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Immigration policies more easily available via new online manual

Thanks to the advent of the internet, numerous types of transactions are done much more quickly than they once were, from purchasing merchandise to sending letters, buying movie tickets to when people send money overseas online or through a smartphone. And as the world becomes more web savvy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is adjusting to this new, online-age reality.

Recently, USCIS announced its transition to making various immigration policies and rules available online rather than one written out in multiple books or catalogs. Immigration officials say they didn’t make this decision lightly, but rather incorporated the thoughts and opinions of many different agency employees, consumers and interest groups.

Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, indicated that this new policy will make immigration information more widely available and to a greater number of people both in the U.S. and the world at large.

“With the introduction of the Policy Manual, we take a further step to provide our customers, stakeholders and workforce with an efficient and effective adjudication process that provides a high level of quality and consistency,” said Mayorkas.

For those who are unfamiliar with this informative piece of documentation the USCIS Policy Manual is just as its name suggests: It chronicles all the guidelines and policies in today’s U.S. immigration system. But because these policies can change quite frequently, the information often has to be adjusted or amended. Making the manual available online will not only give more people access to this information, but it will enable officials to change various statutes when needed.

Centralized Policy Manual will be more comprehensive with time
Currently, USCIS uses the Adjudicators Field Manual. The new policy manual will present consumers with much of the same information, but over time, it will become even more comprehensive than it is already, detailing important information regarding citizenship, visa issuance and the application process as well as knowledge about adjustment of status procedures, asylum protection, waivers and employment opportunities.

The guidelines and procedures laid out in the policy manual have yet to go into effect fully, but they will starting on January 22. At this time, USCIS says a somewhat limited amount of information is available to consumers, as only the first volume has been made public. However, as more volumes are added to the manual, the public will be apprised and invited to comment on any changes to policy that may or may not be welcomed.

Adaptability to host country’s societal norms demonstrated through online activity
It’s little wonder that USCIS has taken steps toward developing a more centralized, online access point to gather immigration-related information. A variety of studies indicate that U.S. citizens use the internet more frequently than any other nation, and is also more widely available to a greater number of people. And the frequency with which the people from a host country use the internet is often exemplified in immigrants that live there.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers from Nanyang Technological University and the National Institute of Education, intercultural adaptation is often demonstrated through immigrants’ internet usage. The study’s analysts discovered that as a general rule, the longer an immigrant stays in a host country, the more likely they are to visit websites that are frequented by others who live there. This often helps them assimilate into the cultures and societal norms of the country they’ve moved to.

Helpful links:

USCIS Policy Manual


Report says U.S. must reassess its ‘enforcement-first’ mentality

With President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address less than a week away, there will likely be many things that the chief executive of the United States will talk about in regards to what he intends to do in his second term in office. Already, he’s given indications that much of the next four years will be devoted to solving the immigration issue, which has served as an obstacle for many people who wish to move to the U.S. so they can send money to their families.

And while the country has taken some positive steps toward providing immigrants with various privileges and rights that they may not have had before, a recent report says that the U.S.’ “enforcement first” policy has for the most part been ineffective.

Recently, the Migration Policy Institute released a report called “Immigration Enforcement in the United States.” It chronicles how for more than 25 years, lawmakers and immigration officials have attempted to reduce the number of unauthorized immigrants making their way into the country by passing various pieces of legislation, such as the Immigration Reform and Control Act.

Billions have been devoted to unauthorized immigration removal
But in the 27 years since the IRCA was signed into law, officials have spent billions of dollars on ineffective policies that often alienate those who wish to live and work in the U.S. solely so they can provide for their families. For example, adjusted for inflation, $219 billion has been spent on immigration enforcement, which is more than all the money that’s spent on all the law enforcement agencies as a whole. This includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Office and several others.

And for the most part, the money that’s been devoted to thwarting undocumented immigration has had mixed results. For example, the report says that deportations, or removals, are now the norm instead of providing immigrants with an ability to leave voluntarily. This change in policy has led to a certain level of disaffection among immigration advocates.

Ultimately, the study concludes that the amount of money that’s been devoted to an enforcement-first mentality has not led to results that justify all that’s been spent.

“At what point does the infusion of additional resources lead to dwindling returns or unnecessarily impact other national interests and values?” the report asked. “Today, the facts on the ground no longer support assertions of mounting [undocumented] immigration and demands for building an ever-larger law enforcement bulwark to combat it.”

Instead, the researchers say that legislators need to more effectively balance enforcement with realistic laws that can be effectively carried out, which also supports the nation’s economic and labor market needs. Many people who come to the U.S. from foreign countries do so to work and their contribution may help improve the country’s economic state.

Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that officials apprehended and removed nearly 410,000 people unauthorized to be here in the year 2012. Barely above half of those removed were convicted of crimes, meaning that many of those deported were law-abiding.

“[Among] the 409,849 deportations are hardened criminals for whom I have no sympathy,” said Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez in reference to ICE’s report. “But we must also realize that among these hundreds of thousands of deportations are parents and breadwinners and heads of American families that are assets to American communities and have committed no crimes.”

Gutierrez and researchers at MPI are hopeful that 2013 will be a positive year for immigration reform and affording the people who come to the U.S. with opportunities for growth.

Helpful links:

Migration Policy Institute: Immigration Enforcement in the United States


Massachusetts es el ultimo estado en dar beneficios de educacion a Inmigrantes

Mientras algunos legisladores han acogido las políticas inmigrantes como una prioridad, el gobernador de Massachusetts, Deval Patrick envió una carta al Consejo de Estado de la Bahía de Educación Superior, para revisar su política con respecto a los inmigrantes indocumentados y si son elegibles o no para recibir beneficios de Estado en el valor de sus carreras.

Una de las razones por las que Patrick puede haber estado a favor de cambiar la política puede deberse al estudio NAFSA, que muestra claramente que los inmigrantes que asisten a la universidad en los EE.UU. contribuyen a la economía de los EE.UU.

Massachusetts tiene un número considerable de inmigrantes que viven dentro de las fronteras estatales. IPC dice que Massachusetts es el hogar de casi 984.000 inmigrantes casi el 50 por ciento de los cuales han pasado por el proceso de naturalización.

Hasta el momento, 12 estados permiten a los inmigrantes no autorizados asistir a la universidad con el descuento del valor de la carrera estatal. Aunque la ley de Florida no ha adoptado esta postura, es posible que en algún momento en el futuro lo haga, ya que una porción significativa de la población del estado se compone de inmigrantes, con un total de 3,6 millones de personas.

Los inmigrantes son buenos para el país, la economía
Afortunadamente, una serie de encuestas han demostrado que la mayoría de las personas dentro de los EE.UU. apoyan el programa de acción diferida para los llegados en la infancia. Sin embargo, hay algunos que piensan que la DACA terminará perjudicando en cuanto a empleabilidad a los que han vivido aquí toda su vida. Pero como múltiples estudios han demostrado, este no es el caso.

De hecho, es justo lo contrario. Hace dos años, la Reserva Federal de San Francisco señaló que los inmigrantes ayudan a hacer más productivos los EE.UU. mediante la expansión de la capacidad.

Aquellos inmigrantes que reciben beneficios lo desea, puede enviar el dinero que reciben del Estado a los familiares de vuelta a casa, como los inmigrantes con familiares en México. Esto se puede lograr mediante el uso de Xoom, que puede hacer que las transferencias de dinero fácil.


Resources for newly arriving Filipinos working in the U.S.

Traveling to the U.S. for work can be overwhelming for Filipino women, but there are plenty of resources to help them adjust. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports that more than 3,000 workers immigrated to the U.S. last year for work, and there are currently more than 1.6 Filipino immigrants living and working in the country.

The Embassy of the Philippines provides all the necessary documents and information that Filipino workers will need when they arrive in America. The agency offers support for migrant workers for everything from renewing a Filipino driver's license to reporting marriages and obtaining work visa extensions.

One of the biggest challenges that many Filipino women will likely face when they reach America is learning the English language. While English is commonly spoken in more urban areas of the Philippines, many migrant workers come from more rural areas and may not know the language. There are many organizations across the country that offer English as a second language (ESL) courses to help Filipino people learn the main language, which will also be a valuable resource for integrating with American culture and society. It can be a good way for newly arriving immigrants to connect with other people from the Philippines as well.

Migrant workers who travel to the U.S. alone for work so they can send remittances to their families may find it difficult to be so far from their loved ones. Community support groups can be a great way for foreign workers to find people to connect with and share their experiences. This can also be a helpful resource for finding doctors who speak Tagalog and markets that sell food from the Philippines among other resources.

Filipino workers who want to send money to the Philippines to help out their families can use Xoom, an international money transfer company. Xoom offers a number of reliable, fast ways to send remittance to loved ones. Funds can be sent directly to the recipient's bank account or to nearly any bank in the Philippines. Transferring money with Xoom can take as little as a few minutes.


Pude pagar mis estudios

Muchos jóvenes que viven en Estados Unidos envían dinero con la finalidad de pagar los estudios que realizaron en su país de origen.

Alejandra Yánez era profesora de Educación Básica en su natal ICA, Perú. Un día conversando con una amiga se enteró de la “Lotería de Green Cards” que la Embajada de Estados Unidos, realiza cada año y que permite a miles de personas de distintas partes del mundo acceder a un estatus legal a y así vivir el sueño americano.

Alejandra postuló y fue una de las ganadoras de la Green Card. Así empezó su vida en Estados Unidos. Si bien en un principio le fue difícil poder aprender una segunda lengua, con su esfuerzo y perseverancia pudo aprender lo básico y comenzar como asistente de maestra en un colegio de Maryland.

Alejandra, cuenta que ganarse la lotería no sólo le cambio la vida, sino que también le permitió poder enviar dinero a Peru para pagar sus deudas en su país. ‘Envío mensualmente 240 dólares, con lo cual pago mi Universidad, los más felices son mis padres ya que el dinero les llega directamente a una agencia de cambio, cercana a nuestra casa en Perú”. 


Filipino immigrants find common ground in Alaska

Though the climate may be a stark contrast to their native country, many immigrants from the Philippines are taking up residence in Alaska. According to New America Media, many Filipinos have adapted to life in the Last Frontier.

Some may think that life in Alaska is starkly different than daily existence in the rest of the nation. “People think we live in an igloo and Alaska is always covered with snow,” Susan Dickinson, a Filipina nurse living in Alaska, told the news source. “But we’re just like anyone who lives in other states. We drive, we go to the mall…it’s a normal life.”

The news source reports that large numbers of Filipinos have come to Alaska in recent years to take advantage of the state’s tax benefits and other financial advantages. Many immigrants may be enticed by these benefits in order to send money home to family members who are still living in the Philippines.

Filipinos have been coming to the states since before it was officially part of American territory. According to Filipina-American author Thelma Buchholdt, the first Filipino immigrant came to Alaska aboard a merchant ship in 1788, the news source reports.

According to The Migration Information Source, the number of immigrants from the Philippines in the U.S. tripled between the years of 1980 and 2006, reaching a total of 1.6 million people.


Tackling the Naturalization Test

Immigrants who are going through the process of naturalization will be required to pass the naturalization test, which is used to determine incoming citizen's ability to read, write and speak basic English, as well as gage their knowledge of basic U.S. history and government.

According to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), immigrants must undergo several steps before they can take the test – they must submit the N-400 form, application for naturalization and have their fingerprints taken at the USCIS facility. Once these have all been processed, immigrants will attend an interview during which they must provide information about their background, and then take the English and civics test.

Before taking the test, some may want to investigate the study materials provided by the DHS. Improving literacy skills will not only increase one's chance of passing the test, but will also help immigrants find a job when the arrive in the U.S. It is likely that those with good speaking skills will be able to obtain a higher-paying job, meaning they will be able to send a remittance to family living abroad.

The interview is an opportunity for immigrants to demonstrate their ability to speak English. During the test, incoming citizens will also have to read and write three sentences in English to establish their literacy skills.

The last portion of the test consists of 10 questions about civics, six of which much be answered correctly. There is a second opportunity to take the test should the applicant not receive a passing mark.

Those who don't pass the English test on their first try will be given another opportunity to take the test between 60 and 90 days after the initial interview, according to the DHS.

Some people may qualify for a waiver for this test. People over the age of 50 at the time of filing for naturalization, who have had a green card in the U.S. for 20 years are exempt from the English Language Requirement, but must still take the civics portion of he quiz.

Additionally, persons who have a medical disability that prevents them from taking the test may fill out a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, also known as Form N-648. Those form must be filled out by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor or licensed clinical psychologist.

According to National Public Radio, over 400,000 immigrants take the test to become U.S. citizens each year.


101-year-old woman to become U.S. citizen thanks to old document

Eulalia Garcia Maturey will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen this week in Brownsville, Texas, at the age of 101. The ceremony will take place on the 101st anniversary of the woman’s crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. The ceremony is made possible by a 69-year-old document, according to CNN.

The four-foot-seven woman told the news source that she is thrilled to become a citizen. “I want to spend the rest of my days in this life living legally in the United States,” she told CNN. “I was raised here and I want to die here.”

Maturey was just a baby when she crossed the Rio Grande on a ferry boat in the arms of her mother, on October 12, 1909. She said that back then it was easy to cross the border, as there were no patrolling agents and checkpoints did not focus on illegal immigration crossings.

The woman and her single mother took up residence in Brownsville, Texas, where she began schooling. After the third grade, Maturey dropped out of school to help her mother, who was earning money as a laundress.

Maturey was married at age 16, but by the time she was 21 her husband had passed away. Soon after, she married her second husband, with whom she had two children.

On April 4, 1941, Maturey received a Certificate of Lawful Entry from the U.S. government. She held onto the document and kept it in perfect condition, though she never expected it would be the key to her citizenship.

For years, Maturey didn’t know her status, as she was afraid to ask too many questions, fearing it would lead to her arrest. However, when the U.S. government passed a law requiring all citizens crossing the border into Mexico to hold a passport, her niece took her to the Immigration Services office in her town.

A worker at the office told her that her Certificate of Lawful Entry provided sufficient documentation to register as a U.S citizen. Now, with all of the paperwork taken care of, the news source reports that the centenarian is ready to become a citizen.

Many Mexican citizens, like Maturey and her mother, come to the U.S. seeking the opportunity to find employment so that they can send money home to family members. According ABC, Mexican workers sent a total of $21.2 billion in remittances in 2009.