Guest Blog Post:
By: Christine Swenson from Swenson Law Office PC
As you’re probably aware over 3,350,000 million searches on “immigration” are done in the US with over 11,100,000 globally. What trusted immigration news & advice sites would you recommend to help people navigate the web to get a foundation of what to do before speaking with a licensed immigration attorney for specific advice?
The Internet can be overwhelming, especially with a topic as broad and varied as immigration. When using the Internet to begin your research and investigation, I recommend being as specific as possible when creating search terms. Even though I practice immigration law exclusively, there are areas within this field that I do not handle. Unfortunately, there are very few news websites I would recommend because, with the 24/7 news reporting method, it’s often difficult to provide concrete answers when so much is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, there are two organizations I would recommend to get started: Immigrant Law Resource Center at www.ilrg.org; and American Immigration, LLC, www.ilw.com. Next, I would recommend immigration-related websites such as www.USCIS.gov or similar sites for government agencies that also deal with immigration such as the Department of State, for example.
What Immigration questions would you suggest someone ask to a licensed immigration attorney to ensure they know the current immigration laws & policies?
I appreciate the fact that you’re focusing on “license immigration attorneys,” which tells me you are already aware of the problems with notarios, who may be able to conduct or to assist with legal transactions in foreign countries but which is not the case in the United States. These folks claim to have special back channels to expedite or guarantee a favorable result. These promises are not possible with the American immigration system. At the same time, there are non-lawyers who have been through extensive training from the Board of Immigration Affairs, called Accredited Representatives, who are qualified to assist people with immigration issues.
Now, to address the heart of your question. First, people need to conduct some research on their own to have a basic understanding of what immigration process you need assistance with so that you can communicate with your attorney. In general, clients should ask whether the attorney has handled a similar immigration process previously, how many clients the attorney has handled similar situations, and whether those clients cases were resolved in favor of the client. I would ask what the typical obstacles are applicants face when pursuing this type of process. Lastly, I would engage them in a discussion about what they do to keep up on the changes in immigration law and policies: do they take any classes? Participate in discussion groups or training other attorneys? Does the attorney participate in the American Immigrant Lawyers Association?
Can you share an interesting client or industry immigration story?
Without obtaining my client’s permission to share his/her situation, I cannot share their situation. What I can tell you is that the people I have met through my immigration practice are some of the most sincere, hardworking, family-oriented people who simply want a better life for themselves and their families.
Being that this is an election year what political changes could you possible predict to help solve illegal immigration problems?
Since the last “amnesty day,” authorized in 1983 under President Ronald Regan, there are millions of people who are in the United States and are non-citizens. There is an entire generation which is caught between a rock and a hard place: DREAMers. The DREAM Act is for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act and addresses the needs of those who were brought to the U.S. as children and who, for all intents and purposes, were raised as citizens but are not here legally. As you likely know, on June 15, 2012, President Obama enacted a deferred action program for those who meet certain eligibility criteria. This program does not grant a legal immigrant status; if eligible; it identifies and only allows requester the legitimate authority to work in the United States, to enroll in college and to pursue the dream they were raised with.
The first concern I have is whether this new deferred action program will remain in place if Mr. Romney becomes president. Based on what has been stated to date, Mr. Romney has not made any statements of support of this policy nor has he committed to continuing it. In light of how many people this policy will help, it would be calming to deferred action recipients to have a commitment to this program.
The second concern I have is that there is no one right solution to the various challenges we have with immigration. For example, currently we have caps on the number of immigrants who can come to the United States to work. This cap is fixed, regardless of the state of the American economy. An option would be to have the cap flex – increase or decrease – dependent upon whether the economy is growing or contracting.
Next on my list would focus on agricultural workers; currently, the government only allows for temporary agricultural workers. The maximum period of time those visa holders can remain in the United States is three years, with the expectation that visa holders do not work year round and they return to their country. For most of us who live in urban or even suburban areas, we have little concept of what it takes to run and to sustain a successful farm operation. There are so many agricultural jobs throughout the country that demand full-time, lesser-skilled employees, yet there is no viable visa available for them.
Lastly, regarding the large undocumented population not addressed through new policy, it would be more effective if the Obama deferred action policy was applied to the parents of DREAMers. Contrary to the naysayers, this does not reward them with legal status but does allow them to work and continue their contributions to the economy, only legally. For the DREAMer generation, an option might be to convert their deferred action status to a legal status, when it is time to renew their status, which is in two year (if the policy isn’t revoked). This keeps in mind that the only way any of the DREAMers, or anyone else for that matter, will have the legal status is through congressional action.
Could you share some interesting immigration statistics?
I must admit that statistics are not my “thing” because of my skepticism with the ability for people to manipulate numbers. However, I have found that the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), which is bipartisan, investigated the complexity of immigration and have shed a new light on the impact immigrants have on the economy. Here is a sample of what they have found and brought to light:
• When we typically thing of an entrepreneur, we think of small business owners who employ others. Yet in the US, there is no visa option for foreign nationals to start small business. If you have at least $1 million to invest in the U.S., then you can apply for an EB-5 visa. Or, if you’re from certain treaty nations and are able to invest enough in your own business, then you can apply for an E-2 visa.
• To apply for an H-2B visa, for temporary/seasonal, nonagricultural workers, it takes approximately eight weeks and at least $2,500.00 per applicant. PNAE’s research found that under this current system and backlog, one in three small businesses would close or reduce hours due to the lack of help.
• A 2010 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found areas with higher immigration have higher wages for native workers because immigration leads to greater specialization and productivity. From 1990 to 2007, immigration was associated with an increase of about $5,100 in the yearly income of the average U.S. worker in constant 2005 dollars. The same study found no evidence that immigrants hurt employment rates or hours-per-worker for U.S.-born workers.
Guest Post Author Bio:
Christine Swenson has practiced law for more than 15 years. She was a prosecutor in Tucson, Arizona, and in the greater Denver metro area for more than six years when she changed her focus to education. She has been a vocal supporter of victims’ rights throughout her career. Christine recently opened her own practice as a result of her work with victims of crime and the opportunity for them to obtain a U Visa. This work has reignited her passion for immigrants and the struggles and prejudices they face in the United States, which prompted her to focus her practice exclusively on immigration law. Check out her blog to keep up with her work with victims, DREAMers, and other immigrants.