Blog : American Immigration Lawyers Association

Report from DC on National Immigration Policy

kwokMinami Tamaki LLP Partner Minette A. Kwok recently engaged in national immigration policy in Washington, D.C., in her roles as a member of the national Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council, and as a member and former national board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The American Immigration Council plays a leading role in the national debate over immigration reform. Minette joined the AIC national board in June 2012. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Minette was in D.C. in early April as part of an effort to put pressure on Congress to take a forward thinking stand on comprehensive immigration reform. She joined a 400-person AILA delegation to meet with and educate Members of Congress on AILA’s positions related to immigration reform.

At an AIC reception, Minette had the chance to meet former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was being honored at the event.

“Sec. Powell spoke about his history growing up in Harlem as the son of Jamaican immigrants, bring denied entry to West Point because he was black, but later becoming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Secretary of State,” said Minette. “He touted his current work in venture capital in Silicon Valley, and highlighted Bloom Energy, a company founded by an immigrant and one that he is very proud of.” [Bloom Energy is a client of Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice Group.]

At a meeting of the AIC board of trustees, Minette and the other trustees heard from experts about the history surrounding the current immigration reform debate, on the the role of the Latino community, and some prognostications on what is to come. The AIC national board also hammered out its priorities for immigration reform.

“It was both illuminating and impressive to see the respect and recognition that AIC has developed on the Hill,’ said Minette. “I’m proud to be serving on the national board of an organization with a strong national voice on immigration issues.”

As of this writing, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” is pending a vote by the full Senate. If it passes both houses of Congress, it would be the federal government’s first major change in immigration laws since 1986.

Delays in Prevailing Wage Determination

The Department of Labor (DOL) has temporarily suspended the issuance of Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) for H-1B petitions and PERM Labor Certification Applications. To date, the DOL has not committed to a date it will resume prevailing wage processing.

The delay is due to a federal court mandate that requires DOL to reissue PWDs for approximately 4,000 H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker petitions using a revised wage methodology in line with new federal regulations. To comply, DOL has dedicated all its resources to H-2B cases, and suspended PWD issuance for all other cases. DOL estimates that they will complete the H-2B cases by October 1, 2011.

The delay particularly affects the filing of PERM applications, the first step for foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency through employment. A PWD is needed for all PERM applications before it can be filed and involves the issuance of a wage level determination according to the job code and location of an occupation. The delay could result in difficult timing issues for foreign nationals who need to extend their H-1B petitions beyond the sixth year. Also, it may negatively impact children of foreign nationals who are close to aging out. Employers may also need to rerun advertisements if they are unable to utilize existing recruitment.

The DOL has not commented on how it will handle these issues for employers. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has reached out to DOL to resume processing of PWDs and address the potential ramifications of this delay. We will provide you with additional updates as we receive new information.

Source: Minette Kwok, Partner, Minami Tamaki LLP’s Immigration and Nationality Law Practice