May 27, 2010

Why We Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Carl Schusterman (INS Trial Attorney)
What part of "illegal" don't you understand?

This question is the traditional refrain of the anti-immigrant crowd. What they don't seem to understand is that in the same family, one spouse may be illegal while the other spouse is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Their children may also be U.S. citizens.

In such cases, does it make sense to arrest and deport the illegal spouse, and separate the family for weeks, months or even years?

I just received a phone call from the husband of a registered nurse. He is a U.S. citizen. He and his wife have been married for years and are the parents of a U.S. citizen child. Since he became a naturalized citizen only recently, his wife who was present in the U.S. on a student visa decided to pursue her green card application through her job. She takes care of patients at a local hospital.

The wife originally entered the U.S. as a visitor, changed her status to student and once she obtained an RN license and an offer of employment, she applied for adjustment of status to permanent resident.

A few months ago, the USCIS scheduled her for an interview. At the interview, she learned for the first time that she had been ordered deported by an Immigration Judge years before. She was stunned. Why had USCIS approved her application to change her status from visitor to student? Government mistake. Why had USCIS accepted her application for adjustment of status and issued her a work permit? Government mistake.

After the interview, the USCIS denied her application for adjustment of status. Fortunately, her husband soon became a naturalized citizen, and submitted an immigrant visa petition on her behalf. The USCIS approved the petition.

The next step was for her to apply for a green card.

However, as her husband informed me today, ICE agents appeared at their home this afternoon and arrested his wife.

Does this make any sense to anyone? Certainly, it makes no sense to me.

Maybe this is the part of "illegal" that I don't understand.

May 19, 2010

Protecting the DREAM

Arizona’s conservative immigration law, which is scheduled to go into effect this July, has spurred a slew of protests around the country, including a statement of opposition by the city of Richmond, which voted to impose a moratorium on conducting public business in that state. It has also inspired similar legislation proposals in states that believe that local law enforcers have the responsibility to report illegal immigrants to federal officials.

In the midst of this debate, and the larger question of how the United States should deal with the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants living within its borders, it is easy to overlook the stories of individuals who are stuck within the quagmire of ineffective immigration policy.

Many undocumented immigrants were brought to the U.S. by their parents as minors. They have attended school in the U.S., speak English fluently, and yet are still treated as foreigners without rights.

Critics of illegal immigration often demand that the undocumented “get in line” to obtain lawful status. But for many immigrants, including those who are college-educated, financially supporting U.S. citizens, and/or have been living in the U.S. for 20 years or more, there is no “line” for them. There is no lawful way for them to remain in the U.S.

Or if there is, the wait may be several decades, despite having a spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen. This is why advocates of comprehensive immigration reform say that systemic changes are so urgently needed.

Click here to read the interviews have been conducted with immigrants represented by lawyers belonging to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Many of these lawyers have seen their clients needlessly suffer, and are therefore in favor of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The names of some of those profiled have been changed in order to preserve their anonymity.

May 13, 2010

An Opportunity of Two (and then some) Lifetimes

SCENARIO: You are a naturalized American citizen, who has legally immigrated to the United States from Mexico, and have the opportunity to be reunited with your brother / sister / mother / father by petitioning for them to join you as a legal immigrant.

How many years would it take for a simple I-130 application (Petition for an Alien Relative) to the USCIS take?

Factor in the time it takes for the the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process your fee of $355, the petition documents and you will eventually receive a receipt notice stating that you have been put in a waiting line. O.K. Fair enough. There are numerous petitions to process, time must be allowed.
What the USCIS does not state on the receipt notice is that it can take up to 13 years to approve the immigrant visa application. Excuse me, 13 years is a typo. I really meant 131 years.
Let's suppose the immigrant relative you are petitioning for is still alive, and you are not (knock on wood), can the relative still be eligible to be approved by the USCIS?
No. The relative would have to find another U.S. citizen relative to petition for him or her. So the 131 year-cycle begins anew.

This scenario is very real and is based on a review of the immigrant visas issued and adjustments of status for the past five years for Mexican applicants. It is also based on a review of current visa applicants from Mexico already in the queue for immigrant visas based on approved petitions by their U.S. relatives.

So, to put it another way, a Mexico-born brother or sister of a U.S. citizen must wait the equivalent of two lifetimes to immigrate to the United States. Given the choice of waiting more than 100 years for an immigrant visa that will never arrive or slipping illegally across the border to be reunited with family members, many Mexican immigrants have come to the obvious conclusion ... why wait?

Read the entire report published by Attorney at Law, Prakash Khatri here

May 03, 2010

5 Myths About Immigration

MYTH: Immigrants take jobs from American workers.
FACT: Although immigrants account for about 12% of the U.S. population, and despite the fact that immigrants and their children have accounted for 58% of the U.S. population since 1980, they currently constitute less than 15% of the workforce. That 15% tends to be concentrated in high-skilled and low-skilled occupations, which complements (NOT competes with) jobs held by native workers.

MYTH: Immigration is at an all-time high, and most new immigrants came illegally.
FACT: The historic high was recorded in 1890 (more than a century ago), when immigrants made up 14.8 of the population. Check out this nifty interactive map to see how immigrants settled throughout the United States over time.

MYTH: Today's immigrants are not integrating into American life like past waves did.
FACT: The integration of immigrants remains a hallmark of America's vitality as a society and a source of admiration abroad (that's right Europe, admiration). Case in point: today's immigrants consistently seek English instruction in such large numbers that adult-education programs cannot meet the demand, especially in California. Furthermore, I've abstained from writing this blog in any other language but English... for now...

MYTH: Cracking down on illegal border crossings will make us safer.
FACT: Protecting the nation's 7,500 miles of land borders and 12,380 miles of coastline and vast network of sea ports, international airports and various port of entry along the Canadian and Mexican border is no easy feat. Since 9/11, we have dramatically strengthened border security through the use of biometrics at ports of entry, intelligent gathering, integrated database and increased international cooperation.
However, seasoned enforcement officials argue that if we provided enough visas to meet the economy's demand for workers, border agents would be more available to focus on protecting the nation's borders from truly dangerous individuals and activities, such as DRUG-TRAFFICKING, SMUGGLING and CARTEL VIOLENCE.

MYTH: Immigration reform cannot happen in an election year.
FACT: You're right. It can happen ANY year! And the most significant immigration bills enacted in recent decades were passed in election years.
1) REFUGEE ACT OF 1980, which established our systems for humanitarian protection and refugee and asylum admissions.
2) REFORM AND CONTROL ACT OF 1986 made it illegal to hire unauthorized immigrants, and provided amnesty for 2.7 million illegal immigrants.
3) IMMIGRATION ACT OF 1990 increased the number of visas allotted to highly skilled workers.
4) ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM OF 1996 charged immigration agencies with implementing significant new law enforcement mandates.