About Me

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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


Friday, June 28, 2013

For Gay Immigrants, Marriage Ruling Brings Relief and a Path to a Green Card

New York Times
By Julia Preston
June 27, 2013

The Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to strike down the federal law against same-sex marriage brought a stunning improvement in the lives of Steven Infante, an immigrant from Colombia, and his American husband ― less than an hour after the ruling was announced.

Mr. Infante and his spouse, Sean Brooks, were on their way to an immigration court in Manhattan where Mr. Infante would face what might have been his last hearing before he would be deported from the United States.

But just before they arrived, the couple’s lawyers heard the news from the Supreme Court.

“I thought it must be good news, because they were screaming like a soccer game, ‘We won 5 to 4,’ ” Mr. Infante said, referring to the justices’ tally in ruling that the law, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was unconstitutional. Instead of ordering Mr. Infante’s expulsion, the immigration judge examined the decision and cleared the way for him to remain in this country with his husband as long as he wanted, as a legal permanent resident.

For gay Americans married to foreigners, the impact of the federal marriage act had been severe, leaving many living in fear that they could be separated from their spouses. After the Supreme Court invalidated the law, the change for many couples promises to be significant and swift.

For most American citizens, it is relatively easy to obtain a permanent resident visa, known as a green card, for a foreign-born spouse. But because of DOMA, tens of thousands of citizens in binational same-sex marriages had not been able to apply for green cards for their partners. The immigrants ran out of options to remain here legally. Over the years, many couples chose exile, moving to countries that offered residency to same-sex couples.

But with DOMA out of the way, lawyers said, no large obstacles remain in immigration law to prevent American citizens, and also immigrants who are already legal permanent residents, from starting to apply for green cards for their same-sex spouses.

To make that clear, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed on Wednesday that her department would move quickly to adapt. “Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws,” she said.

Lavi Soloway, an immigration lawyer who has represented many same-sex binational couples, including Mr. Infante and Mr. Brooks, said, “There will be immediate tangible effects on the lives of lesbian and gay couples who have been struggling for a very long time.”

Mr. Infante and Mr. Brooks were among the first couples to see results of the DOMA decision. Mr. Infante, 34, had been living in the United States since 1999, and he met Mr. Brooks, now 46, almost a decade ago. They married in New York in 2011, one month after marriage became legal in the state. By then, Mr. Infante’s visa had expired, and immigration authorities denied his petitions to regain his legal status and placed him in deportation proceedings.

For Mr. Brooks, a musician, “the end of the line was clearly in sight” for the couple’s life in this country as they headed to immigration court. After their turn of fortune, Mr. Brooks was almost speechless. “The relief,” he said, “and the hopefulness.”

Many other Americans have already applied for green cards for same-sex spouses, and their applications were moving slowly through the bureaucracy while Obama administration officials waited to see what the Supreme Court would do.

Mr. Soloway said that his office has 70 active applications for green cards for immigrants in same-sex marriages and that he expected to present dozens more in coming days. Immigration officials assured him on Wednesday that those applications would move toward approval if they were otherwise in order, he said.

Mr. Soloway said he would also seek to close deportations of gay immigrants married to Americans. As a matter of policy, the Obama administration has not been carrying out deportations of immigrants in same-sex couples during the past two years, but the removal orders remained open.

Beyond its immediate effects, the Supreme Court’s decision eliminated prohibitions against gay immigrants that have lingered in American immigration law since 1952. A law that year prohibited any openly gay foreigners from coming to live in the United States on the grounds that they were afflicted with a “psychopathic personality.”

“In the 1950s, Congress said if you are gay you are not good enough to be an American,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a legal group that represents gay immigrants. “We are finally bringing 60 years of discrimination to a close.”

But for Brandon Perlberg, a gay American lawyer living in London, the court’s decision evoked more complicated feelings. His partner, Benn Storey, is British. The couple met and lived together in New York, Mr. Perlberg’s home. But last year they moved to London because Mr. Storey’s visa was expiring. After the move, Mr. Perlberg was unemployed for nearly a year; he spent most of his savings. While his first emotion Wednesday was elation, he and Mr. Storey face difficult choices about whether to uproot again to return to the United States.

“My life isn’t coming back to me,” Mr. Perlberg said. “Someone else is living in my home in New York; my job isn’t coming back to me.”

At least, he said, “This gives us the choice, and there is a lot of respect in having a choice.”

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

Immigration Overhaul Bill Passes the Senate

Los Angeles Times
By Lisa Moscaro and Brian Bennett
June 27, 2013

The Senate approved a sweeping immigration overhaul Thursday in a strong bipartisan vote after an afternoon of emotional speeches as senators told personal stories of family journeys to the United States while visitors filled the galleries around the chamber.

The 70-vote tally that the bill’s drafters had hoped would spark momentum in the House slipped as Republicans peeled away. The final vote was 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining all of the Democrats.

Still, the outcome was significant in a divided Congress that rarely finds bipartisan agreement. But the landmark legislation has dim hope in the GOP-controlled House.

Despite drawing significant support from Republican senators with the addition of $46 billion in border security, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has no immediate plans to consider the bill. His GOP majority opposes the bill’s path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status, and House Republicans are drafting their own bills.

“Well before they ever became citizens, in their hearts they had already become Americans,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a drafter of the bill, said of his own parents who came from Cuba. “This is not just my story. This is our story. … For over 200 years now they have come in search of liberty and freedom for sure. But often just in search of a job to feed their kids and a chance at a better life.”

Lines snaked around the halls leading to the Senate gallery entrances. Many of those who traveled to the Capitol to watch the vote were young immigrants who came to the United States as children. They call themselves Dreamers, after a provision in the bill that would give them a route to citizenship if they serve in the military or attend college. Dozens of them wore matching turquoise T-shirts reading “11 million Dreams.” Others were families of immigrants and advocates.

“We all want to stay here,” Adriana Teran, 29, who cleans houses in Charlotte, N.C., and was waiting in line with her husband and toddler for the chance to watch the proceedings. She came to the U.S. from Mexico and does not have legal status, though her 2-year-old, Juliet, is a U.S. citizen. She said her husband faces a deportation order. “It’s super important to see this vote.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asked his colleagues to sit at their assigned seats for the roll call, which is rarely done as senators usually zip in and out for votes.

“It's historic in nature, we should be here to vote,” Reid said.

The immigration overhaul has deeply divided the Republican Party, which now faces a difficult choice over how to proceed. Some do not expect the House to finish its work until the end of the year.

Top Republicans see the legislation as an important part of the party’s re-branding effort, as it reaches out to Latino and other minority voters. But for many Senate Republicans, and those in the House, offering citizenship to those without legal status is a non-starter.

Even the addition of the unprecedented “border surge” of drones, troops and fencing along the boundary with Mexico did not convince most Senate Republicans that illegal immigration would diminish. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader, and other top Republican senators voted no.

“It’s with a great deal of regret, for me at least, that the final bill didn’t turn out to be something I can support,” McConnell said. “If you can’t be reasonably certain that the border is secure as a condition of legalization, there’s just no way to be sure that millions more won’t follow the illegal immigrants who are already here.”

The legislation was the product of a hard-fought agreements reached among powerful players in Washington, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and advocates for immigrants.

Under the legislation, immigrants would be able to gain legal permanent resident status with green cards in 10 years, once the border has been bolstered with 24-hour drones, 20,000 new Border Patrol officers and 700 miles of fence, among other measures. They must also have paid fines and fees, know English and be in good standing after undergoing background checks.

Because 40% of the immigrants in the country illegally did not cross borders but stayed on expired visas, a new visa exit system would be required at all major airports.

The overhaul would substantially reform the nation’s long-standing preference for family members to join immigrants living here. Under the new system, more preference is given to workers.

A new guest-worker program for low-skilled maids, gardeners and others would be launched, and more high-skilled visas would be available. To stem illegal immigration, all employers will need to verify the legal status of new hires.

For more information, go to www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Senate Passes Immigration Overhaul

New York Times
By Ashley Parker
June 27, 2013

The Senate on Thursday approved the most significant overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in a generation with broad bipartisan support, sending the bill to the Republican-controlled House, where there is significant opposition from conservative members and where the fight could extend into 2014.

But given the strong 68-to-32 vote, with 14 Republicans voting in favor, the Democratic leadership and the bipartisan group of eight senators who drafted the original bill seemed determined to savor the moment. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. presided over the vote as senators announced their positions from their desks, in a ceremonial procedure reserved for special occasions.

Leading up to the vote, many in the “Gang of Eight” that drafted the framework of the legislation took to the Senate floor to give impassioned speeches, including Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who is one of his party’s leading Hispanic voices. When Mr. Rubio finished, the other senators in the bipartisan group surrounded him on the floor, patting him on the back and offering words of encouragement. “Good job,” said one. “I’m proud of you,” said another.

During the vote, Mr. Rubio buttoned his suit jacket as he stood and said “aye.” Later, as Mr. Rubio walked around the Senate floor receiving congratulations, he passed by the pages sitting on the steps just below the podium and called out, “You picked a good day to be here.”

The Senate bill provides a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country, as well as tough border security provisions that must be in place before the immigrants can gain legal status.

Though overhauling the nation’s immigration system became a priority for many Republicans after the 2012 presidential election, in which the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, was rejected by Hispanic voters, immigration opponents have mounted last-ditch efforts to derail the bill, which they say would offer amnesty without any real enforcement measures.

As the bill heads to the House, Republican elites and their well-financed pro-immigration groups are running up against opposition from the chamber’s most conservative members. Speaker John A. Boehner threw cold water on any hope that the House would vote on the Senate plan, and he insisted that whatever immigration measure his chamber took up would have to be supported by a majority of his Republican conference.

“I issued a statement that I thought was pretty clear, but apparently some haven’t gotten the message: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” he said Thursday morning. “We’re going to do our own bill.”

The legislation ― drafted largely behind closed doors by the bipartisan group ― brought together an unlikely coalition of Democrats and Republicans, business groups and labor unions, farmworkers and growers, and Latino, gay rights, and immigration advocates. Along the way, the legislation was shaped and tweaked by a series of backroom deals and negotiations that, in many ways, seemed to mirror its inception.

Even late Wednesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and an author of the bill, found himself on the phone with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, trying to shore up support. In a 30-minute phone call, according to an aide, Mr. Schumer urged Mr. Christie to help persuade Senator Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Republican of New Jersery ― newly appointed by Mr. Christie ― to vote for the bill. (Mr. Chiesa was one of 14 Republicans who voted “yes” on Thursday afternoon to end debate).

The first big deal, however, came early on, at the end of March, when the nation’s top labor and business groups reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants. Disagreements between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s main federation of labor unions, had helped doom a 2007 attempt at a similar overhaul, but the two groups came together to create a program that will expand and shrink based on economic indicators ― like the unemployment and job openings figures ― and offer a maximum of 200,000 guest visas annually.

The group of senators who wrote the legislation had originally hoped it would receive overwhelming bipartisan support ― as many as 70 votes, some senators suggested ― to help propel it through the House, and when the bill moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the group took pains to win bipartisan support there, too.

In an effort led by Mr. Schumer, the group wooed Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, addressing his concerns about visas for skilled foreign workers who could fill jobs in the high-tech industry. Ultimately, the panel agreed to provisions by Mr. Hatch that raise the annual minimum number of visas for high-skilled foreign workers and create a market-based mechanism to ensure that companies in the United States can bring in qualified foreign workers for jobs that cannot be filled by Americans.

On the final night of consideration by the panel, in emotional and moving testimony, both Democratic and Republican senators argued against taking up a measure that would have allowed United States citizens to apply for permanent resident status, known as a green card, on behalf of their same-sex partners. Though Democrats supported the measure, Republicans said such a provision would have doomed the overall bill, and the debate largely became moot on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits.

The bill passed through the committee, in a process that stretched over five days and included the consideration of more than 300 amendments, on a strong 13-to-5 bipartisan vote, with Mr. Hatch, as well as Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans and members of the bipartisan group, supporting the bill. (In a recent op-ed article, Mr. Hatch also declared his support for the final legislation).

The bill’s largest, and perhaps most critical, change came in the form of a border security package that promised to substantially bolster security along the nation’s southern border. The proposal, by Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, both Republicans, would devote roughly $40 billion over the next decade to border enforcement measures, including adding 20,000 new Border Patrol agents and 700 miles of fencing along the southern border.

The amendment, which passed Wednesday with broad bipartisan support, helped bring along more than a dozen reluctant Republicans, who were hesitant to support the overall bill without a clear plan to secure the southern border, in order to ward off a future wave of illegal immigration.

“I’m proud to vote for this, and I hope it continues to improve as it moves along, and hopefully we’ll put this issue behind us,” Mr. Corker said.

Still, not everyone was satisfied with the final product. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, had hoped to offer an amendment that would have strengthened the provisions in the bill regarding E-Verify, the electronic employment verification system, by requiring employers to comply sooner and tightening antifraud measures through a photograph-matching component. Though Mr. Portman was given the option to include his provision in the Corker-Hoeven plan, he wanted a separate vote on his E-Verify proposal, arguing that the issue merited its own consideration, and that doing so would further show House Republicans that the Senate was making a good-faith effort to offer tough enforcement measures.

The Senate leadership was ultimately unable to reach an agreement to bring up Mr. Portman’s measure, along with other amendments on both sides, and Mr. Portman ― whose vote Democratic senators were desperately hoping to bring on board ― refused to support the bill.

“I can’t look my constituents in the eye and say, ‘This bill will work,’ unless I believe the enforcement is strong,” Mr. Portman said. “I spoke to a bunch of House members last night on this very topic, and they want to know there’s going to be enforcement as part of the legalization.”

The immigration effort in the Senate benefited from a series of external factors that helped draw public attention away from the bill as it made its way from a set of principles to a fully formed agreement to a 1,000-plus-page bill with amendments attached. The Boston Marathon bombings occurred on the eve of the bipartisan group’s planned rollout of the bill, and shortly afterward came controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency. Even this week, as the bill headed to final passage, major Supreme Court rulings shared the spotlight.

Now, however, all eyes are turned to the House. At a Congressional softball game Wednesday night, Mr. Schumer ran into Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. Mr. Schumer, an aide recalled, told Ms. Pelosi that he thought the bipartisan group would be able to deliver 68 votes for the bill in the Senate ― and that he wanted to talk about how to use that momentum to move forward in the House.

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

Historic Immigration Overhaul Clears Senate

National Journal
By Fawn Johnson
June 27, 2013

The Senate approved a measure Thursday to make the most dramatic changes to immigration law in 25 years. It would give a path to citizenship to some 11 million undocumented immigrants, dramatically boost border security, and create a new work-visa program for future immigrants. The measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 68-32, though a narrow majority of Senate Republicans opposed the legislation.

But the legislation faces an uncertain outcome in the House, where Republicans view the bill with outright hostility.

"I consider this an astounding success. An astounding success. You could ratify a treaty or override a veto. This is as good as it gets in the Senate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the members of the "Gang of Eight" Republicans and Democrats that crafted the legislation.

"I thought we could probably get a majority at the beginning. I certainly didn't think we could get 68 votes. That's pretty impressive," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., another leading Republican supporter.

The Senate's final vote, with 14 Republicans joining all Democrats, was the result of dozens of lawmakers accepting things that they would normally reject for the sake of passing a comprehensive bill. Democrats still fret that the bill's massive influx of troops and drones on the border, requested by Republicans, will create militarized zones and hurt local communities. Republicans fear that the path to citizenship, requested by Democrats, will encourage more illegal immigration in the future.

In that sense, the bill's passage also marks a rare example where lawmakers compromised on a tough issue at a time when the political differences of both parties are so stark.

The moment isn't lost on the GOP-controlled House, where Republicans are deeply divided on whether to give undocumented immigrants any type of legal status. At least half of them are solid 'no' votes on anything approaching the Senate proposal. Many think illegal immigrants should not become citizens under the procedures set forth in the Senate bill. The House members are working their way through a series of smaller measures that they hope can compete with the Senate bill.

House Republicans are unmoved by the sense of urgency projected by immigration reform advocates. "The bottom line is it's been since 1986 that there was legislation related to immigration reform. I don't know what a couple more months is going to hurt," said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee's Immigration Subcommittee.

Gowdy is friends with Senate "gang" member Lindsey Graham, who hails from his home state, but he says he disagrees with Graham's approach to immigration. Graham acknowledges that South Carolina has its share of "self-deportation, put 'em in jail folks.... I've lost those people. They're there, but I lost them a long time ago," he said.

Graham's advice to the House? "Take up immigration on your own timetable and the way you would like to see it happen. Just address the issue. If you don't like our bill, do one of your own."

That's exactly what the House is doing. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday reiterated publicly the private vow he made to House Republicans a day earlier, that no immigration bill will pass without a majority of them signing off. "For any legislation―including a conference report―to pass the House, it's going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members," he said.

Immigration-reform advocates are preparing to blame the House Republicans for blocking the Senate's legislation if they fail to pass an immigration bill that would allow a House-Senate conference committee. If the House doesn't pass legislation, activists will likely turn their attention to the administration next year, asking for more deferrals of deportation along the lines of last year's deferred action program for "Dreamers," unauthorized youth who were brought to the country as kids.

"The irony is that if House Republicans block immigration reform, in hopes of thwarting Obama and getting a bill more to their liking in the future, they will give Obama a chance to go down in history as the great emancipator of Latino immigrants," said America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry. "A future Democratic Congress and president will be able to pass reform with a path to citizenship without giving nearly as much as they're prepared to give this year."

But senators see this year's immigration debate as a welcome return to some semblance of ordinary legislating. It comes before lawmakers are preparing for an ugly debt-ceiling fight in the fall.

"It has been a step in the right direction with eight senators putting the bill forward. The committee markup was robust," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. She wasn't involved in writing the bill but became a key figure on the Senate floor when she briefly halted debate and angrily confronted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about why she couldn't get her amendments into the vote queue.

Landrieu said that final passage of the immigration bill shows that major legislation can indeed sprout through the muck of partisan squabbles. "I'm trying to be one of those green shoots," she said a few hours before the Senate's vote. "It has not been a model of bipartisanship on the floor," she added, noting that the debate was overly focused on amendments from opponents. "In the old days, four years ago, [noncontroversial amendments] would have been possible."

Even so, basic cordiality among senators was on display throughout the process. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who voted against the bill, congratulated Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor for the fair and transparent way he shepherded the bill through his committee.

The "Gang of Eight" made sure from the beginning that no single member emerged as the de facto "leader" that could scare away members of the opposite party. That's no small feat when several gang members―Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and McCain―are prominent media personalities.

"Boy, will I be glad when I don't have to talk to this guy," Graham joked as he was flagged down in a Capitol hallway by Schumer the morning of the final vote.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Your Guide to the House Immigration Bills

By Ted Hesson
June 26, 2013

The more than 1,000-page immigration reform bill in the Senate would reshape the country's immigration system, opening up more pathways for people to come to the U.S. legally and devoting tens of billions of dollars to border security.

That bill has gotten a lot of attention. But there's also been an immigration effort in the House.

Since late April, Republicans in that body have introduced a series of conservative measures that address immigration issues one-at-a-time.

An aide for the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration legislation, said that they could still consider a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. "Other issues, namely how to bring those unlawfully in the U.S. out of the shadows, still need to be addressed," the aide wrote in an email.

Here's a quick guide to the bills in the House:

1. Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act

This bill is basically an immigration hawk's wet dream.

First off, it would give states the power to create and enforce their own immigration laws as long as they're consistent with federal law. That's an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that found Arizona's state-level immigration law unconstitutional.

Under the bill, state and local law enforcement officers would be able to make immigration-related arrests and then turn a person over to the federal government.

The legislation would take away the ability for the president and the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize its resources by focusing on criminal immigrants. That would mean the end of a program that gives deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants.

The bill also makes being in the country without authorization a federal crime, and does the same for overstaying a visa.

2. Legal Workforce Act

There's significant bipartisan support for checking the work eligibility of employees, and under the Senate immigration bill such a system would need to be in place nationally within five years.

The Legal Workforce Act basically calls for a similar system, but wants to institute it more aggressively.

E-Verify, a workplace verification system run by the federal government, would need to be used by all employers within two years.

Under current law, participating employers run their employees through the E-Verify system after they've been hired. This bill would allow employers to screen candidates before they're hired.

That's an invitation to workplace discrimination, especially for immigrants. In 2008, the system was 30 times more likely to make an error identifying naturalized citizens and 50 times more likely to do so with temporary workers, according to a government report cited here.

3. Agricultural Guestworker Act

Immigrants power the agriculture industry in the U.S. but the existing program to bring workers here is largely unused. Instead, growers opt to hire workers off the books.

The bill in the Senate would create a new guest worker program for ag workers, and was the product of a deal between growers and farm workers.

The House bill, on the other hand, favors businesses and doesn't acknowledge the need for increased worker protections and rights, according to Farmworker Justice, a worker rights group.

The House Judiciary Committee website calls the bill "farmer friendly," and says it "protects farmers from abusive litigation."

Without getting into the weeds, what you need to know is that the House bill loosens the red tape for farmers who want to bring in guest workers.

The Senate bill does that, too, but it would also give present-day farm workers a way to earn legal status. And it would create a pathway to legal status for future farm workers after they've worked for a certain amount of years.

4. Supplying Knowledge Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas (SKILLS) Act

If an immigration reform bill passes, it will undoubtedly include more visas for workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The SKILLS Act creates 55,000 green cards per year for employers to bring in those worker and allows for 155,000 temporary high-skilled workers. It also creates 10,000 visas per year for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Under the Senate bill, the caps for those temporary workers would range from 135,000 to 180,000 workers per year.

Like the Senate bill, the SKILLS Act has the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as trade associations representing tech companies like Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft.

The SKILLS Act and the Senate bill would both bring in more high-skilled workers. But the main difference is that the Senate bill takes a more comprehensive approach, making changes to this type of immigration in conjunction with changes to the greater immigration system.

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

Ruling Opens Immigration System to Gay Couples

USA Today
By Alan Gomez
June 26, 2013

Gay and lesbian couples will for the first time be able to secure green cards for their foreign spouses after the Supreme Court struck down a section of federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was pleased to see the justices strike down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act. She said her agency, which oversees the visa application process for all foreigners, will now allow U.S. citizens to petition for their same-sex couples just like other married couples.

"This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits," Napolitano said in a statement. "Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws."

Advocacy groups had been waiting for the official word from Homeland Security, but were confident that it would be coming.

"At long last, we can now tell our families that yes, they are eligible to apply for green cards," Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a group that has been fighting for equal treatment in immigration law for 19 years, said in a statement.

The group estimates there could be 36,000 same-sex, bi-national couples that stand to benefit from the ruling.

The decision also means that the contentious issue of immigration rights for gay couples will not jeopardize an immigration bill moving through the Senate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has proposed a amendment that would allow U.S. citizens to petition for their gay and lesbian partners through the immigration system. He filed it briefly when the bill was being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month but withdrew it after Senate Republicans who support the immigration bill said they would oppose it if the amendment was included.

After the Court's ruling Wednesday, Leahy said the issue was resolved and he would withdraw his amendment.

"With the Supreme Court's decision today, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and bi-national couples and their families can now be united under the law," Leahy said. "As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment."

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

Bill to Expand U.S. Database to Verify Hires

New York Times
By Julia Preston and Ashley Parker
June 26, 2013

The sweeping immigration measure advancing rapidly in the Senate goes far beyond much-debated border security measures and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with a crucial requirement that could affect every American who takes a new job in the future.

The provision, a linchpin of the legislation, would require all employers in the country within five years to use a federal electronic system to verify the legal eligibility to work of every new hire, including American citizens.

The verification plan has united an unusual array of supporters — including Democrats protective of workers’ rights and Republicans normally skeptical of government intrusion — who say it is essential for preventing illegal immigration in the future because it would remove the jobs magnet that attracts migrants to this country.

But there has been little debate up to now about the provision to expand the federal system, which is known as E-Verify, and critics of the measure as well as some proponents worry that most Americans are unaware of the mandate’s broad scope. The system relies on imperfect federal databases that contain errors, and when it goes national, some Americans are likely to face unexpected bureaucratic headaches and could even lose new jobs.

“I don’t think people really understand that this creates a regulation not just for every employer, or for every immigrant, but also for every citizen in this country,” said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group that favors limited government and opposes mandatory employee verification.

Now, with the bill headed for a final vote in the Senate as early as Thursday, the E-Verify mandate has become the focus of intense last-minute deal making.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, has demanded a separate vote on an amendment that would make the requirements even tougher by ordering employers to comply sooner and tightening antifraud measures. Sponsors of the overhaul, which seems headed for passage, are negotiating with Mr. Portman, hoping to win his support to maximize the Republican votes in the final tally.

One American who has been watching the progress of the E-Verify provisions with a growing sense of dread is David Borris, the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering, a small business in Northbrook, Ill. While he agrees with the path to citizenship in the bill, Mr. Borris said he worried that the requirement to check all new employees with E-Verify would bring a host of costly and time-consuming troubles.

Mr. Borris said he needed to spend his time finding new customers who are planning banquets and bar mitzvahs, and perfecting the eggplant timbale that is a signature dish of his service.

“Businesses like mine don’t have the resources to be catching up with bureaucratic snafus,” he said. Mr. Borris is a leader of the Main Street Alliance network, one of many small business organizations opposing the E-Verify mandate.

On Wednesday, talks were still under way between Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate to try to hold a vote on a several additional amendments, which would likely include the proposal on E-Verify that Mr. Portman offered, together with Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana.

The measure would speed up the dates when employers would have to start using the system. It would also increase the use of photograph technology to eliminate a flaw in the system, which can fail to detect unauthorized immigrants who present employers with valid documents belonging to someone else.

“No matter how many miles of fence we build and how many agents we station on the border, I truly believe people will come to this country illegally as long as they believe America offers a better life and a better job,” Mr. Portman said on the Senate floor. Speaking on Wednesday, the senator said, “I believe strongly that if we do not have a stronger employee verification system at the workplace, this legislation is not going to work.”

Even without Mr. Portman’s vote, the overhaul bill appears almost certain to pass. It gathered new momentum Wednesday, when the Senate voted 69 to 29 to formally add a border security plan by two Republican senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, to the legislation. Fifteen Republicans supported the proposal, which would cost roughly $40 billion and create what some senators have described as a “border surge,” adding 20,000 new border patrol agents and erecting 700 miles of fencing at the southern border, among other measures.

In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved, 22 to 9, a stand-alone bill that includes a nationwide E-Verify mandate similar to the one in the Senate legislation.

The need for worker verification to prevent unauthorized immigrants from taking jobs was one of the early agreements the eight senators who wrote the overhaul bill came to, aides said. The E-Verify mandate is one of the hard “triggers” in the legislation: under its terms, the system must be in use nationwide before any immigrants who had been here illegally can apply for permanent resident green cards, a crucial step on the path to citizenship.

Up to now the E-Verify system, which is run by Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has been mostly voluntary and has earned surprisingly few detractors. With more than 411,000 employers currently participating, the system is reporting an accuracy rate of 99.7 percent in confirming that newly hired employees were authorized to work.

Of more than 20.2 million workers run through the system in 2012, only 0.26 percent turned out to be legally authorized after an initial erroneous denial, according to official figures. The system identified 221,155 new hires who did not have legal documents to work in this country. Officials said those figures proved the system was effective.

But under the proposed immigration changes, the system would quickly grow to include all of the nation’s 7.3 million employers and more than 156 million workers. “As you expand it out to the entire work force, even if the agency has worked hard to increase their accuracy, there is still a real problem with errors,” said Emily Tulli, a lawyer at the National Immigration Law Center, a legal assistance organization in Los Angeles.

The system matches identity information provided by newly hired employees against Social Security and Homeland Security records. Errors can occur when, for example, a newlywed adopts a spouse’s name and forgets to advise Social Security or when an employer misspells a foreign name.

In many cases, it takes a trip to a Social Security office to fix mistakes in the records. If the error is not speedily resolved, the worker can lose the job.

Homeland Security officials insist those cases are rare, and say they are confident the system can handle the expansion. A recently added tool improves accuracy by allowing employers to match a photo in the E-Verify system with a document presented by the new employee. Another tool allows people to check themselves before starting a job search.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, Peter Boogaard, said new employees would not be providing any more personal information than was already required on standard hiring forms. “So mandatory verification will likely go unnoticed by the majority of Americans,” Mr. Boogaard said.

But Mr. Borris, the caterer, is unconvinced. His full-time staff of 25 employees grows during busy times with about 80 seasonal workers, including many Latinos. He has one staff member to fill out employee forms, handle his payroll, manage his e-mail list and make all-important choices about which customers will get holiday gifts. Most companies now using the voluntary program have human resources staff, he said.

“That error rate is just a small number unless it’s your business or your brother or your sister,” Mr. Borris said.

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

Senate Takes Another Step Toward Passing Immigration Reform

By Tom Cohen
June 26, 2013

A compromise amendment intended to ease congressional passage of sweeping immigration legislation easily won Senate approval Wednesday.

The 69-29 vote set up a procedural motion immediately afterward to limit debate on the roughly 1,200-page bill, which would provide an eventual path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living illegally in the country.

While some further amendments still could be considered, the measure appeared headed to a final Senate vote by the end of the week after the procedural motion passed in a 67-31 vote.

Backers of the bill want the Democratic-led Senate to pass it with a solid majority to demonstrate growing bipartisan momentum as the measure heads to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

The compromise amendment by Republicans John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee would increase border security, a demand by conservative opponents of the immigration bill.

"I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow the Senate's lead, and work to pass bipartisan reform that both Democrats and Republicans can support," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said before Wednesday's votes.

Conservative GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, an opponent of the Senate bill, conceded it s likely to pass and called on House Republicans to make things right.

"I expect the House of Representatives to fix this miserable failure," Grassley said.

Republican leaders say the House will consider the issue in several smaller proposals instead of a comprehensive single measure, a process that would allow more debate and votes on specific provisions.

Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated to GOP members that he opposes having the House take up any Senate immigration legislation, according to Rep. John Fleming.

Fleming, a Louisiana Republican, said Boehner told the weekly policy meeting that the House would work on its own immigration bills.

If enacted, the bill would create a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants while enhancing security along the border with Mexico.

Among other things, the compromise border security amendment would add 20,000 border agents, complete 700 miles of fence along the boundary with Mexico, and deploy $3.2 billion in technology upgrades similar to equipment used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The proposal also includes stronger worker eligibility verification standards and border entry-exit controls.

Most undocumented immigrants would be eligible for permanent residency only after those five conditions have been met and verified by the Department of Homeland Security.

Hoeven and Corker introduced the compromise amendment last week, saying it incorporated proposals from other senators to try to fix a broken immigration system.

Grassley and other opponents argued the legislation amounts to an amnesty for immigrants who broke the law by living illegally in America. They argued the promises of increased border security before giving undocumented immigrants permanent residency would end up proving empty.

"It does nothing to change the legalization-first philosophy and does little more than offer false promises that the American people can no longer tolerate," Grassley said.

If eventually passed into law and signed by President Barack Obama, the bill would be the first major immigration reform since 1986, during the second Reagan administration.

Grassley conceded he voted for the 1986 measure, which also called for increased border security, and called his support then a mistake he regrets.

The 2013 version was drafted by a Senate "Gang of Eight" composed of four Democrats and four Republicans motivated by political and policy needs.

Both parties concede the nation's immigration system is broken, and some Republicans believe that GOP refusal to work with Democrats on the matter would mean a repeat of the 2012 presidential election in which Obama won a strong majority of the Hispanic vote.

However, other Republicans fear that providing a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants would bolster support for Democrats from the new voters.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the most prominent Republican in the "Gang of Eight," told CNN's Dana Bash last week that he understands "why conservatives are upset."

"They've seen all these promises in the past that haven't been delivered," Rubio said. But the status quo on immigration "is hurting America," he added. "And if nothing passes, then this disaster that we have now, that's what's going to stay in place."

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