Immigration Reform: Is it really coming?

Immigration Reform: Is it really coming?

Question: I have heard that there is going to be immigration reform. Can you shed some light on the subject and what we might expect?

Answer: Conservatives have tended to oppose immigration reform and amnesty for undocumented workers. Prominent Republicans, however, have recently come out in support of massive immigration overhauls. We could speculate as to why this is the case, but suffice it to say, immigration is on the table and both sides are talking.

At a Jan. 29 event in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama called for broad changes to the nation’s immigration laws. President Obama said the following:

“The time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. … I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix the system that’s been broken for way too long. I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”

Obama’s immigration reform proposal includes providing undocumented workers a path to citizenship, a requirement for employers to check workers’ immigration status as well as stiffer penalties for those who break immigration law.

Although in the past many GOP lawmakers have been reluctant to support immigration reform, the tides may be changing. The immigration reform tide turned once and for all on Nov. 6, 2012. The elections produced a mandate for immigration reform and now it is time to act.

The 2013 State of the Union address and the President’s call for comprehensive immigration reform led to one of the only bipartisan standing ovations. Although the anti-immigrant movement has always been loud … their influence today is much diminished. Meanwhile, the power of the immigration reform movement is growing every day in depth and breadth.

A growing number of conservatives, including Tea Party lawmakers, religious groups and conservative media leaders, are part of the growing momentum calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said in an interview with Politico after the 2012 elections that he plans to pursue measures that have long been avoided by his party, including carving an immigration plan with an “eventual path” to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Many Republicans are beginning to question the sources for their information on the economic and social impacts of immigration.

Question: What can we do to help?

Answer: At this point since the ball is finally rolling after the draconian 1996 Anti-immigration bill, it is time to let your representatives know you support immigration reform and to keep the pressure on to move forward. Call, e-mail, write and speak out. You can do it tactfully and methodically, but the more the congressional representatives know that their constituents are behind them with immigration reform, the more likely we will have a new and complete comprehensive immigration reform bill.​

Immigration Reform may be on the Horizon!

Assistant Attorney General Tony West Speech on State Immigration Laws

DOJ speech transcript from Assistant Attorney General Tony West’s speech at the American Constitution Society Sou

January 2011 Migration Policy Institute report

A January 2011 Migration Policy Institute report that assesses the implementation, outcomes, costs, and community impacts of the 287(g) program, which enables state and local officers to directly enforce federal immigration law and is now operating in 72 jurisdictions.

Preparation of Asylum Application

How to prepare an Asylum Application –

2002 Immigration Highlights

 Question: I understand that there are usually a lot of immigration laws that pass and either help or hurt immigrants. Now that we are in 2003, can you give a summary of some of the highlights of immigration regulations which were considered or passed in 2002?

ANSWER: The regulations issued during the 107th Congressional session have an immediate effect on foreign workers’ ability to obtain visas, enter, and remain in the United States in valid status. Human resources personnel should therefore expect to receive numerous questions about the scope of these new rules. The following is a brief overview of some of the more important immigration-related and business immigration-related regulations the INS and other agencies issued during the past year:

The Department of State raised Fees for Nonimmigrant Visa Processing: The State Department raised the machine-readable visa (MRV) fee charged for the processing of a nonimmigrant visa, or a combined nonimmigrant visa and border crossing card application, from $65 to $100, effective November 1.

Special Registration: The INS, on August 12, finalized a rule that requires certain nonimmigrants to undergo various registration processes, and imposes sanctions on those who do not follow the processes. Four groups so far have been ordered to Special Register.

Change of Address Notification: A July 26 INS proposed rule would require every applicant for immigration benefits to acknowledge having received notice that he or she is required to provide a valid current address to the Service, including any change of address, within 10 days of the change. In absentia removal orders could flow from failure to so provide.

Concurrent Filing: A July 31 INS interim rule provides that an Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker (Form I-140) and an Adjustment of Status application (Form I-485) may now be filed concurrently when a visa number is immediately available. In addition, eligible individuals with I-140 petitions pending on July 31 may now file the I-485 and associated forms. The rule took effect upon publication.

Proposed PERM Rule on Labor Certification for Permanent Employment: The DOL, on May 6, published the proposed ‘PERM’ rule that would amend the agency’s regulations governing the filing and processing of labor certification applications for permanent employment in the U.S. The rule would also amend the regulations governing an employer’s wage obligation under the H-1B program. The final PERM rule is expected to be published in April 2003 and to take effect in July.

Foreign Health Care Workers: An October 11 INS proposed rule would implement a process for the certification of certain foreign health care workers, and would add a requirement that all nonimmigrants coming to the U.S. to work as health care workers, including those seeking change of status, be required to submit a certification. This rule is not yet in effect.

B-2 Visitors Visa: An April 12 INS proposed rule would eliminate the minimum admission period for B-2 nonimmigrant visitors, reduce the maximum admission period for B-1 and B-2 visitors, and restrict B visitors’ ability to extend stay or change to student status. This rule is not yet in effect.

Adjustment of Status under LIFE: The INS issued a final rule on June 4, implementing the adjustment of status application procedures under the LIFE Act’s ‘late legalization’ provisions. The rule extends the filing deadline to June 4, 2003, and makes various other changes based on comments received to the interim rule.

S Nonimmigrant Visa: The State Department, on November 4, finalized a rule implementing the ‘S’ nonimmigrant visa program. The S visa category is available to nonimmigrants determined by the Attorney General to have critical and reliable information concerning a criminal organization or enterprise.

Passenger Manifest Requirements: On January 3, 2003, the INS issued a proposed rule requiring all commercial carriers to submit a detailed passenger manifest electronically before either departing from or arriving in the United States. The information required for each passenger includes: complete name, date of birth, citizenship, sex, passport number and country of issuance, country of residence, U.S. visa information, address while in the U.S; and other necessary information. The rule took affect January 1, 2003.

Border Crossing Cards: The INS promulgated an interim rule that establishes procedures to terminate the use of current non-biometric border crossing cards (BCCs), eliminates certain former versions of BCCs, and clarifies the validity period of waivers of inadmissibility. The rule took effect retroactive to October 1.

State and Local Law Enforcement of Civil Violations of Immigration Law: The Justice Department, on July 24, finalized a rule permitting the Attorney General to authorize any state or local law enforcement officer, with the consent of those whose jurisdiction the individual is serving, to perform certain functions related to the enforcement of the immigration laws during the period of a declared “mass influx of aliens.”

As you can see there are lots of changes in the law. Hopefully, the new laws coming will have a positive impact on immigrants.


Question: I have different petitions going through for my family. Other relatives are unfortunately in Removal/Deportation Proceedings. I understand that government is planning on restructuring certain departments. Will they restructure INS, and if so, what does that mean for us?

Answer: It appears as though either some or all of INS will be part of the new cabinet level division of the government. It will be known as Homeland Security. However, if it is done in a rash manner without giving the immigrants their rights, then it will hurt those immigrants trying to get her legally and to become legal in the future.

An effective, efficient, and fair immigration system is crucial to our national security and is fundamental to which we are as a people and as a nation of immigrants. Our immigration system must be reorganized. Our immigration system needs to be restructured on the basis of longstanding principles outlined by lawmakers, policy experts, and immigrant advocates.

These principles include: coordinating the separated enforcement and service functions, placing a strong leader in charge of both functions, and adequately funding enforcement and services.

If our immigration functions are included in the new Homeland Security Department, they must be reorganized within a separate division headed by a strong leader.

Question: What exactly will this new department do?

It is unclear at this time exactly what will happen and when it will happen. However, a new division, Immigration Services and Security, should be created within the Department of Homeland Security, headed by an Undersecretary who is knowledgeable about both services and enforcement. Immigration Services and Security should be made up of three sections: Immigration Services, Border Security, and Interior Security.

To enhance our security and support our border functions, a Transportation and Commercial Goods Security division also should be created. This division, along with the Immigration Services and Security division, would replace the proposed Border and Transportation Security Division.

The proposed Homeland Security Department must address concerns about civil rights, oversight, privacy, due process, and visa processing. The new agency must include an office to ensure that the constitutional and civil rights of all persons are protected as the agency carries out its national security mandates.

Policy development for visa issuance needs to remain a function of the State Department to avoid the chaos that would result from separating policy and process and to best address our foreign policy and U.S. business interests.

The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) must remain outside of the Department of Homeland Security, and be constituted as an independent agency in order to guarantee the impartiality and checks and balances of our justice system. Otherwise, it will be as though the Prosecutor is both the opposing attorney and the judge on the same case.

In order for any reform to be effective, Congress must take the time to get it right, overhaul our immigration laws, and protect both our nation and our values and traditions.

Creating a Department of Homeland Security is an enormous undertaking, and Congress must take the time to get it right. We cannot afford the mistakes and oversights of a hasty examination. There is too much at stake.

Title: Any new Immigration Laws?

Question: I know that Congress has a ‘lame-duck’ session now. I was wondering if there were any new and recent developments in the immigration laws.

Answer: There has actually been quite a bit that has been recently signed into law by President Bush. Here is the summary of those recent laws.

On November 2, President Bush signed into law the “21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act.” It includes the following.

Waiver of Foreign Country Residence Requirement with Respect International Medical Graduates. Extends until 2004 the “Conrad State 20” program, which allows states to request waivers of the two-year home residence requirement of INA § 212(e) for certain J–1 physicians who agree to work in medically underserved areas for a period of at least three years, and raises the number of visas available per state from 20 to 30.

Posthumous Citizenship for Non-Citizen Veterans.: Extends the deadline for allowing family members to apply for honorary posthumous citizenship for noncitizen veterans who died while honorably serving the U.S. in past wars.

Extension of H-1B Status for Aliens with Lengthy Adjudications.: Recognizing that lengthy processing times by the Department of Labor have precluded some H-1B visa holders from being eligible to apply for a one-year extension of H status pursuant to the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000, this provision is intended to permit aliens who have labor certification applications caught in lengthy agency backlogs to extend status beyond the six-year limitation. As long as 365 days have elapsed since the filing of a labor certification application (that is filed on behalf of or used by the alien) or an immigrant visa petition, H-1B status can be extended in one-year increments. This will be true even if the alien has since changed his or her status or left the country. If an application for a labor certification or adjustment of status or a petition for an immigrant visa petition is denied, the extended H-1B status ends at that point.

Application for Naturalization by Alternative Applicant if Citizen Parent Has Died: Amends the INA to authorize a child’s grandparents or legal guardian to submit an application for naturalization on behalf of the child under section 322 of the INA where the child’s parent, who otherwise would be authorized to submit the petition, died during the preceding five years.

Also on November 2, the President signed the “Border Student Commuter Act of 2002”. The new law amends INA §§ 101(a)(15)(F) and (M) by creating a new border commuter nonimmigrant classification under the F and M visa categories for Canadian and Mexican nationals who maintain residence in their country of nationality and commute to the U.S. for full- or part-time academic or vocational studies. The legislation was triggered by a May 22, 2002, INS proclamation that commuter students residing in contiguous territory would no longer be allowed to enter the U.S. as visitors to attend school on a part-time basis.

President Bush, on October 29, signed the “Persian Gulf POW/MIA War Accountability Act” to provide refugee status to any alien (and his or her spouse or child) who: (1) is a national of Iraq or a nation of the Greater Middle East Region; and (2) personally delivers into the custody of the U.S. government a living American Persian Gulf War prisoner of war or individual missing in action. Excepted from the Act’s benefits are persons who are ineligible for asylum (including terrorists, persecutors, certain criminals, and individuals presenting a danger to the security of the U.S.).

On September 30, President Bush signed the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003” (H.R. 1646, Pub. L. No. 107–228). The Act contains numerous immigration-related provisions, including authorization for $4.97 billion in appropriations for the administration of foreign affairs in fiscal year 2003.

We Have Hope Yet!

Question: Ever since 1996 when the immigration laws changed to make it much more difficult for immigrants to come to the United States and to stay in the United States, many of my friends have been deported, and many more have had no hope of staying here legally in the United States. Is there any hope that any new laws might change this?

Answer: Actually, you are not alone. There are many people in Congress who have submitted bills which would allow people who have suffered from the 1996 laws and who are currently suffering to fall under new provisions of law to help them. While none of the following bills are actually law as of the present, they are at least on the table. This means that the anti-immigrant movement shown in the 1996 laws is showing Congress that it is harsh, unfair and a burden to families trying to meet the American dream. Here are some of the bills proposed in Congress right now:

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2003: Introduced on July 31 by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), S. 1545 would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to again permit states to determine residency for in-state tuition purposes. The DREAM Act also would grant conditional permanent resident status to young people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, have good moral character, have lived in the U.S. at least five years at the time of enactment, and have graduated from high school.

The Family Reunification Act of 2003: Introduced on June 24 by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), H.R. 2585 would amend the INA to permit certain long-term permanent residents to seek cancellation of removal.

The Student Adjustment Act of 2003: Introduced on April 9 by Representatives Chris Cannon (R-UT), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), H.R. 1684 would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to permit states to determine state residency for in-state tuition purposes and would also provide for the adjustment of status of certain undocumented college-bound students.

The Central American Security Act: Introduced on March 17 by Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), H.R. 1300 would amend § 202 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) to make certain Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans eligible for relief under this section, and would give those individuals with applications for relief currently pending under § 203 the option of having their applications considered as applications for adjustment under § 202.

The Unity, Security, Accountability, and Family (USA Family) Act: Introduced by Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) on January 29, H.R. 440 would: provide legal permanent residence to immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for 5 years or more; grant conditional legal status and work authorization to all law-abiding immigrants living in the U.S. for less than 5 years; repeal the 3- and 10-year bars to admissibility and the provisions that render aliens removable from the U.S. for having committed certain minor nonviolent offenses; and create an improved system of accountability that allows critical resources and manpower to be redirected to fight the war on terror.

The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act) established a nonimmigrant category within the immigration law that allows the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen to be admitted to the United States in a nonimmigrant category. The admission allows the spouse or child to complete processing for permanent residence while in the United States. It also allows those admitted in the new category to have permission for employment while they wait processing of their case to permanent resident status.

Question: Are any of these items law yet?

Answer: Not yet. However, these are only a few of the bills in Congress at this time. However, we should write our representatives in Congress, and show our support for these bills. Hopefully, they will pass in the near future.

What new Bills are on the Horizon?

Question: I have heard that there are a large number of new immigration bills that are in Congress. Can you give a summary?

Answer: Yes, there are a significant number of bills. Whether they actually become law will only be determined by time. However, it does appear that there should be a significant number of changes in the coming year. Below are just a few of the bills introduced.

The Uniting American Families Act or the Permanent Partners Immigration Act: Introduced on June 21 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), S. 1278 would provide a mechanism for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for residence in the United States. S. 1278 defines the term “permanent partner” to mean an individual 18 years of age or older who (a) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment; (b) is financially interdependent with that other individual; (c) is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual; (d) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under the INA; and (e) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual. The bill is companion legislation to H.R. 3006 below.

The Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2005: Introduced on January 24, 2005, by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), S. 119 would build upon the Homeland Security Act, which transferred the care and custody of unaccompanied alien children from the former INS to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Among other things, the bill would ensure that unaccompanied alien children have access to counsel; give ORR the authority to provide guardians to such children; establish minimum standards for the care and custody of unaccompanied alien minors; and strengthen policies for permanent protection of unaccompanied alien children. The bill is similar to legislation that Senator Feinstein introduced in the 108th Congress.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act: Introduced on April 6 by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), H.R. 1502 seeks to roll back some of the most egregious post-9/11 policies and strike an appropriate balance between security needs and liberty interests. Among other things, H.R. 1502 would secure due process protections and civil liberties for non-citizens in the U.S., enhance the effectiveness of our nation’s enforcement activities, restore the confidence of immigrant communities in the fairness of our government, and facilitate our efforts at promoting human rights and democracy around the world.

The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act: Introduced on May 12 by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and others, S. 1033 would comprehensively reform our immigration laws so that they enhance our national security and address the concerns of American businesses and families. Among other things, the bill would establish a break-the-mold new essential worker visa program (the H-5A visa) while also providing a mechanism by which eligible undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. on the date of the bill’s introduction could adjust to temporary nonimmigrant (H-5B) status; promote family unity and reduce backlogs; call for the creation and implementation of a national strategy for border security and enhanced border intelligence; create new enforcement regimes; and promote circular migration patterns. House companion legislation (H.R. 2330) was introduced on May 12 by Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security (AgJobs) Act of 2005: Introduced on February 10, 2005 by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), S. 359 would create an earned adjustment program for undocumented farm workers who would be eligible to apply for temporary immigration status based on their past work experience, and could become permanent residents upon satisfying prospective work requirements. The legislation would also streamline the existing H-2A foreign agricultural worker program while preserving and enhancing key labor protections. Representatives Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House (H.R. 884). The bill is similar to legislation that the two Senators introduced in the 108th Congress.

The Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2005: Introduced on May 4 by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), H.R. 2092 would, among many other things, increase the allocation of family-based immigrant visas; provide age-out protection for children; provide earned access to legalization; provide adjustment of status for certain children; update the registry provisions; and enhance border security.

We have fought long and hard to try to get reform of unfair immigration laws, and hopefully, this will be the year that much of the positive reform happens.


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