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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.

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.

Three Little Words All Employers Hate to Hear

August 20, 2014

Notice of Inspection

Those are three words an employer never wants to hear.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has issued more than 10,000 Notices of Inspection in the last four years alone. Companies that receive an NOI will undergo an extensive review of their I-9 forms, policies and procedures and, at the end of the day, could receive significant financial fines due to errors in I-9 completion and retention.

Through their attempts to hire a legal workforce, while at the same time weeding out illegal employees from their current personnel, employers continue to remain caught in legally questionable situations.

One of the best solutions to combat the formidable employment verification process is through the use of E-Verify, a free, web-based program that allows employers to further verify their employees’ employment eligibility once hired. It is important to note that E-Verify does not replace Form I-9 compliance; the I-9, whether a hard copy or electronic version, must still be completed. However, the added benefit of E-Verify usage is that this government program compares the data from the employee’s completed Form I-9 with that of the Social Security Administration as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This government initiated program expands the compliance initiative aimed at establishing a wholly legal workforce.

While numerous benefits exist to utilizing E-Verify, such as an improved level of Form I-9 compliance and extra security in knowing that the employee’s I-9 information matches that in the government’s database, it is important to note that employer implementation of E-Verify does carry with it additional concerns. Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented data-mining strategies to track E-Verify users who are potentially violating immigration laws. When certain trends are discovered through data-mining, USCIS shares its findings with other government agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), for investigatory purposes.

Current data-mining trends include:

  • Verifying existing employees
  • Failing to verify employees within three days of hire
  • Failing to print TNC notices
  • Intermittent use of E-Verify
  • Employer requests specific documents from Lawful Permanent Residents

Consequently, employers must be prudent in their compliance endeavors when utilizing E-Verify, as enrollment alone does not safeguard companies from future investigations and liability.