A Second Look at Comprehensive Immigration Reform

In February, I wrote about why comprehensive immigration reform has a chance to pass this year; now, it’s time to discuss how immigration reform can strengthen the US as a whole.

Immigration reform has heavy bipartisan support, spearheaded by President Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL). Sen. Rubio is a member of the “Gang of Eight”, the four Democrat and four Republican Senators who have introduced new immigration legislation to Congress — Rubio has also assumed the role of spokesperson for the pending bill in the Senate. The House is also sponsoring several other bills on immigration.

There are security and economic reasons for the US to reform its immigration policy, both of which will have a major impact on the US economy.

The Security Side and the Impact on Employers

Immigration reform is not going to happen without enhanced border security and metrics to measure the levels of security reached. Another measure of security to guarantee a legal workforce is to make both E-verify and Form I-9 compliance mandatory for all employers.  Senate has already earmarked $110 million dollars to these programs — employers should see new compliance regulations soon after a new immigration bill has passed.

In addition, electronic checking of departures by CBP will ensure that non-immigrants depart on the date their authorized stay expires, according to their Form I-94 record. Departures are currently recorded with a paper I-94, which is surrendered upon exiting the US. The new electronic I-94 will record departures from passenger manifests issued by airlines. Entries are currently recorded, but exits from the US are not recorded uniformly at all ports. In addition, the new bill will mandate that all passports be electronically read, which would reduce human error.

It is a misconception that highly skilled visa holders somehow depress US wages. On the contrary, where certain technical skills are in short supply, employers pay top dollar wages for visa holders and high fees to the federal government, as well as jump through legal hurdles to employ these workers. The cost of employing a foreign worker is more expensive than a domestic worker.

The Economic Side

Granting legal status to more immigrants will relieve our labor shortages in both high-skill and low-skill arenas. The educational background of native-born Americans typically includes high school and college education — few are without high school diplomas, and hardly any have Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The educational background of immigrants, on the other hand, is quite different: while many lack high school education, others hold Ph.D.s in STEM fields.

Most of the debate on immigration reform has focused on giving legal status to undocumented immigrants, upon the condition that they pay fees and back taxes. This will certainly have positive effects on our economy; however, we have more to gain from immigrants, both young and old, who, after gaining legal status, decide to further their careers in the US. Once these immigrants feel reassured about their future in the US, they will be more willing to invest in their careers.

One of our current problems is that many skill workers have trouble gaining a foothold onto the path to citizenship. Foreign entrepreneurs and technologists who study in the US are often denied works visas and return to their home country to find success. This issue is both stunting economic growth and causing a brain drain in America.

The number of available temporary visas is rarely revised and is still dependent upon caps and quotas. Our economic conditions have not been taken into consideration. Increasing visas both for high skilled workers, and lower skilled entrants in agriculture and forestry, could have a positive effect on wages and reduce the number of illegal entrants and overstays.

Immigrants also bolster our productivity growth. According to the Wall Street Journal, foreign scientists and engineers, who came to the US with an H1B visa, contributed 10-20% of the yearly productivity growth in the US from 1990-2010. Attracting innovators to our country will undoubtedly create more jobs, as more innovation means more labs, universities and companies doing research. Yet, the US’s H1B visa program only creates 65,000 visas per year for highly skilled workers. That amount has proved to be insufficient, as H1B visas quotas fill very quickly as in the last cap.

There are clear economic and security needs for streamlined and comprehensive immigration reform, and lawmakers and politicians must take action. Congress is set to vote on immigration reform before the July 4 congressional recess.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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The Struggle Over STEM Immigration

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are foreign-born students who have obtained graduate degrees from American universities in one of these four fields. Many of these students are vying for a green card to stay in the US; but the demand for green cards far outstripped supply. The result is that the best and the brightest are leaving the US for greener immigration pastures: either going back home, or to other more ‘immigrant’ friendly countries, like Canada.

In a previous blog post, I discussed how STEM graduates will help the US come out of its recession. We are currently experiencing a brain drain; and in order to remain a global force, we must reform our immigration policies. Multiple bills suggesting an increase in green cards for STEM graduates have been proposed to Congress, but none have yet to pass.

STEM Jobs Act

On Friday, November 30, the House passed the STEM Jobs Act, which reallocates 55,000 green cards per year to students with STEM degrees; the new act also seeks to remove the lottery green card program. Green cards are first made available to STEM graduates with PhDs — remaining green cards are then given to STEM graduates with Masters.

Dueling Bills

We must applaud both political parties for their sensitivity to the issue of STEM jobs, but there is a very obvious political divide. While the Republican initiative moves to abolish the 55,000 diversity visas, the Democrats want to preserve these visas for persons from under-represented countries.

This uncertainty is keeping employers from hiring qualified candidates, and keeping qualified US graduates from the US. Keep in mind, by most accounts, the education industry is a $27 billion industry with a multiplier effect on local economies.

What can we do?

Employers must lobby their Senate and House Representatives about the issue. The inaction is holding our economy hostage.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Marketing My Business Part II

Today many businesses have multiple social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogs. I have read that to make my updates easier, I must link all my social media so that one post to one media is published to all the other media outlets.

For instance, this post will go out to my Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin profiles. Do I want this? Are all the audiences for these outlets the same?

This is a question I did not ask myself before last week.  This week I am talking to my class, law practice management about marketing business. I had a speaker to talk about social media ethics. Craig Moore spoke about using Facebook and Twitter to connect with clients.

This got me thinking: why speak about the same topics on all the social media feeds? So now my plan is to explain my thinking on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook in greater depth on this blog.

I have decided to speak on different topics on Facebook and Twitter because the audiences are different. Linkedin is more corporate, while Facebook is a social website; Twitter is instantaneous.

Decide for yourself. Differentiate to stand out.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Should lawyers have a business plan?

Today, I was interviewed by Helen Gunnarsson who writes for the Illinois Bar Journal. She asked a very good question–do lawyers need a business plan?

I asked my law practice management class at St. Louis University Law School to end the class with a presentation of a business plan for their future practice. I think business plans give a lawyer a base on which to practice; we are not in isolation anymore. There is tremendous competition for the same legal dollars from everywhere, within the city, state, multi-jurisdictional firms, large volume document processors and traditional law firms.

This competition demands that we deliver legal services for a lower price; even large corporate clients have become value conscious, which means that the little gal or guy better measure up and perform. So what does this signify for us, the little guys and gals? To measure up and deliver value measured legal services, we need to identify our target client and ethically market to that client.

Lawyers are not just business-people, they also have to practice and deliver within the bounds of the rules of ethics. Just because we find that our best client is usually at the emergency room in a hospital or in an ambulance, does not imply we can accost the prospect there to convert them into clients!

Having a strategic plan also requires that we must use social media and have a website, but market ourselves within the limits of our state licenses. I use my strategic plan to identify my market, define where the prospect is located and target my best marketing skills and media to that client. Hence my strategic plan must have a plan for using social media and my current clients. You need both because the law is not yet a commodity, although some parts of it are heading in that direction. I deliver quality services to my current clients who refer other clients to me.

I have a plan on how I use my Linkedin, Facebook and blog accounts. The audience and message on these media are highly focused and the fact that your marketing plan needs to match your audience.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Entrepreneurs Can Use Immigrant Visas to Create US Jobs

Last year, USCIS suddenly decided that an H-1b could not be self-employed anymore, reversing years of policy. The White House has now reversed itself and is re-instating H-1bs for the self-employed, especially if they create jobs.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas today outlined a series of policy, operational, and outreach efforts to fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability or who otherwise can create jobs, form startup companies, and invest capital in areas of high unemployment.

“The United States must continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world to invest their talents, skills, and ideas to grow our economy and create American jobs,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Today’s announcements will help our nation fully realize the potential of existing immigration laws.”

“Current immigration laws support foreign talent who will invest their capital, create new jobs for American workers, and dedicate their exceptional talent to the growth of our nation’s economy,” said Director Mayorkas. “USCIS is dedicated to ensuring that the potential of our immigration laws is fully realized, and the initiatives we announce today are an important step forward.”

These actions mark the six-month anniversary of Startup America, a White House-led initiative to reduce barriers and accelerate growth for America’s job-creating entrepreneurs. They have also been one key focus of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which has recommended taking action to help ensure that America can out-innovate and out-compete the world in a global economy.

USCIS has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document on its website clarifying that entrepreneurs may obtain an employment-based second preference (EB-2) immigrant visa if they satisfy the existing requirements, and also may qualify for a National Interest Waiver under the EB-2 immigrant visa category if they can demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the interest of the United States. USCIS will complement these FAQs with internal training on the unique characteristics of entrepreneurial enterprises and startup companies and incorporate input from the upcoming stakeholder engagements detailed below.

The EB-2 visa classification includes foreign workers with advanced degrees and individuals of exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Generally, an EB-2 visa petition requires a job offer and a Department of Labor certification. These requirements can be waived under existing law if the petitioner demonstrates that approval of the EB-2 visa petition would be in the national interest of the United States.

In response to stakeholder feedback, USCIS has also updated existing FAQs to clarify that an H-1b beneficiary who is the sole owner of the petitioning company may establish a valid employeremployee relationship for the purposes of qualifying for an H-1b nonimmigrant visa – which is used by U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as science, engineering, and computer programming.

The EB-5 immigrant investor program is also being further enhanced by transforming the intake and review process. In May, USCIS proposed fundamental enhancements to streamline the EB-5 process which include: extending the availability of premium processing for certain EB-5 applications and petitions; implementing direct lines of communication between the applicants and USCIS; and providing applicants with the opportunity for an interview before a USCIS panel of experts to resolve outstanding issues in an application. After reviewing stakeholder feedback on the proposal, USCIS is developing a phased plan to roll out these enhancements and is poised to begin implementing the first of these enhancements within 30 days.

Created by Congress in 1990, the program stimulates the U.S. economy through capital investment and resulting job creation by immigrant investors. As of June 30, 2011, it is estimated that the program has resulted in more than $1.5 billion in capital investments and created at least 34,000 jobs.

USCIS has also announced the expansion of its Premium Processing Service to immigrant petitions for multinational executives and managers (often referred to as “E13”). The Premium Processing Service allows employers to expedite processing of their petitions, absent evidentiary deficiencies, fraud or national security concerns.

Finally, USCIS is launching a new series of engagement opportunities for entrepreneurs and startup companies. These opportunities will focus on soliciting input from stakeholders on how USCIS can address the unique circumstances of entrepreneurs, new businesses and startup companies through its policies and regulations in the employment-based arena. For detailed information on USCIS‘s public meetings, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Marketing Your Law Practice Part II

I don’t care how many people tell me that marketing on the internet is the way to go, the only way to be seen and to attract clients; I still think the good old fashioned way of building relationships is the way to build your business and brand.

Relationships can be built in person or over the net. I am a member of a quite a few listserves, both professional and personal. The more you write to listserves, the more your name is know to other contributors. I go to conferences and it is fun to meet and greet other listserve ‘contributors’; I feel I already know them, and we have a conversation as if we have known each other for years.

Community involvement is also a relationship builder. A friend of mine celebrated her 70th birthday. I was delighted to be part of the party planning committee. It was a great success; we had over a 100 people show up. I met and befriended so many persons I would never have met otherwise.

I never realized that my updates on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were being seen by my friends. Recently, I posted a remark about my children graduating and finding their place in life; ‘it was a joy’, I wrote. I had the greatest number of responses to that tweet. My professional tweets never solicit so many responses!

I am still trying to walk the tightrope of being real onlinem and yet not revealing personal details that would jeopardize my clients and friends.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Civil Unions

Civil unions are usually viewed as a benefit to same sex couples, allowing the parties to legalize their relationship and recognize that they are a couple just like you and me. The Illinois Senate has passed the bill and it has gone up to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. Governor Quinn is scheduled to sign the bill next year. The law could take effect next summer, June 11, 2011. But with this law, Illinois has enacted a law that has widespread effects. The law is called The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act. The law was enacted because same sex couples were denied marriage benefits, and there was no compelling state interest or rational basis to deny same sex couples these marriage benefits. The bill particularly mentions that the purpose is not to interfere with religious freedom or beliefs about marriage. The bill will apply equally to same and opposite sex partners (something new) who want to enter into a civil marriage or union. Same sex partners will be called ‘spouse’, ‘immediate family’, and ‘dependent’. This is important because it has implications for divorce, probate law and other domestic relations law. So same sex couples can marry, divorce and have standing in court to sue on these actions. They can also inherit under probate law as a civil union spouse, sue for emotional distress, wrongful death, loss of consortium under Illinois tort law. As spouse, they can apply for insurance benefits – health and accident, be eligible for group insurance in employee insurance plans. Under Illinois tax law, they will be eligible as spouses for taxes and tax deductions as spouses and dependents. Marriage, under the Illinois law, is prohibited between siblings, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece. Because same sex couples are treated as ‘spouses’ under the marriage and divorce law of Illinois, they can now share rights to make end of life decisions, nursing home decisions, transfer of property to spouses, and survivor benefits. Under workers’ compensation rules, ‘spouses’ can claim benefits. Did I say there was something different about this bill? Well, heterosexual couples who do not want to marry, can opt for a civil union and enjoy the same benefits as a married couple would do. Why, you ask? Let us say that a couple is interested in a domestic partnership because they face loss of health insurance and other benefits, or seniors who will lose their social security survivor benefits, pension or income if they remarry, then this bill offers a way out. Seniors can also now have the right to make emergency decisions for their ‘spouse’ under this new law. It recognizes the relationship without the concomitant problems of marriage. So it provides straight couples some legal support but no title of marriage. Employers should review their employee benefits, especially health insurance, and family leave benefits and their compliance with applicable labor laws. Couples who opt for civil unions under this law can also make end of life decisions–they do not have to have powers of attorney to end, for example, a vegetative state. Remember the Terry Schaivo case? They also have the right to make funeral home decisions and take charge of the remains. But these protections are offered only at the state level and have no application at the federal level. Tax law, immigration law and a host of other laws will not recognize these relationships as spouses. I guess you could then claim a ‘spouse’ under the new law as a dependent under state law but not federal law. The federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, recognizes marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. DOMA does not recognize civil unions even if the union is recognized by the state. This is a legal conundrum because the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution makes it mandatory to recognize the laws of another state in the Union, and accord foreign state laws equal application and status. But same sex unions or marriages are non-existent in federal law. A United States Citizen or legal permanent resident cannot sponsor a same sex partner of foreign citizenship to live with them in the United States as their ‘spouse’. Same sex marriage was banned in California after Proposition 8 was passed. But on August 4, 2010, a federal district court decided that such a ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. The equal protection clause does not guarantee equality among individuals or classes but only that the laws would be applied equally to all. The question remains for us: are some more equal than others? Is the federal government practicing discrimination by the unequal application of laws, or by denying rights to some? Is this a slippery slope we should not venture on?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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TSA and Other Intrusions on Our Privacy

Yesterday, it was TSA intruding on our privacy with full body scanners and full body pat downs. These searches caused issues for persons with disabilities. TSA officers need more training on how to interact with disabled persons. Tom Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, had a urostomy (artificial bladder) and was embarrassed by TSA officers who ruptured his bag in an over zealous search. Today, air travelers are participating in a boycott of full body x-ray and opting for the full body pat down. The only persons who were affected were their fellow passengers!  The shoe bomber of 2002 and the Christmas day bomber of 2009 taught us not only to fear the dreaded holiday weight gain, but also terrorists who feel the holidays merit their special attention. I’ll take weight gain over being blown up…ha!

The alternative to intrusive scans is racial profiling. Targeting a particular racial group for extra law enforcement attention: Israel has mastered the art. Sometimes air passengers are questioned for 3 hours before a flight. If you are Arab, Israeli or a foreigner flying on El Al, then you are subject to humiliating body searches and in depth interrogation. The Israelis do not find it necessary to question innocent passengers who are 99% of the traveling public. There are no airline terrorist incidents affecting the Israeli airline.

An even greater threat to us is our online privacy. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a front page article about information collection by data mining companies. Two US companies, Kindsight, Inc. and Phorm, Inc, are promoting deep packet inspection as a way of collecting information about you as you surf the net. Their technology reads and analyzes data as it flies across the internet. This is very detailed profiles of internet activities, capable of reading e-mail and sensitive online activity. These services are used by internet advertisers to target consumers with particularized ads tailored and based on developed, detailed internet profiles. How does it work? You are online, sending e-mails, watching online videos, site surfing. The information is collected and sent in data packets from your computer to your internet service provider (ISP). The ISP channels your search to websites. These companies have the capability of reading (inspecting) these data packets traveling between ISPs and the websites you want to visit. Then when you visit the website, you see an ad from a store that you last visited online, or a news story that may be in your interest range. This profiling is possible because these companies know more about your habits, income, assets and debts than you thought possible. They know your age, driving history, your addresses, whether you rent or own, the names of your family members. These details from public websites can be easily obtained by anyone who knows where to look on the internet. The technology is largely driven by the need for more revenue; targeted ads garner more interest and revenue. This is especially true now that ISPs are under greater fire to provide more services at lower prices. When I was researching articles for this blog, I received ads from my favorite stores. Of course, I would be more tempted to click on the ad. That is what these companies want; targeted ads provide larger revenue streams. As I surf the net, I try to use not only Google, but also Bing, Ask and Yahoo for my searches. Use some of the lesser known search engines. Opt out of privacy announcements. I now read every online agreement before I agree. As with everything internet, buyer beware.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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What a Republican Win Means to Me

So the Republicans won last week and we know that candidate Lisa Murkowski from Alaska may have lost, largely because her name was misspelled by the voter and could not have been counted. Sow what does a Republican win mean for immigration? If Republicans are pro-business, that means that business may start humming again largely due to the fact that the uncertain legislative climate is behind us. The 4,000+ changes brought about by health care reform and wall street reform had businesses reeling, trying to play catchup with compliance.

A Republican win also means that enforcement at the border and against businesses will remain at the same high level of execution. So there may be a better business climate leading to more hiring and causing businesses to bring over more foreign workers, provided they did not take TARP funds (bailout funds) from the federal government or have repaid the funds. Right now, businesses are not hiring foreign nationals because they are busy laying off workers. Enforcement business has been steady in immigration, whether it is deportation of out of status foreign citizens or punishing businesses employing foreign citizens without work visas.

I also practice estate planning. For CPAs and lawyers and the IRS, working in this area means the uncertainty of 2010 carry over basis may be over! Finally we will go back to having $3.5 million of exemption from federal estate taxes, so my Missouri estate planning clients will now have more advice from me, other than “please don’t die in 2010!” Congress still has to enact new law to give effect to my dreams, but I can dream now! As a small business owner, I heave a sigh of relief! Now I think I will stop working for Uncle Sam until June. When you are a small business owner, you wear many hats: lawyer, parent, tech geek, accountant and even counselor. I had to hire a service to process payroll because it was consuming too much time and I was never sure I had the numbers correct. If you pay too little, the fines and penalties can really add up from the State and Federal tax man.

So I freed up some time to actually practice law. We need less government and more private enterprise. More money in my pocket as a small business, and I may actually be able to hire another person in the office. What a revolutionary thought!  When you think about unemployment, there is a structural unemployment of 5.5%; total unemployment 11%. Structural unemployment means joblessness caused not by lack of demand, but by changes in demand patterns or obsolescence of technology; and requiring retraining of workers and large investment in new capital equipment. So there were already 51.5% of the population of the US not working when the recession started in 2007. Now there are 5-6% more. Look at it another way: 89-90% of persons employable are working. Maybe when you wake up and see the unemployment number you will feel better about your situation. I see people who have lost their jobs. These people are on a work visa or are awaiting a grant of permanent residency. For these people, it is a precarious living, made worse by the fact that their very existence in this great country is jeopardized by being jobless. Perhaps an enlightened immigration policy that favors business will be enacted by the new Republican party in power. I can dream can’t I?

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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Enjoying Your Life

I guess you could ask me why I am writing about enjoying life rather than about some legal topic that I usually blog about. I have realized that I need to enjoy my life in order to enjoy coming to work everyday and dealing with clients’ problems. So how do I enjoy life?  Friends online and in real life; exercise and the outdoors. This weekend I went to Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. I rented a paddle boat, the kind you paddle with your feet. It is a lot harder than it looks! The day was beautiful, the fountains were spewing water everywhere, and the wind carried the spay with it! As I watched, four wedding parties came and went, took pictures with their friends, jumped in the air for an action shot. It took me about an hour and twenty dollars, but it was invigorating and renewing. Just the thing I needed to face Monday.

Fall colors at Creve Coeur Lake Park, Creve Coeur, Missouri

Forest Park Lake, St. Louis, Missouri

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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