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The Business of Texas

April 23, 2015

Texas is known as a business friendly state – low taxes, moderate regulations, and a good supply of workers. When it comes to immigration we have a mixed bag – (1) immigrants willing to work but may be here illegally and may have a low level of education, (2) resident tuition is available to immigrants but a proposal to abolish it if the individual does not have legal status has been introduced, and (3) local law enforcement focus on crimes, not immigration status but a proposal to forbid “sanctuary cities” has been introduced.

The proposals to limit resident tuition to those with legal status on its face makes sense until we realize it may not be wise to limit the education of children who don’t have status. Likewise, we don’t need to inhibit police efforts to solve crimes in the Hispanic communities by requiring them to check everyone’s immigration status.

We should be practical when it comes to educating children brought to the U.S. at an early age as well as supportive of police who want to focus on fighting crimes rather than be immigration cops frightening entire Hispanic communities.

Now we have a new immigration issue in the form of Executive Order No. RP-80, which requires state agencies under the direction of the governor, and contractors of such agencies, to use E-Verify for current and prospective employees. The problem for employers (the State of Texas agencies as well as private employers with contracts to do work for such agencies) is that federal law is clear that employer who sign up for E-Verify can only use it to verify newly hired employees except in certain limited circumstances (e.g. federal contracts under FAR rule). We don’t need this sort of confusion in Texas. While private attorneys and even the federal government agency responsible for E-Verify (USCIS) have pointed out the inconsistency to the governor’s office, RP-80 remains in effect. We encourage business associations, in particular the Texas Association of Business, which understands and promotes the need for fair and consistent immigration benefits and enforcement, to petition the governor’s office to rescind or amend RP-80 to conform with federal law.

Legal immigration is a net benefit to Texas businesses by encouraging entrepreneurs, trade and investment, as well as creating and filling jobs needed by employers. E-Verify is a wonderful tool to assist employers in determining whether prospective employees are authorized for employment but it must be enforced with one set of federal rules, without conflicting state rules.

Business Immigration Flash – Two Items to Consider

April 16, 2015

Recruiting, hiring and verifying a talented and legal workforce in a burgeoning economic hotspot like the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex is a continuing challenge for employers.

  1. H-1B Visas. The competition for international talent is strong in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex according to a report from the Brookings Institute. H-1B visas for professionals and persons in a specialty occupation are limited by a federal quota. DFW employers had 19,824 H-1B approvals during fiscal year 2013-2014, second only to New York in metropolitan areas and ahead of the Silicon Valley region. Statistics for fiscal year 2014 – 2015 are not yet available, but 172,000 petitions were filed in hopes of receiving one of the 65,000 visas available for that fiscal year.  The USCIS is completing its acceptance of H-1B visa petitions this week for fiscal year 2015 – 2016. Planning ahead and knowing the rules are paramount in being successful in this competition. H-1B wage and public file rules are strict and employers are subject to audits even after the visas are granted.
  2. E-Verify and Texas State Agency Contracts. E-Verify, the online electronic system for verifying employees, keeps gaining steam (500,000 employers currently enrolled at 1.4 million hiring sites, with 1,400 new employers joining weekly). E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. Is the Texas Executive Order RP 80 (December 3, 2014) requiring all state agency employees and companies (including subcontractors) doing business with Texas state agencies to use E-Verify for all current and new hires legal? The general rule is that only new hires can be run though E-Verify with the exception of the Federal Acquisition Rule. Employers with state agency contracts in Texas are encouraged to discuss this issue with legal counsel before acting.

A Note on the H-1B Visa Cap

April 15, 2015

Why are we capping the entry of professionals and entrepreneurs who create jobs by developing technology and building businesses that enlarge the overall economy?

It hasn’t always been this way. Before 1990 there was no lottery. If you were of distinguished merit or a professional you could get an H-1 visa without a cap in numbers or a particular salary requirement.

Companies constantly complain about the inability to attract foreign talent to fill “C” level positions. Despite the launch of StartUp America in 2011 by President Obama, entrepreneurs have a very difficult time finding an appropriate visa to develop their ideas. Startup America is a White House initiative that was launched to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation:

“Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”


But here we are today with a story from Bloomberg discussing how the co-founder of Instagram seriously considered packing up and going home in 2010 because he could not get a work visa. He finally received an H-1B visa but it took longer to get the visa than it did to develop Instagram!

We must go beyond words and implement new laws and policies that will move our economy forward and create jobs for Americans, and foreign talent often is needed to do that.