Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Deportations

Almost immediate deportations of people who are in the country on work visas and lose their jobs don't just hurt these people and their families. I mean, if it were just them, who cares, right? They are immigrants which means that they are not fully human anyways. To hell with those losers.

However, actual real American citizens get hurt by these deportations, too. Even worse than that, businesses get hurt, which is the real tragedy. Let's say a person has lived in the country for several years. Dr. Calvo, for example, has been in the US for ten years. Within that period of time, people put down roots, which is kind of unavoidable. A person gets to have either a mortgage or a rental agreement. It is highly probably that s/he leases a car and has a credit card, which probably carries a balance. There are people (once again, actual citizens) who depend on that person for professional or any other kind of services, favors, support, etc. Maybe this person volunteers, is active in a church, participates in a book club, has a timeshare, has been asked to be a best man or a bridesmaid at a wedding, is in the midst of directing an Honors thesis or a Senior Essay, promised to review a book for somebody, is scheduled to speak at a conference or is even organizing that conference, is collaborating on a project, co-authoring an article - I could obviously continue this list to the point where this would be my longest post ever. So if such a person has to pack up and leave within a month, all of these individuals, companies and institutions that depend on him or her will be screwed. 

If a person were given a reasonable amount of time (let's say, six months at a minimum), they could try to find another job or at least get their affairs in order, pack without a hurry, make sure that things are taken care of. So whose interests do these immediate deportations serve? If a person has been in the country for years, what will an extra year change?

P.S. I want to warn everybody in advance that this is a touchy subject with me. So unless you are an immigrant who lost your work visa in the past 2-3 years, don't come here telling me that such things don't happen. You'll just make a fool out of yourself.


TF said...

Is it possible that you are using "immediate deportation" in a particular way?

It has been years since I took an immigration law class, but I would be surprised to learn that anyone has been immediately expelled when their visa or other status has expired. (It ordinary takes a long time, even when there are aggravating circumstances such as felony convictions). Do you mean only that they are "deportable" in the sense of being out of status, and hence feel the pressure to leave quickly to avoid the (shame?) of being in the country beyond their allowed period?

Can you clarify?


P.S. Stumbled on your blog because I just started Fall of Giants. It was a tad depressing to read that not much good lies ahead, but I haven't determined to give up yet.

Clarissa said...

You are told that you have to leave the country within a month. Of course, one can always remain in the country illegally but we are talking about somebody who is a college professor here, so staying on in this way is of no use to him. My family member had exactly the same problem. The only reason for such people to remain in the country is to be able to pursue careers in their field of knowledge for which they received doctoral degrees. This becomes completely impossible if you are illegal.

Welcome to the blog! I hope you find things to like about the book. There are nice moments there.

profacero said...

If you're illegal you can't work. That has meant for people I know, suddenly not being able to teach your class. It is very inconvenient to others if this happens to someone suddenly.

profacero said...

Paperwork for these things is complicated and takes a long time to process. Applicants can make mistakes and so can institutions. These things can be fixed and often are, within that month, and extensions can sometimes be granted if the fixing process is started within the month. I've seen glitches like this fixed a lot of times -- a document was missing from the file, the person goes out of status, it is an emergency, but then steps are taken to remedy.

profacero said...

But if you're on an H1B visa, it is tied to a particular job. If you lose that job, you're out of status. It is my understanding that you must then reapply from out of the country. I.E. leave, get another job offer here, apply for new visa to go with that job. If you've been here illegally before, getting that new visa is difficult (you have to stay gone for a good while).

Clarissa said...

That's exactly how it is.

Anonymous said...


You are right, I understand, that you can't look for another job. Maybe that's not a good rule, but the idea of those visas was for a specific job, rather than a general immigrant visa that would allow you to job hunt.

And I'm pretty sure you can stay (in fact, as you suggested, for up to 6 months) as "out of status", without any real future repercussions if you leave voluntarily.

So the bit about "getting your affairs in order" and "pack without a hurry" seems a bit over-wrought. The storm troopers aren't at the gate. Nor is the policy so horrendous as to suggest that people are being treated as sub-human. I mean, policies can be sub-optimal, even stupid, without being crimes against humanity.

I take your broader point, that the rule that doesn't let the immigrant job search for a replacement job is not good for the immigrant. And probably not that good for the country, given that holders of those visas are typically highly skilled and productive.

TF said...


Isn't the rule that if you've been "illegally" before for more than 6 months, you have to stay gone for 3 years. More than 1 year, then stay gone for 10! But if you exit within the 6 months after loss of status, I think you can jump back in the cue without penalty.

Clarissa said...

I'm telling exactly what happened to us in my family. We were told by the immigration and by our own immigration attorney that you have to leave the country within the month. It happened quite a short time ago and the memory is still very fresh in my mind.

When my contract at Cornell was running out, I started getting phone calls from immigration several weeks before insisting that I provide details as to when I was leaving, my flight number, etc. Even though as a citizen of Canada I can remain in the US without a visa as long as I want.

This is real, people. I experienced it, my family members experienced it, my colleagues did. This is a very serious and real issue for many people.

profacero said...

Given what the academic job market cycles are, Calvo didn't necessarily have time to get a new job for the fall. Being in Spanish where there is work, it is possible to pick up something (not necessarily desirable, but something) in April for August, but it is very hard to be hired when you're out of status.

The H1B visa is designed so that we can have workers, not so that people can immigrate here. If you're on one and considering staying here, you have to start the green card application process PDQ. The H1B visa is also only renewable for a limited number of times.

Clarissa said...

The hiring process also is very lengthy and protracted. First, you apply and you wait, then there is a phone interview, then you wait, then a campus visit, then you wait, then they might or might not make an offer. For me, my entire process from application to signing the contract lasted 7 months.

profacero said...

...again, I'm not a lawyer but I think these are intimidation tactics and I've noticed different lawyers may be more or less sanguine about advising people to stay beyond the month. Now, with the wars and 9/11 and so on, standard advice is probably more conservative than it would have been just a few years ago.

I do know people who've stayed over a month, and under 6, and had it work out just as TF says. But all of this really depends.

TF said...

It is a bit surprising that someone thinks it is a good use of public funds to hire a government employee to call H1B visa holders as their term is coming up.

On the other hand, it also seems they are just pestering you about the terms that you agreed to when you applied for the visa, no? That doesn't sound so very serious.

The case of the H1B person who is suddenly fired, seems more inequitable. But there, I suppose, the INS isn't on the phone quite as promptly, since they don't have a good way of knowing? Even then, those were the rules that the immigrant agreed to in order to get the visa. Not a great rule, maybe, but not an outrage.

TF said...

I would think a lawyer is duty-bound to advise you that the law requires you to leave within the 30 days (if that's what the law says).

But a good lawyer should also advise you on the "what-ifs" if you don't make it out on time.

profacero said...

I've also noticed that these things depend a lot on where you are. Some of the agencies and agents are more lenient than others. And if you're in a place with a lot of foreign professionals you can get tips and support for handling these things, in that place, that you won't get in every little US town.

The other thing I have heard to help is, to call your US Senator. It is apparently part of their job to work on these things - if the person has a job and that job wants to keep them. If they're powerful, that helps.

Clarissa said...

I'm not saying these immigration restrictions are an outrage. They are just pointless and do more harm than good.

profacero said...

There might be various discrete points here:

a) the inappropriateness of the H1B category to the nature and cycles of the academic job market ... for both employers and employees this system is an endless headache

b) the aim of that visa category - it's to make sure there's a workforce, deportable when a particular task is done ... the immigrant agrees to the terms, yes, but there isn't really a choice

c) intimidation tactics by INS / ICE ... if one is able to recognize these for what they are, great, but not everyone is, and what's the point anyway

The whole thing is an endless headache for many. Not to mention, of course, the difficulty of getting visas at all, when workers are desired, and in my view the questionable ethic of being willing to hire rafts of foreign workers but keep them tied to specific jobs.

Clarissa said...

I want to say "yes, exactly" to every sentence profacero writes today. :-)

Pagan Topologist said...

I have seen this kind of thing a lot. I have seen people rush to leave after losing a job, even though it meant leaving a car to be repossessed. I have seen people stay for extended periods out of status, which I found scary, but they pulled it off. One eventually got another job and visa. The others, not. I am not aware of anyone's being deported amongst my circle of acquaintances, but it is certainly always a major risk.

Clarissa said...

It just depends on who you are and what you want out of life. I would not stay where I'm not wanted for anything in the world. It just isn't worth it for me. But of course other people see things differently and more power to them.

TF said...

Whether the H1B-type visa program is an overall mess depends on the starting point of the inquiry. Why do we even have a H1B program with these characteristics?

Couldn't we just have any number of immigrants come and work wherever they please (or not work, for that matter)? Or, if that might cause problems, we might decide to limit the total number, but otherwise not restrict the employment options. But, I think that is what we do have. in our general immigrant visa categories.

On top of that limited number of unrestricted visas, however, at some point someone suggested expanding that number by a further rule that allowed certain specialized workers in for specific jobs. But here enters another party in interest, that is not the employers and employees (for whom the program does seem to be an unnecessary pain in the butt.)

The "labor certification" hassle was all about local labor protecting against too much competition, when local workers could fill the need, hence keeping the H1B-type "expansion" to a narrow set of circumstances.

And one of those narrow circumstances is that the visa is "temporary". (As was noted, making the immigrant "deportable" after the term, but that's just another way of saying the same thing in somewhat more sinister form.) I'm not sure what it means to say the immigrant has no choice -- they don't have to take the job. Of course, they can't take the visa and job, but opt out of the conditions of the visa.

So, given all that, why is it questionable ethic again?

Sure, compared to an unrestricted visa, the H1B stinks.

But-- and this is a more interesting topic: I wonder if you think we could/should have a "wide open" H1B-type rule? Say, anyone with a professional degree or equivalent skill set can henceforth emigrate to the U.S. without restriction (perhaps excluding axe murderers). Call it the World Brain Drain Act. It might make life harder for native programmers, accountants, lawyers, etc. -- but it would be less of a hassle for employers and the immigrants. And presumably drive down white collar labor costs.

Strictly from a broad U.S. perspective, this might well be a net win.

It can be drag for the countries that lose those workers, but I suppose that's a different discussion.

I guess the only place I have a bit of a different view, is that I don't see the restrictions as pointless. The point of the restrictions is to keep the H1B program in a box -- to protect the otherwise affected labor market.

I'm not sure I would make that policy choice if I were dictator. But it's the policy choice that the people of the U.S. (indirectly) appear to have made. And it doesn't seem manifestly unjust or irrational.

profacero said...

Well, from the academic job point of view, people from all over the world already do apply to US jobs, and employers already do consider everyone. In that context the H1B situation is irrational.

From the labor point of view (all the foreign tree planters, construction workers, drywallers, waiters, nursery workers, inter alia), our policies create a need to emigrate, and we want the workers, and the H1B style situation can lead to real abuses since these jobs can't be quit (legally). In that context the H1B style situation is unjust.

But yes, there are reasons not to have open immigration. The whole thing needs to be rethought in the context of economic and other policy.

profacero said...

P.S. Although on the Calvo case, my questions would be -

- was he really on an H1B visa?
- if so, how did he get it renewed for so long and why hadn't he applied for a green card?

It's odd to me because people sort of know, if you intend to stick around you must start churning the paperwork to get off the H1B track and onto a better visa track.

Clarissa said...

I don't think that instructors can even get sponsored for a green card. I can't see a place like Princeton doing that for an instructor or lecturer.

TF said...

Thanks to you both. I'm turning in - but this was instructive and fun.

And it's a great blog, from just clicking around. I'm with you on the anti-cauliflower and pro-long books (but dissent on the dogs and bird signing).

Y ademas, saber que hablan español, pues que mas puede uno querer?



profacero said...

Oh, right: instructors. Ay.

V said...

H1B can be had for up to 6 years. Maybe before that he had J1. Three more years. In what status has he been after that?

Spanish prof said...

Still, I agree with Profacero. You can only have an H1B visa for 6 years. After that, you get your green card or you are out. I got my green card six month ago, and it was a great relief, knowing that the clock was ticking and any mistake (the lawyer was not the brightest I've seen) could have cost me a lot of things.

Spanish prof said...

@TF: "I wonder if you think we could/should have a "wide open" H1B-type rule? Say, anyone with a professional degree or equivalent skill set can henceforth emigrate to the U.S. without restriction".

I am assuming that you are referring to professional jobs here. Setting asides issues of equivalences in degrees (an accountant in Argentina is clearly not prepared to work in the US as it is, since he/she doesn't know the laws), I actually think it would be a good idea. And although it might drive down salaries a bit in the US, I don't think it would be that much. In the past ten years, many countries have become more competitive at retaining their own skilled forces. In part, it's because the process of getting a visa in the US has become harder. But also, because economic conditions in those countries have improved, and there is a deliberate policy from the governments to attract the best and the brightest back. I'm thinking not only India and China, but also countries like Brazil and even Chile and Argentina. Although they might make more money in the US, the idea of not having to adjust permanently to another culture is a big lure to bring people back.

I know I am thinking mostly from the point of view of academia. But there are certain professions where the transfer is not that easy (accountants, lawyers, etc). And even in the private industry, there are many jobs available for highly skilled professionals in one's own country. Take the case of Argentina, for example. I really don't like genetically modified foods and crops. However, Argentina is the third exporter in the world of GM soy. Why? Because there was a deliberate policy and investment in research both from the industry and the government in the field of biotechnology. Whether I like it or not is another matter. But my main point is that the US is not the attraction it used to be. And the current xenophobic climate doesn't help either.

Pagan Topologist said...

I am totally in favor of open immigration. It is one of very few issues where I believe the strict Libertarians are absolutely correct.