Out Front on Immigration Reform

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In January, President Obama called for a swift path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, saying “now is the time” for comprehensive immigration reform. NYLAG has long advocated for the reform of our country’s broken immigration system, reforms that will keep families together, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and guarantee due process for all people.

On April 10, NYLAG staff members and volunteers joined thousands of immigration advocates from across the country in Washington, D.C. for a rally to urge Congress to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. For NYLAG, the demonstration put a public face on a sustained, behind-the-scenes advocacy campaign to inform the Obama Administration and legislators about NYLAG’s detailed Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which outlines key considerations for fair and truly effective reform. The bill proposed in April by the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan Senators, including New York’s own Chuck Schumer, contains many of NYLAG’s recommendations, and represents a great starting point for reforming antiquated and unfair laws and procedures.

Immigration reform measures in the Senate bill include a number of new proposals that have long been endorsed by NYLAG:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 started a petition to support it. A link to the petition can be found at www.nylag.org/CIR.

4. 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.

Other provisions in the Senate bill NYLAG also endorses, include:

1. A strong 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.

2. The removal of the one-year bar on asylum filings, an onerous requirement that has left far too many legitimate asylum applicants without access to relief.

3. The creation of a V-visa, which allows individuals with approved family-based petitions to live and work in the U.S. while waiting for their green cards.

4. The creation of a Registered Provisional Immigrant status to legalize the status of the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

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

1. The elimination of the family-based visa category of sibling petitions, a step backwards.

2. Linking border security to the reform of our immigration laws, which could derail the hard-won inclusion of a legalization provision in the Senate bill.

3. The establishment of an indeterminate period of “temporary status,” which would will leave millions in limbo, with no certainty or predictability for when their citizenship will be granted.

4. The lack of any provisions recognizing permanent partners who are in a committed, intimate relationship.

5. 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.

As the legislative process moves forward, NYLAG remains optimistic that this landmark legislation will result in the overhaul of a legal and regulatory system that is unjust, impractical and harmful to millions of hardworking immigrants and their families.

Click here to visit NYLAG’s resource page on preparing for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.