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Bipartisan Concerns About "Specialized Knowledge" Standard in Visa Program PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 March 2012 11:03
WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin are raising concerns about potential changes being made to the L visa program that would further encourage companies to use the L-1B visa program to import foreign workers and evade restrictions of the H-1B visa program, and putting American workers at a disadvantage.

 

The L-1B visa program allows companies to transfer employees with “specialized knowledge” from the foreign facilities to their U.S. offices for up to seven years.  “Specialized knowledge” as defined by Congress is “special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or … an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures for the company.”

 

Grassley and Durbin wrote in a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas that they “are concerned about attempts by unscrupulous petitioners to obtain L-1B status for workers who do not truly possess specialized knowledge relating to the petitioning company.”

 

The senators also wrote that both the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Administrative Appeals Office have considered the term “specialized knowledge” when adjudicating these visas, and encouraged U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to adopt the clear standards and reasoning provided by the State Department and the Administrative Appeals Office.

 

Grassley and Durbin are leading the effort to reform the H-1B and L visa programs and are planning to introduce legislation later this year.

 

Here’s a copy of the text of the letter.  A signed copy of the letter can be found here.

 

March 7, 2012

 

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas

Director

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20529

 

Dear Director Mayorkas:

 

It has come to our attention that you are planning to issue new guidance on the L-1B “specialized knowledge” standard in the near future.  We write today to urge you not to propose changes that would undermine the L visa program.

 

As you know, the L-1B visa program allows companies to transfer employees with “specialized knowledge” from their foreign facilities to their U.S. offices for up to seven years.  We are concerned that the L-1B program is harming American workers because some employers, especially foreign outsourcing companies, use L-1B visas to evade restrictions on the H-1B visa program.  For example, the L-1 program does not have an annual cap and does not include even the minimal labor protections of the H-1B program.

 

Congress defined L-1B “specialized knowledge” in the Immigration and Nationality Act as “special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or … an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures for the company.”  We are concerned about attempts by unscrupulous petitioners to obtain L-1B status for workers who do not truly possess specialized knowledge relating to the petitioning company.

 

As you know, on January 11, 2011, the U.S. Department of State issued new guidance to consular officers on how to adjudicate visas under the specialized knowledge category.  According to the guidelines issued by the Department of State to consular officers around the world, posts should use certain criteria to assist in making an L-1B adjudication.  The criteria include: 1) the proprietary nature of the knowledge possessed by the visa applicant; 2) whether the visa applicant is “key” or normal personnel; and 3) whether the applicant possesses more skills or knowledge than an “ordinary” employee.

 

In July 2008, USCIS’s Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) considered the definition of “specialized knowledge” and concluded that a specialized knowledge employee is “an elevated class of workers within a company and not an ordinary or average employee.”  In its decision, the AAO said that “‘specialized knowledge’ is used to describe the nature of a person’s employment and that the term is listed among the higher levels of the employment hierarchy with ‘managerial’ and ‘executive’ employees.”  The AAO also describes congressional intent regarding the L-1 visa program, indicating that “the original drafters intended the class of aliens eligible for the L-1 classification would be ‘narrowly drawn’ and ‘carefully regulated and monitored’ by USCIS,” and that “[t]his legislative history has been widely viewed as supporting a narrow reading of the definition of specialized knowledge and the L-1 visa classification in general”.

 

We agree with the AAO that “specialized knowledge” employees should possess “special” knowledge of a company product and its application in international markets or an “advanced” level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.  A comparison to the knowledge held by workers in the company’s industry generally would be unacceptable and only undermine the specialized knowledge standard established by Congress.

 

We believe that USCIS guidance regarding the definition of specialized knowledge should adopt the standards and reasoning articulated in the January 2011 State Department guidance and the July 2008 AAO decision.  We are concerned that any weakening of the standard would create additional incentives for some employers to use the L-1B visa program in order to circumvent even the minimal wage and other labor protections for American workers in the H-1B visa program.

 

Please provide us with an update on USCIS’s activity with regard to the “specialized knowledge” standard.  A prompt response to our concerns would be appreciated.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

________________________________                    ________________________________

Charles E. Grassley                       Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator

United States Senator

 
20 Weeks To Preparedness Program PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ross E. Bergen   
Monday, 19 March 2012 10:56
Region 6 Homeland Security Board and Safeguard Iowa
Partnership Announce Week 5 of “20 Weeks to Preparedness
Program”

Release Date: March 12, 2012
Release Number: 6

Welcome to Week 5 of the 20 Weeks to Preparedness Program brought to you by the Region 6 Homeland
Security Board and Safeguard Iowa Partnership. This program will help to better prepare you and your
family, a little at a time, over a 20 week period. Each week new preparedness information will be shared
in this publication including a list of items to gather or purchase for your disaster supply kit. Sign up at
www.safeguardiowa.org/subscribe-to-be-prepared to receive weekly reminders and announcements related to
the 20 Weeks to Preparedness program.

Use this program to gather items for your kit in small steps over a five month period. Remember to change
and replace perishable items by the expiration date. Purchasing the food suggested by this program would last
approximately 3-5 days.

Place in storage bin:

Disposable dust mask (one per person)
Travel sized shampoo, body wash, and deodorant
Manual can opener
Canned vegetables (one can for every two people)
Mirror
Personalized Item (if applicable):

Hearing aid batteries

To do:

Scan or make copies of health care information, including vaccination records, prescription
information, and insurance. Complete an emergency personal health record for each family
member. You should retain a copy by either storing a hard copy in a plastic bag, safety deposit
box, on a thumb drive or send to an email account that is accessible from anywhere.

Additional assistance is available by contacting the Scott County Emergency Management Coordinator
at 563-484-3050 or visiting the website at www.iascema.com.Visit Safeguard Iowa Partnership at
www.safeguardiowa.org, on twitter @safeguardiowa or Facebook at www.facebook.com/safeguardiowa.

 
FCC refuses access to staff on LightSquared, despite offer PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 March 2012 10:55
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

 

In January, staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley on separate occasions asked the Federal Communications Commission chairman to make two senior staff members available to discuss the LightSquared wireless project.   The first staff member was Paul de Sa, who was described as the “father” of the LightSquared project, before he left the agency.  When Grassley staff asked to meet with de Sa, the FCC’s legislative affairs director responded that he was “not available.”  The second staff member was Joshua Gottheimer, who, according to media reports and FCC materials, has been named the FCC chairman’s senior counselor with a special responsibility toward implementing President Obama’s National Broadband Plan.  The broadband plan recommended a particular spectrum band that primarily would have benefited LightSquared.  Gottheimer previously worked for a public relations firm that serves LightSquared.  When Grassley sent his Jan. 30 letter requesting a meeting with his staff and Gottheimer, the FCC asked his office to keep the letter confidential while the agency decided how it would respond to the request.   Grassley’s staff waited one month and did not hear from the agency.  Grassley’s staff called the FCC, and the FCC refused to provide access to Gottheimer.

 

Grassley made the following comment on the FCC’s refusal to make senior staff available to discuss LightSquared.

 

“The FCC chairman wrote to me last October that he would ‘continue to make staff available to discuss this matter further’ with me or my staff at our ‘convenience.’  That turned out to be an empty offer.  The FCC has refused to allow access to two staff members who likely would be able to shed some light on the FCC’s questionable decision to give the green light to the LightSquared project.  It’s unfortunate that this agency operates as a closed shop when the public’s business ought to be public.  It adds insult to injury to promise openness and fail to fulfill the offer.  The good news is a key House committee is trying to shed light on the FCC’s thinking on LightSquared.  Some transparency might be required of the agency after all.”

The text of Grassley’s letters to Genachowksi requesting access to staff members is available here and here.  The chairman's letter from last October offering to make staff available is available here.

 
Protect Yourself from the U.S. Lawsuit Epidemic PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 19 March 2012 10:54
Lawyer Offers Tips for Safeguarding Your Assets

In Florida, a man serving 12 years in prison for DUI manslaughter is suing his victims’ survivors for his pain, suffering, medical bills and “loss of capacity for enjoying life.”

In Illinois last year, siblings aged 20 and 23 sought more than $50,000 in damages from their mom for “bad mothering,” including setting a curfew for her then-teenage daughter, "haggling" over clothing prices, and failing to send college care packages.

Lawsuits like these are, unfortunately, more the rule than the exception, says Hillel L. Presser, a lawyer specializing in domestic and international asset protection planning and author of Financial Self-Defense (www.assetprotectionattorneys.com).

“Litigation is America’s fastest growing business, and why not? Plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours’ time to lose,” Presser says. “Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous, like the guy in prison suing his victims’ family, defendants are encouraged to settle just to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees.”

So where does a person begin? You’ll likely need the expertise of an asset protection planner, Presser says, but here are some steps you can take on your own.

• Take stock of your wealth. Inventory your assets – you probably own more than you think. Besides savings and retirement accounts, consider any money owed to you, anticipated inheritances and future assets. Property includes homes, vehicles, jewelry, and land. Don’t forget to consider intangible assets, those non-physical but valuable brands, trademarks, patents and intellectual property. Visit www.assetprotectionattorneys.com for an inventory worksheet.

• Put only assets that are exempt from seizure in your name. Federal and state laws protect some personal assets from lawsuits and creditors. Those assets typically include your primary residence; personal items such as furniture and clothing; pensions and retirement funds; and life insurance. State exemption laws vary; federal laws govern exemptions in bankruptcy.

• Protectively title non-exempt assets. Putting the title to valuable assets in the names of corporations, limited partnerships, domestic trusts and other entities offers some protection. You still get to use and enjoy the asset but legal ownership is with an entity that’s not subject to your personal creditors’ claims. Which entities best shield which assets depends on the asset, your state laws, taxation and your estate plan, to name a few considerations. You can also combine protective entities, for instance, giving ownership of your limited liability company to a limited partnership. It’s best to get professional advice when choosing the entity that will best protect an asset.

Whether you’re worth millions or a few hundred thousand, it’s important to not get caught with your assets showing, Presser says. The more you have exposed, the more enticing a target you become. And the less you have, the more catastrophic the outcome can be.

“If the average person with $200,000 is sued for $1 million, he’s wiped out,” Presser says. “It’s not so horrific for the person with $25 million who gets sued for $5 million.

About Hillel L. Presser

Hillel L. Presser’s firm, The Presser Law Firm, P.A., represents individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset protection plans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Management and Nova Southeastern University’s law school, and serves on Nova’s President’s Advisory Council. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations for his professional athlete clients and is a former adjunct faculty member for law at Lynn University. Hillel has authored several books, including “Asset Protection Secrets” and has been featured in Forbes, Sports Illustrated, the Robb Report, the Houston Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.

 
Governor Quinn Announces Appointments to Illinois Medical District Commission PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:59

New Appointees to Bring Fresh Leadership to Vital Economic Engine

CHICAGO – March 6, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today continued his efforts to grow our economy by announcing four new appointments to the Illinois Medical District Commission (IMDC), which oversees the largest urban medical district in the country. Jennifer Woodard, James Clewlow, Meredith O’Connor and Blake Sercye will join the board that also includes two appointees designated by the mayor of Chicago and one designated by the president of the Cook County Board.

“Cutting-edge, health-related fields, such as biotechnology, are important economic engines in Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “For Illinois and the city of Chicago to remain at the forefront of these fields, we need to have leaders who will spur job creation and economic development by providing the vision and oversight necessary to identifying opportunities and investments that will benefit everyone.”

The IMDC, formally established in 1941, develops and manages the 560-acre Illinois Medical District (IMD) in Chicago, which has 20,000 employees working in hospitals, health clinics, research labs and the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) - the nation’s largest medical school, and the state’s largest biotechnology complex. The IMD supports 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, while generating $3.3 billion in economic activity and more than $100 million in state and local taxes. The IMD is funded through property sales and lease proceeds and cannot levy taxes.

 

Jennifer Woodard is associate vice chancellor in the Office of External Affairs at UIC. During her 14 years at UIC, Woodard has lead numerous initiatives focused on bringing support to the academic, research and service missions of the campus. Prior to joining UIC, she practiced law, specializing in corporate and international corporate matters. She has served on several non-profit arts and service organization boards, including Chicago Opera Theater, El Valor and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. She holds degrees in English literature and history from the University of North Dakota and a juris doctorate from the Northwestern University School of Law.

James Clewlow has served as chief investment officer for CenterPoint since January of 2005, after serving as senior vice president of investments. He joined CenterPoint in 1997 and oversees investment activity for the company. Mr. Clewlow has been involved in industrial real estate since graduating from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1985. He worked for CBRE as an industrial real estate broker for 11 years serving the Chicago area and joined CenterPoint in an acquisitions capacity. Mr. Clewlow received his master’s degree in business administration from Kellogg's Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Meredith O’Connor is the managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Midwest Region. Prior to joining Jones Lang LaSalle, O’Connor was the deputy director of business development at World Business Chicago (WBC), a public-private economic development corporation comprised of more than 20 top executives from many of Chicago’s leading companies. She spent more than 10 years as deputy commissioner with the city of Chicago where she founded a new unit in the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to advocate for science and technology-based economic development. She also held several other city positions, including assistant to the mayor and was appointed as the youngest-ever assistant sergeant at arms for the Chicago City Council. Ms. O’Connor holds a master’s of business administration in finance from Loyola University’s Graduate School of Business.

Blake P. Sercye is an associate in the litigation department at Jenner & Block.  Prior to joining the firm, Sercye handled family law, sealing and expungement matters as a PILI Fellow at the Chicago Legal Clinic in the city’s Austin neighborhood. He serves on the board of directors for the Umoja Student Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and college preparatory counseling for inner city high school students. He is also a member of Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School’s Young Leader’s Council, the Chicago Westside Branch of the NAACP and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Sercye earned his juris doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a member of The University of Chicago Legal Forum and the Black Law Students Association. He received a bachelor’s degree in politics with honors from Princeton University.

 

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