So the Republicans Embrace CIR Now, Huh?
It is both noble and ironic that the Republican Party has announced, post-presidential election, now embraces Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Perhaps we will finally get closure on that issue that has failed to pass Congress in several previous attempts over the past ten years.
But for sake of clarity, even though I may not be "politically correct," I am going to call it what it is . . . "Amnesty". There is nothing wrong with that word and I can't figure out why the CIR proponents are so adverse to it. In 1986, we simply called it "Amnesty". So, most likely, we will have an Amnesty someday, maybe, hopefully, if the politicians in Washington D.C. can ever take the politics and racism out of it and agree on the terms, and if Hell does not freeze over in the meantime.
So, we can now anxiously await a new bi-partisan bill in Congress proposing an Amnesty that will attempt to legalize approximately 12 million persons unlawfully present in the United States in violation of U.S. immigration law. While that is a wonderful and humanitarian idea, I wonder if Congress has any comprehension of the magnitude of implementing an Amnesty for that many people?
I remember the 1986 Amnesty well, when there were an estimated 3 million illegals. I remember the former INS had to lease extra office space (each with sufficient parking to handle the walk-in traffic) all over the United States, and especially in the Southwest, where the majority of the Amnesty Applicants lived. I remember the INS had to employ and train special amnesty adjudicators, and I remember what many of those adjudicators did in turning qualified applicants away through intimidation, which resulted in MALDEF, and others, filing lawsuits that lasted over 20 years. And I remember the resulting horrific INS processing backlog that resulted five years later, when those with those Amnesty green card holders simultaneously filed for citizenship and once naturalized, filed Relative Petitions for their millions of relatives, mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers and sisters.
After that, for more than ten years, our INS offices were standing room only, processing relative petitions, naturalizations, and a myriad of other immigration related matters. To make matters worse, believe it or not, there was no Internet available for immigration purposes at that time - I don't believe INS even owned a computer and were not even thinking of buying one. There was no INFOPASS. There was over-the counter filing of everything. Paper forms were distributed physically at the counter. There were no appointments for anything except PR and NAT petition/application adjudications, and even then you could expect to wait four hours after your scheduled interview time. Everything else was on a walk-in basis, with number tickets handed out from little red machines at the doorway, and if your number was not called by 4:00 pm, you were told to come back the next day to line up at 6:30 a.m. when the office opened at 8:30, then, if you were lucky enough to find a seat, go inside and sit down, otherwise, just meander around the parking lot, checking back inside periodically to see which number was next. Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end. But thankfully, they did end and the Amnesty recipients finally concluded their business, after adjusting millions of family members to permanent residence, leaving in its wake only the litigation that continued for more than twenty years and a corrupt Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program that seemed to go on endlessly.
Hopefully, the new Amnesty program will be totally electronic, except for the Adjustment Interviews, of course, which will require that new short-term office space be rented by the USCIC for this purpose (a monumental task, as the office space must come with sufficient parking to handle the traffic).
So magnify the 1986 Amnesty by four or five times and add in all the numerous and burdensome qualifying factors which (if the previous CIR bills are any indication) are sure to be demanded by the wolves in sheep's clothing who appear to support Amnesty, but who are bound and determined to make it so complex, burdensome and expensive that few will actually gain benefits. Rhetorically, I ask, "If they do that, what's the point - even after the Amnesty, we will still have millions of illegals and we will still be in the same dilemma . . . what to do with them?"
In my opinion, a general amnesty for roughly 12 million potential applicants is unworkable unless it is simple, cheap and quick and designed so as to not overburden the present USCIS processing system which, thanks to the hard work of USCIS management over the past 10 years, actually works very well right now with its present case load. But to overburden this case load would be a repeat of the 1986 disaster. We can't allow that to happen.
Apart from Amnesty, I wonder if we will ever actually achieve true immigration reform. I doubt anyone but immigration lawyers care about that, and we are an impotent group, represented by AILA, who is pro-immigrant, not pro-lawyer; go figure. So is there really any chance to achieve true "comprehensive immigration reform" that we so desperately need, like:
- Increased permanent resident visa quotas;
- Increasing or eliminating H-1B quotas;
- Eliminating the "specialized knowledge" requirement for L-1B and replace it with the E-1/E-2 standard of "essential worker";
- Eliminating the concept of "dual intent";
- Making intentionally overstaying subject to a 10-year bar for all immigrant visa categories by eliminating the family exemptions found in 245(c);
- Making it easier and quicker for spouses of US citizens who are overseas to obtain permission to enter the USA to do stateside processing;
- Enhancing and enforcing employer sanctions to include quadruple fines and mandatory jail time for willfully hiring an undocumented alien;
- Instituting a photo and holograms on Social Security Cards and call it what it really is anyway, a National Identity Card; and last (well, not really last, but last in my list here) but not least;
- Amending the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to deny birthright citizenship to any child born on US soil who does not have at least one US citizen or permanent resident parent.
But I digress. Getting back to the Amnesty: Keeping in mind that the Amnesty is being proposed to offer "a path to citizenship" to those illegally present in the USA, and not an open invitation to all of Mexico to jump the border, if this Amnesty is to work as intended, and if it is not to overburden the present USCIS application processing for decades to come, the Amnesty must be administered by a specially formed division of USCIS and it must be for qualifying applicants only, and would not later confer immigration benefits on family members after obtaining Permanent Residence, or even US citizenship. Whoa . . . . that's an idea which I'm sure will not be well met by the immigration liberals (no offense Roger), but it really must be this way, or it will more than severely cripple the USCIS processing system for non-Amnesty business and family immigration, and will bring it to a grinding halt, because there is no way the present system, or any system reasonably foreseeable in the immediate future, could ever effectively handle that kind of volume without significant detrimental impact overt the next twenty or thirty years. And remember . . . our government is already bankrupt.
As to what requirements should be implemented so as to not just make Amnesty a gift, free of responsibility of duty to the applicant's newly adopted country? Simple: Make each successful applicant subject to a mandatory stint in a sort of part-time weekend service "Peace Corps", administered by the Peace Corps, for five years (the time it takes to qualify for citizenship after the issuance of a Green Card), which benefits the national good. Whoa there . . . again, the liberals will balk . . . make Amnesty Beneficiaries actually work and contribute their personal efforts to the good of the USA? Hey, as a US citizen, at the request of my government, I and thousands of other Americans, were unwillingly drafted into the military and sent to participate in a war which we opposed . . . what's wrong with Jose and Maria working in a VA Hospital or a Regional, National or State Park, or on a road crew beautifying America, or in some other service that can utilize their talents for a period of time? Or, alternatively that they I enlist in the actual Peace Corps or the Military Service of their choice (I hear the Army is looking for a few good men and women) for a minimum of two years.
Now let's consider the cost of the Amnesty to U.S. taxpayers (which the majority of the Amnesty Applicants are not). I propose an application fee of $2,000 per adult applicant, plus $600 per minor child.
And let's consider the rules. An Amnesty must have rules, but they must be kept simple. I propose the following:
Along with the Application and G-325A, each applicant would provide supporting documents as follows:
- Each applicant must prove they were physically present in the USA in unlawful immigration status as of a specified date;
- Allow departure from the USA between the initial qualifying date and the Adjustment Interview to avoid the boondoggle there was during the 1986 Amnesty as to whether a departure was "brief and casual";
- Be fingerprinted and photographed at an Application Support Center and submit to a background check, making ineligible anyone with any felony conviction or more than one misdemeanor conviction. No other limiting factors, exceptions or waivers, not even the "Devil made me do it" defense;
- File a two to three page application (no more), along with a G-325A, on line, obtaining a case processing number, with payment sent by check or money order to a lockbox;
- At the Adjustment Interview, make each applicant sing the Star Spangled Banner and recite the Pledge of Allegiance - in English;
- At the Adjustment Interview, demonstrate a basic proficiency in the English language, similar to that required in a Naturalization Interview, in which case Full Permanent Residence would be granted or, in the alternative, at the Adjustment Interview, show proof of enrollment in an English as a Second Language Program at an accredited ESL school and be granted Conditional Permanent Residence (CPR) and thereafter, not sooner than 90 days after issuance of the CPR, and not later than the expiration of the CPR, demonstrate proof of proficiency to an established standard - it can be done at an INFOPASS type appointment, a 2 to 3-minute quick written and oral exam similar to NAT, upon payment of a $500 processing fee.
- Birth Certificate;
- Some sort of government Issued ID, even if expired;
- Documents proving physical presence in the USA as required;
- Two color passport style photos;
- Medical Exam results taken by a US Civil Surgeon;
- Foreign Police Clearance from places lived since age16.
Unless I have inadvertently forgotten something, no other strings, no bells, no whistles. Too simple, isn't it? Sure it is, and in my opinion we will never see such simple legislation drafted by the politicians in Washington. Oh, and did I mention . . . NO RIDERS TO THIS CIR BILL . . . Riders in general kill the true spirit of the democratic process and pander to special interests, but that's a subject for another day, and part of a "Comprehensive Congressional Reform" (CCR - not to be confused with Credence Clearwater Revival).
David D. Murray is an attorney with offices in Newport Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles, handling litigation, domestic and international business and US immigration matters since 1978. Mr. Murray received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University, and the degree of Juris Doctor from Western State University College of Law. When not practicing law, or otherwise engaged in other business endeavors, Mr. Murray is an amateur guitarist and banjo picker, writer, poet, philosopher, Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider, Chinese art collector, backpacker, hiker, sailor, skier, and lover of the great outdoors.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.