Author: Jim Hacking

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Need for Expanding Health Care Visas

With America’s Healthcare system under scrutiny and on the verge of changing, doctors, nurses, and all medical practitioners will be affected. An aging population paired with the demands of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased the need for specialists in a variety of medical fields. This presents the U.S. with an opportunity to be able to use the global talent in health care that is available, but the current restrictions are not allowing a sufficient number of foreign born doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to work in the U.S.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, there are four simple policies that can fix the problem we currently have.

  • First, the government should expand the number of employment-based green cards to decrease the wait times for skilled immigrants. The average application process can be cut to as low as a few weeks or months rather than years.
  • Second, the government should consider establishing a temporary visa system that caters to foreign nurses. The vast majority of foreign nurses are not eligible for the current temporary visas making it more difficult for them to practice in the U.S.
  • Third, the so-called Conrad 30 program should expand the amount of physicians per state and in the country. This way, more of the U.S. trained doctors are able to pursue a specialization in their field and therefore the U.S. will have more physicians helping underprivileged patients.
  • Finally, state licensing and other procedures for foreign medical personnel should be streamlined to help with the nation’s long term health needs.

These are four simple ways that policies can help immigrants come to the U.S. and use their medical skills to help treat our patients. There is a shortage of doctors currently that will last a few years. While critics argue that a shortage is only temporary, more doctors, whether they are immigrants or natives, can only help improve the efficiency of the healthcare system. This will result in shorter waits for patients, more options for doctors, and more efficiency in hospitals.

The entire country will be subject to this shortage of medical personnel including Missouri, so favorable immigration policies can only aid in making this process faster. “Analysts agree that individuals with health insurance are more likely to use medical services and the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act could insure 30 million people who previously lacked health coverage.” Statistics already show that children wait over an average of 15 weeks for specialized care. By opening up this country to skilled immigrants, we can help improve a healthcare system that is in much need of repair.

If you have questions about acquiring an employment based visa in the medical field, contact us at 314-961-8200.

Asylum Case Denied Due to Untimely Filing | Illinois & Missouri Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

Marko Vrljicak, a citizen of Serbia, applied for asylum in the U.S. and was denied due to untimely filing. Vrljicak requested asylum on the ground that he would be persecuted in Serbia upon his return, due to his sexual orientation. The immigration judge initially denied his request because he was ineligible for seeking asylum since he did not do so within a year of entering the U.S. Vrljicak entered the U.S. under a work visa that expired on September 30, 2009. Vrljicak did not leave the country nor did he apply for asylum until July 14, 2010, over nine months after his work visa expired.

After the immigration judge denied the asylum claim, Mr. Vrljicak appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals and eventually to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Vrljicak argued that the regulation for filing within a “timely period” was vague and he had “extraordinary circumstances.” Because there was no specific amount of time listed, Vrljicak argued that nine months could be considered “reasonable” under the statute. The Seventh Circuit ruled it was not reasonable to wait nine months prior to filing for asylum.  Also there is no set definition for the number of days that constitute as reasonable; one might infer that based on existing provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act the maximum number of days is 180. Furthermore, his argument for the word reasonable being vague is invalid as “protean words such as “reasonable” are ubiquitous in law.”

The Court also concluded that the provision for timely filing for asylum ( 8 C.F.R. 1208.4 (a) (5) (IV)) is not unconstitutionally vague. It is important to keep in mind when applying for asylum, it must be done so within a year of entering the country. While there are exceptions including “extraordinary circumstances”, most of the time these are very limited.

Our office handles asylum cases on a regular basis.  A large percentage of our clients are from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.  Our legal assistant, Adela Zepcan, speaks Bosnian and does a great job translating for us.

If you have questions about filing for asylum or the current immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200.

Illinois Considers Special Drivers’ Licenses for Undocumented Workers | Missouri & Illinois Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

Illinois politicians are proposing a new piece of legislation that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented workers living in Illinois. Currently, Washington state and New Mexico are the only states that allow undocumented workers to get licenses. With Illinois being one of the bigger states, if they adopt this piece of legislature, more states are likely to follow.

Supporters say it is about time for this law to be passed. By granting driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, it would be good for public safety because motorists would have to be tested for driving skills and they would also have to buy car insurance. Not only is this a positive step forward for immigrants, but it is for the general good of all society. “When you have a quarter of a million undocumented drivers on the road, it’s definitely a safety concern,” said Ron Holmes, spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. Democrats are generally excited about the new law and say there is a good chance that it will pass in the near future.

With the re-election of President Obama, leaders from both parties are seriously discussing comprehensive immigration reform. With Republicans in agreement that changes must be made, this small change can spark a nationwide issuing of identification for immigrants. The Safety Coalition is backing the Democrats’ proposal and encourages people to obtain driver’s licenses because of the push for obtaining car insurance. In New Mexico, since 2003, “the rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent.” About 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year involve unlicensed, uninsured drivers. This amounts to over $660 million in damage. Immigrant drivers cost the system about $64 million just in damage claims. By making car insurance a priority, drivers will be held accountable for accidents that occur making it a safer situation for all drivers out on the road.

Critics of the law are worried that the driver’s licenses will be used for fraud. The new licenses would be “visually distinct” with purple backgrounds and words “not valid for identification” on the front. This way, the licenses could not be used for fake identification. The license would be unique to those who are not citizens. Whether or not this law will pass is something that will be determined shortly. However, with the new Missouri Senate Panel looking into passing legislation deemed more “immigrant-friendly” Missouri, some question if a similar law is in our near future. If you have questions regarding the immigration laws in Missouri, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page here.

Bibles, Badges, Businesses Call for Immigration Reform | St. Louis Immigration & Deportation Attorney Jim Hacking

Religious, business, and law-enforcement leaders got together in hopes that joining forces would pressure Congress to act on immigration reform. President Obama promised that his next term would tackle the issue of immigration, and bipartisan groups are making sure he plans on keeping his word.

What the Coalition Plans to Gain

The bipartisan coalition met in Washington this past Tuesday to strongly suggest immigration reform be ranked as “first priority” on the to-do list for 2013. Religious leaders of different faiths participating in the cause believe immigration reform is a moral issue. Law-enforcement officials participated because the lack of structure and reform make their jobs more dangerous and complicated by alienating immigrants. Business leaders demonstrated their needs for both skilled and unskilled workers despite the unfavorable unemployment numbers. Members of the coalition support a pathway to citizenship for both undocumented and documented workers residing in the U.S. With several stakeholders banding together to urge Congress to act, people hope that the seriousness and urgency of the issue to be resolved is conveyed.

How Politics play a role

Despite low support from immigrant voters for the Republican Party due to their position on immigration, several conservatives were included in the group that met before Congress. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a Republican, says, “We’ve have been talking to the wrong crowd. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ … Those are Republican principles.” While Romney and fellow GOP candidates previously campaigned in support of strict immigration policies including the concept of “self-deportation,” Shurtleff highlights that this is neither the basis for how all Republicans feel nor is it the more reasonable approach. The conference brought in several influential speakers including Brad Bailey, of the Texas Immigration Solution. “I never thought I’d be asking for hope and change,” he said. “But I hope and pray Congress will take this because change is what needs to happen.”

Government’s Reaction

The White House has not released any specific information regarding the immigration reform. There is tension within Congress over the correct approach and the actions that should be taken. However, Congress has made it clear that the opinions of lobbyists and citizens have been heard. many members of Congress understand and agree that immigration reform is inevitable and must be dealt with promptly. When support for reform is backed by so many large and powerful bipartisan coalitions, Congress is forced to be held accountable for correcting a broken system. The immigration attorneys at the Hacking Law Practice will be monitoring and reporting on all proposed and (hopefully) enacted legislation. If comprehensive immigration reform is passed, we will be ready to help you take on whatever immigration filing you may need. If you have questions regarding the current immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

Border Patrol Revises Policy on Providing Interpretation Services | St. Louis, Missouri Deportation Attorney Jim Hacking

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a new guidance to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) prohibiting them from responding to requests for translation assistance from other law enforcement organizations. Now, U.S. Border Patrol agents are directed to refer the requests to private local and national translation services.

There have been various problems that have resulted from Border Patrol agents providing English-Spanish translations for local law enforcement. With more access to noncitizens, Border Patrol agents had the opportunity to ask individuals questions about their immigration status which resulted in removal proceedings. “These practices have unconstitutionally targeted individuals for deportation based on the fact that they looked or sounded foreign,” according to groups challenging the practice.

There have been mixed responses to the guidance issued as safety advocates have expressed concerns that non-English speakers have been reluctant to call police in cases of emergencies fearing they or their families will be deported. A Vermont dairy farm worker unintentionally called 911 and the police along with Border Patrol agents showed up to take the workers into custody. After witnessing such an event, many other workers said they would not call the police even if they were seriously injured and needed medical assistance. It is not beneficial for the community to fear the police especially in serious cases where the medical professionals could help. Some fear that victims of domestic violence who need police protection will not call for help for fear of immigration enforcement. As a result, New York police officers are prohibited from asking about the immigration status of individuals seeking police assistance.

DHS has not openly stated the reason for the policy change, but the guidance has come after many advocacy groups criticized the DHS for human rights violations. “For example, in a report issued last April, One America documented 135 incidents in which immigrants’ human rights were violated in several counties in Washington State. Of these, a whopping 38% involved the use of Border Patrol agents as interpreters.” The following month, the Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project filed a complaint with DHS on behalf of six Washington state residents who were faced with removal proceedings after Border Patrol responded to their requests for interpretation assistance from various police agencies.

There are various new policies that are taking place in order to ensure that citizens, noncitizens and agencies are protected and no human rights are being violated. The new guidance sounds like DHS may be beginning to amend their interpretation policies. The agency has to continue refining their policies if they want to protect noncitizens’ rights during encounters with law enforcement.

It is unclear if these changes have spread to the St. Louis, Missouri and Southern Illinois area.  f you have questions regarding immigration laws in Missouri, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

2013 Bipartisan Plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Four Democrat (Schumer, Durbin, Menendez and Bennet) and four Republican senators (Graham, McCain, Rubion and Flake) recently released their Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  This much-anticipated outline sets forth the bipartisan proposal for what comprehensive immigration reform might look like.

The documents lists “Four Basic Legislative Pillars”:

  1. A “tough but fair path to citizenship” for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.
  2. “Reform” of the US immigration system so as to protect the American worker.
  3. An improved employment verification system that prevents identity theft.
  4. Increasing the availability of visas for highly skilled, technical employees.

The plan devotes considerable time discussing increased enforcement.  The Senators promise greater financial and technological resources to the Border Patrol.  The plan calls for an improved entry-exit system that tracks whether all temporary visitors have left the country on time.  Curiously, the plan predicates any path to legal status for undocumented aliens upon successful securing of the borders.  It is unclear how exactly the two issues will be tied and implemented.

The plan does note an intention to treat DREAMers (young people who are in the US without status, but who did not sneak into the country themselves) differently.  The plan notes that the US “must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world’s best and brightest.”  The Senators propose the awarding of a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or math form an American University.

The third prong of the Senatorial approach would be the implementation of “an effective verification system which prevents identity theft and ends the hiring of future unauthorized workers.”  The proposal would also allow for guest workers, temporary workers who enter and exit the US to engage in seasonal work.

Time will tell where the legislation might take the country.  This document, while less than ideal, does represent signficiant, positive progress on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.  It is the first intelligent discussion of real immigration reform to come out of Washington DC in many years.

Immigration reporter Kristen Hare of the St. Louis Beacon interviewed me regarding this proposal yesterday and the story appeared on the Beacon home page.  You can read it here.  From the article:

Jim Hacking, an immigration lawyer with Hacking Law Practice LLC, sees some of the language of the proposal as punitive and thinks there’s been enough focus on border enforcement.

“I guess politicians always have to mention enforcement first and often,” he says. “It sort of winds its way throughout this proposal.”

Hacking didn’t want to be the guy to jinx it, but, he said, “I will say that I’m the most optimistic I’ve ever been.”

If you have questions regarding how comprehensive immigration reform may help keep you or a family member in the US, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact us page today.

L-1 Intra-company transferee visa

An L-1 visa allows for intra-company transfers and is the method by which foreign workers can come to the U.S. temporarily to work on behalf of the foreign company.  To qualify for an L-1, the employee must hold a managerial or executive capacity role or must possess specialized knowledge or capacity to do a particular job essential to the U.S. subsidiary.

The L-1 employee, also referred to as a transferee, must have worked for the parent company for at least 1 of the last 3 years. The employee must be coming to perform work consistent with the job that she had in the home country.

If the transferee is an executive or managerial employee, the L-1 can last for as long as 7 years.  If the basis of the L-1 visa is specialized knowledge, the limit is 5 years.  If the U.S. subdiary is a well established company, the initial L-1 visa will last 3 years.  If the subsidiary is a “start-up,” the visas will be given out in 1 year increments.  At the end of 1 year, the company must establish that the business plan of the new company has continued and that the employee/transferee’s role continues.

Obtaining an L-1 employee visa can be complicated and difficult.  If you would like to discuss the possibility of helping you or your employee obtain a transferee visa, feel free to give us a call at (314) 961-8200 or fill out our contact form.

Complaints filed with State & Labor Departments for J1 Exchange Students Allegedly Exploited | St. Louis Employer Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

McDonald’s Corporation, employer of over 400,000 employees, is under fire for exploiting low skilled workers and housing them in substandard conditions. Argentine college student Jorge Rios was part of a government cultural-exchange program where he expected to earn money and explore the U.S. After spending $3,000 to participate in this program, Rios found himself at the mercy of his employer, a McDonald’s franchisee.

This week, Rios and 14 other foreign students in a similar situation are demonstrating outside at McDonald’s after filing complaints with the State Department and Labor Department claiming they were exploited at fast-food outlets and housed in substandard conditions. The students are in the U.S. on a three-month J-1 visa for work and travel. A McDonald’s spokesperson commented that the chain is looking into the claims by Rios. “The well-being of my employees is a top priority. The employees that are working in my restaurants as part of a guest worker program are no exception.”

Congress’s immigration Overhaul

The controversy with Rios highlights the challenge of creating and managing a new visa program especially for temporary workers. Sen. John McCain, one politician leading the charge, said the visa programs that emerged are some of the toughest issues for the framework for legal status with a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Businesses are also affected by the low skilled labor issues since many worry they will be unable to fill jobs because of the crackdown.

The Summer Work Travel Program

The program promises a chance for foreign students to experience the culture of the U.S. and travel across the country rather than the long hours at low skilled jobs earning minimum wage that some students actually encounter.  Unfortunately, according to Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles immigration attorney and former Naturalization Service official, “This is a cheap-labor program, nothing more. Since when is flipping burgers a cultural exchange?” Upon arrival, students were assigned to work at a McDonalds with so few hours they hardly earned any money after landlords deducted rent from their paychecks. Others were forced to work 25 hours straight without being paid for overtime. “Since I got to the States, I have been working just to pay to live in a basement,” says Mr. Rios, who arrived in mid-December and shares the one-room space with five other foreigners who work at the same outlet. He said he worked about 25 hours a week earning $7.25 an hour and Mr. Cheung, his boss, deducted weekly rent of $75 from his pay.

The experience these students were looking for has been disappointing and a program initially created by Congress to “strengthen ties which unite us with other nations” has students wishing they could return home sooner.

If you have questions regarding the J-1 visitor program or other issues related to temporary immigrant visas, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.