There is a single line in the President’s immigration proposal that has escaped a lot of attention. As the idiotic “back of the line” concept and the path to citizenship dominate the headlines, the language of the proposal indicates that the administration would like to eliminate one of the most onerous obstacles to asylum for thousands of applicants- the notorious one year rule. If this became law, the President will preside over a vast improvement in U.S.
What a week it has been. There has been more positive discussion of immigration reform in the last week than in the past decade and while none of it is perfect, it is a huge improvement over Mitt Romney endorsing self-deportation and SB 1070. Hard to believe that that was just six months ago. In the past week, there has been two major comprehensive overhaul plans, word of a third, and the introduction of independent bills that would make discrete but needed improvements to the system.
This morning, we had a chance to review the five page blueprint for immigration reform produced by a bipartisan group of eight Senators. There is a lot to discuss on the blueprint, but one thing specifically jumped out at me: “Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency.
Over the last few weeks we have answered dozens of questions about the provisional waiver. One group of questions keeps appearing- questions about how people in removal proceedings or with a removal order can qualify for the provisional waiver. Whereas, the initial rule announced by the Department of Homeland Security indicated that the provisional waiver would be unavailable to people in removal proceedings, the final rule is somewhat more forgiving.
The Citizenship & Immigration Service has released more information about the I-601A provisional waiver process set to begin on March 4. The I-601A provisional waiver process is meant to allow the immediate relatives of United States citizens to seek a waiver of inadmissibility due to unlawful presence while in the United States and prior to departing the U.S. for an interview at a U.S. consulate abroad.
President Obama has chosen Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco to read at his inauguration. Blanco will be the first Latino poet as well as the first openly gay poet to perform an inaugural poem. According to his biography, “Richard Blanco, was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States– meaning his mother, seven months pregnant, with the rest of his family, arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid where he was born.
The Migration Policy Institute recently released a study documenting that the U.S. government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, dwarfing the $14 million spent on other federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the DEA and the ATF, combined, received $14 billion. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s budget, alone, is $6 billion. Something is seriously out of whack here. None of this is surprising to immigration attorneys. ICE runs a gulag archipelago of detention centers across the country, holding immigrants who have overstayed visas, entered without inspection, seek asylum, and committed minor offenses.
The publication of the rule allowing for processing of provisional waivers for unlawful presence in the United States was another act of administrative rule-making that the President has undertaken to make the immigration laws more humane. Over the past year, the effort at prosecutorial discretion, the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the provisional waiver have created a much improved immigration system that attempts to solve real immigration problems for families.
As most of us in Washington returned to work on January 2, 2013, we noticed that many of our fellow Washingtonians were bleary-eyed and slow-moving. Unfortunately, their lethargy stemmed not from all night and day new year’s electro-funk raves, but from hours of C-SPAN, watching the country go over the fiscal cliff, then climb back up the cliff, and then just hang out somewhere in the middle.
A persistent and fair criticism of the current administration is that while it has made grand pronouncements of focusing its enforcement efforts on violent criminals and threats to the national security, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities have scooped far more benign immigrants in their overboard nets. While the administration has put forward numerous memoranda and made extensive public statements about focusing limited resources on the dangerous and the recidivist immigration violators, the reality has been that, as a result of Secure Communities, immigrants without status and without serious criminal issues encountered by the police either due to a minor offense, while reporting a crime, or while the police look for another individual have been swept into the immigration dragnet, detained and deported.