Government Threatens Families, Communities with Looming Temporary Protected Status Decisions

Tory Johnson of Immigration Impact reports that the US is home to an estimated 325,000 individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a temporary immigration status granted to nationals of specifically designated countries that are facing an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Combined, more than 90 percent of these beneficiaries, or TPS holders, are from El Salvador (approximately 195,000), Honduras (approximately 57,000), and Haiti (approximately 50,000).

As the deadlines approach for the government to decide whether to extend or terminate several countries’ TPS designations, critical information about this sizable population has come to the forefront. This includes research on TPS holders’ social and financial contributions to American life, as well as the fiscal and social risks countries would face should the Trump administration choose to end El Salvador, Honduras, or Haiti’s designations for TPS.

Many TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have lived in the United States for decades. During this time, they have been regularly vetted by the government, submitting themselves to background checks every time their TPS has been renewed. Hondurans, for example, have passed these security checks 13 times.

In passing initial and continuous security checks, TPS holders receive temporary protection from deportation and access to a work permit. Though these benefits present barriers by being temporary in nature, TPS beneficiaries become active and contributing members of their communities and the nation.

The majority of both Salvadoran and Honduran TPS holders have lived in the United States for at least 20 years (51 and 63 percent, respectively), and 16 percent of Haitian TPS holders have resided in the country for at least two decades. In that time, many TPS holders settled and established families. For example, TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have an estimated 273,000 native-born U.S.-citizen children, and about 30 percent of TPS beneficiaries’ households have mortgages.

As a result of their work authorization, TPS beneficiaries also participate in the U.S. workforce at high rates. More than 80 percent of all TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti are active members of the U.S. labor force. These TPS holders support a range of industries, with the greatest shares in the construction, restaurant and food services, landscaping, childcare, hospitality, and grocery industries.

Through income and property taxes, Social Security and Medicare contributions, job creation, and spending TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have added value to the U.S. economy. Their contributions to the country’s GDP over the next decade total an estimated $164 billion. In the six states in which TPS holders from these countries are concentrated (California, Florida, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Maryland), they add between $1.2 and $2.7 billion dollars annually to each state’s GDP. Nationally and locally, most of these billions would be lost if TPS designations for their countries are terminated.

For more details on this story, please click here.

Refugees are vital to the workforce in California’s Poultry Plants

Al Souki leaves home for his shift at a Foster Farms chicken processing plant. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Cindy Carcamo for the Los Angeles Times reports that, in California, most of the meatpacking industry is located in the Central Valley. It has become one of the biggest employers for refugee resettlement agencies and other nonprofits aiding the population in those areas.  Middle Eastern refugees are now an important part of the meatpacking industry’s workforce. The article focuses on several poultry workers including Al Souki who fled war-torn Syria and worked backbreaking 12-hour shifts in his home country and Jordan before making his way to the United States.

Refugees have increasingly become vital workers in an industry with high turnover. And the growing unrest and bloodshed in the Middle East and elsewhere have readily supplied them in places like the Central Valley.

The refugee and immigrant populations ”certainly have been a significant part, an integral part of our workforce for decades,” said Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many refugees work in this occupation but roughly one-third of workers in the industry in 2010 were foreign-born, according to a peer-reviewed article in Choices, a publication of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Assn., a nonprofit that serves those who work in agricultural and broadly related fields of applied economics.

Most of the meatpacking industry is located in the California’s Central Valley. It’s become one of the biggest employers for refugee resettlement agencies and other nonprofits aiding the population in those areas. Immigrants have long been integral to the meatpacking industry, but refugees surfaced as a key labor force starting in 2006, according to experts who study the phenomenon. For more on this story, click here.

Senate Judiciary Committee Passed Immigration Reform Bill

(Getty Images/AFP/File, John Moore)

Washington, DC– The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill’s backers their first major legislative victory.

Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure. If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy since 1986.

“The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, (D-VT), said.

Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.

The panel’s 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona’s Jeff Flake, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, and Utah’s Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.

Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.

“I think the ‘Gang of Eight’ has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) praised the “masterful” job of Leahy in navigating roughly 300 proposed amendments and advancing the 844-page bill to the floor.

Immigration reform is a priority for both parties in Washington and so far is one example of bipartisanship this year on major legislation in a sharply divided Congress.

A key political aim involves Republicans hoping to attract more Hispanics to their side, while Democrats wishing to keep that growing voter bloc squarely in their camp.

Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama’s re-election. He congratulated the committee on its work and urged the Senate to bring the bill to the floor at its earliest possible opportunity.

“The legislation that passed the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan vote is largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system,” he said in a statement. “None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line.”

The measure approved by the Judiciary panel would create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

It aims to strengthen border security while raising the cap on visas for high skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low skilled workers on America’s farms and elsewhere.

Proponents say the change is necessary to permanently and fairly resolve the status of undocumented residents. Critics insist the proposed change amounts to amnesty, rewarding those who chose to break the country’s immigration laws.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is leading the charge against the “Gang of Eight” proposal and is a tough critic. He has tried to derail the bill at nearly every turn, arguing that adding millions of newly legalized workers to the mix over the next few years will only hurt the most vulnerable segments of the American work force. He also has raised security and other concerns.

“This will be a hammer blow to the wages and employment opportunities of American workers—both immigrant and native born,” Sessions said in a statement after the vote.

“This bill is bad for workers, bad for taxpayers and—as immigration officers have pleaded for us to hear—a threat to public safety and the rule of law,” he said.

In a defeat for backers of expanded gay rights, the committee did not approve a pair of Leahy-sponsored amendments bolstering federal support for bi-national same-sex relationships.

Specifically, Leahy had proposed recognizing same-sex marriages in which one spouse is an American, and allowing U.S. citizens to sponsor foreign-born same-sex partners for green cards given proof of a committed relationship.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the most prominent Republican in the “Gang of Eight,” was among those who called Leahy’s amendments a poison pill virtually certain to destroy GOP support for the measure.

Leahy’s amendments could be considered again when the bill is taken up by the full Senate. Doing so, however, would be little more than a symbolic gesture, as the proposals have virtually no chance of winning the 60 votes almost certainly needed to clear the 100-member chamber.

Earlier this month, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) noted the possibility that an upcoming ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the federal Defense of Marriage Act could render the whole issue moot.

“The DOMA ruling could change this whole debate,” Durbin said. “They could eliminate DOMA and impose obligations on our federal government (relating to) same gender marriage, and that would dramatically change what we’re trying to achieve.”

The House is working on its own version of immigration reform.

Source: CNN.com

–Kristine Tungol Cabagnot welcomes your questions and comments at kristine@tungollaw.com.

Immigrant-Owned Businesses Greatly Contribute to U.S. Economy

Perhaps it’s not a well-known fact that two in five Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants. Most probably, the minority-owned small businesses—the majority that employee under 100 people—are often forgotten. In large part, this is due to the absence of basic data on the subject. However, a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) finally quantifies the value of immigrant small businesses to the U.S. economy. Immigration Impact details a fascinating study on how immigrant-owned businesses greatly contribute to the U.S. economy.

Using data from the Survey of Business Owners and the American Community Survey, the report compiles a treasure trove of entrepreneurial information that highlights the enormous role which immigrants play as small business owners:

  • Immigrant small businesses employed 4.7 million people and had $776 billion in receipts in 2007, the last year for which data is available.
  • 18% of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants; higher than the immigrant share of the population (13%) or labor force (16%).
  • The small businesses most commonly owned by immigrants are restaurants, physician’s offices, real estate firms, grocery stores, and truck transportation services.
  • Immigrants comprise 65% of taxi service owners, 54% of dry cleaning and laundry service owners, 53% of gas station owners, and 49% of grocery store owners.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, immigrants accounted for 30% of the total increase in the number of small business owners in the United States.
  • Immigrants from Mexico account for 12% of immigrant small business owners, followed by immigrants from India, Korea, Cuba, China, and Vietnam.
  • Immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Southern Europe have the highest rates of small business ownership.
  • Immigrants who have been in the United States for more than 10 years are more than twice as likely to be small business owners as immigrants who have been in the country for 10 years or less.
  • 29% of immigrant small business owner are women. In comparison, 28% of U.S.-born small business owners are women.
  • Among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in Miami (45%), followed by Los Angeles (44%), New York (36%), and San Francisco (35%).
  • Among the 50 states, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in California (33%), followed by New York (29%), New Jersey (28%), Florida (26%), and Hawaii (23%).

Taken in sum, this data illustrates that immigrant entrepreneurs are an integral part of the U.S. economy.

As the FPI report puts it, “immigrant small business owners contribute to economic growth, to employment, and to producing the goods and services that support our standard of living.” This is a basic economic fact with broad political implications. The report observes that “understanding who the one million immigrant small business owners are…can only help as the country struggles to achieve a better set of immigration policies.” And a better set of policies would recognize that immigration fuels American entrepreneurship.

Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs: Starting Businesses and Creating Jobs

Washington D.C. – Today, the Immigration Policy Center releases, Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women by Susan Pearce, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon.  Today, immigrant women entrepreneurs are in every region of the United States. In 2010, 40 percent of all immigrant business owners were women—1,451,091 immigrant men and 980,575 immigrant women. That same year, 20 percent of all women business owners were foreign-born.

In a tele-briefing to release the report, author Susan Pearce noted “This report is the result of our research into that less-visible population that is starting various enterprises every day. Why do we focus on women? Not only does the image of a woman not come to mind when one hears the word “immigrant,” but their particular experiences are under-represented in reports on immigration. We also equally emphasize these women’s nonmaterial contributions. Women immigrant entrepreneurs are providing training for the next generation, supporting charities and activism through their volunteer contributions and anchoring communities.”
Entrepreneur Rubina Chaudhary, president of MARRS Services, Inc., a Management, Engineering, and Environmental firm discussed her enterprise. “MARRS employs 50 full time and part-time professional and support staff of which 78% are U.S. citizens, 54% are U.S. born citizens and 36% are women. I am grateful for the opportunities that I, an immigrant woman in the U.S., have had to not only achieve my goal of providing for my children’s education but also to have the opportunity to create jobs and help others, native born and immigrants, men and women, students and entrepreneurs.”
Entrepreneur Yolanda Voss of Yolanda Voss Fashion Gallery shared her story. “I came to the land of my dreams in 1962 and my goal was to become a prominent designer. In 1980, Yolanda Voss Studio International became incorporated. In 1991, I opened Yolanda Voss Fashion Gallery. The latest recession has affected our market, but I remind myself that effort, dedication and the incorporation of new ideas will bring a return to prosperity. I continue to be an active member of my community, offering scholarships, internships and lectures to inspire the creative spirit of new designers in our nation.”
To view the report in its entirety, see:

Buy a House, Get a Green Card

Washington, D.C.: In the future, it could be possible to obtain Permanent Resident status in the United States by buying a house. Two U.S. Senators, one Democrat and one Republican, have worked together on a bill that would make a green card available to a foreigner who invests $500,000 in real estate in the United States. One of the two senators, Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, says that offering green cards for real-estate investments is a way to boost demand in the market with no cost to the government. The market for U.S. property is already growing abroad, while the demand among local buyers remains low. A weak U.S. dollar combined with low prices on American real estate has contributed to a 24 percent rise in properties bought by foreigners last year, compared to the year before. The National Association of Realtors says foreigners bought $82 billion-worth of homes in the U.S. last year. At the same time, potential house buyers in the U.S. hesitate to buy because they worry about the job market, or because they have less money than before. Americans who already own a home would have to sell at considerable loss if they were to buy a new house. This has led house prices to drop 32 percent since 2006. The National Association of Realtors also says that U.S. house sales to foreigners are divided between people who just recently relocated to the United States, and those who live abroad, and they suggest that many who buy American property do it with the intent to immigrate. The possibility of obtaining a resident visa along with property could work as an extra incentive for those who are already interested in moving to the U.S.

Taco Truck Regulation Redux – My Streets! My Eats!

Taco truck regulation has increased coincidentally with the national concern with immigration from Mexico, a land filled with some true fans of the taco.  Rumor even has it that the capital of the state of California, Sacramento is considering a change to its food truck ordinance to deal with the taco truck “problem.”

A clinic of the University of Chicago Law School, well-known for its law-and-economics approach to law, has started a campaign to defend street vendors in Chicago.   Should the city of Chicago be allowed to turn business districts into No-Vending Zones to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition? That is the question that surrounds a grassroots campaign being launched earlier this week — My Streets! My Eats!  by the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship. The Clinic, which brings together law students to assist low-income entrepreneurs, will advocate for freedom for “mobile chefs” to prepare food on-the-go and serve their customers wherever they can do so safely.

Jailing Undocumented Immigrants Is Big Business

The recent animated video Immigrants for Sale by the activist group Cuéntame illustrates some facts behind the connection between the ongoing crackdown on illegal immigration and the for-profit corrections industry.

The video follows the trail of money and political power behind this piece of the national immigration debate. Its creators say it’s an attempt to uncover what lies behind the positions and ideologies in a discussion in which statements and accusations made at maximum volume have long replaced the open exchange of ideas and opinions.

For more on this story on The Huffington Post on the dollars in immigration detention, click here.

Restrictionist Group Blames the Children of Immigrants for America’s Budget Woes

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) recently released another report attempting to blame our economic woes and budget shortfalls on immigrants—this time using the children of immigrants, most of whom are U.S. citizens, as scapegoats for benefits usage (here Medicaid, food assistance, cash assistance, and housing programs). As are most restrictionists’ attempts to blame immigrants for all of America’s problems, the report is rife with methodological problems. Despite the headline that 57 percent of households headed by an immigrant with children used at least one benefits program, compared to 39 percent for native households, the results actually show that when controlled for income, immigrant households use benefits at the same rate as native born households.

According to American Immigration Council, CIS’s report finds that immigrants come to the U.S. to work—a fact that challenges the idea that they come here solely to receive benefits. In fact, immigrant households are more likely to have a worker than native-born homes.

But that’s just one of CIS’s many contradictions. CIS enjoys pointing out the cost of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., yet has no problem supporting more and more costly enforcement programs, both on the border and on the interior. The President’s 2012 budget asks for $2 billion for detention beds, $527.6 million for border fencing, infrastructure, and technology, and $184 million for Secure Communities. Overall, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) budget would sit at $11.8 billion and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Budget at $5.8 billion.

ICE’S Enforcement Priorities and the Factors that Undermine Them

As part of its strategy to gain support for comprehensive immigration reform, the administration has continually touted its enforcement accomplishments.  In fact, over the last two years, the Obama administration has committed itself to a full-court press to demonstrate how committed the administration is to removing criminals and others who remain in the country without proper documentation.  They have continued to use the enforcement programs of the previous administration, including partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, detain, and deport immigrants.  However, in doing so, they have lost the ability to fully control their own enforcement priorities and enforcement outcomes, and the results have demonstrated that the state and local partners are not necessarily committed to the same priorities. Download the Special Report

For more, please go to Immigration Policy Center

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