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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

U.S. Immigration Policy on Haitian Migrants

Ruth Ellen Wasem
Specialist in Immigration Policy

The environmental, social, and political conditions in Haiti have long prompted congressional interest in U.S. policy on Haitian migrants, particularly those attempting to reach the United States by boat. While some observers assert that such arrivals by Haitians are a breach in border security, others maintain that these Haitians are asylum seekers following a decades old practice of Haitians coming by boat without legal immigration documents. Migrant interdiction and mandatory detention are key components of U.S. policy toward Haitian migrants, but human rights advocates express concern that Haitians are not afforded the same treatment as other asylum seekers.

The devastation caused last year by the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti led Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians in the United States at the time of the earthquake. The scale of humanitarian crisis— estimated thousands of Haitians dead and collapse of the infrastructure in the capital city of Port au Prince—resulted in this TPS announcement. On May 17, 2011, Secretary Napolitano redesignated TPS for Haitians through January 22, 2013. The extension also enables eligible individuals who arrived up to one year after the earthquake in Haiti to receive TPS.

Secretary Napolitano gave humanitarian parole to Haitian children who were legally confirmed as orphans eligible for intercountry adoption by the government of Haiti and who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. residents prior to the earthquake. P.L. 111-293, the Help HAITI Act of 2010, authorizes the DHS Secretary to adjust to legal permanent residence (LPR) status those Haitian orphans who were granted parole from January 18, 2010, through April 15, 2010.

Those Haitians who are deemed Cuban-Haitian Entrants are among the subset of foreign nationals who are eligible for federal benefits and cash assistance. Those Haitians who are newly arriving legal permanent residents, however, are barred from the major federal benefits and cash assistance for the first five years after entry. The Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010 (H.R. 4899, P.L. 111-212), includes funding to cover additional costs for federal benefits and cash assistance resulting from Haitian evacuees.

According to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), there were 54,716 Haitians who had approved petitions to immigrate to the United States at the time of the earthquake and who were waiting for visas to become available. Advocates for Haitians continue to request that Secretary Napolitano give humanitarian parole to those Haitians with approved petitions for visas. Proponents of expediting the admission of Haitians with family in the United States maintain that it would relieve at least some of the humanitarian burden in Haiti and would increase the remittances sent back to Haiti to provide critical help as the nation tries to rebuild. Those opposed to expediting the admission of Haitians assert that it would not be in the national interest, nor would it be fair to other foreign nationals waiting to reunite with their families.

More broadly, there are concerns that the crisis conditions in Haiti—notably, the outbreak of cholera and the return of deposed dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier—may trigger mass migration from the island. DHS agencies that would address a potential mass migration include the U.S. Coast Guard (interdiction); Customs and Border Protection (apprehensions and inspections); Immigration and Customs Enforcement (detention and removal); and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (credible fear determinations). The balancing of DHS’s border security responsibilities during a humanitarian crisis poses a challenge.



Date of Report: May 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RS21349
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification


Andorra Bruno
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Many years of debate about unauthorized immigration to the United States culminated in 1986 in the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This law sought to address unauthorized immigration, in part, by requiring all employers to examine documents presented by new hires to verify identity and work authorization and to complete and retain employment eligibility verification (I-9) forms. Ten years later, in the face of a growing illegal alien population, Congress attempted to strengthen the employment verification process by establishing pilot programs for electronic verification, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).

The Basic Pilot program (known now as E-Verify), the first of the three IIRIRA employment verification pilots to be implemented and the only one still in operation, began in November 1997. Originally scheduled to terminate in November 2001, it has been extended several times. It is currently scheduled to terminate on September 30, 2012, in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-83).

E-Verify is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS). The program has been growing in recent years. On January 22, 2011, there were 244,135 employers enrolled in E-Verify, representing 836,718 hiring sites. E-Verify is a primarily voluntary program, but there are some mandatory participation requirements. Among them is a rule, which became effective on September 8, 2009, requiring certain federal contracts to contain a new clause committing contractors to use E-Verify.

Under E-Verify, participating employers submit information about their new hires (name, date of birth, Social Security number, immigration/citizenship status, and alien number, if applicable) from the I-9 form. This information is automatically compared with information in Social Security Administration and, if necessary, DHS databases to verify identity and employment eligibility.

The 111
th Congress considered provisions on E-Verify, and legislation on electronic employment eligibility verification has been introduced in the 112th Congress. In weighing such proposals, Congress may find it useful to evaluate them in terms of their potential impact on a set of related issues: unauthorized employment; verification system accuracy, efficiency, and capacity; discrimination; employer compliance; privacy; and verification system usability and employer burden.


Date of Report: May 9, 2011
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R40446
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security


Ruth Ellen Wasem
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Foreign nationals (i.e., aliens) not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted, with certain exceptions noted in law. The Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) each play key roles in administering the law and policies on the admission of aliens. Although the DOS’s Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) in DHS approves immigrant petitions, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in DHS operates the Visa Security Program in selected embassies abroad, and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in DHS inspects all people who enter the United States. In addition, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a significant policy role through its adjudicatory decisions on specific immigration cases.

Although there was a discussion of assigning all visa issuance responsibilities to DHS when the department was being created, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) opted not to do so. Rather, P.L. 107-296 drew on compromise language stating that DHS issues regulations regarding visa issuances and assigns staff to consular posts abroad to advise, review, and conduct investigations, and that DOS’s Consular Affairs continues to issue visas.

The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, refocused attention on the responsibilities of the Departments of State and Homeland Security for the visa process. He was traveling on a multi-year, multiple-entry tourist visa issued to him in June 2008. State Department officials have acknowledged that Abdulmutallab’s father came into the Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 19, 2009, to express his concerns about his son, and that those officials at the Embassy in Abuja sent a cable to the National Counterterrorism Center. State Department officials maintain they had insufficient information to revoke his visa at that time. In the aftermath of the Abdulmutallab case, policymakers explored what went wrong and whether statutory and procedural revisions were needed.

Some have expressed the view that DOS has too much control over visas, maintaining that the Homeland Security Act intended DHS to be the lead department and DOS to merely administer the visa process. Proponents of DOS playing the principal role in visa issuances assert that only consular officers in the field have the country-specific knowledge to make decisions about whether an alien is admissible and that staffing 250 diplomatic and consular posts around the world would stretch DHS beyond its capacity. Whether the visa security roles and procedures are adequately funded may arise as the budget issues are considered.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has introduced legislation (H.R. 1741) that would give the Secretary of Homeland Security “exclusive authority to issue regulations, establish policy, and administer and enforce the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) and all other immigration or nationality laws relating to the functions of consular officers of the United States in connection with the granting and refusal of a visa.”



Date of Report: May 6, 2011
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41093
Price: $29.95

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Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.