Also, see the press release at the bottom of this page.
The worst fears of most immigrants were realized last week when President Clinton signed the most devastating anti-immigrant legislation in U.S. history into law. The new amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act are called the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996”, but the title is a misnomer. It should be called “hate aliens and how to get rid of them” law. The new law legalizes the racism, ignorance and mean-spirit of some Americans toward aliens, and gives the INS extraordinary powers.
Throughout the past year, most of my readers have been following the progress of two major immigration bills through Congress, and speculating as to the final content of the new law. The speculation is over now. On September 30, 1996, President Clinton signed the bill into law. Although many of the provisions are not effective until April 1, 1997, several of the more damaging, anti-immigrant provisions are already affecting the Filipino community.
A full discourse of all the changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act is beyond the scope of this article. However, I will discuss the provisions most likely to affect aliens already in the United States. First, there are new grounds of inadmissibility for “aliens unlawfully present” in the U.S. for six months or more. Any person who either enters without admission by an INS officer, or overstays the period of admission on their nonimmigrant visa, they are considered unlawfully present. If the person overstays their authorized stay for six months after the effective date of the new law, they will be ineligible for a new visa, or to obtain a green card for three years with some exceptions. If the person is unlawfully present for over one year after the effective date of the new law, s/he will be barred from a green card or receiving another visa for ten years, again with some exceptions. I call this the 3 and 10 year rule.
The INS will not allow persons falling into the unlawfully present category a waiver of the three or ten-year bar unless the person is a minor, qualifies under the Family Unity program, is a battered spouse or child, or the refusal of the person’s visa, or adjustment of status would cause extreme hardship to the person’s lawful parent or spouse. Anyone seeking this waiver will be at the mercy of the INS, and denials of the waiver may only be appealed once to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The new law expressly denies any judicial review of these waivers. However, there may be some constitutional and other legal challenges to non-reviewability sections.
The new law also places an onerous burden on persons wishing to petition family members. Previously, a family-based petition sponsor would have to execute an affidavit of support, stating that they would support the beneficiary. This would help the Beneficiary overcome the ground of inadmissibility based on their likelihood to become a burden on the government or public charge. Now, the Petitioner is required to show that he has income amounting to 125% of the poverty level. Sponsors in employment-based case must show an income of at least 140% of the income level in order for the employee’s spouse and children to immigrate. The affidavit of support is now a contract, enforceable against the sponsor. There are also fines that may be imposed against the sponsor is he fails to provide the INS with his current address.
Another significant change is in the area of suspension of deportation, which is a common form of relief for deportable aliens with extended periods of residency in the U.S. Formerly, Suspension required that the alien had resided in the U.S. for seven continuous years, possessed good moral character, and establish that s/he or a close family member with at least a green card would suffer extreme hardship in the event s/he were deported.
Now, the provision is called Cancellation of Removal, and requires ten years continuous presence, good moral character, and the alien must establish that their removal would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the alien’s spouse, parent or child who is a green card holder or permanent resident. The difference, aside from showing an additional three years in the United States, is that the Immigration Judge need not evaluate whether the alien will suffer. The only question is whether the aliens’ family, who are permanent residents or citizens, will suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. This new provision will render many people ineligible for relief from deportation, and make the evidentiary burden at trial much more difficult for those who are still eligible.
The new law also limits the relief of voluntary departure, previously a privilege allowed to deportable aliens who are of good moral character, to only sixty days. Any person who remains in the United States beyond the sixty days, or lesser period granted by the Immigration Judge, must pay a fine of $1000 to $5000. There is no judicial review of denials of either cancellation of removal or voluntary departure under the new law. However, there may be ways to obtain judicial review despite this provision.
People who are ordered deported by an Immigration Judge, and fail to report for deportation following a bag and baggage letter, will be fined! Lots of luck collecting these fines! This provision shows the absolute absurdity of these new laws.
The new law makes it clear that the U.S. Government has declared war on all immigrants, legal and illegal. Never before has the country seen such draconian legislation passed against any group of people. The INS is now empowered with increased forces at the borders, and legal authority to deny admission to people without a hearing. The new law can be seen as nothing more than racist legislation, designed to gain the support of a minority of Americans to vote for the supporting political candidates. These laws are inherently evil.
The best advice I have for people who are affected these new provisions (everybody) is to consult with an attorney immediately. Cases that were once simple are now complex and highly technical. Now more than ever, immigrants need to retain the services of competent attorneys to protect their rights and present persuasive arguments to help them and the courts to interpret the new laws in a favorable light. I strongly urge my readers to consult attorneys who won their reputation by fighting in the courts for immigrants’ rights, not by fighting to get their picture on the front page. This legislation clearly shows that politicians are willing to step on the backs of aliens who cannot fight back. I call the new immigration laws shame on you for being so mean-spirited and so un-American. We will regret this country’s new laws.
I will do my utmost, within the bounds of law, to safely navigate around these newly erected reefs and barriers and weather this anti-immigrant storm together. We will in the weeks to come dissect the new law so that the immigrant community can better understand what are their rights.
ATTORNEY REEVES WINS ASYLUM CASE
After several hours of testimony recounting the traumatic experiences she faced in China and the forced abortion that was performed on her during her fifth month of pregnancy, Ms. S, who wishes to remain anonymous, was granted political asylum by Immigration Judge Jan Latimore. Despite the fact that Ms. S does not want the events that plagued her in China to be associated with her new life here in the United States as a lawful permanent resident, she does want her story told so that other women who have fallen victim to coercive family planning will realize that they are not alone. She also wants other women to know that with the experienced and skillful legal representation of the Law Offices of Robert L. Reeves, she finally received a measure of relief from years of agony resulting from her life in China. Armed with solid legal representation and preparation, Ms. S recounted her story. In the end, both the attorney and Ms. S were extremely satisfied with the Judge’s ruling. In fact, Ms. S is ecstatic and is ready to embrace the rest of her life here in the United States. Perhaps, even having one or two more children.
The goal or theme for Ms. S’s case was to demonstrate that the persecution that women frequently face in China would be recognized as persecution for the purposes of political asylum and to secure a safe haven for Ms. S and other women in her same position. Ms. S’s story is not unlike the stories of countless other women in China and other countries that have coercive family practices. Ms. S hopes her story will influence others to put their faith in experienced immigration attorneys and encourage them to bring forward their difficult stories. Although coercive family practices are difficult to discuss and remember in great detail, a new life with exciting promise for a future filled with hope makes the risk worthwhile.
Asylum cases are not easily won. The ingredients for a winning case must be present. Time spent by the attorney with the client preparing him or her with the questions that will be posed in court is critical. After listening to Ms. S’s life experiences in China, the facts began to take shape and demonstrate the makings of a possible winning case. This takes great patience and time by both the Attorney and the client. Time spent with your Attorney is often a factor you cannot ensure with any Law Office no matter how high the fee may be. However, at the Law Offices of Robert L. Reeves one can be assured that a significant portion of the case preparation is based on individual time spent with the attorney. The case will be handled with the utmost care, professionalism and completeness. With this level of professionalism and care, one can rest assured that their case will be presented in the most favorable light and with the best possible chance of success.
Ms. S received this type of treatment and care with her case and when the time came for Judge Latimore to hear the facts of the case, the testimony and the arguments, she was persuaded that Ms. S had presented a case worthy of a grant of political asylum. It was not easy for Ms. Wang to recount the events involved in her case: the family planning units’ visits to her home, the empty promises made by hospital personnel that her pregnancy would be safeguarded and not terminated and the guilt she bore for trusting the people involved in aborting her beloved child. However, she risked the fear of reliving these terrible experiences and triumphed victoriously through her tears. Now she can live the life she always dreamed of and is thankful for the support she received along the way from the Law Offices of Robert L. Reeves.