New Haven residents sue US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Ten New Haven residents who were arrested during the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in 2007 are suing the agency in federal court, claiming that their civil rights were violated.
The lawsuit was filed today in New Haven, naming the agents who conducted the raids and senior ICE officials as defendants. The plaintiffs are being represented by Yale Law School students.
The lawsuit states that the raids involved warrantless searches, and the plaintiffs were arrested based on their race or ethnicity. The raids occurred 36 hours after city officials approved a program to issue identification cards to all residents, including undocumented immigrants.

Source

NVARSappointment.com

US and Canadian forces join hands to establish a task force at Detroit-Windsor border

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has established a joint task force to keep gang-related activities from crossing the U.S.-Canada border at Windsor, Ont.
Windsor police chief Gary Smith was in Detroit to announce a new, US-Canada task force to monitor the Detroit-Windsor border. The Border Enforcement Security Task Force, or BEST, comprises law enforcement officers at the federal, state and local levels in the U.S. and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police and Windsor Police Service in Canada.
Together, the agents will cover about 1,160 kilometres of the US-Canada border.
"The BEST's mission is clear — to collaboratively identify and disrupt transnational criminal organizations exploiting our shared border," Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations in Michigan and Ohio, said in Detroit.

Its focus includes:
National security and terrorist threats.
Human smuggling and trafficking.
Contraband smuggling.
Bulk cash smuggling.
Money laundering.
Transnational gang activities exploiting the border region.
BEST good news for Windsor

In the past, law enforcement in both countries has faced hurdles caused by bureaucratic red tape. In the new scenario, Windsor police will assign one constable to work in the BEST office in Detroit to streamline communication between both jurisdictions and make it "a little bit smoother," said Windsor police Chief Gary Smith.
"If they call us and say 'We have a person going to this area. Can you check that out? Can you do a surveillance? Can you put some intelligence out there?' we can do that rather than them going through Washington, through Ottawa, and coming back down," Smith said. "Timing is everything."
"Now we're not slowing down at the port of entry to try to figure out 'Alright, who can we call at OPP or Windsor or RCMP or CBSA?'," Moskowitz said. "They're there, and those things can happen in real time."
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who on Oct. 1 called Windsor "a conduit for guns" because of its proximity to the U.S. border, praised the new task force, calling the co-ordinated enforcement a positive development.
"The issues that we've been dealing with on border cities clearly identifies that guns, gangs and drugs don't recognize a border," Francis said.
Detroit's BEST is the 17th in the U.S. and the third on the northern border. There are three BESTs each in Texas, California and Arizona, two in New Mexico and New York, and one each in Florida, Washington and Mexico City.
In fiscal 2008, BEST teams seized 23,777 kilograms of marijuana, 818 kilograms of cocaine and 386 kilograms of ecstasy, as well as 432 weapons and more than $8.8 million US, according to a press release.

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NVARSappointment.com

Mexican soldiers discover underground tunnel near San Diego

Mexican soldiers have discovered a secret underground tunnel near San Diego, complete with electricity supply and an air supply that may have been planned for smuggling migrants or drugs under the U.S. border into San Diego.
Reporters in Tijuana were invited by military officials to a private, industrial property about 100 feet south of San Diego's Otay Mesa border crossing. Law enforcement officials opened the property for the media and then left.
The journalists, including about 20 reporters, photographers and videographers, walked around until they spotted a big hole, the entrance to a 4-foot-wide tunnel hidden behind a tractor-trailer.
Several walked inside but reached a dead end. Inside they came across blueprints, a shovel and maps of the border region.
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency assisted the Mexican military after the tunnel was discovered. She said it was incomplete, stopping right under the edge of the border fence.
Authorities have discovered dozens of tunnels burrowed under the border in recent years, many of them incomplete. U.S. authorities typically destroy such tunnels.

Source

NVARSappointment.com

Department of Homeland Security makes changes to Immigrant policing plan

The Department of Homeland Security has said that it has made changes to the Immigrant policing plan and renewed agreements with local agencies. US immigration officials have said that they have addressed problems in a program allowing state and local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Department of Homeland Security officials said that they have made changes to address complaints that the program, which is meant to root out dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants, is prompting local police to target immigrants who commit relatively minor offenses and to engage in racial profiling, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper said the changes include requiring law enforcement officers enrolled in the program to pledge to observe federal anti-discrimination law, beefing up its supervision and flagging problems and complaints from the public.
DHS officials alo said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement intends to expand the program and has renewed agreements with 55 state and local law enforcement agencies. Twelve more, they said, have reached tentative agreements.
The newspaper said ICE is negotiating with six other agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The Times said critics of the program. which include some members of Congress, weren't satisfied with the changes.

Source

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Number of Indian students on F-1 visas to the US witnesses a 25% decline

It's official now ! The number of students in the US on F-1 visas has seen a sharp drop this year. There were less F1 student visas for the US issued across India in financial year 2009 (Oct 08-Sep 09) than the previous year. In fact, 25,860 issuances in FY09 actually translates into a whopping 25% decline over the 34,510 issued last year.
Most experts and consultants feel that the fall in numbers of Indian students choosing to go to the US for higher studies is because of the fall in financial aid offered by institutions rather than any visa strictures.
"The US student visas are streamlined now and the reason for less students going to the US from India is probably because educational institutions are offering less financial aid in view of the economic slowdown. In fact, endowments in US colleges have been hit in a big way," says Poorvi Chothani, Mumbai based immigration lawyer and founder and principal member of law firm LawQuest.
The influential Open Doors report published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is scheduled to be published next month, will provide a detailed break-up of the numbers of international students at colleges and universities in the US.
"Till 2007-08, India remained the leading country source for international students in the US. This was for the seventh consecutive year, with an increase by 13% to 94,563.
However, this year, in view of the slowdown, there could be a different trend," feels Ajit Motwani. India director of IIE.
And even as most experts agree that lower financial aid and scholarships are the main reason for the drop in number of Indian students going to the US, many are hoping that as the recovery kicks in the numbers will improve.
"Going to the US for higher education is an investment decision and in India we’re now seeing all the markets reviving and investors coming back. I think that next year, the number of students going to the US will again increase as many are now making decisions to go and doing the required paperwork," says Mumbai-based education consultant Karan Gupta.
And even in FY 09, many students have received substantial funding in a range of disciplines to study in America. "We have had success with several students receiving substantial funding as well. Many students who went on to pursue some new disciplines such as fashion marketing, neuroscience, pastoral studies, petroleum engineering, imaging sciences, oceanography and global development economics received financial assistance. In general, students applying for research programmes continue to receive funding despite the drop this year," says Shevanti Narayan, country co-ordinator at the US-India Educational Foundation.

Source

NVARSappointment.com

Immigration activists march for reform

Expressing their frustration and anger with the lack of action by the Obama administration and the Congress, hundreds of immigration activists staged a rally on Capitol Hill, pressing for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws to offer a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
The event, featuring participants waving the US flag and flags of several Latin American countries, coincided with the release of a new immigration-reform blueprint released by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force.
Melissa Lozano, 27, who traveled from Morristown, N.J., to attend the rally and prayer vigil, said U.S. immigration policy is "a broken system that criminalizes immigrants, separates families and exploits families that are here working hard."
But the drive for action this year could be complicated by the results of a new poll of Mexican attitudes obtained by The Washington Times, which found that a majority of Mexicans say that if the U.S. pardons illegal immigrants, it will encourage more of them to cross the border illegally and that most Mexicans think their countrymen living in the U.S. should still owe their loyalty to Mexico.
The poll, conducted by Zogby International and commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a group that favors stricter immigration limits, is being released on Wednesday. It found that 56 percent of Mexicans surveyed said their friends and family would be more likely to cross the border illegally if the U.S. government passes a bill to legalize those already here.
"The message is clear. No matter how they are sold to the public, amnesties don't work," said George W. Grayson, a CIS board member and Mexico specialist who helped frame the wording of the poll questions. "In fact, they are counterproductive because they raise expectations - and illegal migration - based on the belief that one amnesty will give rise to a second ... and a third."
Having slipped on his promise to sign an immigration bill this year, President Obama now says he wants to have that debate early in 2010.
But Mr. Gutierrez, who has taken over leadership on the issue after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's death in August, signaled that patience among the president's supporters is not infinite.
"Saying immigration is a priority for this administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action," he said. "The longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform."
Ivonne Rivera of Washington immigrated to the United States from her native El Salvador 30 years ago and is now a U.S. citizen.
"We have a large population of people - 12 million - that have become a subculture living in the shadows, struggling in poverty and fear, and experiencing family separation," she said at Tuesday's rally.
But proponents of immigration reform will have to grapple with how to actually reduce future illegal immigration. Many lawmakers say they feel burned by the 1986 amnesty, which promised a one-time forgiveness in exchange for getting control of the border. Many lawmakers say the government followed through on the legalization, but not the security.
In 2007, the last time Congress debated the issue, the Congressional Budget Office said the bill that President Bush and Democratic leaders wrote would only reduce illegal immigration by about 25 percent. That bill failed to pass the Senate.
Steven A. Camarota, research director for CIS, said with one-third of Mexicans saying they know someone who lives in the U.S. already, "the social networks are already in place."
"If you legalize folks, you generally will encourage them to come," he said.
The CIS poll also found that 69 percent of Mexicans think that their countrymen living in the U.S. should show their primary loyalty to Mexico, and not the U.S. That finding could prove to be a problem for those who say immigrants need to do a better job of assimilating into the U.S.
The Zogby poll consisted of 1,004 in-person interviews of adults throughout Mexico. It was conducted in August and September. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Source

NVARSappointment.com

US Consul General in India urges students to avoid using agents

The US Consul General advised students in India seeking study visa to directly approach them instead of going through agents.
"There are several myths regarding procuring US student visa among the people. We come to know about them when the students come for visa interview," vice-counsellor of US Consul General in Mumbai, Lisa Larson, told reporters here.
"We advice students to directly approach US Embassy for the study visa. Agents are absolutely not necessary. We have learnt that they charge high fees from students," she said.
She said that all the details regarding visa process are available on its websites.
Larson said they are organising interactions in colleges and important cities with students and their parents to make them aware about the right process for visa application as a part of their awareness programme.
She said they had also noticed fake document submission by students seeking US visa.
"We are very strict regarding flawed documents and will not approve visa of any such persons," Larson added.
Infact, getting US visa is not related to perfect documentation. The applicant has to satisfy the officer who is interviewing, she added.
Larson said students seeking US visa require to show that they are financially fit to pay their college fees and stay in America for the first year.
"We do not ask for any other financial requirements for those seeking student visa."
She said there is a big drop in number of people seeking visas in all the sections, including students visas, due to the economic slowdown in the US.

Source

NVARSappointment.com

More than 18,000 of the mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas still available

Once coveted by techies from the Indian sub-continent, more than one fourth of the H-1B visas for skilled professionals are yet to be filled up, with the US job market still to pick up as it recovers from its deepest recession in decades.
By Sep 25, 2009, only about 46,700 of the H-1B visas in the general category were filled up against a Congressional mandated cap of 65,000, according to the latest update by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Thus, more than 18,000 H-1B visas are still to be filled up, even as the new financial year began on Thursday. 
The USCIS said it would continue to accept the petitions till the allocated quota is filled up. Further, even though it has received some 20,000 H-1B petitions in the high-education category, it would continue to accept application in this category too. 
"USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn," it said. 
To be noted is the fact that USCIS warned that it will deny or revoke all petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker if more than one filing is discovered. 
If multiple petitions are discovered, whether one or more such petitions are approved, USCIS will data enter all those duplicate petitions, retain all fees, and either deny the petitions or, if a petition was approved, revoke the petition, it said. 
This is for the first time in several years that thousands of H-1B visas are still to be filled up even at the start of the financial year. 
In fact, in the last one month, USCIS received just 1,600 petitions for H-1B visas, which officials said reflects the poor job market scenario in the US. 
This is unlike the previous years when the entire 65,000 visas were grabbed on day one. Many a times, the USCIS had to resort to a computerized lottery to determine the successful candidates.


Source


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US government considering reforming immigration detention system

The US is planning to change the way illegal immigrants are detained.
It is considering plans to use sites like converted hotels and nursing homes to house some immigrants awaiting processing or deportation.
This plan is a part of an overhaul of the system of detaining immigrants, amid reports of abuses and poor care.
Immigrants would be held according to the risks they posed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Each year, thousands of immigrants are held in US jails, alongside regular prisoners, awaiting deportation.
"This is a system that encompasses many different types of detainees, not all of whom need to be held in prison-like circumstances," Ms Napolitano said.
"These new initiatives will improve accountability and safety in our detention facilities."
At the same time, Ms Napolitano stressed that enforcement of immigration laws would continue "unabated".
The US has been criticised for holding illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in often crowded jails alongside regular prisoners who pose a higher risk.
There have been accusations that detainees have been denied due process and have received poor medical care.
During 2008, a total of nearly 380,000 people were in custody or supervised by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The facilities used to house the immigrants are mainly jails and prisons, which also house people awaiting trial and those serving sentences.
On 1 September, 2009, ICE had 31,075 immigrants in detention at more than 300 facilities across the US.
Of these, 66% were subject to mandatory detention and 51% were felons. Of these, 11% had committed violent crimes, while the majority of the population were seen as low risk.
The plans for reform, which will be put to Congress, can also result in savings in the cost of detaining immigrants, which stood at almost $2bn (£1.3bn) in 2008.
Ms Napolitano's department says alternatives like converted hotels and nursing homes would cost about $14 a day, compared to about $100 for detention in jail.
President Barack Obama has spoken of the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the US, where an estimated 12 million undocumented people live and work.
Efforts by his predecessor, George W Bush, to reform US immigration laws collapsed in 2007.




Source

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Chicago's failed Olympic bid- US visa and immigration system to blame ?

There have been reports that Chicago lost the bid for the Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro because of the US immigration policy.
Is the U.S. losing some of its place as a destination for foreign tourists? Syed Shahid Ali, a member of the International Olympic Committee from Pakistan, raised the issue ahead of the IOC picking Rio to host the 2016 Summer Games over Madrid, Tokyo and last-place finisher Chicago.
Coming into the U.S. can be “a rather harrowing experience” for foreigners, he noted, wondering whether it would be a problem if Chicago were to get the games, The New York Times reported.
“One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world,” President Obama responded, adding that the White House and the State Department would make it more convenient for visitors from abroad.
Advocates for immigration reform were quick to take note of the IOC member’s inquiry.
“The Olympics - Yet Another Victim of America’s Broken Immigration System,” was the headline on a statement issued by the Immigration Policy Center. “This recent disappointment proves that immigration reform is not just a pressing domestic issue, but an international one as well. The President may say the U.S. is open for business, but our nation’s actions have proved quite the opposite.”


Source


NVARSappointment.com

Chinese student gets student visa on her fourth attempt

Obtaining a U.S. student visa can take perseverance. Yunjiao Shangguan is an exercise science sophomore from Shenzhen, China, who managed to receive a student visa on her fourth attempt.
“I wanted to come here to play tennis,” she said. “That was my main motivation.”
This current tennis season is the first in which Shangguan is eligible to play for SVSU.
Shangguan says she also wanted to come to America to improve her English. The first two times Shangguan applied, she was rejected because of her level of proficiency with the English language. The third time, State Department officials did not provide her reason.
Shangguan says that she was discouraged after her third rejection, but her father persuaded her to try again. He visited the U.S. on business and knew about the quality of an American education.
“They let you express your ideas,” she said, “and he really wanted me to come here to study.”
Visa applicants currently pay a $200 fee for the State Department interview, up from the previous amount of $150. There used to be a maximum of three attempts, but now visa applicants are allowed unlimited attempts.
On her fourth attempt, she was approved. “I was excited,” Shangguan said. Within two weeks of being approved for her student visa, she arrived at SVSU to begin her studies.
Sam Heikinen, director of international admissions, first met Shangguan about three years ago during an education expo in Chendu, China. Heikinen recruits internationally at educational exhibitions and through school visits, television, radio and print media.
“Yunjiao Shangguan got her visa on the fourth try. I was running around in circles. I was so happy she was coming off the airplane,” Heikinen said.
The number of students receiving an American visa is different for each country.
“We have a very good visa yield rate with China right now. We’ve done exceptionally well,” he said.
Higher education is America’s fifth largest export commodity. Heikinen says China is the No. 1 country sending students to SVSU for study.
“We get a lot of great, quality students from there,” he said.
Nationally, India is the first, China is No. 2 and South Korea is No. 3.
“A lot of people have a misconception as to how international students get a visa to come here. It has nothing to do with their home country. These students don’t get a visa from their government – they get a visa from our government.”
International students receive an I-20 application document from the International Programs office to obtain an F-1 non-immigrant student visa.
Applicants in China meet with U.S. State Department visa officers in a three- to five-minute interview. Applicants must prove they have no intent other than to study in the U.S.
Heikinen says, “The State Department people always state that they always want to give every deserving student the visa.”
Visa applicants must prove that they have non-liquid assets in the amount they can pay for one to four years of education here. They must also explain why they wish to come to the U.S. to study and why they intend to return to their country of origin after graduation.
“This is probably what they are most concerned about,” Shangguan said. “If you do not have a strong reason, they will definitely reject you.”
Heikinen says that more time, effort and resources should be dedicated to streamlining the overwhelming red tape. “We have to know who is coming through our borders, but we are America.”
Most of the time, students’ visas expire before they’ve graduated. Students then must return to their home country to renew the student visa before returning to complete their degrees.
“International students give our American students a great deal of understanding and a bridge to our friends around the world,” Heikinen said. “When they do go home, they take back with them that love of America.”


Source


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