NYLAG Outlines Critical Considerations for Effective, Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Keeping families together, creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and defending due process for all people – these should be among the focal points of discussion for the “Gang of Eight” Senators grappling with comprehensive immigration reform, according to the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Immigrant Protection Unit (IPU), which has released a detailed framework to guide policymakers through negotiations on this polarizing issue. See below or Click here to read the full framework of recommendations.
“The considerations listed in our framework are essential for creating fair and truly comprehensive reform,” says Irina Matiychenko, Director of IPU.
NYLAG’s proposed framework includes several original components never before widely discussed, which IPU attorneys hope will gain traction with key policymakers. One such proposition supports granting derivatives of immediate relatives the same status and order of consideration as the principle beneficiary, without requiring a separate petition. This would eliminate years of waiting and allow families to be united within a reasonable timeframe. Another key proposal would streamline the provisional waiver process by allowing waiver applicants to proceed with adjustment of status rather than being required to seek immigrant visas abroad. This would allow families to avoid separation and travel expenses, and protect nationals and citizens of certain countries to which it is not safe to return.
“In January President Obama called for a swift path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying ‘now is the time’ for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG President and Attorney-in-Charge. “His sense of urgency is welcome. It’s time we passed legislation that truly reforms our country’s broken immigration system, and it’s time we got it right.”
Click here to visit NYLAG’s resource page on preparing for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The New York Legal Assistance Group strongly urges that the following considerations be included in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Streamline the Legal Immigration System for Families
- Categorize spouses and minor children of permanent residents as immediate relatives. Doing so will reduce the waiting period for these relatives, allow many of them to adjust to permanent residence in the United States without leaving the country, and free up visas for use by other relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
- Grant derivatives of immediate relatives the same status and order of consideration (without a separate petition) as the principal beneficiary if accompanying or follow to join the principal applicant. Under the current law principal applicants must wait a few years to be reunited with their derivatives.
- Address the current wait times for family petitions by raising the numerical limits on immigrants coming from certain foreign countries.
- Recognize same-sex marriage and grant full benefits to same-sex spouses of US citizens and permanent residents.
- Streamline the provisional waiver process by
-Allowing applicants for waiver to proceed with adjustment of status rather than to seek immigrant visas abroad. This will enable families to avoid separation and travel expenses. Moreover, it may not be safe for nationals and citizens of certain counties to return home and disabled, elderly, or ill individuals may be unable to leave the country.
-Expanding waiver eligibility to certain relatives of legal permanent residents.
Legalize Undocumented Immigrants
- Grant “Conditional Permanent Status” for undocumented immigrants who fulfill the legalization requirements (registration, security clearance, payment of fine, etc.). Upon compliance with all the conditions of the status, allow conditional permanent residents to apply for removal of condition and obtain lawful permanent resident status.
- Do not create a second class of lawful residents by prohibiting legalized permanent residents from applying for naturalization. Provide them with a pathway to citizenship.
- Do not make legalization conditional on compliance with English language and civics requirements. Doing so will entirely exclude those immigrants who, due to age or disability, are unable to comply with these requirements. Moreover, the proposed requirements are redundant since these legalized immigrants will have to comply with such requirements when they elect to pursue naturalization.
- Do not make payment of back taxes a condition of registration and further legalization. Doing so will create insurmountable obstacles for undocumented immigrants, especially in light of the proposed increase in sanctions for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Employers will be reluctant to provide any information to their undocumented employees because of fear of legal consequences. A one-time fine would serve the same purpose as paying back taxes.
- Provide a pathway to legalization for individuals with prior removal orders and grants of voluntary departure. It would be unjust to penalize these individuals simply because they had prior contact with the immigration system.
- Do not allow the issue of border security to sabotage immigration reform by making legalization contingent on border security. Border security requirements are difficult to measure and may, in fact, be unattainable.
- Reject the concept of going to the “back of the line,” which will only create uncertainty as to what “line” means, and how many years people have to wait in line.
Due Process Concerns
- Due process and equal protection are important values in our justice system and must apply to any person in this country, documented or undocumented.
- Guarantee government-appointed counsel for individuals who cannot afford a private attorney.
- Reform immigration detention. Detention of immigrants not subject to mandatory detention should be eliminated, and all detained immigrants must have meaningful access to counsel.
- Guarantee immigrants the right to have their case heard before a judge. Immigrants should not be pressured to stipulate to their removal before being released from detention. Lack of adequate interpretation or representation means that many immigrants do not know that they are signing away their right to basic due process.
To download a printable version of NYLAG’s CIR Framework, Click Here.