Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Category.

GOP’s Principles on Immigration Reform: A Welcome Sign, So Let’s Steer Forward

shutterstock_153955259House GOP leaders on Thursday released their standards for immigration reform.  With these principles, they renewed their position that reform of our broken system can only be attained “through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures.”  They made clear that they will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) noted that “While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept. It is a long, hard road but the door is open.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tweeted that “Today’s House #GOP #immigration proposal falls short of the bipartisan #CIR we passed last year in the Senate…but I welcome any movement that leads to Congress finally fixing our broken immigration system.”

The first priority towards reform according to the GOP principles is the “fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders”, and so these principles prioritize securing and verifying the security of our Borders before tackling other aspects of our system.  Although this concept of “securing borders” is not new to the GOP rhetoric, one wonders if members of the House GOP have read the statistics that show deportations were at a record high in 2012 with 409,849 total deportations – the highest they’ve ever been.

Furthermore, at its peak, U.S. Border Patrol data show that apprehensions of undocumented immigrants nationwide and along the Southwest border routinely topped 1 million.  In 2004, the Border Patrol counted nearly 1.2 million apprehensions along the Southwestern border.  In 2012, the Border Patrol apprehended 364,768 individuals nationwide, 98 percent of whom were caught on the Southwestern border.  If these figures are not enough to signal a secure border, since FY 2001, the U.S. Border Patrol has steadily increased its number of agents from 9,821 agents nationwide to more than double today at 21,395 agents.

House Republicans make it clear that reform will include a “zero tolerance” for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future, irrespective of the driving forces to do so, yet hopefully with a more robust legal immigration system and reduction in backlogs, the need for many to cross without documentation or overstay a visa will be minimal at best.  The principles also call for a robust visa tracking system and further require the full implementation a workable electronic employment verification system.

For a party that has long cherished and respected family values, it seems the principles frown at immigration through family members and “pure luck” – presumably referring to our current Diversity Visa Program.  It is true that at the crux of any developed Country is its ability to remain competitive in this global economy and attracting the brightest talent is a key component of this competitiveness.

A robust legal immigration system that includes visas and green cards for individuals seeking to contribute to not only the economic but social fabric of our nation is important, yet let’s not forget that these talented individuals have also left family behind.  Extended family such as parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandparents are part of what fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, the researching drive, and the thrill at discovery that leads to excellence in many fields.  To say that family is not part of the success of a developed country is to fall short on the American dream.

It is promising to find the House principles recognize the committed spirit of the DREAMers, the young and talented aspiring Americans who are ingrained not only in our social fabric, but are a key part of our economic growth and development.

At the end of the line, we find those who have endured years of agony in taking steps to reunite with family and loved ones, who have lived in fear of deportation, abuse, and indifference; the 11 million individuals who have contributed to our economy and our neighborhoods.  Individuals, who despite living outside the “rule of law” have also risked it all in search of a better life, and along the way have contributed and improved our great Country.

To them, these principles offer a way to live legally and without fear in the U.S. if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families.   The principles recognize what these individuals are already doing and remove the yoke of fear and insecurity.  Without a defined roadmap to full integration however, we will have to wait for further details to see the prospects of these individual becoming full-fledged Americans.

What this all means is yet to be seen.  These principles will serve as the House’s foundation for the immigration bills to be introduced, and as we all know, “the devil is in the details”.  The announcement from House leadership is encouraging following President Obama’s call to make this a “year of action” and pass immigration reform.

The balancing act will come when the parties sit down and hammer out the details of a series of bills addressing each aspect in these principles.  Critical to this balance is the understanding that our system must be completely revamped if not in one full sweep then with concise bills that address all areas of our system.  The American people are ready for it, the DREAMers are ready for it, the 11 million are ready for it, so let’s steer these principles forward for the future of our Country.

Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA Treasurer

Representative Goodlatte and Immigration Reform

shutterstock_86506957 (1)In an interview with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz Balart that will air this weekend, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed prospects for immigration reform.  What he reportedly said made me cautiously hopeful. But it also showed me that we all have some work to do to get to smart reform.

According to a transcript of the interview, he talked about the progress that the committee had made last year by passing four bills out of committee.  Now, none of those four bills was anything that I’d want to see become law in their current forms, and at least one of the bills is quite troubling.  A couple of the others have some elements worth using, but need more work.

He didn’t share much about the principles that Speaker Boehner says are forthcoming from House, but he did say that they hoped those principles might galvanize support for immigration reform.  He emphasized the need for interior enforcement and the fact that a large proportion of immigrants who are here unlawfully are actually overstays.  That all seemed reasonable.

I am heartened that he was talking about achieving a legal status “for people who are not lawfully here.”  It is important for any immigration reform to recognize that legality, not mass deportations, is the answer for most of the people here without status.  And he is right that they should be “able to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country.  Be able to– own a business, pay their taxes.”

But stopping there would be a mistake.  The problems that some European and Middle Eastern countries have faced by having people present with no hope of ultimate integration—essentially  a permanent second-class status—have created undue pain for those countries.  Unless we fix the legal immigration system, and make sure that the people whose statuses are regularized now can participate fully in a robust legal immigration system, with an opportunity for naturalization for those who seek it, we will not have lasting reform.

I’m an immigration attorney and after decades in practice, I want change.  I would love to see the day when our system is more than just a cracked and broken set of policies.  I would embrace a new, straightforward immigration system that was clear with lines for people to get into without putting them into decades of limbo.  I want our businesses to get the best and the brightest as employees, and be able to keep them on.  I am eager for the entrepreneurs to feel welcome here in the U.S. and use their talents to drive our economy.  I dearly wish for a day when families are no longer torn apart but instead valued for what they are: the cornerstone of our nation.

I believe that this interview is a thawing of Mr. Goodlatte’s views on immigration and I feel cautiously hopeful that he is committed to really trying to pass meaningful legislation. I, for one, stand ready to help.

Immigration Reform and Making a Workable H-1B Program

It has been stated frequently over the past few years that the global competiveness of the United States depends in substantial measure on our ability to attract and retain the best talent internationally. This includes keeping the foreign students who have been educated in U.S. universities.

According to a report by Deloitte University Press published this month, we may be losing this talent to other countries. The report provides a survey which indicates that in 2010 we were eighth in the world in the percentage of highly educated individuals among foreign born populations.  Among the countries with higher percentages are Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.  We are competing for badly needed innovative talent which is important to our economy if we are to maintain our position as the world’s leading nation.

Many of these foreign nationals work here under H-1B visas.  The truth is that for the most part, the skills these workers bring to our economy augment rather than compete with the skills of U.S. professionals.

While the promise of increased H-1B numbers in the Senate’s immigration reform bill, S. 744, is positive, some of the restrictive provisions would render the increased numbers ultimately ineffective in obtaining the talent that we need.  For example, an amended required wage structure would require unrealistic salary levels for talented, entry level graduates of U.S. schools.  A distorted wage system, which will create an inflated rather than prevailing wage, would put businesses in a difficult position of paying foreign workers more than their U.S. worker counterparts. Another provision, adding to yet more bureaucracy, is a proposed recruitment process to be designed by the Department of Labor.

The H-1B visa has been grossly misrepresented in some quarters as being a program which takes jobs from U.S. workers.  The truth is that foreign talent, especially those educated in our country’s graduate programs, only enhance the job prospects of Americans.  Much has been documented about these job creators.  According to an October 2012 report by the Kaufman Foundation, twenty four percent of engineering and technology companies founded between 2006 and 2012 has at least one foreign born founder.  This figure rises to 43.9% when the survey is limited to the Silicon Valley.  In 2012, these companies were responsible for approximately 560,000 jobs and $63 billion in sales.

In reality, if we want to continue as a leader in this competitive, global economy, we need to facilitate rather than inhibit visas for the talented foreign born who want to build their careers and lives in the U.S.  Many educators legitimately say that we need to examine revamping the U.S. primary and secondary educational system to include some of these skills.  But we can’t wait for our domestic population to provide us with enough of these needed workers if we want to maintain our global competitiveness.

We badly need a comprehensive immigration reform package to provide a path for the 11 million paperless immigrants, secure our borders and provide a reasonable temporary worker program for lesser skilled workers. But it would be a tragedy if this package created unworkable and unnecessary burdens on the ability of the U.S. to provide visas to essential global talent.

Written by Deborah J. Notkin, Chair, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

 

AILA Takes Manhattan

The holiday season was in full swing in New York when AILA President-Elect Doug Stump and I “invaded” the city last week. No stealth maneuvers here, this was a planned, coordinated campaign – we were there to talk to the press.

Most of the reporters were people AILA Communications has been working with for a good long while. These journalists turn to AILA for expertise on immigration topics ranging from detainers to waivers, from DACA to H-1Bs. So, while juggling the schedule was a challenge, each reporter gave us a generous amount of time to share our views, to answer questions, and to see where we can be of most help in the future.

Did you ever wonder how we have been so successful at getting our members’ voices heard? Look no further than AILA’s crackerjack Communications Department! Kudos to Senior Director of Communications George Tzamaras and Manager of Communications Belle Woods not only for a successful tour, but for making it their mission that people turn to AILA as the reliable resource for immigration expertise.

The tour included meetings with The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, the New York Daily News, CNN, the Associated Press, and the New York Times. Discussions ranged widely but here are some of the topics we covered:

• At every meeting, Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) was the first topic that came up, and always led to a lively discussion about what did we think about the prospects for next year, and what did AILA think real reform might look like.

• We talked about what DACA means to our clients and their families and what we think we’ll see in terms of applications next year. We also highlighted how complicated a “simple” application can be, and how critical it is to have good legal advice in the process.

• We talked about the many ways our current immigration system is broken, and how the current mess is the inevitable result of multiple barriers to legal immigration that are literally written into the law or just part of the adjudications process, as well as illustrated how they affect businesses and families, alike.

• Producers and reporters wanted facts. And boy did we give them facts: facts about how difficult it is to navigate our current system; how unwieldy, unforgiving, and unfair the process can be; how much our nation needs its immigrant communities; and the high cost of letting politics instead of common sense dominate the discussion. And thanks, IPC, for making us look so smart!

• We talked about notario fraud and AILA’s efforts to educate the public about the danger these scammers pose to immigrant communities. We introduced them to resources on UPL, including AILA’s consumer protection website, http://stopnotariofraud.org (now in four languages).

• We also highlighted our Chapters’ and individual members’ extraordinary efforts to educate their communities about the risks and potential rewards of deferred action, the value of working with an immigration lawyer and how for many, getting good legal advice can mean the difference between a bright future and deportation.

While not a media meeting, another highlight of the trip was meeting with the Partnership for a New American Economy (out of Mayor Bloomberg’s Office), which was a great opportunity to talk potential partnerships/collaboration with AILA in the coming year. It was also a chance to learn from each other. For instance, PNAE has been involved in a micro loan program to help qualified DACA applicants borrow enough for government filing fees. The program has been in effect for a few months, and PNAE has promised to let us know how that progresses, as the $465 fee has been a roadblock for many young immigrants.

By the end of the second day of meetings, we felt like we’d definitely made an impact. While not everyone can get to NYC and blitz through meetings as we did, we want to emphasize that working with your local press outlets is something that AILA members around the country can and should do. Take a look at these notes, think about what the various outlets were most interested in, and pitch a story tailored to your local news outlet. Want some help crafting your message? Run a pitch by AILA Communications—George and Belle are more than happy to help.

So, let’s take a well-deserved break over the holidays and then come back in the New Year ready to take on the immense task of restructuring our nation’s broken immigration system.

Our Grandparents were Entrepreneurs Too!

Orchard Street Facade, Photograph by Keiko Niwa

Anyone who believes that the entrepreneurial spirit is bred in the business school or the boardroom should visit “Shop Life,” a new permanent exhibit that opened recently at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York. The Tenement Museum tells the story of the immigrant families that lived at 97 Orchard Street in Manhattan from 1863, when the apartment building was constructed, to the 1930’s. In that small window of time, in these tiny tenement rooms, the daily lives of early urban immigrants vividly unfolds. Now, at street level, a different story is told–the story of the businesses these tenement dwellers created when they came to the United States. As Morris Vogel, the Museum’s Director aptly put it recently during a special reception celebrating the new exhibit, the tenement apartments portray how new immigrants got by; Shop Life shows how they got ahead.

In one of two store-front areas the Museum has reconstructed the saloon that occupied the space from 1864 until 1886. The saloon was owned by John and Caroline Schneider, two German immigrants who sought to attract a growing German immigrant community that had formed an enclave in the Lower East Side. More than just a spot to find good German lager beer, the Schneiders’ saloon was the heart and soul of the community; a place for Sunday family gatherings, music-making, job and apartment-hunting and business transactions. It was a hub where Germans from various provinces gathered and felt connected to each other in a way that prefigured the eventual mid-century unification of Germany. But it was also a place where German immigrants began to develop connections to their newly adopted homeland, engaging in political discussions and preparing to enter American cultural and political life.

In the other street-level storefront, the Museum offers a delightfully 21st century interactive exploration of the other businesses that sprang up in the tenement –a kosher butcher shop, an auction house and a 1970’s underwear store. In this space there are also video interviews with today’s Lower East Side shopkeepers, linking past to present.

Schneider Kitchen, Photograph by Keiko Niwa

Shop Life opens at a particularly significant moment in our ongoing national dialogue about immigration reform. The exhibit is not simply about immigrant mom-and-pop businesses; it is representative of all immigrants who decide to rely on their own ingenuity, creativity and connections to make a life here–very often establishing a livelihood for others and a thriving community around their enterprises–whether it is a social community such as the one that grew up around the Schneiders’ saloon, or a commercial community such as the one that envelops an immigrant-founded business like Ebay. At a time when increasing numbers of legislators, policy makers and thought leaders are recognizing that the United States must find ways to open its doors more widely and affirmatively to foreign nationals with ideas and initiative, Shop Life is an important reminder that the immigrant entrepreneurial spirit is not something new, but is a vibrant part of the fabric of our immigrant heritage that has contributed substantially to our success as a nation.

Written by Eleanor Pelta, AILA Immediate Past President