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AIC Executive Director Ben Johnson's Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

March 15, 2013

The American Immigration Council's Executive Director Benjamin Johnson's testimony on the issue of skill-based immigration addresses the role that immigration can and should play in building a 21st century America that prospers and grows. Prosperity is a shared goal that unites us all, and offers an important lens through which to evaluate the vital role immigration plays in our economy today, as well as the necessity of retooling our outdated and hopelessly broken immigration system. As we do so, however, it is critical for us to recognize that skilled immigration encompasses a wide range of individuals with very different educational and occupational backgrounds. Moreover, the talent we seek very often comes to these shores not only through employment-based channels of immigration, but through family reunification, the admission of refugees and asylees, and can even be found within the current population of unauthorized workers.

Always in Demand: The Economic Contributions of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers

February 1, 2013

With the U.S. economy in the midst of a prolonged slump, it's hard to believe that any industry would actually benefit from having more workers. But that is precisely the case when it comes to those industries which depend upon highly skilled scientists and engineers. The United States has long faced a dilemma in this respect: the U.S. economy is capable of absorbing more high-tech professionals than the U.S. educational system produces. That is one reason so many U.S. scientists and engineers are immigrants. In "STEM" occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the foreign-born account for 26.1 percent of workers with PhDs and 17.7 percent of those with master's degrees. Even more U.S. scientists and engineers would be immigrants if not for the arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B visas. Given that STEM professionals tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating.

Falling Through the Cracks: The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Children Caught Up in the Child Welfare System

December 1, 2012

This paper outlines the unique challenges that federal and state immigration enforcement measures pose to child well-being and family unity, including the implications for children and families involved in the child welfare system.

So Close and Yet So Far: How the Three- and Ten-Year Bars Keep Families Apart

July 25, 2011

Most Americans take it for granted that marriage to a U.S. citizen and other family relationships entitle an immigrant to a green card, but there are barriers that often prevent or delay these family members from becoming lawful permanent residents, even if they are already in the United States. Among these barriers are the "three- and ten-year bars," provisions of the law which prohibit applicants from returning to the United States if they were previously in the U.S. illegally. Thousands of people who qualify for green cards based on their relationships to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives leave the U.S. to obtain their green card are caught in a Catch-22 -- under current law they must leave the country to apply for their green card abroad, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering the U.S. for three or ten years. The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the bar to admission if extreme hardship to a spouse or parent can be established. But there are no waivers available for others, even if it would mean hardship for U.S. citizen children. Unfortunately, current policies and interpretations of these provisions have made it difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- for many deserving applicants to obtain a waiver, especially if they initially entered the country illegally. Under current DHS policy, applicants must apply for the waiver from abroad, sometimes waiting months or years in another country before they learn whether the waiver has been granted and whether they will be permitted to return to their loved ones in the United States. In other words, immigrants who have a chance to legalize their status are not able to do so because of a combination of overly punitive immigration laws and the rigid interpretations of those laws currently followed by DHS and Department of State. Immigrants have to choose between leaving the country and taking the risk they might not be able to return, or remaining in the country illegally. Where waivers are available, many of the immigrants most likely to be able to show extreme hardship are afraid to leave the country precisely because of that hardship. For example, a wife with a disabled husband must choose between departing the United States to get right with the law or taking care of her U.S. citizen husband. Many have argued that the process need not be so complicated or unforgiving and that changes in existing policy could allow for the consideration of waivers before the applicant departs the United States. In order to understand how this issue affects the immigration debate, this IPC Fact Check provides background on the three- and ten-year bar issue.

Employment-Based Immigration to the United States

March 29, 2011

U.S. law provides employers with several limited ways to bring foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. Employment-based immigration visa categories generally have limited and static numerical caps. In addition, before petitioning for a foreign worker, an employer is often required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no U.S. workers available, willing, and qualified to fill the position at a wage that is equal to or greater than the prevailing wage generally paid for that occupation in the geographic area where the position is located. The purpose of this restriction is to demonstrate that the admission and hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers.

ICE'S Enforcement Priorities and the Factors that Undermine Them

November 9, 2010

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.

An Assessment of DNA Testing for African Refugees

October 21, 2010

In March 2008, the Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees (PRM) -- the Department of State agency that processes refugees abroad -- halted its family reunification program, known as Priority 3 (P3), because of concerns that there were high levels of fraud in the program. The suspension of the P3 program has had devastating effects on African refugees in the United States seeking to reunite with their relatives. The U.S. accepts disproportionately low numbers of refugees from Africa, and the suspension of the P3 program means that even fewer African refugees have been allowed to enter the U.S. In September of 2010, PRM published proposed rules that would change its procedures for processing P3 applicants, including mandatory DNA testing to prove claimed family relationships. The prospect of mandatory DNA testing is of concern to refugees themselves, refugee resettlement agencies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other human rights advocates. Moreover, the implementation of DNA testing in the refugee context may portend required DNA testing in other areas of immigration admissions. Consequently, understanding the particular role DNA testing may play in refugee admissions -- its costs, its benefits, and the necessary safeguards if put into use -- provides insight into not only refugee admissions, but other issues that come into play in immigration policy, such as how family relationships are proven. This paper traces the underrepresentation of refugees from Africa in the U.S., the allegations of fraudulent African family reunification applications, DNA testing, and how the U.S. government intends to deal with the issue in the future.

New American Electorate: The Growing Political Power of Immigrants and Their Children (Updated October 2010)

October 14, 2010

At a time when federal, state, and local elections are often decided by small voting margins -- with candidates frequently locked in ferocious competition for the ballots of those "voting blocs" that might turn the electoral tide in their favor -- one large and growing bloc of voters has been consistently overlooked and politically underestimated: New Americans. This group of voters and potential voters includes not only immigrants who have become U.S. citizens (Naturalized Americans), but also the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965 (the Post-1965 Children of Immigrants). These immigrants and their children have a powerful and highly personal connection to the modern immigrant experience that most other Americans do not. It's one thing to hear family stories about a grandfather or great-grandfather coming to the United States during the much-romanticized "Ellis Island" era of immigration from Europe that ended decades ago. It's quite another to belong to a family that is experiencing first-hand the political and economic realities of immigration today. The ranks of registered voters who are New Americans, or Latino or Asian, have been growing rapidly this decade and are likely to play an increasingly pivotal role in elections at all levels in the years to come, particularly in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. As public opinion polls reveal, anti-immigrant political rhetoric is likely to motivate many New Americans to cast ballots, but is unlikely to win many votes for candidates perceived as anti-immigrant.

Giving Facts a Fighting Chance: Answers to the Toughest Immigration Questions

October 12, 2010

It is generally undisputed that immigration is important to America's economic success. During an economic downturn, however, many argue that immigration reform should not be a priority, while others argue that fixing our broken immigration system and allowing unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status would be detrimental to the economy. However, reforming our broken immigration system is an important part of improving our economy. Currently, unscrupulous employers are able to exploit unauthorized workers and create unfair competition by violating labor laws and paying suba

The Economics of Immigration Reform

August 3, 2010

Now more than ever, Americans are seeking real solutions to our nationas problems, and there is no better place to start than protecting our workers, raising wages, and getting our economy moving again. Part of this massive effort must include workable answers to our critically important immigration problems.

Enforcing Arizona's SB 1070: A State of Confusion

July 27, 2010

Arizona and the federal government await a decision from a Phoenix district judge on whether enforcement of SB 1070 will move forward on July 29th, or whether all or some parts of the law will be enjoined. Meanwhile, local law enforcement is struggling to interpret SB 1070 and provide training to officers, which could be further complicated if the judge allows only some parts of the law to go forward. In a new report released today by the Immigration Policy Center, Enforcing Arizona's SB 1070: A State of Confusion (below), journalist Jeffrey Kaye reveals that "instead of 'statewide and uniform practices' as directed by the governor, Arizona police agencies have developed a patchwork of guidelines based on varying interpretations of the law." Kaye's reporting includes interviews with police officials, who cite concerns with implementing the new law, and a review of training materials that suggest the implementation of SB 1070 will differ from one jurisdiction to another, and even within police agencies, and "will be burdensome, costly, and distort priorities."

Reforming America's Immigration Laws: A Woman's Struggle

June 28, 2010

While immigrant communities across the nation endure the long wait for immigration reform, there are roughly 19 million immigrant women and girls currently in the U.S. Immigrant women, particularly the undocumented, are often more vulnerable than their male counterparts, lack the same economic opportunities, and experience exploitation while crossing the border, while working and even in their own homes. In short, immigrant women have become the silent victims of a broken immigration system.