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


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

House Democrats Crafting Immigration Proposal

New York Times
By Ashley Parker
September 24, 2013

House Democratic leaders are working on a broad immigration proposal that they hope will reinvigorate the debate on Capitol Hill and pressure their Republican counterparts to pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.

With an immigration overhaul languishing in the Republican-controlled House, taking a back seat to the fiscal fights that promise to occupy most of the fall, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, began working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as with Representative Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, to put forth an alternative bill that she said she believes could garner bipartisan support.

Though no final decisions have been made, aides familiar with the strategy said, Democratic leadership hopes to introduce the bill in the next few weeks. Ms. Pelosi met repeatedly — in person and over the phone — with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus over the past two weeks, working closely with Representative Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, the group’s chairman.

The proposal would combine the broad immigration bill that passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in May with bipartisan support, as well as a border security bill that also passed the House Homeland Security Committee in May with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The border-security component, drafted by Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, requires the Department of Homeland Security to draft a plan to gain operation control — defined as a 90 percent apprehension rate of those who have crossed illegally — of the Southwest border within five years.

Ms. Pelosi’s proposal, however, does not include the border security amendment tacked on at the end of the Senate process in June, and spearheaded by two Republican senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Though the Corker-Hoeven amendment helped garner the support of roughly a dozen Republicans for the overall bill, promising $40 billion over the next decade to secure the southern border — including doubling the number of border agents to 40,000 and completing 700 miles of fencing — many were wary of the border security plan, which they said was a waste of money and would “militarize” the border.

House Democrats said their proposal will, in the words of one aide, “shake up the environment” and offer an option that can win bipartisan support.

“Any member of the House — Democrat or Republican, who wants comprehensive immigration reform — can support this bill,” the aide said. “This is something that can get the support of House Republicans who have said they’re for a bill, and obviously we believe there are more that would vote for this at the end of the day.

“There are certainly enough votes in the House to get this bill across the line.”

Though the bill would most likely pass with the help of Democratic votes, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio would still have to agree to put the proposal on the floor for a vote, something he has been hesitant to do. The goal, Democratic aides said, is to create a situation where House Republicans are pressured to either vote on this plan — or to offer an alternative of their own, which very likely includes at least some form of legalization, and could proceed to negotiations between the House and the Senate.

“Leader Pelosi is proposing something closer to her ideal bill, and her intention is to keep the House moving forward, which is a good thing,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York and a member of the bipartisan group in the Senate that drafted its immigration overhaul.

Though Democratic leaders had already begun talking about this new immigration strategy in recent weeks, the plan became particular urgent after two Texas Republican congressmen, John Carter and Sam Johnson, last week dropped out of a bipartisan group in the House that was hoping to introduce its own broad immigration plan.

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

ACLU, Immigrant Groups to Keep an Eye on U.S. Border Patrol After Profiling-Case Win

Washington Post
By Manuel Valdes
September 24, 2013

The Border Patrol will share records of every traffic stop it makes on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula for 18 months with immigrant advocacy groups as part of a settlement to a lawsuit that said agents were racially profiling people they pulled over.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project against the Border Patrol. The suit alleged that people were stopped and questioned for the way they looked and without reasonable suspicion.

As part of the settlement reached Tuesday, the federal agency also agreed to retrain its agents stationed on the Olympic Peninsula on the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires warrants, federal court filings show. The agency also will write a letter reaffirming that agents must adhere to the protections provided by the amendment when they are on patrol.

The Border Patrol, though, admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.

“This agreement confirms that Border Patrol can’t pull over a vehicle because of the driver’s race or ethnicity or simply because the person lives in proximity to the border,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “We hope that the reporting requirements and the additional training will ultimately provide greater accountability, and restore a measure of dignity for folks who live in this region.”

Every six months for 18 months, the Border Patrol will provide the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project copies of the forms its agents must fill out after every traffic stop on the Olympic Peninsula. Personal information of the people contacted, though, will be redacted.

The government’s attorneys sought a settlement with the groups after a judge denied their motion to dismiss the case, Adams said.

“This settlement is confirmation that we can both ensure the safety of our borders and protect all members of our communities in a constitutional manner,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

Durkan’s office said the settlement saves the government a lengthy court case.

Washington is not the only northern border state where tensions have arisen from Border Patrol security practices, and the lawsuit highlights problems when a local or federal law enforcement officer uses traffic stops as a tool of immigration enforcement, said Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Similar complaints have been voiced in New York, Wang said.

“Whenever you have any kind of local or federal agents ferret out people on patrol . . . you’re going to see a pattern of civil rights abuses. You can’t rely on race and appearance in order to determine immigration status,” she said.

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

Advocates, Opponents Not Taking Pelosi's Proposed Plan Seriously

International Business Times
By Laura Matthews
September 25, 2013

Some advocates and opponents of an immigration overhaul are already balking at a possible plan by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that aims to make progress on a 2013 immigration reform bill in ​the lower chamber.

Politico reported Tuesday that Pelosi plans to introduce legislation that marries a comprehensive measure that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a House border security bill.

In May, a bipartisan majority voted to advance reform legislation in the judiciary committee that would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented. That bill also increases the number of visas available for high-skilled workers along with border and workforce enforcement mechanisms. The same month, the House Homeland Security Committee also approved a bipartisan bill by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to create a strategy for securing the nation’s borders in two years.

“There’s no final decision how they are going to roll this out yet,” a Democratic aide told the International Business Times on Tuesday. “We are trying to move this thing down the playing field. … We’re working with leadership to make sure the Democratic caucus is united around a bill.”

But some Republican advocates aren’t taking Pelosi seriously and say it is very unlikely she will gain much, if any, Republican support. The reason for this, according to ImmigrationWorks USA President Tamar Jacoby, is that the border security element is just one of several problems Republicans have with the Senate’s measure.

If anything, said Jacoby, a proponent of reform, Pelosi is setting up Republicans to look like the bad guys in all of this.

“I see this not as a serious effort to get a compromise but a sheer political play so that Nancy Pelosi can then say, ‘Well, I tried but Republicans wouldn’t cooperate,’” Jacoby said. “You offer people food you know they don’t like and then you’re surprised, then you go around claiming, ‘I tried to feed them and they wouldn’t eat.’ You offer people food they’re allergic too and you’re surprise when don’t take a bite and you go around complaining that they won’t eat it. It’s not very serious.”

Not surprisingly, opponents of the Senate's overhaul have also weighed in on the proposed strategy. Admitting it is indeed difficult to speak at length about a bill that is yet to come, they say the main problem with the Democratic approach is that it puts “amnesty” first.

For analysts at the Center for Immigration Studies, a better approach would be to ensure enforcement -- border security, E-verify etc. -- are in place (fully litigated) before any legalization takes place.

They also want Democrats to take the House’s proposals seriously, as Republicans fear any bill leaving conference that look much like the Senate’s.

According to Jon Feere, legal policy analyst at Center For Immigration Studies, the goal of the "Gang of Eight" and the White House is to get the current House to pass anything so as to get something to a conference committee. At that point, “The plan, from the White House’s perspective, is to turn that into something as close as possible to the Senate bill, which repeats the mistakes of the past,” he said.

“My concern is that the enforcement provisions in a comprehensive bill will never see the light of day,” he added. “And the legalization will happen immediately.”

‘Obama’s Credibility Is Shot’

Distrust for President Barack Obama and his administration has caused two more Republicans to walk away from a House bipartisan group seeking an immigration solution. Lawmakers aren’t the only ones fearful of Obama’s decisions at times to unilaterally enforce the law.

In the case of immigration reform, both advocates and lawmakers have pointed to Obama’s use of executive action to spare those brought here illegally as children from deportation, and also his decision to delay portions of the health care law for a year.

Because of this, the president’s words are no good in their circles.

“Looking at the way the president has dealt with immigration over the last five years, he seems more than willing to administratively narrow the scope of enforcement,” Feere said. “President Obama would likely drag his feet on the enforcement provisions.”

“It’s just a matter of action speaking louder than words,” he added. “Right now his credibility is shot.”

Pressuring The Republicans

It’s not just the Center for Immigration Studies that thinks Pelosi’s plan is not sincere. Members of Heritage Action, the political am of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, think the minority leader’s planned proposal goes beyond getting 218 votes.

“I don’t know if she is expecting to pick up votes so much as to put pressure on Republicans to act and to use this as a way to potentially embarrass them for not acting,” said Dan Holler, communication director at Heritage Action. “The reason things have not advanced in the House is because there is a large degree of skepticism as to how a bill would work, especially an amnesty first bill. That has always been a sticking point in the House and there is nothing that Pelosi or [House Speaker John] Boehner or anybody else can do to change that short of giving up the amnesty.”

Suggestions For Moving Forward

If Obama and the Democrats want a 2013 immigration reform bill to clear Congress, then they need to concentrate on working on where there is agreement: legal immigration. If such legislation were to be tackled by itself, Holler said, you could see a bill pass the House and pass the Senate and signed into law.

“The amazing thing out of all this is that there is widespread agreement that America’s immigration system is broken,” he added. “Nobody disagrees with that really. There is a lot of agreement on how to reform the legal immigration system. Sure there will be differences between labor and business -- there is obviously some stuff to work out there -- but generally people recognize there is a need to have more high-skilled immigration.”

But the core issue of the debate is what to do with the 11 million undocumented; currently, as a stand-alone proposal, a bill that grants them a path to citizenship doesn’t have a high chance of survival.

Still, Holler maintains that an immigration system that works with today’s economy, enforcing the laws on the books and securing the border, must come before talks can commence about bringing the undocumented out of the shadows.

“Make sure you get everything working right, and then you can figure out what to do with the folks who are here illegally,” he said. “That’s sort of the common sense approach. But it’s Washington, so common sense typically goes out the window.”

Do Republicans Want To Hand Obama A Victory?

House Republican contend that they will work on piecemeal bills so they can do immigration reform on their own terms.

And even though top House members like Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Bob Goodlatte are both working on bills that address legalization, whether or not an immigration reform bill passes Congress in 2013 is dependent on “how interested the GOP is in giving president Obama a political victory,” Feer said.

But he said it will be hard for the House GOP to follow Pelosi’s lead, not only because she is a Democrat, but because it simply politics.

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pelosi Considers Introducing Immigration Bill

Wall Street Journal
By Kristina Peterson
September 23, 2013

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) is considering introducing a broad immigration bill in the House that would strip out a controversial border-security measure as part of a renewed push designed to highlight Democratic support for an immigration overhaul.

Facing ebbing momentum for a sweeping rewrite of immigration laws in the House, Ms. Pelosi is contemplating introducing legislation that incorporates the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, according to a House Democratic aide familiar with the strategy.

Ms. Pelosi would likely drop the “border surge” amendment credited with securing enough Republican support to carry the bill across the Senate’s finish line in late June. The amendment later came under criticism from both parties for its $46 billion price tag and plan to flood the Southern border with more than 19,000 new border agents.

In its place, Ms. Pelosi may include a bill approved along bipartisan lines by the House Homeland Security Committee months ago that spends no money upfront and requires the government to first develop a plan for gaining control of the Southern border within five years. No final decisions have been made about the bill’s contours or when it would be introduced, the aide cautioned.

House Republican leaders have said they planned to tackle the issue on a piecemeal basis, but have yet to schedule votes for any of the individual immigration bills passed by House committees. Late last week, two of the remaining three Republicans pulled out of a bipartisan group in the House, scuttling a years-long effort to forge a compromise House immigration bill.

With advocates of a broad immigration overhaul worried that the issue was starting to fade from view, Ms. Pelosi’s push gives Democrats something to rally around, a House Democratic aide said.

Turning to the Senate bill would return the focus to a bipartisan plan drafted by a group of eight Senate lawmakers that formed the basis of that chamber’s legislation.

“Leader Pelosi is proposing something closer to her ideal bill, and her intention is to keep the House moving forward which is a good thing,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), one of the eight senators, said in a written statement Monday.

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

Illegal Immigrant Population Shows Some Signs of Growth, Estimates Show

New York Times
By Julia Preston
September 23, 2013

About 11.7 million immigrants are living in the United States illegally, a population that has not varied much over the last three years but showed signs recently of increasing again, according to new estimates published Monday by the Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project.

As lawmakers in Washington debate an immigration overhaul that could include a pathway to legal status or citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants, the figures from the nonpartisan Pew Center are regarded by many demographers as the most reliable estimates of the number of immigrants who might be eligible for those programs.

The new estimates, which are based on the most recent census data and other official statistics, show that the population of immigrants here illegally did not decline significantly from 2009 to 2012, despite record numbers of about 400,000 deportations each year by the Obama administration and laws to crack down on illegal immigration in states like Alabama, Arizona and Georgia.

Recent figures, including reports from the Border Patrol of illegal crossings at the southwest border, suggest that the numbers began to grow again last year. But Pew researchers said the increases in the 2012 census data — the latest available — were too small for them to conclusively confirm the recent rise.

Over all, the hopes of some lawmakers that tough enforcement could substantially reduce the numbers of illegal immigrants in the country are not borne out by the new estimates.

“For Congress working on the demands of a potential legalization program, these are pretty solid numbers,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at Pew’s Hispanic Trends Project, who wrote the report with D’Vera Cohn and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera.

The Pew researchers, for the first time using larger census samples from past years, also went back to revise some of their previous estimates. The new figures, while only slightly different, show an even clearer picture of the surging growth in unauthorized immigrants to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 from 3.5 million in 1990.

In 2008 and 2009, there was a steep drop, with the numbers falling to an estimated 11.3 million. After 2009, the population leveled off and by some measures might have been gradually growing. The Pew report does not point to any causes of the population changes. But Mr. Passel noted that the dates of the decrease matched the onset of the deepest years of the recession.

“We don’t know what caused that decline, but it certainly coincides with the recession,” Mr. Passel said. “And we can say that the current enforcement practices have not led to any measurable reduction beyond the 2009 period.”

The Pew report also confirms a striking reversal in the patterns of migration from Mexico. Since 2007, Pew demographers found “dramatic reductions in arrivals of new unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.” They cite Mexican census figures showing that the rate of migration to the United States dropped by two-thirds from 2007 to 2012.

From 2007 to 2009, the report says, more undocumented Mexicans left the United States than came here illegally, “a marked change in pattern from the largest immigration wave in U.S. history.” About six million immigrants born in Mexico still make up 52 percent of the unauthorized population, according to the Pew estimates. But recent increases in illegal arrivals are migrants from countries other than Mexico, including Central American nations.

Roughly speaking, Mr. Passel said, the number of migrants coming in illegally and those leaving the United States or gaining legal status are now in balance.

The report shows variations among states. In Texas, the unauthorized population never saw any significant decline. In Florida and New Jersey, the numbers are growing again after falling in the first years of the recession. In California, Illinois and New York, the numbers declined after 2007 and never rebounded.

Unauthorized immigrants are notoriously difficult to count because there are no official rosters and because they can be more reluctant than legal immigrants to respond to census requests. The Pew researchers derive their estimates with a complex formula that calculates the number of legal immigrants in the country and subtracts that from the overall foreign-born population, which was 41.7 million last year. About 28 percent of that total was immigrants here illegally, according to the Pew report.

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

Boom Time Over for Illegal Immigration, Study Finds

Wall Street Journal
By Miriam Jordan
September 23, 2013

The steep drop in the illegal-immigrant population during the recession has bottomed out, according to a new study. But migration from Mexico, the primary source of blue-collar workers during the U.S. economic boom, hasn't resumed.

The report by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center indicates the curtain has closed on the biggest immigration wave to the U.S. in modern times—four decades of massive Mexican arrivals.

"The Mexican numbers give no indication of turning up," said demographer Jeffrey Passel, lead researcher of the report.

The size of the overall undocumented population in the U.S. rose to 11.7 million in 2012, up from 11.4 million in 2010, an uptick Mr. Passel said is not statistically significant. The undocumented population peaked at 12.2 million in 2007, when the recession struck.

Undocumented immigrants represented 28% of the 41.7 million foreign-born residents of the U.S. in 2012.

Changes in the size of the undocumented population are mainly determined by the balance between arrivals and departures of immigrants from the U.S. Between 2000 and 2005, undocumented immigrants were arriving in the U.S. at a rate of 850,000 annually, by far surpassing departures. The inflow shrank to an annual average of a less than 400,000 over the next five years. Since 2010, inflows have dropped to about 200,000 per year.

U.S. economic expansion fueled heavy immigration in the 1990s and early 2000s as Mexicans were among the most prolific group of migrants, finding jobs in construction, service, agriculture and other sectors. A strong economic recovery could revive Mexican immigration, but many scholars believe the wave is unlikely to ever be as large again.

"It started with a bang and it's ending with a whimper," said immigration economist Gordon Hanson.

The Mexican illegal population soared through 2007, when it reached nearly seven million. By 2010, inflows plummeted to about 150,000 annually compared with 500,000 during the first half of the decade, and they have dropped further since to about 100,000. After 2007, return migration to Mexico soared. As a result, last year there were six million undocumented Mexicans in the U.S., according to the report.

Data from other sources confirm a new pattern of Mexican migration. A Mexican government survey found migration to the U.S. fell by two-thirds between 2006 and 2012. And apprehensions by U.S. border patrol of Mexicans trying to enter the U.S. illegally, a key indicator of migratory flows, have dropped precipitously in recent years despite the deployment of unprecedented manpower and technology to combat illegal entries.

In addition to the recession, stepped-up U.S. border security, drug-cartel violence and a lower fertility rate discouraged migration from Mexico to the U.S. in recent years. Smaller families mean fewer working-age people putting pressure on that country's labor market.

"Post-U.S. recession, these factors are still working to push Mexican migration down," Mr. Passel said.

"Mexicans aren't coming," said Medardo, a Mexican restaurant worker in Los Angeles, who didn't give his last name. "There's too much vigilance at the border and it's too risky; it's not worth it."

The true test of Mexican flows will come when the U.S. job market is substantially stronger and an even tighter border-enforcement regime, expected in any immigration overhaul passed by Congress, is in place, experts say.

Meanwhile, non-Mexican migration has been climbing, according to Mr. Passel.

Central America, in particular, is supplying migrants to the U.S. Countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have smaller and weaker economies than Mexico, and they haven't experienced the same drop in birthrate. They have also been struggling with spiraling violent crime, another push factor.

"These are immigrants from countries that are substantially poorer fleeing from an environment of citizen insecurity of the likes only seen in war zones," said economist Mr. Hanson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Pew estimates there were 5.7 million non-Mexican immigrants in the U.S. in 2012, a figure that is higher than the 2007 level of 5.3 million—but can't be confirmed because of the margin of error, the report said. U.S. border-patrol arrests of non-Mexicans, mainly Central Americans, reached 99,000 in 2012, nearly double the 2011 volume.

Asians and Africans also continue to arrive in small numbers.

Only in Texas did the illegal-immigrant population increase since 2007, according to the report. Other states with a large undocumented population, including California, Illinois and New York, experienced declines. The rest of the country showed a drop through 2009 and no significant change since then.

Illegal immigrants from other states and new arrivals are likely drawn to Texas because it has benefited from an oil boom and largely escaped the housing-market collapse, which deprived many migrants of construction jobs in other states.

Pew arrived at the estimates in its report using data on the foreign-born population in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Current Population Survey and data from the Department of Homeland Security.

"If you look at the whole world, there is no shortage of potential migrants to the U.S.," Mr. Passel said. "Whether they can get here, and with U.S. policies that allow them to come, is an open question."

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

Illegal Immigration May be Back on the Rise

USA Today
By Alan Gomez
September 23, 2013

After several years that saw more undocumented immigrants leaving the USA than entering, illegal immigration may be back on the rise, according to a report released Monday.

The total number of undocumented immigrants reached 11.7 million in 2012, representing a slow increase that is nearing the country's all-time high of 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in 2007, according to the report from the Pew Research Center, a research group.

The authors of the report said it was difficult to attribute the possible increase to any one factor in particular. But Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project, said that rises and falls in illegal immigration have traditionally mirrored the state of the U.S. economy.

"Historically, the patterns seem to be strongly related to employment opportunities," Passel said.

The new figures come as Congress is trying to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws designed to stop future waves of undocumented immigrants in the country.

The Senate passed a bill in July that would dedicate $46 billion to securing America's southern border with Mexico and allow most of those 11.7 million undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship after 13 years. Republicans in the House of Representatives reluctant to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants before fully securing the border are sure to use the new data to bolster their case.

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a business lobby that supported the Senate immigration bill, said there were three main reasons that undocumented immigration fell so dramatically during a stretch from 2007 to 2009. The U.S. economy was shrinking, border enforcement continued getting tougher and the Mexican economy was improving to the point that many would-be immigrants stayed home.

"Two of those things have not changed," Jacoby said. "Border enforcement is still very tough. And the situation in Mexico has not turned south. So the only conclusion I can come up with is the U.S. economy is improving and attracting more workers."

Others put the blame for the increase in illegal immigration squarely on President Obama's unwillingness to fully enforce immigration laws, both at the border and inside the country.

Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a group that opposed the Senate bill, said Obama's Department of Homeland Security has methodically cut back on worksite raids targeting undocumented workers and scaled back deportations of people identified as being in the country illegally. That has left "absolutely no disincentive" for people in other countries thinking about trying to enter illegally.

"(The new numbers) mean we obviously do not have secure borders," Jenks said. "Once an illegal alien is in the United States, there is virtually no fear of being caught and removed. This administration has undermined immigration enforcement consistently, and that's having an impact."

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

Temporary Visa Opens Up World for Young Immigrant

USA Today
By Jen Manuel Krogstad
September 24, 2013

Eren Sanchez said since receiving a temporary work visa in July she feels like Dorothy in the movie "The Wizard of Oz."

She's seeing the world in color for the first time.

Sanchez, 24, is among the more than 565,000 young immigrants in the U.S. who have received two-year visas in the past year. The permits are offered under a year-old federal program for people ages 15 to 30 who have grown up in the U.S., but arrived illegally in the country as children.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy put in place in August 2012 by the Obama administration, about 950,000 immigrants nationwide were eligible for the visas, according to an estimate from the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Sanchez, who graduated from Marshalltown High School in 2007, is reaching her young adult milestones all at once: First credit card, learning to drive and studying for the ACT college-entrance exam, to name a few.

"I'm doing stuff my friends did years ago," Sanchez said.

The policy requires a person to be in school, or to have graduated from high school or earned a GED certificate. Military veterans are also eligible. People are not eligible if they've been convicted of a serious crime or at least three misdemeanors. Serious crimes include those that involve violence, driving while drunk or drugs.

Immigration advocates caution that the visas are not a permanent solution because the program is offered at the discretion of the president. There's no guarantee the program will continue under future administrations.

It's one reason why Congress needs to pass immigration reform — sooner rather than later — that offers a path to citizenship for most of the nearly 12 million immigrants living in the country without authorization, said Ann Naffier, a Des Moines immigration attorney.

"As great as the program is — and it is a really great program — it is temporary and it is unstable," said Naffier, who has helped process visa applications around the state. "These are people wanting to build their lives and they want to know what their future looks like, and right now they have no idea."

An immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June remains stalled in the House, despite a coordinated push by reform advocates nationwide. House Republican leaders this week told Latino groups they still hope to pass a bill this year.

The Senate bill provides a path to citizenship for those living in the U.S. without authorization. It would also direct $38 billion to double the size of the Border Patrol and expand technology to monitor the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

As the bill winds through Congress, Iowa immigrants don't face the hurdles of some in other states as they forge a new life. Arizona has barred visa recipients from getting driver's licenses and paying discounted in-state tuition at the state's three universities.

Iowa officials in January reversed a month-old decision to ban visa recipients from receiving driver's licenses. Iowans with the permits, though, will have to wait for discounted tuition. A bill to allow them to pay the same rate as other Iowans didn't advance out of a a state Senate committee.

Iowa's public universities don't require Social Security numbers or proof of citizenship on applications, so officials said it's difficult to determine which students may be undocumented. Those who are are identified, however, pay more than twice as much in tuition as other Iowa students.

Immigrants like Sanchez who hope to go to college will either need to find private scholarships or take out student loans because they aren't eligible for government student financial aid.

"We're just bleeding the potential of these really talented young people," said Joa LaVille, an immigrant advocate in Marshalltown. "They're homegrown. It's what we're looking for."

Ed Rodriguez, 24, of Orange City said he was fortunate to receive scholarships from community members to attend Northwestern College in Orange City.

To win support from donors, though, he said he had to "come out" as an undocumented immigrant.

"At the time, the only option I saw was to go out there and open myself up," said Rodriguez, who now helps local Latino youth through the nonprofit Justice For All in Rock Valley. "Looking back, it's kind of crazy."

Sanchez, the visa-holder from Marshalltown, said she plans to apply only to Iowa schools: Iowa State University, University of Iowa, Drake University and Grinnell College.

"I'm an Iowa girl," Sanchez said.

First, however, Sanchez has some some dreams to fulfill. Her 8-year-old brother, a U.S. citizen, was thrilled when he learned she'd have a driver's license. Her brother hasn't traveled much outside of Marshalltown and Sanchez would be the first in her family to have a license, she said.

On the boy's wish list for his birthday this month: a trip to Chuck E. Cheese in West Des Moines. He'd also like to visit the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines and Adventureland Park in Altoona.

"We're going to have a good time," Sanchez said.

About the visas

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Barack Obama in June 2012. The government began accepting applications in August of that year.

About 3,150 immigrants in Iowa — and 950,000 immigrants nationwide — were eligible, according to an estimate from the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, D.C. To date, about 2,000 people in Iowa and 565,000 nationwide have been granted the two-year visas.

To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. People are not eligible if they've been convicted of a serious crime or at least three misdemeanors. Serious crimes include those that involve violence, driving while drunk or drugs.

Applicants must pay a $465 fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.

The visas are offered at the discretion of the president. Future administrations could discontinue the program.

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