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, November 24, 2014

Is Obama Overreaching on Immigration? Lincoln and FDR Would Say ‘No’

Time (Opinion)
By David Kaiser
November 21, 2014

Like Lincoln and Roosevelt before him, Obama occupies the White House in a time of great crisis
Last night, President Obama announced new steps that will allow about five million undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits and feel free of imminent deportation. Given that we now have an estimated 10–11 million such people within our nation and that many of them clearly will never leave, this seems a reasonable first step towards giving them all some kind of legal status. But, because of the anti-immigration stance of the Republican Party, which will entirely control Congress starting on Jan. 3, the President will have to base this step solely on executive power. And even before the President spoke, various Republicans had accused him of acting like an emperor or a monarch and warning of anarchy and violence if he goes through with his plans.
There are, in fact, substantial legal and historical precedents, including a recent Supreme Court decision, that suggest that Obama’s planned actions would be neither unprecedented nor illegal. This is of course the President’s own position, that no extraordinary explanation is needed—yet we can also put his plans in the broader context of emergency presidential powers, which in fact have a rich history in times of crisis in the United States. It is not accidental that this issue of Presidential power is arising now, because it will inevitably arise—as the founders anticipated—any time a crisis has made it unusually difficult to govern the United States. Like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, Obama occupies the White House in a time of great crisis, and therefore finds it necessary to take controversial steps.
The Founding Fathers distrusted executive authority, of course, because they had fought a revolution in the previous decade against the arbitrary authority of King George III. But, on the other hand, they had come to Philadelphia in 1787 because their current government, the early version of the U.S. system established by the Articles of Confederation, was so weak that the new nation was sinking into anarchy. So they created a strong executive and a much more powerful central government than the Articles of Confederation had allowed for—and having lived through a revolution, they also understood that governments simply had to exercise exceptional powers in times of emergency.
They made one explicit reference to an emergency power, authorizing the federal government to suspend the right of habeas corpus—freedom from arbitrary arrest—”in cases of rebellion or invasion [when] the public safety may require it.” Nearly 80 years later, when the southern states had denied the authority of the federal government, Abraham Lincoln used this provision to lock up southern sympathizers in the North, and eventually secured the assent of Congress to this measure. He also used traditional powers of a government at war—including the confiscation of enemy property—to emancipate the slaves within the Confederacy in late 1862. With the help of these measures, the North won the war and the Union survived—apparently exactly what the Founders had intended.
When Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office in the midst of a virtual economic collapse in March of 1933, he not only declared that the nation had “nothing to fear but fear itself,” but also made clear that he would take emergency measures on his own if Congress did not go along. That spring, the country was treated to a remarkable movie, Gabriel Over the White House, in which the President did exactly that—but as it turned out, the Congress was more than happy to go along with Roosevelt’s initial measures. It wasn’t until his second term that Congress turned against him; he, like Obama, used executive authority to find new means of fighting the Depression. In wartime he also claimed and exercised new emergency powers in several ways, including interning Japanese-Americans, this time without a formal suspension of habeas corpus. In retrospect both a majority of Americans and the courts have decided that some of these measures, especially the internment, were unjust and excessive, but the mass of the people accepted them in the midst of a great war as necessary to save the country, preferring to make amends later on. Though opponents continually characterized both Lincoln and FDR as monarchs and dictators trampling on the Constitution, those are judgments which history, for the most part, has not endorsed.
As the late William Strauss and Neil Howe first pointed out about 20 years ago in their remarkable books, Generations and The Fourth Turning, these first three great crises in our national life—the Revolutionary and Constitutional period, the Civil War, and the Depression and the Second World War—came at regular intervals of about 80 years. Sure enough, just as they had predicted, the fourth such great crisis came along in 2001 as a result of 9/11. President Bush immediately secured from Congress the sweeping authority to wage war almost anywhere, and claimed emergency powers to detain suspected terrorists at Guantanamo. (Some of those powers the Supreme Court eventually refused to recognize.) The war against terror was, however, only one aspect of this crisis. The other is the splintering of the nation, once again, into two camps with largely irreconcilable world views, a split that has paralyzed our government to an extent literally never before seen for such a long period. Immigration is only one of several problems—including climate change, inequality and employment—that the government has not been able to address by traditional means because the Republican Party has refused to accept anything President Obama wants to do.

The Founders evidently understood that when the survival of the state is threatened, emergency measures are called for. We are not yet so threatened as we were in the three earlier crises, but our government is effectively paralyzed. Under the circumstances it seems to me that the President has both a right and a duty to use whatever authority he can find to solve pressing national problems. Congressional obstructionism does not relieve him of his own responsibilities to the electorate.

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

Turmoil Over Immigration Status? California Has Lived It for Decades

New York Times
By Adam Nagourney, Ian Lovett and Vindu Goel
November 22, 2014

There may be no better place than California to measure the contradictions, crosswinds and confusion that come with trying to change immigration law.
For 30 years, California has been the epicenter of the churn of immigration — legal and not — in the nation. It was California where Pete Wilson, the Republican governor, championed in 1994 a voter initiative known as Proposition 187, which severely restricted services to immigrants here illegally. And it was California where just last year, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, held a celebratory, dignitary-filled signing of legislation permitting unauthorized workers to obtain driver’s licenses.
One-third of the immigrants in the country illegally live in California, which has a 125-mile border with Mexico, much of it guarded by long stretches of border fence. They work on farms in the Central Valley, in manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles, and as housekeepers and gardeners in Silicon Valley, alongside a steady stream of young legal immigrants who hold high-skilled jobs in Northern California’s critical tech industry.
They come mostly from Mexico but also from Central America, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan. Commercial boulevards in the heart of Los Angeles are a riot of Korean-language signs, and in many neighborhoods in San Francisco the talk on the street is as likely to be in Spanish or Chinese as it is English.
And while many undocumented immigrants take pains not to draw attention to their status, California nonetheless offers the prospect of a more open existence than much of the country does, albeit in an ask-no-questions fashion. Given the way many of these immigrants are already treated by the state, be it with the issuing of driver’s licenses or some health insurance, President Obama’s executive action on immigration was almost anticlimactic to many people here.
“We are the state that has the most settled immigrant population in terms of people who have been in the country for 10 years,” said Manuel Pastor, a co-director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California. “We went through our Prop. 187 moment. We are at the other end. People will be eager to make this happen, because they realize we are going to get comprehensive immigration reform at some point.”
Unauthorized immigrants in Los Angeles are among the most settled in the country — many have been here at least 10 years. They contribute to about 7 percent of the region’s economy. This area, which has more than one million unauthorized immigrants, had the largest number of people who were approved for a two-year deportation deferral under the president’s initial program that began in 2012.
Indeed, more than half the undocumented immigrants in California have lived here at least 10 years — far more than anyplace else in the country — and one-sixth of the children in California have at least one parent here illegally, according to Mr. Pastor’s center. That was illuminated by Mr. Obama’s expansion of the deportation protection program, since it was based largely on how long immigrants have resided here and whether they have American-born children.
“My parents are going to be able to qualify under this program,” said Paola Fernandez, 28, a representative of the Service Employees International Union who lives in Bakersfield. She was brought here as a child and got permission to stay under Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She has two younger siblings who were born here, which bodes well for her parents.
“We’ve been here close to 25 years,” Ms. Fernandez said. “On a very personal level, this is a very amazing moment.”
At the same time, the extent of the illegal immigrant population here spotlighted limitations in what the president had to offer last week. Most notably, farmworkers in the Central Valley found themselves divided between those whose children were born in the United States or who are permanent legal residents — and thus eligible for the blanket of Mr. Obama’s action — and those who had children in their home country or not at all.
Central Valley
Nearly 40 percent of immigrants in the Central Valley are estimated to be here illegally, and nearly half of them are employed in agriculture. Some farmworkers may benefit from the president’s executive action because they have children born in the United States. But for the many farmworkers who have no family here, their status will remain the same.
 “I’m scared that my family will be torn apart,” said Maria Ramos, 21, who moved here from Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1994 and was granted a deferral in 2012 while her parents remained here illegally. “It’s scary to think my mom could get deported. They’re going to tear our family apart. I wouldn’t want that for other people to experience.”
There are few states where immigrants are as integral to the economy, whether in farming, manufacturing or basic services. And many analysts suggested that those different forces were reflected in the White House’s attempt to parse the differing demands of, in particular, Silicon Valley, with its thirst for high-end technology workers, and the Central Valley, with its overwhelming demand for inexpensive labor to work on the farms.
The Bay Area and Silicon Valley
While there are a significant number of unauthorized workers in this area, much of the focus has been on legal, temporary workers. San Francisco and San Jose are among the top areas that request H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, and the president’s plan disappointed the tech community by not increasing the cap on the number of H-1Bs issued. The plan does help fill science and technology jobs by expanding a program that allows foreign students to remain in the country temporarily for training.
In Silicon Valley, Mr. Obama offered a limited promise to open the doors to high-skilled legal immigrants brought here by technology companies, while making it slightly easier for those already here and eager to switch jobs without putting their immigration status in jeopardy.
Sujoy Gupta, an Indian immigrant who came to the United States in 2003 to study and now works at a start-up called AppDirect in San Francisco, said the current visa rules made it difficult for him and his wife, Pooja Madaan, who works in marketing, to change employers, travel or buy a home.
“So every time I change my job, I have to reapply for my visa,” he said in an interview in his San Francisco home on Friday. That is likely to change now.
These changes were less than what Silicon Valley business leaders wanted but stood in contrast with agriculture, where the White House resisted requests to create a waiver for farmworkers. Half the agriculture workers in the Central Valley have immigrated here illegally.
“A major part of the work force that harvests the crops is undocumented, and it’s time we just recognized that,” said Greg Wegis, the president of the Kern County Farm Bureau.
Esther Cervantes, 53, who came here illegally nearly 20 years ago and packs the grapes her husband picks, paid to have her children brought over in 2000; they all received deportation deferrals under Mr. Obama’s earlier act and are thus assured a future here.
“I was expecting this to help me,” she said. “But for me, there’s nothing. I don’t have children who are citizens or residents.”
There has been a thriving underground economy across the state involving undocumented immigrants: the child care workers for wealthy software developers in Silicon Valley, where 8 percent of the work force is unauthorized, or the gardeners for estates in Beverly Hills. Presumably, that will come more into the open and, with it, promises for more job stability, an increased ability to change jobs and less fear of harassment by employers taking advantage of their vulnerability, said Reshma Shamasunder, the executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center.
“It’s going to be an important contribution to the California economy both in terms of raising revenues, but also the security of the work force,” she said.
While other states may resist Mr. Obama’s initiative, California officials are already looking to expand existing programs to help immigrants here illegally. At La Raza Community Resource Center in San Francisco’s Mission District, which instructs immigrants on what kinds of documents they may need to apply for legal status, officials are preparing to help people take advantage of the new policy.
“Once people know more about it, there will be a lot of interest,” said Carl Larsen Santos, the center’s immigration program coordinator. “The psychological impact of having a work permit and not living in fear will be a huge boon to the community.”
California has had some notable pockets of resistance to immigrants, most recently over the summer when protesters carrying signs and American flags met three buses of immigrant mothers and children in the city of Murrieta. But over all, this is a state that has embraced measures intended to make it easier for immigrants to live and work within its borders. A survey by the Pew Research Center last week found that of the 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States, 2.5 million live in California.
“California is more politically and emotionally evolved on this topic than the rest of the country,” said Bill Whalen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former long-term aide to Mr. Wilson. “We have been through this for 20 years now. It’s the California existence: You are familiar with illegal immigration, you probably tapped into it in some way — hiring someone illegally to look after your children or tend your lawn.”

Matt A. Barreto, a professor of political science at the University of Washington in Seattle, said that even before the president’s action, California held itself forth as a model on immigration. “Across a variety of issues and policies, California has been a laboratory for the nation, forecasting and foreshadowing what might happen nationally,” he said.

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

Undocumented Immigrants and Advocates Welcome Obama's Executive Action at Viewing Party

By Lucy Westcott
November 21, 2014

Stacked boxes of pizza, handmade signs and American flags gave a viewing party for President Barack Obama’s immigration speech held by New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform the distinct vibe of election night, albeit with greater urgency and importance.
Around 200 people gathered in the auditorium of the SEIU 32BJ building to watch President Obama deliver his primetime address to the nation on his long-awaited immigration action. New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, a campaign coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition, held viewing parties for the speech in Manhattan, Westchester and Long Island.
The President's executive action, which allows around five million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and defer deportation for three years, was focused around three major points: granting more time in the U.S. for the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for five years, as long as they pay taxes and pass a background check; strengthening border security and cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; and focusing on keeping families together and deporting more felons.
Monica Sibri was brought to the U.S. from Ecuador three months after her 16th birthday. She is an undocumented immigrant, but does not qualify to be a DREAMer. Both her parents, who are also undocumented, live in the U.S.
“The president’s decision to come out and give an executive action means that there’s hope. I’m positive that if Congress sees him working and doing what he’s supposed to do, they will also pass a comprehensive immigration reform where I will qualify,” Sibri told Newsweek.
“The fact that [Obama] has been able to say, ‘I know you guys are out there and I’m trying to work for you’, it’s just a motivation for us to continue advocacy work,” she said.
As the time for Obama’s speech neared and MSNBC counted down in the background, children added the final touches of glitter glue and gold stars to their signs, which thanked the president in Spanish. Advocates and union members took seats and unfurled the tightly wound Star Spangled Banners in a pile on a table by the door.
“Are you ready to celebrate a historic victory?” Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, asked the crowd. They shouted they were ready.
A group of women in prime, front row seats waved their flags and signs at photographers with the enthusiasm of long-stationed fans on the red carpet of a movie premiere. Once the president started speaking, one of them, a blonde woman in a puffy red jacket, solemnly nodded along to Obama's remarks and wiped away tears as he spoke about the broken immigration system’s legacy of fractured families.
When the president finished, after telling the American people that they “were strangers once, too”, cries of “God Bless America” rippled through the room amid frantic flag waving.
Gisele, a woman originally from Brazil who declined to give her last name, told Newsweek she was very happy with Obama’s decision. She has been in the U.S. illegally for 20 years.
“I have hope,” she said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Joe O’Brien, who works as a concierge in Manhattan, said he also welcomed Obama’s plan, but that something should have been done before now.
“That’s part of the problem, we’ve got to pull [undocumented immigrants] into the workforce. In some cases they work harder than the homegrown people that are here now,” said O’Brien. “It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes.”
Obama vowed to use his executive authority after the House of Representatives stalled in enacting any bipartisan legislation on the issue. Obama announced his speech on a Facebook post on Wednesday.
Republicans accused Obama of overstepping his authority, but the White House maintains the president remains within his lawful boundaries. The GOP released a video hours before the speech on Thursday featuring quotes from Obama saying he would not use executive authority.
Representatives from New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement (NYICE) were stationed outside the SEIU 32BJ building, holding signs that said "Hispanics Against Illegal Aliens" and "Secure Our Borders Now". Needless to say, their reception of the speech had been largely negative. The group accused Obama of acting like a "tyrant" over immigration and said he hadn't done enough to secure the borders.

When told that one of the key points of Obama's exectuive action was ramping up border security, NYICE's Joanna Marzullo said: "When Obama's lips are moving I presume he's lying because previously he said he'd never do this [take executive action on immigration] and he went ahead and did it."

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

Promise Fulfilled? Activists Respond Differently to Obama’s Executive Order

By Lauren Walker
November 21, 2014

If there is one thing the immigration activist community can agree on, it’s that Obama promised change a long time ago. But thoughts as to whether the substance of his executive order is enough to warrant the wait are not as harmonious.

In a prime-time address on Thursday night, Obama announced a slew of executive actions, most notably one that would give up to 5 million undocumented immigrants relief from the threat of deportation. He offered the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens the chance to register with the government, pay taxes and avoid being deported for three years, providing the parents have been in the country for more than five years. Obama also extended this deal to anyone who came to the U.S. as a child before January 1, 2010, regardless of their current age.

“My first thought was that this was a very historic step,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. Choi explained that opening a door of opportunity for millions of undocumented immigrants is exactly what organizations like his have been fighting for, especially over the last two years. While he admitted that the details of Obama’s speech were “a mixed bag,” he concluded that he was happy with the president’s bold move and that the executive order could have been smaller than what he gave to the immigrant community.

But not all activists were as thrilled. “While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction,” said Juan Escalante, an online activist and blogger, “a lot of people are disillusioned because we still don’t have immigration reform. Though it’s only temporary...people like my parents are going to be left out of something that could potentially change our lives entirely.”

Escalante and his parents came to the United States in 2000 when he was 11 years old on a visa. When it came time to renew, the family’s lawyer advised them to apply for a Green Card instead because they were “sure to get one.” “We became undocumented by way of our lawyer,” he said. While Escalante is a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), his parents have lived in fear of deportation every day since losing their secure stay. 

But some are more skeptical of the program. “Assuming that the program is like deferred action you would probably have to renew it through USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services],” said Angy Rivera, core member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). “But that is also under the assumption that the program continues running after Obama leaves office. It’s literally like giving your whole life over to immigration officials and you are not on the path to citizenship.”

Not only is there fear amongst the community that after three years of relief, they could be easily found and deported by way of the information they provided, Rivera said, but many are afraid that having lived under the radar for so long, they may not have sufficient proof to qualify in the first place and putting them in jeopardy instantly. Rivera predicts that these considerations could inhibit the number of people who apply, and therefore benefit from the new program.  

Obama also ordered additional resources to be allocated to the southern border in order to curb the number of illegal crossings and called for reprioritizing deportations—expelling criminals first and dropping low concern cases.

Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Action Coalition, called allocating resources to the border to help immigration agents go after the worst of the worst a critical reform. “We need to make sure we are allocating resources to investigate crime, foreign threats, inside our borders and outside our borders rather than wasting literally millions of dollars deporting a grandma,” he said. But others rejected the idea that the border was insecure and needed additional resources.

“The fact is border crossings are not determined by the number of boots on the ground and drones in the sky and fences along the border. They are really driven by larger socio-economic factors,” Choi said. Although he is unconvinced about the necessity of increased militarization, he felt optimistic about Obama’s announcement that his administration would prioritize deporting criminals. “I think it is something new,” he said. “This is the administration really trying to live up to what they said they had been doing all along.”

Escalante and Rivera, however, felt less assured by the president’s promise to curtail the deportation of non-criminals.

“As a person impacted by this, it doesn't give me any more security,” Escalante said. He emphasized that deporting dangerous criminals has always been the priority, but based on the numbers of people deported by what he calls Obama’s “deportation machine” suggests otherwise. “The problem is differentiating between a parent who is making their ends meet to put a roof over their heads and food on their table versus that other individual,” he said.

According to a recent Pew study, the Obama administration has averaged 400,000 annual deportations since 2009. A record number of immigrants, 438,421, were sent home during 2013.

“I want to see how that actually plays out,” Rivera said. “In past speeches the president has always said we are not deporting law abiding immigrants, we are not deporting parents, we are not deporting ‘good immigrants.’ But that’s not true. In reality parents and children, young people and older people have been deported for a routine traffic stop.”

“Hopefully the numbers reflect who we should be going after,” Vargas said. 

For Escalante, the executive order did not compensate for the delay. “This is something that the president has continuously promised us since he took office,” he said. “People will blow this out of proportion and use this in their fundraising emails and try to say ‘yeah we did it’ but it doesn't do anybody any favors.”

“This could have happened in the summer,” Escalante said. “We essentially wasted three or four months waiting for this for no reason whatsoever. And it’s not just time in terms of this Congress, it’s time in peoples’ lives … What is going to happen to all those people that have been deported whose children are now in foster care, whose families have been torn apart and who have no option but to watch their families grow up from afar?”

Rivera agreed. “I think that this could have been done way earlier if it wasn’t used as a political pawn, as a political tool for election season. And I think it completely backfired, holding it off until after election season. Now, looking back, had we approached it with a piecemeal solution 10 years ago we could have a lot more done than if we had tried to push for something huge,” she said.

But Choi feels this is a welcome first step in a long journey toward a big solution. “We need to continue to fight and push for a comprehensive solution that can address all these things,” he said. He also explained that activists would have to start mobilizing immediately in order to ensure that those who are newly impacted are provided with high quality, low-cost services.

“Whenever you have this kind of rollercoaster ride, people in any kind of campaign will have their differences and yet I don’t want to make too much of those differences because we continue to see the overall picture and fight together,” Choi said.

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

Workers in Silicon Valley Weigh In on Obama’s Immigration Order

New York Times
By Vindu Goel
November 23, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley’s constant stream of new apps and services depends on hundreds of thousands of foreign-born engineers to help create them. So the technology industry has been pushing for changes to the nation’s immigration policy for more than a decade to allow more skilled workers into the country.
President Obama’s executive order on immigration last week falls well short of what both immigrants and industry leaders were seeking. The most vexing issues they face, like speeding up the process for obtaining permanent residency and getting more visas for high-skilled technology work, would require an act of Congress.
Nonetheless, some immigrants working in technology were heartened by the president’s actions and said they could potentially make life and work in the United States easier.
One of Mr. Obama’s initiatives, for example, would give entrepreneurs starting a company a special founder’s visa, provided that they raise outside funding. That appeals to Laks Srini, a founder of the San Francisco start-up Zenefits.
Right now, the law is so Kafkaesque that Mr. Srini, who is from India, had to get his American co-founder, Parker Conrad, to officially hire him as Zenefits’ database administrator simply to transfer his visa from his previous employer so they could create the company.
In less than two years, the two of them have built Zenefits, an online service that helps companies manage their employee benefits, into a company with 450 employees.
But Mr. Srini, the chief technology officer, still has not been able to upgrade his visa to a more flexible type that reflects his role at the company. He is applying for a visa for people of extraordinary talent — nicknamed the “I am awesome” visa because it essentially requires applicants to meet about a dozen requirements to prove eminence in their fields.
Gesturing at the cluster of desks around his own open-plan work space, Mr. Srini said the American visa restrictions had also crimped his ability to hire talented engineers. Because the primary visas used to hire software workers, known as H-1B visas, run out in a few days when the lottery is opened every April, he really has one chance a year to hire foreigners. And if they don’t win the lottery, they have to wait another year, often forcing Zenefits to find someone else.
“When you’re a start-up, you live and die by speed,” Mr. Srini said.
Zenefits plans for now to divert some potential San Francisco jobs to Vancouver, where Canadian immigration laws make it much easier to bring in foreign engineers.
He said that immigration was a “gnarly problem” but one thing the politicians fighting in Washington don’t understand is that for every foreign engineer Zenefits hires, it also hires more than 10 American citizens or permanent residents to do various jobs.
Two of the Obama administration’s other proposals could help Zenefits and other Silicon Valley companies with their recruiting.
One would extend the amount of time that someone who has earned an American science or technology degree could work at a company after graduation. Currently the limit for such “optional practical training” is 29 months. Mr. Obama has directed immigration officials to begin a formal process to set more permissive rules for the program.
A longer training period would help companies hire more workers than the current annual cap of 85,000 new H-1B visas allows.
Mr. Srini said provisions that would allow spouses of high-tech visa holders to work would also help. Zenefits has lost promising overseas job applicants because they had wives who did not want to give up the ability to work so that their husbands could take jobs in the United States.
Glynn Morrison, a Scotsman on an H-1B visa who was one of Zenefits’ earliest employees, said his wife, a South Korean citizen, is still unable to work after nearly two years in the United States. She wants to be an accountant, but cannot legally work even as a basic bookkeeper. Although she has a bachelor’s degree, she is considering a second degree just to get a work permit, he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to have so many people in America not working,” Mr. Morrison said. “You want them to pay taxes.”
While Mr. Srini and Mr. Morrison will most likely find ways to stay in the United States for the long term, the future is more hazy for Charlotte Brugman, a Dutch citizen who is working at Samahope, a small San Francisco nonprofit that provides medical services in developing countries.
Ms. Brugman said that she and her Swiss husband, an M.B.A. student at the University of California, Berkeley, were trying to figure out what Mr. Obama’s proposals meant for them.
Ms. Brugman’s ability to work is tied to the visa of her husband, Johannes Koeppel, who is on a Fulbright scholarship that entitles him to a more permissive visa. The spouses of other foreign students at the Berkeley business school cannot work at all.
Although Mr. Koeppel is also building an online travel start-up with two American co-founders, when he finishes his business degree next year, it’s unclear whether he and his wife can stay in the country.
Mr. Koeppel is hoping to qualify for the founder’s visa that Mr. Obama has proposed. But based on the details released so far, he may be in a Catch-22: It’s difficult to get that visa without raising money from investors, and it’s difficult to raise money if the investors don’t know if the founder can stay in the country.
Confounding everyone is the vagueness of the president’s proposals. While it’s clear that he cannot solve the biggest problems without going to Congress, people in the tech industry said they still did not understand how exactly his proposals would play out. In many cases, the president has outlined broad ideas, which have been assigned to the immigration agencies and various task forces to figure out.
“The two lines in the speech did not really give us much more clarity about what it will mean for us,” Ms. Brugman said.
Collectively, the president’s visa proposals for highly skilled workers would add about 147,000 people to the work force by 2024, according to an analysis by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.
That’s too little, too late for many in the technology industry.
Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents most of the region’s large tech companies, said the industry was disappointed that Mr. Obama never followed through on his original campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration legislation in his first year in office.
“He talked eloquently and in depth about low-wage workers, and I appreciate that,” Mr. Guardino said, referring to the president’s speech on Thursday. “But from an innovation economy perspective? I wasn’t expecting a lot, and it lived up to my expectations.”

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

Immigration Reforms Fail to Satisfy Silicon Valley

Financial Times
By Barney Jopson
November 23, 2014

The White House is projecting that most of the economic benefits from its immigration reform will come from highly-skilled workers, but dissatisfied tech groups say the initiative does not do enough to help them recruit foreign programmers and engineers.
President Barack Obama used his executive powers last week to remove the deportation threat hanging over nearly 5m unauthorised immigrants, and took smaller steps to address longstanding complaints from Silicon Valley about US visa backlogs.
The measures for the tech sector are at the heart of White House claims about the economic impact of its move, but tech lobbyists said the Obama administration's plans lacked critical details and had been oversold.
“What the president is planning to do will buy us more time and enable us to stay afloat a bit longer, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the fact the ship is sinking,” said Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, a coalition that includes Microsoft, Google and Amazon.
The concerns of tech groups are important because, while the administration claims its action will boost US output by 0.4 to 0.9 per cent after ten years, 0.3 to 0.7 per cent is supposed to come from high-skill immigration.
In particular, the White House expects a big boost to the productivity of all US workers by bringing in more foreign entrepreneurs and technologists. Its own figures, however, show the majority of extra workers will not be new immigrants but the spouses of existing H-1B high-skill visa holders, who are not necessarily highly-skilled themselves.
Such measures do not satisfy tech groups, which have long complained that the US’s sclerotic legal immigration system is stifling their growth by stopping them hiring the programmers they need.
Intel says that at US universities where it recruits, more than half of graduates with advanced degrees in engineering, science and maths are foreign-born but struggle to get work visas or residency permits. US labour unions dispute claims of labour shortages.
Mr Corley said: “We believe the president’s commitment, we trust his sincerity, but we’re not seeing the kind of detail we want to see at this stage to fully assess what it means for us.”

“For years Republicans and Democrats have shown the same amount of sincerity and said that they want to fix the highly-skilled visa system – and a decade later it’s not done.”
Another tech lobbyist said industry needs had been eclipsed by the weight of demands over unauthorised immigrants, a group that arouses great sympathy in the Democratic base and divides Republicans.
“There’s only so many people and so much time. This wasn’t their priority,” he said.

Tech groups had urged the White House to free up more permanent residency permits, or green cards, by “recapturing” some 200,000 unused in previous years, and by not counting family members towards the annual allotment of 140,000 work-based green cards. But the White House did not acquiesce.
The measures it did announce on highly-skilled workers included plans to allow people who are already in the US on work visas to change jobs if they have had green cards approved but are waiting – often many years – for them to become available. It said it would give some of their spouses the right to work too.
The Obama administration also proposed to extend an on-the-job training programme for foreign students of science, technology, engineering or mathematics coming out of US universities, which helps companies to recruit graduates. But Mr Corley said the impact would depend on the details of rules that were yet to be written.

Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, another lobby group, said: “While we appreciate the president’s efforts to address the problems in our employment-based system, and look forward to further details, it is disappointing that neither he nor Congress have been able to seize the opportunity to accelerate economic growth by fixing our broken immigration system.”

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Obama Defends His Use of Executive Authority on Immigration

New York Times
By Brian Knowlton
November 23, 2014

President Obama, in an interview broadcast on Sunday, said he rejects Republican criticism that he has exceeded his authority in moving to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, adding that he has been “very restrained” in his use of executive authority.
Angry Republican lawmakers have accused Mr. Obama of unconstitutional, even imperial, overreach. They have pointed to past remarks in which he himself suggested that his powers to act were limited.
But Mr. Obama, in the interview aired Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week,” said that history was on his side. Both Democratic and Republican presidents, going back decades, had taken similar actions, he said.
“The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot,” he said in the interview, which was taped Friday. “The difference is the response of Congress — and specifically the response of some of the Republicans.”
He said historians of the modern presidency would confirm that he had “actually been very restrained.”
Mr. Obama has framed his action not as an amnesty for some undocumented immigrants but as a directive, in part, to federal agencies to focus their attention on those with criminal records, not on law-abiding, taxpaying, longtime immigrants. In all, about five million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would be protected.
“The fact is that we exercise prosecutorial discretion all the time,” he said, adding that Republicans remained free to pass an immigration law that would overturn his own actions.
Mr. Obama was also asked in the interview about concerns of possible violence in Ferguson, Mo., and about the outlines of the 2016 presidential race.
In Ferguson, a grand jury is expected to decide shortly whether to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the fatal shooting on Aug. 9 of Michael Brown, a black teenager. The F.B.I. has warned of potential violence there and in other cities across the country, depending on the outcome.
Mr. Obama urged those in Ferguson to “keep protests peaceful,” but he also envisioned that things might go badly. “You know, we saw during the summer the possibility of even overwhelmingly peaceful crowds being overrun by a few thugs who might be looking for an excuse to loot or to commit vandalism,” he said.
The president said he had spoken to Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri to ensure that he had a plan to respond to any violence and “to be able to sort out the vast majority of peaceful protesters form the handful who are not.” More broadly, he said, law enforcement and minority communities across the country needed to find ways to deepen their levels of trust.
Asked whether he might visit Ferguson once the grand jury’s decision becomes public, Mr. Obama said he would “wait and see how the response comes about.”
The president also suggested that he might keep a low profile as the campaign to elect his successor geared up.
“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want — you know, that new car smell,” he said. “You know, they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me.”
He acknowledged that Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she seek the Democratic nomination as is widely expected, might at times try to detach herself from his record.

“She’s not going to agree with me on everything,” he said of Mrs. Clinton, his former secretary of state. Still, he said, she would make a “great” president.

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