October 2009 Archives

October 30, 2009

HIV Travel Ban to be Lifted

At a ceremony at the White House today, President Barack Obama announced the publication on Monday, 2 November 2009 of the final rule repealing the HIV immigration restriction. The immigration lawyers here at Fong & Aquino have worked here in Los Angeles and nationwide as part of the movement to have this onerous restriction on people with HIV/AIDS repealed. More details to follow, after we have seen and reviewed the "final rule." --jcf

October 15, 2009

Principles for Immigration Reform

On 14 October 2009, Congressman Luis Gutíerrez of Illinois released a set of principles which he hopes will be incorporated into any Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) package. As advocates for immigrants, the attorneys at the Los Angeles-based immigration Fong & Aquino, we watch closely any progress on CIR.

Central to his approach are:

1. a rational and humane approach to resolving or legalizing the status of the undocumented population,

2. a mechanism to protect US and legal immigrant workers,

3. allocation of sufficient visas to stop immigrants from trying to "cut in line" or "jump the queue" and get to America earlier but illegally,

4. enhancements to protect the US homeland,

5. establish a wise border enforcement policy that reflects America's needs and values,

6. keeping together and unifying American families,

7. promotion of immigrant integration,

8. inclusion of the DREAM Act and AgJobs bill, and

9. protection of fundamental rights.

Representative Gutíerrez' statement of principles is an excellent first step as the debate over CIR begins. --jcf

October 8, 2009

PERM Delays: Audits and Backlogs

PERM cases are backlogged now to December 2008. So if you have a PERM case pending that was submitted more than a year ago, DOL may entertain an email inquiry from you. But if your case was submitted in October 2008 or after, you still have a long wait ahead of you and yes, DOL does not want to hear from you at all...

USDOL reports that they have approximately 65,800 cases in the processing queue for PERM. This number also includes cases that are on appeal. Of these cases, approximately 24,600 or about 37% of the cases were issued audits.

For people waiting for final adjudication after submitting an audit response, DOL informs us that they are still working on audited cases from October 2007!

This is obviously bad news for applicants and employers who are waiting patiently for these processing queues to move forward. If you have been in this queue already, you already know that PERM has slowed down to a crawl. For anyone thinking of filing a new PERM case, be warned that since it is taking so long for an initial or final adjudication, employers and employees must be extremely careful about how their case is presented and hope that their case goes through without the additional delay of an audit. Further, take care to cover yourself and maintain status throughout the anticipated pendency of a PERM application. If you have questions about PERM or presenting a new case, contact the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for a free initial consultation. ---ecf

October 6, 2009

Verifying Undocumented Aliens for Health Care

Since July 2008, the County of Los Angeles has posted 81 people in 27 social service offices to check and verify immigration status of all applicants for social services. As the debate continues on health care, the lawyers at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles remain concerned that immigrants are being made the scapegoats for a dysfunctional health-care system that they have had no hand in creating.

According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County has so far not found one illegal immigrant masquerading as a legal resident in order fraudulently to obtain social benefits. Among Medi-Cal applicants, only about 0.1% of the total applicant pool was found to be ineligible because of immigration status.

One has to ask the question: is the expense of this verification system worth what we're paying for it?

One federal study noted that the records-verification system implemented in 6 states cost about $16.6 million in administrative costs -- and found only eight undocumented immigrants.

Please contact your Senators and Representative to let them know that health-care reform is important for our nation, and that immigrants should not be used as an excuse for not providing the health care that Americans must have. --jcf

October 2, 2009

H-1B Quota, Fraud Detection, On-site interviews

The H-1B quota has now reached approximately 46,700 and although the USCIS has announced that they've received approximately 20,000 advanced degree applications, it still continues to accept advanced degree cases.

I have been fielding a lot of questions about whether a person is still "in H-1B status" even if they are no longer working for the employer who sponsored them. Simply put, the answer is "no." When H-1B workers are petitioned for by a specific employer, not only are they expected to work for that employer only (unless they have a concurrently approved H-1B for a separate employer), but they must always comply with the original terms of the H-1B petition. Any changes considered to be material to the employment must be reported to the US Department of Labor and possibly to the USCIS.

Further, H-1B employees are considered to be out of status if they lose their jobs or quit working for the H-1B sponsor. And as of late, the USCIS has been conducting random on-site visits to H-1B employers, interviewing the foreign worker(s), HR or the company owner, as well as verifying the terms and conditions of their work.

It shouldn't be a surprise to people that the Department of Homeland Security is utilizing their resources to crack down on employers and employees under the H-1B program.

Just 3 days ago, Senator Grassley of Iowa wrote a letter to USCIS Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, imploring him to "ensure accountability" in the H-1B program. This wasn't the first time Sen. Grassley has done so. Earlier this year, Sen. Grassley called out "Microsoft" for their usage of the H-1B program as well.

If your company is facing lay offs or you have lost your H-1B job, you need advice on how to maintain status (if possible) and/or guidance on what you may face in future applications for work authorization or work visas. ---ecf