On March 7, 2002, the House of Representatives introduced an immigration reform bill, known as the “Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002” (Fairness Act). This bill may be the savior that thousands of immigrants had been awaiting for, because it intends to eradicate several harsh provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).
Title I of the Fairness Act proposes to ease restrictions on admission and deportation. For example, a legal permanent resident (LPR) may be absent from the United States for one year without having to undergo a full inspection upon return. The current law allows for less than six months of absence. Also, instead of indefinite detention of criminal aliens awaiting removal, the Fairness Act places a six-month ceiling on the detention period. This favorable change would thus allow the criminal aliens to stay with their families in the United States subject to supervisory authority under § 241(a)(3) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, while pending acceptance by their native governments.
Title II of the Fairness Act further aims to redefine the consequences for LPRs and aliens who have committed crimes. Specifically, adjudications or judgments of guilt that have been expunged, deferred, annulled, invalidated, or vacated would be excluded from the definition of “conviction.” Under the current law, an expunged conviction may still be considered a conviction for immigration purposes, depending on the type of crime that was committed. However, under the Fairness Act, an expunged conviction may not be considered as a conviction for immigration purposes, regardless of the type of crime that was committed.
Family reunification is encouraged under Title III of the Fairness Act. For example, in regards to V visas, Title III intends to remove the requirement that family members seeking to join their LPR spouses or parents in the United States must have a family petition pending for three years to be eligible for a V visa.
Title IV addresses the fairness in asylum and refugee processing. Some proposed modifications include: eliminating the requirement that an asylum application be filed within one year of an alien’s arrival in the United States; adding a provision to clarify that persecution on the account of gender falls within the “particular social group” category for purposes of proving eligibility for asylum; and removing the current 10,000 cap on the number of individuals who can change their status from asylee to LPR in any fiscal year. In short, more immigrants would be eligible for asylum and be granted LPR status based on their asylee status under Title IV.
Title V of the Fairness Act has miscellaneous provisions, including a new standard for granting temporary parole. And Title VI sets out effective dates for implementation.
Faced with the current harsh provisions under the IIRIRA, the Fairness Act certainly provides a glimpse of hope for thousands of immigrants if it were passed. However, whether the Fairness Act would ever make its way out of the House of Representatives still remains a question.