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Access Washington – Weekly Immigration Update

New America Media, News Digest, Wendy Sefsaf Posted: Jun 16, 2008

Editor’s Note: NAM’s Access Washington Weekly Immigration Update is a column summarizing key developments in the immigration debate. This column is produced by New America Media’s Washington, D.C., office and is available in Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

Traducción al español

Foreign Students, Scientists and Engineers Help America Keep Global Edge says Rand Corporation

The United States remains ahead of its main competitors, Europe and Japan, in science and technology, according to a report from the Rand Corporation, a non-profit research organization. A big part of America’s competitiveness lies in its training and importation of foreign talent.

Foreign students, scientists and engineers are playing a vitally important role, RAND said. Their presence has helped the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) work force to grow at a faster rate than its homegrown scientists and engineers, the report said.

The report urges the U.S. government to make it easier for foreigners who have graduated from U.S. universities with science and engineering degrees to remain indefinitely and also warned of consequences if it does not.

“Reducing the inflow of foreign high-skilled S&E workers (e.g., by reducing the H1-B visa cap) will likely increase offshoring and outsourcing” the report states. “The recent reduction of the annual cap on H1-B visas for skilled labor could reduce stay rates and skilled immigrant worker inflows.

In addition, given that stay rates are currently higher for developing than for developed nations, significant economic development of China and India, whose nationals contribute heavily to the U.S. S&E workforce, could offer increasingly attractive opportunities “back home.”

About 70 percent of the foreign scientists and engineers who earn doctorates from U.S. universities opt to remain in the United States, the report said. The researchers said a recent reduction in the cap on skilled immigrant visas could harm the influx of foreign science and engineering workers.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce “Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act”

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to ensure humane treatment for asylum seekers and other detained immigrants last week. The "Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act" (S. 3114), is sponsored by Senators Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., Brownback, R-Kan., Kennedy, D-Mass., and Hagel, R-Neb.

The new legislation would mandate improved detention conditions, including prompt medical care, access to legal counsel, limits on the use of solitary confinement and other punitive treatment, and special standards for families and for victims of persecution and torture. It also enhances the rights of asylum seekers and others to have their detentions promptly reviewed by an immigration judge, and to be considered for release if they pose no risk to public safety, as well as expand legal orientation programs for detained immigrants to ensure that they understand their rights.

It would also require the recording of interviews with detained asylum seekers and other quality assurance measures to ensure they are not erroneously returned to countries where they fear persecution, establish an Office of Detention Oversight within the Department of Homeland Security to audit and investigate detention facilities' compliance with standards and to report to Congress; and mandate the reporting and investigation of all deaths that occur in detention facilities.

Executive Order Requires the Use of E-Verify Among Government Contractors

The Bush administration ordered all companies doing business with the federal government to begin ensuring their employees can legally work in the
United States.

The order, issued last week, will require thousands of firms to use a government system called E-Verify to check workers' Social Security numbers. The system has been voluntary for private firms, but mandatory for government agencies.

The policy, which initially applies to new hires, eventually could affect millions of federal contract workers. Many companies have enrolled to avoid a potential raid. In industries that traditionally rely on immigrant labor, the understanding is that not using E-Verify can raise a red flag. Also, firms doing business with the government risk losing their contracts if they break federal rules.

Some argue this move by the administration may deter businesses from getting into contractual relationships with the government and will actually do little to deter the problem as contractors may hire sub-contractors who will be harder to track.

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