Thank you, Gang of Eight, For Hearing Us (But Can We Talk?)

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webI want to applaud the bipartisan group of Senators, including New York’s own Chuck Schumer, who pulled off the nearly impossible by actually bringing a sweeping immigration reform bill to the table. The bill is a great starting point and contains many provisions that would alleviate hardships suffered by immigrants as a result of antiquated and unfair laws and procedures.

The 800-page draft legislation includes several provisions I am proud to say NYLAG brought to the attention of the Administration and legislators through a targeted advocacy campaign – click here to read our Framework for Comprehensive Reform – including:

  • The classification of the spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents as “immediate relatives,” replacing a process mired in backlogs with a sensible approach that will keep families together.
  • A new “derivative” provision that will further strengthen families: this original NYLAG concept grants the derivatives of immediate relatives the same status (without a separate petition) as the principal beneficiary, replacing the current several-year waiting period.
  • The inclusion of immigrants who hold Temporary Protected Status (due to unsafe conditions in their home countries) as eligible for legalization. NYLAG has written to Secretary Napolitano urging such a change in current immigration policies, and we started a petition to support it. Click here to read and sign.
  • The creation of a mandate for the appointment of counsel to children, the mentally disabled, and other vulnerable individuals in removal proceedings, along with the restoration of judicial discretion and the lowering of the bar to grant waivers in removal proceedings.

There are other provisions in the Senate bill we also endorse, including:

  • A good version of the Dream Act to help young people who were brought here illegally as children speedily become citizens, including removal of the arbitrary age cap requirements.
  • The removal of the one-year bar on asylum filings, an onerous requirement that left far too many legitimate asylum applicants without access to relief.
  • The creation of a V-visa, which allows individuals with approved family-based petitions to live and work in the US while waiting for their green cards.
  • The creation of a Registered Provisional Immigrant status to legalize the status of the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

Unfortunately, however, the bill also includes ideas that are seriously misguided, and may even make meaningful reform unattainable, such as:

  • The use of border security goals as a trigger for when Registered Provisional Immigrants will be allowed to become lawful permanent residents – a provision that appears nebulous and unattainable.
  • The establishment of an indeterminate period of “temporary status,” thereby creating another sub-class of immigrants. This will leave millions in limbo, with no certainty or predictability for when their citizenship will be granted.
  • The elimination of the family-based visa category of sibling petitions, a step backwards.
  • The lack of any provisions recognizing permanent partners who are in a committed, intimate relationship.
  • The creation of new grounds of inadmissibility and deportability related to an already long list of grounds that serve as insurmountable barriers to a great many applicants.

I sincerely thank the Gang of Eight for bringing our country one huge step closer to the reformation of our immigration system. This is landmark legislation in many respects, and a remarkable political achievement. The devil of course is in the details, and NYLAG will continue to be a fervent champion of getting those details right, so we can move forward on the path to a smart, workable and just immigration policy.

Blog Post by Yisroel Schulman
President & Attorney-in-Charge

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