Thursday, July 26, 2012

High-skilled immigration restrictions are economically senseless

Employer discrimination based on national origin has been illegal in the United States since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, yet American immigration law has continued to discriminate in that exact manner. If the government insists on restricting foreign workers’ access to U.S. markets, it should do so on the basis of merit, not nationality. Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) took an important step toward that goal, but it is a flawed one.

The Senators struck a deal to allow the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012) to move forward in the Senate. The bill would allocate employment-based green cards irrespective of national origin by eliminating country-specific limitations. Current law limits any particular country to 7 percent of the 140,000 employment-based green cards issued each year. This has resulted in extremely long waiting periods for workers from large countries like India and China that often extend for years, and even decades.

This discrimination is economically senseless and unjust, and Congress has finally realized it. Unfortunately, Sen. Grassley, who had placed a “hold” on the bill, decided to allow it to move forward not for noble reasons, but rather because Sen. Schumer, Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, signed on to an “agreement to include provisions that give greater authority to program overseers to investigate visa fraud and abuse.” This would expand the Department of Labor’s (DOL) powers to harass businesses that employ highly skilled immigrants.

Grassley’s amendments would give DOL “overseers” broad discretion to delay and audit applications for H-1B visas for temporary highly skilled workers. Current law allows the DOL to audit applications, which are submitted by employers, only after a visa has been issued and a complaint alleging visa fraud has been filed. The Grassley amendments’ overly broad and vague language would allow DOL officials to delay and block valid visa applications that would currently gain approval. All they would need is to allege “clear indicators of fraud or misrepresentation of material fact.”

Since the legislation provides no guidance on what these “indicators” should be, Labor officials would essentially have free rein to hold up any application at their discretion. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) already considers being a small business—defined as having “less than 25 employees” or a “gross annual income less than $10 million”—as basis to suspect fraud, a conclusion based on the fact that large employers can afford better labor consultants to assure fewer mistakes on applications. Employers would also have no right to challenge such spurious audits in court.

Delays like these cost both money and time. This includes time needed to fill out an application, which by delaying applications past the deadline could turn this audit power into a de facto rejection power. That is especially likely as the 60-day limit for complaint-driven audits would not apply to these new investigations. On top of these, the Grassley amendments authorize annual compliance audits for any H-1B employer without any indication of fraud.

CIS administrative procedures already place considerable burdens on businesses, most notably through a huge increase in the number of “Requests for Evidence” on visa applications. These can delay applications for months. From 2008 to 2011, Requests for Evidence for high skilled visas—L-1B, H-1B, and O-1As—increased by 24 percent, 8 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. In the same period, H-1B rejections have increased from 11 percent in 2007 to between 17 and 29 percent under President Obama.

“We must bow to the genius of all, whatever group of mankind they may represent,” wrote Anthropologist Franz Boas a century ago, “as all have worked together in the development of the civilizations.” Boas was defending non-Western European immigrants against racist arguments for their exclusion. While he lost his fight in 1924, Congress now seems ready to end such discrimination, but it should focus on that goal, not on more regulation, so America can finally have an immigration law that acknowledges “the genius of all, whatever group of mankind they may represent.”


REAL migrant scandal  in Britain?  We  still pretend we control our borders - when the truth is Brussels won't let us

Yesterday, yet again, we saw headline news being made by a shocking  tale of incompetence and mismanagement by the UK Border Agency, the body set up in 2008 to control immigration to this country.

The backlog of cases piled up in the agency’s labyrinthine system, we are told, amounts to 276,000, equivalent to the population of Newcastle. Most of the migrants are here illegally and should have been sent home years ago.

They include 150,000 foreign workers and students still in Britain even though they were refused extensions to their visas; 101,000 untraced ‘asylum seekers’ left over from when 450,000 ‘forgotten files’ were discovered in 2005; and 3,900 foreign offenders released by the courts to protect their human rights.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, calls the Border Agency ‘a Bermuda triangle’ for immigrants who find it easy enough to get into Britain from anywhere in the world, but then vanish off the radar because there is no way of tracing them, let alone deporting them because they entered illegally or have broken our laws.

Scandals surrounding our immigration policy are so commonplace that we all accept it is completely out  of control.

MPs like Mr Vaz — whose committee is so exasperated it is now reporting on the Border Agency’s performance every three months — regularly jump up and down asking for something to be done.

But even though it is officially predicted that within eight years Britain’s population will have increased by another five million, nothing ever happens.

Home Secretaries from Labour’s John Reid and Charles Clarke to the Coalition’s Theresa May have faced a torrent of criticism — to which they reply with limp bureaucratic statements, promising action.

But things just go from bad to worse.

Behind this dismal picture, however, lies a much bigger story and one we are simply not being told about. The reason why our immigration policy is in such a shambles is that we do not have any control over it.

The real explanation for almost everything we find so horrifying about this mess is that virtually every aspect of our policy is no longer decided here in Britain at all, but is dictated by a morass of international rules and, above all, by those emanating from the EU.

We are familiar with the fact that, since ten more countries joined the EU in 2004, including Poland and those of formerly Communist eastern Europe, we have had to admit anyone from the 28 countries of the EU, giving them the right to live and work here and to enjoy a wide range of benefits such as our NHS and schools.

But if you examine the section of the EU’s ‘Europa’ website headed ‘Free movement of persons, asylum and immigration’, you will see three pages of headings covering every  conceivable aspect of immigration policy, from visa rules to our duties to asylum seekers.

As these headings make clear, the rules, many based on UN and other international agreements, cover not just the way we must treat EU citizens but how we deal with immigrants from the rest of the world.

The scandal of this is twofold. It is not just that successive governments have handed over to the EU the power to dictate every aspect of who we must admit to live and work in Britain, it is also the extent to which politicians such as Mrs May will not honestly and openly admit this.

Ministers and MPs continue to pretend that we at least have some control over immigration by what they slyly call ‘non-EU citizens’.

But the truth is that we have signed up to a vast system of international rules about how we must treat migrants, no matter where they come from — which mean that our politicians and officials, like those of the UK Border Agency, no longer have any choice but to obey them.

The reason why the Border Agency is faced with this horrifying backlog of cases involving immigrants, most of whom should no longer be here, is that in everything it does the agency tries to follow more zealously than any other country in Europe the procedures of the system we signed up to, a system so tortuously complex that it is unworkable.

And on top of this we have all the absurdities piled on us by the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights, into British law.

It was under this act, for instance, that an Iraqi asylum seeker was allowed to stay in Britain — even though in 2003 he had left 12-year-old Amy Houston to ‘die like a dog’ after hitting her with his car while driving with no insurance and no licence, and then running away, leaving her still conscious under the car.

To deport him, argued lawyers at a case which finally concluded in 2010, would have interfered with his right to a family life, with a partner and children whom he hadn’t even seen for several years.

A vast human rights industry has been built up on this Act, enriching hundreds of lawyers who can talk judges into an endless stream of decisions which stand common sense and justice on their heads — none more obviously crazy than those involving dangerous foreign citizens who should never have been allowed to stay here in the first place.

But the most sinister aspect about how we have ceded any control over our immigration policy to this European system lies in the purpose behind it.

The real intention of the European system, as we can see from various EU directives and judgments by the European courts, is to undermine any sense of national identity.

The aim is to turn Europe into a melting pot of different nationalities so intermingled with each other that the one thing they have in common is their ‘European identity’. EU directive 2004/38, for instance, allows citizens of any EU country and their families to live freely anywhere in the EU, on the grounds that this will ‘strengthen the feeling of Union citizenship’, which is ‘one of the fundamental objectives of the Union’.

But this is equally the guiding principle behind the rules applying to all those immigrants from Asia, Africa and elsewhere who, having managed to get into Europe themselves, are then permitted under EU rules to bring in all their relatives.

The idea is that, in gratitude to the EU whose rules have allowed them to settle here, such immigrants will come  to feel a sense of ‘European identity’ — their primary  loyalty being to ‘Europe’ rather than to the country they have settled in.

The irony, as we see in Britain when Asians and Africans come to live here, is that many immigrants either feel their loyalty is still to the country they came from, or else they want to become ‘British’. In almost no cases do they think of themselves as ‘European’.

We have long recognised that almost anything the EU turns its hand to fails to work as it was intended. But never was that more evident than in the shambles it has made of its immigration policies — policies our own government has dutifully obeyed, with such catastrophic results.

Yet still our politicians refuse to explain to us where those policies come from.

When the furore broke over that Iraqi asylum seeker who was allowed to remain in Britain after so callously mowing down young Amy, David Cameron — then in opposition — promised her father that he would ‘scrap the Human Rights Act’ to replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’.

But, of course, he could never have done anything of the sort because we are now committed to those human rights rules by our membership of the EU. And as Mr Cameron recently told us, the last thing he would ever do is campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

We must therefore accept all the consequences of that commitment — even if it means an immigration policy quite deliberately designed by  the EU to destroy our identity as a nation.


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