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


Monday, March 31, 2014

Eli Kantor Interviewed on NPR

On Sunday, March 30th, Eli Kantor was interviewed by Kelly McEvers on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Weekend Edition Sunday, regarding the start of the H1-B visa season.  

Here is the link: 


California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience

New York Times
By Jennifer Medina
March 29, 2014

HURON, Calif. — When Chuck Herrin, who runs a large farm labor contracting company, looks out at the hundreds of workers he hires each year to tend to the countless rows of asparagus, grapes, tomatoes, peaches and plums, he often seethes in frustration.

It is not that he has any trouble with the laborers. It is that he, like many others in agriculture here, is increasingly fed up with immigration laws that he says prevent him from fielding a steady, reliable work force.

“What we have going on now is a farce — a waste of time and money,” said Mr. Herrin, a lifelong Republican who grew up in central California, adding that the country should be considering ways to bring workers in, not keep them out. “We need these people to get our food to market.”

California is home to an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants, more than in any other state. Perhaps nowhere else captures the contradictions and complications of immigration policy better than California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them living here illegally, according to estimates from agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis.

That reality is shaping the views of agriculture business owners here, like Mr. Herrin, who cannot recall ever voting for a Democrat. In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them. A work force that arrived in the 1990s is aging out of heavy labor, Americans do not want the jobs, and tightened security at the border is discouraging new immigrants from arriving, they say, leaving them to struggle amid the paralysis on immigration policy. No other region may be as eager to keep immigration legislation alive.

The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association, a group based in Irvine, Calif., that represents hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, says many of its members may withhold contributions from Republicans in congressional races because of the party’s stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

Mr. Herrin says he is constantly shifting his work force during harvest, and can often provide crews only half the size that farmers request. Like other employers interviewed, he acknowledged that he almost certainly had illegal immigrants in his work force. Would-be workers provide a Social Security number or a document purporting they are eligible to work; employers accept the documentation even if they doubt its veracity because they want to bring in their crops.

“We have no choice,” he said. “We are not getting people who are coming out of the towns and cities to come out and work on the farms.” Potential workers, he said, are “scared to come, scared of Border Patrol and deportations and drug lords. They can’t afford to risk all these things.”

Roughly a third of Mr. Herrin’s workers are older than 50, a much higher proportion than even five years ago. He said they had earned the right to stay here. “If we keep them here and not do anything for them once they get old, that’s really extortion,” he said.

The region has relied on new arrivals to pick crops since the time of the Dust Bowl. For more than two decades after World War II, growers here depended on braceros, Mexican workers sent temporarily to the United States to work in agriculture. Today, many fieldworkers are indigenous people from southern Mexico who speak Mixtec and know little English or Spanish.

In recent years, farm owners have grown increasingly fearful of labor shortages. Last year, the diminished supply of workers led average farm wages in the region to increase by roughly $1 an hour, according to researchers at U.C. Davis who have tracked wages for years. Now, farm owners are pressing to make it easier for would-be immigrants to obtain agricultural visas, which they say would create a more reliable labor supply.

A report released this month by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, two business-oriented groups that are lobbying Congress, said foreign-grown produce consumed in the United States had increased by nearly 80 percent since the late 1990s. The report argues that the labor shortages make it impossible for American farmers to increase production and compete effectively with foreign importers. While the amount of fresh produce consumed by Americans has increased, domestic production has not kept pace, and the report attributes a $1.4 billion annual loss in farm income to the lack of labor.

So even amid a record drought threatening to wipe out crops here, growers routinely talk of immigration as a top concern, saying they are losing some of their most valuable workers because of deportations or threats of being sent away. Kevin Andrew, the chief operating officer for Jakov P. Dulcich and Sons, which grows grapes and other produce in the region, remembers what happened to one of his workers who was simultaneously up for a promotion and citizenship a couple of years ago.

“Just as he goes to his final interview, they found some document where his two last names were reversed and they came after him for attempting to defraud the government,” Mr. Andrew said. “This is a guy who owned two or three homes, had stellar letters written for him by supervisors, and they’re looking for a reason to count him out.

“He came to me afterward and was crushed, just sobbing like a baby. All of a sudden he can’t be a supervisor because he’s wanted by the government. He was supposedly living the American dream, and they just took everything away in an instant.”

Mr. Andrew saw the man several months later, working at a job that paid less than what he had been earning for years.

Huron is part of an unusual congressional district: It is more than two-thirds Latino and is represented by a Republican, David Valadao. No other district represented by a Republican has more illegal immigrants. Mr. Valadao and Representative Jeff Denham, who represents a northern stretch of the agricultural valley, are two of the three Republicans who support a Democratic-sponsored bill that would grant a legal path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

“There are people who have been employed for many years, if not decades, and are now turning to their employers saying, ‘Look, I am undocumented,’ ” Mr. Denham said in an interview. “These are not just seasonal workers. These are people who have almost become part of the same family. It’s a problem that has grown so big and so multigenerational, we can no longer ignore it.”

After decades of immigration, the region has become home to many of the children of Mexican laborers. Mr. Denham, for example, is married to the daughter of a former bracero from Mexico who became a citizen decades after he arrived in the Central Valley.

Industry groups are among the most important forces pressing Congress for an immigration overhaul. Tom Nassif, the president of the Western Growers Association, has shuttled to Washington to press members of Congress, especially Republicans, to get a bill passed this year. Mr. Nassif, an ambassador to Morocco under President Ronald Reagan, has long called for easing entry at the Mexican border to make it easier for growers to find labor.

“We’ve had secure borders with Mexico for the last decade; we don’t have that argument at this point,” Mr. Nassif said. “Now we want people to see the real damage of not doing anything, which is a declining work force, and it means losing production to foreign countries.”

After the 2012 presidential election, as Republicans spoke enthusiastically about the need to court Latinos, Mr. Nassif was optimistic that immigration would become a top priority. But exasperation has replaced his confidence in recent months, and he said his group could withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races in which it has usually supported Republicans.

“I can tell you if the Republicans don’t put something forward on immigration, there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture,” Mr. Nassif said. “We are a tremendously important part of the party, and they should not want to lose us.”

Joe Del Bosque grew up in the San Joaquin Valley after his parents came to California as children during the Mexican Revolution in the early part of the last century. A generation ago, he said, growers often pretended to have no idea that people working for them were not authorized to be in the United States. Now, there is a nearly universal recognition that the industry relies on immigrants who cross the border illegally.

Like other growers in the area, he said he felt politically isolated. “The employers are more frustrated than the actual immigrants,” said Mr. Del Bosque, who grows cantaloupes, almonds and asparagus near Los Banos, north of Fresno.

“I thought it would have been much more contentious for them, but they are not so demanding,” he said. “It’s not a revolution for them — it’s more for us.”

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

Hopes Frustrated, Many Latinos Reject the Ballot Box Altogether

New York Times
By Jackie Calmes
March 30, 2014

AURORA, Colo. — As the weather warms, Lizeth Chacon is anticipating a new season of registering Latino voters — yet dreading experiences like one late last year, when she came upon a skate park full of older teenagers.

“I thought, ‘The perfect age! They’re turning 18,’ ” said Ms. Chacon, just 26 herself, born in Mexico and now the lead organizer at Rights for All People, a local immigrant organizing group. But among the roughly 50 people she approached in this increasingly diverse city east of Denver, “not a single person” was interested in her pitch, including those already old enough to vote: “They were like, ‘Why? Why would I bother to vote?’ ”

Across the country, immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats’ advantage nationally, and in states like Colorado with significant Latino populations. High hopes — kindled by President Obama’s elections and stoked in June by Senate passage of the most significant overhaul of immigration law in a generation, with a path to citizenship for about 11 million people here unlawfully — have been all but dashed.

Latinos mainly blame Republicans, who control the House and have buried the Senate bill, but they also have soured on Mr. Obama. The federal government has so aggressively enforced existing immigration laws that one national Hispanic leader recently nicknamed the president “deporter in chief” for allowing nearly two million people to be deported.

A day after that widely reported gibe in Washington, at Denver’s Spanish-language radio station KBNO (“Que Bueno” to its audience), the host Fernando Sergio devoted his three-hour talk show to asking listeners whether they agreed with the criticism, or “has President Obama done the best he can against Republican opposition?”

“The majority were very angry at the president,” Mr. Sergio said in an interview at the station, where pictures of John and Robert Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama hang on the walls. “People feel like he’s made some promises that he hasn’t fulfilled, that he can do more” — like expand his 2012 order that deferred deportations of young people brought to the country as children, a group known as Dreamers.

“If I were a Democratic consultant,” Mr. Sergio added, “I would have been concerned.”

Democrats indeed are worried. While the growing Latino electorate is a force in presidential elections, and one expected to give Democrats an edge for years unless Republicans shed an anti-immigrant image, Latinos are relative bit players in this midterm election year. Their turnout typically drops in midterm years; nationally and in Colorado, about half of registered Latinos voted in 2008 and 2012, but less than a third did in the 2010 midterm elections and many Democrats lost. This fall, with many Latinos caught between hostility toward Republicans and disappointment with Mr. Obama, participation could dip further.

“There’s a sense from some people that there’s nowhere to turn, and I’m afraid they’re just going to be frozen in frustration,” said Lisa Duran, executive director of Rights for All People, and Ms. Chacon’s supervisor. “It’s absolutely imperative that we not let that happen.”

A depressed vote threatens Democrats in a number of races, notably in Colorado, where Latinos were 14 percent of the state’s 2012 electorate and about 70 percent voted for Democrats. Their Senate majority at risk, Democrats are hustling to help Senator Mark Udall now that a formidable Republican, Representative Cory Gardner, has challenged him. They also hope to snatch the House district, including Aurora, from Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican. His Democratic rival is Andrew Romanoff, a former State House speaker.

While Mr. Coffman lately has moderated his stance on immigration, Mr. Gardner has not. He has opposed the deportation stay for young people and objects to the Senate’s path to citizenship as amnesty, and Democrats plan to emphasize that to Latino voters.

Hispanics have typically had lower rates of voter turnout than whites and blacks, and frustration with Republicans and President Obama alike could cause rates to dip even further in this fall’s midterm elections.

“This is a turnout election for Democrats, and we’re shifting focus and resources because we know that,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “We can’t outcompete the billionaires on the airwaves. It’s going to have to be a ground game.” Mr. Bennet won in 2010 by mobilizing more Latinos, women and young voters than many in either party predicted.

Discouraged Democrats take some comfort that the closest Senate races are mostly in states without many Latinos. As for the House, a couple of dozen races could turn on Latino votes — including in California, Florida, Nevada and Texas — but Republicans are expected to retain their majority.

Still, Mr. Obama wants to reconcile with Latinos, a group that gave him 71 percent of its votes in 2012. He recently met with several Hispanic lawmakers and days later with 17 leaders of immigration groups, but the meetings only underscored each side’s frustration with the other.

In the meeting with the immigration groups, Mr. Obama did most of the talking for nearly two hours, participants said. He argued that by being united, they had they won public support for immigration changes, passed the Senate bill and put House Republicans on the defensive. By now attacking him, the president said — and he chided Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, for her “deporter in chief” taunt — the activists were relieving the pressure on Republicans, he said. Privately, Republicans agree.

The president told them that his secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, would review the deportation system. But Mr. Obama lowered expectations by reiterating that administration lawyers say he cannot take action beyond his 2012 order benefiting the so-called Dreamers. The advocates expressed skepticism.

The exchange reflected Mr. Obama’s bind: If he suspends more deportations, he could mend relations with Latinos and perhaps motivate more of them to vote. But he could lose what chance remains for new immigration law, his second-term domestic priority, since House Republicans have signaled they would cite such executive action as proof that he cannot be trusted to enforce any law.

Back in Colorado, Leticia Zavala follows the Washington maneuvering from the vast eastern plains, in the ranching center of Fort Morgan where she was born, in what is now Mr. Gardner’s House district. The county is one-third Latino, and her experiences there capture the community’s conflicted feelings.

Ms. Zavala, 26, recently was packing to drive to Mexico with her two young children for their first visit with her husband since he was deported in December, more than two years after he was snared in an immigration raid at a dairy plant, and six years after he began seeking legal status. While she knows perhaps 10 people who have been deported, until her husband’s ordeal, “I didn’t really know how it affected families,” she said, wiping tears.

Yet she has become more politically active, not less. Ms. Zavala takes heart from Latinos’ legislative victories in Colorado. She formed a small immigrants assistance group, enrolled in community college, and helps a local lawyer with citizenship classes. Everywhere, she carries a backpack with voter registration forms, envelopes and stamps.

Ms. Zavala estimated that she has helped register about 100 people, though it has not been easy. “Many people are angry and upset because Obama promised so much and it’s been how many years?” she said. “But the Republicans aren’t doing anything. We have something; there’s a bill. And for us to sit here in March 2014 with nothing — people are just really upset.”

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

Mexico Finds 370 Abandoned Immigrant Children

Reuters: Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children
March 29, 2014

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In one week, 370 immigrant children, most of them from Central America, were found abandoned in Mexico, after traffickers promised to take them to the United States but left them to their own devices after being paid thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Almost half of them, 163 children under the age of 18, were found traveling alone, Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement.

Each month, thousands of immigrants, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, attempt to emigrate to the United States, crossing several borders in the process, despite the threat from drug gangs that kidnap, murder and rape women.

The children told federal migration agents that their 'guides' abandoned them after accepting $3,000 to $5,000 in payments, INM said.

The children and young people, who came from three of the poorest countries in Central America, were found between March 17 and 24, in 14 different states in Mexico.

"The majority of the children showed signs of extreme fatigue, foot injuries, dehydration and disorientation whereby they didn't know where they had been abandoned," INM said.

Many immigrants are able to get to the U.S. and then entrust their children to the traffickers who pay large sums of money for them.

In the week the children were found, a total of 1,895 immigrants from various countries were detected in Mexico from countries as far away as Somalia, Japan and Syria, among others.

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Immigration Advocates Asking Business Leaders for Push

By Michael C. Bender
March 28, 2014

Republicans favoring a broad revision of U.S. immigration policies are questioning why business groups aren’t doing more to force the issue with the party’s majority in the House of Representatives.

“It’s been very soft, and we want them to go a little bit stronger,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican in favor of easing immigration laws.

These Republicans say the party faces greater pressure to act quickly, particularly as President Barack Obama indicates he may curry favor with Hispanic voters by dialing back deportations that are averaging about 1,000 a day, more than under any other president. Such a move would jeopardize any remaining chance this year to pass immigration legislation sought by companies from Microsoft (MSFT) to Caterpillar. (CAT)

“That would kill it,” Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said of an executive action to decrease deportations.

A comprehensive immigration bill Hatch helped craft that the Senate approved with bipartisan support last June expires Jan. 3 without action by the Republican-controlled House. The measure includes an expansion of worker visas sought by many businesses.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has put a hold on his framework for immigration legislation amid signs it would divide his party ahead of November’s congressional elections.

‘Physically Tackling’

Business groups have helped advance the issue, and are still meeting with lawmakers to push for changes, said Carl Guardino, president chief executive officer of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a San Jose, California-based group.

“Other than physically tackling a member of Congress, which is probably against the law, I’m not sure how much more aggressive we can be,” Guardino said at a Bloomberg Government event yesterday. “What we cannot do is go on to the House floor and vote for them.”

Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican in charge of his party’s 2014 House races, said in February that action in the chamber this year on immigration policy may have to wait until after most state deadlines pass for candidates to file to challenge incumbent lawmakers in party primaries.

’’It’s not a question of if we fix our broken immigration laws, it’s really a question of when,’’ Representative Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, said this week at a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event in Washington.

Visa Cap

A stark reminder for businesses about the lack of an immigration bill will come April 1, the start of an annual rush for highly skilled worker visas. The cap of 65,000 on the H-1B visas will probably be reached by April 7, according to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Senate bill would raise that cap to 115,000, and allow for as many as 180,000, depending on economic conditions.

Employment-based immigration changes that open borders to highly skilled immigrants would add about 3.2 percentage points to real gross domestic product in the next 10 years, a “boon” for the world’s biggest economy, according to a report from Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist for Standard & Poors.

“Business has a lot to lose, and they have to take stock of pressure they’re applying to House Republicans,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based group that works with businesses on immigration issues.

Lobbying Duel

Business lobby tactics have come under scrutiny as their economic message comes up short against more emotional letter-writing and phone-call campaigns from anti-immigration groups including Arlington, Virginia-based NumbersUSA. The only Republicans to mention immigration in campaign ads this year, including newly elected Representative David Jolly in Florida, have done so to highlight support for stricter border security.

“We need them to weigh in heavily with members of Congress in order to take up the legislation,” Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who helped craft his chamber’s bill, said of the business lobby.

FWD.us, one of the few business groups aggressively pushing the issue, is a pro-immigration organization started by Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg.

The group distributed a lengthy memo to lawmakers this year with a section entitled “The Shocking Extremism Behind Anti-Immigrant Groups.” An affiliate, Council for American Job Group, aired a television ad for two weeks this month that told viewers the nation’s future “is tied to immigration reform.”

“Call House Republicans today,” the TV ad’s narrator says. “Tell them, ’We’ve waited long enough. Pass immigration reform.’”

Funding Sought

Jonathan Nelson, who runs Hackers and Founders, a Silicon Valley-based social network of 12,000 software engineers and investors, said he’s seeking funding for a two-week campaign to pressure pro-immigration Republicans with phone calls and letters from within their districts.

Nelson helped organize opposition in 2012 to proposed anti-piracy laws in Congress, a successful campaign that included service blackouts from Wikipedia and Google. (GOOG)

“If you fixed immigration, you’d have tens of thousands of companies start,” Nelson said in an interview.

Still, tech companies and business groups have largely maintained a low-key approach.

Private Meetings

Guardino said his Silicon Valley group this week met privately with 64 House and Senate lawmakers, mostly Republicans, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, to discuss the issue. Last week, Oracle (ORCL) Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz hosted a fundraiser for House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican whose committee is a crucial stop for immigration legislation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce organized an hour-long briefing yesterday for congressional staff with demographers whose research shows that easing immigration laws would help address a labor gap in the U.S.

Randel Johnson, the chamber’s senior vice president for labor and immigration issues, defended the tactics of business groups, saying they’re pushing the House to take up legislation before the August recess or in the two months following the elections and before the new Congress is sworn in.

“We’re light years ahead of where we used to be,” he said.

Church Groups

Using more aggressive tactics in the push for revising immigration policy have been labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, and church organizations, who have spotlighted the spike in deportations under the Obama administration to organize protests of Republicans and Democrats.

Staff members for Obama and top Senate Democrats discussed possible executive actions to suspend some deportations at a private meeting on March 11. Two days later, Obama told Hispanic House members that his administration is reviewing deportation practices to “see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” according to a White House statement at the time.

Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics has dropped 22 points since last May to 51 percent, according to Gallup polling. He won 71 percent of the bloc’s vote in 2012.

Ryan, during his speech to the Hispanic chamber, sought the group’s help in getting legislation passed.

“It only works if you tell us what you think,” Ryan said. “It’s a participation sport. It’s a contact sport, too.”

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

Who Should Be Deported?

Los Angeles Times (Opinion)
By John Sandweg
March 27, 2014

President Obama recently directed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to examine U.S. immigration enforcement policies to see how the department can "conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."

The answer to the president's directive is surprisingly simple: Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, known as ICE, should eliminate "non-criminal re-entrants and immigration fugitives" as a priority category for deportation.

Current ICE policy prioritizes these individuals solely because they have previously been caught up in our immigration system, not because they represent a criminal threat. Taking them off the priority list would dramatically advance the president's goal of a more humane enforcement system and would enhance public safety and border security.

Over the last five years, the Obama administration has transformed our nation's immigration enforcement system, turning it into a system that emphasizes removing criminals and keeping the border secure. In 2010, civil immigration enforcement priorities were established to direct ICE officers and agents to focus their efforts accordingly. Since then, more than 80% of the people the agency has apprehended in the interior United States and deported have been convicted criminals.

However, official agency policy also continues to direct ICE officers and agents to investigate, arrest and deport those who unlawfully reentered the United States after having been previously deported, and those who have absconded from immigration court proceedings, regardless of their criminal history or how long they have lived, worked or raised families in the United States. As a result, each year, tens of thousands of people are treated as enforcement priorities based on their immigration history alone.

Many of these people have been in the United States for a decade or more. They often have spouses who are U.S. citizens and have never been convicted of a criminal offense. Frequently, they were deported years earlier and returned to this country to reunite with their families. As a result, focusing ICE's effort on them disproportionately separates parents and children, breadwinners from families, spouse from spouse.

To be sure, those who repeatedly cross our borders illegally or abscond from the immigration court bear culpability. However, making this population a priority detracts from ICE's ability to track down and arrest the increasing number of much more serious public safety threats the agency identifies.

All in all, it makes little sense to use limited enforcement resources in this way.

Contrary to what some might think, the majority of ICE agents and officers would not object to removing "non-criminal re-entrants and immigration fugitives" from their caseloads. Charged with enforcing a broken set of laws and administering a dysfunctional enforcement system, these hardworking and dedicated law enforcement officers often unfairly bear the brunt of the frustrations and absurdities that result from Congress' failure to reform our immigration laws. These officers know where their work will have the greatest impact.

When I was ICE's acting director, I had the privilege of discussing the agency's enforcement priorities with officers and agents across the country. I repeatedly heard these men and women express their support for clear policies that would focus their efforts on the most serious offenders and offenses.

The president was right to suggest a review of ICE's enforcement priorities. Much of the groundwork for the change I'm suggesting has already been laid, and this policy shift could be implemented immediately. It will not solve all of the challenges facing our broken immigration system, but until Congress acts, it can fulfill the president's call for a more humane system and make the country safer.

John Sandweg, acting director of ICE from August 2013 to February, also served as acting general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security.

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

Voices: Attitudes Soften Toward Undocumented Immigrants

USA Today
By Alan Gomez
March 27, 2014

MIAMI — Three years ago, Florida Republican state Rep. Charles Van Zant tried to pass a tough, Arizona-style immigration bill to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Last week, he stood in the House chamber and explained how even he, whose family arrived in North America in 1651, was an immigrant. He then voted for a bill aimed at granting in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants.

"This immigrant boy holds a doctorate degree," Van Zant said before casting his "yea" vote. "I can't refuse (undocumented immigrants) their education, because they're going to be residents with us."

Three years ago, Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala voted in support of the Arizona-style measure. Now, he's the lead sponsor of the bill on tuition for undocumented immigrants.

"There is no reason in the world why parents' immigration status ought to be the determining factor of the tuition that our young people pay," Latvala said.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the hard-line Arizona law in 2012, and in the wake of the state spending $3.2 million defending that law in court, no state has passed a similar piece of legislation. Instead, six states have granted in-state college tuition to young undocumented immigrants and nine states have approved driver's licenses for them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The pendulum seems to have swung," says Ann Morse, immigration director for the conference.

Starting with Arizona in 2010, a wave of states fed up with Congress for failing to fix the nation's broken immigration system tried to pick up the slack. At the heart of Arizona's sweeping law was a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they've detained if a "reasonable suspicion" exists the person is in the country illegally.

Lawmakers in other states quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and in 2011, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah passed copycat laws. State and local governments tried a variety of other ways to go after undocumented immigrants, such as requiring more proof of citizenship when registering to vote and requiring employers to check the immigration status of new hires.

Some of those efforts continue, but Morse says the Supreme Court decision striking down portions of Arizona's law "cooled things down." The core of the law requiring police to help enforce immigration laws survived, but the push to mimic the law in other states did not.

Morse says states seem more interested in addressing the needs of more than 520,000 undocumented immigrants granted reprieves from deportation by the Obama administration through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The shift can be seen clearly in the work of immigration advocates, who work with state legislators around the country.

Francesca Menes, policy coordinator for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, laughs when asked whether her day-to-day life has changed in the past three years.

"Oh Lord, yes," she said in between meetings with lawmakers in Tallahassee this week.

Menes said she has quickly shifted from playing defense to tallying vote counts on immigrant-friendly bills such as the in-state tuition measure that has cleared the House and is before the Senate.

In a state where Republicans control the House, Senate and Governor's Mansion, she says, it's been stunning to see the change in just three years.

"The difference," Menes says, "between then and now is big."

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

Catholic Leaders Hope Message from Pope and US Bishops Will Revive Immigration Reform

Washington Post
By Pamela Constable
March 27, 2014

American Catholic church leaders are hoping President Obama's first-ever meeting Thursday with Pope Francis at the Vatican will strengthen his resolve to soften U.S. policy on deportations, and that the pontiff's call for compassion toward migrants will also bolster the prospects for immigration reform now stalled in Congress.

Church officials have also staged several high-profile events to reinforce the Pope's message. On Wednesday, a delegation led by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez brought the young daughter of a man facing deportation to meet the pope at the Vatican. Next week, a group of bishops led by Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley will visit the U.S.-Mexican border and say a Mass for migrants in Nogales, Mex.

But although Obama recently signalled he may be willing to soften the rules on deportation -- and the girl's father was released from federal detention Thursday -- there is no indication that the late-hour involvement of even the most senior Catholic officials is likely to move House Republicans to reopen debate on broader immigration reforms.

"What's happening is extraordinary. Between the Pope listening to a ten-year-old girl and Cardinal O'Malley going to the border, this is the best the church has to offer," said John Carr, a former official of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, now at Georgetown University. "The big question is whether anybody is listening."

The Obama administration has deported nearly two million illegal immigrants, hoping to use that tough policy as a barganing chip with Congress on broader reforms. Two weeks ago, facing a barrage of protests from pro-immigrant groups and no sign of movement in Congress, the president ordered a review of deportation procedures on humanitarian grounds.

Immediately, however, House Republican leaders warned that such unilateral actions would jeopardize any chance of getting reform back on the table. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner said that any executive action to ease deportations would damage, "perhaps beyond repair, our ability to build the trust necessary to enact real immigration reform."

Last year U.S. Catholic officials, whose denomination includes millions of Hispanic immigrants, launched a national campaign for immigration reform, with special appeals to key members of Congress including Boehner, who is a Roman Catholic. The effort appeared to founder, and some critics said the church had waited too long to have a meaningful impact.

Now, with the clock running out, they are aiming a hail Mary pass at the issue. On Wednesday Pope Francis stopped to greet Jersey Vargas, with cameras whirring, while she tearfully asked him to help save her father. On Thursday, the Argentine-born pontiff told Obama that immigration reform was urgently needed, and the president said he responded that "I thought there was an opportunity to make this right and get something passed."

In the Washington area, Catholic officials expressed excitement and hope at the high-level encounter, saying they hoped Francis's personal appeal would inspire Obama to take action and stop deportations that have separated many Hispanic families.

"Obama has the power to take action, and we hope the Holy Spirit will stay in his heart," said Fr. Eugenio Hoyos, who heads the Hispanic Apostolate of the Catholic Archdiocese of Arlington. "Just as the church can pardon sinners, our president can give amnesty to people who are suffering. He doesn't need to wait for Congress any more."

Other church officials said the upcoming pilgrimage by Cardinal O'Malley to the Arizona-Mexico border, billed as an effort to "bring attention to the human consequences of a broken immigration system," is an unprecedented gesture they hope members of Congress, especially Boehner, may still heed. O'Malley is considered the Pope's closest church aide in the U.S., and he has taken strong conservative stands on issues like abortion.

"This is extremely important. It is as dramatic as the bishops can get," said Carr. "Washington is isolated from reality, and the church is reminding them that people's lives are being torn apart."

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Many Voices Try to Shape Pope Francis-Obama Meeting

Wall Street Journal
By Tamara Audi
March 26, 2014

In anticipation of Pope Francis' Thursday meeting with President Barack Obama, activist Judie Brown sent the pontiff an unsolicited 12-page memo that detailed what she said is the administration's hostility toward the church on issues such as abortion and contraception.

The meeting also spurred 10-year-old Jersey Vargas to travel to Rome from Los Angeles to ask the pope to help her and other American children of undocumented immigrants by supporting changes to U.S. immigration law.

And a group critical of the church's handling of priest sex-abuse cases wants the president to push Pope Francis to get tougher on the issue.

As this president and this pope meet for the first time, in Vatican City, America's Roman Catholics are clamoring to influence the agenda, lobbying both men on issues from immigration to health care. While meetings between popes and presidents are largely symbolic, some activists see this one as a chance to gain traction on several issues that are coming to the fore, at a time when the American church grapples with demographic and social changes.

Groups pushing to overhaul immigration laws in the U.S. see Pope Francis—the first pontiff from Latin America and one who has largely emphasized poverty and social justice since he was chosen as pope last year—as a receptive audience. Church membership in the U.S., home to an estimated 7% of the world's Catholics, has been boosted largely by immigration from Latin America in recent years. Next week, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston will lead a group of American bishops to the Arizona border with Mexico to pray for migrants who have lost their lives crossing the desert.

"We feel that we finally have a true friend that understands what we're all going through in America with this immigration crisis, and who seriously believes that we urgently need to do something about it," said Juan José Gutiérrez, an immigration-rights activist who traveled to Rome with a group including 10-year-old Jersey.

On Wednesday at the Vatican, Jersey, whose father was in the U.S. illegally and was detained by immigration authorities, worked her way to the front of the crowd after the pope's general audience and asked him to help her family and others like hers, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which helped arrange access.

The meeting also comes as the U.S. church clashes with the Obama administration over a provision in the health-care law requiring businesses to provide access to contraceptives to employees, notwithstanding any religious objections that employers might have. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the issue this week and is expected to rule in late June.

Ms. Brown, the president of the American Life League, a Catholic group that advocates for church positions on contraceptives and abortion, said the contraceptive mandate in the health-care law "is imposed on Christian faith by a government that holds faith in disdain." Ms. Brown, a former member of a pontifical academy on bioethics, said she wasn't asking the pope to raise a specific issue with the president but wanted the pope to have her memo on the administration's stance on birth control and abortion in light of the current debate in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the meeting, the pope was to be briefed on the health-care law, both on "positive aspects from the point of view of Catholic social teaching, and the religious freedom" aspect, a person familiar with the plans said. The pope, while focusing on issues other than certain cultural ones, hasn't changed traditional church teachings on those issues and is expected to defend them.

The Vatican said in a statement Wednesday that the meeting would "take place in the context of a complex phase of the administration's relations" with the U.S. church on issues such as the health law and gay marriage. The White House said the president would look "forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality."

A liberal Catholic group, Catholics for Choice, took out a full-page ad in the International New York Times to remind the president that the pope "is not our political leader," said Jon O'Brien, the group's president. "The majority of Catholics believe Pope Francis is leading our church in a positive direction, but the Vatican's draconian rules on sex and sexuality…still do not reflect the real lives of lay Catholics."

Advocates for victims of priest sex abuse are urging Mr. Obama to press the pope for greater church accountability. Last week, the Vatican announced appointments to a new commission to help the church confront the problem.

BishopAccountability.org, which documents sex-abuse cases in the church, sent a letter to Mr. Obama asking him to push the pope to help federal officials track abusive priests who have fled the U.S. "Use your historic meeting…to achieve something of substance," the group wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama.

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

House Democrats Try to Force GOP’s Hand on Immigration

Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
March 26, 2014

Democrats, frustrated by House inaction on immigration, filed a “discharge petition” Wednesday aimed at forcing the Republican majority to bring legislation to the floor. Most agree the tactic won’t work, but supporters hope it will amp up pressure on the GOP.

A discharge petition is a way to force a floor vote on a particular piece of legislation. In this case, the petition seeks to dislodge the comprehensive Democratic immigration bill, which mostly mirrors the bill passed by the Senate last year. If Democrats get 218 signatures—a majority of the House—then a floor vote is eventually guaranteed.

The problem is that reaching that threshold requires more than a dozen Republicans to defy their leadership and sign a Democratic petition. Even the three Republicans who are co-sponsoring the Democratic bill have said they won’t sign the petition.

Still, the move is seen as a way to make it more difficult for lawmakers to say they support an immigration overhaul if they don’t sign the petition.

On Wednesday, Democrats emphasized the urgency of aiding more than 11 million people in the U.S. illegally; under the legislation, they would get the chance for citizenship.

“We’re here for a purpose,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.) “It’s been 273 days since our colleagues in the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform. Every single day, about a thousand people are separated from their families and are deported from our country.”

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has said he wants to act on immigration, and early this year he put forward a set of principles to guide GOP legislation. But a week later, he said it would be difficult to move forward, and the issue is widely viewed as stuck.

Some are still hoping for action this summer after most GOP primaries are over, which could make it politically easier for some House Republicans to debate the issue.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to the discharge petition by pointing to comments from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) about its prospects for success.

“We’ll never get to 218 (signatures) on the discharge petition,” she said in an interview earlier this month on Sirius XM. Mr. Steel replied: “We agree with Rep. Pelosi.”

In her interview, Ms. Pelosi added that the discharge petition can help add pressure on the issue. A Democratic leadership aide added that in past cases, the House majority has brought legislation to the floor that was subject of a discharge petition, even though it did not reach the requisite threshold.

Typically, though, the move fails. Democrats are trying to use a discharge petition to force a vote on raising the minimum wage, for instance, but that shows no sign of success.

Separately Wednesday, there was a bit of bipartisan action on immigration. Reps. Steve Pearce (R., N.M.) and Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas) introduced legislation that seeks to address complaints about the U.S. Border Patrol from both their districts. The bill would add training and establish an ombudsman for citizen complaints, an aide said.

In an interview, Mr. Pearce said he’s found many people excited about the fact that a Democrat and a Republican can find common ground on any aspect of the difficult immigration issue. He said people have told him: “Thank goodness Washington is finally finding people can work across party lines.”

But he said he cannot support the Democratic bill or an idea put forth by Mr. Boehner that would give people in the country illegally a legal status and then in certain cases, the chance for citizenship. “It tells the people waiting in their country to do it right that they are foolish,” he said.

He added that he cannot support any bill that has a citizenship option in it, and said he will not support any immigration legislation at all unless the Senate and the White House agree that they will not try and amend the House bill to add such citizenship provisions later.

“What we need is reassurance they’re not going to put amnesty in a bill we pass and then send it back to us,” he said.

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