Immigration Across The Nation 11/05/2008


►$1.7 Billion Settlement for Temporary Workers

Workers on H1-B three year employment visas were awarded $1.7 billion as part of a settlement between the US Department of Labor and Globalcynex Inc., an IT Services firm based in Sterling, Virginia, according to reports from legal watch service Over a two year period between March 2005 and March 2007, the workers, mainly Indian nationals, were charged training fees of $1,000 to $2,500, in violation of immigrant law, and were not paid standard wages. H1-B visas, as well as permanent immigrant visas, are still in high demand in the tech industry for workers to fill unskilled labor jobs, especially in telephone services.

►Local Pennsylvania Anti-Immigrant Law to be Decided in US Court of Appeals

According to reports from the Associated Press, a Hazleton, Pennsylvania ordinance of 2006 that made it incredibly difficult for undocumented immigrants was struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional, citing that local towns and cities did not have the right to supersede federal and state laws. Under the ordinance, which was called the Illegal Immigrant Relief Act, business owners in Hazleton were fined for employing undocumented workers, and rental property owners were fined for renting property to them. Though it is illegal to hire undocumented workers, businesses are not typically subject to enforcement from local laws, but answer to national and state immigration jurisdiction.

The city of 33,000 has a large immigrant population. Lawyers for the town argue that the local ordinance is valid because it does not conflict with federal or state regulations, and are appealing the federal ruling in order to restore the ordinance. But according to an investigation by the Philadelphia Daily News, the city has suffered little during Hazleton’s years of immigrant influx – the private hospital system turned a multi-million dollar profit, the crime rate dropped, and the budget deficit became a surplus.

The 3rd District Court’s ruling will be the first in a federal court of appeals to affect local immigration law, and will have significant application for future instances of local law. The three judge panel declined to comment as to when the ruling might take place. The case has also had influence in the political arena, as Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who originally enacted the ordinance, is currently running for Congress as a Republican in Pennsylvania’s 11th District, which includes the heavily Democrat cities of Scranton and Dunmore, in a tight race against Democrat incumbent Paul Kanjorski.
►Can You Be Arrested for Unknowingly Using Someone Else’s Identity?

Another impending ruling, this time in the US Supreme Court, will decide whether someone can be charged for having false documents that, outside of their knowledge, belong to someone else, according to reports from the Guilfordian and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. Laws are firmly in place against identity theft and against holding false documents, and either can be grounds for arrest, with a mandatory two year prison sentence, but ICE officials appreciate the current leverage they have if an undocumented worker has, for instance, a social security number that is not their own. This was the case of Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, a Mexican citizen who purchased a social security card. He claims he was unaware that he was committing fraud at the time, and put his own name on the card, which bore a number which belonged to a US citizen. His case made the round of the courts of appeals, three of which upheld his claim that he was exempt from charges of aggravated identity theft, and two dissenting.


The current interpretation of the law leaves the door open for individuals to be charged for using documents they thought they had acquired legally, or for identity theft when they thought they were simply using false documents, not someone else’s. Almost 300 individuals were charged with identity theft in the Postville raid, with the charges dropped if they signed mandatory deportation orders. “It’s a bargaining chip,” explained Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “When threatened by a long prison term, they’ll sign the deportation order and we don’t have to take them to court.” Analysts expect the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the current interpretation of the law, but many expect the issue to resurface in the national legislature before long.

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