I. ELIMINATE THE THREE- AND TEN-YEAR BARS, AND/OR EXPAND THE AVAILABILITY OF WAIVERS
Under current immigration law, anyone who has resided unlawfully between six months and a year is barred from the United States for three years. That bar goes up to 10 years for anyone who has resided unlawfully for a year or more.
We believe that the three- and ten- year bars should be eliminated altogether. This would eliminate the incentive for foreign nationals who are already residing unlawfully to remain in the United States indefinitely and underground. We also believe that the hardship waivers for the 3/10 bar should be expanded to include hardship to the applicant’s U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children and to the applicant him or herself. This would keep more families together as well as permit deserving applicants to make their case.
II. RESTORE JUDICIAL REVIEW
In 1996, Congress passed legislation restricting the ability of noncitizens to have their cases heard before a neutral arbiter in federal court instead of an immigration agency. Under current law, these agency decisions are not reviewable by the federal courts, even in instances where prejudice or failure to consider evidence is present.
We believe that federal courts should have the power to review and reverse deportation orders that are arbitrary, capricious or otherwise contrary to federal law.
III. ADVANCE REGISTRY DATE
Current immigration law provides that a foreign national who has resided in the U.S. continuously from 1948 to 1972 can apply for permanent residence. This “registry” is available to such foreign nationals who are of good moral character and are otherwise eligible for citizenship. We believe the registry date should be advanced from 1972 to January 1, 1990, permitting eligible foreign nationals who have resided in the United States for 20 years to become lawful permanent residents.
IV. ELIMINATION OF MANDATORY DETENTION
Under current immigration law, the Attorney General is mandated to imprison lawful permanent residents who committed a criminal offense, even if that offense was relatively minor. As a consequence, at any given time, some 31,000 individuals are in ICE custody. Many are held in county jails, with very limited visitation, virtually no exercise, and very poor treatment. There have been extensive reports on the poor medical treatment of those in ICE custody, and at least 80 reported deaths. As a consequence, many in ICE custody simply give up: they sign away their right to a hearing or accept voluntary departure. Once deported or “voluntarily” departed, some try to reenter illegally to rejoin their families, facing the very dangerous conditions on the border and a heightened chance of arrest, prosecution, and re-incarceration.
If the human toll is not enough reason to amend this provision, the astronomical expense of this type of detention is.
We believe that ICE officials and the Attorney General should be given the power to exercise discretion over when to incarcerate and when to release. The Attorney General and ICE officials can then institute alternative methods to ensure that the lawful permanent resident or foreign national will appear at his or her deportation hearing, such as bond, ankle bracelets, and other less restrict methods of monitoring the individual’s movement and behavior.
V. STATUTE OF LIMITATION ON CERTAIN OFFENSES
Under current immigration law, there is no statute of limitations for offenses for the purposes of determining citizenship. This is true even when the offense took place years ago or when the offense was committed unwittingly. There is also a permanent bar currently for misrepresentations even if they are minor and/or accidental like incorrectly completing a computerized immigration form.
We believe there should be a ten-year statute of limitations on certain offenses that would render foreign nationals inadmissible.
VI. INCREASE THE NUMBER OF H-1B VISAS
In 1990, Congress passed new caps on the number of visas to be issued each year for specialty/higher-educated workers under the H-1B category. After a transitional period, that number was set at 65,000 for specialty workers where the job required a bachelor’s degree. Another 20,000 visas were made available to individuals who received a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. college or university. Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. employers have been unable to hire needed professional specialty workers, adversely affecting our country’s competitive edge in the global economy.
We believe that the cap on H-1B visas should be set at 115,000 to better reflect the current needs of American business. We also believe that the industries where shortages in needed personnel exist should be exempt from any cap.
VII. INCREASE THE NUMBER OF IMMIGRANT VISA NUMBERS
In 1990, Congress revamped the entire employment-based immigrant visa system, substantially increasing the number of employment-based immigrant visas available each year in order to attract the best and the brightest. At the time, it took approximately two years to obtain an employment-based immigrant visa. Today, highly-skilled and educated foreign nationals from around the world, including India and China, must wait at least five and perhaps six or even ten years to complete the processing of their “green card” application so they could live in the United States permanently.
These backlogs of five and more years adversely impact the country’s economy, as well as countless foreign nationals and their employers. While on the family immigration side, waits in some categories are now ten to fifteen years.
We believe the number of employment-based visas per year should increase from 140,000 per year to 290,000 to better reflect the needs of U.S. employers.
VIII. REDUCE HARSH CONSEQUENCES OF FALSE CLAIMS TO U.S. CITIZENSHIP
In 1996, Congress increased the provisions which made an intending immigrant inadmissible for citizenship and barred the change of one’s legal status if the individual made false claims regarding U.S. citizenship. That bar applies to anyone who falsely claims U.S. citizenship for any purpose or benefit, whether to a government official or a private employer. Such individuals are then considered permanently inadmissible and are removable. While waivers are available for fraud or material misrepresentation in other contexts, no waivers are authorized for false claims to citizenship even for the spouse or children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
We believe this provision should be limited to persons who willfully make false claims to citizenship; and that a discretionary waiver should be created in the case of an immigrant who is the spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
IX. A WAIVER FOR ALL GROUNDS OF INADMISSIBILITY
Under current immigration law, there are some 33 grounds of inadmissibility that ban a foreign national from changing his or her immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident and later applying for citizenship. While some discretionary waivers are available for certain grounds and for certain individuals who have close U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members, the vast majority of individuals have no recourse despite compelling arguments in the person’s favor.
A Purple Heart medaled war hero who previously fell on hard times, bounced a check, and was convicted as an aggravated felon, cannot become a lawful permanent resident even if the U.S. Army seeks to sponsor him for service in a classified mission. No waiver is available.
We believe there should be a measure that permits the Attorney General or Secretary of Homeland Security to waive any basis of inadmissibility upon finding that favorable factors outweigh unfavorable factors