House Judiciary Committee Votes to Increase E-2 Visas
During a legislative session Tuesday morning, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would expand the E-2 visa program to include Israeli nationals. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa program that temporarily admits foreign nationals to the U.S. to develop a business enterprise in which the alien has invested.
The program, however, is restricted to foreign nationals from countries that have appropriate treaties with the United States. The legislation qualifies Israeli nationals for the E-2 visa by adding Israel to the list of foreign states granted such treaty status.
Both Democrats and Republicans sitting on the Committee voiced support for the legislation, touting it as a way to boost the U.S. economy. Rep. Berman (D-CA), who introduced the bill, stated, “Israeli business leaders investing in the United States will create more jobs for American workers and help strengthen the economies of both countries.” Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith echoed Rep. Berman’s comments, “[this] commonsense bill  helps spur job creation and economic growth here at home and invests in our relationship with one of our closest allies.”
Critics say in spite of the Committee’s bipartisan support of the legislation, the E-2 visa program poses several problems. Some of the program’s key flaws include:
- No cap on the number of visas issued. Congress has not placed a cap on the number of individuals permitted into the country under the E-2 program. In addition to an unlimited number of principal E-2 visas, the program also provides for an unlimited number of derivative visas for spouses, children (up to age 21), and employees in a supervisory or executive capacity. As a result, over 281,000 individuals entered the country on an E-2 visa in 2010 alone
- Visa holders may remain in the U.S. indefinitely. Despite the intended temporary nature of the program, E-2 visa holders may enter the U.S. for an initial two-year period and then remain in the country indefinitely by extending their visa every two years. And, despite the fact that all temporary visas require intent to return to one’s home country, aliens may still apply for an E-2 visa even if they simultaneously apply or have been approved for an immigrant visa that puts them on a path to citizenship
- No minimum investment is required. Federal regulations governing the visa program do not require applicants to have invested a specific amount of money or percentage of start-up capital into a business venture. The law merely states that the capital invested must be “substantial.” The decision whether the alien meets the general requirements of the E-2 visa is up to the discretion of the particular State Department consular officer reviewing the application.
These flaws make the program highly susceptible to fraud. Just last week, federal authorities indicted a woman running a Laredo, TX financial and immigration services business for including fraudulent tax forms and false information on businesses and employees on visa applications. (San Antonio Express, Feb. 29, 2012)
Baltimore Mayor Commands City to Ignore U.S. Immigration Law
Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, issued an executive order Friday commanding city agencies and personnel to turn a blind-eye to immigration law violators. (See Mayor Blake Press Release, Mar. 2, 2012) The Mayor’s order, entitled “Advancing Public Safety and Access to City Services,” not only prohibits officials from using city funds to enforce immigration laws, but also by requires city agencies to grant welfare benefits and services to illegal aliens. Specifically, the order provides that:
- No city funds, resources, or personnel shall be used to investigate, question, apprehend, or arrest an individual solely for an actual or suspected civil violation of federal immigration law;
- Police shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status or contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purpose of initiating civil enforcement of immigration proceedings;
- Police shall not to inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach the police or other City employees seeking assistance; and
- No City Department, agency, officer or employee shall condition the provision of city services or benefits on the immigration status of the individual seeking those services.
The order also provides that ICE agents in Baltimore must identify themselves as federal agents to clarify that if any enforcement of U.S. immigration law occurs, that it’s by the federal government and not city officials.
The executive order comes only days after ICE announced it would be rolling out the Secure Communities program in Baltimore City. But, instead of acknowledging the order would interfere with the operation of Secure Communities, Mayor Rawlings-Blake described it as an “anti-discrimination” measure, saying the ordinance “clarifies existing anti-discrimination policies and local law enforcement practices in Baltimore and makes clear that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”
Elizabeth Alex, an organizer for the pro-amnesty group CASA de Maryland, said that Secure Communities had sparked a wave of fear, and that expansion of the program to Baltimore may have caused the mayor to place more urgency in clarifying the City's stance