Author: Anastasia Tonello

H-4 Work Authorization: A (First) Step in the Right Direction?

On May 6, 2014 DHS announced proposals to “attract and retain highly skilled immigrants.”  Along with my other business immigration colleagues, I was thrilled when the news broke.  While it isn’t comprehensive information reform, it is a step in the right direction. Let’s look at the issue of work authorization for spouses of H-1B workers, which got the most press following the announcement.  I have seen quite a few articles in which immigration advocates and experts express disappointment with the proposals noting that the change is minor and not that big of a deal.  But let’s look at this provision more closely.  According to DHS Director Mayorkas the changes would benefit as many as 97,000 spouses in the first year and about 30,000 a year after that. Consider that the entire annual cap subject H-1B allocation is 85,000 and according to the Department of State nonimmigrant visa data more H-1B visas are issued every year than any other work visa.  This proposed rule is therefore pretty significant in the grand scheme of nonimmigrant work visas.  From my corner of the world of immigration law, there is indeed cause for celebration. But looking at the proposals, and perhaps giving some inspiration to the administration, why not provide work authorization to all H-4 spouses (or dare we wish, all spouses of nonimmigrant work visa holders)?  Under 214(a), the Department of Homeland...

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Could Religion Be the Common Ground for Immigration Reform?

The Catholic Church is no stranger to the headlines.  As a Catholic I am often disappointed by its focus in the media and its presentation and stance on many issues. However, since the selection and inauguration of Pope Francis, much of the conversation in and around the Catholic Church has changed.  Last month, when the Pontiff met with President Obama, immigration became the latest issue to make international headlines from the self proclaimed “Pope of the Poor”.  Pope Francis highlighted the struggles of migrants and the often inhumane U.S. immigration policies and laws.  A ten year old girl from Los Angeles, who was able to speak to the Pope, shared the story of her father who had been in detention and who she hadn’t seen for two years.  Shortly after the story broke, her father was released from detention.  USCIS claimed the two events were unrelated – perhaps it was the Pope’s first miracle? To me, this time the Catholic Church is on the right side of the debate.  Other recent efforts by the Church to draw attention to the need for reform include the Mass held at the border on April 1, led by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, which brought together family members on both sides of the border fence to remember those who had died trying to cross the border into the U.S. Across the country, many Catholic...

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Top Ten Similarities Between March Madness and the U.S. Immigration System

As a native Hoosier and Indiana University graduate, I have always loved March Madness – the idea that any team could find a place and then potentially win or, at the very least, upset, the tournament is exciting and inspiring.  Additionally, I love lists.  Competition and the fast pace of both the games and the eliminations make March Madness a unique and inclusive sporting experience.  That said, this year was disappointing for Indiana basketball, and without my team participating, I have not been as involved.  With a bit of perspective, and inspired by another Hoosier, David Letterman, I have been pondering the top ten similarities between March Madness and U.S. immigration.  Drum roll please… 10. Competition – In March Madness, 12th seeded Harvard can eliminate 5th seeded Cincinnati; in the immigration March Madness (aka H-1B filing season), an Art History graduate from an unranked regional college could beat out a Nuclear Engineer from MIT. 9.  Randomness – In March Madness, just because you made it out of the first round, don’t expect to make it to the final four.  In immigration, just because you got picked in the H-1B lottery doesn’t mean you’ll survive adjudication. 8.  Seeds/Preferences – March Madness organizes the 68 participating teams into regions and seeds; the highest ranked teams play the lowest ranked teams giving the teams with the best records the best chance to...

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One Year Later

A year ago, Sandy tore through the New York area, leaving destruction and damage in her wake and lives upended.  The subway flooded, power was out in much of the city, and life ground to a halt for millions. As Sandy was approaching, I had been in London celebrating a significant birthday.  Emerging from a post celebratory haze, I was alerted to the storm though a wave of updates and concerned messages from friends and family.  Somehow, my flight back to New York was uninterrupted but on arrival to JFK, I felt as if they were closing the door behind us.  The airport was empty – flights were not departing and those who had arrived were quick to find a way home, or to somewhere else, depending what zone home was in. One of those places battered by Sandy was a small island on the south western tip of Manhattan – a tiny island of infinite value: Ellis Island.  As the gateway to a new life for millions upon millions, Ellis Island represents to many a new beginning and life in the U.S.  Holding much history, those paths tread by so many who were, poor, tired, hungry and troubled, but yet yearning – yearning for a new life and new opportunities; yearning for what they saw as a chance for a better life for themselves and their family. Ellis...

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