Morning News, 7/28/11

1. Obama takes heat on immigration
2. $24.4 million for AZ fence
3. Infosys employee testifies
4. Legal immigration increases
5. TX Gov. supported DREAM Act

Obama Takes Heat from Pro-Immigration Groups
By Laurel Bowman
Voice of America, July 27, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office with strong voter support among Hispanic Americans, while promising to make immigration reform a top priority. But many lawmakers in Washington oppose easing restrictions on immigration and instead demand a crackdown against illegal immigration.

Hundreds of pro-immigration activists gathered recently near the White House to send President Obama a message:

“We are here to collect on the promises he made to us," said a female activist.

That promise was sweeping pro-immigration reform. The rally was equal parts political theater, voter outrage and dance party.

"Hey, hey, Obama, don’t deport my mama!," chanted the protesters.

Such appeals against deporting mamas are not helping this mother. She says when she called police during a domestic violence dispute, she was arrested. She now faces deportation.

“I am fighting not to be separated from my daughter and for justice for the millions of immigrants in this country," she said.

Police detained Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and other activists during the protest. Gutierrez supports immigration reforms, including an end to deporting undocumented, immigrant college students. These protestors say more than 1 million immigrants have been deported since Mr. Obama's election.

Speaking to Hispanic activists recently, the president blamed Republicans for failing to enact immigration reforms.

“Let’s be honest, I need a dance partner here and the floor is empty," said President Obama.

Political analysts say Mr. Obama needs Hispanic voters to win re-election in 2012. But a recent Gallup Poll shows his approval rating among Hispanics has slipped.
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$24.4 million for AZ fence repairs
By Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star, July 28, 2011

Border fences, roads and lighting are not only expensive to build, they are costly to repair and maintain.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a $24.4 million contract to a private firm to perform repairs and maintenance on border barriers, roads, lighting and electrical systems along Arizona’s border with Mexico, announced Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office.

The contract is the largest of four regionally based agreements that Customs and Border Protection has to maintain fences and roads, said Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Jenny Burke.

It is a one year contract for $7.7 million with two additional one-year options that would make it worth $24.4 million, she said.

The contact — awarded to Houston-based Kellog Brown & Root — includes repairs and maintenance of five areas:

• Fences and gates

• Roads and bridges

• Lighting and electrical systems

• Drainage and grates

• Vegetation control and debris removal
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Infosys Employee Testifies on Alleged Visa Fraud
By Meghan Bahree and Miriam Jordan
The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2011

An Infosys employee, who has alleged that Indian tech giant, Infosys Technologies Ltd., engages in visa fraud, provided more details to a U.S. Senate subcommittee this week.

In a statement to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security on Tuesday, Jay Palmer, the whistleblower at Infosys, said the company “intentionally violated our visa and tax laws for the purpose of increasing revenues.” Mr. Palmer accused Infosys of frequently violating U.S. visa laws and of staffing multiple client projects with illegal employees, including at Goldman Sachs, American Express, Wal-Mart and Johnson Control, among others.

Mr. Palmer filed a lawsuit against the company in February in Circuit Court in Alabama, alleging the company sought his help to circumvent U.S. law. The lawsuit has led to a probe by U.S. authorities.

Infosys, which is cooperating with the inquiry, denied the allegations. Paul N. Gottsegen, chief marketing officer for Infosys, said in a statement Wednesday that Mr. Palmer’s remarks were “full of inaccuracies, exaggerations and falsehoods.”

“There is not, nor was there ever a strategy, scheme, or policy by the company to use the B-1 visa program to circumvent the H-1B visa program,” he said. “The company did not have a practice of sending unskilled employees to the United States on B-1 visas to do the work expected of skilled individuals in the U.S. on H-1B visas.”

Mr. Palmer disagreed. This is how, he says, it was done.

During a March 2010 visit to Bangalore headquarters he says he heard several conversations between Indian managers and U.S.-based managers where it was made clear that Infosys was going to increase the use of the B1 visa program to get around tough new restrictions the U. S. had placed on the H-1B program. Infosys, he says, decided to flood the local Indian consulate with visa applications in order to get as many approved as possible no matter the level of an individual’s skill. He says that in many cases the company sent relatively inexperienced workers to the U.S. for projects.

He says Infosys sent employees on B1 visas to the U.S. for specific full-time jobs at client sites but instead of paying them U.S. salaries, it would pay them much lower Indian salaries, calling it a stipend. Infosys, however, charged its clients U.S. rates for the employees, thus getting full reimbursement from their American clients for Infosys’ labor costs. He also says Infosys paid no taxes on payments to these workers.

According to Mr. Palmer, Infosys created an internal website of “do’s and don’ts” with tips including: “Do not mention activities like implementation, design & testing, consulting etc., which sound like work. Also do not use words like, work, activity, etc., in the invitation letter. Please do not mention anything about the contract rates as you’re on a B-1 Visa.”

He says that in order for this to work, the U.S. contracts had to be written as “Fixed Price” contracts and not as “Time and Material” contracts. On a Fixed Price contract a customer is charged a lump sum for labor, and the people doing the work do not need to be identified to the client. But on a T&M contract, on the other hand, the people doing the actual work had to be named along with their hourly rate. In August 2010 Mr. Palmer says he received emails and requests to rewrite T & M contracts to FP contracts.

Describing a specific instance, he says that in December 2010 an Infosys employee showed him a spreadsheet with a list of B1 visa workers on a project at Johnson Control, who should not have been doing such work. He said that these workers were working full-time testing software code and writing scripts but were paid their salaries by Infosys depositing money into the cash card accounts without withholding any income tax.

Mr. Palmer’s testimony comes as the Indian IT industry finds itself facing more scrutiny than ever. Outsourcing has always been a hot-button issue in the U.S., but with a stubbornly high unemployment rate in the U.S., the offshoring of what are perceived to be American jobs has become an increasingly sensitive political issue. Last year the U.S. passed legislation that raised fees for skilled visas, particularly affecting Indian IT firms. IT firms based in India generate 60% of their revenue from the U.S.
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Legal Immigration Increases in Texas, U.S.
By Julian Aguilar
The Texas Tribune, July 28, 2011

If current trends continue, the federal government will approve nearly 18,000 more applications for citizenship this year than it did in 2010, according to data recently posted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency is also likely to deny about 3,300 fewer.

During the 2010 fiscal year, the government approved about 619,000 of what it calls the N-400, its application for naturalization. That total includes about 9,800 military applications. Authorities denied about 57,000, including 750 military applications. This year, the government is on pace to approve about 637,000 and deny about 53,700.

The trends at Texas field offices follow those seen nationwide. In 2010, the field offices in Dallas, El Paso, Harlingen, Houston and San Antonio collectively approved about 48,900 applications and denied 4,610. Through April 2011 — seven months of the current fiscal year — the Texas offices have approved about 30,000 and denied about 2,500.

The data also shows that field offices in Texas border cities have far fewer applicants than those in the middle of the state. So far this year, the El Paso and Harlingen field offices have received about 2,300 and 1,970 applications, respectively. That’s compared to 11,550 in Dallas, about 12,900 in Houston and 5,700 in San Antonio.

The approvals and denials both fall far short of 2009 figures, however, when the agency approved about 742,000 applications and denied about 110,000.

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Tim Counts, a USCIS press officer, said the agency cannot really pinpoint why the numbers fluctuate. The data sets include how many applications were received and left pending during a certain time frame, and Counts said that just because an application was received during one quarter of a fiscal year does not necessarily mean it was completed during the same time frame. For example, in 2010, about 710,500 applications were received, 676,000 completed and 292,000 left pending. But the number completed could have been held over from the previous year, he said.

A bright spot, Counts added, is that USCIS is often ahead of schedule in terms of processing N-400 applications. Counts said the agency’s goal is to complete the process within six months, but it currently averages less than five. The average cycle time in March and April was 4.8 months. Military applications are slightly faster, he said, a byproduct of the agency working with the military to identify potential applicants for naturalization.

“During the intake of a new recruit, that information is gathered and because it’s a much more militaristic, the process is a lot more standardized,” he said.
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In-state tuition for illegal immigrants could prove a tough issue for Perry
By Wayne Slater
The Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2011

With Rick Perry’s record getting presidential-level scrutiny, one crack in his conservative credentials could pose a serious problem — signing a bill giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

Perry defended his 2001 decision to a New Hampshire reporter last week, saying he didn’t want to punish young people for their parent’s actions. But for tea party activists and social conservatives crucial to any Perry bid for the White House, his support of Texas "DREAM Act" for undocumented students could be a tough sell.

"From my experience dealing with Iowans in all 99 counties, the immigration issue is a very sensitive issue," said Iowa tea party activist Gregg Cummings of Lamoni, Iowa. "He’s going to have a tough time trying to answer."

While other decisions in Perry’s past might raise questions on the right, his backing of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants at Texas universities sends a clear and unambiguous message to tea party voters on an issue they care passionately about.

"The DREAM Act could be Perry’s version of Romneycare," said Dallas tea party member Ken Emanuelson, referring to Mitt Romney’s state health care plan he pushed through as governor in Massachusetts.

Perry will announce in about three weeks that he’s running for president, according to a close associate. He’ll pitch himself as a staunch conservative who can attract both religious and fiscal conservatives.

Emanuelson predicts Perry will have to explain his immigration record to tea party activists in the early GOP nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Perry’s speeches would lead you to believe that he’s a border hawk and he’s really fired up about this issue, that the border’s under control and we’ve countered illegal immigration. But he wants to have it both ways," Emanuelson said.

"On the one hand, he’s trying to make the case that we’re Texas, we’re strong and independent. And on the other, he’s saying we can’t take care of ourselves because the federal government isn’t taking care of us."

Questions about Perry’s immigration record underscore a potential rift between the Texas governor and tea party voters he would count on to win the GOP nomination.

On his website, Perry trumpets his record on border security. He says the state has spent millions of dollars on local law enforcement to stem narcotics smuggling and dispatched Texas Rangers to help in criminal cases involving people illegally coming across the border.

But the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition has posted a blistering online critique challenging Perry’s record on spending, support for toll roads and his mandate that pre-teen girls be inoculated against sexually transmitted disease.

Leading its critique was the tuition bill.

Last week, when a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader asked about the in-state tuition bill, Perry said it would have been wrong "to punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions."

Under the law, children of undocumented immigrants qualify for in-state tuition after living in the state for several years and agreeing to work toward citizenship. Several states including California, New York and New Mexico offer tuition breaks, but Texas was the first to do so under Perry.

Texas Democratic consultant Jason Stanford said Perry’s immigration record, especially tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants, could damage him among some conservatives.

"It won’t be hard for Mitt Romney to get up and say that because of Rick Perry, kids from Mexico have a better deal in Texas than kids from New Mexico," Stanford said.

Dennis Goldford, professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines, said the early tension between Perry and some social conservatives in the early nominating states will be exacerbated by his comment that he’s "fine" with New York legalizing gay marriage because it’s a state issue.
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