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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An architect of state and local laws cracking down on illegal immigration is a leading Republican officeholder in Kansas, but business groups in his home state are asking legislators to move in the opposite direction by starting an unusual program designed to give illegal immigrants hard-to-fill jobs.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft tough laws against illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona, criticized the new Kansas proposal Tuesday as "amnesty" for people who've come to the U.S. illegally. A spokeswoman said Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican, isn't supporting the measure.

But Brownback's agriculture secretary has acknowledged having several conversations with federal homeland security officials about potential labor shortages. The coalition pushing the new program includes agriculture groups with memberships that traditionally lean toward the GOP, as well as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, another stalwart supporter of conservative Republicans.

Utah has a guest worker program, but it isn't set to start until January 2013, and its enactment was part of a legislative package that included initiatives in line with Kobach's thinking on immigration. States with large populations of illegal immigrants- including California, Florida and Texas- don't have their own programs.

It would be "unprecedented" if Kansas implemented the program proposed by its business groups, said Wendy Sefsaf, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center. She said she is skeptical that the federal government would allow such a program, though she's sympathetic toward its goals.

"Maybe it's a good thing to have a counterbalance to Kris Kobach," she said.

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Associated Press | 02/01/12

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A coalition of business groups will propose Kansas start a new program to help some illegal immigrants remain in the state so they can hold down jobs in agriculture and other industries with labor shortages, coalition representatives disclosed Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Washington-based Immigration Policy Council called the proposal "unprecedented" and questioned whether the federal government would allow such a program, though she was sympathetic toward supporters' goals. Utah has set up a guest-worker program, but it doesn't take effect until 2013 and was part of a broader package of initiatives on immigration.

The Kansas proposal also is notable because it complicates the debate over immigration issues in the home state of Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft tough laws against illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona. Kobach, known nationally for advising state and local officials across the nation on immigration issues, is secretary of state, the chief elections official in Kansas.

The proposal is likely to stir controversy in the Kansas Legislature and divide the Republican majority, some of whose members are pursuing proposals to crack down on illegal immigration. Representatives of the business coalition, which includes agriculture groups and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, provided a draft copy of their proposed legislation to The Associated Press ahead of its formal introduction in the House and Senate.

Supporters of the proposal acknowledge they're trying to protect industries heavily reliant on laborers, particularly agriculture. But state officials and backers don't have any hard numbers for how many jobs are in danger of going unfilled. Kansas has an estimated 45,000 illegal-immigrant workers.

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Associated Press | 01/31/12

Jan. 30, 2012 - Today, an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected the government’s attempt to bar noncitizens from seeking to reopen their cases from outside the United States. This is the seventh appellate court to find the “departure bar”—a regulation barring noncitizens from pursuing their cases after departure or deportation—unlawful and is a step forward in protecting the right to a fair immigration hearing. The decision is particularly significant because the Tenth Circuit had been the only court at odds with the majority. The court had granted rehearing en banc to reconsider its prior decision. 

Despite the overwhelming rejection of the departure bar, however, the government continues to defend the regulation and apply it to cases outside the circuits that have invalidated the bar. The American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center (LAC) and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), which filed amicus briefs in the Tenth Circuit and argued before the court, renew their call for the agency to strike this unlawful regulation.

Read more about the LAC and NIPNLG’s challenges to the departure bar:

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For more information, contact clearinghouse@immcouncil.org

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| 01/30/12

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report Wednesday urging Congress to make the immigration system more "entrepreneur friendly."

Because of U.S. policies that make it difficult for immigrant entrepreneurs to make a home in the states, many are "voting with their feet" and returning to their home nations, according to a joint report from the chamber and the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council. The report suggests permitting foreign students to remain in the United States after graduation and creating a separate visa for potential entrepreneurs.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are responsible for establishing 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies and 25.3 percent of all science and technology firms in the United States, including giants like Yahoo! and Google, according to the report.

"We should allow the world's most creative entrepreneurs to stay in our country," said Thomas J. Donehue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a speech earlier this month. "They are going to contribute and succeed somewhere — why shouldn't it be in the United States?"

Immigrants are more likely than native citizens to start their own businesses, according to the report. Five percent of naturalized citizens are self employed compared to just 3.7 percent of native-born Americans.

During his third State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama cited immigration reform as one of three important keys to boosting the nation's economy.

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Deseret News | 01/26/12

The U.S. needs to ease restrictions on immigrants who plan to open businesses, and create a separate visa for potential entrepreneurs, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

Current immigration laws make it difficult for people to enter the U.S. and start a business, according to the report, released today by the Chamber and the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council. Expansion of the visa program would also aid companies’ access to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities, helping economic growth, the authors of the report said. 

Immigrant entrepreneurs established 18 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, according to a June 2011 report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of business leaders and mayors that advocates for immigration reform. Those companies, such as Google Inc. (GOOG), Big Lots Inc. (BIG) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) generated $1.7 trillion in revenue in 2010 and had 3.7 million employees worldwide, the report said. 

“They are going to contribute and succeed somewhere -- why shouldn’t it be the United States?” Thomas Donohue, the Chamber’s chief executive officer, said in a Jan. 12 speech in Washington. 

Immigrants are more likely than native-born U.S. workers to start their own business or be self-employed, according to the Chamber of Commerce study. Of naturalized citizens, 5.1 percent were employed by their own business, compared with 3.7 percent of the native-born citizens, the report found. In Massachusetts, immigrants were 14 percent of the population in 2008 and started 61 percent of the businesses, the report found. 

Legislation Stymied 

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Bloomberg | 01/25/12

WASHINGTON, D.C— Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and strengthen the economy, and the U.S. should tailor immigration laws and policies to encourage the best and the brightest to create businesses on U.S. soil, according to a new joint report issued today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

The report, Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the U.S. Economy examines immigrant entrepreneurship in many different sectors, including neighborhood, growth, transnational, and science and technology firms, and demonstrates how these immigrant businesses create jobs for U.S. workers and contribute to America’s economic growth.

“Immigrant-owned growth businesses are hugely important to strengthening local economies, as well as providing jobs essential to economic recovery,” said report author Marcia Drew Hohn, director of the Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. “The U.S. Small Business Association estimates that small businesses have generated 64% of the net new jobs over the past 15 years and credits immigrant businesses with a significant contribution to this job growth.”

“Regardless of one’s school of thought, there is very little disagreement among researchers and experts that immigrant entrepreneurship is a powerful and valuable asset to America’s economic future,” said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council. “There has been a lot of attention paid to the high tech, highly educated immigrant entrepreneur, this report reinforces that it is less about your degree or the product you produce, and far more about recognizing a need in your community and having the skills and commitment to bring a dream to life.”

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Journal News Service | 01/25/12

Unauthorized immigrants made up 5.2% (about 8 million) of the U.S. workforce in 2010, according to a report from the American Immigration Council's Strength In Diversity report.

The same year, the American Immigration Council and American Progress estimated that deporting all unauthorized immigrants from the country and sealing the borders to future unauthorized immigration would "reduce the U.S. GDP by 1.46% annually—or $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years." 

In January, the American Immigration Council compiled information about the full political and economic power of "immigrants, Latinos, and Asians" for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

At least 15 states, including California, Texas, and New York, stand to lose billions if illegal immigrants are deported. The number of illegal immigrants living in each state has been obtained from the 2008 report released by Pew Hispanic Center.

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Business Insider | 01/23/12

During its nine-year history, issues have arisen with respect to restrictions on counsel by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agencies. Tuesday, in response to calls from the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued immediate, comprehensive changes to their policies to ensure an appropriate role for attorneys in the immigration process.

Many non-citizens are forced to navigate the immigration process without representation because they cannot afford an attorney.  But even persons who can afford one, or are represented by a pro bono attorney, have at times faced severe restrictions on their representation.  This is particularly troublesome given the significant power USCIS officers wield.  For example, they decide whether a non-citizen is entitled to stay in the U.S. or not.  The assistance of an attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law can help safeguard the rights of these non-citizens and ensure just outcomes.  

By revising its guidance, USCIS has responded to some of the most serious access concerns.  For example, the new guidance provides that an attorney generally may sit next to his or her client during an interview, may be permitted to submit relevant documents to the USCIS officer, and may raise objections to inappropriate lines of questioning. 

The American Immigration Council looks forward to commenting on the new guidance and working with the agency to make sure it is followed.  The other immigration agencies – Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – should take note of USCIS’s commitment to improving access to counsel and take similar steps to recognize the meaningful role that attorneys play in protecting noncitizens’ rights. 

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Hispanically Speaking News | 01/22/12

Manny and Vicky Gonzalez are reminded each day that it isn’t only Spanish speaking people who stop to purchase Mexican (“tortas”) sandwiches at their two restaurants in Minneapolis.

“A lot of Minnesotans have learned that there is more to Mexican food than tacos,” said Manny, who with his wife started Manny’s Tortas along Lake Street in 1999.

In the past century, long-time Minnesota families learned there was more to Italian cuisine than pizza, and that Chinese food is regional and far more complex than chow mein. Now, Minnesotans with newly acquired tastes for the Gonzalez’s Mexican sandwiches drive from throughout the Twin Cities metro area to their two shops in Minneapolis’ Mercado Central and Midtown Global Market.    

U.S. Census data from 2010, anecdotal evidence about immigrant entrepreneurship, and a recently released study from the Immigration Policy Center show Minnesota is rapidly changing. Days of sputtering along and resisting change should be behind us. New Minnesotans are changing the demographic portrait of the state and communities. New ethnic entrepreneurs are changing the mix of businesses and the products and services being offered in commerce.

Hector Garcia, executive director of the Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC), refers to the benefits of this commerce as “cultural complementarities.” The long established Minnesota society learns from immigrants and refugees entering the state in search of opportunities, he said, and new arrivals learn from established businesses, groups and people.

What’s more, new Census data show that immigrants now comprise 8.3 percent of the Minnesota workforce. From them, Garcia said, existing Minnesota businesses and its large corporations gain knowledge for opening even more trade and business relationships with countries and businesses abroad, paving the way for even more economic activity.

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Twin Cities Daily Planet | 01/18/12

More than one in four California residents are foreign born, but almost 46 percent of them — 4.6 million people — are naturalized citizens eligible to vote, according to a new report by the Immigration Policy Center.

There were almost 10.2 million immigrants in the state in 2010, U.S. Census data show. That’s 27.2 percent of the population.

Immigrants comprise more than a third of the California labor force, figuring prominently in economics sector such as agriculture, manufacturing and services.

They pay roughly $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year, according to state-specific fact sheets compiled by the pro-immigration policy center from a variety of studies in recent years.

Unauthorized immigrants in California paid $2.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 and most native-born Californians have experienced wage gains from the presence of immigrants in the state’s labor market, research compiled by center show.

Click here for more numbers on immigrant contributions to the California economy at the Immigration Policy Center website.

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Sacramento Business Journal | 01/17/12