Behind The Scenes, Immigrants Keep The USA Running

Many of us in the 21st century spend a big part of our lives “online,” yet the virtual world still depends on the physical, including the labor of those who create, manufacture, and provide the essential goods and services that everyone requires. Many of us connect to this behind-the-scenes, virtually invisible economy only when we purchase the final product from a retailer, but at every stage in the economic chain, real people by the millions contribute real muscle and sweat every day.

In the United States in the 21st century, for example, it’s almost a certainty that the blueberries, strawberries, peaches, asparagus, or lettuce you purchase from any grocer passed through the hands of Latin American migrant labor. Closer to home, many of us see – and hire – housekeepers and lawn service providers who are immigrants. They’re servers and cashiers. In many cities, immigrants drive most of the taxis and deliver most of the newspapers. They perform many of the mundane essential functions that keep the economy running.

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If you hire immigrants to work for your company in the United States, or if you are yourself an immigrant in the United States – with or without documentation – you can learn more about your legal rights, obligations, and options by speaking with a trustworthy and experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney. Immigration law is complicated and constantly changing, which sometimes makes compliance quite challenging for both employers and the immigrants they hire.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BOSTON GLOBE?

At one newspaper, the Boston Globe, reporters and editors earlier this year encountered for the first time a world previously invisible to them. In their climate-controlled offices and conference rooms, these professional journalists and their bosses had only the vaguest notion about how their work actually, physically gets into a reader’s hands in the form of a morning newspaper. For the most part, newspapers are delivered by low-paid immigrants. The story began late last year when the Boston Globe contracted a new company to deliver the newspapers.

If you thought newspapers were dead, they’re not in Boston, where several hundred thousand subscribers to the Globe expect delivery 365 days a year. Although the change to a new contractor should have been routine, it wasn’t. Like so many other behind-the-scenes services, the delivery of newspapers in many cities is provided by mostly marginalized immigrant workers, and many of them lack documentation.

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To move a printed newspaper from the presses into hands of thousands of Boston subscribers takes a small army of people willing to work 365 nights a year – without regard to snow or road conditions. At a distribution center, they fold and stack newspapers, load them, and use their own vehicles, driving in the last several hours before sunrise. As independent contractors, they pay for their own gas and insurance. Most barely make the minimum wage. Many of the delivery people are immigrants.

ACI Media Group promised to cut the Globe’s costs for delivering newspapers by paying delivery workers less – while demanding more. ACI, based in California, had trouble hiring enough workers in the Boston area to deliver the Globe, and many who were hired walked off the job due to low pay and unreasonable working conditions. Newspapers went undelivered – news that quickly made it to the Globe’s newsroom.

HOW DID THE NEWSPAPER HANDLE THE DELIVERY CRISIS?

After a week, the newspaper was in crisis. Writers, photographers, and editors were recruited to make sure the Sunday Globe got delivered – an unprecedented move. According to the New York Times, two hundred reporters and other staffers stayed up all night and “bagged thousands of newspapers and stacked them in their cars.” Reporter Kevin Cullen wrote, “whatever they pay the delivery people, it’s not enough, and it’s more than a little depressing to think this debacle has been brought about by a desire to pay them even less.”

Globe Columnist Marcela García wrote that delivering the newspaper was “an unbelievably eye-opening experience.” A Mexican-born bilingual journalist, columnist, and editorial writer who frequently reports on immigration issues for the Globe, Garcia added, “Reporters delivering their own work – that’s a story. But off camera, and working side by side with us as we assembled the Sunday paper, were the people who are there every night, making not much more than minimum wage.”

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The following Tuesday, the Globe’s publisher, John W. Henry offered a public apology to the newspaper’s subscribers. Henry wrote, “Getting a daily newspaper to your front door is a complicated exercise in logistics – this is something the Globe has been innovating in for more than 150 years…. Until Globe staffers embarked on an effort to save more than 20,000 subscribers from missing their Sunday paper, we had underestimated what it would take to make this change.”

WHAT DID THE BOSTON GLOBE FINALLY ADMIT?

The following Saturday, January 9, almost two weeks after the newspaper’s delivery problems first emerged, Globe reporter Michael Levenson wrote about the “long hours, little pay, [and] no vacation for delivery drivers.” Levenson graphically explained for readers the “grueling nocturnal marathon for low-income workers who toil almost invisibly on the edge of the economy.” On January 13, a Globe editorial admitted that “drivers get no vacation, and lack worker protections.”

The editorial called on the Massachusetts attorney general and federal authorities to investigate the delivery companies. The present system depends on mostly immigrant, often undocumented workers who are often manipulated and bullied by unscrupulous employers. The Globe offered a rare look at how just one company relies on immigrant workers. A similar story could be told about thousands of U.S. companies in a number of labor-intensive industries, from agriculture to manufacturing to construction.

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Recent data released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) tells us that immigrants in the United States pay sales taxes, property taxes, and state and federal income taxes. Half of all working immigrant families file income tax returns, but if they don’t, the taxes are still paid because they’re deducted from paychecks. ITEP says “the 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States pay billions of dollars in local, state and federal taxes.” Hard-working immigrants deserve the same reasonable wages and benefits that U.S.-born workers expect and routinely enjoy.

If you are an immigrant in the United States – with or without documentation – and you have questions about your legal status, work authorization, visas, or any other immigration concern, speak at once with an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration lawyer. An experienced immigration attorney can also discuss immigration-related labor concerns with U.S.-based employers.

Business Coalition Asks Congress To Renew EB-5 Investor Visa Program

For more than two decades, the EB-5 investor visa program has benefitted U.S.-based businesses as well as international investors. It’s created tens of thousands of jobs here in the United States. It’s also been criticized for a number of reasons. Congressional authorization for the EB-5 program is scheduled to expire in 2016 at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Hopefully, Congress will act to protect and strengthen the EB-5 program and safeguard its ongoing success.

With the September 30 deadline rapidly approaching, international investors who would like to learn more about the EB-5 investor visa program and about the variety of investment opportunities in the United States may want to speak right away with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. Congress will almost certainly renew the EB-5 program this year, but the lawmakers will also almost certainly make some important changes. The $500,000 minimum investment level may increase, the definition of a Targeted Employment Area will likely change, and there will almost certainly be new requirements for participating investors.

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Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Roundtable, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and others have joined in a coalition urging Congress to renew – permanently – the often-controversial EB-5 investor visa program before it expires in September. In July, the coalition called on lawmakers to renew the EB-5 investor visa program with additional security measures, adjustments to the controversial investment incentives, and streamlined processing of visa requests.

WHAT DOES THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA PROGRAM OFFER?

The EB-5 investor visa program promises international investors in the United States eventual lawful resident status and an opportunity for naturalized citizenship. In a letter to both the House and Senate Judiciary committees, the coalition wrote that “Congress must not let this important job-creating program lapse, in large measure because of the immediate negative consequences to U.S. businesses and projects counting on EB-5 investment to create jobs for Americans.”

The coalition’s July letter also mentions that the EB-5 investor visa program was responsible for more than $15 billion in investment and for creating approximately 100,000 jobs between 2005 and 2010. Some critics, however, allege that the EB-5 program is riddled with fraud, and others charge that the current operation of the program fails to meet the goal of reinvigorating economically depressed communities and regions. There’s wide agreement in Congress that additional security measures and some adjustments to the program are needed. Several lawmakers have even proposed the creation of a new “EB-6” visa.

The most acrimonious aspect of the EB-5 debate regards investments in economically depressed areas designated as Targeted Investment Areas (TEAs). Critics charge that wealthy real estate developers have unfairly taken advantage of the lower investment minimum required for TEAs, and that rural and depressed regions are not obtaining the benefits from the EB-5 program that they’ve been promised.

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The coalition of business groups did not offer a specific proposal for new EB-5 legislation, but they want to reduce the gap between TEA and non-TEA minimum investment requirements. Their July letter to the two Judiciary committees says, “Lawmakers and stakeholders with diverse perspectives should all be involved to build consensus and forge a compromise reform package.”

HOW HAS THE EB-5 PROGRAM BENEFITTED THE UNITED STATES?

Since the recession, the EB-5 investor visa program has emerged as a popular source of investment funds, particularly for real estate development projects. In the nation’s capital alone, EB-5 investors have put up more than $110 million and created more than 1,500 jobs. In 2013, about 85 percent of the EB-5 visas issued went to investors from China, with the others were spread among investors mostly from Japan, Great Britain, Russia, and South Korea.

Congress wants to tighten oversight of the popular program, so a number of changes to the EB-5 have been offered by lawmakers. The ideas include increasing the minimum investment, not counting derivative visas toward the annual cap of 10,000 EB-5 visas, and heightened scrutiny of applications and investments. The variety of proposals proves how important the EB-5 program is to the U.S. and to its job creation and economic growth. Between 2005 and 2013, the EB-5 program brought roughly $5.2 billion investment dollars directly into the United States.

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Under the current regulations, an international investor seeking to obtain an EB-5 visa must invest at least $1 million – or at least $500,000 in a TEA – in a new business that will create ten or more full-time U.S.-based jobs. The EB-5 program additionally offers participating international investors and their immediate families the benefits of lawful permanent residency in the United States.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

To participate in the EB-5 investor visa program, investors must go through a process which determines that they are admissible to the United States as well as eligible for the EB-5 visa. It begins with the filing of an eligibility petition. For the EB-5 visa, this is the I-526 petition, which asks about the source of the investor’s funds and how he or she intends to invest those funds. Upon approval of the eligibility petition, if the investor now lives outside the of the U.S., he or she must submit a visa application to the U.S. Department of State, and a consular affairs officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate eventually determines if the investor is admissible.

If the investor is in the United States with another visa, an application for adjustment of status must be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS conducts background checks and may ask the applicant for a personal interview. USCIS may also be assisted by the State Department or other federal government agencies when conducting background checks of EB-5 applicants.

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If the investor is admissible, a conditional visa will be issued that allows the investor to reside for two years in the United States. Prior to the conclusion of that two-year period, the EB-5 investment must create at least ten full-time U.S.-based jobs. If all of the other requirements of the EB-5 investor visa program have been satisfied in the two-year period, the investor obtains lawful permanent resident status.

International investors should also speak with an Ohio immigration attorney about two additional immigration options apart from the EB-5 program: the E-2 visa program, which requires a “significant” investment and does not provide the investor with a green card, and the EB-1(c) visa, which requires an applicant to be sponsored by a qualifying employer. Immigration is complicated, and obtaining an investor visa takes some persistence, but in the end, international investors are almost always quite pleased.

Study And Research In The United States

Ohio immigration attorneyUniversities can be wonderful places. They’re filled with earnest and intelligent young people – and older people too – preparing themselves for the future. Whether or not you wish to remain permanently in the United States, if you are an international student or researcher, you should begin your journey to a U.S. university campus by consulting with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. You can email or call from anywhere in the world to have your questions answered and your concerns addressed.

If you plan to attend or do research work at a U.S. college or university, and you do not intend to remain in the United States permanently, you need a nonimmigrant student visa, typically an F-1 or a J-1 visa. To obtain an F-1 visa, you must prove your status as a student, your nonimmigrant intent, proficiency in English, and strong ties to your home country. You also must qualify for a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified institution and be accepted by an approved university, college, language program, or other academic institution. Finally, you must satisfy all other standard immigration requirements and prove that you have the financial resources you need for the length of time you’ll be in the United States.

Unlike the F-1, the J-1 visa category has 13 subcategories, and only several are right for students. Subcategories within the J-1 category cover student and scholar exchange programs, foreign medical graduates, au pairs, and work-study visas for post-doctoral researchers. Nonimmigrant visas have expiration dates, but the length of an individual’s stay can change for a number of reasons. Those who enter the United States with an F-1 or J-1 visa are almost always allowed to complete their academic studies or research projects. U.S. immigration laws are complicated, and even in the best circumstances, entering the U.S. can take some time. If you are a student or a scholar with plans to attend or work at a U.S. college or university, it’s not too soon to begin the process. Take the first step by contacting an experienced and trustworthy Ohio immigration attorney as quickly as possible.

Congress Needs To Act

Columbus immigration attorneyIn May, a panel of three federal judges decided to let the president’s proposed DAPA program and a proposed expansion of the DACA program remain on hold. The delays, legal maneuvering, and confusion being created in the courts should prove to everyone that it’s time for Congress to reform U.S. immigration laws. The president’s executive actions were not designed to fix the immigration system. Rather, DACA and DAPA offer only short-term deferred action and temporary authorization to work in the United States. What our nation needs, ultimately, is comprehensive emigration reform. On that account, this Congress has so far failed. Until comprehensive emigration reform takes place, immigrants, their family members, and their employers are going to need considerable legal help. Speak immediately to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney if you are:

  • a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen trying to bring your family together
  • seeking to study in the United States and you need a student visa
  • a foreign investor with a desire to invest in a U.S. business
  • a U.S. employer who hires immigrant workers and needs to acquire visas for them
  • involved in any legal dispute related to emigration

Employers and the economy suffer. Hundreds of thousands of cases are pending in emigration courts. Thousands more wait for years to bring their family members here. About eleven million still live “in the shadows.” Only Congress can repair the system. And only an experienced emigration lawyer can give you the guidance you need through the broken U.S. immigration landscape. A good immigration attorney will:

  • help businesses acquire work visas and achieve compliance
  • help business professionals and investors to obtain the visas they require
  • answer your questions and address your concerns about immigration laws

If you need advice or legal services related to visas, green cards, naturalized citizenship, or any other aspect of immigration in the U.S., don’t wait. Speak with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney promptly.

When The NLRB Investigates Employers

Columbus immigration lawyerCongress enacted the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, encourage collective bargaining, and curtail labor and management practices that harm the general welfare of workers, businesses, and the U.S. economy. The Act is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In February, the NLRB issued updated procedures for NLRB investigations into illegal employment practices.

The updated procedures are a reminder that undocumented workers are “employees” within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, and their immigration status is irrelevant to an unfair labor practice investigation. Consequently, the NLRB will not investigate nor determine a worker’s immigration status during such an investigation. Not only will NLRB investigators ignore the immigration status of the workers in the complaint, but it may also help those workers obtain visas so they can testify against the employer. That’s a significant change that’s good news for all workers in the United States – documented, undocumented, or native-born – because it will help the NLRB identify and proceed against employers who violate workers’ rights.

If you employ international workers in Michigan or Ohio, an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer can help you understand how the new NLRB procedures may impact you, and that attorney can also help you implement the policies and practices that will keep you compliant in the eyes of immigration authorities. If you are an immigrant working in Michigan or Ohio, and you believe that your employer is violating the law, you should also seek advice from a trustworthy Columbus immigration lawyer.

No longer can employers assume that their illegal practices will remain a secret because their employees are afraid of the immigration authorities. If your employer is violating the law, you cannot be deported or punished for reporting that violation. Immigrants and employers with any immigration concerns can have those concerns addressed by contacting an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer immediately.

DAPA And Expanded DACA Delayed

Ohio immigration lawyerIn Michigan and Ohio – or anywhere in the U.S. – if you are an immigrant who is seeking protection from deportation, or if you are dealing with any other immigration-related legal issue, contact an experienced, Columbus-based Ohio immigration lawyer as quickly as possible. The deferred action programs announced by the president last November will be delayed as the result of a February 16 decision by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The judge’s decision stops the deferred action for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents (DAPA) program and the expanded deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program from proceeding as originally scheduled.

As a consequence of the Texas judge’s order, the government cannot at this time accept applications for expanded DACA. The government had intended to accept those applications beginning in February. The government also must postpone for now its plan to begin accepting DAPA applications in May. The Obama administration will ask a higher court to reverse the Texas judge’s decision.

The administration could ask the courts for an “emergency stay” that allows the government to accept applications while the case moves through the courts. However, either side could appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, so the issue is far from being resolved. However, most observers believe the Obama administration will eventually prevail and that DAPA and expanded DACA will eventually proceed.

The Texas judge’s decision does not impact the existing DACA. Immigrants may still request an initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA according to the regulations implemented in 2012. The paperwork is complicated, so if you need help with DACA or with any question or concern about deferred action or any other immigration matter, arrange at once to speak with an experienced, Columbus-based Ohio immigration lawyer.

Immigrants, Asylum, and Domestic Abuse

Columbus immigration lawyerThe Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest immigration court in the U.S., ruled in August that immigrants fleeing from domestic abuse may be eligible for asylum in the U.S. States. It’s an important decision that provides an alternative to desperate people who need to escape abuse. The case involved Aminta Cifuentes, a Guatemalan mother of three children. According to court documents, she was burned by her husband and beaten weekly. Guatemalan police refused to “interfere in a marital relationship,” and in 2005, she and her children crossed into the U.S. without documentation. Previously, immigration judges have rejected asylum requests from domestic abuse victims because U.S. asylum law protects only those who are victimized as part of a race, religion, nationality, political group, or a particular social group. The August decision recognizes “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” as a distinctive group deserving legal protection and qualified to request asylum.

Select, small groups of immigrants have been granted protection before. Any gay or lesbian person arriving from Cuba is qualified to apply for asylum; so are Coptic Christians arriving from Egypt and Filipinos of Chinese ancestry arriving from the Philippines. Aminta Cifuentes was not granted asylum, however, because of the ruling; the BIA merely returned her case to the immigration courts. With almost 400,000 cases backlogged, a final decision is not expected soon.

If you are an immigrant in Michigan or Ohio escaping from an abusive relationship, or if you’re arriving in either of these states in the near future, ask an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer to evaluate your personal situation; you may qualify for asylum. If you are in the U.S. without documentation, a knowledgeable immigration attorney may be able to assist you. Don’t wait. Talk with an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer promptly if you need legal counsel, asylum, protection from deportation, a work or student visa, or legal help with any immigration matter.

The Need For Good Advice

Columbus immigration attorneyLawyers in the United States are also called “counselors,” and legal consultations are more than simply having an attorney answer your yes-or-no questions. Lawyers direct and guide their clients, suggest strategies, outline alternatives, and anticipate problems. When you ask a lawyer a question, be prepared to take some time to hear the complete answer. You can read the law for yourself, but if you need to know how the law applies to your personal circumstances, you’ll need the benefit of a legal consultation. In no area of law is this truer than in the field of immigration law. If you are in Michigan or Ohio, and you have any questions or concerns regarding immigration, or if you need legal representation regarding any immigration-related matter, schedule a consultation at once with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.

The law is like a map. A map tells you instantly if Highway A can take you from City B to City C. But a map can’t give you details about traffic conditions, construction, bridge closures, or speed limits. It can’t tell you if Highway A has changed since the map was printed. But an experienced guide who travels Highway A frequently can give you all of those insights and details. Immigration law is constantly changing and evolving; it’s filled with waivers, exemptions, and exceptions that only a good immigration lawyer – who routinely deals with immigration law every day – can explain to you. In fact, a knowledgeable immigration attorney will answer the questions you didn’t even know to ask.

When someone is working with the immigration system and they make a mistake – an application is inaccurate, a document is missing, or a deadline passes – it’s almost always because the person did not seek good legal advice first. If you are an immigrant in the United States – with or without documentation – do not rely on well-meaning friends or family members for legal advice. Take your questions, concerns, problems, and issues to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer. If you’re in Michigan or Ohio, don’t hesitate to seek the advice and guidance you need by contacting an experienced Columbus immigration attorney promptly.

The Question of Deportation

Columbus immigration attorneySeveral immigrant rights groups are suing the government to prevent deportation proceedings for children who’ve crossed the U.S.-Mexican border unless the government can ensure adequate legal representation for them. The lawsuit comes as the government struggles to deal with tens of thousands of immigrant children who have poured into the United States this year. Top Obama administration officials have decided these children are priorities for removal and ineligible for the president’s deferred action program (DACA) that allows some younger illegal immigrants to remain in the country.

The suddenly increased number of cases has strained immigration courts, prompting the Justice Department to scramble for more immigration judges. President Obama has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the crisis; some these funds would be dedicated to providing legal representation to children and adding more immigration judges to hear their cases.

Still, advocates say that an expedited deportation process puts at-risk children in danger of being wrongfully deported. Beth Werlin, speaking for the American Immigration Council, says many children may be “eligible to remain in the United States, but may be ordered deported simply because they do not understand our complex immigration laws and how to prove their claims.”

The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. In Ohio or Michigan, if you are an immigrant facing deportation, get legal representation immediately and call an experienced Columbus immigration attorney. In fact, whether or not you have documentation, if you have any questions or concerns regarding deportation, asylum, visas, work permits, or green cards, speak with a good immigration lawyer. Make sure that your lawyer is genuine, someone with a history and a good reputation in the community. Notary publics, for example, are not allowed to practice law in the United States. If you are an immigrant facing any legal issue in Ohio or Michigan, protect yourself and deal only with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.

Employers Increasingly Targeted

bigstock-Small-Business-owner-with-ope-24830186U.S. immigration authorities in recent years have become increasingly focused on employer compliance and investigations at job sites. Those who employ immigrants are targeted for audits, visits, and other enforcement procedures. Those who are not in compliance with immigration laws face stiff fines and other penalties. Some of these investigations have led to criminal prosecutions. The aggressive enforcement of immigration laws aimed at employers is very popular politically, and considerable resources are being spent on this particular enforcement strategy.

In response to this strategy, savvy employers have become proactive in ensuring their own compliance. They’re conducting their own internal audits and investigations to find and resolve any immigration-related problems, concerns, or omissions. These are smart moves that can reduce and sometimes even eliminate potential liabilities.

Other employers, in contrast, just assume that they are compliant because they haven’t been investigated. This isn’t smart; immigration laws and the related labor laws are constantly changing, evolving, and expanding. A company’s existing practices may well be outdated. With employer-targeted enforcement increasing, employers need to work actively to stay in compliance with the law.

The advice of an experienced emigration attorney is invaluable to employee striving for compliance. A good immigration lawyer can tell you if your company’s policies meet all necessary legal requirements, and he or she can also help you with any investigations or requests from immigration or law enforcement authorities. In particular, an experienced immigration attorney can make sure that your H-1B, PERM, and I-9 documents comply with federal guidelines.

A good immigration lawyer will defend employers charged with emigration law violations and will represent employers in appeal proceedings. An experienced emigration attorney works for the best resolution, consistent with an employer’s best interests, of any immigration-related legal situation that arises. Employers should not hesitate to speak with a good immigration lawyer right away.