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NPZ Immigration Law Blog

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

HOUSE IMMIGRATION REFORM PART III 2013


This is continuation of serious of articles providing AILA's (American Immigration Lawyers Association) on various tops as contained in Senate Bill S. 744 passed by the Senate, action or inaction in the House and AILA's position of these issues.

Border

The U.S. border is safer and more secure than it has ever been, and in recent years the federal government has spent an unprecedented level of resources on border security. Nonetheless, calls for even more border security continue despite a dearth of evidence showing that a huge additional commitment of resources would be cost effective or significantly improve national security.

• Any border security plan should be based on performance metrics and measurable standards of border safety that are achievable and fiscally responsible.

• Border resources should be better balanced by committing resources to improve performance at ports of entry and reducing personnel between ports of entry.

  •  Well-substantiated reports have shown a pattern of Border Patrol misconduct against immigrants and U.S. citizens in several states. Training should be increased for all CBP staff to address the use of force, misconduct, and racial profiling.

Border Triggers to Legalization

Any border security measures set as a condition for legalization to begin should be defined and attainable. Unreachable, undefined triggers may discourage eligible participants from coming forward and could keep millions who do participate in legalization in long-term limbo status for reasons wholly outside of their control.

Why is mandating fencing on the entire southern border not viable?

Expensive double-layer fence is not cost-effective or necessary. In fact, border crossings are down 80 percent since 2000. Pouring billions of dollars into fencing runs directly counter to data on recent and current migration trends and severely detracts from efforts to combat crime organizations and trafficking of contraband and persons.

Why is "Operational Control" not a viable trigger?

Although border security is critically important to our nation, experts agree that a sealed border is not realistic or cost-effective. Achieving a certain level of operational control- such as 90% measured by the apprehension rate of illegal border crossers -will require substantial planning and testing, some of which is already underway. But such high levels of operational control may not be attainable in a reasonable timeframe, and mandating them as a trigger may postpone legalization indefinitely. CBP Chief Fisher has testified that it "wouldn't make sense" to mandate a fixed level of operational control in all border regions without considering the costs and benefits.

H.R.1417- Border Security Results Act

H.R. 1417, which passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee, has two significant flaws. First, it does not address how border security will fit in with reforms to the legal immigration system or a legalization plan for the undocumented. Without these key components of reform, a massive commitment of resources on the border is a waste of taxpayer money and will fail to address the concerns along the border. Second, H.R. 1417's border requirements will almost certainly become "triggers" and could prevent legalization from being implemented.

Interior Enforcement and Detention

Our nation spends unprecedented resources to immigration enforcement, now totaling $18 billion annually. Despite this substantial outlay, our enforcement practices are not smart or effective or targeted at the right enforcement priorities. Enforcement should be conducted in a way that does not harm children or families. Penalties for violations of our immigration laws should be proportionate to the offenses committed.

• Congress should clarify that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility and that it should be administered uniformly across the country.

• Costly jail detention should only be used in cases with a demonstrated risk of flight or threat to public safety. Less costly, but effective, alternatives to detention programs should be expanded.

• Each individual facing deportation must be afforded due process, which includes a fair hearing before a judge and the right to counsel.

• All agencies charged with enforcement should operate with accountability and transparency to prevent abuses of authority, discrimination and racial profiling.

What is wrong with the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act?

The SAFE Act is a radical, regressive bill that resurrects the extremely controversial 2005 H.R. 4437. H.R. 4437, which would have criminalized people who are undocumented, prompted mass nationwide protests. The SAFE Act would not only criminalize undocumented persons but also permit 50 different states and thousands of localities to make and enforce their own state-law penalties for federal immigration violations. Such state and local autonomy would create chaos and conflict as well as harm our economy. The SAFE Act will also expand incarceration, even for those who pose no risk to public safety, increasing the $2 billion already spent on detention by untold millions.

What's wrong with state and local police engaging in immigration enforcement?

Many local law enforcement leaders across the country have opposed using local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law because doing so would damage their relationships with the community and interfere with their ability to protect victims and root out crime. While interior enforcement is a critical element of our immigration system, deputizing local law enforcement is the wrong way to go about it.

How does Senate bill 744 address interior enforcement?

S.744 is tough on individuals with criminal records and makes punishments for immigration crimes even tougher. Under current law, minor and decades-old offenses already lead to deportation, whether the immigrant has a green card or is undocumented. S.744 adds to the already long list of exclusions in current law, cracking down on gang activity, drunk driving, and domestic violence. With respect to legalization, applicants face not only these bars, but also additional hurdles that prevent anyone with a single felony (or, in some cases, a single misdemeanor) from getting legal status, no matter how long ago the conviction occurred.

Employment Verification

Effective worksite enforcement is a necessary component of our nation's immigration system. E-Verify is a voluntary system that is used by only a small fraction of all employers (less than 3 percent of the 15 million employers nationwide). Mandating E-Verify for every employer-and every employee including both U.S. citizens and authorized foreign nationals-must be done carefully to safeguard workers' due process rights, ensure safe working conditions, and prevent worker exploitation. To be effective, an employment verification system should minimize the burdens on small and large businesses in all sectors and provide safe harbor protections for businesses.

What are the concerns with the Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 1772?

• Although H.R. 1772 repeals the paper-based I-9 system and offers safe harbor provisions for business that use the E-Verify program in good faith, it creates a mandatory employment verification system that must be implemented within two years. Any mandatory employment verification should only be implemented in conjunction with reforms to the legal immigration system that provide adequate workers to meet labor needs. Currently major sectors of the American economy, agriculture in particular, rely heavily upon undocumented labor and will be devastated if authorized workers are not made available in sufficient numbers.

H.R. 1772's two-year mandatory phase-in for all new hires for every employer is unrealistic and would do enormous harm to American workers and businesses. If all employers were required to use E-Verify today, at the current error rate, about 1.7 million U.S. citizens and authorized workers would be impacted and could suffer temporary or even permanent job loss, and employers could suffer corresponding loss of productivity. Even the five-year phase-in of the Senate bill may not leave enough time to ensure workers and businesses are not harmed.

For more information, please feel free to contact the Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group at 201-670-0006 or by e-mailing us at info@visaserve.com.

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