Morning News, 10/25/11

By Bryan Griffith, October 25, 2011

1. Senators not using E-Verify
2. 'Diversity Visa' applicants
3. Students in TX receive state aid
4. OH city welcomes immigrants
5. UT Immigration conference

Senators fail to follow law on using E-Verify
7 weren’t signed on to system
By Stephan Dinan
The Washington Times, October 24, 2011

Sen. John Boozman is co-sponsoring a bill that would require every employer in the country to use the E-Verify program to screen for illegal workers — but until earlier this month, the senator himself wasn’t signed up for the system, thus violating a 1996 law that makes its use mandatory for all congressional offices.

The Arkansas Republican wasn’t alone. As of the beginning of this month, seven Senate offices were not signed up to use the system, which lets employers check would-be workers’ Social Security numbers against a government database to determine whether they are in the country legally.

After inquiries by The Washington Times, all seven offices said they are now properly signed up.

“It was an oversight that is being corrected,” said Sara Lasure, a spokeswoman for Mr. Boozman. “As a supporter of E-Verify, Sen. Boozman wants to lead by example and is fully supportive of the program.”

The hiccup, though, underscores the difficulty of devising a successful system for the rest of the country at a time when there is no general agreement on how to revamp the American immigration system and how to find the most cost-effective tools to weed out illegal workers.

E-Verify, which is run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Homeland Security Department, could fit that bill — but the sides also disagree about how to expand it.

House Republicans want to make the system mandatory for all businesses and have advanced a bill to do just that through the Judiciary Committee. They argue that E-Verify would ensure that jobs go only to legal workers.

The Obama administration, however, says E-Verify should be mandated only as part of a broader overhaul of immigration laws that also would legalize the status of millions of current illegal immigrants.

The debate has been just as contentious among the states. Some have adopted their own requirements, and others have passed laws prohibiting mandatory E-Verify use.

But none of the seven Senate offices that had failed to sign up had ideological concerns. Rather, most simply seem to have been negligent. The six in addition to Mr. Boozman were: Republican Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Jim Webb of Virginia and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

“Our office had been erroneously informed that we could transfer the E-Verify account from our program administrator’s former office to Sen. Blumenthal‘s, but was informed today that we in fact had to create a new account, which we have done,” said Kate Hansen, Mr. Blumenthal’s spokeswoman. “USCIS informed the office that employees’ information may be run through E-Verify retroactively, so while employees have previously submitted I-9 forms to verify their work authorization, we have initiated the E-Verify process as well, and expect it to be completed by the end of the week.”

Mr. Heller and Mr. Bennet said that though they weren’t signed up, their office managers were still using their predecessors’ log-ins to the E-Verify system to check employees. That would have allowed the checks to be made, though it violates the terms of use of the system.

Mr. Paul’s office declined to say why he had failed to sign up. A spokeswoman said only that the office is now “in compliance with E-Verify.”

Of the seven senators, five took office this year. Mr. Heller was sworn in to fill a vacant seat in May. Mr. Moran and Mr. Boozman were signed up when they were members of the House.

Mr. Webb has been in violation the longest, having taken office in January 2007.
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State Dept. Considering 9,036 'Diversity Visa' Applicants from 'Countries of Interest'--Whose Citizens Pose Higher Terror Risk
By Elizabeth Harrington, October 24, 2011

As part of its 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery, the U.S. State Department is considering 9,036 applicants from nations that have been designated as “countries of interest" by the Obama administration because their citizens, and people travelling from them or through them are deemed a heightened terrorist risk to the United States

While the final winners for 2012 have not been announced, in 2010--the latest year for which the final Diversity Visa awards have been published--there were 3,988 such visas issued to persons from countries of interest.

The “countries of interest,” as categorized by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

President Obama first announced the "countries of interest" category at a Jan. 5, 2010 press briefing about two weeks after a Nigerian terrorist had tried to detonate an underwear bomb aboard a Northwest Airlines flight headed into Detroit.

"As of yesterday, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is requiring enhanced screening for passengers flying into the United States from, or flying through, nations on our list of State Sponsors of Terror or other countries of interest," Obama said.

In a January 10, 2010 announcement on “countries of interest,” the TSA said it “is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world who holds a passport issued by or is traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights.”

The four states sponsors of terrorism, as designated by the U.S. Department of State, are Iran, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

In the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery, an annual program that started in 1994, the State Department awards 50,000 permanent resident visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The applicants for the 2012 visa lottery must complete their applications quickly and then the State Department will fill its 50,000 slots. (Those initial winners have received their applications and the State Department is reviewing them as they come in.)

The State Department says: "Once the total 50,000 visa numbers have been used, the program for fiscal year 2012 will end. Selected applicants who do not receive visas by September 30, 2012 will derive no further benefit from their DV-2012 registration."

For the program in 2012, there are 9,036 applicants from “countries of interest” whose completed applications will be reviewed by the State Department for the potential awarding of permanent resident visas. The number of applications distributed per country of interest for 2012 is as follows: Afghanistan, 109; Algeria, 1,799; Iraq, 153; Lebanon, 274; Libya, 136; Nigeria, 6,024; Saudi Arabia, 217; Somalia, 175; and Yemen, 149.

Pakistan was ineligible to participate in the 2012 program because it has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the last five years, and therefore did not have low enough immigration rates to qualify, according to the DV instructions issued by the State Department.
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“The DV Program is a terrorist’s gamble,” said Janice L. Kephart, director of National Security Policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, during a testimony before a House Judiciary Subcommittee Committee on national security vulnerabilities associated with Diversity Visas, in April.

“But if it works, it is an infiltration tactic with little oversight, a guaranteed visa, and permanent residency whether already in the United States, or seeking entry from abroad,” Kephart said.
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Students in Texas Illegally Eligible for State Aid
By Reeve Hamilton and Thanh Tan
The Texas Tribune, October 25, 2011

Illegal immigrants who do well in high school are not only eligible for lower-cost, in-state tuition rates at Texas universities and colleges. Thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001, many are also receiving publicly funded grants to pay for their education.

The in-state tuition policy, which was broadened in 2005 and again signed by Perry, has become a major flashpoint in the 2012 presidential race. Perry has taken repeated fire from his conservative base — and from his chief rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — for supporting the lower residency tuition rates for students in the country illegally. What isn't as well known is that the very same law also allows some of these students to access the state's limited amount of financial aid.

TEXAS Grants, a need-based grant program that covers tuition and fees at most institutions, is only available to Texas residents. Students unable to prove U.S. citizenship may establish residency if they graduated from a Texas high school, have lived in the state for three years before applying and sign an affidavit indicating their intent to apply for permanent residency status as soon as possible.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which monitors the implementation of such legislation, the state distributed 2,156 TEXAS Grants in fiscal year 2010 to students who had established residency under those provisions, meaning many were very likely not in the United States legally. The total amount of the awards was approximately $7.8 million.

Two TEXAS Grant recipients who are not in the country legally shared their stories with the Tribune on Monday. One is a Texas A&M graduate who is now working in a restaurant because he can't provide the documentation necessary for an employer to hire him legally in his field of study, biomedical science.

The other is a recent graduate of Austin High School, the school Perry's now-grown children attended. The student's high school counselors described the student as a high achiever — a model student who had been accepted to numerous universities but had chosen a more affordable two-year college.

Now starting his first year at Austin Community College, the 18-year-old native of Mexico told the Tribune that he could not qualify for federal aid because of immigration status. So he filled out the Texas Application for State Financial Aid, a 16-page document that requires students to simply prove they have been a resident of Texas for at least three years before they can qualify to pay the in-state tuition rate.

The student told the Tribune he is receiving $1,300 in state aid, which will pay for about 70 percent of his education. The rest he earned in scholarships as a high school student. Brought to the United States at the age of six months, he plans to study business management so that he can run a restaurant. He said he reached that decision after seeing his father work for years in various kitchens.

“Some people are taking heat over undocumented immigrants. I guess I’m just thankful for Perry," he said. "Most Republicans don’t understand my situation, that I really had no choice. I had no say in coming here. I’m not going to leave because I’ve never been to Mexico. I don’t remember it. I don’t know anything about it.”

The state scholarship money spent on students who are not in the country legally is not a significant percentage of the total amount allocated by the state. A total of 68,119 awards were distributed in fiscal 2010, at a total cost of $274.1 million. It’s not even a large portion of the total student population. About 16,500 students signed affidavits in 2010 asserting they would apply for permanent residence status — out of a total of almost 1,400,000 students paying in-state tuition rates.

The Tribune contacted Perry’s office and his presidential campaign separately to ask whether he is aware the TEXAS Grants program benefits students who are illegal immigrants and whether he still agrees with the policy.
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Dayton, Ohio, welcomes immigrants as policy point
By Dan Sewell
The Associated Press, October 24, 2011

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — On the same afternoon thousands of Hispanics in Alabama took the day off to protest the state's strict new immigration law, Mexican-born Francisco Mejia was ringing up diners' bills and handing containers piled with carnitas to drive-thru customers on the east side of Dayton.

His family's Taqueria Mixteca is thriving on a street pockmarked with rundown buildings and vacant storefronts. It gets packed with a diverse lunchtime clientele of Hispanic laborers, white men in suits and other customers, white and black. "Business is very good," Mejia said, smiling broadly between orders.

It's the kind of success story that leaders in Dayton think offers hope for an entire city. It has adopted a plan not only to encourage immigrants to come and feel welcome here, but also to use them to help pull out of an economic tailspin.

Dayton officials, who adopted the "Welcome Dayton" plan unanimously Oct. 5, say they aren't condoning illegal immigration; those who come here illicitly will continue to be subject to U.S. laws.

While states including Alabama, Georgia and Arizona, as well as some cities, have passed laws in recent years cracking down on illegal immigrants, Dayton officials say they will leave that to federal authorities and focus instead on how to attract and assimilate those who come legally.

Other cities, including nearby Columbus and Indianapolis, have programs to help immigrants get government and community help, but Dayton's effort has a broader, and more urgent, feel.

Mayor Gary Leitzell told the city commission before the vote that immigrants bring "new ideas, new perspectives and new talent to our workforce. ... To reverse the decades-long trend of economic decline in this city, we need to think globally."

Hard-hit for years by the struggles of U.S. manufacturing, particularly in the auto industry, the recession pounded Dayton, which as the Wright Brother's hometown calls itself "the birthplace of aviation."

Thousands of jobs were lost with the crippling 2009 exodus to Georgia of NCR (formerly National Cash Register), one of Dayton's signature corporations, after 125 years, and by the 2008 shutdown of a General Motors plant in suburban Moraine.

Dayton's unemployment is nearly 11 percent, 2 percent higher than the national average, while population has fallen below 142,000, down 15 percent from 2000. Meanwhile, the city's official foreign-born population rose 57 percent, to 5,102, from 2000 to 2010, according to census figures.

City leaders aiming to turn Dayton around started examining the immigrant population: Indian doctors in hospitals; foreign-born professors and graduate students at the region's universities; and owners of new small businesses such as a Turkish family's New York Pizzeria on the city's east side and Hispanic-run car lots, repair shops and small markets. They say immigrants have revitalized some rundown housing, moving into and fixing up what had been vacant homes.

"This area has been in a terrible recession, but it would be even worse without them," said Theo Majka, a University of Dayton sociology professor who, with his sociologist wife Linda Majka, has studied and advocated for Dayton's immigrants. "Here we have this underutilized resource."

Dayton officials say their plan still needs funding and volunteers to help put it in place; they hope by the end of the year. Its key tenets include increasing information and access to government, social services and housing issues; language education and help with identification cards, and grants and marketing help for immigrant entrepreneurs to help build the East Third Street section.

"We will be more diverse, we will grow, we will have more restaurants, more small businesses," said Tom Wahlrab, the city's human relations council director, who helped lead the plan's development.

Besides thousands of Hispanics, there are communities in Dayton of Iraqi refugees, Vietnamese and other Asians, Africans from several countries, and Russians and Turks who, officials say, are already living here quietly and industriously.

"Immigrants are hard workers with a propensity to create jobs, and this will invigorate the economy," said Festus Nyiwo, an attorney in his home country of Nigeria who has been a small-business entrepreneur since coming to Dayton about eight years ago.

Around the country, the bad economy has helped inspire new laws targeting illegal immigrants, seen as taking scarce jobs and overburdening schools, police and services.
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Immigration summit to be held in Salt Lake City
By David Montero
The Salt Lake Tribune, October 24, 2011

Political, faith-based and national leaders will gather in Salt Lake City Wednesday for the first-ever Mountain West Immigration Summit hosted by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

"This will be a groundbreaking meeting where regional leaders will come together for a rational discussion on immigration," Shurtleff said in a statement. "This is a chance for local leaders to forge a new consensus on a national immigration strategy."

The summit will feature the National Immigration Forum, a nonprofit group that has fought against enforcement-only laws passed in Arizona and Alabama as well as local groups that were highly critical of Utah’s enforcement-only law, HB497.

The summit will come on the heels of a scheduled meeting with Shurtleff and high-level officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, which fought Arizona and Alabama’s enforcement-only bills but has yet to enter into the pending lawsuit against Utah. The lawsuit in Utah is being brought forward by the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union. It is scheduled to be heard in federal court Dec. 2.
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