13 Apr 2022 Immigration Reform Can Be Quick And Simple (Part 2)
In a previous article, I discussed how we are all waiting for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), but Congress is evenly divided and it seems the Republicans and Democrats are unwilling to compromise on their positions and proposals. While we are waiting for CIR, there are several things Congress can do immediately, which would greatly benefit the government and intending immigrants. Here are more quick, simple, and easy proposals to address immigration issues, problems, and solutions now:
- Prioritize serious crimes and immigration violations for removal/deportation. Under Trump, even the most minor immigration violation could trigger a person being placed in deportation/removal. Every case was deemed an “enforcement priority”, such that a person merely overstaying their visa and a felon or terrorist were being equally targeted for removal. Trial Attorneys (TA’s) steadfastly refused to consider prosecutorial discretion. While the Biden administration is making great inroads into prioritizing the removal of really bad and dangerous people (such as aggravated felons, terrorists, etc.), they must do more in terms of exercising prosecutorial discretion. Currently, there are over 1.5 million cases backlogged in immigration courts, with fewer than 500 immigration judges handling it all. It makes no sense to clog courtrooms, pursuing someone who overstayed their visa, versus focusing on the felons and terrorists instead. Prosecutors have always had the discretion on whether to charge or prosecute a person. Look at places like Los Angeles, New York, etc., where district attorneys are deciding not to prosecute many criminals. In the immigration setting, the TA’s should be more proactive in exercising prosecutorial discretion, by either not pursuing removal against people, or agreeing to either administratively close or even dismiss cases which are truly “low priority” when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.
- USCIS should carry out its core mission of finding ways to approve cases. After 9/11, Congress disbanded the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (INS), and created U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). ICE and CBP were to be the agencies in charge of enforcement, and USCIS was to be the agency in charge of granting benefits, not enforcement. Sometimes, it seems some adjudicators at USCIS have forgotten their core mission, and lean heavily towards enforcement. However, as far back as 1980, a Regional Commissioner from legacy INS sent a memo, reminding officers they should not adjudicate applications and petitions “in an adversary manner or looking for a reason to deny”. Instead, officers should be “looking for a way to approve them”, and deny only if they cannot find a way to approve the petition or the application. Many officers have forgotten the core mission of USCIS, and have developed an attitude of looking for ways to deny a case, versus approaching a case with an attitude of “innocent until proven guilty,” and trying to find ways to approve versus deny cases.
I know all of us want Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), 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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