Bloggings on Immigration Law and Policy

by Greg Siskind

Leahy Warns Sessions Not to Obstruct Immigration Bill

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is an old school anti-immigration politician who is hardline on immigration enforcement and also against illegal immigration. And he's going to do everything he can to kill an immigration reform bill. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has just told Senator Sessions - "It's ON!".


Bi-National Couples Pin Hopes on Tomorrow's Supreme Court Argument

The news media is talking about the Supreme Court arguments today on California's same sex marriage law. But the pro-immigration community is closely watching tomorrow's arguments more. That's because the Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged. That act has two parts. One expressly allows states to not have to recognize same sex marriages from other states. The other part of DOMA says not federal agency can recognize a same sex marriage for federal benefits even if the marriage is recognized in the state where the couple lives. 

It's the second issue that has an immigration impact. USCIS will not allow spouses to file green cards or other visa applications in same sex unions. And ICE has been destroying families by pursuing the deportations of people who would be eligible for green cards if DOMA were not the law. And it is this part of DOMA that pundits believe actually stands a better chance of being found unconstitutional by the Court.

We probably won't know until June how the Court will rule, but best of luck to the anti-DOMA lawyers in their arguments tomorrow.


Congress' Anti-Immigration Caucus Has Shrunk By A Third in Last Year

The Immigration Reform Caucus in Congress was founded in 1999 by anti-immigrant then Congressman Tom Tancredo and has been the forum of choice for restrictionists in Congress. It grew over the years to 92 members five years ago. But now the group is down to just 58 and some of the members have been moving to the center on immigration (including, for example, Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte). Clearly, we're in a new day.

The group claimed to have 93 members at the beginning of 2012. I haven't been able to verify that list, but I did find a link to its 2007 membership of 92 members, so that seems plausible. But today the group is down to just 58. 79 of the 93 returned to Congress this year and presumably they weren't all replaced by pro-immigration advocates.

There are other signs that the group is largely defunct. It's Facebook page hasn't been updated in two years. It's current chair Ted Poe mentions on his web page that he's the new chair, but there is no link to anything about the group anymore as there was with past chairs. And even the reference to its 58 current members lacks a link so there is no way to actually see who they are.

I was able to find the IRC web site after some hunting around. The site is barely active. Much of it is composed of dead or empty links and the membership roster is no longer found on the site. There are a handful of press releases that were posted up until a couple of weeks ago so someone seems to be putting a little time in to it. But the state of the site seems to indicate what has happened to the anti-immigration caucus in Congress.


Study: Immigration Reform Could Boost Economy by $1.3 Trillion over Ten Years

The Center for American Progress has a report showing projections of economic growth related to reform based on various legislative scenarios. The numbers get better the faster people move along the path to citizenship. But even if there is no citizenship in the end, the country would see a tremendous economic gain if reform becomes law.


NYT: ICE Regularly Using Solitary Confinement in Detention Centers

The Times ran a stunning investigative piece this weekend on the regular use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers around the country. A couple of points -

1. These are civil cases, not criminal ones.

2. The confinement often lasts for months on end.

3. The UN says anything more than 15 days absent extreme circumstances is tantamount to torture.

ICE used the oldest excuse in the book when it declined to comment to the Times - they are just protecting the privacy of the detainees. ICE seems to love making sure that these folks get a lot of privacy including making sure they have no human contact for months at a time. Read this piece, folks.


Facebook's Zuckerberg About to Start Push for Immigration Reform

Another important voice entering the discussion. He's prepared to spend millions to make the case.


Mother Jones' Kevin Drum is not Buying AFL-CIO Line

The AFL-CIO issued a press release this afternoon trying to deflect accusations that it is trying to kill immigration reform by claiming that it's really the Chamber that is to blame. But when Mother Jones, the far left newsmagazine isn't buying it, you know it's time to surrender.

For those not familiar with the AFL-CIO's unreasonable demand, they are pushing to require employers have to pay guest workers far more than the wages they pay similarly employed American workers. The Chamber is just requesting that they be required to pay the same. Who can blame the Chamber for not accepting this rotten deal? This, on top of the AFL-CIO's outrageous demands on limiting the size of the program to barely enough to cover the needs of one state, much less the whole country, and to only cover completely unskilled workers, means one thing - the AFL-CIO does not like immigrants. Plain and simple. They should at least be honest about it. Their members who are posting in the comments section of their web pages don't seem to have a problem admitting it.


WSJ: Why the Republicans Might Cave in to the AFL-CIO

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm not a Republican, but Republicans - I beg you - channel your inner Ronald Reagan. We know you now want to get a deal on immigration and get it off the table, but since Democrats don't seem willing to stand up to the AFL-CIO's anti-immigrant opposition to a workable, welcoming  program for future generations of immigrants seeking a legal way to come to work for employers who can't find American workers, we are depending on you. The US Chamber, thankfully, is not rolling over on this. Neither should you.


Shift to Center on Immigration Paying Off for GOP

Remember the antis who were warning Republicans not to support immigration reform because Latinos would never support them anyway? Turns out that even before a single vote on reform has been cast, the mere fact that so many Republicans have started speaking out in favor of reform is starting to change perceptions. From Huffington Post:

An analysis of a poll released this month by the independent polling firm Latino Decisions found that neither Republicans nor Democrats should rest easy.

In a hypothetical election match-up between a Republican candidate who supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants against a Democrat who opposes citizenship, 61 percent of Latinos who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 said they would would choose the Republican, according to the poll. Another 43 percent of Latino Obama supporters said they would become more likely to consider or vote for a Republican if the party plays a major role in comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, 41 percent of Obama’s Latino voters have already cast a ballot in favor of a down-ticket Republican seeking federal, state or local office, the poll found.

The possible good news for Democrats and undocumented immigrants is that even Latinos who identify as Republicans seem prepared to insist on comprehensive immigration reform. About 64 percent of Latino Republicans described comprehensive immigration reform as “very” or “extremely” important, according to the Latino Decisions analysis. And nearly 70 percent of Latino Republicans said they wanted an immigration plan with a clear pathway to citizenship.


Is the AFL-CIO Trying to Kill Immigration Reform?

From everything I am hearing from insiders, it sure seems that way. Unions killed immigration reform back in 2007 when they opposed a guest worker visa program for future immigrants and pressured Democrats to back away from the bill. This time things were supposed to be different and unions, like the GOP, were starting to realize that being anti-immigration endangered their future. The evidence of their realizing this seemed to be their announcement of support for legalizing workers here without status and their agreeing to sit down with the US Chamber of Commerce and hammer out a deal on a guest worker program for the latest deal. Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo prematurely pronounced the transformation in a January article entitled "How Unionts Went from Border Hawks to Immigration Doves."

The Chamber has been negotiating with the SEIU and the much larger AFL-CIO. I should clarify for readers that the SEIU has a great record on immigration and, not surprisingly, is the union of choice for industries dominated by Latino workers. The SEIU has long supported immigration reform including supporting a generous guest worker program. The AFL-CIO is really who I'm talking about and they are the anti-immigrant force at the table. Or, more specifically, the construction unions within the AFL-CIO. My sources tell me that the AFL-CIO leadership as well as the SEIU could close a deal with the Chamber, but the construction unions are simply not interested in allowing immigrants into the country to work in their industry. That seemed to be confirmed in a report yesterday in The Hill:

Another problem arose on Thursday when a spokesman for the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO said that the union does not support the Chamber of Commerce’s desire to increase the number of low-skilled guest worker visas that are granted. The union spokesman told CQ Roll Call that expanding the number of “W” visas would hurt American construction workers.

At this point, if I had to point the finger at anyone who I worry about the most on the anti-immigration side, it would be the AFL-CIO and not anti-immigration Republicans or anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA. The organization sees the reality that workers already in the US aren't going anywhere and the organization can only compete with SEIU if they are seen to be on board supporting legalization. But they are trying to work quietly behind closed doors to stop any future lower skilled immigrants from coming in to the country via a new guest worker program and are also trying to stop high skilled immigration by opposing the many measures being planned to encourage more science, technology, engineering and math professionals to immigrate. In short, they are hoping to get away with killing immigration reform but not being blamed for it.

Some Democrats are urging members of the party to ignore the AFL-CIO. From Bloomberg:

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat co- chairing an immigration task force with Barbour at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said it is ultimately up to Obama to persuade Democrats not to abandon the bill if the immigrant-worker program doen’t match the unions’ agenda.

“If we don’t get guest-worker provisions that are exactly in line with what labor wants, we can’t hold up the bill because of that,” Rendell said. “We’ve got to do the best we can to preserve and protect the interests of organized labor, but in the end you can’t always get what you want.”

The nation's pro-immigration advocacy groups need to go public and call out the AFL-CIO on its hypocrisy. The organization is NOT pro-immigration. They talk about supporting a path to citizenship, but only because they know they have to. And they hide behind the fig leaf of claiming to want to protect the rights of immigrants and to prevent them from being exploited when mostly they are fighting behind the scenes to limit the numbers of workers that can come to as few as possible and only in a tiny number of occupations.And perhaps they should think about the thousands of illegal immigrants who die crossing the border because we lack a guest worker program when they talk about protecting immigrants from exploitive employers.

If the AFL-CIO sinks the entire immigration bill over the guest worker program then they will fairly be branded as anti-immigrant and their long march to oblivion will continue. The SEIU, the nation's genuinely pro-immigration union, is, not coincidentally, the fastest growing union in the country. That will only accelerate if the AFL-CIO doesn't correct itself on this issue and quickly.


Computerworld: I-Squared H-1B Provisions to Be Scaled Back

Patrick Thibodoeaux over at ComputerWorld is reporting that the Senate will include parts of I-Squared, the legislation that aims to increase H-1Bs and green cards for highly skilled workers. But the plan to raise the H-1B cap and then have an elevator provision that allows it to rise to as high as 300,000 has been modified to just include a hike to 130,000 and not have the elevator language. Also, there will now apparently be some language targeting staffing companies. Influenced by S. 600, a bill introduced this week by Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the bill would allow staffing companies to use the H-1B, but for those with a high percentage of their workers using the H-1B, they would pay higher fees. Firms may be barred from using the H-1B program if they get over a certain threshold (which is not yet settled).

Other provisions on green cards appear to still be part of the package including ending per country quotas and uncapping green cards for US-educated, advanced degree STEM professionals.


More Details on Senate Immigration Bill Released

The drop date is April 8th (or within a day or two of that) for the big immigration bill, according to the Washington Post. Senator Chuck Schumer reports that most of the bill has been negotiated. One major news item being reported by the Post is that the guest worker section will allow up to 200,000 workers per year, roughly midway between what the unions and the Chamber of Commerce were proposing. That number could go up or down depending on economic conditions and employment needs. Also new is confirmation that there will be family immigration categories that are cut, though which ones have yet to be revealed (I'm guessing siblings of US citizens are first on the list to go). 


Antis Lament Lack of a Candidate to Back in 2016

There's an amusing story on the web site of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard. Mark Krikorian, the head of the Center for Immigration Studies and one of the brighter folks in the anti-immigrant movement, laments the fact that he can't find a candidate in the GOP to back in 2016. John McCormack writes

On Tuesday, Kentucky senator Rand Paul delivered a speech in favor of legalizing the status of illegal immigrants and opening up a path to citizenship for them. Immigration hawks were not pleased. "He just pissed away the [presidential] nomination quite honestly," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. "That's what he did today."

Paul had previously supported the idea of immigration reform, but the speech removed any possibility that he might move right and challenge the establishment on the issue. Amnesty opponents were left feeling glum about their prospects for a presidential candidate. "I'm honestly looking for someone I can support in 2016," Krikorian told me over the phone.

Krikorian goes on to note that he's now pinning his hopes on Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who has not exactly come out in favor of immigration reform, but that's largely because he's dodge the subject and no one knows where he stands today.

This is quite the contrast to the 2012 campaign where the only candidates who seemed remotely reasonable on the subject - Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Utah Governor John Huntsman - were excorciated by their opponents. It's looking like 2016 will be a lot different. Of course, we could very well have a massive immigration reform bill several years on the books by then so the debate will likely look a lot different anyway.

About The Author Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.