April 04, 2013

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL  Associated Press


The Homeland Security Depart­ment expects applications for high-skilled immigration visas to outpace the available supply in a matter of days, one of the fastest runs on the much-sought-after work permits in years and a sign of continued economic recovery amid new hiring by U.S. technology companies.

The urgent race for such visas — highly desired by Microsoft, Apple, Google and other leading technology companies — coincides with congres­sional plans to increase the number available to tech-savvy foreigners.

The race to secure one of the 85,000 so-called H-1B visas available for the 2014 budget year started Monday and requests will be accepted through at least Friday. If petitions outpace the availability in the first week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigra­tion Services — for the first time since 2008 — will use a lottery to pick which companies get visas to award to prospective employees.

“It will be a frenzy, because the cap ... is nowhere near high enough to meet demand,” said Robert Holley­man, president and CEO of the Soft­ware Alliance, a trade group for technology companies.

Citizenship and Immigration Ser­vices spokesman Christopher Bentley said the agency won’t know for certain whether a lottery is necessary until next week.

“We just won’t know until we answer the mail each day,” Bentley said.

The agency warned businesses about the anticipated crush of applications last month.

Each year 65,000 visas are awarded to companies looking to hire high-skilled workers from around the world; 20,000 more visas are available specifically for foreign workers who have earned a master’s or another advanced degree from a U.S. university.

Even if applications don’t exceed the availability this week, immigration attorneys and other experts predicted they would be snatched up faster than in recent years. It took 10 weeks to hit the cap in the 2013 budget year that began last October and more than 33 weeks to dole out all the available visas the year before.

A growing economy is contributing to the rush this year, but the scramble is also a sign that demand for the visas exceeds the available supply. Proposals to increase the number of available visas have been supported by lawmakers and political candidates in recent years and are now considered a key part of immigration reform plans in Congress.

“Our current immigration laws do not prioritize immigrants based on the skills and education they bring to our country,” said Rep. Bob Good­latte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said the U.S. selects only about 12 percent of legal immigrants on the basis of their special skills.

Improving the system for foreign workers has been a sticking point among lawmakers. In November, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill to make green cards available to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science and math while eliminating the government’s Diver­sity Visa Lottery Program. That program randomly awards 55,000 visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Democrats have largely supported the diversity lottery, and the bill was blocked in the Senate.

Holleyman of the Software Alli­ance said immigration reform and improvements to education in science, technology, engineering and math for U.S. students are the best ways to make sure U.S. employers have enough skilled workers.

The rush for these visas will be another signal to Congress that an overhaul of the program is needed as part of a broader immigration plan, said Neil Ruiz, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metro­politan Policy Program.

“Once Congress comes back next week,” Ruiz said, “they will say, ‘Ah-ha, we need this and we need to do this now.’”

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March 28, 2013

LAWT News Service


San Pedro, CA – Congresswoman Janice Hahn recognized the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act that has already helped millions of Californians, citing a new report by the Department of Health and Human Service. President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.

“Three years ago, Congress made history by passing a health care law that the American people have been demanding for decades.  Now the Affordable Care Act is working for America by holding insurance companies accountable, bringing down health care costs, and helping more families get the peace of mind of affordable health insurance, including millions of Californians,” said Congresswoman Hahn.

The new report shows that the ACA has already ensured that millions of Californians are receiving the critical health care services they would not have otherwise had. In California alone: 12 million people, including 4.4 million women and 3.2 million children, are free from worrying about lifetime coverage limits; 15,000 previously uninsured people with pre-existing conditions are now covered; and those who use Medicare saved over $453.8 million on prescription drugs through closing the “donut hole.”

“Three years into the legislation’s implementation, there is much progress to celebrate and more victories to look forward to. The Affordable Care Act has already saved American consumers $2.1 billion. Millions of young people have been able to stay on their parent’s health care plans. Millions of seniors are able to afford the prescription drugs they need. And beginning in 2014 being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition.  I will continue to advocate for a healthier America and fight any effort to repeal this critical law,” Hahn added.

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March 14, 2013

LAWT News Service


West Basin Municipal Water District Director Gloria Gray chaired the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board Meeting on Tuesday, February 12. The Metropolitan Board opened the meeting in recognition of Black History Month. Gray was the first African-American woman to hold the gavel in Metropolitan’s history. She joined the Metropolitan Board of Directors as West Basin’s representative in April of 2009 and is currently the Vice Chair of the 37-member Board of Directors.

“As a Board Member for Metropolitan, I am honored to represent West Basin and its communities as we provide reliable, high-quality water to one million residents in 17 cities in coastal Los Angeles,” Gray said. “I am proud to be the first African-American woman to chair a Metropolitan Board meeting, especially during the month of February when we remember and recognize so many important African-American pioneers. Today is a special day I will never forget,” she noted.

Gray has served on the West Basin Board since 2006 and represents the Division II cities of Inglewood, South Ladera Heights, a portion of Lennox and Athens, Howard and Ross-Sexton. She also serves as a council member on the Delta Stewardship Council which strives to provide a more reliable water supply for California and protect, restore, and enhance the Delta ecosystem. Gray was appointed in 2010 by Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass and was the first African-American to serve on the council.

Gray has a long history of public service including a 36-year career with the Los Angeles County Department of Health and Human Services and serving on several Inglewood Unified School District Boards and commissions. She was also appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to serve on the Water Quality Community Task Force, part of the county’s “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” initiative to address pollution in local waterways.

In 2011, she received the “Women in Action Award” from the Los Angeles African-American Women’s Public Policy Institute for her positive representation as a role model for young women. Last year, she received the honorable “Harriet Wieder” award for leadership in water from the Southern California Water Committee and special recognition from the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands for leadership on current and future water issues. 

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March 28, 2013

By Allison Arnold

Special to the LAWT


BAPAC State President Percy Pinkney celebrated his birthday surrounded by community leaders, elected officials, celebrities, BAPAC Members, and friends. This event was a special one for Mr. Pinkney, as he was given honor for being the longest-standing Senior Advisor to a United States Senator. Countless well-wishers gathered at Byblos Restaurant in West LA to pay tribute to Mr. Pinkney for his work over the past 35 years with BAPAC and 25 years with Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Percy has served as a special confidante and advisor to Senator Feinstein even before her first bid for Governor of California. With his help as her Los Angeles-based Senior Advisor, Senator Feinstein has become one of the most popular and powerful elected officials in the United States. Throughout her tenure Mr. Pinkney has helped keep the Senator appraised of the needs of the community and has served as her representative during events and outreach. Recently, Mr. Pinkney helped to marshal community support for her Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which would ban the manufacture of over 150 specific types of assault weapons. He continues to give his support and expertise to the continuing battle to get such a measure passed.

The festive evening included visits by elected officials, a saxophone solo by Rev. Dr. Alvin McKinney, and an extra-special Happy Birthday performance by the legendary Freda Payne.

2013 is shaping up to be the busiest year ever for Mr. Pinkney, as he prepares for a full year of community-minded programs as well as BAPAC’s 35th Annual Convention in October. The large turnout of this event shows how many lives Percy Pinkney has personally touched in his years of service to the Senator and the Community.

“Percy is truly like family to all those who know him,” said BAPAC Communications Director Allison Arnold.

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February 28, 2013

LAWT News Service


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flipped the switch recently, on the final traffic intersection in the citywide signal synchronization program. All of Los Angeles’ 4,398 traffic signals are now part of the Automated Traffic Surveillance & Control (ATSAC) system. The completion of this program decreases average travel time for commuters throughout Los Angeles and improves air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“[Now], we have synchronized every traffic signal in the city of Los Angeles,” said Villaraigosa. “By synchronizing our traffic signals, we will spend nearly a day less waiting and reduce pollution by nearly a metric ton of carbon every year.” 

The signal synchronization program originated in advance of the 1984 Olympics, but was left in limbo until 2005 when Villaraigosa vowed to finish the project. After campaigning heavily for Proposition 1B, Villaraigosa ensured that $150 million was allocated to help accelerate the citywide traffic control system.

"As a result of signal synchronization, our system increases travel speed by 16% and reduces travel time by 12%," said Jaime de la Vega, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), citing LADOT’s studies of traffic before and after implementation. Independent analysis reached similar results.

The main goals of the signal synchronization system are to safely manage the movement of different modes (pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and other vehicles), improve the efficiency of the traffic signal system by optimally allocating “green time” to different modes and in different directions, provide the capability to remotely monitor and adjust signal timing in real-time to respond to specific conditions or occurrences, provide the ability to analyze traffic data, and implement revised traffic signal timing as required

"Finding solutions to reduce congestion is one of my top priorities as chair of the Transportation Committee," Councilmember Bill Rosendahl said. "The signal synchronization project will improve rush hour traffic flow and help people get to their destinations quicker. I want to extend my sincere appreciation to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the traffic engineers who are currently working to resolve the timing issue at Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard. I'm looking forward to the moment when things are resolved in the Palisades, and I'm excited for all Angelenos to experience the benefits of this project, whether they're traveling by car, bike, or on foot."

In addition to easing traffic, the intricate network can be utilized by law enforcement and emergency response vehicles, or for unusual signal timing for major special events at venues like the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, and Staples Center/LA Live.

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