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Immigration Reform 2013: Attorney Greg Schell Offers Insights

Posted: March 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: National News | Tags: , | No Comments »

Immigration reform is coming and we are keeping the Sarasota area informed.

Last week, in our ongoing effort to know what Sarasota residents think about immigration reform, we attended a talk hosted by the Sarasota Nation Discussion Group by noted attorney Greg Schell.  Greg Schell graduated from Harvard Law School and is currently working with the “Gang of 8” Senators to craft the farm worker aspect of immigration reform.  He represents low-wage workers in Florida.

To illustrate the fact that we live in a global economy and immigration is an issue everywhere, Mr. Schell began by telling the story of Haitians who travel to the Dominican Republic every year to cut sugarcane, a job that Dominicans are apparently unwilling to do.  Many of these Haitians end up staying and starting families in the DR, as well as using publicly-funded services such as education.  At the same time many Dominicans travel to Puerto Rico every year to pick cotton.  And many Puerto Ricans travel to the United States every year to work on Eastern farms.  Jobs in the Maquiladoras on the US-Mexico border are actually disappearing and going to China.  Immigration has no easy answers.

The last major piece of reform in the U.S. was the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act – IRCA.  Before IRCA it was not illegal to hire an undocumented alien.  The immigrant population was small, concentrated in 10-15 states, and there was no global economy.  Organized labor fought against increased immigration.

When IRCA passed it legalized 2.7 million people.  Employers now had to use the I-9 form to document new workers.  Workers had to prove their legal status by showing a green card or other documentation.  Documents were easily forged.  In 1988 95% of immigrants were legal.  Fifteen years later 95% are undocumented.

In 1998 Congress compounded the issue by mandating that an illegal alien marrying a citizen had to leave the country for ten years first, and that legal immigrants couldn’t receive social security until after paying in for ten years first.  This policy is now largely null thanks to the new Stateside Waiver.  Border security became important after 9/11.

Today the issues are similar to what they were in 1986 except the number of undocumented immigrants is much larger – 11 million as opposed to 2.7 million.  The issue of “Temporary Protected Status” puts people in legal limbo and should be addressed.  Businesses want to increase the number of work visas but the opportunities for abuse are high.  Immigrants who are in the country on work visas can only work for the sponsoring employer and are regularly paid lower comparative wages.  Mr. Schell is also concerned about the possibility of guest workers taking the jobs of newly legalized residents.

Business and Labor are united on the need to reform immigration.  The business community, especially many IT firms, would like to be able to bring more guest workers in to the country.  Currently the government allots 65,000 work visas a year.  Some proposals would increase that number to 360,000.  Labor unions want to organize these workers and work towards better conditions for the ones who are already here.  The last election demonstrated that immigration reform could have implications for national politics and many legislators seem anxious to get something done.

Mr. Schell supported immigration reform and he is working to ensure that guest workers and farm workers have a place at the negotiating table when the legislation is crafted.

Immigration reform expert speaks in Sarasota

Immigration reform expert Greg Schell and event coordinator Tom Walker

Guest Editorial: America is Losing the Global Competition for Talent

Posted: October 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, Investor Visas | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Recent articles in “The Economist” point out the fact that America is losing its competitive advantage when it comes to attracting global talent.  Countries such as Canada, Australia, and Singapore are making it easier for foreign nationals to enter and set up a business.  In America, the immigration process is rife with inconvenience and uncertainty.  The number of visas available for skilled workers, or H1-Bs, has decreased from 100,000/year in 1999 to 65,000/year.  Green Card processing time has increased from as little as 18 months in the 1980s to up to 10 years.  Unlike other countries who have special visa categories for entrepreneurs, America has no such entrepreneurial visa.

Even Chile is doing more to attract global talent.   The small Latin-American nation has a new program, called Start-up Chile, that selects young firms and gives their founders the equivalent of $40,000 and a visa for one year.  The idea is to raise Chile’s profile as a hub for entrepreneurs and to foster entrepreneurialism among Chileans.  The program aims to bankroll 1,000 new companies by the end of next year.  Does anything like this exist in the United States?  No.

There are some options but they are circuitous and difficult, and there is never a guarantee of success.  One is the H1-B visa.  This visa is for skilled workers who are hired by U.S. companies.  But it is temporary and it’s validity is tied to the applicant’s original job.  If an H1-B immigrant wishes to apply for permanent residency they must keep their original job while they wait for their Green Card to be issued, which can take up to 10 years.  If the immigrant finds a better opportunity or wishes to start a new business they lose their H1-B status.

Another option for enterprising foreigners is the E2 Investor Visa.  To qualify, a prospective immigrant must invest a “significant” amount of money in an existing business or start a new business that promises to support the immigrant and employ Americans.  This is a good option for entrepreneurs but not every immigrant with a good idea has enough capital to start a new business upon arrival in the U.S.  In contrast, Start-up Chile is lending capital to promising companies upon arrival.

In today’s global economy, powered by the internet, businesses can serve their customers from anywhere.  Entrepreneurs are searching globally for attractive locations for their start-ups.  Basic infrastructure, peace, and a relatively wealthy and educated population are all elements for prosperity that make the United States attractive to foreign investors and entrepreneurs.  But our complicated immigration system is turning into a disadvantage, especially as other nations with the same basic elements for prosperity are making it easier to immigrate there and start a business.  The United States should do more to enable foreign entrepreneurs to see their dreams come true here.

H1-B Cap Reached

Posted: June 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, National News | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

FY 2013 H-1B Cap

On June 11, 2012, USCIS received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the statutory cap for FY 2013.  On June 7, 2012, USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption.  USCIS will reject petitions subject to the cap for H-1B specialty occupation workers seeking an employment start date in FY 2013 that are received after June 11, 2012.