Immigration Reform—Is it on the Horizon?

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On March 22, 2007, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4) introduced the STRIVE Act of 2007, “Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007.” The STRIVE Act is a piece of legislation created to provide comprehensive immigration reform. As the bill is hundreds of pages long, this article will briefly summarize the main points and topics. The bill has seven titles – Title I: Securing our Borders; Title II: Strengthening Interior Enforcement; Title III: Bolstering Employment Verification; Title IV: New Worker Program that Reflects Realities of Our Workforce; Title V: Reforming a Broken Visa System in a Way that Protects Families; Title VI: Earned Legalization for Qualified, Hardworking Individuals; Title VII: Miscellaneous.

The Worker Visa Program, included in Title IV, creates a legal channel for future immigrant workers (and their spouses and children) by establishing the H-2C visa, which is valid for three years and renewable for another three. The visa program has an initial cap of 400,000, which adjusts yearly based on market fluctuations. This program also contains an Earned Citizenship program, which provides new workers with an opportunity to apply for conditional permanent residence and eventual citizenship.

Title V of the STRIVE Acct overhauls the family-based and employment-based immigration system to reduce backlogs of visa numbers. The legislation provides opportunities for high skilled workers to come to and remain in the United States. It also addresses employment needs in shortage occupations, such as nursing.
Earned Legalization, included in Title VI, creates a new visa program (conditional nonimmigrant status) for undocumented immigrants, their spouses and children in the United States. The visa is valid for six years and provides employment and travel authorization. This program also provides a route to Earned Citizenship.
It is important to keep in mind that the STRIVE Act is not in its final version and could substantially change before it is enacted as a law.

Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2007
On February 16, 2007, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2007, a piece of legislation to provide for the adjustment of status of certain nationals of Liberia to that of lawful permanent residence (“green card”). On April 19, 2007 Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) agreed to support this bill. Additionally, on April 19, 2007, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI-1) (along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN-5) introduced the House’s companion bill.

In its current form, the Senate’s bill allows for an approval of adjustment of status to a foreign national who is a national of Liberia, who applies for adjustment of status before April 1, 2009, who has been continuously present in the United States from January 1, 2007 through the date of application or who is the spouse, child or unmarried son or daughter of a Liberian national who has been continuously present in the United States from January 1, 2007. Any foreign national who has been convicted of an aggravated felony or two or more crimes involving moral turpitude will not be eligible.

The House bill allows for adjustment of status of any national of Liberia who was granted temporary protected status on or after March 27, 1991 or was eligible to apply for temporary protected status on or after March 27, 1991. The House bill also requires that the unmarried son or daughter must establish their physical presence in the United States for at least one year and must be physically present in the United States on the date the application is filed.

It is important to keep in mind that the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2007 is not in its final version and could substantially change before it is enacted as a law.

The Hunt for Illegal Immigrants in Minnesota Continues
Congress approved a 17 percent increase in ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) overall budget nationally last year. According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), funds for detention and removal of illegal immigrants nearly doubled. AILA also reports that the agency’s national funding for detention and removal of illegal immigrants more than doubled from $1.6 billon to $3.8 billon from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007 and funding for worksite enforcement tripled to $30 million during the same period.

The increased budget will enable the ICE’s Bloomington regional office to hire more agents and buy vehicles, computers, and other tools. The regional office covers Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. ICE is now pursuing its original mission more aggressively after several years of focusing on counter-terrorism. The refocusing means searching for and arresting illegal immigrants, especially those with criminal convictions and order for deportation, combating identity fraud, busting employers and investigating transnational gangs.

The Bloomington ICE office has arrested 690 people in the past six months, compared with 455 arrested in fiscal year 2006 and 376 in fiscal year 2005. Between October 2006 and March 2007, the Bloomington office deported 1,427 people and arrested 1,846 non-criminal foreign nationals who had committed immigration violations. If ICE arrests you, a family member or friend, you should contact an immigration attorney immediately.

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About Igbanugo Partners International Law Firm

Igbanugo Partners Int'l Law Firm is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It focuses on (1) U.S. immigration law and (2) international trade law in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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