Tuesday, January 26, 2010

liberty gets a memo

On January 11, 2010 at EWR, many H-1B holders aboard Continental Airlines flight CO 49 found themselves at the mercy of the CBP. All this thanks to a new memo from Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations, USCIS. The memo tried to explain what a valid "employer-employee relationship" meant when one considered H-1B petitions. I found just one post online that talked about the memo and had more details about the incident itself. I was unable to find more about the people who were deported. The actions of the CBP clearly qualified as a "means to the end" -- authorities have been trying to crack down on the consulting firms of questionable repute that have long given the H-1B a bad name. The measures taken at EWR probably achieved this to some extent. It is quite likely that some of these people were lax with the documents they had to carry on their person. It is also likely that some were taken by surprise and behaved in a manner that made them vulnerable to unfortunate coercion. The details of the actions invite a sense of discomfort -- can someone really get away with "hunting for Indian H-1B workers"? with "remarks about why these H-1B workers earned more than U.S. workers and that they should not be paid so much"? The CBP and TSA have always been particular about noting their professionalism and courtesy in such matters. Then how did such events come to pass? The lack of sufficient coverage is also disturbing. Without such coverage, it is hard to get facts. Without facts, it is difficult to raise a voice in protest, to ask that power not be abused thus? Surely that is not too much to ask, is it?

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