H-2B visas creating U.S. jobs, and other immigration news – June 23, 2017

Pantagoet Inn

Pentagoet Inn in Maine needs H-2B workers.

Bloomberg’s story of “the lauded farm-to-table restaurant at the Pentagoet Inn in Castine, Maine” illustrates a paradoxical truth about temporary immigrant work visas: giving jobs to foreigners creates more jobs for U.S. citizens. The Inn depends on a small but essential number of temporary workers each summer, many of whom return each year. This summer, it couldn’t get them. The Foreign Visa Crackdown Is Putting Americans Out of Work (Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/21/17) explains:

“Congress failed to extend H-2B’s returning worker exemption when it expired in late 2016, reducing the number of visas by half, to 66,000 nationwide. Congress passed a measure this spring that would have doubled the number of visas available. But the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program, didn’t act. In an open hearing on May 25, DHS Secretary John Kelly was asked about the delay by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, where the seasonal fishing industry relies on temporary workers. “This is one of those things that I really wish I didn’t have discretion over,” Kelly told Murkowski. He said his agency was still consulting with the Department of Labor and planning to release more visas, though he refused to say when or how many.”

Without the six women from Jamaica who work there every summer, the inn has closed its restaurant, which puts U.S. employees out of work. Reports from the Chamber of Commerce and the American Enterprise Institute agree that the H-2B temporary worker visa program creates more American jobs.  Bloomberg’s article concludes:

“BOTTOM LINE – By not extending a key portion of the H-2B visa program for seasonal workers, Congress has robbed many businesses of a key source of labor that can’t easily be replaced.”

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Big Brother is watching you, too, and other immigration articles – June 22, 2017

Biometrics, drones with facial recognition capacity, cell-site simulators: these weapons developed for the war on terror are being used in immigration enforcement. The Atlantic reports that Deportation Is Going High-Tech Under Trump (6/21/17). Obama began using some of these tools and tactics, but only at the border. Now Trump is unleashing all of it  for use anywhere. The Big Brother-style surveillance is not limited to deportation or to immigrants.

“Donald Trump brings two fundamental changes. The first is animus. When Trump calls Mexican immigrants drug traffickers and rapists, when he says a judge cannot do his job because of his Mexican heritage, when he implies that Muslim immigrants are party to a vast, Islamist conspiracy (we have to “figure out what’s going on”), it could send a signal to rank and file immigration enforcement.

“Second, Trump is starting to use his surveillance arsenal to its utmost legal and technical capacity—within the U.S.”

Trump’s January 25 executive order revoked Privacy Act protection for “persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.” (Section 14) That may leave Privacy Act protections in place for citizens and legal residents, but when it comes to use of high-tech surveillance, we are all at risk.

“State legislatures have passed dozens of laws restricting geolocation tracking, cell-site simulators, drones, and other technologies; Congress has passed zero such laws for criminal law enforcement, let alone ICE….

“For years, Congress pressed DHS to use biometrics to track foreign nationals leaving the country. This year, DHS launched face scans through Delta and JetBlue—and both systems scan the faces of foreign nationals and citizens alike.”

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World Refugee Day, protecting children, and other immigration news – June 21, 2017

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June 20 was World Refugee Day, in a year when the worldwide number of refugees and forcibly displaced people reached a record 65 million. More than half of the refugees are children, and on June 21 the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill called the “Protection of Children Act of 2017.”

What this bill does is the opposite of protection: It removes current protections for refugee children and makes it far more difficult for them to tell their stories, to get a hearing before an asylum officer, and to get legal representation. The “protection” includes lengthening the time that they can be held in immigration jails rather than being turned over to Health and Human Services for placement. Keep reading for World Refugee Day reporting, summaries of the “Protection of Children” legislation, and more.  Continue reading

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Lessons from a refugee father and other immigration news – June 20, 2017


Refugee stories are not just fascinating and exciting stories – though they are both. They are life lessons and stories of family and of contribution to the economic and spiritual wealth of this country.  Kao Kalia Yang was born in a refugee camp in 1980 and came to Minnesota with her family in 1987. The award-winning author of The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir, and The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, powerfully describes lessons learned from her refugee father and her own immigrant experience.

My father is not a powerful man: Lessons from my refugee father (MPR, 6/13/17)

“My father’s life gives me the freedom to drive far too fast, speak far too quickly, tread far too heavily across the terrain of memory, of love; getting us from one place to the other, in search of a better life, a better world, a better possibility for understanding the powerless, and the lessons our lives have to teach us about how to better live and love each other, about how to survive despite our lack of power. It does not take powerful men to live powerful lives.”

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What Department of Homeland Security said about DACA and other immigration news – June 19, 2017

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On June 15, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum that withdraws all support for DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens and Legal Residents) and the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) expansion ordered by President Barack Obama in 2015. However, the same memorandum affirms that the original 2012 DACA program remains in effect – at least for now. This reverses a Trump campaign promise to abolish DACA, which currently protects about 800,000 young people and has widespread popularity:

“But once in office, Mr. Trump faced a new reality: the political risks of targeting for deportation a group of people who are viewed sympathetically by many Americans. In some cases, the immigrants did not know they were in the country illegally. Many attended American schools from the time they were in kindergarten.”

The DACA protection, however, remains tenuous, as a DHS spokesperson pointed out in a New York Times interview:

“There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the department. He added that John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”

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DACA at five and other immigration news – June 16, 2017

DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – turned five years old on June 15. What is DACA?

“Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion, not a grant of lawful status.. Deferred action means a promise that, even though the government could prosecute and deport a DREAMer, it would not do so — at least for a specific period of time, for those who went through the application and screening process and paid hundreds of dollars in fees.

“On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced the rules for DACA — undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, had resided in the U.S. since June 2007 and met other requirements could request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years. In 2014, DHS announced rules for a two-year renewal, and in 2016, for another two-year renewal.”

In five years, President Barack Obama’s executive order has provided protection for nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, who arrived in the United States as children and call this country home.

Want more numbers? Here’s the USCIS data. One number that stands out: less than 7 percent of DACA requests (initial and renewal) have been denied from 2012 through March 31, 2017. Under Trump, the percentage of denials rose dramatically to almost 15 percent from January-March 2017.  Continue reading

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Dreamers, headline writers and other immigration news – June 15, 2017

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Reporting on immigration can get complicated, but you’d think the Washington Post could do better than this June 12 headline: Trump Administration Grants Work Permits to Thousands of Illegal Immigrants

The story is actually about DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That’s an Obama executive order that suspended deportation for hundreds of thousands of young people who had been brought to the United States as children. Many of them grew up here and never knew any other home. DACA gave some kind of security, as well as work permits, to those who met its strict requirements, submitted the application and extensive documentation, including fingerprints and criminal background check, and paid the $465 application fee. If granted, DACA permission was good for two years, and after that, the DACA recipients could re-apply (and pay another fee) for a two-year extension.

The Washington Post article is about that specific story: extending temporary and limited protection and work permits to these young people.

“Trump had called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program an “unconstitutional executive amnesty” during his campaign. But statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released last week showed that more than 17,000 new DACA applicants were approved for the program in the first three months of 2017.

“In addition, 107,000 immigrants already enrolled in DACA had their two-year work permits renewed during that time…”

Trump has moved from calling for an end to DACA to telling DACA recipients that they can “rest easy.” That angers many of his supporters, who want him to issue an executive order ending DACA. On the other hand, many of his opponents are angry because of his administration’s arrests and deportations of some DACA recipients.  Continue reading

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