Immigration Reform Can Be Quick And Simple (Part 1)

Immigration Reform Can Be Quick And Simple (Part 1)

For decades, almost every presidential candidate promises Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Unfortunately, once in office, hardly anything ever materializes. Joe Biden campaigned on comprehensive immigration reform and backed the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021,” which provided an “earned roadmap” or pathway to U.S. citizenship for the approximate 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S. However, that proposal has gone nowhere.

Part of the problem is our country and politics are almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Neither side has a majority or a mandate, enabling them to push or force through legislation which the other side may not agree with. The Senate is divided 50/50, and Democrats hold a slim majority in the House. Both sides have to realize that nothing can be accomplished unless they compromise. Neither side can expect to get everything they want, without giving something to the other side.

When it comes to immigration reform, part of the problem is the Democrats want CIR, including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., but do not want a border wall. The GOP (Republicans) appeared willing to consider CIR, but insist on border security (or a wall) at our southern border to halt, or slow down, the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the border every month. As long as each side remains unwilling to compromise, and neither side will back down, CIR most likely will not happen soon.

Even though Congress is at standstill with CIR, there are things they could quickly and easily do now to address many immigration issues, which will benefit undocumented immigrants in the U.S.:

  1. Bring back Section 245(i). Section 245(i) expired on April 30, 2001. It allowed people who were out of status, crossed the border without inspection (EWI), crewmen/jumpship, etc. to adjust status (be processed for their green card) in the U.S., even if they overstayed, worked without authorization, etc., provided they had been petitioned before April 30, 2001, and paid a $1,000 penalty. Congress could easily extend Section 245(i), and even raise the penalty to $5,000 or even $10,000, which would be far cheaper than the cost of departing the U.S. to be processed overseas (in terms of airfare, hotels, lost employment, etc.) It would also greatly reduce the workload of our embassies and consulates around the world, because many thousands of people could apply for green cards in the U.S., rather than having to depart and apply abroad. Congress previously extended Section 245(i) when it expired in January 1998, and is fully familiar with how Section 245(i) worked and benefited our country.
  2. End the 3/10-year bar. Certain people are ineligible to adjust status in the U.S., such as K-1 (fiancé) entrants who did not marry the petitioning citizen, crewmen without Section 245(i), etc. Instead, they must return to their home country for immigrant visa processing. However, if they depart the U.S., they could be subject to the 3/10-year bar, which forces many to remain in the U.S. in the shadows. While a “provisional waiver” is available for some, enabling them to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to waive or forgive the 3/10-year bar before they depart for consular processing, why even have the 3/10-year bar, to begin with, requiring a provisional waiver? Bill Clinton was the one who created the 3/10-year bar in 1996 when he signed a very restrictive immigration law. Before the enactment of the 3/10-year bar, people would routinely depart the U.S. for consular processing, as sometimes it was much faster than waiting to adjust status. But the 3/10-year bar brought all of that to a halt. If a person is eligible for a green card, but not eligible for a provisional waiver, the 3/10-year bar simply keeps them stranded in the U.S., unable to get a green card. It is not as though they can hop on a plane to go home to their home country and come back after 10 years. They will just simply remain undocumented in the U.S. Again, eliminating the 3/10-year bar is not a new concept. It would greatly benefit our country, by enabling people to legalize their status without the need to obtain a provisional waiver and lighten USCIS’s workload by not having to process the tens of thousands of provisional waiver requests.

In a future article, I will discuss additional “quick fix” proposals while we are waiting for comprehensive immigration reform, which could benefit both the Government and the millions of people who are seeking the “American dream“ through our immigration laws.

I know all of us want Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and we wish members of Congress could get together and finally pass legislation to that effect. In the meantime, the above proposals are not radical. They had been in place already, and we all saw they worked wonderfully and greatly benefited the U.S. I hope Congress would take note of these proposals, which could greatly alleviate the workload for the government and anxiety for intending immigrants.



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