Tag Archives: Mexico

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

Mexican woman arrested for selling tamales faces deportation

The Sacramento Bee is reporting this week that a woman was arrested and detained for twelve days for refusing to leave a Wal-Mart parking lot where she was selling inexpensive tamales. Complicating the case is that 46-year-old Juana Reyes is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who came to this country over 16 years ago and now has two U.S. citizen children. During her time in jail she was interviewed by an officer from Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) through the federal Criminal Alien Program (CAP), which ultimately led to ICE bringing deportation charges against the woman.

In the aftermath of this incident, Ms. Reyes’ case is being publicized as evidence of the overreach of federal immigration enforcement policy. Advocates for more generous immigration policies argue that CAP and other related programs like Secure Communities reach too far into the criminal justice system in order to ensnare immigrants detained on minor charges. Advocates are pushing for legislation and policy changes that would prevent some of these programs from applying to individuals arrested on minor crimes if they have no other criminal history. Ms. Reyes had no prior criminal history but her case will still be an uphill battle to avoid deportation.

A year ago the Obama Administration announced new policy guidelines aimed at focusing immigration enforcement resources on high-priority offenders such as violent criminals and repeat immigration violators. Critics charge that these policies have not become a reality despite what is written in memos and discussed in speeches. Although the Obama administration has argued for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that would address the nation’s ten to twelve million undocumented immigrants, it has also overseen a massive increase in deportations.

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Filed under National News, Undocumented Immigrants

Gruesome reports from Mexico highlight hardship of family separation

For nearly a week news outlets worldwide have been buzzing with the gruesome reports from Mexico that 49 decapitated bodies were found on Sunday in what appears to be yet another sadistic show of strength by the country’s powerful and violent drug cartels. For many mixed-status families that include immigrants from Mexico, this violence is much more than a frightful story from a faraway place.

Reasonable observers will acknowledge that the growing violence in Mexico has many sources, and among them are drug policies in the United States that focus more on criminalizing all drug use than on treating drug addiction and taking a realistic view of recreational use of substances such as marijuana. In this analysis, U.S. drug policy quashes domestic production of drugs that are in high demand, creating a powerful financial incentive for producers and traffickers based in Central America to supply the U.S. market at a lucrative premium. The result is powerful, well-financed, and determined drug cartels that have proven so entrenched and brazen that even the Mexican military struggles to contain them.

The U.S. “War on Drugs” focuses on the consumers of those drugs, or on the demand-side of the equation; on the other hand, U.S. immigration policy is mostly targets immigrants, which constitute the supply-side. And so while the U.S. has waged a demand-side War on Drugs, it has been relatively lax in its enforcement of sanctions on employers who constitute demand for undocumented labor. If only the two strategies were reversed, we might have an immigration system that functions better and drug laws with fewer negative spillover effects.

In this context is the reality of gaining legal status in the United States. Those undocumented workers who were lured from Mexico to the United States by better wages and quality of life (and loose employer sanctions) now find themselves between a rock and a hard place — increasingly harsh anti-immigrant policies targeting them in daily life, and a home country increasingly marked by merciless conflicts between drug cartels and security forces.

As we have explained elsewhere, for many undocumented immigrants the only path to legal status involves returning to their country of origin and applying for an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility. This process can take months or even years before it yields a favorable result, and in the meantime families are either separated or must face together the frightful realities of life in a country increasingly overrun by cartels. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has compiled several anecdotes of violence affecting families separated by this lengthy adjudication process. In some cases applicants or even their U.S. citizen relatives have been kidnapped, injured, or killed while waiting for permission to return to the United States.

President Obama’s administration has proposed changes to the I-601 process that would make it possible for families to request pre-approval of the waiver needed for undocumented immigrants to be permitted to return to the United States, and we are making a push for this proposal to be realized and even expanded. You can read more about our support of provisional waivers and stateside adjudication elsewhere on our Northern Nevada immigration services blog.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Undocumented Immigrants