Saturday, March 10, 2007
Once again, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is looking to raise filing fees for immigration and naturalization applications and petitions. The USCIS published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the Federal Register on February 1, 2007, which lists the proposed fee increases and the reasons behind them. The USCIS says the increased fees will help pay for the rising cost of processing applications and petitions, which the USCIS attributes partly to stricter security measures and new immigration requirements.
The proposal affects employment-based, nonimmigrant categories, including H-1B and L-1 visas; family- and employment-based immigration petitions; and naturalization cases.
The sixty-day comment period for the proposal ends on April 2, 2007. Fees will stay the same at least until that date. The USCIS will need to review and consider the comments before sending the proposed fee increases to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. Because fees may increase after the sixty-day comment period ends, petitioners and applicants should try to file their forms before April 2, 2007.
Anyone may post their comments on the fee increases through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main) or via mail or hand-delivery in hardcopy, disk, or CD-ROM form, addressed to: Director, Management Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 3rd Floor, Washington D.C. 20529.
Comments will be available to the public here. Do not include any personal information unless you are willing to share it. Comments must be received by April 2, 2007 and must reference the agency name (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the docket number (USCIS-2006-0044).
Operation Return to Sender Puts Undocumented Immigrants on Edge
There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Many of them are here simply because their home countries do not have jobs for them or do not have jobs that pay them enough to feed their families. Between 2000 and 2005, for example, Mexico lost 900,000 rural jobs and 700,000 industry jobs. Although Congress has been debating immigration reform, there is still no temporary worker program for aliens unlawfully present in the United States. In the meantime, the U.S. government is mostly focused on catching and deporting illegal immigrants.
On May 26, 2006, the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) began an enforcement campaign that supposedly targets the “worst of the worst”: 590,000 illegal immigrants who have been classified as “fugitive aliens” (foreign nationals who either failed to appear for an Immigration Court hearing or ignored an Immigration Judge’s orders to depart the United States). ICE estimates that 50,000 to 75,000 fugitive aliens are also "criminal aliens" who were convicted of local, state or federal offenses. ICE notes that its main targets include criminal aliens convicted of a controlled substance offense, firearms offense, offense against a minor, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence with prior convictions.
Since its inception, the enforcement campaign – known as Operation Return to Sender – has resulted in the indiscriminate arrests of nearly 14,000 undocumented workers throughout the United States. Although some are fugitive aliens or criminal aliens, many of them have no problems with the law or immigration authorities. Therefore, while the primary goal is to catch the “worst of the worst”, ICE does not give passes to those who do not have lawful status or who have never been convicted of a criminal offense. In a recent federal raid at six Swift & Co meat-processing plants, 1,282 people were arrested for immigration violations. Only 65 were also charged with identify theft or other criminal charges.
Operation Return to Sender subjects every undocumented person to arrest, detention and removal from the United States. Because no temporary worker program exists, the enforcement campaign has put undocumented workers on the edge. The increased risk of living in the United States without lawful status makes it even more important to seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney on your immigration options.
Legalizing Status – A Catch-22 Situation
This year, immigration advocates hope for comprehensive immigration reform that would allow more undocumented immigrants to obtain lawful status in the United States. The present immigration laws, however, make it difficult for foreign nationals who entered the United States illegally to become permanent residents.
Even if they share a bona fide marriage with a U.S. citizen and have children with the citizen, foreign nationals who entered the United States illegally may not adjust to lawful permanent resident status (unless they qualify for an exception, such as having a Form I-130 petition pending on their behalf before April 30, 2001). Instead, in most cases, they must leave the country to obtain an immigrant visa at a consulate abroad.
The problem is that when they leave the United States, they could trigger a three-year, ten-year or permanent bar to re-entering the country because of their prior illegal entry and unlawful presence. So, departing the U.S. to consular process for permanent residence is a catch-22 situation for many undocumented immigrants. To obtain an immigrant visa, they must prove that their petitioning spouse or parent would suffer extreme hardship if they were not allowed to return to the United States. This is otherwise known as the “hardship waiver,” which we will discuss in a future article.