindless attacks. They fill the comment sections with bile, send me nasty emails and sometimes threaten to do me harm. I was convinced that my last BusinessWeek column on the Startup visa presented such a compelling argument that even these poor souls would support it. - Vivek Wadhwa

12/04/2009: Privacy Act Exemption

The Department of Homeland Security is issuing a final rule to amend its regulations to exempt portions of a Department of Homeland Security/ National Protections and Programs Directorate/U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system of records entitled the ‘‘Department of Homeland Security/National Protections and Programs Directorate/U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology—001 Arrival and Departure Information System of Records’’ from certain provisions of the Privacy Act. - Federal Register

12/04/2009: Prevailing Wage Determinations

The Department of Labor (Department) is providing notice that, in accordance with its labor certification regulations, as of January 1, 2010, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center (NPWHC) in Washington, DC, will receive and process prevailing wage determination (PWD) requests for use in the H-1B, H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore), H-1C, H-2B, E-3 (Australia), and permanent labor certification programs. - Federal Register

12/02/2009: Immigrants and the Economy

Immigrants and the Economy, which was prepared by the Fiscal Policy Institute, aims to provide legislators, policy makers, stakeholders and the public with the economic data they should rely on to bring our country’s immigration system into line with today’s economic and social realities. By looking at each of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the country, the report provides a fresh perspective on the issue—one that can inform lawmakers in Washington when drafting legislation and also cast new light on the issue for sometimes skeptical state and local leaders. - FPI

12/01/2009: ICE 287(g) Program Fact Sheet

The 287(g) program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions. The 287(g) program has emerged as one of the agency’s most successful and popular partnership initiatives as more state and local leaders have come to understand how a shared approach to immigration enforcement can benefit their communities. - ICE Fact Sheet

11/25/2009: January Contreras Appointed as the new CIS Ombudsman

January Contreras was appointed as the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security on November 23, 2009. In this role she leads the Office of the CIS Ombudsman in its efforts to interact with the public and employers to enhance the effective delivery of citizenship and immigration services. Primary efforts include helping to resolve obstacles to accessing services, identifying areas in need of improvement, and recommending solutions to improve services.

11/25/2009: FY-2010 H-1B Cap Count

As of November 20, 2009, approximately 56,900 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been filed. USCIS has approved sufficient H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Any H-1B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H-1B cap of 65,000. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.

11/25/2009: Professor Travels to D.C. on Behalf of Immigrant Children

While liberals and conservatives argue about immigration and the rights of illegal aliens, Manuel Casas argues for the children who are caught in the middle of these very divisive issues. - UCSB Press Release

11/18/2009: USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions without LCAs

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is announcing a 120-day period in which it will temporarily accept H-1B petitions filed without Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) that have been certified by the Department of Labor (DOL). Processing delays arising from DOL’s recently implemented “iCERT” system have resulted in increased processing times (beyond 7 days) for certain LCA certifications. Affected employers and beneficiaries have reported being negatively impacted by DOL’s increased processing times which currently delays their ability to file H-1B petitions with USCIS. DOL expects that the current increase in LCA processing times is temporary. - USCIS

11/15/2009: Lou Dobbs To Host Immigration Reality Show

When CNN's Lou Dobbs announced the abrupt departure from his long-running show, Lou Dobbs Tonight, many assumed that he would follow fellow right-winger Glenn Beck and make the quick leap to Fox. In a CAP News exclusive, Dobbs says that he will indeed be punching the Fox time clock, but it will be the entertainment wing, and not the news division, that will be signing his paychecks. - CAP News

11/14/2009: Immigration Officials Weigh Fee Increase, Layoffs

The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday that the agency is seriously considering increasing fees for immigration benefits amid a major budget shortfall. - Chron

11/14/2009: Mom's Immigration Status and "Balloon Boy" Plea Deal

They riveted the world when they reported their young son floated away on a runaway balloon last month. Now, Richard and Mayumi Heene admit it was all a hoax and they've agreed to plead guilty to charges that could send them to jail for several months.

The family's attorney, David Lane says it was the threat of something worse than jail time that fueled the Heene's decision to accept this package plea deal. Lane says Mayumi is a Japanese citizen and she could have been deported if she were convicted of a felony. - KDVR (Fox)

11/14/2009: Napolitano on Immigration Reform

Like the Administration’s other priorities, when it comes to immigration, we are addressing a status quo that is simply unacceptable. Everybody recognizes that our current system isn’t working and that our immigration laws need to change. America’s businesses, workers, and faith-based organizations are calling for reform. Law enforcement and government at every level are asking for reform. And at the Department of Homeland Security, we need reform to do our job of enforcing the law and keeping our country secure. - DHS

11/11/2009: Lou Dobbs Leaving CNN

CNN host Lou Dobbs, whose outspoken views on U.S. immigration have made him one of the most controversial figures on television, said on Wednesday he is leaving the 24-hour cable news network immediately because he wants a freer platform to state his opinion. - NY Times

11/10/2009: December 2009 Visa Bulletin

Barely any movement! EB-3 India inched ahead, by just over a week, and that is about it. EB4 and EB5 Pilot Program were updated to "Current" because of new legislations.

11/09/2009: Lawsuit Settlement - Naturalization Processing Delays

Immigrants who waited for years for their citizenship applications to be processed due to extraordinary backlogs will finally have the chance to become Americans and enjoy the privileges of citizenship, under the terms of a settlement announced today ... The settlement puts an end to indefinite delays in processing naturalization applications caused by routine FBI background checks, and requires USCIS to adjudicate hundreds of citizenship applications from the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Bernardino areas within six months. - Press Release

11/08/2009: Green Card Tracker

We have turned the USCIS pending I-485 inventory into a searchable database: by entering your I-485 priority date, your country of origin, and EB preference, you will be able to see how many people are ahead of you waiting in line for a green card. New inventory updates will be added to the database, making it effectively a green card tracker based on official USCIS data. An interactive bar chart is also generated as a graphical display of your I-485 progress.

11/08/2009: U.S. Readies Plan to ID Departing Visitors

The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing a proposal to collect fingerprints or eye scans from all foreign travelers at U.S. airports as they leave the country, officials said, a costly screening program that airlines have opposed. The plan, which would take effect within two years, would collect fingerprints at airport security checkpoints, departure gates or terminal kiosks, allowing the government to track when roughly 35 million foreign visitors a year leave the country and who might be overstaying their visas, DHS officials said. The department plans to send the proposal to the White House as soon as next month for review and inclusion in President Obama's next budget. - Washington Post

11/06/2009: Iraq War Veteran's Wife Spared Deportation

Frances Barrios, who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child, receives humanitarian parole and can stay in Los Angeles and apply for a green card. Her husband suffers from post-traumatic stress. - LA Times

11/04/2009: FY2010 H-1B Cap Count

As of October 30, 2009, approximately 53,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been filed. USCIS has approved sufficient H1-B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Any H1-B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H1-B cap of 65,000. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.

11/02/2009: U.S. to Pay $1.2 Million to 5 Detainees Over Abuse Lawsuit

The federal government is paying $1.2 million to settle the cases of five Muslim immigrants who sued over their detention and treatment in a Brooklyn jail after 9/11, when hundreds of noncitizens were rounded up and held for months before being cleared of links to terrorism and deported. - NY Times


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