How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

DHS funding crisis could have ripple effect on local ports

Cargo ships at the Port of Long Beach

Stock Photo: Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Cargo carriers at the Port of Long Beach, which along with the Port of Los Angeles is just recovering from months of slow operations following a labor dispute. Local ports are now readying themselves for a possible Department of Homeland Security shutdown. Congress has yet to agree on legislation that would fund the department beyond Friday. Port officials fear DHS grant funding that helps them pay for security could be held up.

Just as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recover from months of slow operations after a labor dispute, a budget battle in Washington threatens new snags.

Port officials rely on federal grant money to help pay for their security operations. But funding from the Department of Homeland Security, which disburses the grants, is hung up in a Congressional budget battle. The department is funded only through Friday. If Congress fails to pass a bill, and the agency goes into partial shutdown, some of this grant money could be held up.

“Security and maintenance systems is paid for substantially through federal grant funding," said Randy Parsons, security director for the Port of Long Beach. "And if those systems aren’t kept up and running properly, we’re at quite a disadvantage.”

These security systems include closed-circuit television and radar to track the movement of ships, he said. Federal grant money is even used to cover overtime for security personnel.

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In immigration news: Homeland Security funding, immigrants and the poultry industry, Caribbean immigrants, more

Ruxandra Guidi/KPCC

Inside a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Los Angeles, April 2012. The agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, whose budget is part of an ongoing Congressional battle over President Obama's immigration order. But the agency is mostly funded by user fees, meaning it does not rely on Congressional appropriations.

Why a DHS shutdown won’t stop Obama’s immigration orders - Washington Post Among other things, the agency that would carry out Obama's immigration plan does not rely on Congressional funding. From the story: "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Homeland Security agency responsible for deportations, draws about 95 percent of its annual budget from application fees. That means the agency can largely survive without appropriations." Obama's immigration order remains on hold as the administration appeals a court ruling.

In Solidarity: When Caribbean Immigrants Become Black - NBC News Children of Caribbean immigrants grow up in a different cultural setting than black Americans, but their experiences shape their assimilation. From the piece: "By the second generation many black immigrants find they have become black Americans. The clipped cadences and other linguistic markers that once identified their parents as foreign have faded."

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In immigration news: Senate approves DHS funding bill, settlement may let some repatriated immigrants return, 110K AB 60 driver's licenses, more

Mercer 4284

David McNew/Getty Images

The California DMV says it has issued 110,000 driver's licenses to immigrants without legal status so far under the law known as AB 60.

Senate Passes Homeland Security Funding Bill; House Readies Temporary Measure - Wall Street Journal The Senate has passed a bill that extends funding for the Department of Homeland Security through September, the end of the fiscal year. The bill now goes to the House, where it faces opposition from GOP lawmakers who don't support President Obama's executive immigration plan. Funding for the department was to expire Friday at midnight. 

US Senate fails to advance bill blocking Obama immigration order - Reuters From the story: "A stand-alone U.S. Senate bill to block spending on President Barack Obama's November 2014 immigration order failed to clear a procedural vote on Friday after the provisions were stripped from a Department of Homeland Security funding bill. The 57-42 vote failed to achieve the 60 majority necessary to advance to final passage, despite attracting the support of four Democrats."

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In immigration news: DHS funding battle, H-4 visa holders can soon get jobs, Texas governor on immigration, more

A U.S. Border Patrol Agent in September 2011, along the Mexico-Arizona border.

Joshua Lott/Reuters /Landov

A U.S. Border Patrol Agent in September 2011, along the Mexico-Arizona border. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol and other immigration related agencies, is funded only through Friday. It remains uncertain whether Congress will be able to pass a funding bill in time.

With clock ticking, Republicans feud over DHS funding, immigration action - Washington Post The Department of Homeland Security is funded only through Friday, and there remains "great uncertainty about whether and how lawmakers can get a bill to Obama’s desk in time to avoid a partial shuttering of the department." A Senate measure would fund the department through September, but it faces resistance in the House. Earlier on, House GOP lawmakers tied DHS funding to President Obama's executive action in hopes of undoing it. 

Spouses of high-skilled foreign workers may soon get their own jobs - Southern California Public Radio A new immigration policy published Wednesday will let the spouses of certain H-1B work visa holders apply for their own work permits beginning May 26. Until now, dependent spouses on what is called the H-4 visa have been barred from working in the U.S.; the majority are women. It's estimated that just in the first year, close to 180,000 of them will be able to apply for work permits. As many as 55,000 could apply annually in coming years.

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Spouses of high-skilled foreign workers may soon get their own jobs

H1B Wives - 2

Susanica Tam/ KPCC

Shalini Sharma at her home in Irvine, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Sharma worked as an architect in India. But as a dependent on her husband's work permit, she has not been allowed to work since they arrived in the U.S. six years ago. A new policy will allow dependent spouses like her to apply for their own work permits starting in May.

A new immigration policy published Wednesday will let the spouses of certain H-1B work visa holders apply for their own work permits beginning May 26.

Among those counting the days are people like Shalini Sharma, in Irvine. She’s been unable to work in the U.S. ever since she and her husband arrived on his work visa six years ago.

In India, she worked as an architect.

“Having the notion that I can work is like super, super, duper exciting. I feel like a superwoman!" Sharma said Wednesday, laughing.

Sharma last spoke with KPCC in January. The rule change had already been in the works when President Obama included it in his executive announcement in November.

It was published in the Federal Register today.

It's estimated that just in the first year, close to 180,000 dependent spouses like Sharma will be able to apply for work permits; as many as 55,000 spouses could apply annually in coming years.

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