Archive for April, 2010

President Obama Suggests that Comprehensive Immigration Reform May Not Happen This Year

Henry Chang | April 29, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

According to the Washington Post, President Obama stated late Wednesday that “there may not be an appetite” to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws this year, even though he believes there is a pressing need to do so. “It’s a matter of political will,” Obama said during a rare visit to the press section of his presidential plane. ” . . . This is a difficult issue. It generates a lot of emotions . . . I need some help on the Republican side.” Obama has called repeatedly for comprehensive immigration reform, saying he wants to tighten control of the nation’s borders but also chart a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that he wanted to push forward with legislation regardless of whether lawmakers can forge a bipartisan compromise. However, he later backed away from that pledge, and Obama told reporters on the plane that he is willing to wait in order to work with Republican senators. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Reid and Democratic Senators Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) are forging a proposal that would call for more border security measures before expanding immigration options.

In his remarks to reporters, Obama cited the difficult battle over healthcare, the current debate on financial regulatory reform, and an energy bill, as well as November’s mid-term Congressional elections, as reasons an immigration bill might have to wait. “We’ve gone through a tough year, and I’ve been working Congress pretty hard,” the president said. “So I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue.”

Obama applauded negotiations on immigration legislation between Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He also said he would like to see a working group of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle craft “serious legislation that solves the border problem and solves the wide range of issues that we face under immigration reform in a way that can garner the support of the American people.”

Obama condemned a tough new immigration law signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), which criminalizes illegal immigration by defining it as trespassing and allows local law enforcement agencies to question people they suspect of being undocumented. “That carries a great amount of risk that core values that we all care about are breached,” the president said. The White House and the Justice Department are weighing whether to sue Arizona in an effort to prevent the law from being implemented.

At the same time, Obama said he could understand the frustration that many Americans feel about seeing large numbers of people enter this country without permission, especially during hard economic times and in border states. “If you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people coming in, not playing by the rules, that’s a problem,” Obama said. “And the federal government has been abdicating on its responsibilities for a very long time on this issue.”

Despite concerns that Comprehensive Immigration Reform may not be enacted this year, pro-immigration advocates continue to urge supporters to continue pressuring on Congress for legislation. Despite several setbacks, they say that Comprehensive Immigration Reform is still possible this year.

The Washington Post article appears here.

Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration

Henry Chang | April 25, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

The New York Times has reported that Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. The move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally.

Even before she signed the bill, President Obama strongly criticized it. Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws, which Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon, to avoid “irresponsibility by others.” The Arizona law, he added, threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

The law is to take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends, meaning by August. Court challenges were expected immediately.

While police demands of documents are common on subways, highways and in public places in some countries, including France, Arizona is the first state to demand that immigrants meet federal requirements to carry identity documents legitimizing their presence on American soil. Ms. Brewer acknowledged critics’ concerns, saying she would work to ensure that the police have proper training to carry out the law. But she sided with arguments by the law’s sponsors that it provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state that is a leading magnet of illegal immigration. She said racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”

Ms. Brewer and other elected leaders have come under intense political pressure here, made worse by the killing of a rancher in southern Arizona by a suspected smuggler a couple of weeks before the State Legislature voted on the bill. His death was invoked Thursday by Ms. Brewer herself, as she announced a plan urging the federal government to post National Guard troops at the border.

President George W. Bush had attempted comprehensive reform but failed when his own party split over the issue. Once again, Republicans facing primary challenges from the right, including Ms. Brewer and Senator John McCain, have come under tremendous pressure to support the Arizona law, known as SB 1070. Mr. McCain, locked in a primary with a challenger campaigning on immigration, only came out in support of the law hours before the State Senate passed it Monday afternoon.

Governor Brewer, even after the Senate passed the bill, had been silent on whether she would sign it. Though she was widely expected to, given her primary challenge, she refused to state her position even at a dinner on Thursday for a Hispanic social service organization, Chicanos Por La Causa, where several audience members called out “Veto!”

The bill, sponsored by Russell Pearce, a state senator and a firebrand on immigration issues, has several provisions. It requires police officers, “when practicable,” to detain people they reasonably suspect are in the country without authorization and to verify their status with federal officials, unless doing so would hinder an investigation or emergency medical treatment. It also makes it a state crime — a misdemeanor — to not carry immigration papers. In addition, it allows people to sue local government or agencies if they believe federal or state immigration law is not being enforced.

Full article is available here.

USCIS Updates H-1B and H-2B Cap Count

Henry Chang | in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced that, as of April 15, 2010, 13,600 H-1B petitions filed under the regular cap and 5800 H-1B petitions filed under the Master’s exemption cap have been received. As explained in our article on the H-1B category, the annual cap on H-1Bs is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 available to aliens with U.S. Master’s (or higher) degrees.

USCIS has also announced that, as of April 16, 2010, USCIS approved 62,622 H-2B petitions of the 66,000 allocated per fiscal year. Currently, the H-2B cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 1st half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 2nd half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30). Any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year are made available for use by employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of the fiscal year. There is no “carry over” of unused H-2B numbers from one fiscal year to the next.

Access to Information Act Results Reveal Complaints of Alleged CBSA Misconduct

Henry Chang | in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

According to the Toronto Star, while countless visitors and returning Canadians are met with courteous, professional service at land crossings and airports, others complain of autocratic behaviour and humiliating treatment by CBSA officers. The complaints, obtained through an Access to Information request, include accounts of officers cursing and yelling at Canadians and visitors, and threatening them with sniffer dogs or arrest for seemingly minor infractions. There were 1,421 complaints filed with the CBSA in 2008-09, down slightly from 1,607 the previous year.

“We felt harassed and belittled by what happened,” wrote one American woman, who said her initial crime was to eat pretzels while a border official was talking to her husband on a Toronto-bound Amtrak train in Niagara Falls on June 7, 2007. She said the officer told her to, “Stop eating those pretzels. That’s very rude when we come on board.” The writer said that’s when the trouble began. The agent accused the elderly couple and their 50-year-old friend of several things, including being on drugs or drunk. That was too much for America trio; they caught the next train back to Rome, NY, forgoing the trip to Toronto they had planned for a year.

In another case, not having a job landed a Canadian man in hot water. “He was as asked if he was unemployed and why he was not looking for a job and what was the problem why he hadn’t found a job … I don’t think being unemployed is a crime … but he (the officer) made us feel it was,” said his partner in her complaint letter of September 2005, after crossing back into Canada at Sarnia.

When a vacation-bound American family showed up at the Pigeon River crossing southwest of Thunder Bay in August 2008 without all the necessary identification, the Canadian border officer lashed out, according to the complaint: “I guess you didn’t realize you were coming to (a) whole other country … I guess you just didn’t give a s—t, did you?” The complainant was backed up by a senior CBSA official who said the officer “admitted that his comments and behaviour on that day were uncalled for.”

The full article appears here.

Opportunities Ontario Announces International PhD Graduate Stream

Henry Chang | April 23, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

On April 21, 2010, Opportunities Ontario (Ontario’s Provincial Nominee Program) announced that International PhD graduates who have graduated from a publicly-funded Ontario university will now be permitted to apply without a job offer. Opportunities Ontario has created the International PhD Graduate Stream for this purpose.

In order to apply to Opportunities Ontario as an international PhD graduate in Ontario, students must:

  1. Have graduated from an existing PhD program at an eligible publicly funded university in Ontario or have successfully completed all degree requirements for the program (i.e completion of course work and successfully defended their thesis and are awaiting the granting of their degree);
  2. Have completed at least two years of their PhD studies at an eligible publicly funded university in Ontario;
  3. Apply within two years of the date on which their PhD degree was granted; and
  4. Have legal status, if the international PhD graduate applicant is in Canada.

International students subsidized through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) grants or home country scholarship with return obligations will not be eligible for Opportunities Ontario unless such obligations have been fulfilled.

Ontario international PhD students may apply for the program from within Canada or from overseas.

Judges Challenge Use of Wikipedia as a Reference Source by Federal Officials in Immigration Cases

Henry Chang | in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

According to the Globe and Mail, Federal officials have occasionally quoted a questionable source in bids to kick foreigners out of Canada – Wikipedia – and immigration judges are not amused. “Wikipedia is an internet Encyclopedia which anyone with Internet access can edit,” wrote one exasperated Federal Court judge, criticizing Ottawa’s filings in a case to remove a family of Turkish asylum seekers. “It is an open-source reference with no editorial control,” scoffed another judge, as he took federal agents to task for consulting Wikipedia before sending an immigrant back to Iran.

As it happens, magistrates often fight the encroachment of dubious encyclopedia entries into courts. After all, many undergrads would be flunked if they quoted Wikipedia in term papers, so why would bureaucrats let such an impeachable source slide into submissions? Officials say that while federal agencies “discourage” use of Wikipedia as a reference resource, they don’t outright prohibit it. That means, in rare cases, the articles end up in court filings.

This is proving controversial, especially in immigration cases. Because hundreds of thousands of foreigners flock to Canada each year, federal agents who hope to pick out the bad apples become quick studies in global affairs. Plenty of credible journals help Ottawa’s officials make sense of the world. But in a pinch there’s always the temptation of instantaneous information, which can be found at

The Globe and Mail article may be found here.

Canadian Immigration Minister Announces Relief for Travellers Affected by Volcano in Iceland

Henry Chang | in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

On April 21, 2010, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced that the Government of Canada would be making special accommodations for foreign nationals whose Canadian immigration status may be at risk because of the recent delays in air travel.

“Temporary residents whose status in Canada expired on or after April 15, but who have been unable to leave because of the interruptions to air travel over the Atlantic, will have their status automatically extended up to 30 days at no charge,” said Minister Kenney.

Temporary residents outside of Canada who were unable to complete their firm travel plans, and whose purpose of travel remains valid, will be able to obtain a temporary replacement document at no charge upon application.

Immigrants who were unable to move to Canada before their permanent resident visa expired will also be given a reprieve upon application, subject to certain conditions. For example, if their medical certificate has expired, a new medical assessment will be required.

In all cases, new extensions will cease to be granted once regular travel resumes on a sustained basis, and all extensions will expire on June 30 at the latest.

The official press release appears here.

Former Immigration and Refugee Board Judge Found Guilty in Sex Bribery Scandal

Henry Chang | April 21, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

We previously reported that Steve Ellis, a former Immigration and Refugee Board Judge, had been accused of offering a favorable refugee adjudication in exchange for sex. The National Post reported on April 21, 2010, that Mr. Ellis has been found guilty of one count of breach of trust under the Canadian Criminal Code and of illegally seeking a benefit contrary to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman concluded that it was clear that Ellis was seeking to trade sex for a positive ruling when he met with Ji Hye Kim at a Toronto coffee shop in September 2006. “We can do things together on the side,” is a “euphemism” for a sexual relationship, said Judge Herman as she read out her verdict ruling. “This was not a conversation between two equals,” said the judge, who observed that the actions of Ellis were a “marked departure” from what is expected of an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator.

“Mr. Ellis owed a responsibility to the public and the refugee claimants who came before him,” said Judge Herman. “He literally held Ms. Kim’s life in his hands as he leafed through her file. He was trying to use his considerable power for his benefit,” she added.

The central piece of evidence at the trial was an audio and video recording of the meeting, made by Ms. Kim and her boyfriend (now husband) Brad Tripp. The recording was played in court during the trial and showed Ellis talking about how he wanted to help Ms. Kim, even though refugee claimants from South Korea are rarely successful.

The idea to record the September 2006 meeting was that of Mr. Tripp, who was concerned when Ellis visited the restaurant where Ms. Kim worked on two occasions, after her refugee hearing. “We had no idea what was going to happen. Otherwise it would just have been Ji Hye’s word against his,” said Mr. Tripp outside court.

Ellis remains free on bail pending his sentencing hearing on June 4. He declined comment. His lawyer John Rosen said he was “disappointed” with the verdict and “one of the options” is an appeal.

Ms. Kim was accused by Mr. Rosen during the trial of being willing “to do anything” to get her status as a legal immigrant in Canada, which she adamantly denied. He noted that the couple approached the media with the recording of the meeting, before speaking to police. Mr. Rosen also unsuccessfully argued that his client was not explicitly asking for a sexual relationship in exchange for a positive refugee ruling.

Mr. Ellis was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board as an adjudicator in 2000. He was dismissed in 2006 after the allegations by Ms. Kim were made public.

The full National Post article appears here.

USCBP/USCIS Provide Guidance for Visitors Stranded in the United States

Henry Chang | April 19, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

Some nonimmigrants in the United States who were unable to depart on schedule due to the Icelandic volcano eruption that closed airports in much of Europe may now be at risk of overstaying their status while they wait for flights to resume. In response to this problem, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and United States Customs & Border Protection (“USCBP) have both provided guidance on what relief may be available to such travellers.

Unfortunately, the USCIS/USCBP guidance is more of a summary of existing procedures than an announcement of special relief procedures. For example, the USCIS/USCBP guidance states that visitors who have entered under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) should contact the local office of either USCIS or USCBP to arrange for a temporary extension of their status. This is nothing new; the VWP already provides that, in emergency situations, USCBP/USCIS may extend the applicant’s status by an additional thirty days. However, at least both notices confirm that travellers may seek this VWP extension from USBCP at the airport rather than the local USCBP or USCIS office.

For all other nonimmigrants, the USCIS/USCBP guidance simply tells them about the normal procedure for extending their stay within the United States. It even states that applicants should apply at least 45 days before their authorized stay expires. The only positive news appears in the USCBP guidance; it states that while the USCIS notice recommends initiating the process 45 days in advance, USCIS is “providing guidance on how to handle these cases over this weekend” (whatever that means).

Government of Canada Introduces New Program for Mexican Business Travellers

Henry Chang | April 14, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

On April 9, 2010, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced that the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City has established a special visa application program for Mexican business travellers. “Canada welcomes travellers from Mexico and has been looking at ways to provide enhanced services to applicants. The Business Express Program is another example of our commitment to making service improvements where we can,” said Minister Kenney.

The new Business Express Program was created to provide qualified businesses and their employees with a number of service advantages, including less paperwork, priority processing of visa applications, and a dedicated service to respond to the needs of those within the program. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) is working closely with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and visa application centres in Mexico on this initiative.

The Business Express Program is modeled on a similar successful program introduced in New Delhi, India, in June 2008. The program in Mexico is targeted at people employed by companies in Mexico who have a proven need for frequent travel to Canada.

Participation in the program is by invitation only. Businesses with key connections to Canada are identified by the visa or trade sections of the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City, or Export Development Canada.

Businesses that have good immigration track records, meaning those with employees who were admissible, who previously travelled to Canada and adhered to Canada’s immigration laws, and who have a significant number of business visitors destined to Canada are then invited by the Embassy of Canada to register for the program. Only businesses that are registered can submit visa applications through the facilitated process. So far, the embassy has invited 113 companies to enroll in the program; 12 businesses have registered.

Qualified applicants from businesses that are enrolled in the program can apply for their visa at one of the three visa application centres in Mexico, located in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara. Processing by the Canadian visa office will be swift, with a turnaround time of 24 hours.

This program is clearly intended to relieve some of the delays experienced since the Canadian Government’s decision to impose a visa requirement on Mexican citizens last year. As previously reported, temporary resident visas have been required for Mexican citizens travelling to Canada since July 14, 2009.

The official CIC notice appears here.