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Immigration Attorney Margaret Stock, a MacArthur Genius Fellow

The MacArthur Foundation announced the recipients of its Fellowship awards today. Among the group is immigration attorney Margaret Stock.

As her profile indicates

With a broad view of national security that goes beyond protecting the country from terrorist threats to include the protection of economic and political interests that ensure our prosperity, Stock articulates the crucial role of a healthy and efficient immigration system in responding to changes in the global economy and maintaining the foundational values of our democracy.

The website outlines the three criteria for selection of Fellows, “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” Attorney Stock has been recognized by the foundation for her work in creating the innovative MAVNI program for recruiting skilled talent into the U.S. armed services by providing a pathway to citizenship for qualified individuals serving in positions vital to the national interest. She also founded the AILA MAP (American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program) to provide pro bono legal assistance on immigration issues to military personnel.


Immigration Reform Gets Pushed Back in House

Representative Raul Labrador (Rep. Idaho), a leading voice among House Republicans on the issue of immigration, said in a Univision interview today with interviewer Jorge Ramos that a debate on comprehensive immigration reform may not be possible in 2013. Other issues, such as the discussion of the president’s proposed military action in Syria and the debt ceiling debate may instead consume the House agenda.

JR:                   Congressman Labrador, how does this—this new conflict with Syria—affect the debate about immigration reform? ¿Do you think that it will set it back in Congress? How does the timing work out? What do you think?

RL:                  I think so. I think we have the situation in Syria, we have the monetary situation, we have the situation with what’s called the debt ceiling, which is the ceiling of the debt that we have in the United States. All these things are now coming forward. They are the things that we have to do immediately, right now. And unfortunately, I think that is going to delay the immigration debate a little.

JR:                   So when you say that this is going to delay it, does this mean that the idea that a lot of people, both Democrats and Republicans, had, that there was going to be immigration reform in 2013, may not happen?  . . . .   —Congressman Labrador, [the problem] is that if it doesn’t get done in 2013, then later, in 2014, it’s going to be very complicated because there will be elections, people will be thinking about other things.

RL:                  I agree with you completely. I think that if we don’t do it now, in 2013, it’s not going to be—it’s not going to happen in 2014. And that means that we’re going to have to wait until 2015. So now, that time is—it’s becoming a lot shorter. We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be able to have this debate. A lot of us thought that the debate was going to be in October, but now, with the problems that we’re having internationally and also here in this country, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to have this debate until—until November. And I really don’t know if it will be possible to do it in November.



Immigration Reform Stalls

The Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill passed on June 27th with a vote of 68 in favor and 32 senators opposed. The story in the House of Representatives has been quite different, however. A private two-hour meeting among House Republicans this week confirmed the group’s approach to proceed in a piecemeal fashion, rather than a comprehensive approach embodied in one bill. House leaders have announced that they will delay consideration of immigration legislation until this fall.

Some commentators have expressed pessimism that immigration legislation will ultimately pass. David Brooks, in his Sunday column, describes the immigration reform effort as “in peril.” He argues that the Senate’s immigration bill addresses four main conservative objections against CIR: (1) it increases economic growth–adding 3.3% to GDP by 2023 and 5.4% to GDP by 2033, according to the CBO; (2) it reduces the federal deficit by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years; (3) it reduces illegal immigration between 33% and 50%, according to the CBO; and (4) increases the domestic workforce and avoids demographic collapse by increasing immigration.

These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.

. . .

Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.


Status of Immigration Reform Legislation & Canada Competes for High Tech Talent

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that S.744 will be considered by the full Senate next week. Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Raul Labrador (R. Idaho) has stepped down from the House’s “Gang of Eight.” Described in press reports as one of the most conservative members of the group, Rep. Labrador is a former immigration attorney. His departure was the result of disagreement on the issue of healthcare in the immigration legislation.

While Democrats within the group had broadly agreed the immigrants in a  provisional status should not receive government subsidies for healthcare,  Labrador said they had pushed for too many exceptions in recent weeks for him to  support.

“It bothers me that they don’t have to pay for their own healthcare,” he said  Wednesday. “I believe they should have to pay for their own health insurance. If  they’re going to have the benefit of living in the United States – which is a  privilege, it’s not a right – they should provide their own health insurance.”

Labrador stressed that he left the group on good terms and said all of his  colleagues “acted in good faith.”

“We just have a different philosophy,” he said. “The Democratic Party  believes that health insurance is a social responsibility of the nation. I  believe that health insurance is an individual responsibility. And that’s a  really hard philosophy to mesh.”

As immigration reform is debated in Congress, other countries are making direct overtures to encourage high tech talent from the U.S. to relocate to their countries. Canada has placed a billboard in Silicon Valley which reads: “H-1B Problems? PIVOT to CANADA.”

Canada is not alone in reaching out to foreign entrepreneurs. In a bid to create their own versions of Silicon Valley, Britain and Australia have dangled start-up visas like [Canada’s]. Chile is even offering seed money to lure foreigners to come to Santiago and get their start-ups off the ground.

. . .

Australia offers its version of a green card to those who secure 1 million Australian dollars in financing from approved Australian venture capitalists. Britain offers temporary visas to those who procure £50,000 from a venture backer. Chile doles out $40,000 in equity-free seed capital to foreign visitors who want to start a technology business.


S.744 passes out of committee; House immigration bill hits a snag

One week ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance S.744 out of committee for consideration by the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that the bill will come to the Senate floor in June. The Congressional Research Service has prepared a concise summary of the 844-page bill, detailing the changes it would make to the immigration system.

Meanwhile, in the House, efforts to release the draft House bill for Comprehensive Immigration Reform were slowed last week when reports indicated disagreement over provisions in the draft legislation regarding healthcare. The leadership in the House still plans to introduce the draft bill in June.

As CIR is debated in Congress, commentators continue to debate specific provisions as well as the overall cost of immigration reform. Senator Jeff Sessions as well as the conservative Heritage Foundation have expressed opposition to CIR as embodied in S.744. The Heritage Foundation released a study on the costs of CIR, estimating that it would cost the United States trillions of dollars. The report was criticized by conservatives and liberals alike. Analyst Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian Cato Institute summarizing

Professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda of UCLA wrote a paper for Cato last year where he employed a dynamic model called the GMig2 to study comprehensive immigration reform’s impact on the U.S. economy. He found that immigration reform would increase U.S. GDP by $1.5 trillion in the ten years after enactment.

Professor Hinojosa-Ojeda then ran a simulation examining the economic impact of the policy favored by Heritage: the removal or exit of all unauthorized immigrants. The economic result would be a $2.6 trillion decrease in estimated GDP growth over the next decade. That confirms the common-sense observation that removing workers, consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs from America’s economy will make us poorer.

Would decreasing economic growth by $2.6 trillion over the next ten years have a negative impact on the fiscal condition of the U.S.?  You betcha.

Do the authors consider the fiscal impact of their preferred immigration policy?  Nope.



Senator Rubio: S.744 Cannot Pass the House

Senate Bill 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, is scheduled for markup on Thursday, May 8th.

An excellent summary of the employment-based provisions in the bill can be found here, on the website of Fragomen, a global immigration law firm. As the summary indicates,

Immigrant visa quota allocations and backlog clearance. The bill would retain the baseline employment-based (EB) immigrant visa quota of 140,000, but during the first several years after enactment, additional numbers would be available to clear the lengthy EB green card backlog. During FY 2015, there would be an immediate injection of thousands of unused immigrant visas from Fiscal Years 1992 to 2013. In addition, during the first four fiscal years after enactment, up to 120,000 immigrant visas from a new merit-based green card program would be available each year to employment-based immigrants. In subsequent years, the EB green card quota would be 140,000 plus unused family-based immigrant visa numbers from the previous year.    . . .

Labor certification exemption for certain STEM graduates. Foreign nationals holding advanced degrees in STEM fields would be eligible for a national interest waiver of the labor certification requirement.

Although senators are expected to offer a number of amendments to the legislation as it moves from the Judiciary Committee and, ultimately, to the Senate floor for consideration by the entire body, Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the group which drafted the bill, was quoted yesterday in Politico as stating, “‘The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House,’ Rubio told Mike Gallagher, a nationally syndicated talk show host. ‘It will have to be adjusted, because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.'” The article continues, “In a separate radio appearance Tuesday, Rubio elaborated on the challenges facing the legislation in the House, saying the enforcement mechanisms in the Senate legislation would need to be much stronger in order to pass the lower chamber.”

Immigration Facts

On April 16th, the members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” introduced their long-awaited legislation on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, S.744. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee which has already held a series of hearings on the bill.

Witnesses testifying before the committee differed on the issue of whether high skill immigration is necessary for American business or helpful to American workers. H-1B visas were a particular focus during testimony from the second panel of witnesses on April 22nd.

Discussions about immigration reform can become, as Chairman Patrick Leahy noted in his introductory remarks, emotionally-charged, which is why it is particularly important to focus on the facts surrounding immigration. James Surowiecki has written an excellent summary in the New Yorker regarding the research which supports economic benefits of CIR to the American worker.

If anything is going to wreck the current bipartisan push for comprehensive immigration reform, it’s the fact that many Americans are convinced that more immigration will be bad for American workers and for the U.S. economy. The spectre of masses of immigrants taking American jobs and driving down wages is a powerful one, especially at a time of stagnant incomes and still-high unemployment. That’s why, in a new work-trends survey released earlier this month, by the John Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, four in ten of those surveyed said that high unemployment is caused by “illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.” Intuitive as this may seem (more workers means fewer job opportunities and lower wages), actual evidence that immigration drives down wages is hard to find. On the contrary, a host of studies have found that immigration has actually boosted wages for native-born American workers as a whole, and that while immigration has had a negative impact on the wages of one group—men without a high-school education—that impact has been surprisingly small. Taken as a whole, in fact, the numbers clearly suggest that immigration reform would be a genuine boon to the U.S. economy.

This is most obviously true when it comes to high-skilled workers, particularly so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. As I wrote last summer, in the U.S. there has historically been a direct connection between immigration and entrepreneurship, and between immigration and innovation. Immigrants, particularly but not solely in the technology industry, have started companies at a disproportionate rate. And they have played a major role in fuelling innovation—in 2011, for instance, three-quarters of the patents from the country’s ten most prolific research universities had immigrants among their contributors. Skilled immigrants aren’t, as a group, taking jobs away from native-born workers. They’re creating them.