Cancellation of Program for Voluntary Commencement of Proceedings

Doris Meissner
Commissioner of the Immigration
and Naturalization Service
425 Eye Street, N.W., Room 7100
Washington D.C. 20536

Re: Cancellation of Program for voluntary Commencement of Proceedings

Dear Commissioner Meissner: I am writing your office in order to call to your attention the plight of many immigrant aliens whose only available avenue for obtaining legal resident status has been eliminated by the Los Angeles District Office of the INS. Due to the importance of this matter and the extreme hardship that is being visited upon many law-abiding hard-working undocumented immigrants, this is an open letter which is also addressed to Congressman Howard Berman with the House Subcommittee on Immigration affairs and from the Judiciary Subcommittee On Immigration Senator Spencer Abraham, Chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the various community newspapers regarding the need to review the Immigration Service’s discontinuation of its program to provide undocumented immigrants who qualify, with the means to adjust their status before the immigration courts.

This program, which has been recently discontinued in the Los Angeles District of the INS, allowed undocumented immigrants to come forward and present their case for review by the INS and Immigration Court in Deportation Proceedings so that they could obtain a cancellation of removal and adjust their status to that of Legal Permanent Resident. There are a significant number of these people in this country, who, having entered the United States as long as 10 to 18 years ago, are some of the hardest working, tax paying members of our society.

These persons often have United States Citizen parents and or United States Citizen children who now rely on them for their food, lodging, as well as emotional support. These very same individuals, however, under current immigration laws, now suffer enormous hardship because employers are not allowed to offer employment without a work authorization or proof of legal residency, and many states including California, in cooperation with the Immigration Service deny even the most basic benefits such as driver’s licenses and other professional licenses.

The United States has also aggressively prosecuted employers who employ undocumented aliens creating a climate in which employers simply will not hire immigrants who cannot provide a green card or work authorization. his difficulty in finding an employer who will ignore requirements for documentation of residency force many individuals to work at substandard wages, in dangerous working conditions, at great risk to their health and well-being.

The state of the law in this regard has served to create an underclass and subculture of persons, desperate to have gainful employment which many unscrupulous persons have taken advantage of. Terrible employer abuses have been seen in several states including the Los Angeles County area where, authorities have found instances of slave labor, with persons compelled to work and unable to leave sweat-shop compounds.

By denying these basic benefits, immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members are forced to live under the threat of deportation of a loved one. Or, due to the fact that immigrants are barred from gainful employment, are denied a license to drive, must consider taking their whole family, many who are U.S. Citizens who have never lived outside the United States back to their country of origin. Even worse many of these persons must consider being separated from their whole family to avoid breaking any laws by staying in the United States and working.

For many of the above-described persons, the only way they can obtain legal permanent residence status (Green Card) which provides them with the ability to legally work and support themselves and their families, is to obtain a “cancellation of removal” order from the Immigration Court and have the Immigration Judge “adjust” their legal status to legal permanent resident. The Immigration Service however may wait years to place a person into deportation proceedings and allow the court to determine whether the benefits of allowing an immigrant to stay in the United States outweigh the benefits of deportation.

Up until the beginning of this year, the Immigration Service in the Los Angeles District had a program by which immigrants could voluntarily submit their case to the Immigration Service and begin the administrative process. This excellent program provided a benefit to the Immigration Service by lowering the caseload for their investigative and enforcement units who must seek out and assess immigrants and determine whether to place them into proceedings. Under this program, productive, and hard-working undocumented immigrants, of good moral character were taking the opportunity to step forward and submit their case to the Immigration Service and the Immigration Courts to determine whether they would qualify to stay in the United States as permanent residents.

This letter is a petition to you, as Commissioner for the INS to review the decision of the District Director for INS in Los Angeles, which eliminated the procedures that provide for voluntary submission to the Immigration Service for placement into proceedings. To our knowledge this program required minimal resources, employing one immigration officer for as few as four days a week to review cases and determine whether they were appropriate for the initiation of removal proceedings. The benefits of this program were enormous, eliminating unneeded investigations of honorable persons, and allowing immigrants who support U.S. Citizen family members to live legally and with dignity in the United States without having to break any laws to maintain legal gainful employment.

Elimination of this program leaves well-meaning immigrants of good moral character, with no options, without the ability to work legally in this country or exercise any of the other privileges of persons who have legal permanent residence in the United States. There is no public policy argument that can support this mis-treatment of well-meaning and productive members of our community. Beyond the humanitarian arguments, which must be made for these persons the strongest argument for renewing the program is that it serves to render legitimate those immigrants who, having come to the United States for various reasons have found the means to support themselves and contribute to the U. S. economy. Immigrants pay more than $90 billion in taxes every year and receive only $5 billion in welfare. Without their contributions to the public treasury, the economy would suffer enormous losses.

Studies by the Rand Corporation, the University of Maryland, the Council of Economic Advisors, the National Research Council and the Urban Institute all show that immigrants do not have a negative effect on the earnings and employment opportunities of native-born Americans. A 1989 Department of Labor study found that neither U.S. workers in complementary jobs, nor most minority workers, appear to be adversely affected by immigration.

Locally, according to a L.A. Times analysis summarizing the best available research, “Immigrants contribute mightily to the economy, by paying billions in annual taxes, by filling low-wage jobs that keep domestic industry competitive, and by spurring investment and job-creation, revitalizing once-decaying communities. Many social scientists conclude that the newcomers, rather than drain government treasuries, contribute overall far more than they utilize in services.” (January 6, 1992).

The fact that U.S. employers are desperate to find hard-working and qualified employees to support our current economic boom are undisputed. Yet by placing unreasonable restrictions on immigrants already present in the United States, corporations are forced to either encourage a new round of immigrants to come to the United States, or worse, ship our jobs and manufacturing to foreign countries.

It is also important that the Immigration Service recognize the enormous benefits that come with offering those persons most worthy of staying in the United States the opportunity to present their case to the Immigration Service and the Immigration Courts. The person who qualify for cancellation of removal and adjustment to legal permanent residency in the United States, deserve the opportunity to live with dignity in this country. These persons know what it takes to become a United States citizen and realize the American Dream. To cast these persons aside and drive them to leave the U.S. or live outside of the law to sustain themselves and their family is a continuing tragedy and works a tremendous injustice against those very people who have dedicated their lives to becoming American residents.

With this in mind the law firm of Robert L. Reeves & Associates, speaking for the community of immigrants and their families, respectfully request that Doris Meissner, as Commissioner of the INS, review the decision of the Los Angeles District Director in canceling its program, which provided for voluntary commencement of proceedings before the Immigration Court.


cc: Congressman Howard Berman
Senator Spencer Abraham
Senator Charles E. Grassley
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
The Wall Street Journal