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


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Schools scramble to help teens who crossed border

Associated Press
September 29, 2014

FRANKFORD, Del. — American schools are scrambling to provide services to the large number of children and teenagers who crossed the border alone in recent months.

Unaccompanied minors who made up the summer spike at the border have moved to communities of all sizes, in nearly every state, Federal data indicates, to live with a relative and await immigration decisions. The Supreme Court has ruled that schools have an obligation to educate all students regardless of their immigration status, so schools have become a safe haven for many of the tens of thousands of these young people mostly from central America living in limbo.

Delaware’s rural Sussex County has long attracted immigrants, partly because of work in chicken factories, and soybean and corn fields. The district’s population is more than one-quarter Hispanic, and for years has offered an early learning program for non-English speakers.

Still, officials were caught off guard by about 70 new students mostly from Guatemala — part of the wave crossing the border — enrolling last year, mostly at Sussex Central High School. The Indian River School District over the summer break quickly put together special classes for those needing extra English help.

On a recent school day, a group of these mostly Spanish-speaking teenage boys with styled spiky hair and high-top sneakers enthusiastically pecked away on hand-held tablets at the G.W. Carver Education Center, pausing to alert the teacher when stumped.

“If you don’t know what you’re supposed to write on the line, look at my examples, OK?” Lori Ott, their English language teacher, told one.

The students are eager but face barriers. Some can barely read or write in their native language.

The district’s goal is to get them assimilated — and eventually into a regular high school. There, they can earn a diploma, even if that means participating in adult education programs and going to school until they are 21.

“They just crave it, and they will come and ask questions,” Ott said. “How do you say this? And, how do you say that? They just participate and you can’t say enough about them.”

Donald Hattier, a school board member, said advance warning would have helped with planning. The federal government, he said, “just dropped this on us.” He wonders what’s next.

“The kids are still coming across the border. This problem has not been solved,” Hattier said.

Educators in Delaware and elsewhere say many of these students, who fled poverty and violence, have years-long gaps in schooling. For teenagers, learning in English can prove more difficult than for younger students. They also may be living with relatives or others they didn’t know, and the workings of an American school can be confusing.

Others experienced trauma, either in their home country or while crossing the border, and may need mental health help.

“It’s a new culture and they already feel that they are alone. ... Some of them don’t have their parents here,” said English language instructor Alina Miron at Broadmoor High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The school has about a dozen of these students enrolled

In districts like hers, the influx means hiring new English language instructors.

Two foundations donated money to the Oakland Unified School District in California to help fund a person to connect about 150 unaccompanied students with legal and social services; many didn’t have legal representation at immigration hearings.

“We feel that we have moral obligation to serve these students as long as they are in the United States,” said Troy Flint, a district spokesman. “Until their fate is decided, we’re responsible for ensuring they get an education and we embrace that opportunity.”

In Louisiana, the Broadmoor principal, Shalonda Simoneaux, said attending high school and learning English is a motivating factor for teenagers who want “want to blend in.”

“Whatever is being said, whatever is going on, they are really learning more from listening from other teenagers, even more so than from the teachers because it’s high school,” Simoneaux said.

For cash-strapped districts, providing for these students’ needs can be arduous, particularly if they arrive after student headcounts are taken to determine school funding.

In Miami, the school board voted to seek federal help after 300 foreign-born students, many from Honduras and traveling alone, enrolled toward the end of the last school year.

Margie McHugh, director of the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration, says it’s critical that children allowed to stay are integrated into American life and educated.

Indian River School District officials say that’s their plan.

“We do have a very open heart and an open mind and any student who comes in our system, we’re going to give the most appropriate services that we can,” said the Delaware district’s superintendent, Susan Bunting.

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

Napolitano: Bush key Republican on immigration

The Hill
By Mario Trujillo
September 29, 2014

Former Homeland Security Department secretary Janet Napolitano named former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as the Republican best suited to play a key role in helping advance comprehensive immigration reform.

"In terms of political leadership, one person who has been out there is Jeb Bush — former governor of Florida, often times spoken of as a presidential candidate in 2016, was part of a bipartisan report that came out a year, year and a half ago, on the need for immigration reform, and the elements of real immigration reform," she said Monday in an interview with Ozy.

Bush has long been an advocate for immigration reform, coauthoring the book Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution last year in which he outlined his plan for comprehensive reform.

"It evidences a willingness to put the United States in a position to continue to be that beacon around the world," Napolitano said.

Napolitano, who now serves as president of the University of California system, named immigration reform as her largest failure during her time in public office, both as a secretary and governor of Arizona.

She said reform as failed because "the politics and cultural norms around immigration are so complicated, and the Congress right now is so ineffective, ineffective," she said. "But never give up."

The Senate passed a comprehensive package last year but it stalled in the House. President Obama has vowed, in the face of Congressional inaction, to use his authority to act on certain aspects of immigration reform after the midterm elections. 

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

Paul Ryan: Post-election Obama action on immigration would ‘poison the well’

Washington Times
By David Sherfinski
September 29, 2014

Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, says President Obama will “poison the well” on immigration if he acts on the issue unilaterally after the midterm elections.

“If the president, in the lame-duck session of Congress, after the elections but right before a new session, tries to do some kind of an unconstitutional work around Congress, he will poison the well for immigration reform and make a political decision to not work on getting immigration reform,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox Business Network.

The key, Mr. Ryan said, is “workable legal immigration.” The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a broad bill last year that boosts border security and provides a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, while the GOP-controlled House has favored a step-by-step approach.

“What we want to do is just make sure national security is taken care of first,” Mr. Ryan said. “I mean, secure the border, have interior enforcement, actually get that done, actually verify that that’s done, and then go fix the the other things that are broken with immigration. With ISIS, with heroin coming into our schools, this is a national security crisis. We have to deal with this border issue. The president hasn’t, and that’s what’s frustrating to Republicans.”

The issue received renewed attention earlier this year with an influx of young illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. To the consternation of many pro-immigrant groups, Mr. Obama ultimately decided to postpone any major unilateral moves on the issue until after the elections.

But Mr. Ryan said if Mr. Obama does decide to go around Congress, he will put millions of people in “legal limbo” and “poison the goodwill in Congress to get anything done on a bipartisan basis.”

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

Hispanic Groups to Democrats: Don’t Blame Us if You Lose

Wall Street Journal
By Reid J. Epstein
September 29, 2014

If Democrats lose control of the Senate in November, Hispanic advocates say: Don’t blame us.

Disenchanted with President Barack Obama for delaying executive action on reforming the nation’s deportation system, apathetic about Democratic candidates that for the most part haven’t made a direct appeal to Hispanics and without a galvanizing bogeyman on the right to vote against like Mitt Romney in 2012, Hispanic voters are poised to let Democrats lose Senate races and state houses they could otherwise win, key Hispanic advocates said Monday during a briefing at the National Council of La Raza.

The preemptive blame-shifting comes as Democrats across the spectrum – from Mr. Obama on down – fear diminished turnout from the base in November’s midterm elections. Gary Segura, a Stanford University professor who is co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions, said Latino voters would show their influence by letting some Democrats, like Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, be thrown out of office.

“In any instance where a Latino-preferred candidate loses and that Latino community turned out in smaller numbers because of the disillusionment, Latinos did make a difference. The decision not to vote is still a political decision and is not necessarily irrational,” Mr. Segura said. “If you’re a Latino in North Carolina and the president delayed his decision to help Kay Hagan in her election, why would you go vote for Kay Hagan? … Latinos can have influence by letting people lose, just as they can have influence by helping people win.”

In what was widely seen as an effort to help endangered Senate Democrats win re-election, the White House earlier this month said Mr. Obama would delay unveiling his long-promised executive actions on immigration until after the election. The president in June had promised action by the end of the summer.

Mr. Segura’s partner, Matt Barreto, cited a June Latino Decisions poll that found 87% of Hispanic voters would be more enthusiastic about voting during in 2014 if the White House took action to renew the Deferred Action program Mr. Obama announced during his 2012 re-election campaign. The same poll found 54% of Latinos said they would be less interested in voting if Mr. Obama determined he has the authority to act but elected not to – exactly as has taken place.

In five states – Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan and North Carolina – the number of Hispanic voters from 2012 exceeds the difference between the two leading Senate candidates in current polling, Mr. Barreto said. Nine states have governor’s races where the number of Latino voters exceeds the likely margin between the top two candidates.

But Democratic candidates, aside from Colorado incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, haven’t made an appeal to Latino voters, said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, NCLR’s vice president for research and advocacy.

“People are making campaign decisions, but given the margins, it’s kind of foolish to aggressively squander that number,” Ms. Martinez said.

NCLR CEO Janet Murguía said advocates are aiming to get as many Latino voters as possible to vote but are resigned to having less of an impact on the midterm elections than they did during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, when Latino voters helped Mr. Obama win in states like Colorado and Florida.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to get our folks to participate,” Ms. Murguía said. “We’re just trying to educate our community about what are the challenges, both that are structural and candidate-made.”

Republican Senate candidates, Ms. Murguía said, have done a good job in 2014 to avoid making statements that poison their relationship with the Latino electorate. But she predicted a congressional stalemate on immigration reform will come back to haunt the GOP – just perhaps not until 2016.

“Some of these folks are at least trying to stay under the radar, but that’s not going to be good enough for Republicans if they want to go into the future and win a base of Latino voters,” Ms. Murguía said. “It may be good enough for this year, we’ll have to see.”

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

California Sets Up Fund for Legal Representation of Immigrant Children

Reuters (California)
By Alex Dobuzinskis
September 27, 2014

California will spend $3 million to provide legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America who have arrived in the state, under a bill signed into law on Saturday by Governor Jerry Brown.

With the measure, California becomes the only U.S. state along the Mexican border to provide special funds for the legal representation in federal immigration court of children from an influx of unaccompanied, Central American minors who began crossing the border last year.

Under the law, money will be given to nonprofit organizations to provide the legal services. Last month, the bill passed the state Assembly by a vote of 56-21 and then the state Senate by 27-8. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.

When the bill was introduced, Brown, a Democrat, said helping the unaccompanied minors navigate immigration courts was "the decent thing to do" and consistent with the "progressive spirit of California."
A yearlong surge has brought about 63,000 unaccompanied children to the southwestern U.S. border, leaving President Barack Obama and his administration grappling for ways to handle the influx and stem the flow of children and families trying to get into the country. Several thousand of the children were sent to California.

The number of unaccompanied minors crossing into the country dropped over the past summer, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this month.

Unlike child immigrants from Mexico, who can be swiftly sent back to their country, U.S. law requires unaccompanied minors from Central America to have their cases heard by an immigration judge.

After their release from detention, the Central American children can be placed with a relative or sponsor and are instructed to go through immigration proceedings, during which they face a possible deportation order.

The U.S. Justice Department and the group that administers the AmeriCorps national service program awarded $1.8 million in grants this month to enroll about 100 lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services to unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings.

But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union are pursuing a lawsuit filed in July that accuses the federal government of not providing legal representation to the minors. The groups have argued in legal papers that the federal government's plan to underwrite the cost of representing some minors is too limited.

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

Thousands of Migrants Have Failed to Report to Immigration Offices

Wall Street Journal
By Miriam Jordan
September 26, 2014

Thousands of families apprehended for entering the country illegally and then released by U.S. authorities have subsequently failed to report to immigration offices as required.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, about 70% of migrant families encountered at the border since May and released haven't reported to an office of the agency as instructed. Between May and August, agents apprehended about 40,000 people entering the U.S. in family units, amid a surge in illegal immigration from Central America.

Because of a shortage of detention space, most migrant families caught at the border have been allowed to join relatives in the U.S. as they await deportation proceedings. Separately, the individuals are instructed to report to an ICE office within a few weeks of reaching their destination.

The no-show figure for ICE supervision doesn't mean individuals have absconded or failed to appear in immigration court. "Individuals who don't report to ICE as requested may still be attending their immigration court hearings," said an ICE spokesperson.

Depending on whether ICE deems an individual a flight risk, migrants who visit an ICE office may be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet, which monitors their movement, or simply told to check in again in a few weeks. The goal is to ensure that an individual facing removal from the country stays in touch with U.S. authorities and reports to court. The ICE monitoring, or check-in, is an alternative to detention, which is limited and costs about $260 per family member per day.

Immigrant advocates said they were seeking clarification from immigration authorities.

"This data contradicts everything we have known about people complying with orders to report," said Royce Bernstein Murray, the director of policy at the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center. "We need to understand this data in detail to find out where gaps can be addressed."

Human-rights groups and immigrant organizations have criticized the Obama administration for opening detention centers and filling them with mothers and children, migrants they believe are likely to win asylum, which will permit them to remain in the U.S. Many of the Central American migrants say they are fleeing gang violence and extortion.

In June, the administration opened a temporary detention facility in Artesia, N.M., that can hold about 650 women and children. A second facility in Karnes, Texas, was opened to house 530 people. A third such detention center with a capacity for 480 people is due to open in Dilley, Texas, by the end of 2014.

Before the new facility opened in Artesia, the government had the capacity for fewer than 100 individuals at a family detention center in Pennsylvania.

The flood of adults with children coming to the U.S. has subsided, from a peak of 16,329 in June to 3,296 in August. The Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts, said in a statement that it continues to schedule and hear these deportation cases on an expedited basis, following the Obama administration's decision to make them a priority.

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

Pro Bono Lawyers Sought for Immigrant Children

Associated Press
By Amy Taxin
September 27, 2014

LOS ANGELES – Most of the nearly 60,000 Central American children who have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year still don’t have lawyers to represent them in immigration court, and advocates are scrambling to train volunteer attorneys to help cope with the massive caseload.

With the number of unaccompanied immigrant children more than doubling this past fiscal year, the need for attorneys has surged, and it has been exacerbated by the immigration courts’ decision to fast-track children’s cases, holding initial hearings within a few weeks instead of months.

Immigrants can have counsel in immigration courts, but lawyers are not guaranteed or provided at government expense. Having an attorney can make a big difference: While almost half of children with attorneys were allowed to remain in the country, only 10 percent of those without representation were allowed to stay, according to an analysis of cases through June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Efforts are underway from White Plains, N.Y., to New Orleans to train attorneys at private law firms on the country’s byzantine immigration laws and how to work with traumatized, Spanish-speaking children, many of whom are fleeing violence — a far cry from the corporate clients most deal with on a daily basis.

“We’re doing pretty well on finding willing lawyers. We’ve got to get them trained, we’ve got to get them matched to that child,” said Reid Trautz, director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s practice and professionalism center. “It just takes time.”

Last month, Democratic Vice President Joe Biden urged lawyers to increase efforts to take on the children’s cases. Since then, the cities of San Francisco and New York have each announced plans to allocate roughly $2 million to help provide more lawyers for unaccompanied minors. California has appropriated $3 million toward the effort.

About 800 immigration lawyers have signed up to volunteer on the cases, the immigration lawyers association said.

So have many other attorneys without any background in immigration law. They are being trained and paired with experienced immigration practitioners, who serve as mentors.

“We’ve had tax lawyers do this, corporate lawyers, real estate — anybody can do it,” said Ricardo Martinez-Cid, president of the Cuban American Bar Association, which started a program earlier this year to represent unaccompanied children in Miami.

Immigrant advocates say the efforts are working, but not as quickly as desired. Nonprofit organizations have been boosting staff, but there aren’t enough experienced immigration lawyers to take on the cases or to mentor volunteers. Nor is there enough long-term funding for cases that can take more than a year to resolve, they said.

“It is very much a triage situation, and it is very, very frustrating because you know when someone calls and you turn them away, it is very unlikely they’ll find counsel,” said Judy London, directing attorney of the immigrants’ rights project at Los Angeles-based Public Counsel.

Some children will apply for green cards under a federal program for abused and abandoned children, while others who came fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are seeking asylum.

One of the biggest challenges for volunteer lawyers is getting clients to open up about their lives when they have been beaten, raped or seen friends and family killed.

Three of the 30 children whose cases are being handled by Public Counsel have a history of suicide attempts or risk of suicide, London said. Most children are not going to feel comfortable walking into a fancy law firm and would probably run from the building, she said, unless an attorney meets the child outside and walks jointly through the door.

Jack Ross, an attorney in Southern California, said he met with a 16-year-old client four times before he told his full story. The boy, who arrived in the country two years ago, fled years of violence from his father and a police department that refused to protect him, he said.

“It’s some of the most compelling legal work you can do, because the stakes are so high,” said Ross, who represents hospitals and care providers in negligence claims and contract disputes. “You become so emotionally invested in the client, their well-being is really at the forefront of everything, and that doesn’t happen a lot in law.”

Before the recent influx of unaccompanied children, only about half were represented, said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer lawyers with children. She could not say how many children now have lawyers, but said certainly fewer than before.

Advocates have sued to demand the government provide the children with attorneys at the government’s expense. The lawsuit is pending before a judge in Seattle.

They say children with representation are more likely to attend their court hearings.

This week, the Homeland Security Department acknowledged that tens of thousands of young families caught on the border failed to meet with federal immigration agents as instructed. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said she could not say whether they attended court hearings on their cases.

At a recent immigration court hearing in Los Angeles, most of the 19 children whose cases were scheduled showed up. Seven had attorneys. Others were accompanied by a relative, as the judge reviewed their names and ages.

Their guardians were given a handout with a list of low-cost legal service providers and told to return in December with a lawyer.

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

Obama Will 'Make Good' on Immigration Reform Promise Aid

The Hill
By Justin Sink
September 28, 2014

President Obama will “make good” on his promise to implement executive actions to address problems with the immigration system by the end of the year, press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday.

The president had initially pledged to take unilateral action on immigration by the end of the summer, but the White House announced earlier this month that he would hold off until after the midterm elections.

White House officials have said Obama was concerned that moving before the midterm elections would make reform a partisan issue and polarize support against it, although the move was widely seen as a concession to Senate Democrats who were locked in tough reelection battles and begged Obama to hold off.

The delay has bred new concerns among immigration activists that the president will not ever take the executive action, but Earnest insisted that was not the case.

“This is a promise the president will keep,” Earnest said during an appearance on Telemundo’s “Enfoque con Jose Diaz-Balart.” “The president has tasked his team with looking at the law and determining what kind of executive authority he can use to try to address the problems of our broken immigration system. They've come up with some good solutions. They will be finalized before the end of the year and the president will announce them before the end of the year.”

Earnest noted that “the president has taken action before that has made a difference in try to addressing some of these problems,” pointing to his deferred action program that allows some who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain without the threat of deportation.

“The president believed that they needed relief. And working with his Homeland Security secretary and other law enforcement officials, was able to bring them relief,” Earnest said. “The president made good on that promise and the president's gonna make good on this promise too.”

The White House has seen a sharp drop in Latino support following his decision to punt on immigration reform. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this month showed just 47 percent of Hispanic voters approve of the president's performance, down 15 percentage points from April, 2013. Fewer than 3 in 10 Latino voters described themselves as "very positive" about Obama.

In a Pew Research poll also released this month, a majority of Hispanic Democrats - 52 percent - said their party wasn't doing a good job on immigration issues.

The president is expected to explain his decision to delay executive action in greater detail on Thursday night, when he’s set to address the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual awards dinner.

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

US Military Program To Allow Some Young Undocumented Immigrants To Serve

International Business Times
By Brianna Lee
September 26, 2014

The Department of Defense will let some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children serve in the military. The move, announced Thursday, comes as President Obama continues to face criticism from immigration advocates over his decision to delay executive action on immigration reform, but officials said it would affect only a very limited number of immigrants.

The Pentagon said its existing program, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), would be expanded to include immigrants who also qualify for the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Under MAVNI, the Pentagon had already been open to recruiting immigrants with legal status if they possessed special skills in high demand, such as medical expertise or fluency in certain languages. MAVNI allows only 1,500 recruits per year, and it’s still unclear how many immigrants under the expanded policy would eventually be included.

Immigrants without legal residence in the U.S. qualify for DACA if they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, have continually lived in the U.S. since 2007, and are enrolled in school or received a high school diploma, among other requirements. The requirements to join MAVNI would be even narrower, since officials would look to recruit those with some high-demand special abilities as well.

The White House had planned to expand the program to DACA-eligible immigrants earlier this year but delayed that decision to avoid any conflicts with congressional efforts to pass legislation on immigration reform this spring.

Immigration reform has since languished in the legislature, and Congress is not expected to revisit it until 2015. President Obama declared this summer that he would act unilaterally to pass immigration reform measures through a series of executive orders. But in early September, he decided to delay those orders until after the November midterm elections, inviting backlash from immigration reform advocates and business leaders who had hoped for measures to ease green-card backlogs.

Some observers considered the timing of the Pentagon’s decision as an attempt by the Obama administration to quell some of that anger. But some immigration advocates were not appeased.

“This foray into executive action is a fig leaf that pretends to help Dreamers but will, in fact, help virtually no one,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration advocacy organization America’s Voice, in a statement. “Very few, if any, DACA recipients will even qualify for this program.”

“If today’s measure is any indication of the type of executive actions we can expect to see from the president after the elections, we are not impressed,” he added.

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

Military Program Will Benefit Few of the Undocumented

USA Today
By Alan Gomez
September 26, 2014

Immigrants have been waiting all summer for the White House to expand the rights of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country. This week, they got it for maybe a few hundred.

When the Department of Defense announced Thursday that it would allow a small number of undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to serve in a specialized military program, immigrants described it as a welcome step forward. But the announcement left them with even more questions about the Obama administration's plans and disappointed that it didn't go further.

"If the president believes that this very small announcement that will only benefit a very small pool of DREAMers will silence our demands for broader administrative relief, he is wrong," said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez of United We Dream, an immigrant rights youth organization. "It's really important that this does not become a benchmark."

A White House official emphasized, however, that the Pentagon's new policy is separate from the systemwide immigration review the White House is conducting and President Obama still intends to implement broader changes. This official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, said the Defense Department program is not a substitute for a broader overhaul of the nation's immigration system, and that Obama still plans executive action on that front by the end of the year.

The Pentagon has been using a program known as the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program, or MAVNI, to recruit up to 1,500 foreigners a year with specialized language skills or specific medical expertise into the armed forces.

Since the program began in 2008, foreigners with green cards or visas could enter. On Thursday, Jessica Wright, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, issued a memo expanding that pool to include immigrants who have qualified for a program created by Obama in 2012 that allows some undocumented to register with the federal government and gain protection from any deportation proceedings for a period of two years. More than 580,000 people have qualified for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

No new military slots were created for those undocumented immigrants, commonly referred to as DREAMers. Instead, they will compete with immigrants holding green cards and visas for the same slots.

Immigration advocates called the new policy inadequate.

"It's really quite puzzling and quite disappointing that the Department of Defense has come out with such a limited, myopic approach to opening up enlistment for DREAMers," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group that supports granting U.S. citizenship to the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

When asked why the Pentagon did not completely open up military enlistment to undocumented immigrants, Defense spokesman Lt. Cdr. Nate Christensen pointed to a 2006 law that requires U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residence for enlistment. The only exception is that the Secretary of Defense can sidestep those requirements if it is "vital to the national interest."

That's why the incremental program, and not a full opening to enlistment, "comports with the law," he said.

Further complicating the new directive is the time and difficulty undocumented immigrants will face when applying for the program.

Margaret Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and former professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, helped design the original MAVNI program and said it will take months before military recruiters are trained to consider the new candidates. She said the heightened security screenings for participants, which include immigration checks of all their immediate relatives, could also limit the pool even further.

"It's going to be problematic," she said.

The Pentagon changes also upset critics of the administration, who said it's another example of the president's attempt to "recruit illegal immigrants" at a time when military personnel are facing layoffs and American workers still face high unemployment.

"With an unprecedented illegal immigration crisis raging, the president announces not enforcement actions to reduce illegality, but yet one more in an endless series of executive actions to further undermine immigration law," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in a statement. "Once more, he has taken unilateral executive actions that signals to the world that our borders are not being enforced."

What's left is a group of undocumented immigrants only slightly encouraged by the new proposal and unsure of their prospects for it. Hina Naveed, a 24-year-old Pakistan native who speaks Urdu, said she would likely qualify for the program given that she's been granted DACA protections and fits their specialized criteria. But since it is so limited and does not affect so many of her friends who also want to join the military, she is left with "mixed emotions."

"At this point, I'm going to refuse to enlist until my fellow DACA recipients have the same opportunity I do," she said.

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Monrovia Defense Workers Say They Were Forced Out After ICE Audit

Los Angeles Times (California)
By Kate Linthicum
September 25, 2016

When Raymundo Lazaro showed up for a shift last week at Vinyl Technology Inc., a Monrovia defense contractor that has employed him for the last 18 years, his boss took him aside.

Lazaro, an immigrant from Mexico who came to the country illegally 23 years ago, was told he didn’t have paperwork showing he was authorized to work in the United States. Fix it immediately, Lazaro said the boss told him, or sign a letter of resignation.

Lazaro, who had been using falsified employment eligibility documents, had no choice but to quit. “I did my best every single day,” he said Thursday. “And like that they called me in and gave me the boom.”

He is one of 240 immigrant workers at the company who have been pressured to sign resignation letters in recent weeks amid a federal audit of the company’s hiring practices, according to former employees of the company and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an immigrant advocacy group.

At a news conference Thursday at CHIRLA's headquarters, the workers called on the federal government to stop such investigations into workers' eligibility while President Obama weighs major changes to federal immigration policy.Obama promised in June to take executive action on immigration that many hope will allow millions of people in the country illegally to stay in the United States and legally work.

The president recently announced he will not take any such action until after the November election.  "There’s no mercy, no justice, no humanity in the implementation of our broken immigration laws,” said Xiomara Corpeno, CHIRLA's director of community education and outreach, who described the federal investigations of companies as "silent raids."Since Obama came to office in 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has changed its approach to cracking down on companies that employ workers lacking authorization. Gone are the dramatic early-morning raids on factories and warehouses that were a hallmark of the presidency of George W. Bush, when armed agents routinely detained hundreds of workers, many of whom were eventually deported.

Now the agency conducts quiet audits of employees' I-9 documents at companies believed to have hired unauthorized workers, with the emphasis on the employer's violations, not the immigrant's.

Arrests of workers have fallen as the amount of fines the agency has collected from employers has risen.

Overall, the number of workplace investigations initiated by ICE fell dramatically in the last year, from 3,903 in the 2013 fiscal year to just 1,963 in the 2014 fiscal year, which ends next month.

The decrease can be attributed to budget cuts at the agency, according to an ICE official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, said ICE is being too soft on immigrants here without permission and the companies that employ them.

"Audits are an important, but you need to also have work-site arrests," he said, adding that companies that employ unauthorized workers take jobs away from Americans.

"There’s an enormous supply of American workers who are not only unemployed but who have dropped out of the labor market all together," Krikorian said. "The idea that there’s not enough bodies to do the work here is laughable."

A representative of Vinyl Technology, which makes plastic products for customers such as the U.S. Navy and NASA, said the company had no comment on the investigation. According to its former workers, the company had around 350 employees until last week, with most earning between $8 and $15 an hour.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that prosecutes companies for knowingly employing unauthorized workers, does not release information on its audits unless an investigation has resulted in a fine or the filing of criminal charges.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the agency prioritizes audits of defense contractors because “the employment of unauthorized workers at locations of this nature could pose a threat to homeland security."

She said the agency's focus on audits has "reduced the need for large-scale immigration enforcement actions."

Immigrant advocates acknowledge that ICE's new approach may be gentler, but they say it still goes too far.

Even with the recent changes, they say, the system punishes workers. “It’s the workers and the families that end up bearing the brunt of the burden,” said CHIRLA spokesman Jorge Maria Cabrera. He pointed to the 240 immigrants who have been left scrambling to find new jobs.  Lazaro, who had worked his way up to a supervisor position at Vinyl, with 30 employees under him, says he will be lucky if he finds work cleaning houses.

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

Military Path Opened for Young Immigrants

New York Times
By Julia Preston
September 25, 2014

A small number of young immigrants who grew up in the United States without legal status will be allowed to join the military and have a fast-track pathway to citizenship, Pentagon officials announced Thursday, the first time those young people have been able to enlist.

Undocumented young people who have been granted deportation deferrals by the Obama administration will be eligible to apply for the military under a recruitment program for immigrants with special language and medical skills, according to a memo issued Thursday by Jessica L. Wright, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

But administration officials emphasized that the number who would succeed in enlisting would be very small, probably not more than a few dozen. The requirements are stringent and the program is currently limited to 1,500 recruits each year, and already has a huge backlog of applicants.

Dr. Amen Dhyllon, a dentist practicing in Philadelphia, said that joining the Army appealed to him because of the wide range of patients he would see.  

Advocates for the young people, who call themselves Dreamers, have been pressing the administration to allow all of them with deferrals to enlist, and they were both heartened and sharply disappointed by the Pentagon decision.

“This is a first step, and we commend the administration for recognizing the skills and talents a lot of us do have,” said Cesar Vargas, a leader of the Dream Action Coalition, who has said he would like to join the military. “But it definitely needs to be expanded.”

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, who has urged President Obama to allow far broader enlistment of young people with deferrals, called the decision a “missed opportunity.”

Last spring Pentagon officials were considering whether to open recruitment to the young people with deferrals under a two-year-old program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The deferrals do not confer any resident status, but they do allow the young people to remain in the country legally. More than 580,000 young people have received them.

The White House instructed military officials to hold off, saying the president was waiting to see if House Republicans would move forward on immigration overhaul legislation.

That legislation died over the summer, and the president is now weighing executive action he could take to halt deportations for more immigrants who are here illegally. But administration officials said the Pentagon’s decision was separate from the president’s deliberations and was not a preview of the measures he might take, which he has said will come after the November midterm elections.

Pentagon officials said they acted to change the recruitment rules because the immigrant program, known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or Mavni, was set to expire next Wednesday. It was renewed on Thursday for two years.

The Pentagon program was created for temporary immigrants who speak one of about three dozen languages including Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Pashto, Nepalese, Russian, Uzbek and Swahili — but not Spanish, the language of the majority of the undocumented young people. It also accepts licensed doctors and dentists in certain specialties. Immigrants must pass rigorous security checks to be accepted.

Those who enter the program can apply for citizenship within months after they enlist.

In general, immigrants must be legal permanent residents or American citizens to be eligible to enlist.

Jeh C. Johnson, who is now secretary of Homeland Security, made a determination in 2012 when he was legal counsel at the Pentagon that it would be problematic to expand the immigrant recruitment program to large numbers of young people with deferrals. Now, in his new role, Mr. Johnson is charged with figuring out how the president can offer deportation protections to many more illegal immigrants, including perhaps expanding military enlistment for Dreamers.

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