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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


Thursday, February 25, 2021

More than 700 migrant children in Border Patrol custody: report


More than 700 migrant children in Border Patrol custody: report
© Getty Images

Border Patrol officials are holding more than 700 children who entered the U.S. unaccompanied, according to Axios, citing an internal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document.

The document indicates that more than 200 of the children in question have been held in Border Patrol facilities for over 48 hours, while nine have been detained for over 72 hours, the limit agreed to under the Flores Settlement Agreement.

On Tuesday alone, more than 400 migrant children were referred to Department of Health and Human Services-run shelters, according to Axios, citing an administration official. At the height of the 2019 border crisis, the 30-day average was 294.

Detention of children and family separation under the Trump administration was a rallying cry for Democrats during the 2020 election.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has pushed back on the suggestion that the Biden administration’s handling of unaccompanied minors is comparable. There have been no reports of family separations under the Biden administration.

“We have a couple of options: We can send them back home. ... We can quickly transfer them from CPB to these [Department of Health and Human Services]-run facilities. ... We can put them with families and sponsors without any vetting," Psaki said. "We've chosen the middle option.”

Despite the distinction drawn by the White House, the administration has still faced criticism from progressive Democrats on the issue. On Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted that the opening of a new facility for migrant children “is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay - no matter the administration or party.”

Psaki has defended the reopening as a necessary step during the coronavirus pandemic, saying “our intention is very much to close it.”

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Velasquez-Rios v. Wilkinson

 An amendment to California Penal Code §18.5, which retroactively reduces the maximum misdemeanor sentence to 364 days, cannot be applied retroactively for purposes of removability under 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(A)(i).

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

GAO: Pentagon didn't fully evaluate costs, readiness effects of deploying troops to border


GAO: Pentagon didn't fully evaluate costs, readiness effects of deploying troops to border
© Getty Images

The Pentagon did not fully evaluate potential costs and effects on readiness before deploying troops to the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration, a watchdog report said Tuesday.

In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not provided its full cost estimates to Congress and internally has not tracked some costs associated with the border mission, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The watchdog report also stated Pentagon data places the cost of the deployment from 2018 to 2020 at least at $841 million.

“By providing more timely and complete information to Congress, DOD would enhance Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and make funding decisions for DOD and” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the report said.

The Trump administration deployed thousands of troops to the southern border, at its height reaching more than 2,500 National Guardsmen and more than 5,800 active-duty troops, part of what former President Trump believed would strengthen national security and prevent illegal immigration.

While the National Guard has been deployed to the border in the past, the deployment of active-duty troops broke norms and only happened after Trump declared a national emergency in 2019 to acquire funding to build a border wall. 

Lawmakers at the time expressed concerns the deployments would drain resources from the budget and negatively affect troop readiness.

President Biden has since ended the national emergency, but the Pentagon has said it has no plans right now to end the deployment of the 3,600 troops, mostly National Guardsmen, before the approved end date in September.

In its report Tuesday, the GAO found the DOD fully examined the legality, potential for lethal force, safety risks to troops and whether supporting the requests was in the interest of the department when evaluating requests for assistance from the DHS. 
But the GAO also found the Pentagon “developed rough cost estimates that were not reliable” and “did not fully evaluate the effect on military readiness of providing support.”

“Without reliable cost estimates and a timely readiness analysis, DOD is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect of supporting DHS on its budget and readiness rebuilding efforts,” the report said.

GAO specifically looked at the Pentagon’s cost estimate for deploying troops to the border in fiscal 2019 and found it only “minimally” met the criteria for a reliable projection.

The GAO also found Pentagon reports to Congress on costs of the deployment did not match internal data. For example, reports to Congress indicated the Pentagon obligated about $234 million for the mission in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, but GAO’s review of internal Pentagon data found the department obligated about $490 million during that period.

Defense officials told the GAO the discrepancy was due to the fact that it hadn’t completed one of the reports for fiscal 2019, which was due to Congress in March 2020 but hadn’t been sent as of December, according to the report.

The Pentagon also did not track some costs associated with the border mission, including costs to installations supporting the mission, to oversee wall construction and to provide benefits to National Guard members, the report said.

On readiness, the GAO found that some potential unit-level effects were not reported to the Defense secretary before approving the requests for assistance.

For example, a battalion of UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters from an active duty Army Combat Aviation Brigade missed a large-scale training opportunity at the National Training Center because of the deployment, and pilots also had trouble fulfilling individual training requirements such as night flying, military personnel told the GAO. But those issues were not identified in the collection of information used to decide whether to approve the request, according to the report.

The lack of information on readiness may have led to the Pentagon providing DHS with less support than it approved in a least one case, GAO said, adding that defense officials “confirmed that the department made adjustments because it did not have sufficient ready units to provide the level of support approved” for 2020.

The report released Tuesday is the public version of a classified report initially issued earlier this month and excludes information about force protection and threats to troops the Pentagon deemed “sensitive,” according to the GAO.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the GAO report. But in a response dated in December included in the report, the department disagreed with all but one of the GAO’s six recommendations.

The cost estimates the Pentagon used to approve the requests were meant to be “a rough order of magnitude cost estimate that informs senior-leader decision making,” the department said in its response. The department is also “confident that the process used to assess readiness prior to approving support is appropriate,” it added.

The Pentagon also disagreed its comptroller needs to clarify guidance to ensure all associated costs are tracked, but agreed it should “provide reports to cognizant congressional committees on time,” blaming the delay of sending a report to Congress on a belated congressional extension of the deadline and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Biden administration won't use Trump-era citizenship test


Biden administration won't use Trump-era citizenship test

The Biden administration is scrapping a citizenship test developed under the Trump administration that critics say was designed to make it tougher for immigrants to become Americans.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will revert back to the 2008 version of the test, the agency said Monday, saying the 2020 test developed by the previous administration “may inadvertently create potential barriers” to citizenship.

Those preparing to become U.S. citizens must demonstrate a basic understanding of English and pass a civics test.

But the Trump administration expanded the pool of potential questions test takers might be asked from 100 to 128.

It also upped the total number of questions applicants would be asked and must answer correctly from 6 out of 10 to 12 out of 20.

The administration will offer both versions of the test until April 19 in order to assist those that have been preparing to pass the Trump administration's version of the test.

In addition to the changes to the test, the Trump administration also raised the cost to apply to take it from $640 to $1,160. 

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Bernstein v. Virgin America

 The California Labor Code can apply to an interstate transportation company’s relationship with its employees. An employer’s compensation scheme based on block time did not violate California law. California’s meal and rest break requirements are not preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act or Federal Aviation Act. Labor Code §226(a), §201 and §202 apply to workers who do not perform the majority of their work in any one state, but who are based for work purposes in California.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com/

Monday, February 22, 2021

‘Exceedingly deep convictions’: Inside Xavier Becerra’s quest for health care for immigrants


When President Barack Obama headed to the Capitol in 2009 to make a late-stage push for the Affordable Care Act, pleading to a joint session of Congress that the “season for action” had arrived, it wasn’t only Republicans who became affronted: then-Rep. Xavier Becerra, the California Democrat who had been lobbying for a more immigrant-friendly bill, listened as the president threw cold water on policies that they had been discussing for months.

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false — the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” Obama said.

Becerra had been pushing the White House for more health care for undocumented immigrants in the Affordable Care Act. He and some other Hispanic leaders engaged in repeated, lengthy debates with Obama, who was clear-eyed on the tough politics of offering more benefits to undocumented immigrants but hadn’t closed the door to the idea, according to lawmakers who attended the meetings.

As if to illustrate the fury with which the GOP regarded the issue of health care for undocumented immigrants, even Obama’s sharp disavowal of it prompted Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to scream “you lie!” across the chamber.

Obama’s decision to cave in to the Wilson wing of the Republican Party was “more than disturbing,” Becerra told POLITICO at the time.

"I'm not sure what the White House is doing with this. Shadow boxing helps no one," he told the Associated Press.

Now, as Becerra prepares to assume a new role as Joe Biden’s health secretary, he will have the power to make public benefits for undocumented workers a reality. With a stroke of his pen, he could issue first-of-their-kind waivers reversing the very policy that Obama torpedoed and allowing undocumented immigrants, roughly half of whom are currently uninsured, access to state health care exchanges. There are some compelling policy reasons to do so — undocumented workers often contribute payroll taxes, and giving them benefits would not only help prevent the spread of infectious disease, but ease free-care burdens on hospitals.

But even as Becerra readies himself for the start of his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the toxic politics that Obama bowed to remain strongly in force.

“His interest is in trying to get illegal aliens on government-subsidized health care options,” said an aide to outspoken Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has been lobbying colleagues against Becerra’s nomination. “If he was confirmed, he could weaponize HHS as a mechanism to push for open borders, and legitimize the illegal alien agenda that he’s pushing for. That has gotten some attention on the Hill.”

Then there’s the question of whether Democratic moderates, including Biden, are willing to back Becerra on the issue — or whether the White House, in an attempt to turn down the temperature, would ask Becerra to proceed cautiously on immigration issues.

Asked about Becerra’s past and current views, as well as how he would approach the new role of HHS secretary, Biden transition spokesman Andrew Bates said, "He will follow the law and pursue the President’s agenda to expand the Affordable Care Act and reduce costs for the American people."

Becerra declined interview requests.

Interviews with lawmakers suggest that there is wide, though hardly unanimous, support among Democrats to allow states to use federal funds to cover undocumented workers, either by allowing them to buy into the ACA exchanges without any government subsidy or, more controversially, to utilize Medicaid. But there are moderates, including some Hispanic lawmakers, who sense that any such moves would be flashpoints for grass-roots opposition.

“This issue about non-citizens receiving health care has been contentious for years,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a moderate. “U.S. Citizens should receive welfare and other benefits, that’s my position and my position is what helps Democrats. If you’re undocumented, you shouldn’t be getting health care and other benefits.”

“My district is heavily Hispanic, and I hear it,” Cuellar added. “‘You know congressman, you can’t let those undocumented people get assistance — we’ve got a lot of people here who need help. There’s long lines at the food banks.’ I hear that all the time.”

But interviews with 15 Becerra friends, colleagues, and allies, as well as health care experts, suggest that health care for undocumented immigrants is an issue close to the heart of the 63-year-old son of a Mexican immigrant mother who, despite a diplomatic demeanor, can be forceful in pushing issues that align with his value system.

A POLITICO review of his 24-year House career and four years as California attorney general found that Becerra has repeatedly advocated for undocumented immigrants to have more access to health care and other government benefits, whether through Medicaid or Obamacare.

“He’s one of those individuals that had exceedingly deep convictions about the need to cover the undocumented individuals in all of our communities,” said former Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), who worked with Becerra during the Obamacare debate. In the case of the health care bill, Gonzalez said, “It did not make any sense not to, as long as they went ahead and paid for the coverage.”

Ultimately, the Affordable Care Act shut undocumented immigrants out of both receiving government-subsidized health insurance and buying any insurance on the new exchanges.

Soon after Obama’s speech to Congress in September 2009, Becerra was one of a handful of lawmakers who had a heated meeting on the issue with Obama in the Oval Office.

“[Obama’s team] were there to tell us they weren’t going to be able to do it,” said Gonzalez, the Texas Democrat. “We walked out, and people were frustrated and still upset.”

If confirmed as HHS chief, Becerra would have multiple avenues to assist undocumented immigrants, according to health care specialists. The least complicated path would be to give them access to the Obamacare exchanges without any government subsidies. He could also encourage states to expand in-state Medicaid programs to cover undocumented immigrants, which California is in the process of doing. Or he could choose to expand health insurance for DREAMers, who have temporary legal status in the United States but do not qualify for government health care programs or other assistance.

That’s if Republicans in Congress don’t manage to grind Becerra’s nomination to a halt in the narrowly Democratic Senate, and if Biden — once thought a moderate on immigration — doesn’t waver on his campaign-trail pledge to allow undocumented immigrants to buy into a “public option”-like health plan.

Becerra’s friends and former colleagues say that while he would follow Biden’s edicts, he would at the very least be a committed advocate for undocumented workers.

“He wants everyone who works hard to have the opportunity to get ahead, and part of that is access to health care,” said a former Becerra aide. “His touchstone is always that our nation is built on immigrants, and people come to this country to make a better life for their families.”

* * *

In discussing health care, Becerra often analogizes the plight of undocumented immigrants to the struggles of his own family.

When, in 2019, he was asked to prioritize the more than 100 lawsuits he filed as Golden State AG challenging the Trump administration on topics from gun control to the Endangered Species Act, Becerra cited two: Reversing Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and his elimination of DACA, which gives undocumented immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children temporary residency.

DACA recipients, he told California Healthline, “had to go through so much like my parents did. So, it’s very personal.”

Growing up, Becerra’s father worked as a farmer and, later, a construction worker, a union job that gave his family health insurance. He remembers the vital importance of having insurance after his mother suffered a miscarriage and had to go to the hospital.

“We knew we could go to the doctor — and everybody should know that,” Becerra said in his interview with California Healthline. “For me, health care is a right. I’ve been a single-payer advocate all my life.”

After filling out a high school classmate’s discarded application to Stanford, Becerra got in — and earned both a bachelor’s degree and law degree. He won election to the California state assembly at the age of 32 after a boss and mentor in the legislature encouraged him to run. Two years later, in 1992, Becerra won election to Congress and began a nearly quarter-century stint in the U.S. House representing multiple Los Angeles-area districts.

He arrived in Washington with his fellow Democrats in the 36th year of unbroken control of the House, but the political tide was about to turn against him. Republicans swept Congress in 1994 and turned their focus to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” bills. These included more restrictive immigration policies and sweeping welfare-reform legislation that placed new bans on legal immigrants’ access to welfare, food stamps and other programs during their first five years in the country.

Becerra worked on developing a Democratic alternative and testified against the GOP-proposed immigration measures in front of the House Ways and Means Committee, arguing that “cutting benefits to immigrants is not welfare reform, rather it is a budget-cutting measure that is certain to adversely impact” immigrants and the states where they live.

The Republican-backed welfare bill passed, including the restrictions that Becerra had cautioned against. But within a year, Becerra was elevated to two significant posts in the House: He became a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And he used those roles to lobby the Clinton administration on immigration policy, pushing the president to restore funding that had been stripped in the welfare law and to bring more Latinos into his cabinet.

By the time Obama took office in 2009, Becerra had become a key member of House leadership and close friend of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — as well as a possible successor to her. At the time, Becerra was seen as a wonky and thoughtful, if sometimes too eager to placate his various allies in the House, garnering skepticism from some Hispanic lawmakers who dubbed him “Mr. Stanford” for his intellectual approach.

But when he went fiercely to bat for immigrants during the fight over Obama’s health care bill, Becerra earned new loyalty from his colleagues, according to a former House aide who was involved in the ACA negotiations.

His relentless campaign to change lawmakers’ stances on the immigration issue sparked a tiff between Becerra and Pelosi, who told colleagues, "I understand I have tire tracks on my back from Xavier throwing me under the bus,” according to Congressional Quarterly.

But Hispanic lawmakers saw Becerra in a new light.

“Members became more appreciative of the roles he was taking. Because he did have the [Hispanic] caucus’ back,” said the aide. “I don’t think people really appreciated that until the rubber hit the road. He took on positions that leadership wasn’t on board with.”

Only a year later, after Republicans regained control of the House, Becerra would again have to navigate between ensuring benefits for immigrants and moving a larger piece of legislation along. This time, he was a member of a “Gang of Eight” House lawmakers trying to come up with a workable proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, a political quagmire that has proved unbridgeable in Washington for decades.

Working in secret over the course of months, the group of four Democrats and four Republicans tried to sketch out what an immigration compromise might look like. The president was spending much of his time focused on the Democrat-led Senate where a more high-profile “Gang of Eight” effort was taking place — but House lawmakers felt any Senate bill would be too liberal to pass the GOP-controlled chamber.

In the spring of 2013, the group had hashed out many of the biggest stumbling blocks, according to people involved in the effort. But a few topics, namely health care, divided them.

“It was the ACA that became the stumbling block,” said then-Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), one of the Democratic negotiators. “That was what broke down our conversation.”

Then-Rep. Raúl Labrador, a Republican from Idaho, felt strongly that taxpayers should not have to foot any bills for immigrants who are in the country seeking citizenship. And he was concerned about the possibility that immigrants could rack up bills in emergency rooms — shouldn’t immigrants, he argued, be responsible for their own health care?

One solution Labrador proposed: Change the ACA so that immigrants could buy cheap “catastrophic” health care plans designed to cover them in an emergency -- a no-go for Democrats, who did not support such insurance. By mid-May, the group was frustrated, and Labrador threatened to quit if they couldn’t solve the health care conundrum soon. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) put forward a proposal: vague language saying immigrants need to pay for their own insurance and would be ineligible for citizenship if they relied on the government.

Becerra, who was also responsible for relaying the group’s decisions to Pelosi, refused to sign on. Within days, Labrador announced he would write his own bill. The Gang of Eight had collapsed.

* * *

As Joe Biden started his presidency, he issued half a dozen executive orders to begin to unwind the hundreds of hardline immigration policies put into place by the Trump White House, like building a border wall. He also started to advance his own plans, which include raising Trump’s cap on refugees. And Biden rolled out his own immigration reform plan, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

But the political parties have only diverged on immigration issues in recent years, making benefits like health care more difficult to navigate than ever.

Republicans, who drifted to the right on immigration in recent years with Trump, argue that offering government-subsidized health care or food stamps for undocumented immigrants only encourages more people to come to the U.S. illegally. Providing benefits to recently arrived, legal immigrants is also contentious: Trump tried to curb such policies in 2018, when his administration issued a rule that would bar immigrants who have taken government services from gaining citizenship. As California AG, Becerra led states in suing to block the rule, which remains in place.

Democrats’ moderate wing is shrinking, and progressives like Becerra are pushing forward an argument that many undocumented immigrants work in the United States and pay taxes, so should be able to benefit. A little government assistance can go a long way, they say: With health care, for example, giving people access to doctors through Medicaid and state exchanges could prevent them from later taking trips to the emergency room, which can cost patients and the government thousands of dollars.

Still, the advocates have made little progress on Capitol Hill. In early February, 58 senators — including former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — voted in favor of banning undocumented immigrants from receiving stimulus checks in a nonbinding vote, for example.

“This is the third rail in politics,” said Randy Capps, director at the Migration Policy Institute. “It’s such a polarizing issue, and you have a number of moderate Democrats [from] Republican or purple states that fear the Republican voters or moderate voters in their states would really make an issue out of it, which they would. They did with the Affordable Care Act.”

Today, undocumented immigrants cannot participate in federal Medicare or Medicaid, use the CHIP insurance program for children, or buy insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. But states can — and do — use their own money to expand access to health care.

In recent years, at least six states including New York, Massachusetts and California have expanded their in-state health programs to cover children regardless of their immigration status, and California has made moves to expand its coverage to seniors. (Such expansions are costly: When California expanded its in-state Medicaid program to cover people up to age 25, the state budgeted $98 million for the first year alone.)

California also asked the federal government for a waiver from the ACA that would allow the state to bypass the ban on undocumented immigrants participating in the state’s health exchange if they pay the unsubsidized cost of the insurance. The waiver request, which was filed at the end of Obama’s presidency and withdrawn after Trump took office, was supported by California lawmakers including Becerra.

“Everyone who works hard to build our country up, as so many immigrant families do, deserves access to quality and affordable health care. This provision does not cost the federal government a dime and it’s a no-brainer to get this waiver approved,” Becerra said at the time.

HHS never confirmed California’s request — and some experts are not sure if it would be legal to do so. But if confirmed as secretary, Becerra could put in place a range of immigrant-friendly policies at the department, including potentially signing off on waivers like the one California requested five years ago.

Becerra could also encourage, but not mandate, states to adopt policies like California’s that cover some undocumented immigrants on Medicaid using their own funds. The federal government could try to expand funding for community health clinics, which provide some of the only coverage for undocumented immigrants in need of preventative care. And Becerra could be instrumental to debates over whether DACA recipients, who are quasi-legal residents, should be able to participate in programs like Medicaid in future years, another legal grey area that is increasingly up for debate.

Former Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), a close friend of Becerra’s in Congress, said that as Health and Human Services secretary he anticipates Becerra to resume a role he played in Congress as a “builder.”

“He had to, as attorney general, oppose the policies of Trump and take the lead, and he did that very well,” Levin said. “Now, his role is different.”

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Sweeping immigration bills seek to reform dire farm working conditions


Democratic lawmakers unveiled sweeping immigration reform legislation Thursday that could significantly improve the working conditions for farm workers and put them on a long-awaited path to citizenship.

Advocates have for years demanded changes from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to address workplace violence and employer manipulation that cause shorted wages, missed benefits, sexual violence and other workplace violations among agriculture workers.

“We really were pushing for legal protections of essential farm and food system workers who have fallen through the cracks not only of this current immigration system but of previous immigration proposals that have not addressed their needs and concerns. And that there is an expedited plan for citizenship,” said María De Luna, national policy and advocacy coordinator at Alianza Nacional de Campesinas.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), would require that DHS and the DOL establish a commission involving labor, employer and civil rights advocates to make recommendations to improve the employment verification process and it increases protections for workers who “suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies,” according to the White House fact sheet.

The bill also protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws on undocumented workers, including wage and hour, family and medical leave, occupational health and safety, civil rights and nondiscrimination violations.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate next week.

“President Biden has understood the critical role farm workers play in feeding this country,” said Giev Kashkooli, political and legislative director for the United Farm Workers of America. “We are really thrilled that Biden's plan does what previous plans haven't. He is putting forward a plan that is thoughtful, prioritizes the role of people in their community and that he puts a special designation on farm workers.”

Advocacy groups for farm and agriculture workers discussed changes with the Biden transition team in January and with the Biden administration this month. For them, the legislative effort is unique because of the large number of areas the bill covers and that the White House is pushing for it so soon after Biden took office.

Over 70 percent of federal labor standards investigations of farms found violations, including wage theft and inadequate housing and transportation, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. However, although the agriculture sector accounts for a much higher share of investigations and violations than its share of total U.S. employment, there is a very low chance any farm employer will be investigated.

Currently, a hierarchy exists where legal immigrants suffer higher workplace violations than non-immigrants, but illegal immigrants suffer the highest rates of all, said Daniel Costa, director of Immigration Law and Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute.

“It's pretty clear that the lack of a legal status leads to the ability for employers to break the law against you without much worry of getting in trouble,” Costa said. “They fear retaliation and can’t speak up in the workplace because that could lead to their deportation and they're afraid to report violations to government officials because they don't want to interact with officials over deportation fears.”

Deportation and retaliation concerns are the main reasons advocates are pushing for provisions in the bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for farm workers who show a history of work in the United States.

“Immigration oversees everything in farm workers' lives — nearly half who have illegal status. The way they can interact with each state is limited and the ability for state government to connect is limited. So Congress has to create the change,” Kashkooli said.

But with limited Republican support, there is uncertainty about how far the efforts will reach. White House officials familiar with the negotiations said they are currently concerned with getting the bills introduced before considering splitting the provisions into different bills or taking other measures, such as reconciliation, to ensure the bill’s passage.

Republicans, meanwhile, are already attempting to capitalize on Biden’s recent announcements on immigration, calling it an embrace of “open borders” and “blanket amnesty,” POLITICO formerly reported.

Twelve Senate Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote to Biden last week asking him to reconsider a trigger for increased illegal immigration causing “a public health and humanitarian disaster.”

Menendez and Sánchez told reporters on a call Thursday morning they have been in ongoing discussions with Republican colleagues, though they declined to reveal names.

“Many of them have interest in parts of the legislation. Many of them are representatives of Ag states and so they care very much about the elements on farm workers,” Menendez said. “Others are interested with reference to other forms of reform particularly, for example, seafood industry, poultry, meatpacking.”

The conversations with Republicans involve compromises between those issues and others, Menendez said.

“We are not foreclosing any pathway into which we can achieve robust immigration reform,” Menendez said, opening the possibility of breaking up the bill or using a second reconciliation.

Advocates said they're hopeful that lawmakers will also reintroduce the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the end of March to allow the bill to skip committee since it passed last session.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Friday, February 19, 2021

Biden immigration bill reveals hardened battle lines in post-Trump era


Biden immigration bill reveals hardened battle lines in post-Trump era
© Getty Images

President Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill quickly exposed firm battle lines on Capitol Hill, raising questions about whether the White House might break the legislation into smaller bipartisan pieces if it hopes to pass any immigration reform.

Congressional Democrats rolled out Biden’s legislation with force, emphasizing there would be little room for compromise on a measure that would create a pathway for citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

“The reason we have not gotten immigration reform over the finish line is not because of a lack of will. It is because time and time again, we have compromised too much and capitulated too quickly to fringe voices who have refused to accept the humanity and contributions of immigrants to our country,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is sponsoring the Senate side version of the legislation.

“There are some in Congress, I'll say from both parties, who argue against going big on immigration reform,” he added. “Pursuing narrow reforms that nibble at the edges and leave millions of people behind.”

But Democrats face razor thin margins in both the House and Senate, meaning they will need to secure some GOP support if they want to get the full measure through Congress and onto Biden’s desk.

The bill’s introduction also comes amid continued support among GOP voters for former President Trump, who made hardline immigration policies a centerpiece of his administration and campaign.

The White House on Thursday signaled a willingness to work across the aisle.

"There are negotiations that will need to happen," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who called the bill "a reset that was really needed to get an immigration bill discussed and negotiated, and that is what our effort is to do here."

The comprehensive legislation provides a pathway to citizenship not just for Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as children, but also for others already in the country, offering a maximum eight year track to gain citizenship.

It also increases numerous caps that limit legal immigration to the U.S. and sets aside $4 billion to address root causes of migration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

And while it invests in training and new technology at the border, it eschews past practices of pairing immigration reform with an increase in enforcement measures. The U.S. already spends more on border control than all other federal law enforcement combined.

Republicans immediately blasted the bill, zeroing in on border security.

“Senate Democrats have embraced the Biden-Harris immigration plan of amnesty and open borders. Granting amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, on a timeline quicker than any major legislation offered in recent history, without including any funding whatsoever to enhance border security is reckless and would fuel a never-ending cycle of illegal immigration,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in his capacity as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.

“This is an unserious proposal that reflects how far left Senate Democrats have gone on the issue of immigration. Senate Republicans will not hesitate to share with the American people exactly how the Democrats’ open borders, amnesty proposal will put their families at-risk,” he added.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, called the bill “a compilation of immigration activists’ wish lists,” arguing that “immigration reform must go hand-in-hand with border security.”

The bill landed the same day that Biden rolled out new deportation guidelines for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, imposing temporary restrictions on causes for removing someone from the country. The agency is planning to release long-term guidelines later this year.

Jorge Loweree, policy director with the American Immigration Council, argued in favor of the Democrats’ approach, arguing they’re rejecting what didn’t work in the past.

“The thinking was, in order to get through Congress, the tradeoff is a significant investment in immigration enforcement. Those efforts have been unsuccessful,” he said. “This bill is sort of an acknowledgement of that.”

Congress has not passed major immigration reform since 1996, but Democrats believe this year will be different, pointing to the change in administration and the growing need for both parties to court Hispanic voters.

“There have been Republicans interested in doing this ... but they've been gut punched by the previous administration every time they tried to do it,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on a call Thursday rolling out the bill.

Klobuchar said the coronavirus pandemic has also brought front and center the degree to which the U.S. relies on immigrants.

“We've now seen a year of our immigrant community on the front line. They're the ones driving the buses; they’re the ones holding people's grandparents’ hands when they take their last breath in the hospital room; they're the ones that are in the schools on the front line and working in the convenience stores. And if people were not grateful for our immigrant community before, they better be now,” she said.

Menendez said he aims to recruit Republicans who have expressed interest in various portions of the bill, like those from agriculture-heavy states or those with a major tech presence that often rely on outside labor.

“So, the question for them is: Yes, you want that part, but what are you willing to join in in order to get that with other elements that are needed for some broader reform?” he said.

Some Democrats have already signaled a willingness to break the bill up into smaller pieces, either to pass standalone portions that are able to get more bipartisan support, or to take aspects with a financial element and attempt to pass them through the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote.

“There are others who want to do piecemeal, and that may be a good approach too. That’s up to the Congress to decide,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference Thursday.

If some portions meet the fiscal-related requirements to use the reconciliation process, “that would be wonderful, because then we wouldn’t need the 60 votes,” she said.

Menendez expressed some openness to alternative pathways for the bill, whether through reconciliation or attaching portions of the bill onto other legislative packages.

“I think all of us would certainly say we want to see us attach significant elements to a moving vehicle that can make it happen,” he said. “In terms of reconciliation, I think there may be strong arguments to make that obviously this has very significant budget effects.”

But he rejected the idea of making any major compromises on the bill, saying that above all he seeks robust reform.

“I know there are some [for whom] 10 angels could come swearing from above that this is the best tailored legislation, that it will secure our border, regularize our system. And they would say, ‘No, it's amnesty.’ They will never be satisfied, these politicians and pundits who preach xenophobia and hate,” he said.

"We know the path forward will demand negotiations with others. But we are not going to make concessions out of the gate. We're not going to start with 2 million undocumented people instead of 11 million. We will never win an argument that we don't have the courage to make.”

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The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration


President Biden is swinging for the fences on immigration, betting that the nation as a whole has become more liberal on the issue. But some in his party worry he could strike out.

The skeptics in Democratic circles worry that an electorate grappling with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic will be unenthused about opening up a new battle over a historically divisive issue.

Advocates of reform point to polls suggesting widespread public support, not just for legalizing the status of people brought to the U.S. as children — the so-called Dreamers — but also for a path to citizenship for the unauthorized immigrant population at large.

A Quinnipiac University poll released early this month indicated that 65 percent of Americans believed unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. should be given some means to become citizens. Twenty percent said they should be required to leave, while 9 percent said they should be allowed to stay but should not be eligible for American citizenship.

An eight-year path to citizenship is the central component in legislation introduced Thursday by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). The proposal, which has Biden’s backing, also calls for aid of $4 billion for Central American nations to try to ameliorate some of the economic forces that propel immigrants northward.

The Republican Party — which has taken several steps in a more hawkish direction on immigration during the Trump years — largely hates the proposal.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch supporter of the former president, issued a statement Thursday blasting the plan as a “radical proposal” that is also “a non-starter that should be rejected by Congress.”

To the extent that such attitudes are widespread in the GOP, they greatly complicate the prospects of the plan winning passage in Congress, where the Senate is split 50-50 and Democrats hold only a slim majority in the House.

Even pro-reform voices acknowledge that the chances of getting 10 Republican senators to sign on — the number required to avoid a filibuster — are close to zero.

Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic strategist and pollster, said that many advocates of reform in the Latino community were nonetheless happy about the scale of the new plan.

“I think a lot of people hadn’t anticipated that President Biden was going to go so bold, so ambitious,” said Amandi, who is Cuban American. “It is inspiring many people that he is willing to go big.”

Amandi added that whether advances were made in one giant leap or in a series of smaller steps was largely irrelevant to the people who would be affected.

“The undocumented population could care less whether it is done through executive action, or through the passage of a massive bill in Congress, or piecemeal — so long as they can get to what they have been looking for for years, which is legal status.”

The political landscape for large-scale immigration reform is daunting, however. Major efforts undertaken during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both failed. The last major overhaul came during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Some Democrats, even those who accept there is a moral imperative to do something about the nation’s immigration system, worry about whether it is a prudent course for Biden to pursue amid the pandemic.

One Democratic strategist noted the Reagan reform came during an economic boom.

“People thought it was important to do, and honestly they didn’t see any great risk or cost,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity to talk candidly about the issue.

“Realistically, as long as we are in a national crisis over the pandemic, passing immigration reform is going to be extremely difficult,” the strategist added. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t try, necessarily, but it does mean we have to be, I think, singularly focused on one thing — if we don’t defeat the pandemic, nothing else matters.”

It is plain that conservatives voices on immigration will oppose the Biden proposal lock, stock and barrel.

Asked what was wrong with the plan, Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform replied, “Where do we begin?”

“Pretty much everything is wrong with it,” added Mehlman, whose organization wants to reduce immigration flows. “The biggest overarching problem is that there is nothing in the bill that serves the American public  — there’s amnesty for people who broke our laws, access to workers for businesses that don’t want to pay American workers … and there is nothing here for border security.”

From Mehlman’s point of view, the silver lining is that Biden’s apparent willingness to consider a more piecemeal approach acknowledges that “this is a heavy lift.”

At a recent CNN town hall Biden suggested he would be open to a step-by-step process to advance immigration reform.

And some Republicans have indicated some appetite for more modest action.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested in January that he was open to preserving the Obama-era program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects the Dreamers.

“Comprehensive immigration is going to be a tough sale given this environment, but doing DACA I think is possible,” Graham said.

Liberal advocates of reform are not holding their breath for GOP cooperation. They say that Democrats need to accept the need to go it alone, for immigration goals both large and small.

“Those of us who have worked with Republicans know that they ask for too much and deliver too little,” said Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of America’s Voice, which campaigns for liberal immigration reform.

Sharry argued that the politics of the issue have shifted in a fundamental way.

“Immigration as a wedge issue has lost much of its edge in elections,” he said. “Democrats realize that instead of working to win over Fox viewers, they should move the 60 percent of the county that wants to do big things.”

Biden is set to put that proposition to the test.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

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