Keep on Waiting:
Employment Authorization Document Processing Times
An Employment Authorization Document application is supposed to, by regulation, be adjudicated within 90 days. For first time asylum applicants, the regulation states it needs to be adjudicated within 30 days.
Processing times for applications to USCIS usually fluctuate between slow, medium, and quick. The trend for Employment Authorization Cards is that they have been taking the full 90 days. Recently, some applications have exceeded 90 days. This is in spite of the effort that USCIS has made to distribute the work through transfers to different service centers. You may receive a transfer notice from USCIS, which merely means that your case is being adjudicated at a different service center. The end result is that individuals who need to and are eligible to obtain work authorization are left waiting longer and longer. It makes renewing employment authorization difficult to do in a timely manner. An application cannot be submitted more than 120 days in advance. If the Service is exceeding 90 days to adjudicate, that means that applications need to be submitted upon eligibility. Another delaying factor is that it takes a few days for the cards to be produced and mailed.
Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. UNHCR is the UN’s refugee arm and responsible for refugee placement around the world. The past few years have been especially tumultuous for refugees. Refugee re-settlement in Europe and the United States has invoked resistance from Europeans and Americans. Syrian and Middle-Eastern refugee resettlement seemed promising in Germany, but Germany has since soured on allowing refugees and neighboring countries have been vociferously defiant in permitting resettlement. A multitude of problems in European countries have been blamed on refugees. Political parties that tout refugee restrictions have gained in popularity to unheralded heights. They have developed from fringe parties to moving the national dialogue and receiving substantial portions of votes. States in the United States have sued the federal government, demanding that refugees not be re-settled in their states. Migrants escaping from North Africa and the Middle East have been stranded at sea and drowned in the Mediterranean.
In the midst of worldwide controversy on refugee resettlement, the UN is celebrating World Refugee Day. Cities through the US are celebrating their local communities. For example, Columbus has a large Somali refugee population. Central New York is home to many refugees from the Yugoslav civil war. The UN is promoting stories of refugees who have seized their opportunities in their new countries and have excelled. The UN is also collecting signatures for a petition it will deliver to the UN General Assembly when it meets in New York City on September 19. The petition is requesting that governments around the world:
- Ensure every refugee child gets an education
- Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
- Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
California Becomes First State to Allow Health Care Insurance Access for Undocumented Migrants
Governor Jerry Brown of California has signed SB10, which allows for some undocumented migrants in the state to have access to health care through the Affordable Care Act. The federal government does not allow for undocumented migrants to receive health care under the Affordable Care Act. California is the first state to pass and sign legislation of this sort. The law would work by having the state negotiate a waiver with the federal government, so that individuals can purchase insurance on the state’s exchange. The point is to expand health insurance coverage and also to lower premiums for everyone.
California is the most populous state in the Union. 7% of its population is constituted of undocumented migrants (approximately 2.6 million – which is also over 20% of all undocumented migrants in the United States). California is the sole state to offer this kind of health insurance access. States are vastly different in various issues that affect their undocumented residents – in state tuition, drivers licenses, insurance.
Birthright Citizenship: Supreme Court Turns Down Review for American Samoans
The Supreme Court turned down an appeal yesterday, meaning that the justices will not review an appeals court ruling that only Congress, not courts, can change the law that birth in the American Samoa does not confer US citizenship. A law passed in 1900 declared that individuals born in the American Samoa are US nationals but not US citizens. The 1900 law reflected the ethos of its time: Supreme Court ruled that people in the newly acquired U.S. territories were not entitled to all the constitutional rights of American citizens. Justice Henry Brown said the “development of the American empire” could be set back by the “annexation of distant possessions,” which are “inhabited by alien races.”
Five American Samoans pointed to the 14th Amendment in bringing their case, which confers birthright citizenship to individuals born in the United States. Other territories of the US received birthright citizenship in the 20th century, but American Samoans remain without it.
Birthright citizenship was enshrined in the 14th Amendment, which is one of the three post-Civil War amendments. The purpose of birthright citizenship is to ensure all individuals born in the United States are citizens, rather than creating classes of citizenship, such as that which existed antebellum.
New H-1B Bill Seeks Fundamental Changes to the Program
A new bill – The High Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2015 – is poised to be introduced by two Californian legislators: Zoe Lofgren (D) and Darrell Issa (R). The bill proposes multiple changes to the H-1B visa and employment-based immigration, particularly to the H-1B lottery. The highlights of the bill are listed below:
- It will fundamentally alter the way the lottery works. The lottery process is shrouded in mystery, hence a lawsuit to extract information. Theoretically, all petitions are equally treated. This bill proposes giving employers who pay their prospective H-1B employees the most over the prevailing wage the best chance at success in the lottery. For example, an IT company that is willing to pay its Software Developer 200% of the prevailing wage will have an advantage over the IT company that is going to pay its Software Developer a dollar above the prevailing wage.
- Wages would not solely determine a petition’s chance at success in the new lottery. Also taken into consideration would be companies that hire US workers mainly. H-1B dependent employers would be prejudiced in favor of those companies.
- 20% of the lottery H-1B visas would be allocated to small companies (firms with fewer than 50 employees). This is to address the complaint of small and medium companies that a few large companies eat up all of the H-1B visas in the lottery.
- H-1B dependent employers currently have to pay a $60,000 salary to count themselves as exempt from the recruitment process. That threshold would increase to $130,000 under the bill. There may be a loophole if the employer petitions the employee for a Green Card.
- Per country caps on employment-based immigration visas would be eliminated. There are 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas available a year. The nationals of a country cannot obtain more than 7% of that number. By sheer population, that puts nationals of India and China at a major disadvantage, and they have to spend extraordinary times waiting for their Permanent Residence, despite approved employment-based immigration petitions.
- The L-1 visa remains untouched by this bill. There is no mention of filing fees, which are due to increase anyway. Certain companies have been hit with an enormous filing fee for H and L visa petitions.
List most legislation concerning immigration reform, this could go by the wayside. The legislative process may create even more changes or dilute some of the proposals.