Immigration News: Some Good, Some Bad, Some Really New

By David North on July 8, 2011

There has been an abundance of immigration news lately, some good, some bad, and some reflecting genuine new thinking. All related to issues covered in our previous blogs.

Good News. Perhaps the best news was the abject surrender of one of the largest H-1B users in the nation's school systems, that of Prince George's County Md., a Washington, D.C., suburb.

Hard-pressed by the U.S. Labor Department on the H-1B issue, and under severe attack for high-level corruption elsewhere in the local government, the county agreed to cease using the H-1B program to hire alien school teachers (at least for two years) and to lay off the ones it has as their visas expire. PG County had been, along with Baltimore City, New York City, and some Texas school systems, one of the major educational users of the H-1B programs in the past, preferring to hire teachers from other nations (mostly the Philippines) rather than unemployed resident teachers, both citizens and legal residents. This is a subject covered in an earlier CIS Memorandum entitled "H-1B + K-12 = ?".

The PG School Board had initially fought the Labor Department ruling that it has misused the H-1B system, and forced fee payments on individual teachers that by law, PG County should have paid. But, according to this morning's Washington Post, it worked out a settlement with the department even before the PG appeal went before a DoL Administrative Judge.

The school board's lawyers must have convinced their clients that they had a terrible case for them to decide not to take their case before an administrative tribunal, much less the federal courts.

In the settlement, the school board agreed to make $4.2 million in payments to more than 1,000 alien school teachers, to lay off 161 foreign teachers in the next two months as their visas expire, and to lay off hundreds more in the next two years. The Labor Department had earlier proposed a $1.7 million fine on the school system; that was reduced to $100,000 in the settlement. My sense – I have no inside information – was that the proposed fine was a bargaining ploy designed from the beginning to be traded away in negotiations.

The Post story, as you might imagine, focused on the costs to the school system and the unhappiness of the Filipino teachers, and barely mentioned that any citizen teachers would be affected. The one exception to that came in a quotation from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis: "The Labor Department has the responsibility for ensuring that employers who use the H-1B program follow the law and do not place U.S. workers at a disadvantage to H-1B workers."

One can only hope that the department pays close attention to those words in the future.

Bad News, Case #1. Some state governments continue to do their best to sabotage the enforcement of the immigration law, as we noted in an earlier blog about how the (Democratic) government in the State of Washington had reduced some penalties for some crimes from 365 days to 364 days to keep some lesser criminal aliens from being deported.

There are many other examples of this, but today's comes from the (Republican) governor of Florida, Rick Scott, and was reported in a recent issue of Interpreter Releases, the immigration bar's trade paper. The Gov. Scott has issued an executive order seriously diminishing the effectiveness of a program calling for the state government to screen all of its employees through the E-Verify program; he ordered that it be applied only to new hires.

Bad News, Case # 2. We have argued in the past that USCIS spends too much executive time and energy on tiny populations (see here) and that it is a terrible idea for Washington to farm out immigration policy and enforcement to lesser jurisdictions (see here). The exploitative mess created by the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and their sweatshops is a good negative example of why we should centralize immigration policy.

Well, DHS managed to ignore both bits of advice in one fell swoop, when the agency decided to let the Pascua Yaqui Indians issue travel documents that can be used as official U.S. entry documents, but apparently only for trips from "contiguous [to the US] territory or adjacent islands," again according to the June 13 issue of Interpreter Releases.

The tribe has a minuscule reservation in Arizona (202 acres) and its own not-very-current website. It may well be politically incorrect to say so, but should a slim entity like this one be given the right to issue the equivalent of U.S. passports, even if only to its own members?

Should all those immigration inspectors, all over the U.S., have to learn how to recognize yet another document that they will rarely see? How likely are they to suspect fraud – if there is fraud – unless the bearer looks a lot more like the Lone Ranger than Tonto? (One needs, incidentally, to have only one Pascua Yaqui grandparent (out of the usual set of four) to qualify as a tribe member, according to the website.)

Really New News. In a recent blog I speculated on whether the New York hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape (and who apparently lied on her asylum application) would be summoned by DHS before an immigration judge and threatened with deportation, regarding the application.

There was an interesting blog by Jason Dzubow, a prominent asylum lawyer, on that subject in Immigration Daily in which he made two points, one solid, if not remarkable, and one we should note carefully. On the first, he said that we should not rush to judgment on the housekeeper's asylum case, as the law and the media did on the rape indictment, which now appears to be coming undone. Exactly.

His second point was this:

As the authorities investigate the Guinean woman and her asylum claim, they should determine who helped prepare the asylum case and – if that person was involved in the fraud – they should prosecute the person responsible. While asylum fraud is a problem, the best way to reduce fraud is to prosecute the attorneys or notarios who prepare fraudulent claims.

Again, exactly right.