Obama quietly makes changes to the U.S. immigration policy

The Obama administration has announced that it would overturn one of the harsh immigration enforcement measures enacted by the Bush administration following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Beginning next month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that those who arrive in the United States fleeing torture or persecution abroad will no longer automatically be welcomed with handcuffs and months in a jail cell. Instead, many of those seeking protection will again be permitted to live freely in the country while their applications for permanent asylum are considered by an immigration judge.
The measure is the latest in a string of initiatives by the DHS to reconsider some of the most controversial enforcement policies of the past decade. The administration in August launched an overhaul of the immigration detention system, which had grown out of control as the number of detainees doubled in just five years to more than 440,000 annually. Some of them were simply lost in the system, while others fell ill and died due to poor medical care, and the administration has pledged to stop such abuses. That same month, it moved families out of the notorious T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Texas, which had become a national disgrace after revelations that pregnant women and children were being held there in prison-like conditions.
The administration has also largely halted workplace raids that resulted in jailing, deportation and even criminal charges for many unauthorized workers, and is focused instead on in-depth audits of companies suspected of hiring such workers. And DHS has curbed the authority of state and local police forces to demand immigration documents from anyone stopped for minor offenses like traffic violations, saying that such checks should be done only for those jailed on criminal charges, especially for serious criminal offenses. To drive home the point, the DHS in October stripped the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona of federal authority to make immigration-related arrests.
The administration is walking a narrow line. The White House believes it must be tough on enforcement if there is any hope of assembling a political coalition in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform next year. Janet Napolitano, the DHS secretary, says the administration has done what Congress sought on everything from the U.S.-Mexico border fence to the E-Verify system for authorizing workers, and that the time has come to enact other elements of reform, including a legalization program for many unauthorized immigrants. If Congress does not believe her claims on enforcement, the rest of the package will likely be dead on arrival.
But at the same time, the administration wants to demonstrate that it is possible to be tough without being unfair and inhumane. The treatment of asylum claimants is just one example of where the United States had gone awry. Under the guidelines enacted in 1997, once an arriving individual had shown immigration officials a “credible fear” of persecution or torture back home, he could be “paroled” into the country to await a judge’s decision on his application to remain, which could take many months.
But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration began to clamp down, arguing that those released might simply disappear, remaining as illegal immigrants and perhaps even posing a terror threat. According to a recent study by Human Rights First, about 40 per cent of those asylum seekers were still being paroled in 2004; by 2007 that number had dropped to just four per cent. Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, called that figure “an affront to our ideals as a nation that aspires to be a beacon of light to persecuted refugees.”
The Obama administration’s new policy, which will end such routine incarceration, had been urged by everyone from the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. And there is no reason to believe that the risks will rise significantly. There is considerable evidence, for instance, that alternative programs to monitor those released will ensure that they comply with whatever ruling a judge finally reaches.
Other initiatives show this more nuanced approach as well. The workplace raids, which were intended to send a warning to companies that hired unauthorized workers, mostly just hurt the workers themselves. Last year, only 13 companies were prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers. Now, the Obama administration is instead focusing on expanded audits of the paper trail that companies must keep on their workforce. Arrests and deportations of workers are down, but hefty fines against the companies are up, providing strong incentives for them to maintain a legal workforce. This is hardly a benign approach - ask the families of the 1,800 immigrant workers who were fired from American Apparel in Los Angeles following an audit - but it marks a departure from the Bush policy of summarily jailing and deporting any unauthorized workers arrested in the raids.
The recent initiatives are only initial steps, and the administration is still facing criticism from its own liberal allies that it is simply continuing the Bush administration’s enforcement policies. Indeed, by any of the hard measures - detentions, criminal prosecutions, deportations, the number of Border Patrol agents - there has been no softening of the toughest immigration enforcement campaign in recent U.S. history.
Still, the changes in the last year are significant, even if they are as yet little recognized. Indeed, the Obama administration itself has not made much effort to advertise the new measures. With the tough fight looming ahead next year on comprehensive immigration reform, it is clear why.



USCIS intends to increase on-site inspections of H-1B visas in 2010

The United States Customs and Immigrations Services (USCIS) plans to up its enforcement of the law on H-1B visas and the U.S. companies that take advantage of them by conducting 5,000 on-site inspections in 2010. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Google and many technology giants and smaller IT firms employ temporary H-1B visa holders to fill U.S.-based jobs from foreign countries. After a Congressional report showed a range of fraud within the H-1B visa program, the pressure to enforce the law has increased.
In 2009, the USCIS conducted 5,191 on-site inspections, according to a report, with many of the inspections being unannounced visits. The 25,000 inspection effort in 2010 could be a serious boost to quelling fraud, but it may not be enough for those in the U.S. government who advocate for stronger limits on H-1B visas.
Some in the U.S. Senate, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have introduced legislation that would impose limitations on H-1B visa usage. In a year of major job loss in information technology, Grassley, along with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois initiated a bill that seeks to ensure that U.S. companies look to hire American workers before using H-1B visas.
"The H-1B program was never meant to replace qualified American workers. It was meant to compliment them because of a shortage of workers in specialized fields," Grassley said in a statement. "In tough economic times like we're seeing, it's even more important that we do everything possible to see that Americans are given every consideration when applying for jobs."
The boost to enforcement became public knowledge after the recently appointed USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas sent letters to Sen. Grassley and Sen. Durbin.
Computerworld reported how the inspections are expected to happen:
"Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor... told Grassley that the inspections aim to determine 'whether the location of employment actually exists and if a beneficiary is employed at the location specified, performing the duties as described, and paid the salary as identified in the petition.'"
Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont also introduced a bill this year that would limit visa usage, significantly increase the fees for H-1B visa company sponsors and protect U.S. workers.
Technology companies-with lobbying support from organizations like TechAmerica and CompTIA widely support the use of H-1B visas and consistently express a skills gap between U.S. and foreign-born workers and support an increase in the annual number of visa allotments, which is now capped at 64,000.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the Detroit Free Press earlier this year: "I don't care whether they're American-born or Indian-born or Russian-born. I want to pay them to work in the U.S. That's why I'm trying to get 'em a visa.... I'm not trying to ship the job to India."



Court orders shutdown of three websites opposing H-1B visas

A New Jersey judge has ordered the shutdown of three H-1B opposition web sites and has asked for information about the identity of anonymous posters.
On Dec. 23, Middlesex County Superior Court Judge James Hurley ordered domain-registering firms and provide hosting services- GoDaddy Inc., Network Solutions, Comcast Cable Communications Inc. and DiscountASP.Net, to disable the three sites, ITgrunt.com, Endh1b.com, and Guestworkerfraud.com.
Facebook Inc. was also ordered to disable ITgrunt's Facebook page.
DiscountASP.Net said it has disabled Endh1b.com after it received the order from the New Jersey Superior Court. The order did not request any account information, only that the company "...immediately shut down and disable the website www.endh1b.com until further order of this court..," a spokesman said in an email.
Facebook said it also received the document.
GoDaddy is complying with the order too and has suspended the web hosting for ITgrunt.com.
The web site Endh1b.com is registered but not hosted at Go Daddy. Both domain names have been placed on registrar lock due to the pending litigation. When Go Daddy receives a court order, it is standard procedure to comply.
Hurley's order was made in response to a libel lawsuit filed by IT services and consulting firm Apex Technology Group Inc., based in Edison, N.J. against the three Web sites opposing the H-1B visa program.
The issue is creating a stir among H-1B opponents working in IT-related jobs who fear that their posts could result in the loss of their jobs.
The company is seeking the identity of a person who posted an Apex employment agreement on Docstoc.com, that has since been removed. A link to the document and comments critical of it has been posted on a variety of Web sites, including at least one in India, on Desicrunch.com. The comment broadly alleges that employees will find it difficult to leave Apex because of its employment contract terms.

Apex, in one legal filing, said the allegations by the anonymous posters are false and defamatory, and were hurting the company. In the filing, Apex said it "has had three consultants refuse to report for employment" due to the postings, according to legal documents.
Apex said it is also seeking "contact details of the individual who posted this legal agreement without permission since we are the copyright owner of the legal document."
Accoring to court documents, a writer responding to admin@endh1b.com wrote that the site has "not posted a legal agreement and don't have the contact details of anyone of our contributors. We will also protect the privacy of any members of our community."
Patrick Papalia, an attorney representing Apex, said that the company has already identified an employee who left the initial comment. But he said the issue goes well beyond the agreement and involves threatening and racist comments against company officials, as well as ongoing allegations that it is engaging in illegal activities. "Apex has an outstanding reputation in the information technology field," he said.
John Miano, who heads the Programmers Guild and is also an attorney, and who one represented one the parties involved in the dispute, said it is "rather chilling" to have a court in New Jersey ordering the shutdown of Web sites operated by people with no connection to New Jersey.
The operator of Guestworkerfraud.com linked to ITgrunt.com's blog entry and said he added some comments of his own. He doesn't allow comments on this site. He has since removed the entry concerning Apex. He says he won't let the New Jersey judge "run the Internet and silence free speech by shutting down the whole site. Hence, my site is still up." He asked that his name not be used, in response to an email.

All H-1B slots for 2010 finally filled up- Longest time taken in five years !

All the slots for H1B visas for the year 2010 were finally filled on December 21, breaking a record, and making it the longest time it has taken to meet the quota in the previous five years. In the previous two years, these slots were grabbed within two days of the applications being accepted in the beginning of April.
As the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS announced that it had received “sufficient petitions to reach the statutory cap”, it would “apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions that are subject to the cap and were received on December 21, 2009.”
There are 65,000 such visas available every year. Indians have typically accounted for over a one third of the H1B visas granted in recent years.
This decline in interest could well scupper years of lobbying efforts by major US companies including Microsoft to increase the cap with most seeking a doubling of the numbers.
The tone against H1Bs has become strident in recent months with a bill being introduced in late November seeking to prohibit American companies that lay off workers from hiring people on visas such as the H1B.
However, immigration proponents believe such measures may prove counterproductive.
Richard Herman, co-author of recently-published Immigrant, Inc., said, “In the new economy, immigrants are disproportionately doing technology innovation and commercialisation.”
New York-based immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta ascribed the slow pace of H1B filings this year partly to “hostility of certain elected representatives” and “populism” in creating a climate where companies are less likely to hire H1B workers.
“Rather than assume every H1B is fraudulent and taking away jobs, they should remove artificial conditions,” he said.
Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at Duke University, sees anti-Indianism. “This anti-H1B sentiment is directed at Indians. This is racism at its worst and they’re targeting Indian immigrants with this,” he said.



Ex-ICE officer pleads guilty to corruption charges

A retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent accused of being a part of a cocaine smuggling operation has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a Florida.
As a part of the deal, prosecutors agreed to drop three drug charges against Richard Padilla Cramer of Green Valley, Ariz., who's also accused of leaking law enforcement information to smugglers.
Authorities say Cramer used confidential law enforcement databases to gather information for a smuggling group to see whether one of its members was a government informant.
He was also accused of giving $15,000 to $25,000 to smugglers as an investment in a scheme that brought 660 pounds (300 kilos) of cocaine from Panama to Spain, where it was seized in June 2007.



Largest crackdown on illegal immigrants with a criminal record

Approximately 300 foreign nationals with criminal records have been deported from the United States or face removal after a three-day immigration enforcement operation, officials have said.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement hailed the 286 arrests as the "biggest operation targeting at large criminal aliens" it has ever carried out, and it involved more than 400 agents and officers from ICE, the US Marshals Service, as well as state and local agencies.
Those arrested - 257 men and 29 women - are reportedly from more than 30 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Most of them - 207 - were Mexican nationals, followed by 19 from El Salvador, 10 from Guatemala and seven from India. There were only between one and three nationals from the other countries.
At least 100 of the criminal immigrants have already been removed from the United States. More than 80 percent of them had prior convictions for rape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and other serious crimes.
The group also included 30 convicted sex offenders, including child molesters.
"Legal immigration is an important part of our country's history and the American dream exists for many immigrants," Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary and ICE chief John Morton said in a statement.
"However, that dream involves playing by the rules and those who break our criminal laws will be removed from the country. Sadly, many of the people victimized by aliens who commit crimes are other members of the immigrant community, who are following the rules."
The United States is home to around 12 million illegal immigrants, most of them workers who pay taxes after obtaining false identification for work as cleaners, cooks and construction workers.
At least 17 of those arrested during the enforcement operation face further federal prosecution because they re-entered the country illegally after a formal deportation. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.
The immigrants came from US neighbors Mexico and Canada as well as Bolivia, Britain, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.



Sudden jump in the demand for H-1B visa applications

After months of lull in H-1B applications, US authorities have witnessed a sudden increase in demand for H-1B work visa.
The applications received so far are still over 6,000 short of the Congress-mandated cap of 65,000.
Latest figures released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) show that an increased number of people applying for H-1B visas in the last two months.
As a result of this, till November 27, the USCIS had received about 58,900 H-1B petitions. This is still over 6,000 short of the Congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas in the general category.
The USCIS has approved sufficient H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap.
According to the periodic figures released by USCIS, in the past two months more than 12,000 H-1B visas have been  filed.
In the beginning of October, more than 18,000 H-1B visas were vacant.



Immigration reform, and its impact on USCIS caseloads

The current presidential administration has declared immigration reform to be a high priority issue.
Presently, the administration has focused primarily on the country’s economics and the need for reform of the American healthcare system. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), however, is preparing for the eventual announcement that the President is turning his eyes to comprehensive immigration reform, commonly referred to as CIR. Once this reform has been initiated, USCIS expects a considerable increase in the numbers of cases.
Prior to the most recent presidential elections, Barak Obama indicated his resolve to significantly reform the immigration process. He has made it clear that this reform will involve the large numbers of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. In fact, a part of the reform proposal is expected to contain a plan for status legalization for many of these people.
America’s present economic condition makes it likely that legalization will be strongly opposed, and the current lack of jobs for legal residents and U.S. citizens makes opposition even more likely. Despite this, USCIS is aware that at least some cases will be presented to that agency for consideration, and this is likely to bog down an already backlogged immigration service even more.

At present, people who apply for I-140 visas (which are also known as “green cards”) must wait up to one year after their petition is filed for an interview to be scheduled. The process can be complicated by documentation or education issues. Sometimes, the USCIS issues a Request for Evidence, or RFE, indicating that some aspect of the petitioner’s application - possibly the labor certificate or educational credentials - requires further investigation.
Many companies who employ legal residents, as well as workers residing in the U.S. on temporary work visas, such as H1B visas, are concerned that this anticipated increase in USCIS’s caseload will further slow the visa approval process. Many employers depend on highly trained or skilled workers who enter the country on employment-based visas, and could experience a shortage of trained employees if this potential problem does become a reality.
The USCIS caseload is already backlogged, and the H1B visa cap did not fill for 2009 as a consequence, in part, of the recession. If the economy does recover substantially, and visa applications do increase significantly in the coming year, USCIS will need to meet the usual demands of H1B visa season, as well as Obama’s proposed immigration reform.
The American public will watch the reform proposals with interest and how they affect the USCIS remains to be seen, but an increased caseload is almost certain.

No change likely in US immigration policy

Indian IT companies will need to be content with the existing visa options for the United States as the US Congress, the country’s highest lawmaking body, is not likely to take up the issue of immigration reforms in the short-term.
Presently, Indian and multinational technology firms primarily rely on H1B and L1 visas for sending Indian passport-holding employees to work temporarily in the US. However, this practice has recently come under review as the American government attempts at protecting the employment opportunities for its domestic workforce, which is reeling under the impact of the slowdown.
Though the Barack Obama-led administration is interested in undertaking certain modifications to the existing visa regime, changes to the immigration policy will require an amendment to the existing legislation, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice L Jacobs said.
“Reforming the immigration policy was under consideration by the earlier (George W. Bush) administration and is something that the US Congress will take up sometime in the future. We don't know when this will happen but President Obama is interested in the matter,” Jacobs said.
While the US Congress has been debating over health care reforms that Obama wants to push through, climate change could be the next issue of discussion that the legislative body takes up, she explained.
After facing criticism from certain sections of US lawmakers for allegedly misusing visas, Nasscom — the Indian IT industry’s apex body — had recommended the introduction of a service visa or work permit allowing foreign nationals to visit the country with relation to their jobs for a temporary period.



US government lifts the 22-year old ban on travellers who are HIV+

The 22-year-old ban on people infected with HIV entering the US has been officially lifted on the 2nd of November, with the new rules taking effect in 60 days. AIDS activists around the world have hailed the move as a major coup in the fight against the stigma.
"This comes as very good news for us," said Michael Angaga, regional coordinator for the Network of African People Living with HIV/AIDS.
"For so long HIV-positive people have felt isolated by one of the greatest nations in the world, which should be spearheading human rights." Angaga said he looked forward to seeing the new rules rapidly implemented in US embassies around the world.
In 1987 HIV was added to the list of communicable diseases that could prevent infected immigrants, students and tourists from obtaining visas to enter the US without special permission. President Barack Obama's announcement on the 30th of October marked the end of a process started in 2008 by then US President George W. Bush, who signed a law repealing these restrictions.
"We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic, yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama was reported as saying.
Samuel Kibanga, national coordinator of the National Forum of People living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda, commented: "This shows that America can now see the reality that people living with HIV are just like any other people, deserving of the right to free movement - the travel ban was discrimination of the highest calibre."
The UNAIDS International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights state that any restriction on liberty of movement or choice of residence based on suspected or real HIV status alone, including HIV screening of international travellers, is discriminatory.
Governments usually give two main reasons for imposing travel restrictions on HIV-positive people: to help control the spread of HIV, and save host countries the cost of HIV-related treatment, but Kibanga said these regulations merely drove the problem of HIV underground.
"People fear to reveal their status when travelling. It is better to be with someone who feels free to be open about their status than one who is hiding it," he said. "That way we can all fight AIDS as partners."
A June 2009 report by watchdog organization Human Rights Watch, found that immigration laws and stringent requirements for accessing free health care often created insurmountable barriers to the treatment and care for migrants living with HIV.
Kibanga said he hoped that the US's move would serve as an example to other nations that have similar travel restrictions. According to UNAIDS, 59 countries impose some form of travel restrictions on people living with HIV.



New Haven residents sue US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Ten New Haven residents who were arrested during the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in 2007 are suing the agency in federal court, claiming that their civil rights were violated.
The lawsuit was filed today in New Haven, naming the agents who conducted the raids and senior ICE officials as defendants. The plaintiffs are being represented by Yale Law School students.
The lawsuit states that the raids involved warrantless searches, and the plaintiffs were arrested based on their race or ethnicity. The raids occurred 36 hours after city officials approved a program to issue identification cards to all residents, including undocumented immigrants.



US and Canadian forces join hands to establish a task force at Detroit-Windsor border

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has established a joint task force to keep gang-related activities from crossing the U.S.-Canada border at Windsor, Ont.
Windsor police chief Gary Smith was in Detroit to announce a new, US-Canada task force to monitor the Detroit-Windsor border. The Border Enforcement Security Task Force, or BEST, comprises law enforcement officers at the federal, state and local levels in the U.S. and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police and Windsor Police Service in Canada.
Together, the agents will cover about 1,160 kilometres of the US-Canada border.
"The BEST's mission is clear — to collaboratively identify and disrupt transnational criminal organizations exploiting our shared border," Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations in Michigan and Ohio, said in Detroit.

Its focus includes:
National security and terrorist threats.
Human smuggling and trafficking.
Contraband smuggling.
Bulk cash smuggling.
Money laundering.
Transnational gang activities exploiting the border region.
BEST good news for Windsor

In the past, law enforcement in both countries has faced hurdles caused by bureaucratic red tape. In the new scenario, Windsor police will assign one constable to work in the BEST office in Detroit to streamline communication between both jurisdictions and make it "a little bit smoother," said Windsor police Chief Gary Smith.
"If they call us and say 'We have a person going to this area. Can you check that out? Can you do a surveillance? Can you put some intelligence out there?' we can do that rather than them going through Washington, through Ottawa, and coming back down," Smith said. "Timing is everything."
"Now we're not slowing down at the port of entry to try to figure out 'Alright, who can we call at OPP or Windsor or RCMP or CBSA?'," Moskowitz said. "They're there, and those things can happen in real time."
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who on Oct. 1 called Windsor "a conduit for guns" because of its proximity to the U.S. border, praised the new task force, calling the co-ordinated enforcement a positive development.
"The issues that we've been dealing with on border cities clearly identifies that guns, gangs and drugs don't recognize a border," Francis said.
Detroit's BEST is the 17th in the U.S. and the third on the northern border. There are three BESTs each in Texas, California and Arizona, two in New Mexico and New York, and one each in Florida, Washington and Mexico City.
In fiscal 2008, BEST teams seized 23,777 kilograms of marijuana, 818 kilograms of cocaine and 386 kilograms of ecstasy, as well as 432 weapons and more than $8.8 million US, according to a press release.



Mexican soldiers discover underground tunnel near San Diego

Mexican soldiers have discovered a secret underground tunnel near San Diego, complete with electricity supply and an air supply that may have been planned for smuggling migrants or drugs under the U.S. border into San Diego.
Reporters in Tijuana were invited by military officials to a private, industrial property about 100 feet south of San Diego's Otay Mesa border crossing. Law enforcement officials opened the property for the media and then left.
The journalists, including about 20 reporters, photographers and videographers, walked around until they spotted a big hole, the entrance to a 4-foot-wide tunnel hidden behind a tractor-trailer.
Several walked inside but reached a dead end. Inside they came across blueprints, a shovel and maps of the border region.
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency assisted the Mexican military after the tunnel was discovered. She said it was incomplete, stopping right under the edge of the border fence.
Authorities have discovered dozens of tunnels burrowed under the border in recent years, many of them incomplete. U.S. authorities typically destroy such tunnels.



Department of Homeland Security makes changes to Immigrant policing plan

The Department of Homeland Security has said that it has made changes to the Immigrant policing plan and renewed agreements with local agencies. US immigration officials have said that they have addressed problems in a program allowing state and local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Department of Homeland Security officials said that they have made changes to address complaints that the program, which is meant to root out dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants, is prompting local police to target immigrants who commit relatively minor offenses and to engage in racial profiling, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper said the changes include requiring law enforcement officers enrolled in the program to pledge to observe federal anti-discrimination law, beefing up its supervision and flagging problems and complaints from the public.
DHS officials alo said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement intends to expand the program and has renewed agreements with 55 state and local law enforcement agencies. Twelve more, they said, have reached tentative agreements.
The newspaper said ICE is negotiating with six other agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The Times said critics of the program. which include some members of Congress, weren't satisfied with the changes.



Number of Indian students on F-1 visas to the US witnesses a 25% decline

It's official now ! The number of students in the US on F-1 visas has seen a sharp drop this year. There were less F1 student visas for the US issued across India in financial year 2009 (Oct 08-Sep 09) than the previous year. In fact, 25,860 issuances in FY09 actually translates into a whopping 25% decline over the 34,510 issued last year.
Most experts and consultants feel that the fall in numbers of Indian students choosing to go to the US for higher studies is because of the fall in financial aid offered by institutions rather than any visa strictures.
"The US student visas are streamlined now and the reason for less students going to the US from India is probably because educational institutions are offering less financial aid in view of the economic slowdown. In fact, endowments in US colleges have been hit in a big way," says Poorvi Chothani, Mumbai based immigration lawyer and founder and principal member of law firm LawQuest.
The influential Open Doors report published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is scheduled to be published next month, will provide a detailed break-up of the numbers of international students at colleges and universities in the US.
"Till 2007-08, India remained the leading country source for international students in the US. This was for the seventh consecutive year, with an increase by 13% to 94,563.
However, this year, in view of the slowdown, there could be a different trend," feels Ajit Motwani. India director of IIE.
And even as most experts agree that lower financial aid and scholarships are the main reason for the drop in number of Indian students going to the US, many are hoping that as the recovery kicks in the numbers will improve.
"Going to the US for higher education is an investment decision and in India we’re now seeing all the markets reviving and investors coming back. I think that next year, the number of students going to the US will again increase as many are now making decisions to go and doing the required paperwork," says Mumbai-based education consultant Karan Gupta.
And even in FY 09, many students have received substantial funding in a range of disciplines to study in America. "We have had success with several students receiving substantial funding as well. Many students who went on to pursue some new disciplines such as fashion marketing, neuroscience, pastoral studies, petroleum engineering, imaging sciences, oceanography and global development economics received financial assistance. In general, students applying for research programmes continue to receive funding despite the drop this year," says Shevanti Narayan, country co-ordinator at the US-India Educational Foundation.



Immigration activists march for reform

Expressing their frustration and anger with the lack of action by the Obama administration and the Congress, hundreds of immigration activists staged a rally on Capitol Hill, pressing for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws to offer a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
The event, featuring participants waving the US flag and flags of several Latin American countries, coincided with the release of a new immigration-reform blueprint released by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force.
Melissa Lozano, 27, who traveled from Morristown, N.J., to attend the rally and prayer vigil, said U.S. immigration policy is "a broken system that criminalizes immigrants, separates families and exploits families that are here working hard."
But the drive for action this year could be complicated by the results of a new poll of Mexican attitudes obtained by The Washington Times, which found that a majority of Mexicans say that if the U.S. pardons illegal immigrants, it will encourage more of them to cross the border illegally and that most Mexicans think their countrymen living in the U.S. should still owe their loyalty to Mexico.
The poll, conducted by Zogby International and commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a group that favors stricter immigration limits, is being released on Wednesday. It found that 56 percent of Mexicans surveyed said their friends and family would be more likely to cross the border illegally if the U.S. government passes a bill to legalize those already here.
"The message is clear. No matter how they are sold to the public, amnesties don't work," said George W. Grayson, a CIS board member and Mexico specialist who helped frame the wording of the poll questions. "In fact, they are counterproductive because they raise expectations - and illegal migration - based on the belief that one amnesty will give rise to a second ... and a third."
Having slipped on his promise to sign an immigration bill this year, President Obama now says he wants to have that debate early in 2010.
But Mr. Gutierrez, who has taken over leadership on the issue after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's death in August, signaled that patience among the president's supporters is not infinite.
"Saying immigration is a priority for this administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action," he said. "The longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform."
Ivonne Rivera of Washington immigrated to the United States from her native El Salvador 30 years ago and is now a U.S. citizen.
"We have a large population of people - 12 million - that have become a subculture living in the shadows, struggling in poverty and fear, and experiencing family separation," she said at Tuesday's rally.
But proponents of immigration reform will have to grapple with how to actually reduce future illegal immigration. Many lawmakers say they feel burned by the 1986 amnesty, which promised a one-time forgiveness in exchange for getting control of the border. Many lawmakers say the government followed through on the legalization, but not the security.
In 2007, the last time Congress debated the issue, the Congressional Budget Office said the bill that President Bush and Democratic leaders wrote would only reduce illegal immigration by about 25 percent. That bill failed to pass the Senate.
Steven A. Camarota, research director for CIS, said with one-third of Mexicans saying they know someone who lives in the U.S. already, "the social networks are already in place."
"If you legalize folks, you generally will encourage them to come," he said.
The CIS poll also found that 69 percent of Mexicans think that their countrymen living in the U.S. should show their primary loyalty to Mexico, and not the U.S. That finding could prove to be a problem for those who say immigrants need to do a better job of assimilating into the U.S.
The Zogby poll consisted of 1,004 in-person interviews of adults throughout Mexico. It was conducted in August and September. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.



US Consul General in India urges students to avoid using agents

The US Consul General advised students in India seeking study visa to directly approach them instead of going through agents.
"There are several myths regarding procuring US student visa among the people. We come to know about them when the students come for visa interview," vice-counsellor of US Consul General in Mumbai, Lisa Larson, told reporters here.
"We advice students to directly approach US Embassy for the study visa. Agents are absolutely not necessary. We have learnt that they charge high fees from students," she said.
She said that all the details regarding visa process are available on its websites.
Larson said they are organising interactions in colleges and important cities with students and their parents to make them aware about the right process for visa application as a part of their awareness programme.
She said they had also noticed fake document submission by students seeking US visa.
"We are very strict regarding flawed documents and will not approve visa of any such persons," Larson added.
Infact, getting US visa is not related to perfect documentation. The applicant has to satisfy the officer who is interviewing, she added.
Larson said students seeking US visa require to show that they are financially fit to pay their college fees and stay in America for the first year.
"We do not ask for any other financial requirements for those seeking student visa."
She said there is a big drop in number of people seeking visas in all the sections, including students visas, due to the economic slowdown in the US.



More than 18,000 of the mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas still available

Once coveted by techies from the Indian sub-continent, more than one fourth of the H-1B visas for skilled professionals are yet to be filled up, with the US job market still to pick up as it recovers from its deepest recession in decades.
By Sep 25, 2009, only about 46,700 of the H-1B visas in the general category were filled up against a Congressional mandated cap of 65,000, according to the latest update by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Thus, more than 18,000 H-1B visas are still to be filled up, even as the new financial year began on Thursday. 
The USCIS said it would continue to accept the petitions till the allocated quota is filled up. Further, even though it has received some 20,000 H-1B petitions in the high-education category, it would continue to accept application in this category too. 
"USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn," it said. 
To be noted is the fact that USCIS warned that it will deny or revoke all petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker if more than one filing is discovered. 
If multiple petitions are discovered, whether one or more such petitions are approved, USCIS will data enter all those duplicate petitions, retain all fees, and either deny the petitions or, if a petition was approved, revoke the petition, it said. 
This is for the first time in several years that thousands of H-1B visas are still to be filled up even at the start of the financial year. 
In fact, in the last one month, USCIS received just 1,600 petitions for H-1B visas, which officials said reflects the poor job market scenario in the US. 
This is unlike the previous years when the entire 65,000 visas were grabbed on day one. Many a times, the USCIS had to resort to a computerized lottery to determine the successful candidates.



US government considering reforming immigration detention system

The US is planning to change the way illegal immigrants are detained.
It is considering plans to use sites like converted hotels and nursing homes to house some immigrants awaiting processing or deportation.
This plan is a part of an overhaul of the system of detaining immigrants, amid reports of abuses and poor care.
Immigrants would be held according to the risks they posed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Each year, thousands of immigrants are held in US jails, alongside regular prisoners, awaiting deportation.
"This is a system that encompasses many different types of detainees, not all of whom need to be held in prison-like circumstances," Ms Napolitano said.
"These new initiatives will improve accountability and safety in our detention facilities."
At the same time, Ms Napolitano stressed that enforcement of immigration laws would continue "unabated".
The US has been criticised for holding illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in often crowded jails alongside regular prisoners who pose a higher risk.
There have been accusations that detainees have been denied due process and have received poor medical care.
During 2008, a total of nearly 380,000 people were in custody or supervised by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The facilities used to house the immigrants are mainly jails and prisons, which also house people awaiting trial and those serving sentences.
On 1 September, 2009, ICE had 31,075 immigrants in detention at more than 300 facilities across the US.
Of these, 66% were subject to mandatory detention and 51% were felons. Of these, 11% had committed violent crimes, while the majority of the population were seen as low risk.
The plans for reform, which will be put to Congress, can also result in savings in the cost of detaining immigrants, which stood at almost $2bn (£1.3bn) in 2008.
Ms Napolitano's department says alternatives like converted hotels and nursing homes would cost about $14 a day, compared to about $100 for detention in jail.
President Barack Obama has spoken of the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the US, where an estimated 12 million undocumented people live and work.
Efforts by his predecessor, George W Bush, to reform US immigration laws collapsed in 2007.



Chicago's failed Olympic bid- US visa and immigration system to blame ?

There have been reports that Chicago lost the bid for the Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro because of the US immigration policy.
Is the U.S. losing some of its place as a destination for foreign tourists? Syed Shahid Ali, a member of the International Olympic Committee from Pakistan, raised the issue ahead of the IOC picking Rio to host the 2016 Summer Games over Madrid, Tokyo and last-place finisher Chicago.
Coming into the U.S. can be “a rather harrowing experience” for foreigners, he noted, wondering whether it would be a problem if Chicago were to get the games, The New York Times reported.
“One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world,” President Obama responded, adding that the White House and the State Department would make it more convenient for visitors from abroad.
Advocates for immigration reform were quick to take note of the IOC member’s inquiry.
“The Olympics - Yet Another Victim of America’s Broken Immigration System,” was the headline on a statement issued by the Immigration Policy Center. “This recent disappointment proves that immigration reform is not just a pressing domestic issue, but an international one as well. The President may say the U.S. is open for business, but our nation’s actions have proved quite the opposite.”



Chinese student gets student visa on her fourth attempt

Obtaining a U.S. student visa can take perseverance. Yunjiao Shangguan is an exercise science sophomore from Shenzhen, China, who managed to receive a student visa on her fourth attempt.
“I wanted to come here to play tennis,” she said. “That was my main motivation.”
This current tennis season is the first in which Shangguan is eligible to play for SVSU.
Shangguan says she also wanted to come to America to improve her English. The first two times Shangguan applied, she was rejected because of her level of proficiency with the English language. The third time, State Department officials did not provide her reason.
Shangguan says that she was discouraged after her third rejection, but her father persuaded her to try again. He visited the U.S. on business and knew about the quality of an American education.
“They let you express your ideas,” she said, “and he really wanted me to come here to study.”
Visa applicants currently pay a $200 fee for the State Department interview, up from the previous amount of $150. There used to be a maximum of three attempts, but now visa applicants are allowed unlimited attempts.
On her fourth attempt, she was approved. “I was excited,” Shangguan said. Within two weeks of being approved for her student visa, she arrived at SVSU to begin her studies.
Sam Heikinen, director of international admissions, first met Shangguan about three years ago during an education expo in Chendu, China. Heikinen recruits internationally at educational exhibitions and through school visits, television, radio and print media.
“Yunjiao Shangguan got her visa on the fourth try. I was running around in circles. I was so happy she was coming off the airplane,” Heikinen said.
The number of students receiving an American visa is different for each country.
“We have a very good visa yield rate with China right now. We’ve done exceptionally well,” he said.
Higher education is America’s fifth largest export commodity. Heikinen says China is the No. 1 country sending students to SVSU for study.
“We get a lot of great, quality students from there,” he said.
Nationally, India is the first, China is No. 2 and South Korea is No. 3.
“A lot of people have a misconception as to how international students get a visa to come here. It has nothing to do with their home country. These students don’t get a visa from their government - they get a visa from our government.”
International students receive an I-20 application document from the International Programs office to obtain an F-1 non-immigrant student visa.
Applicants in China meet with U.S. State Department visa officers in a three- to five-minute interview. Applicants must prove they have no intent other than to study in the U.S.
Heikinen says, “The State Department people always state that they always want to give every deserving student the visa.”
Visa applicants must prove that they have non-liquid assets in the amount they can pay for one to four years of education here. They must also explain why they wish to come to the U.S. to study and why they intend to return to their country of origin after graduation.
“This is probably what they are most concerned about,” Shangguan said. “If you do not have a strong reason, they will definitely reject you.”
Heikinen says that more time, effort and resources should be dedicated to streamlining the overwhelming red tape. “We have to know who is coming through our borders, but we are America.”
Most of the time, students’ visas expire before they’ve graduated. Students then must return to their home country to renew the student visa before returning to complete their degrees.
“International students give our American students a great deal of understanding and a bridge to our friends around the world,” Heikinen said. “When they do go home, they take back with them that love of America.”



Alleged terror suspect of Dallas bomb plot highlights visitor-visa tracking problem

The alleged plot to blow up a Dallas office tower highlights a major weakness of the US government- keeping track of overstaying visitors.
Just like the millions of others classified by the government as illegal immigrants, the Jordanian teen accused of plotting to blow up a Dallas office tower recently, arrived in the United States legally and stayed long after his visa expired.
Federal immigration officials said that Hosam Smadi, 19, arrived on a visitor visa, not a student visa as initially believed, in spring 2007.
The difference is crucial: For foreign students, dropping out of school triggers a report to a central database and, often, a follow-up by the immigration authorities. For those who arrive as tourists or workers, it's almost certain authorities won't take notice unless they apply for a driver's license, get pulled over or arrested or call attention to themselves.
Officials in several federal agencies were reluctant to say much more about Smadi, citing the ongoing investigation. It's unclear when Smadi or his parents obtained the visa - Jordanians can receive visas that expire in five years, so he could have been as young as 11 or 12.
Once a visa-holder arrives with a "B2" visitor visa - the type that Smadi apparently received - he has six months to seek an extension or leave the United States.
Jordanian authorities say he spent time in detention when he was 14 or so, for a theft his father says he had reported to teach his son a lesson. It's unclear if the U.S. authorities knew about that case, nor whether it would have held up his visa if they did.
However he got into the US, and however long he stayed, Smadi came under scrutiny because, the FBI alleges, he expressed jihadist views on a monitored Web site.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people are coming in for the wrong reasons - to harm Americans or kill Americans, rather than as an innocent tourist," said Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. "Once you come into the country on a tourist visa, you've passed 'Go.' People know they're home free and there's no effort made to keep track of them."
In 1996, Smith wrote a bill - signed into law by President Bill Clinton - requiring the federal government to create a system to track both the entry and exit of foreign visitors. Thirteen years later, it's still a work in progress.
The Homeland Security Department has been building a system called U.S.-VISIT for several years.
The system compares biometric data with security databases, mostly to ensure that a foreigner arriving at a U.S. airport or land crossing isn't using someone else's passport. The data is stored. But, since most ports of entry don't identify departing foreigners, it's almost useless for tracking how many people - let alone which individuals - stayed longer than they were supposed to.
Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, don't dispute that.
Four of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had overstayed their visas, and that issue has vexed policymakers and informed the nation's immigration debate for years.
Immigrant advocates agree that relatively little effort is expended to track down people who overstay their visas - though, unlike Smith and others, they say that's fine.
"The government doesn't monitor computers and say: 'Aha.' Quite honestly, we don't have the resources for that," said Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Mostly what you'll pick up are people who are just trying to earn a living. I would rather see those resources spent on people who really mean us harm."
The immigration department has a National Fugitive Operations Program that tracks down foreigners who arrived without permission, and also those who arrived legally but stayed longer than their visas allowed. The top priority is to find people who pose a threat to public safety - people with known terrorist links or criminal records, or active arrest warrants.
A teenager with no known criminal record would not rise to the top of such a list.
The immigration agency posts a list of 15 "most-wanted criminal aliens." Not one is wanted for an act of terrorism. Most are accused of human smuggling or lewd acts involving children.
After Sept. 11, the government required males age between 16 and 70 from a number of countries, most of them predominantly Muslim, to report their whereabouts. The backlash was intense, and the program was largely abandoned.
Washington is spending about $300 million per year implementing US-VISIT (the acronym stands for Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology).
"We are at the same place we were before 9/11," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates immigration restriction. "There's been some but not much progress."



New website launched by US Immigration

In an effort to help people with issues related to citizenship and immigration, and provide more transparency, the Obama administration launched a new Web site on Tuesday that officials hope will make citizenship and other immigration services more accessible.
The new Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site was unveiled on September 22nd at an event with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as White House and Homeland Security staff.
Napolitano said USCIS' Web site gets 230,000 visits a day, therefore it's important that it be easy to use and provides "the kind of information that people seek."
The site was revised in 90 days using in-house resources, officials said. CIS officials could not immediately provide a total cost for the revisions. Parts of the service, including its Spanish-language sections, were still under construction.
Citizenship and Immigration Services is responsible for processing millions of applications for citizenship, immigration to the U.S. and legal residency as well as claims for asylum and refugee status.
One of the highlights of the new site is a tool allowing users to get e-mail updates or text alerts about the status of their cases, as well as to check them online with their case number.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the Citizenship and Immigration Services director, planned to travel to Los Angeles, as well as New Mexico and Nevada this week to "capture the issues of importance" on making his agency more responsive to the public.
Last week, Mayorkas announced the creation of an office to focus on gathering feedback from the community.



Former immigration official sentenced to three years for bribery

A former U.S. Department of Homeland Security worker was sentenced Monday to federal prison for three years and four months on a dozen counts related to a fraud and bribery scheme and a conspiracy to bring illegal aliens from India into the United States.
HASMUKH PATEL, 53, of McDonough, Georgia, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Clarence Cooper on charges of accepting a $100,000 bribe, bringing aliens into the United States illegally, and unauthorized access of a law enforcement computer.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, 'While employed with Citizenship and Immigration Services in a position to assist aliens seeking to come to the United States lawfully, Hasmukh Patel abused the public trust by accepting a bribe to bring aliens to this country illegally. His corruption has now landed him in prison.'
In Washington D.C., Special Agent in Charge Wayne H. Salzgaber, Special Investigations Division, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Inspector General, said, ’Today's sentence demonstrates there is no place among the dedicated professionals of the Department of Homeland Security for anyone who engages in corrupt activities.’
PATEL was sentenced to 3 years, 4 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. PATEL was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. PATEL was convicted of these charges on April 13, 2009, after a two week trial.
According to Acting United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: PATEL petitioned for a woman and her husband to come to the United States from India, purportedly to care for PATEL’s ailing wife. The visa application claimed the couple would live in the PATEL’s home and provide said care, when, as the witnesses testified, they never lived in the home or provided care as required by their visa. Witnesses from the United States Consulate in Mumbai, India testified that PATEL used his position with Immigration to vouch for the veracity of the couple’s application informing a consular official he was employed by the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Service. Consular officials later alerted investigators that the defendant was attempting to bring in another couple on the same type of temporary work visa. The evidence showed that PATEL also accessed his DHS computer to see if he or a visa recipient were under investigation.
PATEL was paid $100,000 by the husband’s brother who was already in the United States to bring his brother and sister-in-law to the United States illegally. Evidence at trial included an undercover recording of PATEL giving a tour of his home to the husband in order for the couple to be able to answer questions from investigators about the layout of the home and the work purportedly performed. The husband was in fact cooperating with the government and wearing a camera, which caught PATEL as he tried to cover up the crime. During the recorded conversation, PATEL acknowledged the payment of the bribe by the husband’s brother. In another effort to cover-up his crime, PATEL wrote a series of checks to the visa recipient to make it appear that the woman worked in his home, when she did not. This supposed salary was, in fact, returned to PATEL. 
PATEL was convicted on the conspiracy charge of encouraging aliens to illegally reside in the United States, and on substantive counts of taking a bribe in return for being influenced to commit a fraud on the United States, encouraging and inducing two aliens to enter and reside in the United States for his own private financial gain, making false statements to the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, and exceeding his authorized access on his government computer
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security



Mexican American astronaut "takes a giant leap" into the immigration debate

He might have soared into outer space, but back on Earth, US astronaut José Hernández has stepped knee-deep in controversy by expressing his view on the immigration of undocumented Mexicans. Astronaut Jose Hernandez has said that the United States needs to legalize its undocumented immigrants — a rare, public stand for a US astronaut on a political, hot issue.
Mexicans have hung on every word of NASA's first astronaut to tweet in Spanish — as Astro_Jose — since the son of migrants embarked on his two week, 5.7-million-mile mission to the international space station that ended Friday.
And they're still listening to him now that he is back on Earth.
During a telephone interview with Mexico's Televisa network, Hernandez pushed for U.S. immigration reform — a key issue for Mexico that has been stalled in Washington amid fierce debate.
"The American economy needs them," said Hernandez, 47, a California native who toiled in the cucumber, sugar beet and tomato fields alongside his Mexican-born parents. "I believe it's only fair to find a way to legalize them and give them an opportunity to work openly, so they can also retire in a traditional U.S. system."
NASA has distanced itself from Jose's views and NASA spokesman James Hartsfield told The Associated Press that Hernandez was expressing his personal views, "not representing NASA, the astronaut office or any NASA organization in his responses."
Hernandez said he wished all world leaders and politicians could see the Earth as he has, "so they could see our world, that really we are one, that we should work together."
"What surprised me is when I saw the world as one. There were no borders. You couldn't distinguish between the United States and Mexico," he told Televisa.
Hernandez's success shows why Mexican migrants have risked their lives to cross the U.S. border illegally to work their way out of poverty.
Millions in Mexico watched Hernandez's mission daily on Televisa, as well as following it on Twitter, where his dispatches appeared in English and Spanish. Hernandez also danced salsa, munched burritos and discussed Mexico's World Cup aspirations while floating in space aboard the shuttle Discovery.
Past NASA space missions barely got a mention on Mexican newscasts.
Hernandez's trip into orbit came at a time when the American dream for Mexicans and their families is fading. Deportations of illegal immigrants are at record levels, while tightened border security and the recession have caused a historic drop in the number of migrants heading north.
The rookie astronaut was one of two Mexican-Americans aboard, marking the first time two Hispanics have flown in space together. Astronaut Danny Olivas was making his second space flight. Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist, was the first Mexican citizen to make it to space, flying aboard the shuttle Atlantis in 1985.
Hernandez learned English at age 12, and applied for 12 straight years to become an astronaut before getting picked in 2004.
President Felipe Calderon has invited him to dinner at the presidential residence to talk about a future Mexican space agency. Hernandez's parents are from Calderon's home state of Michoacan, which has one of Mexico's largest populations of migrants in the United States.
The Michoacan town of Ticuitaco, meanwhile, wants to build a science museum in his name to inspire others to follow in Hernandez's footsteps.
"Jose Hernandez sets an example for our youth," said the town's mayor, Ricardo Guzm.



US pressures Honduran leader by revoking his diplomatic and tourist visas

The Honduran interim President, Roberto Micheletti, has said that the US has revoked his diplomatic and tourist visas.
Mr Micheletti, who came to power in June through a military coup, said the move was a "sign of the pressure the US government was exerting" on Honduras.
The US has condemned the coup and demanded the return to power of the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya.
Mr Micheletti said he was not pleased that the US Consulate addressed him as president of Congress - his prior role.
Left-leaning President Zelaya was ousted from power and forced to leave the country on 28 June.
Last week, the US halted all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras - about $30m (£18.4m) - in the wake of the coup.
The State Department said the US needed to take strong action given the failure of the replacement regime to restore "democratic, constitutional rule".
In July it had stripped four other officials associated with the coup of their US visas.



US-Canada border separates a married couple

When the strain of separation becomes too much and they need to see and hold one another, David Williams and his wife, Janeane Ardiel, meet in a sort of no man's land here just feet from a concrete boundary marker separating Canada from the U.S.
Married for five months, the couple - he American, she Canadian - are stranded on either side of the border, unable to cross into the other's country.
Canadian national Janeane Ardiel says being separated from her husband, U.S. national David Williams, by border officials has been an emotional torture.

The 45-year-old resident of Canada said she cannot travel into the United States anymore since the border authorities grew suspicious of her regular visits, accusing her of planning to reside in the United States and not simply visit.

Meanwhile, Williams has been unable to travel to Canada from Bellingham, Wash., because of a driving under the influence conviction that makes him inadmissible.

"It is like being severed from my lifeline," said Ardiel, who was blocked from entering the United States in July.

While Ardiel has begun the legal journey to gain legal U.S. status, she and her 45-year-old husband are stuck making due with daily phone conversations and regular meetings in Peace Arch International Park that straddles the two countries' borders.

"I can tell her I love her 100 times on the phone," Williams told the Times. "It's far different when I can do it looking into her eyes."

Healthcare for illegal immigrants in the US?

Will illegal immigrants in the US be able to get healthcare ?

Illegal immigrants in the U.S. won’t gain insurance benefits under the proposed health-care overhaul that President Barack Obama described yesterday to Congress.

That may not stop some uninsured and undocumented U.S. residents from getting government help paying for their health care, Republican critics said. Current proposals lack enforcement provisions to ensure that ineligible applicants are kept from programs, causing a gap between law and practice, according to a group seeking curbs on immigration.

Benefits for immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally have been among the most contentious issues in Congress during debates on immigration policy. The dispute spilled into health care during Obama’s address when U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, shouted “You lie!” after the president said his proposed changes “would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

“President Obama is correct that the legislation that has been proposed in Congress, the legislation that he’s considering, would not provide federal subsidies for the undocumented,” said Leighton Ku, a professor of health policy at George Washington University in Washington, in a telephone interview. “Can some people cheat? Some people can cheat at virtually anything.”

How many ineligible residents may get U.S. help paying for health care is in contention. The Center for Immigration Studies, the Washington-based policy group that advocates for greater immigration controls, estimates that as many as 6.6 million uninsured illegal immigrants could get federal subsidies for health insurance under legislation in the House, at a cost of as much as $30.5 billion a year.

‘Unenforced’ Ban

“As it now stands, the bill has a ban on illegal immigrants, but Congress has chosen to leave that ban unenforced,” Steven Camarota, director of research for the Washington-based group, wrote in the report issued this month.

Ku says the number that may cheat the system is likely to be much lower.

“I doubt it would be anywhere in that range,” he said. Providing coverage to illegal immigrants “is not the intent of the legislation.”

While methods of checking eligibility may not have been specified in the proposal, “there are relatively straightforward ways to monitor it that the federal government” has used before, such as requiring and confirming Social Security numbers, Ku said.

There are 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S., according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center in Washington. Fifty-nine percent of adults illegally in the U.S. had no health insurance in 2007, double the proportion of legal immigrants, and four times that of U.S.-born adults, the organization said in an April report.

Imposter attorney indicted- Provided immigration services and a sold a false Social Security card

An imposter attorney from Queens has been indicted for fraud, by posing as an attorney and providing immigration services and advice, and selling a forged Social Security card

The defendant, Robert Mangieri, 68, of Richmond Hill and Kunkletown, Pa., has been indicted on charges of scheme to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument and practicing or appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted and registered.
The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between December 2003 and September 2008.
The investigation leading to the indictment and arrest revealed that Mangieri operated Mangieri & Associates, with offices at 3001 Broadway in Astoria and 8260 116th Street in Richmond Hill. Mangieri purported to offer assistance with applications and petitions pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
The investigation further revealed that a victim sought help from Mangieri to file appropriate paperwork to remain and work legally in the United States. After charging the victim several hundred dollars and assuring her his fee was lower than one she could expect from other attorneys, Mangieri allegedly guided her through the filing of several applications with USCIS, including an application for employment authorization.
Prosecutors said Mangieri sent USCIS the victim’s employment authorization application directly, along with a letter written on paper bearing the letterhead Hon. Robert P. Mangieri and signed the Hon. Robert P. Mangieri. USCIS denied the victim’s application for work authorization. The victim, who was in the United States on a visitor’s visa, did not qualify for employment authorization, as she did not have an application for a green card pending with USCIS.
After the victim’s application for employment authorization was denied, Mangieri offered to and ultimately did procure a forged Social Security card with the victim’s Tax Identification Number on it. During the process of applying to USCIS and after several applications had been denied, Mangieri asked for more money, and the victim doubted him. To win back her trust, Mangieri allegedly showed the victim what appeared to be a badge, thereby adding to the impression Mangieri had already created that he was a retired judge or a law enforcement official. In total, the victim paid Mangieri approximately $1,300 for his services and for fees he claimed were required for filing applications with USCIS.
Mangieri allegedly gave the victim a business card bearing the name “Robert P. Mangieri” above the words “Juris Doctor.” It also says “Mangieri & Associates,” provides a P.O. Box and a telephone number, and bears an image of the scales of justice.
When Mangieri offered to procure the Social Security card, the victim contacted Emerald Isle Immigration Center in the Bronx, which referred her to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Immigrant Affairs Program.
Mangieri is not a licensed attorney. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) confirmed that Mangieri is not an accredited representative authorized to represent clients before USCIS or the immigration courts.
USCIS confirmed that Mangieri was involved in filing other applications or the representation of other victims before USCIS. Those applications were also denied.

Financial aid not easy to come by for international students

For international students, government funding is not easy to come by.
As tuition fees rise at universities around the country, obtaining federal loans is more important than ever for college students.

But not all students are eligible to rely on help from the U.S. government.

"If you are not a U.S. citizen, you cannot receive federal financial aid," said Kristi Campbell, international student and scholar adviser. "Graduate students not receiving aid pay $23,587 (per year), and undergraduate students pay $27,000 (per year)."

International students must show proof they can cover the costs of education. The amount includes tuition, food, housing, medical insurance, books and supplies. Medical insurance is included in the projected costs for international students, but it isn't required.

Campbell said health insurance, however, is highly recommended for international students.

U.S. immigration laws also prohibit most international students from getting jobs off campus.

"It all depends on the type of student visa that is issued," said David Di Maria, director of international student recruitment, admissions and advising. "Most international students at Kent State have F1 student visas, and their primary job is to study. We do have some J1 students, and they are sponsored by another entity."

An F1 student visa is issued only for degree-seeking students. They must pay their own way and are not here on an exchange; they are here to earn a degree. F1 students are eligible to work on campus but are limited to a 20-hour workweek.

A J1 student visa is different. The student is sponsored by another entity, such as their government or organization.

"A J1 student is part of citizen diplomacy," Di Maria said. "They came to the United States to study, teach or do research. Then they travel back home and share with their country the knowledge and culture they learned in America. They are unofficial ambassadors for their country and for the United States when they go back home."

There are other options for international students struggling to pay for their education.

"If the student is in a Ph.D. or master's program, they can apply for a grad assistant position," Campbell said. "There are scholarships, such as the J scholarships, and if the student is a Fulbright or Muskie student, they have to apply for aid."

Masha Brussevich, a senior economics major from Kazakhstan, has found many routes to pay for college.

"I got scholarships when I applied to Kent (State)," Brussevich said. "I used to be a (resident assistant). I thought it was a good opportunity, a great way to apply social skills, and I got to be hall enforcer. It was a lot of work. It was fun. But it was also kind of boring at times."

Brussevich said she chose Kent State because she felt it was a good choice for her future.

"I always wanted to do something in business, and I like math," Brussevich said. "I chose Kent State because it has a good College of Business and Administration, and I was familiar with the area."

Tian Zhuang, freshman zoology major from China, was attracted to Kent State because of the environment.

"I liked this environment because it is smaller and better for studying," Zhuang said. "Also, it was easy to be accepted here."

"In high school, I was an exchange student in Chicago for 10 months," Zhuang said. "Chicago is a big, loud city - not good for studying."

Zhuang has an F1 student visa and is currently looking for a job on campus.

Why hire H-1B workers ? A letter to Mr. Fritz Henderson

An open letter to Mr. Fritz Henderson (a group of unemployed technology workers).........

This is an open letter to Mr. Fritz Henderson:

General Motors continues to retain H1B Employees while US Citizens are getting laid off. H1B employees are those who are here on a temporary work visa.

Approximately 4000 white-collared employees will lose their jobs by October 2009.

We are a group of technology workers who are also US citizens and are all unemployed due to issues faced by US automakers.

In spite of years of experience working in the information technology field, we are unable to find suitable positions. It is unfair then for GM and other companies to retain H1B workers when US citizens cannot find jobs.

There is no job out there today that a US citizen cannot be trained to do. Mr. Fritz Henderson, we request you to review your employee files and determine why an H1B employee is currently employed at GM when similarly or more experienced US Citizen workers are available in the market place.

We urge you to do the morally right thing for America and to replace your H1B employees with US citizens or Green Card holders. This is an appeal that is being sent out to all the media so that appropriate attention is received.

European Union not too pleased with US travel charge plans

The European Union is not too pleased with US plans to introduce a travel charge for visitors.
Plans by the authorities in the United States to charge US-bound travellers who qualify for visa-free travel a $10 fee have been attacked by the European Union (EU).
The Travel Promotion Act, which is currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress, would see the introduction of a $10 fee to be levied on visitors - including travellers from the UK - to sign up to use the ESTA pre-registration system currently required for all visitors from visa waiver countries.
Money raised from the fee would be used to fund a world-wide tourism campaign to boost visitor numbers, a cost which U.S. congress believes visitors should bear.

The EU has threatened to introduce retaliatory measures if US goes ahead with the scheme.
"Only in 'Alice in Wonderland' could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed," the European Commission's Ambassador to Washington, John Bruton, said in a statement Friday.
One of the bill's sponsors, Democratic Rep. William Delahunt, said the EU was getting too worked up over what he called 'a nominal fee'.
But Europeans see the issue as yet another potential hassle that the United States is preparing to burden travellers with. Visitors from most European countries have long enjoyed the privilege of visa-free travel to the United States.
Earlier this year, however, the United States introduced regulations that require people travelling to the United States under the visa waiver program to register online at least 72 hours before travel and renew their registration every two years.
If the new proposal is passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it would require all visitors to pay the $10 fee when they register.
The travel promotion campaign aims to help educate foreign visitors on U.S. entry procedures, including the online registration for visa-free travel.
John Bruton added that the EU would have to reconsider whether the U.S. registration system with the new fee would amount to a visa. The EU may then have to consider visas for U.S. travellers.

Grave consequences of filing an ineligible application with USCIC

The consequences of filing an ineligible application with the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) can be very serious.
Over the past couple of years, the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) has stepped up the enforcement and political prosecution of immigrants. Individuals and families need to be prepared and well represented whenever they apply for an immigration benefit or attend an interview with the USCIS.

Aliens whose application for adjustment of status is denied may be facing much more than just a disappointment; they now face possible deportation.

Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of law and even minor mistakes can result in severe consequences to the immigrant and their family. Very often an alien will file an application for adjustment of status for which the alien is either not eligible or the application was not filed correctly. For example, they may not have entered lawfully, may be out of status, or may be a crewman and not qualify under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (a provision that allows certain aliens to apply for adjustment of status if they pay a penalty.) They may have a criminal bar or may have a previous order of removal that they do not know about. They may have filed the application on their own, or they may have even filed the application with the assistance of an attorney unfamiliar with the complexities of immigration law. In the past, USCIS would simply deny the application and the alien would leave the United States on their own or continue to remain with their family in hopes of future relief or file a new application when qualified.

Now, not only will USCIS deny the alien’s application, but it will also issue the alien a Notice to Appear (NTA), placing him or her in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. Sometimes, the alien may even be detained at the adjustment of status interview.

This stepped up enforcement policy of USCIS can leave the applicants with a few, albeit limited, options once the application has been filed. The first option an individual would want to consider is the possibility of renewing his adjustment of status application in the Immigration Court. Sometimes USCIS wrongly denies an application. Fortunately, federal regulations provide an opportunity for the Immigration Court to review USCIS’ decision. However, this option will require the assistance of an immigration attorney to fully brief the Court and can often involve novel legal issues or challenges to the immigration service’s policies.

Unfortunately, some persons are simply ineligible for adjustment of status and should never have filed an application in the first place. In this case, the alien still has options before the Court and should think twice before accepting voluntary departure. Although accepting voluntary departure avoids the consequences of a removal order (a 10-year bar from returning to the United States), many immigrants still face other grounds of inadmissibility when they seek to reunite with their families. A common ground of inadmissibility that is not solved by voluntary departure is the 10-year bar for unlawful presence. For example, an immigrant who was unlawfully present in the United Sates for over 1 year and voluntarily departs still faces a 10-year bar from returning to the United States. Although the immigrant would not need to waive any bar resulting from a voluntary departure order, he or she will need to file a waiver for the unlawful presence bar. Because the consequences of failing to depart are so severe, and the benefits of returning are so limited, the privilege of voluntary departure is not for everyone.