June 22, 2007
AILA Statement on Revival of Senate Bill
WASHINGTON, DC - The Senate immigration reform bill is unworkable in its current form, said the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today. If the bill should pass the Senate as now written, AILA will advocate vigorously to ensure that the House of Representatives does not replicate the Senate's mistakes.
Since the bi-partisan "grand bargain" proposal was originally introduced, AILA has expressed strong opposition to a number of its central components. Largely the product of intense backroom negotiations, the compromise that emerged was more an earnest attempt to find the political sweet-spot for Senate passage than a reasoned roadmap for comprehensive reform. Political considerations eventually warped the proposal in ways that would bring more chaos to our immigration system instead of the order and rationality that this bill was intended to restore.
Under the agreement to revive the immigration bill announced by the Senate leadership teams, a pre-determined package of 20-24 amendments (10-12 per party) will be voted upon. The expectation is that in exchange for this agreement on amendments, the leadership teams will be able to secure the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture (cut off debate on the bill) and move to a vote on final passage.
AILA's continuing top concerns with the bill include:
Decimation of the employment-based immigration system through creation of a mis-named "merit-based" point system that disconnects employment-based immigration from employer sponsorship and eliminates existing avenues of migration for aliens of extraordinary ability, multinational executives, and outstanding researchers.
Evisceration of family-based immigration by eliminating 4 out of 5 long-recognized family relationships that qualify an individual for green card sponsorship in exchange for a partial reduction of the backlogs in those categories.
Lack of meaningful opportunities for new temporary workers to transition to permanent residence.
Lack of sufficient future numbers for employment-based immigrants at all ends of the skill spectrum.
Unwarranted restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant visa programs.
Lack of sufficient confidentiality protections for Z-visa applicants.
Nothing that transpired during the earlier Senate Floor debate served to allay these concerns. Of the 14 amendments that passed by recorded vote, none addressed these most problematic aspects of the bill. To the contrary, most of the amendments that passed have made the bill even more unworkable. Although we understand that two or three amendments included in the final package to be voted on address these concerns on the margins, there are also amendments in the offing that could further distort the original objectives of this bill.
For years, AILA has been at the forefront in advocating for a comprehensive solution to the multitude of problems plaguing our immigration system. Our collective experience on the frontlines of immigration law and policy highlights the dire and urgent need for workable reform that advances the nation's economic, social, and national security interests. We fear, however, that the product likely to emanate from the Senate will be neither workable nor in our national interest.
The necessary architecture for meaningful, effective reform must include:
A clear path to lawful residence for those who come forward, pay fines, and demonstrate their commitment to becoming Americans by earning their status through working and learning English.
A new worker program that includes labor protections, job portability, and a realistic path to permanent residence.
Elimination of the existing unconscionable backlogs in family immigration and recalibration of our employment-based immigrant visa quotas to accommodate the needs of our dynamic and growing economy.
Smart border and worksite enforcement mechanisms that protect our national security interests, while respecting civil rights.
While the current Senate bill may give the appearance of adhering to this skeletal architecture, its full content has hollowed out these essential building blocks. The revolutionary changes to future family and employment based immigration represent an unwarranted and unacceptable tradeoff for a fatally flawed legalization program, partial backlog reduction, and an untenable temporary worker program. AILA cannot support enactment of the Senate bill in its current form and will do everything possible to significantly improve the bill as the legislative process continues.
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Cohen and Grigsby exposed as exploiters of weakness of H-1b visa. This won't help your cause.
City law firm's immigration video sparks an Internet firestorm
Friday, June 22, 2007
By Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What started as a simple marketing video for Downtown law firm Cohen & Grigsby has resulted in an Internet firestorm encompassing tens of thousands of YouTube viewers, Lou Dobbs and the U.S. Secretary of Labor. The video features portions of Cohen & Grigsby's 'Seventh Annual Immigration Law Update,' held May 15 at the Pittsburgh Hilton, Downtown. The video that's causing all the furor.
The segment of the video drawing all the attention is one in which lawyers from Cohen & Grigsby's highly regarded immigration practice advocate methods to comply with a law requiring employers prove that they have tried to find qualified American workers before applying for a green card for a foreign worker. The lawyers urge the audience, in so many words, to do exactly the opposite. 'Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker,' said partner Lawrence Lebowitz on the video. 'And, you know, that in a sense that sounds funny, but it's what we're trying to do here.'
When Kim Berry, president of an organization called the Programmers Guild that opposes the issuance of visas to foreign workers, watched the video clip after he received it in an e-mail on Saturday, he thought it was anything but funny.
Mr. Berry shortened the video from the version that he received, adding subtitles and music for emphasis. 'I grabbed the two masters and edited it down, just to make it more convenient for the few hundred people I thought might want to watch it,' he said. 'I didn't expect it to get 44,000 hits in three days.'
By the end of the weekend, political blogs of all stripes -- from DailyKos to National Review's The Corner -- had linked to the video, which just so happened to play nicely into issues raised in the immigration bill that the U.S. Senate is debating this week.
Yesterday, Cohen & Grigsby put out a statement that while the firm stands by the substance of the seminar, 'we regret the choice of words that was used during a small segment of the seminar. It is unfortunate that these statements have been commandeered and misused, which runs contrary to our intent.'
The firm already removed its version of the video after a Monday article in the online publication Information Week detailed the controversy.
But Mr. Berry's version remains on the Internet and by Tuesday, the story was widespread enough to be featured on CNN's 'Lou Dobbs Tonight,' with Mr. Dobbs saying that 'the law firms and everyone else, they're just basically try to [stick it to] the American worker.'
Cohen & Grigsby, one of Pittsburgh's top 10 largest law firms, had found itself embroiled in the 24-hour news cycle fueled by cable news and the blogosphere. And it was about to get worse.
Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao asking her for assistance in 'reviewing the video and investigating the law firm's unethical procedures.'
What made the video into such an Internet hit, said Mr. Berry, is that it validated long-held suspicions that he and others had been unable to substantiate.
'It's proof from the attorneys themselves that they are getting resumes from qualified Americans and they are going through all sorts of steps so that Americans don't get jobs,' he said. 'It shows what's really happening behind the curtain.'
But the issue is slightly more complicated than it is being portrayed on the Internet, said Crystal Williams, deputy director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C.
When companies apply for a green card for a worker, she said, it's often for somebody that they already have brought over on a temporary visa and is working at the company. But in order to fill the green card requirement that there are no qualified American candidates, the company needs to redo the job search -- even though they already have somebody working in that position.
'It sounded a lot worse than it is,' said Ms. Williams. 'They were talking about the electronic labor certification and that is a program that is very formalized. By its very nature, it's a little bit twisted.'
That twisted process leads to what Mr. Berry considers to be 'fake' newspaper advertisements for jobs that are essentially already filled with green card candidates. For years, he's been tracking such ads in his hometown newspaper, The Sacramento Bee.
In the Cohen & Grigsby video, attorneys advocated placing advertisements in newspapers -- where they would be less likely to find qualified workers -- versus more fertile recruitment venues such as Monster.com or campus recruitments. 'Certainly we are not going to try to find a place where applicants would be most numerous,' said Mr. Lebowitz, who is also an adjunct professor of immigration law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
If a company does find an undeniably qualified American candidate through newspaper advertising, 'if necessary schedule an interview, go through the whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them for this particular position,' said attorney Jennifer L. Barton on the video.
Those particular sections of the video 'sounded bad,' Ms. Williams said. 'I don't know that they are common practice.'
Advertising positions in places where a company would not find job applicants, she said, is 'kind of the opposite' of the correct process.
But the real problem, said Ms. Williams, is the immigration process itself.
'Nobody's happy with it -- that's about the one consensus we can get, and that includes the Department of Labor,' she said. 'That being said, no one's been able to come up with a better one.
Posted by: Horace | Jun 22, 2007 4:31:44 PM