Immigration Across The Nation 04/29/2009

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H1-B applications down; deadline extended indefinitely

Petitions for H1-B foreign worker visas will be accepted from companies until the cap is met, according to reports from the Boston Globe and US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Normally, the cap for standard H1-B visas – 65,000 this year – is met within the five day application period that ended earlier this month. However, applications are down sharply due to the current economic climate, in which many IT companies are downsizing and unwilling to hire foreign workers. In 2008, about 160,000 petitions were filed before the deadline. This year, only about 32,500 applications had been filed at the deadline, and only 10,000 more after an extended week of eligibility.

Half of new American citizens in 2008 were Latino

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials issued a report showing that the number of Latinos made US citizens in the 2008 fiscal year was 461,317, more than double 2007’s total and making up about half of the 1 million immigrant citizens of 2008. Of the new citizens, 231,815 were from Mexico, 39,871 from Cuba, and 35,796 from El Salvador. Most Central American nations provided more than twice the number of citizens from 2007; the number of Cuban immigrants nearly tripled. For 2009, the application fee was hiked to $595, which may have accounted for the high level of applications for the previous year. But the Department of Homeland Security also credited Latino advocacy groups and media for promoting citizenship and urging Latinos to pursue it. The DHS estimates that there are another 12.8 million citizenship-eligible immigrants currently living in the US.

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ACLU files lawsuit over immigrant treatment

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the treatment of detainees across the US, according to a report in the Washington Post. The lawsuit cites a number of alleged abuses of human rights. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of immigrants across the US. One example cited in the lawsuit is of a basement facility in downtown Santa Ana, California, known as B-18. “The conditions at B-18 are barbaric and unconscionable,” ACLU immigrants’ rights director Ahilan Arulananthama said. “There’s no drinking water except for from one sink next to a toilet, and there is no soap.”

The facility is labeled a temporary facility, with the maximum stay of 12 hours, but some immigrants were kept there for up to 6 weeks without access to basic hygiene, as in the case of Abelardo Chavez, age 52. “It’s a hell,” he said. Russian immigrant Alla Surorova spent two weeks in the basement after overstaying her tourist visa. “Basically, we were like animals,” she said. “I was scared for my life.” Both are plaintiffs in the case.

ICE defended themselves as “committed to providing secure, safe, and humane treatment,” but did not specifically comment on the charges. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has asked for a comprehensive review of immigration detention facilities and practices.

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