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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, March 31, 2017

Silicon Valley’s ‘Darkest’ Immigration Secret Hits U.S. Cinemas

By Saritha Rai
March 30, 2017

A feature film about the difficulties facing an Indian temporary work-visa holder waiting for permanent residency will be screened in 25 U.S. cinemas on Friday, with backing from Silicon Valley investors, fueling an already heated immigration debate.

The film, “For Here or To Go?” was written and produced by San Francisco-based Rishi Bhilawadikar, 33, one of the estimated million-plus H-1B visa holders in the country. The title is a play on the ubiquitous question at coffee shops and fast-food outlets that often flummoxes new arrivals.

The movie is being shown on the eve of the annual lottery for the three-year visas, which are awarded to foreign workers in specialty occupations ranging from software engineers to fashion models. President Donald Trump is trying to tighten the immigration system and his administration’s efforts to monitor H-1B visas were revealed in a leaked executive order.

Applications flood in on the April 1 opening date for the 65,000 annual quota of H-1B visas. Tens of thousands of additional visas are granted for special cases such as advanced degree holders. Employers can sponsor H-1B holders to apply for a Green Card that gives the right to permanent residence, but the approvals process is backlogged and caps on country of birth mean that applicants from nations like India and China may wait a decade or more.

“A person with my level of skills from Sri Lanka would get a Green Card in six months whereas I could be waiting 15 years,” said Bhilawadikar, who helps improve customer interaction and e-commerce as a user experience designer for Gap Inc.

VC Funding

Funded by investors including venture capitalist Brad Feld of Foundry Group, the movie tells the story of Vivek Pandit, a Silicon Valley-based software professional, and his friends, who struggle to navigate the U.S. immigration system. As a “temp worker,” Pandit is unable to make long-term life decisions like founding a company, buying a home or starting a family.

“It’s the untold story of hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants who drive a nice-enough car but avoid buying expensive furniture for fear of having to leave it all behind,” said Bhilawadikar. “I set about making this film to humanize my story and the story of a million others like me.”

There could be up to 2 million Indian workers in the Green Card backlog, according to David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute think-tank.

Advocates of immigration often cite H-1B success stories like Sundar Pichai of Google and Satya Nadella of Microsoft. But the work visas are controversial and critics say companies that use them the most — information technology services companies with the bulk of their operations in India — are hurting American workers by undercutting salaries and taking away jobs.

Workers who want to gain permanent residence are treated like indentured labor, said Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering. If they change jobs or take a promotion, they lose their turn in line, so they end up doing menial jobs during the most productive years of their lives, he said.

“I call this one of Silicon Valley’s darkest secrets,” said Wadhwa, who is also a director of research at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

The movie was first shown in the U.S. at the Cinequest Film Festival in California in February 2015 and has been screened at festivals in Melbourne, Toronto and Mumbai. It has also had a special screening at Rayburn House, a congressional office building for the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, according to Bhilawadikar.

Bhilawadikar, who came to the U.S. as a 22-year-old computer engineer to get a master’s degree from Indiana University, has been on a skilled-worker visa for 11 years — those accepted into the Green Card queue can extend their H1-B visa while waiting for approval. He says he could be 40 by the time he gets his Green Card.

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

U.N. Experts See 'Alarming' U.S. Trend Against Free Speech, Protest

By Tom Miles
March 31, 2017

GENEVA — Nineteen U.S. states have introduced bills that would curb freedom of expression and the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday.

Concerns for free speech in the United States have risen in part because of the Republican Trump’s antagonistic relations with prominent U.S. media, which he has branded “the enemy of the American people” as it has reported on policy missteps and dysfunction in his administration.

The push for stricter laws on expression has come as Trump’s liberal foes have pursued public protest against his policies on issues ranging from immigration to abortion and climate change.

Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, said in a statement that the state bills were incompatible with international human rights law.

“The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech,” they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation.

“From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and the Women’s Marches, individuals and organizations across (American) society have mobilized in peaceful protests,” Kiai and Kaye said.

They said it was their fundamental right to do so, but that bills in Republican-governed states like Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri sought to stop them exercising that right.

The civil rights movement known as Black Lives Matter has been fueled by a series of shootings of unarmed black men by white U.S. police officers that triggered national protests.

The U.N. experts’ statement came a day after they criticized Russia’s treatment of peaceful protesters who took to the streets following allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The U.S. State Department had also criticized Russia’s handling of those protests, calling them an affront to democratic values.

Supporters of the U.S. state legislative action say it sums up the frustration some people feel about protests that get in the way of daily lives, and reflects a wish to maintain public safety. Free speech advocates say the bills are worrying, seeing them as opening the way to criminalizing peaceful protests.

The U.N. experts said several bills proposed in Colorado, North Dakota and Oklahoma targeted opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota and would have “a chilling effect on environmental protesters”.

Last month dozens of armed U.S. law enforcement officers swept through a protest camp near the site of the pipeline, clearing the gathering that for months served as a base of opposition to the multi-billion-dollar project.

In Missouri a bill proposed a seven-year prison term for “unlawful obstruction of traffic”, while the Minnesota bill would criminalize peaceful protesters for participating in demonstrations that subsequently turned violent.

The U.N. experts said there was no such thing as a violent protest, only violent protesters. “One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” Kaye and Kiai said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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

Key Findings From the AP-NORC Poll on President Donald Trump

Associated Press 
March 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — Nearly 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, according to a new poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research over five days before and after the collapse of a GOP proposal to replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Health care was the worst of seven issues for Trump tested in the poll, but half of Americans approve of his handling of the economy.

Key findings:

—Just 42 percent of Americans approve and 58 percent disapprove of how Trump his handling his job so far. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents disapprove of Trump, while 8 in 10 Republicans approve of the job he’s doing.

—Some 62 percent disapprove of how he’s handling health care. His ratings are also underwater on handling foreign policy (58 percent disapprove), immigration (54 percent) the budget deficit (54 percent) and taxes (54 percent).

—Fifty percent of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the economy, about the same as the 48 percent who disapprove. Likewise, Trump’s ratings on Supreme Court nominations are about even, 50 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove.

—Most Americans — 56 percent — describe the national economy as good, while 43 percent describe it as poor. A year ago, in April of 2016, just 42 percent described the economy as good in another AP-NORC poll.

—More than 6 in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction. But among Republicans, nearly two-thirds think it’s heading in the right direction.

—Just a quarter of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while three-quarters disapprove. There’s relatively little partisan divide in terms of distaste for Congress.

—More than 8 in 10 Americans call both health care and the economy very important issues. About 7 in 10 call taxes that important, while about 6 in 10 say the same of immigration, Supreme Court nominations, foreign policy and the budget deficit.

—Overall, 90 percent of blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics disapprove of the job Trump is doing, but whites divide more evenly, with 53 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. Fifty-eight percent of whites without a college degree approve of the job he’s doing.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,110 adults was conducted March 23-27 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cellphones.



AP-NORC: http://apnorc.org/projects/Pages/health-care-reform.aspx

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

Justice Department Appeals Hawaii Judge’s Ruling on Revised Travel Ban

Wall Street Journal 
By Brent Kendall
March 30, 2017

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department on Thursday formally appealed a Hawaii judge’s ruling that blocked President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration and refugees, the latest chapter in a legal battle playing out in courts across the U.S.

Earlier this month, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued rulings within hours of one another that halted Mr. Trump’s order shortly before it was scheduled to go into effect. The revised executive order, signed March 6, sought to bar U.S. entry for people from six Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—and suspended the U.S. refugee program, saying the actions would help prevent terrorism.

The revised order came after courts stopped the president from enforcing his initial version, which placed broader restrictions on travel to the U.S. and didn’t give those affected advance notice. The White House tweaked its approach in an attempt to respond to at least some of the judges’ concerns.

Mr. Trump has cited national security justifications for his order, but challengers who have filed lawsuits in several states have alleged that it unlawfully disfavors Muslims. The Hawaii and Maryland rulings this month blocked the president’s travel restrictions after finding that the challengers were likely to prevail on those arguments.

The Justice Department had already appealed the Maryland ruling to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and oral arguments are scheduled there for May 8. The Hawaii appeal will go to the Ninth Circuit, a San Francisco-based court that issued a key ruling in February halting Mr. Trump’s first immigration order.

The government appeal in the Hawaii case came a day after U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu converted his original temporary restraining order against the president into a preliminary injunction, which has the effect of prolonging his suspension of the order.

Courts so far haven’t issued final rulings on the merits of Mr. Trump’s executive order. Instead, they have been deciding whether to put the order on hold as the cases on the order’s underlying legitimacy unfold, a decision that turns in part on judges’ view of whether the challengers are likely ultimately to succeed.

One trial judge in Virginia recently sided with the president, saying his executive order likely would withstand legal challenge. That ruling, however, had little practical impact because of the other court rulings putting the travel ban on hold.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com

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

Judge maintains broad block on Trump travel ban

By Josh Gerstein
March 30, 2017

A judge in Hawaii has extended a broad block on President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, turning aside pleas from the federal government to narrow or drop an earlier order forbidding the president from implementing key parts of his plan.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson converted the temporary restraining order he issued into a preliminary injunction. He did not alter his earlier instruction that the federal government be barred from implementing a ban on issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries and from carrying out a plan to suspend refugee admissions worldwide.

Although Trump redrafted an earlier version of the executive order that was blocked by other federal courts, Watson said the revised version still appeared to be driven by anti-Muslim sentiment. And he again flatly rejected the Justice Department’s calls to ignore Trump’s public statements about seeking a ban on immigration and travel from Muslim countries in order to fend off terrorism.

“Where the ‘historical context and “the specific sequence of events leading up to”‘ the adoption of the challenged Executive Order are as full of religious animus, invective, and obvious pretext as is the record here, it is no wonder that the Government urges the Court to altogether ignore that history and context,” Watson wrote. “The Court, however, declines to do so. … The Court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has.”

The Justice Department said it “strongly disagrees” with the federal district court’s ruling.

“The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” an agency spokeswoman said.

After the judge blocked Trump’s revised order two weeks ago, the president told a crowd in Nashville that the new directive amounted to “a watered-down version of the first one.” Watson cited that statement in his ruling Wednesday.

The judge said he was sensitive to concerns that Trump’s public remarks from the presidential campaign and since taking office should not forever preclude him from taking necessary security steps, but that the Justice Department had failed to show a bona fide difference in the motivation behind the second executive order.

“The Court recognizes that it is not the case that the Administration’s past conduct must forever taint any effort by it to address the security concerns of the nation,” Watson wrote. “Based upon the preliminary record available, however, one cannot conclude that the actions taken during the interval between [the] revoked Executive Order .. and the new Executive Order represent ‘genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions.'”

Watson also specifically declined to rein in his decision to cover only the 90-day ban on visa issuance, saying that the federal government’s request that he do so “makes little sense” and that federal officials failed to provide a clear way for him to segregate “internal” policy review aspects of Trump’s order from provisions like the visa ban and refugee halt.

The Obama appointee’s latest ruling came after a hearing earlier Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu where lawyers for the State of Hawaii and for a local Muslim leader squared off with a Justice Department attorney.

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An appeal to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected. Last month, a three-judge panel of that court declined to disturb a Seattle-based federal judge’s broad order blocking key parts of Trump’s original executive order.

The Trump administration has already appealed a narrower ruling by a federal judge in Maryland, who blocked the visa-ban provision of Trump’s revised order at the request of refugee aid groups and others. That appeal is pending at the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit, which is considering whether to have the appeal decided by the court’s full 15-member bench instead of the typical smaller panel.

In a filing with the 4th Circuit earlier Wednesday, the Justice Department said it did not object to the initial “en banc” hearing that appeals court is mulling, but supported the idea only if it would not delay a ruling on the appeal.

Further appeals or emergency applications to the Supreme Court are expected from whoever loses in the appeals court showdowns over the signature Trump policy initiative.

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

Mexican Companies Aiming to Work on Trump’s Border Wall Get Criticized

Wall Street Journal 
By Dudley Althaus
March 30, 2017

MEXICO CITY—The Trump administration’s plan to build a wall along the U.S. southern border has sparked an outcry here—and a warning to Mexican businesses that might consider profiting from the venture, as a deadline to submit initial bids approaches.

In an editorial Sunday published in its newspaper, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned the wall, saying that any Mexican company taking part in its construction was immoral and would be betraying its patriotic duty to the nation.

Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who has said Mexico won’t pay for the wall, called on Mexican companies tempted to bid on the project to “examine their consciences.”

Earlier this month, the chairman of Mexico’s largest cement company, Cemex, caused a stir when he told a Mexican newspaper that it would “gladly” provide estimates for supplying cement to companies working on the wall. A Cemex spokesman said this week it wouldn’t be involved in the bidding process.

The lone Mexican company that plans to submit a proposal for the wall, Ecovelocity, a small family business, hopes to supply lighting to companies working on the Mexican side of the border.

Company owner Theodore Atalla, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Egyptian-Greek heritage who has been living in Mexico the past few years, said he envisions working as a subcontractor for a larger Mexican company that he believes will eventually participate in the wall’s construction.

Mr. Atalla said he remains undaunted by criticism received on social media, including being called a traitor to Mexico.

“I’m almost 100% sure that other Mexican companies will be involved,” he said. “We’re not trying to act against Mexico. We’re just trying to help our little company.”

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

Seattle sues Trump administration over sanctuary city ban

The Hill 
By Reid Wilson
March 30, 2017

The city of Seattle has filed suit to clarify an executive order signed by President Trump that would end funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration officials.

The suit, filed Wednesday, asks a federal district court judge to declare that the city is acting in accordance with federal law. It also asks the judge to declare that Trump’s order is an unconstitutional violation of the 10th Amendment by attempting to force the city to enforce federal immigration law.

The suit also argues that the order violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, by withholding federal money unrelated to immigration enforcement in an attempt to force the city to comply.

It does not seek a restraining order halting Trump’s executive order, though.

“Seattle will not be bullied by this White House or this administration,” Mayor Ed Murray (D) said Wednesday. “The federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities.”

The city expects to receive at least $55 million in federal funds this year to bolster its operating costs and another $99 million on infrastructure projects.

States and cities are not obligated to enforce federal immigration law or to comply with requests from federal officials to detain those in the country illegally solely on the basis of their immigration status.

Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 25, just days after being inaugurated. The order says sanctuary jurisdictions “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” It allowed both Attorney General Jeff Sessions Jeff and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to block federal grants to jurisdictions that did not comply with federal immigration law.

On Monday, Sessions said the Justice Department would withhold grants from those sanctuary cities.

The order also directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 new immigration officers and to prioritize deporting those who had committed a crime. It also allowed immigration officers to deport those who, in their own judgment, posed a public safety or national security risk.

There is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, and there is no indication that the Trump administration formally views Seattle or any other city as a sanctuary jurisdiction. Seattle law prohibits city employees from asking about someone’s immigration status, though that law exempts police officers.

“This lawsuit represents Seattle’s attempt to mute histrionics in favor of a plain statement of the law,” Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday. “I hope the president will refrain from tweeting his legal opinion before our courts have an opportunity to do so.”

San Francisco, another sanctuary city, filed suit in January challenging Trump’s order. San Francisco is more clearly at risk of being labeled a sanctuary city because it operates a jail, which would be subject to detainer requests. Seattle does not operate a jail.

The suit is the latest front in a growing war between liberal cities and states and the Trump administration. Seattle was among the cities that have filed briefs with courts hearing challenges to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. Earlier this week, a group of Democratic attorneys general said they were also looking in to possible legal action over the Trump administration’s moves to roll back Obama-era climate rules.

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

S&P: Sanctuary cities won’t see ratings dip with Trump order

Associated Press 
By Sophia Tareen
March 31, 2017

CHICAGO — If sanctuary communities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities lose federal funds under President Donald Trump’s executive order, their credit ratings aren’t likely to change, a major rating agency concluded Thursday.

Standard & Poor’s examined the financial health of over 100 cities and counties that have designated themselves sanctuaries, along with a snapshot of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Its report said the types of federal grants that could be withheld make up tiny portions of the communities’ budgets.

“Local governments would likely not experience significant budgetary pressure and all other things being equal, their credit quality would likely remain largely unchanged,” according to the report.

Assessments by rating agencies are a strong fiscal measure for financial doubts municipalities may have, and S&P’s findings appeared to weaken the Trump administration’s warnings to sanctuary cities.

The Republican president signed an executive order in January vowing to cut federal grants for sanctuary communities if they refuse to help with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country without legal permission. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued fresh threats this week.

Most federal funds are exempt from Trump’s order, leaving discretionary grant programs. S&P reviewed grants from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, believed to be the most likely candidates. Examples of grants at stake include those funding to help crime victims or pay for police body cameras.

There are an estimated 200 sanctuary cities and counties nationwide. They’re generally defined as areas that limit cooperation with federal immigration agencies. S&P maintains ratings on 133 of them.

Its analysis of 10 sanctuary cities, including New York, Detroit and Seattle, showed that DHS and DOJ discretionary grants make up less than 1 percent of their total government funds revenue.

The report also cast doubt over whether Trump has the authority to withhold funding, considering federal budget laws and legal precedent. The executive order already faces legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed this week in Seattle.

What could impact credit ratings is how states react, according to the report. For example, new laws could diminish funding more drastically to sanctuary cities.

Several states and communities have responded to Trump’s order by either beefing up sanctuary laws or trying to punish areas that don’t comply with federal law. Cities, including Chicago and New York, have publicly defied the order. Roughly a dozen states, including Kansas, are considering measures against sanctuary cities.


Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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