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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Trump will stop spouses of H-1B visa holders from working

CNN
By Jethro Mullen
December 15, 2017

Since 2015, the spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for green cards have been eligible to work in the U.S. on H-4 dependent visas, thanks to a rule introduced by President Obama. Many H-1B visa holders are highly skilled, working in the tech sector.

But in a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said it intends to do away with that rule.

The department didn’t explain its reasons, saying only it was acting “in light of” the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that President Trump signed in April.

That order called for the H-1B visa program for skilled workers to be reviewed with the aim of reforming it.

As well as dropping the rule allowing spouses to work, the Department of Homeland Security statement mentioned plans for other changes to the H-1B visa program. They include revising the definition of what occupations are eligible for the program “to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals.”

The Obama-era rule allowing spouses to work already faces a legal challenge. A group called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit in April 2015 arguing that it threatens American jobs.

It has continued to press the case following Trump’s election, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said in the past that the H-4 rule “hurts American workers.”

The Trump administration’s plans to overhaul the H-1B program has caused particular alarm in India, which accounts for 70% of all H-1B workers.

The H-1B is a common visa route for highly skilled foreigners to find work at companies in the U.S. It’s valid for three years, and can be renewed for another three years.

It’s a program that’s particularly popular in the tech community, with many talented engineers vying for one of the program’s 85,000 visas each year.

In October, the government said it was toughening up the process for renewing the visa. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services instructed its officers to review requests for renewal as thoroughly as they would initial visa applications.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Dems under pressure to deliver for Dreamers

The Hill
By Mike Lillis and Rafael Bernal
December 14, 2017

Democrats are facing a year-end crunch over the fate of the Dreamers.

For months, party leaders have insisted they’ll use every bit of available leverage to secure legal protections for hundreds of thousands of those young, undocumented immigrants after President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September.

Heading into next week’s vote to fund the government and prevent a shutdown, immigration reformers in and out of Congress are pushing those leaders to follow through.

“Not having a DACA fix would just have a devastating effect on the immigrant community,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Wednesday. “You want to make it catastrophic, have it because the Democrats walked away.

“That would make it catastrophic.”

In next week’s vote on a temporary spending bill, Senate Democrats are assured some leverage, thanks to their filibuster power. House Democrats may have similar sway if Republicans can’t find the votes to pass the continuing resolution (CR) on their own.

But the Democrats, who are fighting for a number of other priorities as part of the budget package, are also wary of being blamed for shuttering the government just days before Christmas. And there are lingering concerns that an immigration fight on the CR could derail bipartisan DACA talks that seem to be progressing in the upper chamber.

That combination of factors poses a potentially significant timing dilemma for Democratic leaders, who were hammered by immigration activists and Hispanic lawmakers in September — when they agreed to a spending deal with Trump that excluded a DACA fix — andwould face increasing blowback if they leave Washington next week having punted the issue again.

“For us, it cannot go into next year. It’s just not possible. For us, any vote on an end-of-year spending bill [without a DACA fix] is a vote to deport youth,” said Adrian Reyna, director of membership for United We Dream, an immigrant-led advocacy group.

“Democrats in both the House and the Senate have made the promise to us and have made a public commitment to use the leverage in the budget negotiation to get the Dream Act.”

The Democratic leaders in both chambers, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have both vowed to fight tooth-and-nail to secure the DACA protections this month.

“We will not leave here without a DACA fix,” Pelosi said last week.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has emphasized that Trump gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a DACA fix, suggesting he’s in no hurry to move on the issue before then. And he’s repeatedly rejected the notion of moving immigration language as part of a year-end spending bill.

“That’s a separate issue,” Ryan reiterated Tuesday.

Democratic leaders in both chambers insist that they’re not giving up.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested Wednesday that the bipartisan negotiations seeking a DACA deal have progressed further than the press has reported.

He wants a fix enacted this year, and most Senate Democrats, Durbin said, agree with him.

“They all feel as I do,” he said. “They want it done this year. And that’s our goal so we’ll keep working at it.”

But some of the Republicans involved in those negotiations are much less optimistic that a deal can be enacted this year.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was part of a group of GOP senators –– led by Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) — who huddled Tuesday night in search of a DACA agreement.

Tillis said the discussions will continue, but doubted the appetite of GOP leaders to move on the issue immediately.

“I think it’s unrealistic for a couple of reasons,” he said. “Mechanically, it may be difficult to do, [and] we now hear that there is a very strong sentiment against putting this in the year-end bill on the House side …. and I think similarly on the Senate side.”

House GOP leaders met Wednesday evening in the Capitol to discuss their plans for a CR to keep the government running beyond Dec. 22, when funding is set to expire.

Aside from the DACA issue, lawmakers are scrambling to shore up funding for hurricane and wildfire relief, a popular children’s health insurance program and ObamaCare subsidies that Senate GOP leaders had leveraged to secure support for their tax reform package, which is scheduled for a separate vote early next week.

Some Democrats have argued that delaying DACA until January would be worth the price if the Democrats were able to lock down some of their other priorities this month, since they would have similar — if not more — leverage ahead of next month’s omnibus debate.

But the immigration reformers say too much is at stake, both politically and practically, to delay any further. One group has been distributing buttons to lawmakers this week bearing the number 122, a reference to the estimated number of Dreamers who lose their legal protections each day that Congress fails to act.

“At a rate of 122 DACA recipients losing protections a day … kicking the can down the road any further does not maintain the status quo,” said Tom Jawetz, a vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, which is distributing the buttons.

“I would not consider kicking the can down the road an acceptable result,” he added.

Gutierrez also offered a political warning to fellow Democrats who want to delay action.

“For those who say we can wait, tell that to the thousands of Dreamers who will lose their work permit, who won’t be able to enter into a classroom, who won’t be able to enter into a hospital, who have to shutter their businesses,” Gutierrez said.

“Latinos are so used to hearing, ‘maƱana,’ that that’s all they’re going to hear,” he added.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Can moderates get their revenge on DACA?

CNN
By Tal Kopan
December 14, 2017

As year-end funding decisions loom, a familiar pattern is repeating, with House conservative Republicans playing hardball to pull their colleagues to the right.

And moderates are increasingly tiring of it — especially after Tuesday’s repudiation of a candidate seen as emblematic of the GOP’s right flank in the Alabama special election.

Government funding and efforts to abolish Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a popular program for young undocumented immigrants, have some moderates increasingly wondering: Why can’t we play hardball, too?

Moderate Republicans and House members in districts that are either generally competitive or which Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election are starting to grow frustrated with the effectiveness of groups like the House Freedom Caucus in influencing legislation, often by withholding their votes as a bloc until demands are met.

“Yes,” Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said with exasperation when CNN asked Wednesday if the time had come for centrists to borrow tactics from the far right.

“We cannot be spectators here,” Curbelo said. “Other groups have used their leverage to influence the process, and we must do so as well, especially when there are 800,000 lives which could be radically changed for the worse if we don’t take care of (DACA).”

“I think last night’s election’s going to cause a lot of people to re-think where we are and what we’re doing,” said New York Republican Rep. Pete King of Democrat Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama.

While the current focus is on passing tax reform, one Republican staffer said patience could be limited once it’s dispensed with, as vulnerable moderates are frustrated with being forced to take tough votes seen in many cases as messaging exercises to appease the conservative base.

“It’s the moderates who are going to have to run in tough elections on this sh**,” the staffer said.

But there remains skepticism that, despite the frustration, moderates can hold together as a group the way conservatives have been able to do, or are willing to stomach the tough tactics the right flank employs.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus, for example, almost tanked a procedural measure on tax reform in a public show of force on the House floor earlier this month to send a message to Speaker Paul Ryan about year-end funding.

And according to a Republican source, rumors have been building around the Capitol that the farther right lawmakers are prepared to challenge Ryan’s speakership immediately if he calls a stand-alone fix for DACA to the floor.

Nearly three dozen moderates, on the other hand, sent a carefully worded letter to Ryan urging him to move on a fix for DACA, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, by the end of the year, without making any concrete threats to withhold any votes on government funding.

Curbelo has committed to oppose government funding without clear progress toward a DACA fix, and is urging fellow Republicans to do the same.

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who has decided to not seek reelection, said he agreed with Curbelo that a DACA fix should go on an upcoming must-pass bill, though it could potentially be in January.

“The power of 25 here can force a lot of things,” Dent said, referring to the GOP margin of the majority in the House. “And Freedom Caucus has been effective at it, they can put their votes together, and we need to do that from time to time, (though) we need to pick our fights carefully.”

But one conservative Republican source noted that moderates have always had difficulty being as united as more conservative groups. That sentiment was echoed by King, who referred to the group that former House Speaker John Boehner once called “legislative terrorist(s)” as “crazies” even as he distanced himself from moderates.

“I consider myself actually a blue-collar conservative, I’m not really in the moderate wing, I’m just against some of the crazies,” King told CNN, speaking of his unsuccessful fight against the GOP tax bill he sees as devastating for his state. “It’s hard to unify everybody.”

Some moderates gave credit to the Freedom Caucus, saying their effectiveness should only be a source of inspiration.

“I don’t fault anybody for doing what they believe is best in their way of representing their district,” said Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who helped organize the DACA letter. “I respect that. …(But) it’s also incumbent upon me to do the same thing.”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

White House aims to sway opinion on immigration overhaul

AP
By Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin
December 14, 2017
White House aims to sway opinion on immigration overhaul

The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation’s largely family-based immigration system ahead of an all-out push next year to move toward a more merit-based structure.

The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State-inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. It is assembling data to bolster the argument that the current legal immigration system is not only ill-conceived, but dangerous and damaging to U.S. workers.

“We believe that data drives policy, and this data will help drive votes for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.

White House officials outlined their strategy this week exclusively to The Associated Press, and said the data demonstrates that changes are needed immediately. But their effort will play out in a difficult political climate, as even Republicans in Congress are leery of engaging in a major immigration debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media.

The administration is stressing key numbers: Department of Homeland Security data that shows nearly 9.3 million of the roughly 13 million total immigrants to the U.S. from 2005 to 2016 were following family members already in the United States. And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills.

Other planned releases: a report highlighting the number of immigrants in U.S. jails, assessments of the immigration court backlog and delays in processing asylum cases, and a paper on what the administration says is a nexus between immigration and terrorism.

Critics have questioned the administration’s selective use of sometimes misleading data in the past.

The proposed move away from family-based immigration would represent the most radical change to the U.S. immigration system in 30 years. It would end what critics and the White House refer to as “chain migration,” in which immigrants are allowed to bring a chain of family members to the country, and replace it with a points-based system that favors education and job potential — “merit” measures that have increasingly been embraced by some other countries, including Britain.

Gidley said that for those looking to make the case that the U.S. is ill-served by the current system, “transparency is their best friend.”

“The more people know the real numbers, the more they’ll begin to understand that this is bad for American workers and this is bad for American security. And quite frankly, when these numbers come out in totality, we believe it’s going to be virtually impossible for Congress to ignore,” he said.

The public is sharply divided on the types of changes President Donald Trump is advocating.

A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 48 percent of voters opposed a proposal that Trump has backed to cut the number of future legal immigrants in half and give priority to immigrants with job skills rather than those with family ties in this country. Forty-four percent of those polled — including 68 percent of Republicans — supported the idea.

The White House hopes to see Congress begin to take up the issue early in 2018 — though it has yet to begin discussions with congressional leaders over even the broad strokes of a legislative strategy, officials said.

Trump has laid out general principles for what he would like to see in an immigration bill in exchange for giving legal status to more than 700,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. These include the construction of a border wall, tougher enforcement measures and moving to a more merit-based legal immigration system. In September, Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix to allow the young immigrants known as “Dreamers” to stay in the country, creating an early-2018 crisis point he hopes will force Democrats to swallow some of his hardline demands.

After Monday’s incident in New York and the truck attack there in October, DHS quickly released information on the suspects’ immigration statuses, and Trump amplified his calls for ending the two programs that brought them to the U.S.

For those who have been pushing for an end to chain migration for decades, it’s a welcome push.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which advocates for lower immigration levels, among other changes, recently began a national radio campaign warning of what it sees as the dangers of chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program. The group has spent close to $1 million over the last month and a half on its campaign.

And NumbersUSA, another group that advocates for lower immigration levels, launched a national six-figure ad campaign Thursday “to educate on Chain Migration categories.”

Guillermo Cantor, research director at the American Immigration Council, counters that the administration is ignoring the benefits of a family-focused immigration system and the values that drove the country to adopt it in the first place.

Research, he said, has shown that allowing immigrants to reunite with their families is one of the best integration tools. And family members bring their own skills, as well as support networks and other benefits, such as help with child care.

“This is a society that’s founded on family values,” Cantor said, arguing that, for many who have become citizens or legal residents, reuniting with siblings and other extended family members is crucial.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WATCH: GOP reps say bipartisan DACA fix in the works

The Hill
By Molly K. Hooper
December 12, 2017

A bipartisan deal is in the works to protect young immigrants previously shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program, according to two GOP lawmakers pushing leaders to pass a measure by year’s end.

“There’s definitely a serious attempt at a bipartisan deal that has some security and a permanent fix,” said Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), one of the 34 House Republicans who signed on to a letter calling for Congress to approve a legislative deal.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who is helping spearhead the GOP outreach, said the effort to provide protections for those previously in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is picking up steam, but he warned a deal would not include the DREAM Act, which has been pushed by some lawmakers.

“There’s all kinds of things that are happening as far as a clean DACA bill or DREAM Act … that could pass, but could it survive a presidential veto? That’s the question,” Newhouse told The Hill.

Taylor hinted that the “bipartisan behind-the-scenes work on a bill” could garner a lot of support, including among Hispanic members of Congress.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus didn’t immediately return an inquiry about the effort.

Democrats have threatened to hold up government funding if Congress fails to act on a DACA fix well before March, the deadline President Trump gave lawmakers when he announced in September that he would rescind the Obama-era program.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) noted that Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and protections for DACA recipients are two sticking points potentially threatening funding.

On DACA, Cuellar pointed to Trump reaching out to bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, saying, “If we can get it done now, let’s see what happens. We’ll see what the president does with the Big Four, if not we have [until] March to work something out.”

Still, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said he was confident that Congress will take action on a fix soon, either as a standalone bill or as part of an end-of-year funding measure.

Asked how optimistic he is that it will happen by the end of 2017, Denham paused and said “very optimistic.”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Senators say effort to protect 'Dreamers' making progress

Reuters
By Richard Cowan
December 12, 2017

A bipartisan push in the Senate to protect undocumented people who immigrated to the United States as children is gaining momentum as lawmakers try to wrap up negotiations, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said on Tuesday.

Both Republican and Democratic senators said a deal would include measures to improve border security, something which Republicans have repeatedly stressed is a priority and which Democrats have said they would meet as part of a deal.

President Donald Trump said in September he was terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and he challenged Congress to come up with legislation to protect around 700,000 “Dreamers” from the threat of deportation. Trump’s Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, created DACA by executive order.

“We’re still working … we’re very close” to an agreement, Flake, one of a few Republicans and Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate leading the effort, told reporters.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday said, “We are in the process of negotiating with Republicans to provide a significant investment in border security in exchange for DACA. These talks continue to progress, and I’m hopeful we can reach an agreement.”

Trump said the current program will be terminated in March, but already some participants have seen their enrollments expire.

Trump’s tone toward Dreamers has varied. While he has vowed “a great love” for these youths, on Saturday he referred to them as “criminal aliens.” The president would have to sign off on legislation before it could become law.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing to attach legislation restoring the immigration program to a must-pass spending bill either later this month or sometime next month.

Another Republican active in the effort, Senator Thom Tillis, also was upbeat.

“When we sit down and talk (with bipartisan groups of senators) we see that we’re not that far apart,” Tillis said in a brief interview on Monday night.

But Tillis said additional law enforcement efforts in the interior of the country – and not just at the border – must be part of any deal.

Many Democrats have said they would support increased southwestern border enforcement efforts such as more electronic and drone surveillance. But at least publicly they have not embraced some of the enforcement steps for the country’s interior that Republicans seek.

Negotiations, which have been closely held as senators engaged in high-profile fights over revamping the U.S. tax code and funding federal programs in order to avert government shutdowns, had been slow-going.

There have been differences over how many Dreamers would be covered by legislation, the length of temporary protections from deportation and whether Dreamers would eventually qualify for permanent residence and citizenship.

These decisions have been complicated by Republicans’ immigration enforcement demands.

Any deal negotiated by No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin – a lead negotiator for Democrats and who along with Republican Lindsey Graham introduced the Senate bill that is the focal point – and his fellow senators would still have to be sold to the full Senate. Durbin has been pushing to help Dreamers for the past 16 years.

Legislation would face an even tougher struggle in the House of Representatives from a core of hard-line opponents to granting “amnesty” to anyone who arrived illegally, even children brought by their parents.

Immigration advocacy groups were heartened by a letter sent on Dec. 5 by 34 House Republicans urging the passage of legislation by year’s end.

A broad coalition, including the U.S. business community and evangelicals, have joined forces to pass legislation.

Neil Bradley, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said failure “would have a negative impact on the economy and our community,” and that for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who have work authorizations under DACA it would “literally rip them out of the work place.”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com