Silicon Valley Launches Chapter Program

Posted by on October 17, 2014

On Wednesday, FWD.us Silicon Valley launched its new chapter program, inviting community members to get involved in project teams to hack advocacy and bring tech and politics together. An inspiring mixture of engineers, immigration advocates, startup founders, and special guests from the Mountain View City Council and Representative Mike Honda's office gathered to kick start the new chapter.

 

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FWD.us organizers Katie Aragón and Andrew Moriarty kicked things off at Microsoft Sunnyvale, introducing the three new projects for FWD.us members: The 2.0 Project, Co-Founders Project, and Democracy Project.

Moriarty excitedly explained his goals for the chapter program: "We want this chapter to be the home for tech and politics in Silicon Valley – the place where anyone who wants to be part of the political process can come and work on big, tough problems."

Aragón added, "We want to empower our members to get their hands dirty and approach traditional advocacy with their unique skills as leaders and employees in the tech community."

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"One of the most exciting things we learned tonight is that most attendees had never been involved in a political organization before," said Aragón. "This speaks to the existing divide between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., and it underscores the need and interest of our community to be politically engaged."

FWD.us Ambassadors Prabhakar Goyal, Avinash Conda, Antonio Altamirano, and Rebecca Altamirano introduced themselves and empowered the crowd to share their stories, get involved, and become advocates. 

 

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Attendees discussed the political issues most relevant to the tech community, highlighting the urgent need for an innovative solution to our broken immigration system. Raphaël Mazet, founder of a Silicon Valley-based startup CliqStart, discussed how personal this issue is to him, saying, "I'm an immigrant and I want to live the American Dream. America needs to capitalize on immigrants who are anxious to create American jobs."

Priya Murthy, the Policy and Organizing Program Director at Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), talked about what motivates her to work on immigration, adding "Regardless of how you got here, how much much you make and where you're from... everyone should have access to the American Dream."

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"It's clear that bringing Silicon Valley together is really going to catalyze the possibilities for making real change happen," said Moriarty. Find your FWD.us chapter here, and start making an impact today. 

First FWDMonthly Held in San Francisco

Posted by on October 16, 2014

The San Francisco Chapter hosted their October FWDMonthly this week, an exciting meet up for individuals in the tech community aiming to have a greater impact in politics. The event brought together a diverse group of new and returning individuals ready to use their expertise to solve political problems like immigration reform.

Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco, was on hand to present his perspective on tech's ability to interact with and potential to innovate government. Nath emphasized the shifting perspective on the role of data, and how innovators, civic hackers, journalists, and even artists are finding ways to innovate with data. He made clear that governments have a role to play in making their information accessible to the public, while highlighting his team’s work on behalf of the city and their commitment to open data.

 

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“Our citizenry is not just there for services…or working…but to be part of the solution,” said Nath. He continued, "Data can be a medium of collaboration and cooperation."

Following the discussion, project teams met for the first time to begin strategizing. Chapter Program project teams focus on actionable tasks split into three buckets: Co-Founders, 2.0, and the Democracy Project. The Co-Founders Project focuses on using social capitol to build a movement, the 2.0 Project leverages the specialized technical skills of chapter members to shape the national narrative on critical political issues, and the Democracy Project asks members to reimagine advocacy and consider how to inspire engagement in the community.

 

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“Chapter members stayed after the discussion and continued networking late into the night, to develop action plans designed to help pass immigration reform, in addition to brainstorming more ideas get members of the tech community involved in politics,” said FWD.us San Francisco Organizer Michael Brodsky. “Exciting conversations continued long after the panel ended, and we really champion this kind of meaningful engagement.”

The night’s conversations were vibrant, energizing, and full of interesting ideas. 

 

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San Francisco’s FWDMonthly meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Help us work toward making comprehensive immigration reform, and other policy changes critical to the tech community, a reality: become a Chapter Member here.

Thank you to our event hosts for the evening, Ameredia -- a multicultural advertising agency founded by San Francisco's Co-Founder Project Lead, Pawan Mehra.

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With experience in community organizing and electoral politics, Lisa Conn joined the FWD.us family over a year ago as an energizing force driving our tech outreach efforts. She's now ushering in a new era of FWD.us organizing with the launch of a multi-faceted engagement and advocacy program.

Read on to learn more about the genesis of our new Chapter Program, and what motivates Lisa to work toward harnessing the power of tech in the national political discussion.

FWD.us: What is the philosophy behind the new FWD.us Chapter Program? What can people expect when investing their time?

Conn: We've spent the last year and a half fighting aggressively for immigration reform and engaging the tech community in the process. And we've seen great things. We passed a Senate bill. We won several congressional primaries. We launched three innovative digital tools. We engaged thousands of supporters across the country. We've assembled a brilliant team. For all this, I am deeply proud. But despite our efforts, Washington remains gridlocked. And we have failed to pass the critical legislation that our country needs. So what now? How do we learn from this? How do we do things differently? The answer lies in harnessing the disruptive energy of the tech community in a way that no one ever has before (including us).

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So how do we do this? We build a leadership class of civically-engaged people involved in the tech community, and a home for those leaders to use technology to revolutionize the way things are done. We take our organization's resources and political insight, and add the creativity and problem-solving abilities of the tech community.This idea is the heart of our chapter program.

Our monthly meet-up, FWDMonthly, is a mini-hackathon where we present our project teams with a challenge that explains the context surrounding a tough political problem. We then give our members space to test solutions to these political problems by innovating on advocacy, building tools, and producing ideas alongside a team of like-minded people. And whatever works, we amplify. 

In your opinion, why does the tech community need immigration reform now?

Because our country needs immigration reform now. Families are being torn apart. Companies are moving. People aren't able to achieve their dreams. Almost a year ago, I hired someone whose family came to the United States without documentation when he was two years old, leaving his grandparents and other relatives back in their home country. In our first interview, he told me that he fought for reform because he wanted to make sure his mother got to see her mother before she died. Well, his grandmother passed away this summer. And he and his mother couldn't say goodbye. It's enough. The time is now.

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How can an individual make the biggest impact right now?

Sign up to attend this month's FWDMonthly and bring three friends with you. Join a project team. Make your friends join, too. Push your project team to think differently and dream big. And keep coming back.

What is something you've learned about the tech community that most people don't know or would be surprised by?

Paul Graham wrote this great essay on his blog a few years back called "Cities and Ambition." In the last eighteen months, I've visited tech hubs of all sizes across the country. Silicon Valley and New York each have their own personality, as do Austin, Philly, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Durham. And when I ask supporters and leaders how they would describe their city's "ambition," the differences across regions surprise me.

Ideally, where do you envision FWD.us to be in the future?

At the helm of important issues using technology, ingenuity, and passion to make our country - and our democracy - stronger.

What inspires you to come to work each day?

Our staff. They are brilliant and inspiring, and they laugh at my jokes.

Which three songs would make up your FWD.us soundtrack?

DJ Khaled "All We Do is Win" on repeat.

Join a FWD.us Chapter near you! 

Mobile Game Creators Highlight Broken Immigration System

Posted by on October 14, 2014

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Piyush Mishra and Ravi Kumar are the creators of Get Visa, a mobile game highlighting the U.S. immigration and visa process. Their new game was recently featured by VentureBeat and their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is wrapping up this week. We recently sat down with the two creators to find out what inspired them to build a game based on the complicated process of applying for a visa to the U.S. 

FWD.us: What inspired you to create Get Visa?

Mishra & Kumar: Over 27.1% of the population of California is foreign born and immigrants are an important part of the equation for the state. Unlike a native-born citizen, an immigrant’s life is surrounded by ambiguity and uncertainty that is driven by their immigration status.

We've experienced first-hand the dysfunction of the immigration system and the ambiguity surrounding the immigration process. So we wanted to create an easy-to-understand guidebook for new immigrants and visa applicants to better understand the application process.

This objective led us to develop this gaming app called ‘Get Visa’.

Why make a game highlighting the U.S. immigration process?

In the 21st century where mobile apps, smart phones, and high speed internet are taken for granted, advanced immigration systems need advanced technological solutions that make the process easy to use and to understand.

Get Visa has gamified the U.S. visa application process and the entire immigration process can be experienced in a game. 

Why do you believe immigration reform is needed?

To be globally competitive, corporations must hire and retain global talents that are best in business. But getting these global talents onboard requires navigating through the immigration process, which is highly cumbersome and requires lot of documentation. Since 2004, the H-1B visa category has been constantly over subscribed. It is sad that the U.S. selects highly skilled talent by a lottery process. We really need to change the way we treat this pool of global talent, especially when countries like Chile and Canada are providing incentives to attract these talents.

The problem is not just with highly skilled labor visa (H-1B). Green Card processing has a long wait time and the process of moving from legal permanent resident to a citizen takes an average of 7 years, and could run decades-long based on the origin country of the applicant.

To be globally competitive, promote innovation, and boost the economy, it is very important that the U.S. immigration system is upgraded. It is important that the immigration system is relevant to present needs.

Both of you have experienced the visa application process, how would you like to see it improved?

We would like to see more transparency. We would like to have more authentic information on what to expect when in our application process. Modernization of system is not just the ability of the applicant to check the status online but have clear understanding of the process, and removing ambiguity or uncertainty.

We have developed this game for social good. We want people like us to easily understand the steps involved in the immigration process thus helping them to prepare and file a strong application.

Have either of you found the visa application process has hindered or delayed your professional goals?

Absolutely. The process has totally devastated our professional goals. We are driven by ambiguity and uncertainty. We can't even sign-up for simple things like a two year contract for our cell phone because we don't know whether we be allowed to stay here for two years or be required to leave immediately if our visa application is denied.

Why is being located in San Francisco / the U.S. essential to your success?

Silicon Valley is the epitome of innovation and entrepreneurship. This city has an established eco-system for every aspiring entrepreneur to dream and build new innovative products and solutions. San Francisco is also a cultural boiling point where you can meet like-minded people and highly skilled entrepreneurs from all over the world, all working on the next big things.

What is your vision for GetVisa in the future?

Get Visa game is a gaming app that we are building for social good. We would want more people to use it, play it and understand the highly complicated immigration process. Additionally, we are planning for the game to be available in both Android and iOS format, and free for download.

Chapter Program Launches New Projects

Posted by on October 01, 2014

As part of our ongoing efforts to engage members of the tech community in helping to reform our country’s broken immigration system, we've relaunched our Chapter Program in cities across the nation. Supporters are harnessing their skills and passions to launch three brand new projects: the Democracy Project, the 2.0 Project, and the Co-Founders Project. Read on to get an insider's peek at our launch events in Boston, Chicago, Austin, and San Francisco! 

 

Q&A with David Smooke of SmartRecruiters

Posted by on September 25, 2014

FWD.us sat down with David Smooke, SmartRecruiters Content Marketing Director, to talk about SmartRecruiters’ vision, his experience as the company’s first American hire, and why he comes to work everyday.

FWD.us: Tell us about SmartRecruiters. How was the company founded and what does it do?

David: SmartRecruiters is the technology to find and hire great people. Salesforce to sales is SmartRecruiters to recruiting. It’s the management of all existing and potential candidates, coupled with, access to other recruitment service providers and applications to find and evaluate a business’ next hire. Everything hiring is everything we help you do.

 Jerome Ternynck, of France, founded SmartRecruiters in late 2010. I joined in early 2011 as his company’s first American hire.

 FWD.us: You were there at the beginning, and now SmartRecruiters has hired dozens of Americans. Can you talk about your experience watching the company grow?

What I’ve always admired about Jerome is his sheer will to execute. What is it that makes an idea a company, and what is it that takes a company to a true market changing enterprise?

I wouldn’t trade my apprenticeship with Jerome for 1 million Snickers bars, and I am a hungry man. In late 2010, I quit my job as a small town Pennsylvania newspaper reporter after I had saved enough money to move to San Francisco. In my head, it’s the city of opportunity. The city where the quality of ideas trumps status quo of business processes. I drove across the country with the confidence to find work when I arrived. And just maybe, I read too many Beat novels and TechCrunch stories. I applied to job after job, not hearing back, or hearing that I was unqualified, or hearing maybe we can meet next week. I know now, successful startups are made by executing today.

I found SmartRecruiters on Linkedin, sent a short message to Jerome and he responded in 6 hours. Nothing too elaborate - just like a quick message from a friend. When it comes to humanizing recruitment, he’s walking the walk. We met and I thought: here’s this crazy Frenchman who is speaking my language; a language of “Why Not?” He sees how businesses should recruit... and it makes sense to me. It’s funny, you meet people all the time, and within a long minute it becomes clear: it’s about how they see the world - and not where they’re from - that matters. This vision has led SmartRecruiters to help businesses hire for 500,000+ positions.

FWD.us: What motivates you to come to work every day?

On the walk to work, I know the steps I made yesterday will make today’s steps more impactful. It’s all aggregate. Working for new business with a real purpose, a startup who is driving down costs for the small business, a startup who is bettering processes for the enterprise, a startup who sees the big picture - real business growth for all who meet the company - is the way I want to work in my life.

Leadership Change

Posted by on September 19, 2014

Over the last year and a half, FWD.us has been instrumental in leading the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in D.C., and all of you, as our supporters, partners, and volunteers, made that possible. Today, we wanted to share an important change with you.

Effective immediately, Joe Green has resigned as President of FWD.us, and Executive Director Todd Schulte will be taking over the leadership role of the organization as acting President. While FWD.us has achieved important milestones in the fight to reform immigration laws, Joe and the Board agreed a change in leadership was necessary.

Todd has been with FWD.us since June 2013, and has been instrumental in building the case for immigration reform in DC. His prior experience as Chief of Staff at Priorities USA, the Super PAC supporting President Obama's re-election, will ensure FWD.us continues its momentum for reform. Todd will continue to work closely with Rob Jesmer, who will remain FWD.us’ Campaign Manager, and with the rest of the excellent senior staff and team.

“As the mid-term elections approach, the fight for immigration reform is more important than ever,” said Schulte. “FWD.us remains on the right track to continue all the great work that our supporters, employees, partners and volunteers have made possible, and we’re excited about our future.”

We’re going to stay focused on our mission of mobilizing the tech community in support of policies that keep the American Dream achievable in the 21st century, starting with comprehensive immigration reform.

Thank you, as always, for your support in this important effort to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

 

An Entrepreneur Who Risked It All

Posted by on September 08, 2014

FWD.us chatted with entrepreneur Mike Galarza about his company Entryless, his tumultuous experience with our immigration system, and why he decided to risk everything to pursue his dream of working in Silicon Valley.

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 FWD.us: What is Entryless and how did you go about starting it?

Mike: I led a finance and accounting team for a large manufacturer. While there, I realized that cost management and financial compliance is any company’s worst nightmare. After talking with my peers, I learned that they were experiencing the same problem within their own companies.

I decided to put that to an end and created Entryless. My turning point was inspired from a talk by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel at Stanford University. His talk ignited my entrepreneurial journey.  Now based out of Menlo Park, California, Entryless transforms the way businesses manage cost. We provide real time financial compliance to a business’s cloud accounting system. Entryless accomplishes this by automatically capturing bills with our document recognition software and syncing records to widely-used cloud applications. In turn, we have received an innovation award from IBM and I was honored to be listed as a prominent immigrant in technology by Business Insider.

FWD.us: Walk us through your immigration process. What were the biggest challenges you faced in trying to come to the United States?

Mike: I dedicated an enormous amount of effort – including many sleepless nights – to earning my visa. As an entrepreneur, I was already challenged with creating a company out of nothing but an idea to create something new – but going through the immigration process proved to be an even greater challenge than starting the company.

Originally, I came to the U.S. on a TN visa under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through a previous employer, but later I found this visa to be restricting. I wanted to start Entryless, but I could not resign from my job and stay in the country to start my own company with a TN visa. So I juggled my time between my full-time job during the day and spent all night to develop my company. In order to realize my dreams, I had to change the status of my TN visa to an E2 investment visa with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

There was a greater risk of deportation for me during this time. A simple clerical error could have extinguished my dream to build Entryless in the U.S. My future and the future of my company was on the line. I was inspired to work even harder because I had to prove to the visa offices that my new business would deliver a unique value to the U.S. economy. To even apply for the E2 investor visa, I had to leave the life I had built in the U.S. behind and travel back to Mexico to submit my application. I knew that if the consul denied my visa, my startup was doomed and I might not have been able to return to the U.S. During this climactic face-to-face meeting with the United States Consul at their Embassy in Mexico City, I proved I could solve a significant problem facing scores of companies. I was granted the E2 Investor Visa and Entryless became a reality.

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 FWD.us: How has being in the Bay Area affected your business? How would you imagine your business would be different if you had founded it anywhere else?

Mike: Silicon Valley is a support system for entrepreneurship and a network where every entrepreneur can find what they need to be successful. Resources and inspiration are abundant. There is no other network like Silicon Valley.

I would never have been able to launch Entryless without being in Silicon Valley and immersed in the network it provides. Entryless is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley and owns a large customer-base in the U.S. We are undergoing an aggressive market expansion in Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada among other countries and we’re are rapidly growing 60% month-to-month across all regions. Where else could you see that kind of growth?

FWD.us: Why is it important for people in tech to get involved in politics? How can tech influence D.C.?

Mike: From my experience with politics – you don't see immediate results in politics as you do in the tech or entrepreneurship world. This does not motivate the people in tech to be engaged at the influential level of involvement needed in politics. I’ve met and heard personally from CEO’s of public companies who have gone every year for the past decade to D.C. to speak with politicians in order to get immigration reform done. To date, every year has shown the same disappointment from Washington. Immigration reform has yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s a tunnel blocked with conflicting political interests damaging the potential the U.S. has to capture and create value. Instead we’re faced with the reality that the U.S. is sending back to foreign nations some of the smartest and brightest instead of making measured efforts to retain them and help create American jobs.

Real life stories get lost in a myriad of political issues. It is crucial that people in tech get involved in politics, specifically in the immigration debate. Sharing your story, or a co-worker’s story, about overcoming the problems our broken immigration system creates for people in tech helps politicians understand the reality of the current broken immigration system and, most importantly, the impact of their political actions.

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FWD.us: Why is immigration reform critically important?

Mike: I have been really fortunate to meet with a wide variety of people who are battling our broken immigration system – from DREAMers battling their own way up, to politicians, to CEO’s of public companies, and my peers. The immigration process for foreign-born founders needs to be accelerated properly if the U.S. wants to remain at the top attracting and retaining the smartest and the brightest across all nations. This is a critical time for U.S. immigration policy. Immigration Reform cannot wait for the next session of Congress in January 2015.

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It is heartbreaking to see DREAMers fighting every day for their dreams, only to have their aspirations blocked by the current immigration system. They’re unable to participate and contribute to the U.S., after being raised in American schools and neighborhoods.

It’s up to all of us to tell our government that we want an immigration system that captures value, keeps our nation attracting the smartest and brightest workers, and maintains American competitiveness to keep our economy thriving.

 

 

Introducing the FWD.us Apprentice Program

Posted by on September 05, 2014

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About the Program

The FWD.us Apprentice Program is unlike any internship. Our apprentices contact hundreds of companies, pitch ideas at tech meetups, and meet with CEOs, CTOs, and founders of businesses to learn about the political issues that affect the tech community. Our apprentices have the opportunity to carry out cutting edge qualitative research on what political issues matter most to the tech community.

How The Program Works

This program offers experience developing communication skills. It can be difficult to email a representative you don't know at a major tech company, to sit down and host a conversation about politics, or to stand up in front of 100 people at a meet-up and talk about your organization – but apprentices get this experience. They leave the program confident and articulate, and able to network and communicate with even the most successful and influential executives in the industry.

FWD.us works tirelessly to pass immigration reform and to shape a democracy that keeps the American Dream alive in the 21st Century. At the end of the day, the Apprentice Program is an opportunity to join a movement that is changing the world.

Meet the Summer 2014 Apprentices

“To be so involved in such a powerful movement at so young an age is an incredible opportunity, and I think our success as an organization rests on the efforts of members like our apprentices.”

Shanna Gong, Apprentice Program Manager

"I went out and talked to professionals in the sustainable technology field… I spoke to solar CEOs, I spoke to biofields, heads of business development and really interesting people, really influential people... "

- Ryan, Sustainable Tech team

"This internship has affected my professional trajectory by allowing me to meet really awesome people in the ed tech space.. I've had the opportunity to network … sitting down with CEOs, sitting down with different people in different positions at different companies really exposed me to the jobs that are out there"

- Jocelyn, Educational Tech team

Who Can Apply

We encourage current undergraduates and recent graduates in the Bay Area to apply for the program. The program is open to anybody with sufficient research experience and a clear dedication to the mission of FWD.us.

When Does the Next Program Start ?

The program will begin Monday, October 6, 2014 and conclude on Friday, April 17, 2015. Apprentices are expected to commit at least 15 hours per week and work in the FWD.us headquarters in San Francisco or in the New York branch office at least two days per week.

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Join the Fall Apprenticeship Program!

How To Apply: Please send a cover letter and resume to shanna@fwd.us with the subject line “Name – Apprentice – City (choose SF / NY)

APPLY NOW

Legal Authorities Talk About Administrative Action Possibilities

Posted by on September 03, 2014

On Tuesday, August 26, America’s Voice hosted a panel of immigration law experts who discussed options for administrative relief and executive action that President Obama might be considering. Law professors and authorities on immigration law discussed the legality of potential administrative relief and executive action for American families and businesses on a reporter conference call, providing possible options that the administration may be considering, background on legal precedent, and guidance on how only a permanent legislative solution can fundamentally fix the country’s broken immigration system.

The following is a general overview of the points they made:

David Leopold, Past President and Past General Counsel, American Immigration Lawyers Association:

The constitutional & statutory basis for deferred action that would apply to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and other categories:

  • On the constitutional root of deferred action: it’s within the President’s responsibility to faithfully execute the law as set forth in the Constitution. Within that responsibility is the power to set enforcement priorities - i.e. how best to spend the limited resources at the government’s disposal in terms of enforcing that law.
  • Courts have generally given the President unfettered discretion in order to enforce the law according to the priorities they set. That’s prosecutorial discretion.
  • The statutory basis for deferred action: Congress grants the President the authority to administer and enforce immigration law. Per Leopold, “the whole concept of the immigration code as written by Congress over the years gives the executive relatively unfettered discretion in many areas” to enforce the law. The courts over the years have specifically referred to deferred action as a form of relief, and have repeatedly recognized the existence of deferred action and the President’s authority to grant it, pursuant to our priorities.

In fact, past presidents have all made use of executive action, utilizing categorical grants and individual grants dating back decades, including Presidents Kennedy, Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton. In sum, the Constitution, the statutes, the court precedents, and the administrative guidance that’s all been out there in the last 20-plus years shows us that this is firmly embedded in the law.

Stephen Legomsky, The John S. Lehmann University Professor, Washington University School of Law, and former Chief Counsel of USCIS, Department of Homeland Security:

Professor Legomsky, who was part of the team at DHS who worked out the details of DACA:

“There’s no question at all about the legality of deferred action itself: it’s just one form of prosecutorial discretion, which is standard practice for almost every law enforcement agency in the U.S. The theory: when Congress knowingly gives DHS only enough resources to go after a tiny percentage of the undocumented population, then obviously Congress intended for the Administration to formulate priorities: it has no choice. That’s what deferred action does: it prioritizes resources.

The concept pre-dated this administration, and the various immigration agencies have used deferred action for decades. With regard to DACA specifically being a permissible use of deferred action:

  • It’s always been general agency guidance as to the factors officers are supposed to apply when they decide on individual requests for deferred action.
  • As early as 1970s, the former INS laid out general factors that should guide these decisions, specifically including age, length of time in U.S., and whether there’s a criminal history.

The DACA instructions make crystal clear that they’re just guidelines, and that officers must still evaluate each case with regard to being a permissible use. So what’s different about DACA?

  • The way someone requests it (by both submitting documents + paying a processing fee): but that still doesn’t affect the legal standing. It just makes sense from an efficiency standpoint due to the larger numbers.
  • Why affirmatively tell people they can stay, and then issue work permits? To get people out of the shadows and be able to run background checks on them - it helps ensure that employers play by the rules. Congress has authorized DHS to grant work permits, and that authorization pre-dates this administration.

Cristina Rodriguez, Yale Law School; formerly Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice:

Here are two potential ways in which the Administration could use prosecutorial discretion to grant more relief - by expanding DACA, and by expanding on parole in place.

EXPANDING DACA

A decision to halt all deportations would most likely be beyond the President’s authority - so how broadly can the President extend the categories of people to whom relief is granted in the form that it has taken with DACA, and still stay on the side of the spectrum that’s consistent with his duties to take care that the laws are faithfully executed?

Again, this is somewhat of an issue due to resource limitations: prosecutorial discretion is justified primarily, though not exclusively, by the fact that Congress simply doesn’t delegate/appropriate enough resources to the executive to fully enforce the law.

Many of the categories for expanded relief within the public debate would likely fit well within the prioritization that the President has. Some likely potential candidate categories might include spouses and parents of U.S. citizen children, and parents or other relatives of DACA recipients.

  • Potential limitations: (1) Congress can and in the past has responded to efforts to enact legislation that would limit the President’s authority to expand categories. (2) It’s possible to disagree with the President’s authority to grant work authorizations - which is something separate from deferred action.

EXPANDING PAROLE IN PLACE

The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the President authority to parole individuals into the United States on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons, or for significant public benefit; it’s currently been exercised for family members of active-duty service members. It’s generally intended to be granted sparingly, and in the past, when the President has exercised executive authority in a categorical rather than an individual manner, Congress can and has responded - that’s something the Administration will have to take into consideration.

Bo Cooper, Former General Counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Adjunct Professor at American University, Washington College of Law; Partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy:

The immigration statute is designed to serve a number of national interests, and one of those is to maximize opportunities for our country to attract intellectual and professional talent from around the world. This is an aspect of the immigration policy spectrum where there’s likewise a great deal of executive branch authority to make policy reforms and to address some of the negative consequences that our country has faced due to Congressional inaction without the need for additional legislation.

The core problem has to do with the alignment between the supply of visas Congress has made available for professional skills, and the demand of the U.S. economy. On H-1B side, supply is so out of alignment with the demand that every April 1st we see a free-for-all for the available visas. On the green card side, the mismatch between supply and demand is just as acute; many professionals may wait for over a decade to enter our workforce permanently.

What can the executive branch do? It can’t change those limits - only Congress can - but it can take steps to limit the damage:

On the H-1B and green card side:

  • The executive branch could change the way it calculates those limits with respect to the spouses and minor children of principal beneficiaries to these immigrant visa petitions. Right now and for decades, the executive brand has considered those dependent family members to count against those limits, but the statutes aren’t clear in any way, and Congress hasn’t given a clarifying answer. If properly enacted through regulation, that change would make massive inroads in dealing with the consequences of the backlog. It would also benefit not just those on the employment-based side, but those on the family-based side.
  • If the Administration recaptured visas that went to waste due to disuse in earlier years. The Administration has always understood visas that don’t get issued - that were authorized by Congress but didn’t get issued - to expire at the end of the year in which they were issued. That’s resulted in a huge waste due just to processing - the Administration has estimated that potentially several hundred thousand visas are available for recapture.
  • The Administration could take steps to deal with the consequences for people who’ve been forced to sit for 10 years in this backlog (such as work authorization, be granted parole in place, or to change employers) - this is something the agencies already do.

These and other steps available would make significant progress, but wouldn’t go anywhere near correcting problems faced due to the absence of legislative reform. 

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