Category Archives: Uncategorized

@AP reports early leaks of details of forthcoming Senate CIR bill | Will advocates take what they’re given? http://ow.ly/k1Eye

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Sudden reveal of Customer Identification Verification leads immediately to public confusion

With little prior notice — at least none that our program was aware of — USCIS announced Monday a new program to bolster security and combat fraud at key immigration appointments. The initiative, called Customer Identification Verification or CIV, seems at first glance to be a sensible, appropriate step to ensure the integrity of immigration processes.┬áBut the way the news has gotten out suggests missteps in the unveiling of CIV.

The first mention our Immigration Assistance Program heard about CIV was from a panicked call from a potential client on Tuesday morning. She had been watching the noticias on Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and she came away with the impression that, effective immediately, all visits to USCIS offices would require visitors to submit to biometrics capture including fingerprinting and photo.

The reality is more benign — and most likely it is a good development. Beginning on May 6, 2013 USCIS will begin requiring fingerprint and photo processing for individuals present for an immigration interview or in order to receive evidence of an immigration benefit. What this means is that individuals who arrive for a naturalization exam or a marriage-based immigration interview will have their identity verified to ensure that someone is not testing/interviewing in someone else’s place.

Similarly, when someone goes to receive an I-551 stamp (e.g. temporary proof of Permanent Residency while a Permanent Resident Card replacement is pending) or another form of immigration documentation verification will be done to make sure that some other individual is not standing in to have his or her passport stamped or I-94 issued.

To the extent that the new CIV process can be implemented without adding undue delay or complexity to existing protocols, this seems like a reasonable development and a good way for USCIS to preserve the integrity of its procedures. Time will tell if this new layer of security will impose delays and costs that are appropriately in line with the security risks posed by brazen fraud such as is described above.

Whatever the merits of the new CIV initiative, it is worth noting that this seems to have been dropped on the public with little advance notice even to service providers. We remain hopeful that this development helps rather than hinders USCIS functions, but we are worried that the way in which news about CIV is spreading that it may reignite sentiments of fear surrounding USCIS operations, InfoPass appointments, and other key elements of the relationship between USCIS and the community of immigrants it serves.

You can see USCIS’s announcement of CIV here. A stakeholder engagement is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 and registration goes through this portal.

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Visa Bulletin advances, opens door closed since 2001

A technical but important event occurred earlier this month when the upcoming April 2013 Visa Bulletin was released. For many Central Americans who have been waiting patiently since 2001 for the opportunity to gain lawful immigration status, the release of this document has unlocked a door that has been closed to them for over a decade.

Some of our readers may be familiar with adjustment of status under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 245(i) is important because it offers an alternate path to adjustment of status (“fixing your papers within the USA”) even if the applicant entered the country without permission, even if s/he worked without authorization, and even s/he entered with a visa which s/he overstayed or violated.

Section 245(i) was created in the 1990s but many potential applicants did not take advantage of it. The window for using this process was extended in the late days of the Clinton administration and included a filing deadline of April 30, 2001. Applicants pay a fine of $1,000 in order to utilize this alternate process, but they (like all visa applicants) must wait for a visa to become available.

That wait is not insignificant — it can take years and years, even ten, 15, or 20 years for a visa to be made available. In fact, what makes the April 2013 Visa Bulletin significant is that it reflects the first time* that the F-4 category (visas through U.S. citizen siblings) has been available to countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and others for applicants with the filing date of April 30, 2001.

The largest group of undocumented immigrants — from Mexico — still have a long wait before that fabled period of early 2001 reaches current visa availability. Mexico’s visa line is still so far backlogged that visas in the F-4 category are only available for applicants who filed prior to September 1, 1996. You can review the April 2013 Visa Bulletin here.

When our conversation centers on the requirement that undocumented individuals “get in the back of the line,” it is important to remember what that means. For thousands of long-patient applicants from Central America, the back of the line has finally reached fruition.

* A note: visa availability for these categories actually came available in late 2010 but quickly retrogressed because the Department of State realized that it had moved the line forward to aggressively. Most individuals who filed for their visas during this period had their cases processed and then held in abeyance. Approval notices and interview notices for eligible cases on hold from this period are being issued now.

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Filed under Family-Based Immigration, National News, Uncategorized, Undocumented Immigrants

Oscar goes to “Inocente,” keeping immigration in center stage

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tonight recognized the film “Inocente,” a fearless documentary about a 15-year-old undocumented girl living in Los Angeles who copes with homelessness, her immigration status, family turmoil, and the challenges of adolescence all at once.

In winning the “Oscar” for Best Documentary Short, the film has not only validated the hard work and creative talent of its creators but also the trying experience of Inocente Izucar and hundreds of thousands of young women like her whose lives are shaped by federal laws and migration forces that are beyond their control.

Although policies like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have helped to empower this class of young people so they can come out of the shadows and live a semblance of a normal life, much work remains to be done to pass legislation like the DREAM Act or comprehensive immigration reform that would legalize the status of and offer a path to citizenship to millions of unauthorized immigrants.

 

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Filed under Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), National News, Uncategorized, Undocumented Immigrants

Senators’ opening bid for Comprehensive Immigration Reform has echoes of past proposals

A day before President Barack Obama is slated to visit the Silver State and deliver a speech outlining principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), a group of U.S. Senators has unveiled its own set of general proposals. Although visible progress is a welcome sign to immigration advocates who thought they may have to wait until spring for any action, the details of what is being proposed are strongly reminiscent of past proposals that have not borne fruit.

Echoing all CIR proposals since 9/11, this one attempts to forge bipartisan compromise by tying any broad-based path to citizenship with “increased enforcement and border security.” Advocates of CIR have often asked in recent years what would satisfy this criterion if 400,000 deportations per year and a decade of constant year-over-year budget increases for enforcement are deemed to have not been enough.

Cheerleaders for CIR can find encouragement in the fact that the Senate is leading the way — although the political makeup of the Senate is arguably less conducive to passing a broad package of reforms, it also has higher procedural hurdles for advancing legislation. The most recent effort to pass immigration law reform — approval of the DREAM Act to offer relief to young undocumented immigrants — died in the Senate after failing to overcome a filibuster. Similarly advocates should be optimistic that broad principles are being introduced and a path to citizenship for all of the estimated 11-12 million aspiring citizens is on the table — some advocates had worried that only a piecemeal set of small reforms could pass both houses of Congress and that some groups might be left out. Finally, it is obvious that the political environment is different in 2013 than it was throughout President Obama’s first term: on this issue perhaps less so because he is a re-elected president who is seen as deserving to implement his mandate and more because the Republican Party desperately wants to make a viable bid for Latino votes in 2014 and beyond.

But the news is not all cheery when seen through a political handicappers eyes. First, the community of immigration advocates, aspiring citizens, and their families should know now that power players in Washington posturing toward a goal does not guarantee that said goal will be realized. The proposals being ballyhooed today are very similar to those put forth in prior Congresses dating back half a decade or more and changes in the electorate, where they have occurred, are arguably more stepwise than sweeping.

Some of the familiar ideas in this proposal include:

  • More border security including the use of drones to patrol the borders and a promise to provide Customs and Border Protection with the tools and resources it needs to “apprehend every unauthorized entrant;”
  • A path to Permanent Residence for aspiring citizens who pay fines and back taxes and pass a background check;
  • Expansion of high-skill work visas such as the tiny number in the H-1B category;
  • Provisions for an accelerated “alien entrepreneur” residency for job creators;
  • An improved system for employment authorization verification; and
  • Some form of guest worker program

Among the new approaches in this proposal are:

  • An explicit “enforcement-first” approach that would rely on approval from a new commission of governors rather than the usual rhetoric of “we have to secure the borders before we discuss legalization”; and
  • A new system for proactively tracking exits from the country to prevent overstays of temporary visas (one study finds that 38 to 50 percent of all unauthorized immigrants overstayed their visas).

Finally, there are a few potential poison pills in what is being proposed:

  • The enforcement-first approach is engineered to provide political cover for both sides if negotiations break down or bills fail to win approval — one political party can point to concerns over border security and the other can score political points by highlighting its rival’s intransigence;
  • We again see the notion that those currently out of status must “go to the back of the line,” but it is unclear precisely what is meant by this. For some visa categories (see the recent Visa Bulletin here) the “back of the line” is a far-flung place 16, 19, or even 23 years in the past.
  • Universal employment authorization — many observers say that to truly achieve robust, universal employment verification the U.S. would have to implement a national identification card that every authorized worker would bear. Such a proposal faces staunch opposition from civil liberties advocates from both ends of the political spectrum.
  • Ours is still a bicameral legislature, and any proposal must appeal not only to a handful of Republican Senators but also to enough Republicans in the House to make it to a vote and survive. The attitude that the Republican Party must moderate its policies if it is to survive is not one that is universally held.

All in all, we have this week signs of progress but nothing upon which to make firm plans or even friendly bets. President Obama will weigh in when he visits Las Vegas tomorrow and we will continue to keep an eye on these developments.

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Filed under Advocacy, Enforcement, Immigrant Rights, Legalization Process, National News, Uncategorized, Undocumented Immigrants

BREAKING: USCIS unveils final rule on I-601A provisional waiver process

Earlier today USCIS announced that it will publish a final rule tomorrow (03.Jan.2013) detailing the new provisional waiver process. We provided some preliminary information about this proposal earlier this year during other coverage of the I-601A provisional waiver. A pre-release version of the rule is available here.

We will continue to monitor this exciting development as new details emerge. USCIS will likely be holding informational conference calls in the coming weeks.

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