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Jacksonville Immigration Blog

Immigrants face harassment, assault in detention

Immigrants who are in detention centers in Florida and around the country may face abuse from employees including sexual harassment and assault. Unfortunately, there are few protections for them in these situations.

Immigrants do not have the right to an attorney in immigration proceedings. If asylum seekers are in expedited removal, immigration officers have the authority to deport them with very little oversight. Furthermore, the county jails and private detention centers contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house asylum seekers and other immigrants also operate without much oversight.

Medical doctors should consider the potential of an O-1A visa

For those citizens of other countries who wish to accept job offers in the United States, getting a visa can be more difficult than getting the actual job. Competition for most visas is quite stiff, especially for the more popular forms. For example, the most popular and common employment visa, the H-1B visa, is often used for those who work in highly skilled fields, including medicine and research.

Despite growing demand for international experts and professionals, there are still only 85,000 H-1B visas awarded every year in the United States. That can leave countless professionals, including doctors and surgeons, unable to secure a visa for a position with a hospital, research facility or university. Thankfully, there may be another option for those who truly excel in their field.

Detainees may proceed with class action suit

Workers in Florida and elsewhere may not be forced to labor without compensation. Nine detainees at a facility in Aurora, Colorado, claim that they were forced to clean under a housing unit sanitation policy. The suit claims that the workers would be threatened with solitary confinement if they didn't agree to work without compensation, which they claim is in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The site is run by the GEO Group, Inc. It contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to do so. The nine detainees had requested that they lead a class-action suit for roughly 60,000 people who had been held at the facility over the past 10 years. A lower court agreed, but the company appealed the ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the ruling but said that it was not commenting on whether the claim would be successful when heard again at the lower level.

Competition for H-1B visas expected to remain fierce

Florida residents are likely aware that President Trump has vowed to toughen the nation's immigration laws to protect American jobs. The H-1B employment visa program has been singled out for particular criticism because it allows foreign workers to assume positions in the lucrative research and technology sectors, but calls for reform are unlikely to prevent the competition for available H-1B visas to be especially fierce in the year ahead.

Employers including technology giants like Apple and Google say that they need qualified H-1B visa applicants because they cannot find individuals with the needed qualifications or skills locally. The competition for H-1B visas has grown stronger in recent years due to a surging economy and historically low rates of unemployment. The number of H-1B visas is currently capped at 85,000 per year, and it seems unlikely that efforts to revise the program will affect this number during the 2019 fiscal year.

Naturalization rates on the rise in the United States

In Florida and many other states, more immigrants are becoming eligible for naturalization. According to data compiled and recently reported by the Pew Research Center, the number of naturalizations increased by 37 percent from 2005 to 2015, a trend that resulted in nearly 20 million new U.S. citizens. Most of these immigrants were from Ecuador, India and Peru.

An interesting fact in the aforementioned Pew Research Center study is that immigrants from Mexico make up the largest group of lawful foreigners living in the U.S.; however, they present the lowest rates of naturalization. Some of the reasons cited by Mexicans who are not interested in applying for the highest benefit offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services include high fees, the burden of the bureaucratic process and lack of interest in attaining proficiency in the English language.

Changes may be coming for the H-1B program

Florida employers who want to hire and sponsor qualified foreign workers to come to the United States under the H-1B visa program may want to act quickly, as changes may be coming to the program. These changes may take place with little advance notice through the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, there is an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued each year. The annual limit is 65,000, and there is an exemption for 20,000 additional visas for people who obtained advanced degrees in the United States.

The changes on the horizon involve employees who are currently subject to these visa caps, and there may be some exceptions for nonprofit colleges and universities. For companies that want to hire and sponsor specialized global talent in the U.S., it can be important to start the H-1B application process immediately. In many cases, petitions are filed in late March or early April for a planned October start date. However, many employers would be advised to start the process now before the announcement of the changes.

Ensuring your business is compliant when hiring internationally

Many businesses around the Jacksonville area have difficultly locating the perfect candidates for specialized positions, such as engineering or chemistry. Highly-educated, skilled and trained professionals are in demand, and there may simply not be enough domestic experts in your field to fill all the critical positions at your company. That can leave your company unable to complete contractual obligations or stagnated when it comes to annual growth.

Thankfully, international hiring can offer many businesses an opportunity to connect with and recruit skilled and bright workers for their companies. However, hiring an international professional comes with its own set of complications. Even after you find the perfect employee, you will still need to fulfill substantial paperwork requirements if you hope for your potential employee to enter the country and begin the job.

Challenges create delays for H-1B visa applicants

Some foreign nationals that are planning to come to Florida to work may find that their H-1B visas are delayed. Attorneys report that their clients are getting more requests for evidence, which are also known as challenges, than normal.

H-1B visas for foreign workers are capped at 65,000 each year. People who have advanced degrees from American universities are eligible for an additional 20,000 visas.

University student caught at border checkpoint faces deportation

The situation of a 20-year-old young man detained on the West Coast illustrates the perils faced by people in Florida who lack acceptable immigration documentation. While driving with his girlfriend, the political science student encountered a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. Agents arrested him and sent him to Otay Mesa Detention Center. This privately run prison is currently the target of a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the facility breaks human trafficking laws.

Overstaying his visa represented the reason for his arrest. He did not qualify for protection under the terms of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals because he entered the country after 2007. A representative from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that he will face removal proceedings in immigration court.

The debate over sanctuary cities rages on

Sanctuary cities have been a hot-button immigration issue in Florida and around the country in recent months. Immigrant advocacy groups say that these communities allow hard-working people to avoid persecution and live in peace, but those seeking tighter border controls claim that sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime and violence. President Trump issued an executive order just days after taking office stripping federal funds from cities that harbor undocumented immigrants and refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it was blocked by a federal judge for violating the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Sanctuary cities are communities where local leaders have decided to assist undocumented immigrants by obstructing the efforts of federal authorities. The first sanctuary city was Berkeley, CA, which passed a resolution in 1971 to protect sailors who refused to fight in Vietnam. Less than a year after Trump attempted to defund sanctuary cities, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that effectively makes California a sanctuary state.

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