GONZO’S WORLD: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DIVERSE “NATION OF IMMIGRANTS” ANOINTS A COMMITTED XENOPHOBE AS ITS CHIEF LAW OFFICER? – Gonzo Is Deconstructing Our System Of Justice, One Day At A Time!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/while-eyes-are-on-russia-sessions-dramatically-reshapes-the-justice-department/2017/11/24/dd52d66a-b8dd-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.6b27aa9221e3

“For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia.

But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.

From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Nov. 14. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.

Supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.

. . . .

In meetings with top Justice Department officials about terrorist suspects, Sessions often has a particular question: Where is the person from? When officials tell him a suspect was born and lives in the United States, he typically has a follow-up: To what country does his family trace its lineage?

While there are reasons to want to know that information, some officials familiar with the inquiries said the questions struck them as revealing that Sessions harbors an innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The Attorney General asks lots of relevant questions in these classified briefings.”

Sessions, unlike past attorneys general, has been especially aggressive on immigration. He served as the public face of the administration’s rolling back of a program that granted a reprieve from deportation to people who had come here without documentation as children, and he directed federal prosecutors to make illegal-immigration cases a higher priority. The attorney general has long held the view that the United States should even reduce the number of those immigrating here legally.

In an interview with Breitbart News in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke favorably of a 1924 law that excluded all immigrants from Asia and set strict caps on others.

“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said. “We then assimilated through 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”

Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration who now works as chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Sessions seems to harbor an “unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration.”

“On issue after issue, it’s very easy to see what his worldview is of what this country is and who belongs in this country,” she said, adding that his view is “distinctly anti-immigrant.”

Those on the other side of the aisle, however, say they welcome the changes Sessions has made at the Justice Department.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for moderating levels of immigration, said she would give the attorney general an “A-plus” for his work in the area, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges and his focus on the MS-13 gang.

“He was able to hit the ground running because he has so much expertise already in immigration enforcement and related public safety issues and the constitutional issues, so he’s accomplished a lot in a very short time,” Vaughan said.”

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Read the compete article, which deals with much more than immigration, at the link.

Immigrants, refugees, immigration advocates, and career civil servants involved in immigration at the DOJ seems to be “star-crossed.” After decades of relative indifference to the importance of immigration, an Attorney General finally shows up  who makes it his highest priority.

Only problem is that he’s a committed xenophobe and White Nationalist whose largely false and exaggerated narrative on immigration comes right from the alt-right restrictionist playbook and harks back to the Jim Crow era of the American South — only this time with Hispanics and Muslims as the primary targets.

In any “normal” American business, obsession with tracing back lineage of someone’s family would be prima facie evidence of prohibited “national origins discrimination.” But, for Gonzo, it’s just another day at the office.

Notwithstanding his less than stellar performances before Congress and that he’s fallen off Trump’s “A-Team” (notwithstanding probably doing more to deconstruct the Constitution and “Good Government” than any other cabinet officer), he’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon. So the damage will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. It’s not like Senator Liz Warren and others didn’t try to warn America about this dude!

Meanwhile, perhaps not to be outdone, over at the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proceeding to deconstruct the Career Foreign Service and reduce the Stated Department and our Diplomatic Corps to “administrative roadkill.” You can read about that debacle in this NY Times article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/us/politics/state-department-tillerson.html

PWS

11-26-17

 

BANISHING THE BEST & THE BRIGHTEST: One Would-Be H-1B Nonimmigrant’s Tale Of How The Bureaucracy & America’s New Anti-Immigrant Attitude Sent Her Packing!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/immigration-visa-h1b-trump-.html

Frida Yu writes in the NY Times:

“Six months ago I won the lottery — the H-1B visa processing lottery for skilled foreign workers. I called my thrilled parents and celebrated with friends. I’m from northeastern China and have an M.B.A. from Stanford, and was planning to stay in Silicon Valley to help start a company based on a promising new technology to improve the use of data. I was overjoyed because, historically, being selected in the lottery was a near guarantee that an applicant could remain in this country at least three more years.

But at the end of July, I received the dreaded Request for Further Evidence from immigration authorities. I provided the extra information that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services asked for. In September, I got another request. I complied again. Finally, on Oct. 11, half a year after my celebration, I learned I had been denied a visa.

After earning law degrees in China and at Oxford, after having worked in Hong Kong as a lawyer at a top international firm, after coming to United States three years ago for an M.B.A. and graduating and joining a start-up, I was given just 60 days to leave the country. I have 17 days left.

In the past, it was fairly safe to assume that once you were selected in the lottery, your H-1B petition would be accepted by immigration officials. In 2016, this happened about 87 percent of the time. But things began to change in April when the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice announced measures to increase scrutiny of the highly skilled applicants who use the H-1B program, and President Trump signed an executive order calling for federal agencies to suggest reforms to the program.

While it’s unclear exactly what percentage of petitions have been approved so far in 2017, requests for evidence like the ones I received have increased by 44 percent compared with last year, according to immigration statistics, strongly suggesting that more people are being denied than before Mr. Trump took office.

Many of my fellow international students are in situations similar to mine. Some had job offers from companies like Google, Apple and PwC when they learned that their applications had been denied or did not even make it into the lottery. For those whose employers have only United States offices, losing the lottery meant losing jobs and going home, with no real way to use the skills they were on the verge of contributing to the American economy.

And some classmates who, like me, were picked in the H-1B lottery last spring are still waiting for an answer. The Trump administration on April 3 announced that it would suspend the “premium processing” service that, for a fee, guaranteed applicants responses to their petitions within 15 days. This has caused problems for students who needed a quick decision because their work authorization expired over the summer or because they wanted to plan overseas trips that they couldn’t make while their status was in limbo. My mom had surgery for cancer in July, but I simply couldn’t go back to China to be with her and risk being denied at the border upon my return because I didn’t have H-1B approval.

My two requests for evidence asked me to prove my job was a “specialty occupation” — that is, work that only someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher can do. My work involves artificial intelligence and big data, and my letters of support came from an authority in my industry and veteran start-up investor, and a Nobel Prize winner. But it wasn’t enough to convince the government that my job requires advanced skills.

While I gave up my law job and used my savings and my parents’ to pay my Stanford graduate school tuition, in the grand scheme of things, I know my situation is much better than that of many immigrants who are forced to leave this country: Just this week, thousands of Haitians in the United States learned that they may have to return to Haiti as a result of the administration’s decision to strip them of the Temporary Protected Status they were granted while their country recovered from disasters.

It’s true that I’m brokenhearted about missing the chance to return to China to care for my mother (she insisted that I stay and pursue the visa that was her dream for me), but I’m not looking for sympathy. As much as I hate to leave, I know I will be fine.

Rather, I’m frustrated, because I know I’m part of a pattern: America is losing many very skilled workers because of its anti-immigrant sentiment, and while this is a disappointing blow to me and my classmates, it will also be a blow to the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy. Tech giants such as Google and Tesla were founded by immigrants.

I can’t make sense of why an administration that claims to want this country to be strong would be so eager to get rid of us. We are losing our dreams, and America is losing the value we bring.

As I make plans to go back to China, I find myself wondering: If I am not qualified to stay in the United States, then who is?

 

 

REUTERS TV: Administration’s Newest Enforcement Tool Against Legal Workers: Use Mountains Of Bureaucratic Red Tape To Hamper The H-1B Program! — Also Welcoming Yeganeh Torbati To The Reuters Immigration Beat!

http://www.reuters.tv/v/VbW/2017/09/20/red-tape-ties-up-h-1b-visas-for-skilled-foreign-workers

Hit the above link to see and hear Yeganeh’s report!

Who would have thought that a supposedly pro-business GOP Administration would be thinking of ways to tie-up American businesses in regulatory red tape? Bureaucratic red tape is, of course, one of DHS’s traditional areas of expertise! So, the Administration has found the guys with the “right stuff” for the job!

Congrats again to Yeganeh on taking over as Reuters Immigration Reporter from Julia Edwards Ainsley, who is now over at NBC! The beat goes on! Looking forward to lots more great immigration reporting from Yeganeh!

PWS

09-20-17

 

WSJ: H-1B Visa Demand Falls — Technological Changes Responsible?

https://www.wsj.com/article_email/use-of-h1b-visas-fell-before-donald-trumps-critiques-of-program-1496682157-lMyQjAxMTE3NTA3NjQwMTYxWj/

The WSJ reports:

“WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump has suggested he might find a way to cut the number of coveted H-1B visas awarded to outsourcing firms. But the companies appear to be heading in that direction all on their own, amid technological changes.

Outsourcers’ use of H-1B visas, which are reserved for highly skilled foreign workers, fell last year, before Mr. Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, new data show. The slide occurred alongside increasing criticism of the firms’ business model.

Mr. Trump has criticized the lottery that is now used, where companies all have equal chances at the scarce visas, and signed an executive order directing a review of the program. The order called for changes that would ensure visas are awarded to “the most skilled and the highest paid” applicants, to avoid crowding out American workers.

Six of the seven prominent Indian-based outsourcing companies that do work in the U.S. received fewer H-1B visas in 2016 than they did in 2015, and as a group their numbers dropped 37%, according to a new analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy, a think tank that backs increasing the total number of H-1B visas available. Most outsourcers based in the U.S. and elsewhere also saw declines.

For instance, H-1B visas awarded to India’s biggest outsourcer by revenue, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., plummeted by 56% to 2,040 last year from 4,674 in 2015. For Wipro Ltd, another major Indian firm, the number also dropped by more than half to 1,474 from 3,079 in 2015.

Other research from previous years shows that the use of H-1Bs by individual outsourcing companies peaked in 2012 and 2013, sliding ever since. Many expect that the number of visas given to outsourcers will decline again for 2017, but those numbers aren’t yet available.

Meanwhile, the number of visas awarded to some large U.S. technology firms, who have a different business model and compete with outsourcers for visas, increased last year. Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. all received more visas than they did in 2015, the new data show. Such companies typically use the visas to recruit employees with rare skills that attract higher wages than staff employed by outsourcers, and have come under less criticism.

Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are available, and for the last several years they have been awarded by lottery conducted in April because of overwhelming demand.

Following this year’s lottery, Mr. Trump criticized the process and suggested more visas should go to high-paid jobs as opposed to a lottery where each application has equal chance. Because many outsourcing jobs are paid the minimum required to comply with certain rules—around $60,000 a year—many interpreted Mr. Trump’s comments as a warning to the outsourcers and a possible boon to big tech companies that pay high salaries.”

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Read the full WSJ article at the link.

I also blogged about the need for H1-B reforms yesterday.

 

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-VJ

PWS

06-06-17

H-1B NONIMMIGRANTS: A Needed Visa In Need Of Reform — It’s Essential For Our Economy, But It’s Wrong When US Workers Are Displaced & Degraded — A Plea For Reform By One Who Has Benefitted From The System But Sees The Abuses!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/04/us/understanding-the-h-1b-visa/index.html

Moni Bassu writes in CNN:

“Palmer and other H-1B reformers want accountability.
They say US companies must be required to document their searches to fill positions with American workers. Employers must pay prevailing wages and be prevented from subcontracting or outsourcing H-1B jobs.
Reform advocates are pushing for a system of government enforcement and oversight of the H-1B regulations, not one that is reliant on whistleblowers to expose abuse.
Technology is here to stay. And it is changing at warp speed. The demand for smart talent is not going away. That’s why even the biggest critics of H-1B are the most ardent backers of reform, not elimination.
What I hear them saying is the system ought to work the way it used to, when my father obtained an H-1 visa. He was hired for a job he was uniquely qualified for, and he was compensated with a decent wage.
No one wants to see Americans lose their jobs unfairly, and if my father were still alive, I know he’d be troubled by what I learned about the current H-1B program.
I also know he would be heartened to see that some of the most ardent backers of visa reform are Indian Americans. After all, we are the ones who have most reaped the rewards of H-1B.”
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The full article, which gives actual examples of both the benefits and the abuses of the H-1B program is a “must read.” Get it at the link.
Several thoughts. I was very critical, and still am, of House Immigration Subcommittee GOP Members for starting off with controversial, “in your face,” and unneeded enforcement-only bills. See http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Qw
Why not instead start with something bipartisan that would be good for America, like H-1B reform. Chairman Grassley in the Senate has expressed strong interest in reforming the H-1B category to eliminate abuses. And, it appears that most major U.S. employers who use H-1Bs also see the need for reform to preserve and improve the program.
Additionally, things like investment visa “EB-5” reform also appear likely to attract support from both sides of the aisle in both houses.
A second thought, why don’t U.S. companies, particularly those started or run by immigrants, which use H-1Bs start the reforms now. “Reverse” the process. Use highly talented H-1B workers to train U.S. workers, particularly in places where the economic rebound has not yet reached, for whatever reason.
For example, in a recent blog dealt with the situation in the small city of Gillette, WY. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-UY  The folks seemed nice, optimistic, and interested in a brighter future for their community. But, with or without Trump and his environment-busting policies, coal mining as a way of life is on the way out. I can’t imagine that too many of the younger generation are hanging around places like Gillette.
Why not go in and establish some tech centers using H-1Bs as trainers. Sure, working on a computer in an office isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. But, it is something that can be done from anywhere.
And, the costs of doing business, at least initially, are likely to be less in a place like Gillette. Increased economic activity brings with it other needs: buildings, houses, markets, auto dealers, repair shops, HVAC technicians, public servants, schools, teachers, etc. So, there could be something for everyone, even those who don’t want to work at a desk all day.
Maybe, it’s time for those who want immigration reform to stop talking and whining and start doing. Things that demonstrably work and help folks out build their own bases of support. That’s better than trying to convince folks with statistics and pie charts!
PWS
06-05-17

Two New Tools To Help You Understand/Practice Immigration Law: 1) USCIS “StatPack” & 2) Travel Ban Litigation Guide!

Nolan “Eagle Eyes” Rappaport kindly alerted me to this comprehensive source of USCIS immigration and citizenship data:

https://www.uscis.gov/tools/reports-studies/immigration-forms-data

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Additionally, Dan “Mr. Blog” Kowalski over at Lexis was kind enough to send me this like to a nationwide “Travel Ban” Litigation Database from “Lawfare,”  helpfully organized by Circuit:

https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__lawfareblog.com_litigation-2Ddocuments-2Dresources-2Drelated-2Dtrump-2Dexecutive-2Dorder-2Dimmigration&d=DQIFAg&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=CeRQeXwCO1XABbcnui0VccohOAIcGihPTU6SjunQmI&m=8DFHNqD9Wh7TH2g60EeuBylX7190m96Q_YTMDTMs5P0&s=evpzDZD-Isv1nTFviIW1D-wNdPdmyJyu9fl1qEQXgf8&e=

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Check both of these out! Thanks again to Nolan and Dan for their tireless efforts to promote an informed approach to immigration law and policy!

PWS

05-07-17

 

 

WashPost: H-1B Review Part Of EO On Jobs To Be Signed In Badgerland On Tuesday!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/17/after-a-series-of-flip-flops-trump-prepares-to-deliver-on-a-key-campaign-pledge/?hpid=hp_rhp-more-top-stories_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.505868d54ef2

Tracy Jan and Max Ehrenfreund report:

“President Trump plans to sign an executive order in Wisconsin on Tuesday that the White House says will make it harder for tech companies to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor, and will strengthen rules barring foreign contractors from bidding on government projects, according to senior administration officials.

The officials, in a background call with reporters, said Trump will direct the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to crack down on fraud and abuse in guest-worker programs by issuing new immigration rules.

The president will also direct the Department of Commerce to review federal procurement rules and trade agreements with a view to putting American firms at an advantage when it comes to winning contracts.

The officials pitched the twin directives as benefiting working- and middle-class Americans who have suffered for too long under unfair trade and immigration rules.

“This is the policy that ensures no one gets left behind in America anymore — that we protect our industry from unfair competition, favor the products produced by our fellow citizens and make certain that when jobs open those jobs are given to American workers first,” the White House said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear how much the administration could accomplish without cooperation from Congress.

“Sweeping changes are going to require congressional action,” said Lynden Melmed, an immigration attorney who had served as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services chief counsel within the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

However, industry experts said Trump’s executive order was a good first step to protecting the U.S. defense industrial base, and U.S. firms that do business with the federal government.

“It’s one of the few presidential exertions in recent time, that holds out the hope of saving U.S. industrial jobs,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and the chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute in Arlington.”

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PWS

04-18-17

WashPost: Administration Warns Employers Not To Use H-1B Program To “Dis” U.S. Workers!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-tells-companies-not-to-overlook-qualified-americans/2017/04/04/87fa4e06-1909-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?utm_term=.fe6b3da5783c

Sadie Gurman reports for the AP:

“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has issued a stern warning to U.S. companies as they begin applying for coveted skilled-worker visas, cautioning that it would investigate and prosecute those who overlook qualified American workers for jobs.

The message came on the opening day of applications for American employers seeking visas known as H-1B, which are used mostly by technology companies to bring in programmers and other specialized workers from other countries.

“U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims,” Tom Wheeler, acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

The Obama administration sued companies for violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provisions, including businesses that favored foreigners over U.S. workers. But Monday’s warning in a news release at the start of the visa process appeared to be a first-of-its kind signal to employers not to put American workers at a disadvantage.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also announced that it would step up its reviews of employers that use H-1B visas, saying “too many American workers who are qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged.”

The statements were the latest indication that even legal immigration will be scrutinized under the Trump administration.”

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Interesting that Jeff Sessions and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are getting so involved in the H-1B program. Normally, H-1B enforcement would be a matter for the DHS, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Office of Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration-Related Employment Practices at the DOJ. But, I suppose without any voting rights or police abuse cases to investigate, the Civil Rights Division will have some time on its hands for taking on some new immigration enforcement responsibilities.

Another thought.  Rather than battling the Administration over the H-1B program and threatening to move tech operations to Canada and elsewhere if their demands are not met, why don’t U.S. tech companies and Democrats “think outside the box.”

Why not make areas of the “Rust Belt” with willing workers and high unemployment the new “Silicon Valley East?” Use H-1Bs to re-train U.S. workers for permanent jobs in technology. Build new offices or refurbish abandoned plants. Establish training programs with local community colleges and technical colleges. Fund some opioid addiction treatment programs to get capable workers off of drugs and into jobs where they have some future. Support regional airports in “the hinterlands” that Trump is trying to shut down.

Trump seems only vaguely interested in addressing the real problems of unemployed and underemployed workers. If he actually does succeed in so-called “health care reform,” (that is transferring money from the needy to the rich) their situation will become immeasurably worse. Futile grandstanding like relaxing environmental controls for an “ain’t gonna happen” revival of the coal industry, appointing Gov. Chris “The Bridge” Christie to a form a new governmental committee on opioid addiction, or having Jeff Sessions divert the Civil Rights Division into H-1B investigations aren’t serious attempts to address the issues.

But, so far, the Dems and the leaders of the tech industry have been largely MIA on practical solutions to these problems that Trump seems unlikely to address in any realistic manner. So, while the Dems are tilting at the “Gorsuch Windmill,” which I can guarantee you isn’t a concern for most “Dems turned Trump voters” in the Rust Belt, the opportunity for real leadership, genuine concern for U.S. workers, and demonstrated problem solving is going by the boards. Maybe that’s how Donald Trump became President with 46.4% of the vote.

Just proving once again the Trump might not have to act presidential or accomplish much of positive value to be a two-term President. And, as he has already shown, he can do that relatively easily even if he never attains the approval of the majority of Americans.

PWS

04/04/17