Friday, August 15, 2014

Obama may face impeachment over US immigration reform

It seems increasingly likely that Republican members of Congress will attempt to impeach President Obama in a battle over immigration reform.

The President is set to use his executive powers to reform the US immigration system. This will, almost inevitably, lead to impeachment proceedings being launched by Republicans who say that the President is using his powers unconstitutionally.

The President promised to make immigration reform a top priority during his second term as president but he has been thwarted at every turn by Republican members of the House of Representatives (the lower house of Congress, known colloquially as 'the House').



Immigration Reform

Under the US system, Congress (the legislature) makes the laws while the President (the executive) is responsible for implementing the laws. In June 2013, the upper house of Congress, the Senate, passed a comprehensive immigration reform act, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.

If it became law, it would
  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigrants. They would have to pay a $500 fine, learn English and pay back taxes
  • Increase the annual number of H-1B temporary skilled work visas' from 85,000 to over 150,000. This figure could rise above 200,000 if demand was high
  • Allow graduates from US universities with higher degrees to apply for green cards
  • Increase spending on border security by $4.5bn over the next four years

However, under the US system, all bills must be passed by both houses of Congress to become law.

Since June last year, the speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, a Republican, has refused even to allow the House to vote on the bill.



Enough Republicans

There are 435 seats in the House and, at present, there is a small Republican majority (234 Republicans, 199 Democrats 2 seats vacant). Pro-reform campaigners believe that enough Republicans would vote for reform, were there to be a vote.

Mr Boehner has claimed repeatedly that he wants to see reform but says that he does not trust President Obama to implement any new law correctly.

Democrats have urged Boehner to pass a reform bill that would not come into force until President Obama has left office in 2017. Mr Boehner has failed to act.




This stalemate is known as 'gridlock' and it has not been limited to immigration. Republican members of the House have blocked nearly every piece of legislation that Democrats have introduced since 2009.

This is because the Republicans have recently moved to the right under the influence of the radical Tea Party movement; a grassroots movement which favours small government and low taxes.

The Tea Party campaigns to replace incumbent Republican politicians who they see as being too willing to reach an accommodation with the Democrats on immigration reform and other legislation.

As a result, some moderate Republicans have lost their seats and others have moved to the right to keep their seats.



Executive orders

Because of this gridlock, the President has used his presidential powers to try to reform the system. George Washington issued the first 'executive order' and all Presidents have used them since. They are specifically allowed to do so under the Constitution.

This has not prevented some Republicans from warning the President that to use the powers would be 'unconstitutional'.

The President has already used his powers to reform the immigration system once. In 2011, he introduced the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) which allowed some young people who were in the country illegally to stay, providing that they
  • Had no criminal convictions
  • Had come to the country as minors
  • Had been in the country for at least five years



Jeh Johnson

Earlier in the summer, the President asked his Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and the Attorney General to look into possible reforms that could be introduced by executive order.

Now, some pro-immigration reform campaigners expect the President to expand the DACA program to all illegal immigrants who have no criminal convictions; about 9m people. The President has told these people to 'right-size' (reduce) their hopes indicating that he is planning action on a smaller scale.

Other changes which commentators have suggested that the President might introduce include
  • Allowing the parents and legal guardians of US citizens who are in the country illegally to stay. This would be around 3.8m people
  • Allowing the parents and legal guardians of DACA permit holders to stay (this is estimated to apply to between 0.5 and 1 million people)
  • Removing the requirement that illegal immigrants who would otherwise qualify for green cards as relatives of US citizens leave the country for ten years before applying for their green cards.
  • The President's staff are said to have been consulting business over ways in which the law could be changed to assist the economy.




This is likely to lead to some Republicans commencing impeachment proceedings against the President.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, for instance, said on Monday 28th July 'It (the President's use of executive power) would be an affront to the people of this country which they will never forgive. It would be a permanent stain on your presidency'.

But the President is said to have considered the possibility of impeachment proceedings and is still determined to press ahead with more limited immigration reform.



'House Republicans have refused to allow a vote'

The President said earlier in July 'For more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system. And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board….

'…While I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act…and I hope their constituents will too…America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that's why, today, I'm beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress'.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United States of America. Please visit our USA page for more information:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cameron: New UK immigration rules

The UK's prime minister, David Cameron, has announced changes to the UK's immigration system which, he says, are 'a vital part' of his 'long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain'.

Mr Cameron wrote a piece in The Daily Telegraph, a UK newspaper, on 28th July 2014, in which he explained to readers the changes to the immigration system already made in the four years since he became prime minister and also provided some details of changes that will be introduced over the next six months.

Mr Cameron said that his government's policies had three main objectives
  • Clamping down on abuses of the system
  • Making sure the right people are coming here for the right reasons and
  • Ensuring the British people get a fair deal'



Main changes

The main changes are
  1. Colleges with over 10% of students found to be 'bogus' to lose licences
    Any UK college or educational institution which allows too many bogus students to enrol will have its Tier 4 student visa sponsorship licence removed. A recent investigation by the government found that some colleges and universities were not carrying out sufficiently stringent checks to ensure that prospective students were genuine students. Some colleges were allowing students to enrol and then not ensuring that they attended classes allowing them to remain in the country on their Tier 4 student visas while in many cases working full time. Tier 4 student visa holders must attend classes and study but can work during vacations and for 20 hours per week during term time.
  2. Requiring landlords to check whether tenants are legally in the country
    From November 2014, UK landlords will be required to check whether prospective tenants are entitled to be in the UK.
  3. Illegal immigrants to be barred from opening bank accounts
    From December, banks will be required to check whether migrants are in the country legally before allowing them to open a bank account.
  4. Allowing courts to deport criminals before immigration appeals are heard
    From this week, many foreign criminals who have committed offences in the UK will be deported to their own countries before immigration appeals are heard. This will only apply to migrants from countries which are considered safe.
  5. Curbing the right to family life
    The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees all citizens the 'right to family life'. Mr Cameron said that there has been 'abuse' of this clause of the convention. He says 'Too many judges have treated this as an unqualified right. So we have written very clearly into the law that when weighing up these cases, judges must also consider the British public interest too'. He continued 'As far as this government is concerned, the rights of law-abiding citizens come well above the rights of criminals'.
  6. Reducing the amount of time that EU migrants can claim unemployment benefits in the UK from six months to three months
    Mr Cameron said that his government intended to lessen 'the magnetic pull of Britain's benefit system'. The government had previously acted to prevent EU migrants from claiming benefits until they had been in the country for three months. Now, not only will they have to wait three months to claim benefits but will only, once eligible, be able to claim benefits for a maximum of three months. Mr Cameron says that this change is likely to save the taxpayer £500,000,000. Some academics have expressed doubts about how much difference the changes will make in practice pointing out that most EU citizens come to the UK to work, not to claim benefits.
  7. UK jobs can no longer be advertised exclusively abroad
    Mr Cameron says that UK employers have been 'hunting out cheap labour abroad while too many young people are out of work'. He said 'we are banning overseas-only recruitment; legally requiring these agencies to advertise in English in the UK'. He added 'In the past, all vacancies advertised in Jobcentre Plus were automatically advertised on an EU-wide job portal. This meant advertising over a million job vacancies across the EU. So we are going to massively restrict this, aiming to cut back the vacancies on this portal by over 500,000 jobs'



'A different kind of Britain'

Mr Cameron wrote in the Telegraph 'This is about building a different kind of Britain – a country that is not a soft touch, but a place to play your part, a nation where those who work hard can get on'.

However, many commentators suggest that these changes are cosmetic and will change little. They say that, in fact, their true purpose is to win Mr Cameron the next election by persuading voters that Mr Cameron is 'tough' on immigration.

Mr Cameron's Conservative Party lost a great deal of support to the anti-EU, anti-immigration UKIP at the European Parliament elections in May. UKIP came first in the election taking 24 of the UK's 73 seats in the parliament and securing 27.5% of the votes cast. Mr Cameron's Conservative Party came third in the election.




While it is unlikely that UKIP will do nearly so well in the next national elections, to be held in May 2015, it is possible that enough traditional Conservative voters will vote for UKIP to allow the left-of-centre Labour Party to win several seats from the Conservatives. This could allow Labour to win the election.

Therefore, it seems, Mr Cameron is doing his best to win back those voters with some eye catching immigration initiatives. This theory is supported by the fact that some, at least, of these changes will have little if any actual effect.

All studies show, for example, that European immigrants to the UK do not come to claim benefits.

The proportion of EU citizens in the UK on benefits is far lower than the proportion of UK nationals claiming benefits.



'Little evidence to support the welfare magnet hypothesis'

Indeed, as online journal The Huffington Post points out 'The government's Migration Advisory Committee dismissed claims about benefits tourists coming to Britain finding 'there is little evidence to support the so-called welfare magnet hypothesis as a migration driver across EU countries'.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Monday, August 11, 2014

UK PM criticised for posing for photos during immigration raid

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has been criticised by civil rights groups and political opponents for using a raid by immigration officers on a house containing suspected illegal immigrants as a photo opportunity.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said that the decision to pose for the photo shoot was in 'bad taste' and said that it was 'constitutionally inappropriate for elected politicians to intervene in law enforcement'.

Ms Chakrabarti questioned whether legally the prime minister had the right to enter the premises. She said it was even more inappropriate for him to pose for photos as well. In an interview reported in

The Guardian newspaper she said 'Who gave Mr Cameron permission to look round these premises? Being prime minister doesn't give you the right to enter private property willy-nilly'.




Mr Cameron accompanied immigration officers on a raid of a house in Slough, a dormitory town near Heathrow airport west of London. The house is said to have been home to four men believed to be Albanians who were living in the country illegally.

After the suspects had been removed from the house, and it was clear that there was no possible danger to Mr Cameron, he posed for photos with the Home Secretary Theresa May and gave press interviews about changes to the UK's immigration system which he had announced that day.

In an interview with ITN television news at the house, the prime minister said 'What we're doing today, is making a series of changes which says to people, "if you come here illegally, we will make it harder for you to have a home, to get a car, to have a job, to get a bank account and when we find you, and we will find you, we will send you back to the country you came from".'




Don Flynn of the Migrant Rights Network said that it was 'distasteful' that the prime minister had joined the raid and the Labour MP Tom Watson described Mr Cameron's attendance as 'improper'.

He said that it was 'improper for Cameron to be engaging in a PR stunt over alleged illegal immigration before people involved in the raid have been to trial or tribunal'.

He added 'They deserve due process and it will be much harder for them to achieve that now that the prime minister has led a media circus to their home'.



Moderates could become uncomfortable

Mr Cameron has spent several years trying to persuade voters that the Conservatives are not 'the nasty party'. Photo opportunities like this one could undo that work'.

The current Home Secretary Theresa May, a Conservative, first referred to the Conservative Party as 'the Nasty Party' in 2002.



The Nasty Party

She warned the Conservative Party Conference that the party was too insular, drew its support from too narrow a base and was seen by others as 'the nasty party'. The phrase stuck.

When Mr Cameron became Conservative leader in 2005, he immediately set about broadening the base, appealing to ethnic minorities and women and pretending to care about the environment.

Now, it seems, after an electoral shock earlier this year, Mr Cameron has had a change of heart.




At the recent European Parliament elections, held in late May, the anti-European Union, anti-immigration UK Independence Party came first in the poll in the UK. It took 27.5% of the votes cast and won 24 of the UK's 73 seats in the parliament.

A great deal of UKIP's support came from traditional Conservative supporters and Mr Cameron, and his Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby, want to win them back.

The EU election was decided using a proportional representation system. The Westminster election will be held using a 'first past the post' system which will make it almost impossible for UKIP to repeat its success in the EU elections.



Split vote

However, the Conservatives are worried that enough traditional Conservative supporters will vote for UKIP to allow the left-of-centre Labour Party to take seats from the Conservatives.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Friday, August 8, 2014

UK immigration wasted £350m on useless IT system says report

The UK government has wasted £350m on a new IT system which was designed to manage immigration and asylum applications, according to a recently published report by the UK government's National Audit Office; which conducts value-for-money audits on public bodies.

The Immigration Case Work system (ICW) was commissioned in 2010. There were numerous problems with ICW. For example it did not interact with other government networks. It was abandoned last August. The government has since commissioned an alternative system which will cost a further £200m+ by 2017.

ICW was designed to 'improve the quality and accuracy of casework'. It is safe to say that it did no such thing. It was meant to replace previous systems such as the Casework Information Database and 20 other IT-based and paper-based information recording systems. It was due to be fully operational by March of this year. It was abandoned at a cost to the taxpayer of £350m.



Cost to taxpayer

The Home Office has been forced to keep using the Casework Information Database (CID) and other outmoded systems that ICW was designed to replace. This too is costing the taxpayer a great deal of money as the CID is inefficient and outdated.

Among the problems with the CID are the following;
  • There are no controls to ensure that staff enter information correctly and so many case files contain inaccurate information. Many files are incomplete and unusable.
  • The system is 'unusable' for long periods. It freezes regularly. The system has been improved so that this is now less of a problem but it is still inadequate for the task
  • The system does not interact with other IT systems which means that staff are forced to manually enter data into all systems in order to be able to cross-reference files.

The Home Office has since commissioned yet another IT system The Immigration Platform Technologies (IPT). This is due to be online by 2017. It is currently forecast to cost the taxpayer a further £209m.



Agile system

The IPT is intended to be an 'agile' system which will focus on 'smaller faster projects to give incremental improvements'. A tool for online applications for some visa types has already been 'rolled out'.

But the NAO says that the UK's immigration directorates still 'rely heavily on paper-based working'. Staff use the CID but also keep paper versions of all cases in filing cabinets. UK immigration offices were due to go 'paperless' in 2014 but there is no sign that this is going to happen in the near future.

This is yet another in a long line of UK government IT disasters. In April this year, it was revealed that the government had wasted over £131m on the universal credit benefits computer system.




This system, which was meant to be handling all benefits claims by 2015 is, so far, handling fewer than 5,000 cases.

The largest UK government IT disaster to date was revealed in 2011 when the government scrapped a planned computer system for the National Health Service. The system was commissioned in 2002 and never worked. It cost an estimated £12.7bn.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cleaner of UK's ex-immigration minister arrested as illegal immigrant

On Friday 18th July, Isabella Acevado, a Colombian national, was arrested on the steps of Haringey Town Hall in north London moments before her daughter was due to be married.

According to an eye witness, fifteen immigration officers and several police burst into the room where the marriage was due to take place. Mrs Acevado and her brother were then arrested and removed from the building.

Mrs Acevado is not a household name in the UK but was in the news briefly in February this year when she played an involuntary role in the resignation of the UK's then immigration minister, Mark Harper.



Illegal cleaner for seven years

On 7th February, Mr Harper wrote to the Prime Minister David Cameron proffering his resignation on the grounds that he had unknowingly employed Ms Acevado, an illegal immigrant, as his cleaner for seven years. Mr Harper insisted that he had employed her in good faith believing her to be in the country legally.

On discovering that she was an illegal resident, Mr Harper resigned and gave her name to the authorities. They have, it seems, been searching for her ever since.

On 23rd July, the head of the UK's Immigration Enforcement Directorate (IED), Mandie Campbell, was questioned about the raid by the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee. Ms Campbell told the committee chairman Keith Vaz MP that there had, in fact been only seven immigration officers and one policeman present during the raid.



'A potential suspicious wedding'

She told the committee 'We were notified by a registrar of a potential suspicious wedding, which involved the lady's daughter who was also in the country unlawfully and as a result of that notification we mounted an operation to go to that wedding in order to apprehend both people'.

Ms Campbell said that the IED had been looking for Mrs Acevado for some time as this was a 'high profile case'. Mrs Acevado is now being detained in the Yarl's Wood detention centre awaiting deportation proceedings.

Mr Harper began employing Mrs Acevado in 2007. Over seven years, he paid her around £2,000. She worked for him for four hours a week at £7.50 an hour. Mr Harper was reimbursed this expense by the government.



Further checks

In January 2014, while he was immigration minister, he asked for further checks to be carried out on her and found her to be in the country illegally. He then dismissed her, informed the immigration authorities and resigned his position.

Mr Harper, seen by many as a future high flier, rejoined the government earlier in July after only five months on the backbenches after Mr Cameron reshuffled his cabinet. He is now a junior minister at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Mrs Acevado will probably remain in Yarl's Wood until she is deported, unless she wins the case and is allowed to stay.



Career 'back on track'

On the day of the raid, having arrested and removed Mrs Acevado, immigration officers then told Mrs Acevado's daughter that her wedding could not proceed because of irregularities in the marriage paperwork.



Documentation in order

However, after the immigration enforcement staff had left, registrars (marriage officials) at Haringey town hall rechecked the supporting documentation and found it to be in order.

They then conducted the marriage ceremony. But by that time, Mrs Acevado was long gone.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

UK publishes 'rewritten' immigration report

The United Kingdom's Home Office has finally published a controversial report about immigration from the European Union. The Report, 'Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union is said to have been suppressed for four months by senior members of the government.

The report examines the costs and benefits to the UK of free movement of labour throughout the EU. This allows EU citizens to live and work freely throughout the EU. During the 21st century, and particularly since 2004 when eight former communist countries in Eastern Europe joined the Union, there has been much greater levels of immigration from EU countries into the UK.

This has been controversial. Many business groups say that it is good for the economy. Some say that immigration from the EU is bad as it has exerted a downward pressure on wage rates in certain sectors of the economy. There are also those who argue that much of the time migrants do jobs that local British people do not want to do.



'Largely positive'

The final version of the report concludes that the impact of this immigration has been 'largely positive'.

The report says 'The effects are viewed [by contributors to the report] as largely positive, providing a wide range of skilled labour and opportunities for UK workers, and their employers, in other Member States. '

However, it has emerged that this report is at least the third draft. It is said that the published report is a compromise report which has been agreed between members of the UK's Coalition government after months of argument.



EU membership 'a contentious issue'

The Coalition, which came to power in 2010, was formed by the right-of-centre, largely Eurosceptic, Conservative Party and the centrist, pro-European, Liberal Democratic Party. Any report into the benefits and costs of EU membership, therefore, was bound to be a contentious issue.

On Thursday 17th July, the UK's Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC that an earlier version of the report (prepared by the Home Office which is headed by the Conservative Theresa May) was political propaganda and was written with an anti-immigration bias.

Mr Cable said 'We disagreed with the content and thought it was propagandist rather than objective which is why we went back to the drawing board….A study has now been produced that is balanced'.



Earlier draft 'suppressed'

But in March, the BBC reported that an earlier draft of the report had been suppressed by the Prime Minister's office because it was seen as being too pro-European. At that time, the Conservatives were campaigning for the elections for the European Parliament.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a Conservative. Mr Cameron was attempting to win support from the country by saying that he would introduce legislation to prevent European citizens from coming to the UK to claim benefits (this is known as 'benefits tourism').

The BBC reported that the initial draft of the report said that benefits tourism was not a problem and that almost every European who comes to the UK comes to work, not to claim benefits. This report, the BBC said, would have undermined the Conservatives' election campaign and so the Prime Minister suppressed it.



Immigration 'a central issue in UK politics'

All this shows that immigration is now a central issue in UK politics. It also shows that immigration has become linked in the public mind with the UK's membership of the EU. Some UK politicians claim that the only way to limit immigration is to leave the EU.

All this political horse trading has meant that the published report does not reach any conclusions on the overall desirability of immigration from the EU. In fact, it barely reaches any conclusions at all.

This is perhaps as far as it goes; 'the effects of free movement are felt differently by different individuals, and particularly at different ends of the income scale'.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

UK immigration: 175,000 migrants still missing after eight years

The UK's National Audit Office (NAO) has issued a report into the workings of the UK's asylum and immigration system and has found that, eight years after a massive backlog of 450,000 'lost' cases was discovered, the Home Office still does not know the whereabouts of 175,000 people whose applications to remain in the UK have been refused.

The NAO report into the UK's immigration system stated that in March 2014, UK immigration had 301,000 open immigration and asylum cases. Of these, 85,000 were 'normal work in progress' and the rest, 216,000 cases, were 'backlogs...on hold or other types of outstanding work'.

The UK's immigration services are processing around 3,500 cases per week but new files are being opened at about the same rate.



Not fit for purpose

The report, 'Reforming the UK border and immigration system' assesses the progress that UK immigration staff have made in making improvements to the UK's immigration system which was, in 2006, declared to be 'not fit for purpose' by the then Home Secretary John Reid.

During the early years of the new century, the level of migration around the world, specifically into the UK, increased greatly. It seems that the existing immigration service, which was managed by a directorate of the UK's Home Office; The Immigration and Nationality Directorate, was unable to cope with the increased demand for its services.

In 2006, a newspaper revealed that IND staff had a hidden cache of 450,000 files. The abandoned cases were largely asylum claims made between 2001 and 2006.The files had not been dealt with at all but had been stored in an underground storage facility.



Backlog to be eliminated by 2011

Dr Reid then announced that the IND would be closed down and its functions would be conducted by an independent agency, The UK Border Agency. Dr Reid announced that the backlog would be eliminated in five years by 2011.

This did not happen.

UKBA staff, and in particular its chief executive Lin Homer, repeatedly claimed that the backlogs were being reduced.



Migration Refusals Pool

But, in 2012, the UK's chief independent inspector of immigration, John Vine, discovered the Migration Refusals Pool. This was a cache of cases, mainly asylum claims which had been refused.

In all these cases the UKBA had no idea whether the applicants were still in the country. Some of the cases were nine years old.

A report into the operations of the UKBA published in March 2013 was extremely critical of the UKBA and Ms Homer. At that time, there was still a backlog of over 312,000 cases.

In April 2013, the Home Secretary Theresa May closed the UKBA, She said that the agency had developed a 'secretive and defensive culture' and was 'not good enough'.



Immigration Enforcement, UK Visas and Immigration

The agency was abolished and its functions were divided between two new directorates within the Home Office; Immigration Enforcement and UK Visas and Immigration.

The NAO report examines what progress the new agencies have made in eliminating the backlogs. It seems that they have failed to radically improve the situation within the Home Office.

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